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Take a look at the real piggy banks, not nurses’ pensions


OK, there are two rules to writing a column - well, there may be more but let’s assume I didn’t get the memo. First, don’t get personal; it’s tacky, spiteful and unnecessary. Second, as the author Bernice Rubens once said: “Always write in yesterday’s blood.”

In other words, don’t write with anger or too much feeling as the words may not come out right. Feel free to look away now.

Although I concede I can be a grumpy, sarcastic so and so who is at the point in life where I argue out loud with the radio or television when it is used by someone to talk complete nonsense, I know I am cursed by one unfashionable and ultimately unhelpful constant - I like people. Not all of them obviously; indeed individually they often constitute the pain in my neck but, on the whole, I like them, or at least their condition, their potential and their hope.

There are, it seems to me, two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. No sorry, cheap joke.

The two kinds of people are: those who like people and those who don’t. Of the latter I don’t mean they don’t like their friends or their mum or the idea of Cheryl Cole. I mean they don’t like the idea of strangers, indeed strangers scare them. Strangers are a drain on resources; they claim benefits, wear hoodies, mug old ladies, most generally “they” aren’t like “me”.

And the thing about misanthropes is they live for something to come along and justify their bile. I think that’s why we have certain newspapers that function as a locus of blame and distaste. The people who don’t like people like to have somewhere to go to feed their loathing, to articulate their prejudice - this government is not afraid to give the people what they want.

I tell you what I hate most about Lord Hutton’s public service pension review (there goes rule two). It’s the “common sense” to which it smugly lays claim.
“We simply can’t afford it” and “public service workers have had it easy for too long”.

Did you see the news story about the vacuous little banker waving £10 notes at a demonstration staged by doctors and nurses in defence of services last week? “Get a job” he shouted at the people with jobs, further demonstrating a level of pig ignorance no pig would be proud of (there goes rule one). It illustrates a division in society that clearly benefits some while punishing others.

Meanwhile it was revealed that America’s richest 400 people now possess more of that country’s wealth than 50% of their population. Are we collectively poorer than we were? No, we are simply serving different interests to the ones that those of us who actually like people would like to see served.

It’s wrong that public service pensions should be changed - if for no other reason than the simple fact that people have worked for years in accordance with a set of rules. That this might now be wiped away on a political whim is both dishonest and unjust.

It remains my view that nurses represent the best of our society, along with doctors, teachers and emergency staff. When they become disposable our way of life changes, when we think it is acceptable to lie to them our standards drop, when we stop valuing the jobs that these professionals do, we all become misanthropes - and that way lies only bitterness and hate.


Readers' comments (19)

  • The comment "public service workers have had it easy for too long" incensed me as well. Who in the hell does Lord Hutton think he is?
    What on earth is this country going to do when RN's of my age group retire or drop dead through exhaustion, and the nurses training now give up either during training, or after 5 years when they have had enough. The NHS is in the shit, and is going to need one hell of a digger to get out of it. But don't worry, it will just get privatised!!

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  • John Howes

    I assume the noble Lord has conveniently excluded his Parliamentary chums or is he possibly referring to them?

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  • What worries me is that a lot of the public are beginning to believe the media (and political view) that public sector workers really do not deserve a decent pension. I notice that whenever this issue is discussed in either TV or the papers no one mentions that there are no perks in the NHS we dont have company cars or a Xmas bonus, I always felt that the final salary pension went a little way towards making up for the lack of perks.

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  • Adrian Bolt

    Come on Mark get real, whether you like it or not whether you are prepared to accept it or not, Lord Hutton (and I hold no brief for the man I have never met him although few doubted his fairness or independence as a judge) is right.

    We (as a nation) cannot afford the sort of deal that public service workers (and I am one) have enjoyed up to now. We have had it easy compared to workers in the private and public sectors as you would know had you ever worked there.

    The daily Mash has got it about right although it puts the case rather less diplomatically of course.

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  • Adrian Bolt

    that should have read:

    "private and voluntary sector"

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  • Edwin: I think the issue is simply what reality do you choose to gather around isn't it? For me a reality that suggest producing something that is useful (health, education, safetly, well being) brings added value and thus warrants added benefit if not pay.
    The new 'reality' that suggest Hutton is right is not a fundamental truth, it is a politically constructed position that does something more important than argue about 'reality'.
    It shifts the public perception toward the idea that money is all that matters and if you create anything else with your labour you are a cost to the common good rather than a resource.
    I do like the Daily Mash though.

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  • Adrian Bolt

    The “reality” that health and education brings added value to society is not exclusive to the “reality” that the national debt is currently £900bn. Include the public sector pension deficit and the figure rises rapidly into the trillions. (Although I would also argue that car manufacturing, insurance and banking is of equal value to society).

    The “reality” that we cannot afford such a level of indebtedness and must take steps to reduce it is as much a fundamental truth as the one that nurses, doctors and teachers should be adequately remunerated for their efforts. Lord Hutton”s position is less a politically constructed one as one of simple arithmetic.

    The argument that Doctors, Nurses and Teachers should receive “added” benefits (final salary pension etc etc) sounds like special pleading to me. Ford workers contribute as much to the common good as any one else but they can only dream of the sort of benefits I enjoy.

    I actually think I am quite well remunerated for the hours I work. Money may not be all that matters in life but we in the public sector would do well to remember that the NHS relies on manufacturing and yes the financial sector to pay our wages.

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  • Lucky you Edwin I have been a nurse for 23 years and am anything but well remunerated!

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  • Ahh the National Debt anxiety. What is 60% of the GDP compared to Japan (194%) or Italy or America or Germany? If you want to think of it as necessary that the cycle of economics is redressed by cuts isn't it worth asking what priorites may underpin the society those economics design?
    Surely a recession is simply an opportunity to decide what it is your society values the most. Banking? Insurance? Warheads? Me I value education and health care over say Ford cars, (those workers by the way get benefits most nurses can only dream about) communication officers or estate agents. I am terribly old fashioned I suspect.
    I think people in the public sector have politicians queuing up to tell them they should be grateful to be paid by the less costly private sector, (many of whom don't produce anything as useful as a nurse but do produce things which can be sold). And that mantra by the way is of course a commodity in itself, sold widely and bought by many.
    Personally I prefer to remember that without the public sector those workers would have neither the education to do whatever it is they are doing or the health care services that enable them to do it.
    Quite simply a proper pension is the last social manifestation of value many public sector workers have. The last sign that choosing to do something that is not measured by profit but rather by something more profound is a choice that can be recognised and rewarded by a civilised society. That isn't 'special pleading' it is both logical and deeply symbolic. To imagine otherwise suggests a lack of confidence in the value of what nurses do and there are too many non nurses trying to do that without nurses joining in too.

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  • The same Lord Hutton who presided over the 'Manufactured evidence within documents which led the nation into an illegal war in Iraq' whitewash/enquiry. I presume. Fair one.

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