The Naw Ye Cannae campaign is sending Gordie Broon to Glasgow on Tuesday to lovebomb us. Because sending Gordie to show his neoclassical endogenous growth theory to an invited audience of Labour loyalists and media hacks worked so well for them in Kirkcaldy. It didn’t even work on me, and I’m notoriously unfussy about men who offer lovebombs.
Gordie doesn’t do public meetings, in part at least because there’s a good chance that the public won’t display the required degree of anally-retentive reverence – if the public can even be arsed to turn up. Gordie may, for unexplained and inexplicable reasons, command huge fees for making speeches, but the rest of us are more likely to find a reliable provider of endogenous growth by buying viagra from a website based in China. They’re quite helpful when vaguely creepy looking men offer you a lovebomb in a darkened room. Lots of alcohol helps too. So does being bereft of any self-respect.
The topic for Tuesday is pensions, like it was in Kirkcaldy. At this point a proper journalist would give readers a potted summary of what Gordie said about pensions the last time. But like 99.9% of the Scottish population I wasn’t paying any attention, although I do seem to recall thinking that asking Gordie for advice on pensions was like asking Goldilocks for advice on burglaries. She fell asleep on the job too.
However, to save time, it was something along the lines of “You’ll all be screwed if you vote for independence and will have to work until you’re 112.” But he said it with a smile, so it counts as a positive case for the Union. Or it may not have been a smile, it may have been gas, with Gordie it’s difficult to tell. He’s like a wee baby that way, they pee in their own beds too.
During the last Labour government, Gordie infamously screwed everyone’s pensions. In 2006, the Institute of Actuaries estimated that the tax changes Gordie introduced in 1997 had reduced the UK’s national pension pot by at least £100 billion, and probably by much more. Many companies used the increased costs as an excuse to wind up final salary schemes for their employees. Even on the Treasury’s estimates, Gordie cost workers contributing to employee pension schemes an average of £300 per year and forcing them to delay retirement in order to make up the shortfall. The true figure could be as high as £5000.
Pensions expert Dr Ros Altmann said at the time: “Gordon Brown saw pension funds as an easy target – so he raided them. He either doesn’t understand private pensions or he doesn’t care about them, which is hardly prudent.”
Gordie, who was more interested in pursuing his internecine warfare with Tony Blair, got some minions to issue a statement pointing out that he’d also cut Corporation Tax which would stimulate growth and make up the shortfall in pensions. This was before cutting Corporation Tax became Labour’s totemic symbol for surrender to evil capitalists. That only happened when Alicsammin said he wanted to cut Corpie tax too.
Gordie’s mismanagement of the economy and his enthusiastic conversion to the notion that letting the financial sector do what it liked with a minimum of supervision was the reason that the UK was so vulnerable to the effects of the economic meltdown in 2008. Any benefits which might have arisen from cutting Corporation Tax vanished along with the last shreds of Gordie’s reputation for prudence.
Not that Gordie noticed, he was too busy throwing Nokias at Ed Balls and Ed Miliband when they’d failed to brief journalists with a sufficient amount of dirt on Gordie’s opponents. Gordie, like many politicians, has a wild bird egg collector’s attitude towards political office. All that matters is getting your paws on the pretty prize, you don’t care if you drive the species to extinction in the process. And that’s why final salary pension schemes have gone the way of the Great Auk. But Gordie got the shiny prime ministerial egg locked away in his collection cabinet, which is all he ever wanted to do with it.
However for the purposes of persuading Scotland to remain in the Union, Gordie has transformed into Caledonia’s leading expert on income maximisation after retirement. And he does actually have some credentials there. Since losing power in 2010, Gordie has devoted himself to income maximisation, and now has a lucrative career in expensive after-dinner speeches for companies which can’t afford the fees of anyone more entertaining, or indeed capable of retaining the audience’s attention until the end of his opening sentence.
Gordie described himself as an ex-politician during one of his highly paid after-dinner speeches to some bunch of executives in a posh hotel in a warm climate. He’s an ex-politician who is still the elected representative for Kirkcaldy, but he’s got no plans to resign even though he can rarely be arsed to represent the people of Kirkcaldy in the Parliament that is allegedly so influential and all-powerful that Scotland will be screwed without it. But if Gordie stands down from Westminster he’ll bugger up his MP’s pension. MPs are only entitled to their full pension rights if they stand down at a General Election, or are voted out of office. That’s why he’s pretending to represent Kirkcaldy in a Parliament he rarely bothers to attend. So Gordie is really an expert in endogenously growing pensions, at least his own.
Gordie’s last attempt to scare the bejeezus out of Scotland with pension threats didn’t work. It’s not clear why they think it will work this time, although it may not be unrelated to the fact that they don’t have any other ideas.
To coincide with Gordie’s positive pension blitz, Better Together has embarked on a billboard campaign of positivity. It shows a pair of miserable looking pensioners who’ve just come from an audience with Gordie, and a warning that if they vote yes they won’t be able to afford cat food. Starving moggies will attack and eat them as they doze in front of the telly – which has been switched off because there’s no electricity in an independent Scotland. It’s that special sort of positivity that only Better Together can do – see they do so have a Unique Selling Point.
However according to the recent opinion poll published by the Scotsman, only 25% of Scots believe that pensions will be negatively affected by independence. Most think it will make no difference, or that pensions will improve. The Republic of Ireland, regularly trotted out as a basket case economy by Better Together activists who hope that no Scots go there on account of it being foreign, pays its pensioners a basic state pension of €219 (approx £180) a week. The UK manages just £113.10. Unless of course you’re a former MP.
Pensions would be secure in an independent Scotland. The Scottish Government has already released a detailed paper explaining the likely situation. The truth is that Scotland currently pays a lower share of its GDP on pensions than the rest of the UK, and with new Scottish spending priorities and freedom from the UK’s punching above its weight expenditure – like Trident and the bloated MoD – Scotland will be in a position to pay its pensioners a decent pension, to continue to pay them, and eventually to increase the basic pension to a level more like that found in other rich and developed EU states.
That’s not a guarantee we’ll get with the Union. The only guarantees you’ll get from Gordie and his Westminster pals is the guarantee that they personally will have a comfortable retirement. The job of the rest of us is to pay for their mistakes, and that’s not a job we’re allowed to retire from.
The Union is not fit for purpose, it’s time we pensioned it off.