U.K. opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Theresa May’s Conservatives, describing them as a “nasty” party after the prime minister said she’ll drop a pledge to protect pension payments.
Under what’s called a triple lock, the government guarantees pensions will rise annually by whichever is greatest: the rate of inflation, the rise in earnings, or 2.5 percent. Labour pledges to retain it for five years if it wins the June 8 general election. The Tories say they’ll drop the 2.5-percent provision. May also plans to scrap winter fuel allowances for wealthy pensioners, and to require that costs to care for the elderly and sick be paid from their estates after death.
The Tories “are now pitching young against old: their manifesto is a typical nasty party attempt to set generations against each other,” Corbyn said Saturday at a rally in Birmingham, central England. “Some claim that cutting support for the elderly is necessary to give more help to the young. But young people are being offered no hope by the Tories either — loaded up with tuition fee debts with next to no chance of a home of their own, or a stable, secure job.”
Trailing in the polls, Corbyn is fighting a rearguard battle by trying to appeal to pensioners, a demographic that traditionally votes Conservative. May, for her part, has been actively targeting Labour voters, saying the party has abandoned the working classes, taking her campaign to Labour-held seats, and emphasizing her “strong and stable” leadership versus the “chaos” she said a Labour win would cause.
The Tories on Saturday responded to Corbyn’s attack by saying that the biggest threat to the country is getting Britain’s divorce from the EU wrong, and that a defeat for their parties would lead to the “terrifying” prospect of Corbyn leading the exit talks.
“Get Brexit wrong and we get everything wrong — from looking after our elderly to paying for our children’s education,” the party said in a statement. “Our nation’s economic security and our standing in the world depends on getting the Brexit negotiations right.”
In a Facebook post on Saturday, May sought to galvanize her supporters to get out and vote, warning that a lot is “at stake” in the election.
“If I lose just six seats I will lose this election, and Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting down to negotiate with the presidents, prime ministers and chancellors of Europe,” May wrote. She emphasized the U.K. has some “great challenges,” including “how to restore the contract between generations, providing security for older people while being fair to the young.”
Corbyn’s description of a “nasty” party harks back to a speech the premier herself gave when she was the Tory chairwoman in 2002. Then, she told delegates at a party conference that the public considered theirs “the nasty party” — a criticism that rankled with the grassroots.
May on Thursday published the Conservative Party manifesto. In it, she pledged to retain the triple lock until 2020, in line with a promise made in the party’s 2015 program for government. Then, the double lock of a rise in line with inflation or earnings would take effect.
The Tories also intend to reconfigure winter fuel allowances, which currently go to all pensioners regardless of need. In the future, only the least wealthy pensioners would be entitled. On social care, 100,000 pounds ($130,000) of anyone’s estate would be protected, but holdings that exceed the threshold would have to go to pay the costs of their care — though they wouldn’t be required to sell their home while still alive.
“We are calling on the Tories to drop their anti-pensioner package immediately — older people should not be used as a political football,” Corbyn said.
The Scottish National Party, the third-biggest group in Parliament before it dissolved ahead of the election, also weighed in on pension benefits. The party will include a demand to protect the central lock in its manifesto, which is due to be published on Tuesday, it said Saturday in an emailed statement. It will also commit to retaining winter fuel payments for all pensioners, extending the subsidy to include families with severely disabled children, it said. It will oppose increasing the state pension age beyond 66.
“The Tories cannot be trusted to care for our older people,” party leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. “Removing the triple lock, slashing the winter fuel allowance, and pushing more care costs onto our elderly when they have paid taxes all their lives is a disgrace. ”