So, if you are committed to protecting the vulnerable in society,
whose holiday reading do you trust? Tony Blair goes for worthy
biographies of men who’ve ensured immortality for themselves on the
political stage. Mr Brown apparently enjoys contemporary heavy
weight thinkers, such as Noam Chomsky, the American radical,
defender of the poor and scourge of corporate greed .
The Blair/Brown feud has, of course, been intensified by the
appointment of Alan Milburn as master of ceremonies (and manifesto
content) for the forthcoming election – a Blairite whom, unlike
Blair, is allegedly prepared to take on Brown.
Milburn is wedded to the idea that the private sector and market
competition delivers (not always true). He likes phrases such as
“localism” and “active citizenship”.
Brown better understands that social change must come through a
revitalised public sector, a national child care strategy that is
truly universal and an increased investment in early years. While
he also recognises that future generations of women are unlikely to
carry the burden of care and the state will have to do more.
But will the chancellor be impeded – and at what cost to those at
the bottom of the social pyramid? In London, a hugely expensive
city, deprivation is acute despite seven years of Brown-ite
redistribution. One in four children lives in a household with no
Pensions too are a concern. The government, although notoriously
timid about upsetting employers, is considering compelling
companies to provide occupational pensions.
Last week, at its annual conference, the TUC called for the
restoration of the link between state pensions and earnings and
asked for special recognition of the position of women via an
Less than 13 per cent of women are entitled to a full basic
pension. By 2050, the full basic pension will, anyway, be worth
only 7 per cent of earnings while those who have taken time out
from paid work to care for children and dependents will be even
further penalised. Female pensioners, on average, live on 57 per
cent of a male pensioner’s income.
A decent citizen’s pension, unrelated to work, has appeal. So, who
is more likely to come up with a workable fair solution to the
pension crisis – Milburn or Brown?
That’s why this latest political spat is more than a matter of
vanity, egos and power. It could dictate the kind of society we