If you ask me, Iain Duncan Smith’s suggestion that wealthier pensioners should, in an effort to help the economy, hand back their fuel allowances and, potentially, their free TV licences and bus passes has resulted in quite the hoo-ha, although I don’t know why. In times of economic hardship, doesn’t it make sense? Why should the lower-paid cough up to pay for benefits that the recipients simply do not need? In this spirit, I have written most supportively to Mr Duncan Smith as follows:
“Dear Mr Duncan Smith,
Although critics of your suggestion are saying don’t be duped and it’s the start of a slippery slope which can only lead to the dismantlement of the welfare state, I am entirely with you. It’s a horrible thought, paying for stuff others don’t need. Or, to put it another way: Is Michael Caine, at this very moment, drying socks on his radiators, with heat that I have paid for? Is Joan Collins hopping aboard the 28 bus at Golders Green and planning to travel the full route, to High Street Kensington, at my expense? (I don’t know what Joan Collins was doing in Golders Green, but if she was after bagels, Daniel’s is the best bakery by far, Iain.)
I would even add, Iain, that you could go further with this logic. Aren’t there many more people who could “hand back” financial support that they don’t require? For example, what about MPs and their subsidised meals, which cost us £6m a year? Shouldn’t we “encourage” them to forgo these, to help the economy? An MP’s basic starting salary is £65,738, Iain, and a cabinet minister’s is £135,000, yet neither can afford to buy their own lunch? As I understand it, there are 28 food outlets in Westminster and, in each outlet, every £10 spent is subsided by the taxpayer to the tune of £7.60. For someone in a minimum wage job, that £7.60 is the amount paid in tax after seven hours work, not taking the tax threshold into account.
I do not know what the average night-time office cleaner thinks about this, Iain, but I do know that whenever I think about Theresa May, say, enjoying subsidised braised pork belly with a black pudding bonbons, or a subsidised rib-eye steak with hand-cut chips, I do kind of want to throw up. (And all over the place, not just in my mouth.) I feel even madder about that than I do about Michael Caine’s socks, for some reason.
Yours, etc ...”
If you feel similarly, I suggest you cut out this letter and send it to Mr Duncan Smith. Politicians do come in for a lot of flak these days, and are often treated as if their ideas are both dumb and divisive, so he’ll be grateful for the support, I’m sure.
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