Lesley Laird: Tories want us to work until we drop - don’t let them

Universal Credit has already shown just how cruel the Tories can be, but even more pain could be heading our way.

The Centre of Social Justice (CSJ) think tank proposed recently to move the pension age to 75 by the year 2035.

The same think tank which, while chaired by Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, dreamt up Universal Credit and played an instrumental part in its design; a design which forces many terminally ill people back to work and deliberately delays crucial payments to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

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Centre for Social Justice? Whoever picked that title obviously loves a misnomer.

Based on current life expectancy rates in my Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, increasing the pension age to 75 would mean men would receive a state pension for around 18 months on average before they died, while for women it would be five years.

After years of work, National Insurance contributions and saving for a pension, the time left to enjoy retirement would be brutally short. Working until you drop would be the norm for a great many of us.

The CSJ’s lack of understanding about different types of work is painfully obvious. Imagine working as a carer, nurse, teacher, or in a factory until 75. I doubt that many of us would even get to our pension.

So, while we are all being distracted by flag waving and Brexit, is this the future many Tories have in mind for us?

People used to say the Tories looked after elderly voters, but it now appears the elderly are an inconvenience.

Who can forget the disastrous ‘dementia tax’ that derailed the Tory general election campaign in 2017? For some, the Tories’ broken manifesto commitment of free TV licences for over 75s could be considered a small matter.

However, add in WASPI pension injustice and declining life expectancy and we get a very clear picture of a government that really doesn’t care for the oldest and most vulnerable in our society.

No matter how you dress it up the ‘Nasty’ Tory Party is alive and kicking in 2019.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. The work of the last Labour government under Gordon Brown saw the introduction of pension tax credits, free bus travel, cold weather payments and free TV licences to the elderly. Under Labour there was an increase in life expectancy and a significant reduction in pensioner poverty – now being eroded under the Tories.

Actions speak so much louder than words. A Labour government will restore dignity and fairness to the lives of our elderly, something they have earned and deserve.

A Labour government will retain the triple lock on pensions to ensure that the state pension keeps pace with earnings and the cost of living. A Labour government will work to resolve the unfairness that has hurt so many WASPI women.

We don’t need any more policies from Iain Duncan Smith and the CSJ, we need a Labour government that will be compassionate and deliver for all of our society and we need it now.

Lesley Laird is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland