‘Pensioners must not be packed away and forgotten,’ blasts Nigel Nelson

Rishi Sunak and pensioners
‘Pensioners must not be packed away and forgotten,’ blasts Nigel Nelson
Nigel Nelson

By Nigel Nelson

Published: 28/02/2024

- 14:36

Voters under 45 who don’t list pensions among their top priorities

A GB News fan writes to take me to task for saying the pension triple lock may need to be pensioned off. His letter arrived at our London offices and appears to have been hammered out on a manual typewriter which made it a joy to receive.

I used to carry a portable one of those around the world when I was a young foreign correspondent, so it really took me back. Mine saw service in wars, military coups and earthquakes and never let me down.

It didn’t even doze off in a Cleveland, Ohio hotel room while I was writing up an interview with the most boring man I ever met. Neil Armstrong, since you ask.

The most interesting thing about Neil was his ability to make being the first person to walk on the Moon sound so dull. In his telling of this epic event, it was no more thrilling than popping down to the corner shop.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak will aim to target younger voters


I hadn’t come across one of these old typewriters for years and I’m delighted to know they are still alive and kicking somewhere amongst all our hi-tech laptops and tablets, But I won’t invade its privacy by revealing where it now resides.

It was a very eloquent letter, but there was a sting to it. I was told: “You profess to be a socialist when in fact you would not be out of place on the Tory front bench.” Not sure Rishi Sunak would entirely agree with that.

But he will keep the triple lock in place until next year at least, though neither the Conservatives nor Labour are saying whether they will commit to its future in their election manifestos. My guess is if one does the other will. But for how long?

The lock was not a Labour invention but introduced by David Cameron’s coalition Government in 2011 to guarantee pensioners annual rises of at least 2.5 per cent unless earnings or prices were higher.


From April, Brits on the new state pension will get £221.20 a week, an increase of 8.5 per cent or £900 a year, in line with earnings. That followed the 10.1 per cent hike based on prices last year.

The pensionable population will grow from 12 million now to 15 million by 2045, according to projections by the Office for National Statistics. We have known this for 50 years and should have prepared for it with a very gradual increase in pension age by, say, a couple of weeks a year.

But successive Governments ignored the inevitable for fear of losing votes until they were forced to put off paying state pensions until 66 - which will rise to 67 and 68 for those born after 1960. This was particularly unfair to women who suddenly had the added burden of their pension age being equalised with men.

There are now 3.5 workers for every pensioner, but that will be down to 2.5 by 2030. And, by the way, it’s a myth older people paid for their pensions while they were working through National Insurance contributions. They were supporting the pensioners of their day just as today’s workers pay for them now.

The longer people live the more time they will spend in retirement and a way has to be found to afford to give them the quality of life they deserve.


Neither the Tories nor Labour are saying whether they will commit to the pension triple lock in their election manifestos


Rishi Sunak, staring election defeat in the face, may want to chance his arm with voters under 45 who don’t list pensions among their top priorities. That may dissuade the PM from making pensions his priority, too.

The pressure group Next Gen Tories told Sunak: “Age is the new dividing line in politics. It is now a stronger indication of voting intention than class, gender or race.

“For every ten years younger a person is, they are nine times less likely to vote Conservative.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that as things stand pensions and pensioner benefits eat up 5.8 per cent of national income. It will rise to 7.6 per cent by 2050 - that’s £45billion more, £24billion of it due to the triple lock.

It is only right pensioners do not suffer when inflation is high or lose out when earnings rise which is why a double lock must remain in place. But the 2.5 per cent minimum increase has been used only three times in the last 14 years when prices and wages were flat.

Yet it has meant pensions have gone up 60 per cent in cash terms compared to 42 per cent if they had risen with prices alone or 40 per cent with earnings. That makes the 2.5 per cent the element most likely to go.

British pensioners on £885 a month are still worse off than many in Europe. In Spain, Belgium and Switzerland pensions are more than £2,000 a month while in France it’s £1,500.

Any reform must take this into account and begin with a healthy uplift to kick off any change. Pensioners need to be guaranteed long, happy and fruitful lives. They must not be packed away and forgotten - like my old typewriter.

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