POLITICIANS and analysts across European democracies
are increasingly examining the title of this article. They do so from the point
of the effect the elderly voters have on the outcome of political elections. I
believe the question goes much wider than that.
If I write this from a mainly U.K.
perspective I have reason to believe it is central to the trends that are common
to many European countries. The U.K. has recently conducted a General Election
in which Tony Blair's New Labour Party was returned to government with a
handsome majority. However, all political parties in the U.K. are concerned with
what this election demonstrated. Examination on the trends displayed presents a
major opportunity for the elderly to advance their views.
was a record fall in turnout to the lowest level since the start of the mass
franchise in 1918. Turnout has fallen in most other Western democracies and
there is much talk of 'Politicians reconnecting with the electorate'. This is
'Politic-speak' for talking about what the electorate wish to talk about rather
than what politicians want to talk about. It is recorded that fewer than two in
five 18 to 24-year-olds bothered to vote, half the rate of those aged over 65.
Many young people believed that the U.K. political parties are too close to big
business to tackle such questions as the environment or
the major political parties campaigned for the vote of the elderly. This is
hardly surprising given that 16 million people in the U.K are over 50, some 33
per cent of the electorate. Additionally they are four times more likely to vote
than the younger people.
seeking the' Grey' vote, politicians promised a variety of pensioner benefits
including modest increases in State Pensions.
seem to assume that pensioners will respond to the likes of free TV licences for
the over 75's and Winter Fuel Allowances. The real evidence is, that however
welcome these are they are no substitute for payments that produce dignity and a
decent standard of living. Means testing of benefits rather than universality
leads to form filling, lack of take up and is regarded as
real problem is that State Retirement Pensions need to be linked to average
earnings, which rise faster than the Retail Price Income. The Retail Price
Income also includes items that are not relevant to older people, who are
largely concerned with food and fuel prices.
latest EU figures give a comparison of state pensions as a percentage of
national income (GDP) in the following countries: France 10.6%, Italy 13.3%,
Germany 11.1% and the U.K. 4.5%. One of the main reasons for this is linked to
the fact that UK employers pay far less National Insurance than their EU
politicians have failed to grasp that it not just about
provision, public transport, street safety and long-term care are all vitally
important to many old people. It is criminal, for instance, that many pensioners
have to sell their homes to pay long term healthcare
apathy in national and local elections prevails this provides a wonderful
opportunity for older people to influence the outcome of such elections. We need
to organise and to be demanding in our desires.
for the elderly is not just about elections. We
need statutory provision for the elderly to be members of the many public bodies
that impact on our lives.
Trade Union Movement needs to be reminded that where they have pensioner members
they have a duty to service those members. Too many unions are totally
preoccupied with the needs of those in employment to the detriment of those in
pensioner voice to be heard it is necessary to combine. This
should not just be at national level. A European voice is essential and our
organisation, as it expands, can assist in getting our views to European
pressure points. Our Alicante Declaration, if acknowledged, would restore much
dignity to the elderly of all our countries.
need us because of our influence and we have been too
to say clearly what we want from them and what we will do if we don't get it.
the U.K., pensioners were promised a full share in the countries increased
prosperity and this has not been delivered.
stop being humble we will gain respect. We will be recognised and no longer
of TSB Bank Retired Staff Association Manchester