On the one hand, this Coalition government argues that:
An improved offer on public sector pensions could be withdrawn if an agreement is not reached, unions have been warned by the government.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, in the Guardian, also urged union leaders to persuade their members to accept the “generous” offer tabled.
Generous offer tabled? Does £5,600 a year (who the hell could live on that!) sound generous to you? (Surely not as generous as Mr Maude’s £43,000?) Meanwhile, this call to “sense and sensibility” comes amidst the following situation:
[...] more than two million workers are set to strike on Wednesday over changes to public sector pensions.
They include teachers, border control staff and some health workers.
Unions say proposals which require their members to work longer before collecting their pension and contribute more are unfair.
And the government respond by saying:
The government says change is needed to keep down the cost to the taxpayer, because people are living longer.
So let them live longer – and more poorly. But not the ministers at the top.
Who trusts these ministers then? For example, they tell us that tax rates are frightening off the trickle-down managers – only for the trickle-down managers to tell us that it’s all right after all:
Fears that the 50p rate of tax would hinder recruitment of top executives have been allayed, according to a survey of 50 large companies that will relieve pressure on George Osborne to accelerate plans to abolish the controversial levy in next week’s autumn statement.
Only 13 per cent reported that the 50p rate for those earning more than £150,000 a year was proving a barrier to attracting senior managers to Britain, according to KPMG, the professional services group, in what it said was a “dramatic change of sentiment” since 2009 when over 80 per cent of companies expected the levy to hinder recruitment.
Bit like all those who predicted that the minimum wage was going to be the end of the world as we knew it – only for it then to provide the kind of social cohesion all decent economies need in order to properly function with confidence and predictability.
And yet, at the time, at least according to the newspapers which hold sway over us, the 50p tax rate and the minimum wage were on the point of irrevocably striking the whole blessed economy down.
But if it’s the real 99 percent we’re looking for, we need look no further than a recent Left Foot Forward piece on the results of a survey into whether people trusted government ministers on pensions:
A staggering 99% of voters don’t ‘fully trust’ ministers on pension affordability. In fact the government is one of the least trusted bodies to provide accurate information on the topic at all.
In stark contrast trade unions topped the opinion poll as the public’s most trusted source of accurate information at 33% – three and a half times more trusted than ministers (9%). Also behind unions in terms of trust on accuracy over pension affordability are think tanks (19%), newspapers and TV (13%) and business leaders (13%).
This suggests the government will struggle to convince the wider electorate of its central argument and justification of pension changes.
What’s more, trades unions have the following massive vote of confidence to be said in their favour – though you’d be hard put to realise it from most of the mainstream media coverage they tend to get:
That trade unions are so much trusted on this topic shouldn’t be an entire surprise to poll watchers. Ipsos Mori’s ‘Veracity Index’ (pdf) has seen unions consistently outpoll governments in trustworthiness since the survey began in 1983.
One more subject for the Leveson inquiry to investigate perhaps? How some newspapers not only hack into people’s phones and interfere with their privacy but also intentionally discombobulate their wider perception of reality?
Just as serious. Just as consequential. Just as disgraceful.
And just as likely to be ignored.
Reality, after all, is there to be fashioned. It’s only phones that have pin numbers to be hacked.