As always, the Times cartoonist, Peter Brookes, illustrates succinctly the thousands of words around his drawing.
A pensioner stands with an apple marked “Pensions” on his head. Gordon Brown takes careful aim with a cross-bow, kills the pensioner and eats the apple. It summarises the main story – we know anyway that Brown killed off the pension tax credit in the certain knowledge that this would seriously damage the British pensions industry and would result in catastrophic cuts in pension income, particularly for those in or approaching retirement.
Now we know that the Civil Servants advising him accurately predicted all of the main consequences, and in particular the effect on money purchase and final salary schemes and the consequences for the lower paid and local authority pension schemes. They also drew attention to the conflict between this and the Government’s expressed policy of improving pension income and encouraging saving for retirement.
None of this is news in the sense that Brown can anyway be assumed to have been aware of the obvious and immediate consequences of his actions – and the loss of future pension income, however long deferred, is “immediate” in the sense that it is only one logical hop away from his action. Few people have thought this was a mistake on Brown’s part – morally wrong, deeply dishonest, and a deliberate betrayal of those he claimed to have gone into politics to help yes, but not a mistake. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Let’s just spell out again the human consequences of this. Gordon Brown was advised by his officials that the abolition of the pension tax credit would lead to a significant reduction in pension benefits for the lower paid, and that those about to retire would be the worst affected. People – real people, not just large institutions – would endure an old age of poverty at the hands of a Labour government and by the deliberate act of a Labour Chancellor whose whole life, allegedly, was dedicated to bettering the lot of the poor and who trades so heavily on his religious upbringing and socialist convictions.
Mere incompetence (if that were what he were accused of) is nothing to this charge. We know anyway that Gordon Brown is a deeply dishonest man whose every word is a deliberate lie (c.f. Tony Blair whose dishonesty is psychopathic, unconscious and apparently beyond his control). Brown’s supporters would not quite express it like this, but they did not mind the dishonesty if it was directed at transferring money from the better-off to the poor.
Now he has been caught deliberately sentencing poorer people to an impoverished old age, together with millions who were not poor in the accepted sense in their working lives but who will now become so in retirement.
There is one group of people who are cushioned against the impact of Brown’s destruction of the pension industry. As soon as MPs observed the effect of Brown’s policy on the investment end of their pensions, they hastened to increase their own tax-payer subsidised pension contributions. Brown will get £53,000 per year even if he does not become Prime Minister.
The apple which Brown eats in the Peter Brooks cartoon does not merely represent tax raised for the nation. It stands also for the fact that Gordon Brown, the son of the Manse, the fighter for the under-privileged in society, the socialist improver of the lives of the under-class, is a self-interested and dishonest man for whom politics is a means to personal power and personal gain. Many politicians are the same; this one is different because he makes claims to a level of virtuousness and concern for others which are at odds with the facts. The fact here is that he deliberately screwed the pensions of the poor with full knowledge of the consequences and effect, and he tried to cover up the extent of his foreknowledge.
It makes Blair look almost honest, relatively speaking.