GUEST COLUMN: Battle against austerity is a fight for young and old, by writer Roy Bainton

Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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One of the oldest weapons governments have at their disposal is still in use by our newly-elected rulers.

The ancient principle of ‘divide and rule’ encourages divisions among the electorate to prevent organised opposition to government policy.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the growing gulf between Britain’s younger generation and UK pensioners.

George Osborne’s welfare cuts are viciously aimed at the under-25s, for whom the ‘national minimum wage’ will not apply.

Scrapping housing benefit for those aged 18 to 21 will impact seriously on many families, where up to 4 million under-30s are still living with their parents.

The removal of caps on student loans will soon place a university education beyond the reach of the poor.

Even those young people who have found work realise that becoming a ‘hard working tax payer’ is no longer enough to get you on the first rung of the housing ladder.

Meanwhile, by a media campaign of insidious stealth, the unfairness of this situation is being diverted from the Chancellor onto another sector of society, the old.

Some suggest that David Cameron’s wooing of the aged, by maintaining pension increases and other benefits, was a device to hoover up those extra ‘grey’ votes to put him back in number 10. If so, it worked. But as a ‘divide and rule’ weapon it will no doubt bring Osborne, who still needs to find more massive cuts, much joy. Set the young against the older generation and as the discontent soars, he will have new choices. Rather than redress the imposition of further misery on the young, he may well have hidden plans to level the playing field by ‘punishing’ the aged, now that their votes have served his purpose. This has already begun with the removal of the over 75s TV licence. This gave the new government doubled satisfaction. Not only has it saved them £608 million, they have been able to shift the debt onto an organisation they openly despise and would dearly love to privatise, the BBC.

A new report by a think tank, The Intergenerational Foundation, takes aim at UK pensioners. One of its founders, Angus Hanton, suggests pensioners are ‘bedroom blockers’ because once families have grown up, these old parasites continue to live in houses with spare bedrooms. (His own parents, however, rattle around in a £1.5m five bedroom suburban house …) Hanton castigates the old by suggesting they say “We did something to deserve our comfortable lives, we’re entitled” adding “the baby boomers are experts at that.” Is being old, with all its aches and pains, the daily descent into immobile senility and monthly funerals, such a ‘comfortable life’? Must we feel guilty for working for 50 years for today’s three meals a day, a roof over our heads and a bit of medical attention?

If you’re young, consider this; the drive for social equality and the battle against austerity is a battle we should all be fighting, young and old, shoulder to shoulder.