Corbyn wants to call time on pension inequalities

Jeremy Corbyn says manual workers should be able to retire early
Jeremy Corbyn says manual workers should be able to retire early

Will Jeremy Corbyn ever get to be leader of the Labour Party and go on to become Prime Minister?

Looks as though he’s dead set for the former in which case the latter could follow on naturally. Of course everyone predicted David Cameron wouldn’t get a meaningful majority in the last election and look what happened. Which goes to show that opinion polls can be a pointless exercise.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

If there’s one thing that could swing it for Corbyn it’s his assertion this week that manual workers should be able to retire early. They shouldn’t have to wait until they drop he believes and suggests a “flexible pension age that allows people to work for as long as they want to, but also recognises that for many people the nature of their work, their health, or their disability may not allow that’’.

With Tory plans to raise the pension age, eventually to 68 years by 2044, Corbyn says this will create a “two-tier retirement in which the fortunate few can retire into long contentment, while increasing numbers retire later in poor health and poverty’’. There’s a lot of logic in his thought process. Why should manual workers like a lorry driver, a firefighter, police officer or paramedic (his definitions of manual workers) not be able to retire on full pension earlier he says? But then GPs too these days feel they’re worked to the bone, so also do nurses. What about teachers who also think they’re overworked and under-paid. At the first sign of a redundancy package they’re signing up. What about shop assistants standing behind a counter all day or a photographer risking life and limb and working all God’s hours just to earn a decent salary?

The Labour leadership contender, if he wins, pledges also to launch an older people’s commission to “investigate new funding solutions for pensioners’’. He would like to see social care provision brought into the NHS and “dignity for all in old age’’.

Care for the elderly is currently in crisis with a generation facing huge care bills they had no opportunity to plan for. So it’s easy to see how Corbyn’s socialist ideals would appeal to the public.

The Greeks, aided and abetted by trade unions, established such socialist ideals once they joined the European Union – they even regarded hairdressers as manual workers with a right to retirement at 55 years and every pen pushing civil servant was allowed to claim full pension well below their 60th birthday. They even paid for university education. If someone didn’t gain their degree in the requisite time they could continue studying until they did achieve it and still get supported from public funds. It meant they had thousands of students well into their 30s many of whom had taken over student buildings defying the government who wanted them vacated. On one of my visits to the country I stumbled into one of these sit-down protests which, I was informed, happened most days of the week.

Greece ended up in crisis unable to pay its debts, criticised by the world for its profligacy. It will take the country a long time to regain its dignity. Is this the sort of thing that could face the UK if Corbyn gets his hands on power? On the one hand we have people living longer because they have better health thanks to the NHS and their own efforts. Not all of these people want to retire at 60. I have two lovely friends, one 73 years, the other 69 and they wouldn’t dream of retiring. The latter has spent the last decade learning new skills which she says have developed her as a person; the former works full time and still has hours left to devote to her grandchildren. It’s all about having choices. Corbyn sees that, unfortunately our Tory government does not.