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Don't see Charles Clarke as a serious rival to Gordon. Can he be taken seriously with a beard? I would worry a bit about Milliband but don't think he will stand particularly after the intervention of that intellectual giant and sage Margaret Beckett.

Fine if the Labour Party want to commit political suicide. They simply can't see beyond the end of their own noses - they think Gordon is wonderful but the electorate do not. A bit like us electing that intellectual pigmy IDS as our leader - what an indictment of our MP's at the time.

Of course the pension tax change was a massive blunder. But to get the pension issue to stick the Conservatives need to extend this story in the media to the coming weekend.

Can they?

There is a danger that if we undermine Brown too much now, Milliband will stand, and could win.

I therefore suggest that we hold off on any more of these attacks until nominations have closed. Just as a precaution.

That would be true if Miliband was someone to fear Londoner but is he?

au contraire. Charles Clarke is a powerful communicator, and unlike Brown a capable administrator. He would be a better prime minister than brown, and give cameron more of a fight.

Brown's pension mess is only the quarter of it. By demolishing the capital value of pension funds, many top British companies were left with pension funding shortfalls. Brown, trying to cover his embarrassment permitted them to abandon final salary inflation protected pensions, condemning millions into instant old age poverty.

But he then stopped investment in its tracks by forcing companies to top up their pension fund shortfalls immediately, blaming them for having 'too many assets' in equities, which he claimed were unsuitable assets for pension funds to hold. (With him as Chancelor they certainly have been).

He might have waited until the stock market had recovered a bit, but Oh no, good old Gordon who celebrated the bottom of the gold market by selling off our gold reserves (which would have doubled in price in 5 years had he left them alone), also forced companies to top up their pensions and stop investing, pushing many into being active sellers of shares.

The stock market has never recovered since with British P/E ratios in the FTSE being on a par with Thailand, way behind most other developed economies.

Brown has turned us into a banana republic, impoverishing pensioners, stopping investment and pushing Britain's growth rate to the floor since 2001.

Had he left all alone, our growth would haver raised the taxes he's now having to try as hard as he can to disguise, while our public debt is sky-rocketing.

What is so sick making is that it's taken our media ten years to notice that Brown is a total financial jerk, and he has been given sycophantic treatment - especially by Rupert Murdoch, mindful of the no British tax deal he secured, and needing to keep Brown sweet.

The price Britain has paid and will pay for Brown financial delinquency is too high. Brown should go immediately and Murdoch, his arse licking supporter should go with him.

In response to HF's comment about how we must extend the story into the coming weekend, there ought to be scope to exploit the CBI's refutation of the Treasury's spinning. Only this morning we have seen Lord (Adair) Turner appearing to come out strongly against the Balls line. It might have been too soon for last weekend's Sunday heavyweights to exploit Friday's disclosures, but perhaps this weekend might be a chance - would Lord T give a more extensive anti-Brown interview?

In passing, Jeff Randall has done it again today - "Pension mugger Brown has been rumbled" just about sums it up.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/02/npension102.xml

Curious that the Times is now leaking these stories given that Anatole Kaletsky has spent the last ten years telling us what a wonderful idea Brown's raid on pensions was. Is Murdoch manoeuvring to ditch Brown?

Hard for the Tories to make any mileage out of this because they have no plans to reverse Brown's pensions raid.

Jennifer, Yes I do think Milliband would be a much more difficult opponent for Cameron to fight than Brown. He would have novelty on his side and, however Blairite he may have been, would have a much better chance of convincing the public he was a "fresh start" (whilst at the same time being more similar to Cameron than Brown is) - like John Major managed in 1992.

I agree that Charles Clarke would quite possibly make the best PM of the three - but it really is fantasy-land that he would be elected sp we don't need to worry about that.

What is fascinating is how this story has suddenly sprung wings. For years the Tories tried fruitlessly to make Brown's pensions raid a big story. It's only taken off now because the media template has changed. The media is so herdlike in its behaviour and because they're all hunting Brown at the moment this story has caught their imagination.

Unlike most of the outcomes resulting from Labour's legislative programme, Gordon Brown's raid on our pension funds is a prime example of the law of intended consequences. Despite warnings from his own officials and others he chose to press ahead with the results that are, 10 years on, only too apparent.
I hope that Cameron keeps up the pressure and ensures that this issue gets the prominence it deserve. Up to now Brown appears to have got away scot free; perhaps, at long, last retribution beckons.

There are only circa 4-5 centres of power in " the media " and Blair , seeing this , took care to tie them all up years ago .
Even the Telegraph cooperated and still does - they have been dutifully calling the slime ball " Tony Blair " , at Blair's request for the last 10 years . Blair's team made a specific decision in the 1990's that Tony Blair sounded much more friendly than simply Blair

( regardless of the fact that they have called Margaret Thatcher , Thatcher , most of the time , and John Major just Major - but then they calculated , correctly , that the Tories are so wet they'd just get away with it ).

You are correct about the media . Generally , they are herd like and often stunningly ignorant . Not all of them though . Given that they are controlled by just a few employer's and there are only , perhaps a few hundred reporters at most it is easy to see how Blair tied 'em up - and why Campbell has always been so contemptuous of them .

Are you sure the Tories 't fruitlessly tried to make this a big story' for years Editor?
From 2001 onwards the Pensions industry was fully aware of the effect on final salary pensions but during all that time including the 2005 election I cannot recall a single speech by IDS,Howard or Cameron about this subject.
As Michael McGowan rightly points out any attack by us on Brown will be blunt if we do not promise to reverse his decision or at least make clear that it is the top of our priorities.

I think it would be irresponsible not to continue these attacks on Brown, he has committed the Heist of a Lifetime, and is shown to be an old fashioned tax and spend socialist. It matters little who the next leader of the socialist party will be, it's their policies that will unravel them!

"Fine if the Labour Party want to commit political suicide. They simply can't see beyond the end of their own noses - they think Gordon is wonderful but the electorate do not. A bit like us electing that intellectual pigmy IDS as our leader - what an indictment of our MP's at the time".

Posted by: Andrew Bradley | April 02, 2007 at 09:23

Unless Cameron does another complete about- turn, as did after being credited with being responsible for Howard's election manifesto and now morphing into a Leftie, then you will soon see who is an intellectual pigmy. Should Cameron win the next election England will take another pounding unless he drops most of the codswallop that he comes out with.
It was IDS that set about to make the Tories portrayed to have a compassionate grounding and he has set about to produce practical policies.

In my opinion (I dislike having to differ with Charles Moore of the Telegraph) Cameron, so far, is trying to be all things to all men and comes over as being merely opportunistic and devious - but whilst there is life there is hope.

It is interesting to see that Crick, referred to in the main body in "Betsygate", has apparently been promoted and rewarded by the BBC for, presumably, his work. I wonder what work that was ? Nothing to do with the "intellectual pigmy", surely?

Malcolm, in fairness to the Tories, I think that they did try and make some headway with this story around the Millenium but they were constantly shouted down by the New Labour spin machine and its mates at News International. There was a stage I think when Kaletsky was even pushing the line that by removing the dividend tax credit, Brown had stopped companies paying out excessive dividends and thereby released more corporate funds for investment! He seems to have dropped that one now that corporate funds are being in fact being devoured by pension fund deficits.

If Brown is badly damaged by this, and Brown and his supporters have been the main source of pressure on Blair to go, might not Blair just decide that Brown is no longer in a position to force his hand and go back on his word to stand down?

In fact, how about this: Blair could agree to Tory demands for an inquiry, sack Brown when the findings are out and stay on for another election.

Ahhh... don't you love fantasy politics.

It would be good if we had a policy which just helps to start to rebuild pensions funds. It says a lot about Brown this does. He's only intersted in keeping things going OK on his watch. Little thought seems to have gone into his long term legacy.

I'm not too worried about Milliband to be honest. Some people only fear him because of what Cameron's done. At the end of the day, he would still be leader of an unpopular government with pigmys as cabinet ministers and no new ideas, and as has been previously noted, he has the look of a geek.

Quite right, HF @ 09.42:

"But to get the pension issue to stick the Conservatives need to extend this story in the media to the coming weekend".

But even more important, we also want it debated in the place where all serious debate should take place - the House of Commons.

Well said, Tapestry @ 10.18:

"He might have waited until the stock market had recovered a bit, but Oh no, good old Gordon who celebrated the bottom of the gold market by selling off our gold reserves (which would have doubled in price in 5 years had he left them alone)..."

We need to keep reminding voters of this astounding example of his investment prowess, though to be factually accurate, I believe he only sold off a half of our gold reserves.

Gordon, Gordon, I've got a CUNNING PLAN to get us out of this pension's scandal!

Let's blame it on the CBI.....


After reading Milliband's vacuous pap about the "I Can" Society in the Telegraph last week, I don't think there's anything to fear there.

Another point about Brown is his general reluctance to answer questions in the Commons. Witness the way he got Primarolo to face all the questions on family tax credits

Surely another miscalculation on Brown's part was to delay for as long as possible the release of the advice against the Pensions Raid.

Two years ago, the public and the media were still being fooled by NuLab's glittery nonsense and the growth of the war in Iraq might have obscured debate. Now, the media is bored with the monster it helped to create and the public are beginning to wake up to the dreadful plight of so many pensioners.

I still don't get this guff so commentators many feed us about Brown's great intellect.

Its a very good document released by CCHQ - well worth a read, Gordon should be able to have quite a few entries in the Big Red Book of New Labour Sleaze

It's taken a long while for the full impact of Gordo's smash and grab raid on the nations pensions and savings to out. Gordo has stuck his hand in everyone's pockets, the result being that the lower and middle classes have seen pension incomes slashed to the bone, and many have lost the lucrative final salary scheme. A nation of pension paupers has been created, for what, so that Tony and Gordo can get on with social re-engineering our society, macro-managing everyone's lives, invading our privacy with yet more PC driven intiatives, wasting billions on ID cards and senseless IT schemes, selling influence and peerages, going to war on rather spurious grounds after stripping the armed forces budgets, losing control of our borders and allowing a flood of illegal aliens to enter the country, destroying the civil service, the list just goes on and on and on.
Brown should be made to answer for his actions, and that means resiging and standing trial for theft and peculation, with Tony his co-defendant.
How NuLab expect to maintain credibilty in the face of the mounting evidence against Brown is going to take some spin and propaganda. But, it will demonstrate a breathtaking arrogance towards the electorate, to expect them to accept the annointed one, as the only candidate.
We should perhaps take a leaf out of recent Roumanian history; a spot of anarchy, a wall and a fusillade of bullets, problem solved.

Andrew @ 12.03:


"It would be good if we had a policy which just helps to start to rebuild pensions funds".

Quite so and another reason why it is not prudent at this stage to be promising tax cuts (though we should remind people constantly that we are the natural tax cutting party - and ours are genuine tax cuts when they are brought in!).

I take the Editor's point that it is only now that complaints about the 1997 pensions raid have any traction in the media. Given that the Times is seen as the Nu-Labour house magazine, I initially wondered why they were making the running on this. But of course the answer is obvious: the expose has been encouraged all along by the Blair camp in order to scotch (groan) Gordon's prospects as prospective PM.

Nigel Forman, former Tory MP, in a paper released by Demos first proposed the idea of scrapping the dividend relief that pension funds received.
Pot. Kettle. Black.

Treasury Claim Untrue

Lord Turner has called Treasury claims he or anyone else speaking for the CBI lobbied for Gordon Brown's 1997 pension tax changes "completely untrue".

But Lord Cashcroft, OUR Chancellor Clarke TOOK ADVICE and it went no further.
Gordon takes advice from no one. Then he hides behind the throne while others answer the questions. "Where haS ALL THE MONEY GONE"???????????????

Today Lord Turner has, more or less, accused Brown and Balls of lying their head's off and has strongly questioned Brown's suitability to be Prime Minister.

I trust opposition politicians realise the severity of this situation and do everything possible to bring Brown to account.

If played correctly this could mean the end of Brown's political career and the destruction of any remaining chance New Labour have of winning the next election.

A large part of the problem is the money rased has been spent on public sector pay rises so is not readily reversable. What we can do is remove stamp duty on share (cost £2.5 bln) which in teh long term will raise an average pensioners final savings by 10%. Not as good as removing the double taxation that Brown's removal of ACT has brought in, but an affordable start...

Turner has a problem - he was in charge of a Task Force looking at Pensions - he is closer to Blair than Gollum

Brown's problem was Geoffrey Robinson who introduced him to "The World of Maxwell" and how pension funds lubricate bankrupts.......and Arthur Andersen the Accounts to the Criminally Insane.......you can see why HMG banned them from Govt work after the DeLorean Affair and they hired Dimwit Hewitt who got their blacklisting rescinded as soon as Labour found troughs and snouts

A large part of the problem is the money rased has been spent on public sector pay rises so is not readily reversable

Oh yes it is.......Money Purchae Pensions in the Civil Service and closing the Final Salary Non-Contributory Scheme

TomTom

I agree we should close the final salary schemes for civil servants, but we would have to fund money purchase schemes with teh value of the outstanding final salary schemes. The cost would be large, which is why employers close existing schemes to new members, but do not wind them up in total.

Thus contractually there would not be any savings were we simply to make the civil service move to a scheme the rest of us are on...

Our next PM, Brown, raids pensioners' savings for a gimmicky budget which the Sun said was the best for years. Now he raids the income of the low paid 10% taxed to finance a another gimmicky budget. This guy should be in jail along with all a lot of American ex-businessmen. He's going to be Prime Minister, he's been Chancelor for 10 years and only now is the media asking what is going on. Surely this says volumes for the level to which the country has sunk as the media went along with New Labour. Unfortunatel is says a lot about the quality of the opposition as well!

With regard to the comments that much of the lack of appetite for these stories come down to Murdoch controlling New International. It’s no secret that Blair and Murdoch are working together for mutual benefit, most importantly for Murdoch because of the support Blair gave Bush for the Iraq war. Yes my friends, this unfortunate war had Murdoch playing his bit in the vitally important job of coercing Blair to get Britain involved. It interesting that Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish Prime Minister and another Murdoch induced backer of the conflict, last year got a seat on the board of News International board. Blair is also hotly tipped for the same when he leaves office, although Downing Street have to date refused to discuss this.

Lance Price, who was deputy to the Downing Street communications director Alastair Campbell, described Mr Murdoch as "the 24th member of the Cabinet", saying: “No big decision could ever be made inside No 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of Rupert Murdoch.” But, also remember that it goes the other way too, Murdoch got Blair to keep Britain out of the Euro and got him to call a referendum on the EU constitution, two things we wouldn’t grumble about? Anyway, back to the thread….

Note that the paper that ‘broke’ the pensions story by getting hold of the information on the advice given to the Chancellor is a Murdoch paper, and spent two years getting it. It’s interesting that as Tony Blair, ok “Blair” Jake, as he approaches the exit the stories seem to break in increasing intensity. Actually I’ve noticed that The Times has been quietly leading the way on negative Brown stories for over a year now and recently it’s had a number of very damaging leaders like this one. Is it Brown who is being menaced by a clunking fist just now?

Tony Blair once said, in reference to his self imposed closeness to Murdoch, “It’s better to ride the tiger's back than let it rip your throat out.”, well that depends on where it takes you I suppose, but sooner or later the Cameron camp are going to have to face the tiger, and riding it’s back, if it will let you, seems to be the only worrying option.

Good to have you back Oberon. You've been missed!

I wonder if PFI will start to rear its ugly head now the floodgates are open. I see Newsnight are on the pensions case now.

Andrew, you are absolutely right. PFI is another disgraceful Brown plan to keep taxation high even if Labour isn't in office. Now as someone who is committed to world class state funded education and health provision, I would be one of the first to sway in favour of a funding gap. However, I also feel (as I'm sure most people across the political spectrum do) that the funding for huge building programs must be made available by the Chancellor of the Government proposing the program, within that term. To enact legislation that allows 30 paybacks on huge unfunded programs is Brown making spending headlines today at the cost of making an enemy of our future. The opposition must bring this issue to public debate. If we don’t drive the argument home in opposition, we will greatly regret that it in power. As it is we are nearing the limit of legitimate opposition to this.

but we would have to fund money purchase schemes with teh value of the outstanding final salary schemes

Incoherent.

You could not use Money Purchase to replicate Final Salary simply because one is Defined Contribution and the other Defined Benefit,

In short Final Salary is a blank cheque drawn against the Shareholderws of the Business, whereas Money Purchase is a defined Operating Expense which is capped and leaves the Pension negotiation to the retiree buying an annuity

Anyone else note that on their evening news broadcasts last night BBC policitical pundit said that the pensions fiasco was unlikely to damage Brown much and ITV said the pensions fiasco was likely to damage Brown quite a lot? (Know it's sad, but watched the news on both sides because not much else to watch.)

Not at all dogbiter. If you dont watch both sides, there is no balance, and you dont find out what has really happened.
Any delegate to a Tory conference must be aware that they attend a totally different event to the biased beeb. At Nottingham, I as standing close by a skeletal news lady whose name escapes me, was instructing her crew what to capture on film, and Oh boy! Bias!

A very good example of BBC bias on TV this morning. Compare the coverage of Browns pension grab and the launch of the local Election campaigns on Ceefax and Teletext today to see what I mean.
PS I wonder if there are any other sad people other than me who actually still read Ceefax and Teletext?!

TomTom is correct that it is perfectly legally possible to cease accruing public sector final or average salary pensions and replace them with money purchase contributions and the employer certainly does not have to put as much into the money purchase as the final/average salary one is costing if he chooses not to. Private sector employers are doing it all the time.

The important point is that you cannot take away benefits already accrued - so if, for instance, a civil servant has accrued 20 years, say on 60th's his 20/60 times his final salary is "in the bag" - he just cannor add to the years accrued. Also, crucially, the final salary used can be his salary now, upgraded only for inflation or 5% whichever is the lower, rather than the actual final salary when they retire reflecting promotions etc. The change therefore does not settle the final liability but at least stops digging a bigger and bigger hole for all the future tax revenues to fall into.

The problem with doing this for the public finances is cashflow - civil service final salary pensions are unfunded whilst money purchase ones require real cash to go into people's individual investment funds. Also, although it is true that many private sector employers get away with paying in pitifully small money purchase contributions which will never have the slightest chance of meeting the previous final salary related expectations, good employers actually pay in quite a lot. A decent pension is part of the deal for civil servants to make up for no bonuses, lower salaries still in many parts of the service compared with private jobs with the same level of responsibilities, etc. In Whitehall they even have to take in their own instant coffee (hot water is graciously provided).

So, bearing in mind that the public sector is highly unionised (and has a lot of voters), if you ceased further accrual of final salary pensions, it would cost a lot in the short term - adding 10% to 15% to public sector pay costs in all areas where the pensions are currently unfunded.

A start would be to insist that the unfunded actuarial cost of each year's pension accrual is added to the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement - it is just as much an IOU from future taxpayers as the issue of any Government stock.

so if, for instance, a civil servant has accrued 20 years, say on 60th's his 20/60 times

Civil Servants at the top do not work on 60ths but instead on 40ths with enhancement.

There is also the Rule of 34 whereby you start work at 18 in a public sector job - Inland Revenue and other roles - and you can retire on full-pension at 52.

Pensions

"85 Year Rule" is the system.....your own age plus 33 years contributions.

So if you start work at 18 years by the time you are 52 you have the qualifications 33 + 52 = 85 to retire on full pension

If town hall staff keep the so-called 85-year rule - underwhichtheycanretireeven earlier than 60, if their age and length of service add up to 85 years - the cost would add billions to council taxes, which have already nearly doubled underNewLabour.

And one reason for that eye-watering increase is explained by actuary company Hymans Robertson: a staggering 26 per cent of council tax goes on pensions. Can householders - especially hard-pressed pensioners - pay even more?

Pensions

Local authorities are entirely different because their pensions are funded and in that case it would be very possible, if there was the political will, to switch to quite generous money purchase contribution rates whilst at the same time saving some money and, as importantly, capping future increases in liabilities.

I gave my "60th's" civil service accrual rate as an example. That's why I said "for example"! Whilst there may be some on 40th's, there are also a great many civil servants on 75th's. On your example of getting a full (i.e. 2/3 of final salary) pension after 33 years' service, that is in fact nearly 50th's. I am not sure about this 85 rule - someone told me that, in present times at least, that is a myth but I stand corrected. Remember that the whole thing was revamped 7 or 8 years ago, with "average earnings" pensions gradually being brought in. But, in a way, the more generous the pensions are, the more of a problem a Govt would have with replacing them with money purchase wouldn't they? Even if only imperfectly factored in, in comparison with their economic cost, this remuneration would have to be replaced, to a greater or lesser extent, with something else unless they are all prepared to do the same work for hugely less reward (unlikely except for the worst end of the dross). As a minimum many of the good people might go and work for local authorities which could afford good replacement money purchase pensions as demonstrated above. As it is, often the only thing keeping good senior civil servants in the system is the pension.

So I stand by my point that it would not be simple, and certainly not cheap, to up-end the system. The problem is that it is also very expensive to keep it. (Whisper it quietly) but the only real solution is to slash the size of the public sector, not to slash their pay.

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