Politics and demographics…
It is in no way surprising to me that the biggest industrial dispute in many a decade has started over pensions and pension provision. Our ageing demographics make this issue the wages and conditions of our modern age and struggles over this are as important as battles over conditions while we are in-work. This demographic shift also plays its part in other issues – it’s one good reason that Cameron’s NHS reforms are potentially toxic even amoung Conservative supporters to his and the governments standing.
The left, as is often its way, is slow to recognise this – I vividly remember sitting at a meeting of the LRC National Committee – my first one in fact, where comrades were ummming and arrrring about whether pensions was really the right issue to go to war with the government over. It is absolutely the right issue to go to war with the government over because its one that has such purchase in wider society. A victory over pensions could have wider implications and be a springboard for successful action driving up wages and in-work conditions.
Similarly, today’s coverage of the Dilnot Report has focused almost exclusively, wrongly in some regards, on elderly care to the exclusion of other vulnerable groups because its the prime obsession and nagging worry of middle class and working class Britain. Legend has it that this issue is politically potent because the elderly are more likely to vote but that’s only partially true – potency is also derived from the fact that once you hit about 25-30 this issue becomes more and more germane so it doesn’t just concern the generation immediately involved.
Serious demographic and shifts in sociocultural patterns are something that the left rarely takes into account when framing it’s politics. This is undoubtedly something that has to change if it wants to be relevant in the current world because they change politics in a profound way.