While packing her bags for the Swiss Alps, Theresa May drops an austerity bombshell on 6 million people

Emily Apple

While Theresa May prepared for her summer holiday in the Swiss Alps, her government used the last hours of parliament to screw over nearly six million people. As a special end-of-term austerity gift, the Conservatives announced that the state pension age will rise earlier than expected. Anyone currently aged 39 to 47 will now not be able to retire until they’re 68.

Happy holidays!

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke announced the changes, claiming:

As life expectancy continues to rise and the number of people in receipt of state pension increases, we need to ensure that we have a fair and sustainable system that is reflective of modern life and protected for future generations.

Although this was perhaps not the best argument to make in a week when it was announced that life expectancy has stalled since 2010. This is the first time this has happened since 1919. And the Tories and austerity have been blamed for the stagnation.

Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, slated the decision as:

an astonishing continuation of austerity.

And TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warned that:

In large parts of the country, the state pension age will be higher than healthy life expectancy.

We should have known

But there is another important question. How many of those aged between 39 and 47 would have changed their votes if they’d known about the changes before the election?

As The Canary previously reported, the government was legally obliged to publish its intentions on pension age by 7 May 2017. But it argued that it couldn’t publish at the time, because of the rules around purdah. Purdah is the period in elections during which the government can’t announce new policies.

Tom McPhail, head of retirement policy with Hargreaves Lansdown, said at the time:

There are no votes to be won in telling people they have to work longer, so it is hardly surprising the government has chosen to kick the can down the road until after the general election.

Screwing us over since 2010

This is not a government listening to an electorate fed up with years of austerity. But proof that the government’s austerity agenda is alive and kicking.

From the ‘dementia tax’ to refusing to guarantee the triple lock, the Conservative Party made its contempt for pensioners clear during the election. And while the disastrous election result means it has had to abandon these commitments, it wasn’t through lack of trying.

And now, in the week when we’ve been told that life expectancy has halted, the government is still using the ‘continued rise in life expectancy’ to justify screwing six million of us from retiring earlier. You couldn’t make it up.

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