Pensioners grill parliamentary candidates

I was privileged last night (30th October) to be asked to speak for the Green Party at an election hustings meeting organised by the Brighton branch of the National Pensioners Convention and the local Brighton & Hove Independent newspaper. NPC 2

Nearly 100 people attended the event with speakers from the Labour, Conservative & Green Party. It also included the indefatigable Dot Gibson from the NPC who, as usual, showed her extensive knowledge of the issues and problems faced by older people.

There were some very interesting and informative questions raised from the floor – from people’s direct experience of being an older person or being close to someone who is.

The most focus was on pensions (the lowest in Europe compared to wages, and full of awful loopholes that lead to older women in particular missing out; on care (and the need for it to be free, consistent and not based on the privatised 15 minute visits model); and dignity and respect.

I spoke against the “cosy consensus at the Centre of British Politics on many of the big issues where all four other main parties (Tories, UKIP, Lib Dems & Labour) all share pretty similar views – they all support public spending cuts & market forces in public services, fracking, nuclear power and Trident missiles, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t support any of that consensus”.

And of course it is that consensus that led all the other parties last night to argue for pensions to be merely kept up to date with inflation or modest increases (while the Greens called for a huge hike in the basic rate of pensions to be above the poverty threshold) and for social care to be better integrated with the NHS (while the Greens alone called for it to be free at the point of need).

Finally, I argued that a better world is possible. “After the Second World War, there was a vision for a better society. We need another vision now: a world where we all take responsibility for ensuring the planet is fit to support our children & grandchildren; where it is not just “little people” like us who pay taxes but everyone contributes to the economy and to society; where we all have a say over what matters to us locally and nationally – and it is not just the politicians, the rich and the multi-national corporations who get to decide. In that better world, the Green Party would ensure that older people had the means to live their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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