Billions for Bankers, Peanuts for Pensioners
Fighting For Womens Pensions
NPAG: We Mean Business
Workers Rights First
Decent State Pensions And Care Now!
Capitalism Isn't Working
It was very much a reminder to all the political parties who are just about to publish their manifestos for the 2010 UK General election that pensioners are an important political force. There are now around 12 million men and women of state pension age living in the UK, very near to one in five of the population, but the figures understate their political power, as pensioners are far more likely to vote than other age groups. According to Age Concern, more than 40% of votes cast in the 2010 election will be by those aged over 60.
Of course pensioners do not form a single voting bloc, but they do share many concerns, both for themselves and others who are growing old as well as for the rest of society. Age Concern has identified five key issues and these are reflected in the demands by the NPC and others on the march.
During and after the Second World War, Britain reached a consensus that things had to change and that the state had to provide its citizens with the benefits of what was called a welfare state: state pensions, a free national health service, free education and other public services. Over the years some of these provisions have been eroded (and in a few areas such as dental care, never fully implemented) but now they are increasingly under threat, whichever party wins the general election.
The huge deficits created by handouts to the bankers to keep the economy running, as well as vast expenditure on taking part in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in unprecedented public debt. This is not a matter of Labour mismanagement of the economy, but of pursuing policies which were largely agreed by both major parties, and at least to some extent by the Liberal Democrats.
We have already seen cuts in some public services, in some cases arising from privatisation under the Private Finance Initiative, which has burdened the public sector and the NHS in particular with large debts, and many hospitals, including some in London are now under threat of closure as services are rationalised to save money.
All three main parties are making plans for cuts in public expenditure, and these will fall heavily on the public services which are particularly vital for older people and for children.
The marcher also called for increases in state pensions, which currently leave one pensioner in four living in poverty. More too needs to be provided for the disabled - and many of the elderly are also disabled.
As many of those speaking and marching reminded us, the financial crisis wasn't caused by working people or pensioners, but by the unregulated greed of bankers, many of whom are now once again receiving huge annual bonuses, in some cases an annual amount more than the wages of a typical worker over their whole working life.
More pictures from this event already on Demotix:
and a lot more in a day or so on My London Diary: