Perhaps I could make a living as a science fiction writer.
A fortnight ago I wrote here of my dystopian vision of the future, and the UK in 2030, extrapolated from current trends.
That vision had five elements:
- restrictions on the right to political protest
- restrictions on the right to strike
- the scrapping of various employment rights, such as paid holidays and maternity leave
- an end to healthcare free at the point of delivery
- restrictions on the right to a state pension
As I pointed out, the first three are already on their way, in the form of various pieces of legislation. Those limitations on political protest appear to include the ability of the police to ban demonstrations before they actually happen, which is a truly dystopian vision, a “precrime” straight out of the SF film Minority Report.
I suggested the last two elements had a way to go. Except that in the brief period since I wrote about them, they both seem to have edged a bit nearer.
Javid: the sick should pay for NHS access
The former Health Secretary Sajid Javid has suggested, in all apparent seriousness, that to cut NHS costs people should be forced to pay to see a GP or visit A&E.
This has then been debated, again in all apparent seriousness. Critics have pointed out that discouraging people from seeing their doctor for that unexpected pain or worrying symptom may prevent serious conditions from being diagnosed early, therefore costing more if they later have to be treated. And meaning more people will die, I should point out.
A lot of poor people would also presumably decide to suffer any amount of pain rather than visit A&E, including heart attack victims who would survive if their condition is treated quickly enough.
Javid, who is standing down at the next election and presumably returning to his career as a rich investment banker, looks at fees levied elsewhere in Europe, £20 to visit a GP and the equivalent of £66 for A&E. As the article in which he sets out his ideas makes clear, he is not the only Conservative politician to suggest a contributory element to healthcare.
Think tanks say state pension is a “handout”
The fifth element is the state pension. This, as I pointed out, is not liked by influential free market, right-wing think-tanks who believe it is a “hand-out”. As I said, one – the Adam Smith Institute – thinks the pension should be means tested.
Now up pops another one, Civitas, with a report attacking what the Daily Mail describes as “something for nothing Britain”. More than half of households get more from the state than they pay in tax, while the richest 10% account for 53% of all income tax paid. That 50% plus figure is up from just two fifths when Tony Blair was in charge, the article says.
Just to point out the blindingly obvious, this would seem to suggest the poor were better off under Labour, while growing wealth-inequality since has meant the rich got richer and so paid more tax, while the poor got poorer and became more reliant on benefits.
Pension age rise sooner than later
But the Civitas report appears to include among those people taking more out than they are putting in the nation’s pensioners, almost 11 million of them. The implication is that they are not paying their way. Again, to state the blindingly obvious, how can they, except to stop drawing a pension and get back to work?
We then come to the third development since I set out my dystopian vision for 2030. People are indeed going to have to wait longer for their state pension.
As early as the March Budget, the Government may bring forward the date when the pension age is due to rise to 68. This was to happen in 2046; the report suggests this could come forward to as early as 2037. This may seem a long way off, but it means anyone aged 54 or less will have to work longer before retiring.
The rationale for increasing the pension age, which is due to rise to 67 by 2028, has been that people are living longer and healthier lives and are able to work longer. Except that trend, driven largely by better healthcare and fewer people smoking, is going into reverse, official figures show, for poorer people.
A healthy white collar professional in a desk job could probably work until 68. But what of a poorer manual labourer, whose general health and life expectancy, as we have seen, is already falling?
It is hard not to see all the above as a whittling away of the principle of a state pension available to all regardless of need.
Those last two elements of my dystopia, as I have suggested, have just moved a little closer.
So, as any good science fiction writer should, when overtaken by events, I will extend that dystopia a bit further. The Government is bringing in restrictions on the right to vote which will disadvantage the young and the less well-off. Expect to see more of this, as the franchise is, quite accidentally of course, gradually withdrawn from those less likely to vote for the party in power. That’s the sixth element.
There are times when I genuinely hope I am wrong.
More from East Anglia Bylines
We need your help!
The press in our country is dominated by billionaire-owned media, many offshore and avoiding paying tax. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs.
If you believe in what we do, please consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette from as little as £2 a month 🙏