In the modern day, perhaps one of the most peculiar political relationships is that between Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), says Simon Kew, director of pensions at Jackal Advisory, whether the relationship will be lampooned in Spitting Image, remains to be seen

Those of us of a certain age will recall the satirical programme Spitting Image. Every Sunday evening in the late 80s and early 90s millions of viewers sat in front of the box, eagerly waiting to see who would be lambasted that week.

Spitting-Image

Source: Wikia

Often, the mischievous writers focused on a skewed version of the relationship between David Owen and David Steele (now Baron Owen of Plymouth and Lord Steele of Aikwood respectively).

They implied that Steele was a meek and mild ‘puppet’ of Owen, often seen literally in his pocket.

So successful was the parody, David Steele ‘credits’ the show with seriously damaging his image.

Now, in the modern day, perhaps one of the most peculiar political relationships is that between Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or, more specifically, George Osborne and Steve Webb.

It lends itself to a skit almost without trying: George devises a cracking wheeze to buy the ‘grey vote’ and raise tax revenue in one fell swoop, by introducing the pensions freedoms that allow lump-sum withdrawals from individual pension pots. George makes the policy, Steve is left to justify it.

His hands are on the stable door but, alas, the horse is far, far away sniggering quietly to itself.”

In a rare slip, the Pensions Minister appeared to veer off message when he said:

“If people do get a Lamborghini, and end up on the state pension, the state is much less concerned about that, and that is their choice.”.

Did Webb have any choice in the reforms? I doubt it very much. I can’t imagine he was given much notice of the announcement! That said, the throwaway comment is what we mainly recall from the aftermath of the policy announcement.

He has, more recently, asked not to be remembered as ‘the Lamborghini Pensions Minister’.

His hands are on the stable door but, alas, the horse is far, far away sniggering quietly to itself.

 I wonder if blowing a pension will soon be called ‘doing a George’?”

There’s a real disconnect between the new freedoms and auto-enrolment. The Treasury doesn’t want more people than necessary to rely on the state pension so we force them to be enrolled into a scheme. A simple idea, which should bring a modicum of success.

But there’s a catch. These workers don’t have to stay enrolled. They can opt out. Not only that, they can take what savings they have at retirement and spend them on holidays, cars, property, plastic surgery - whatever they like.

When asked how he lost his considerable fortune, George Best replied “I spent a lot of the money on booze, birds and fast cars. the rest I just squandered.”. Now thanks to the other George’s new reforms, we may see pensioners doing the same. I wonder if blowing a pension will soon be called ‘doing a George’?

With easy access to considerable sums of cash, there is a serious concern that unscrupulous companies and individuals will latch on to pensioners and con them out of their hard-earned savings either in person or via phishing scams. Pensions liberation is, rightly, highlighted as a major worry. I fear that the reforms may, in some cases, promote ‘open season’ on retirees that will be near impossible to trace until it is too late.

This government won’t tackle it, neither will the next, nor the one after that… but that’s politics”

There’s also the impact on the state pension bill to consider, however that can has been kicked a considerable way along the road. This government won’t tackle it, neither will the next, nor the one after that…but that’s politics.

To coincide with the upcoming general election, Spitting Image is being revived in an animated format called ‘Newzoids’ to poke fun at the current crop of politicians. Whether the relationship between HMT and DWP will be lampooned, remains to be seen.

Simon Kew, director of pensions at Jackal Advisory