One question political parties will be keen to duck before the next general election is what to do with the ‘triple lock’ (an increase based on either the rate of inflation, increase in average earnings or 2.5%) on state pensions? Already deep in a hole, the Tories will not want to say too much about the triple lock, given the ageing demographic of their support. Labour may hope to pick up some of that support, so will be as obtuse on the subject as possible. As for the LibDems, who cares? With UK inflation obstinately high, it looks like the next uprating based on September’s inflation figure could be around six to eight per cent. Let’s watch out for little hints of what is to come. I imagine some Tories may say we’re going to keep the triple lock, but we’ll introduce means testing. Another rise in the pension age seems inevitable. I wouldn’t be surprised if in order to allow politicians to carry on saying ‘we’re keeping the triple lock’ it will be applied only to the Pension Credit element of those who qualify for Pension Credit, i.e. the worse off. Since many who would qualify don’t apply for it, this would be by far the cheapest option.
I set my research department on to the question, to see where Labour’s policy stands. In 2017 the policy was clear—keep the triple lock at least until 2025—and that policy survived until the 2019 election, so is the one our current cohort of MPs supported and were elected on. But the water was muddied when Rishi Sunak temporarily dropped the triple lock in 2021—Labour MPs did not oppose that move, leaving Labour in ‘a position so contorted that Simone Biles would struggle to achieve it, and so diluted that it’s virtually homeopathic’ according to Andrew Fisher, Corbyn’s former policy director. (I’ve learnt that Simone Biles is a gymnast.) And last year things were no clearer, with frontbencher Lisa Nandy trotting out the old cliché ‘let’s wait and see what the books are like when we come into government,’ but with another frontbencher Jonathan Reynolds saying the triple lock is safe.
The triple lock could be a determining factor in the 2024 general election, not least for pensioners who still have mortgages. Labour needs to get its act together. There’s a challenge for ‘Sir Trust Me, I’m Not A Plant.’