The pension reforms announced at the Budget have jolted Westminster from its pre-election ennui. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are cock-a-hoop. But “It has been a disorienting few days for the opposition”, as Rafael Behr writes.
This is what can happen when a new policy is as uncompromisingly ideological as the change to annuities. Most of the objectives for government policy are not inherently divisive; parties tend to disagree over means rather than ends. In this case, however, the chancellor succeeded in making whether one supports or opposes the idea of voluntary annuities a case study in moral discombobulation.
When the new pound coin was compared with the threpenny bit, a currency that I think was last used in 1368, we should have known this would be a Budget for those in their dotage. The Conservative party’s core vote has eroded, in part because of the rise of the United Kingdom Independence party, which for all its huffing about the EU is more concerned with the familiar: immigration and living standards. The chart below, via IpsosMori/the Guardian shows the extent of this erosion. It depicts voting intention by age. Last year, for the first time, baby boomers became no more likely to say they would vote Conservative as the so-called Generation X (1966-1979).