Britain’s basic state pension is only 15% (and falling) of average earnings. It is the meanest, in proportion to earnings, of all the richer capitalist countries.
Last week Gordon Brown, speaking to the bosses’ association, the CBI, endorsed the Thatcher government decisions which started the withering of the state pension, and assured them that he would stick to that policy whatever the pressures from the labour movement.
The Guardian reported (10 November): “The chancellor said that Germany and France both faced spending 15% of their national output on pensions by 2050, but that the decision of the Thatcher government to sever the link between the state pension and earnings meant the public finances were in better long-term shape”.
He promised the bosses: “I will resist demands from wherever they come, such as on linking pensions to earnings where this would put at risk the fiscal position today and in the long term. Such short-termism is not the best way forward...
“[If] the state is asked to take on more responsibility than now, [the] implication is that the fiscal position will change. For anybody investing in Britain, the first question they are going to ask is whether there is going to be economic stability. That requires not just monetary but also fiscal stability.”
Older working-class people must live in poverty, or work until they drop — to keep the profit prospects juicy for global capitalists “investing in Britain”. Those are Brown’s priorities.
Brown’s statement should do one good thing. It should jolt everyone who thinks that Brown is a more old-Labour, more worker-friendly alternative to Blair out of their illusions.
Brown is Blair with a snarl. And on issues like trade union rights, privatisation, and pensions, both Blair-with-a-smirk and Blair-with-a-snarl are Tories.
The unions should break from Blair and Brown, and set out their own course to restore working-class political representation.