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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Cold Comfort-2

They’re doing it again! Griping about the winter fuel payments to ex-pat pensioners abroad.

I could understand it if a sound argument was being made. But it isn’t. It’s dressed up to appeal to be a vote-catcher in UK at the cost of the soft targets, pensioners abroad; politics of envy, judging by some comments, albeit misguided.

The above article is also online, here.
The online article is illustrated with a stock photo of a pensioner couple playing chess in the sun and another photo shows a relatively crowded beach with sunbathers. Not exactly winter images, but to be expected from this biased quarter, the Daily Mail. Right now, we walk around with coats and boots on, but that kind of photo would spoil the subliminal image the Mail wishes to purvey!

And of course the sensationalist figures don’t tell it as it is, maybe because it isn’t simple, or maybe because those figures seem better for the argument: the payment is £100 per person, not £200 as implied; or £200 for a single person if living alone, or £200 per couple. (Yes, it increases with age up to 80, and the maximum claimable is £300). These are the UK government’s rules, not ours; a UK government whose incumbents are paid for by the taxpayer, among whom are thousands of aggrieved ex-pat British pensioners.

There are a lot of reader comments on the Mail online article. A certain number pander to the myth that if you’ve emigrated abroad, you must be rich; others don’t seem to realise that we ex-pats have paid our taxes and many still continue to do so, but see no return for our investment in our country.

And of course the writer, James Chapman, Political Editor, cites the same old statistics -

“But in December and January temperatures in Spain can reach 17C (63F). There are almost 28,625 recipients in France, many of them in the south where temperatures in winter are often a comfortable 13C (57F)’ – figures which I refuted in my earlier blog here

The DM article states that ‘Mr Duncan Smith said countries where the average annual temperature is higher than the warmest region in the UK – the South West at 5.6C – will be affected.’ This is nonsense – ‘average annual temperature’? What months are involved in this temperature test, or is it the whole year? January and February? How many years is the average taken over? If UK is blessed with five years of warm winters, will the winter fuel allowance be stopped for UK residents since the average will be higher than 5.6C?

The sun is shining outside while I’m sitting typing this, at 4pm on 2 February, and the gas fire is on, because it’s cold. It will get colder. Tonight it’s expected to be 5.0C. Averages can mean whatever the user of the statistics wants them to mean (see the report above). Cold kills old people – usually around about 2am, when the body is at its most vulnerable. It has little to do with how much sunshine occurs in the afternoon.
Hailstones, Costa Blanca

Mr Duncan Smith is quoted as saying, ‘The winter fuel payment is intended to help British pensioners with heating costs.’ My wife and I, like thousands of other ex-pats, are British pensioners – and we’re also British taxpayers. Oh, thanks for your consideration, Mr Duncan Smith!

He adds, ‘From winter 2015/16, we are changing the rules so that it no longer goes to people in European countries with an average winter temperature high than the warmest part of the UK.’ Interesting, they’re changing the rules – and simultaneously attempting to block attempts by ex-pats to vote in UK elections (since, after all, we pay their wages via our taxes).
Change the rules, indeed! Does that go for MPs’ claims on expenses, too? You know, those MPs with generous pensions who don’t have to concern themselves about heating their home (any one or three of them).

Disraeli wrote, ‘The practice of politics in the East may be defined by one word – dissimulation.’ Well, it’s not only in the East any longer, it’s in Westminster. And it stinks.


DW Rob said...

Thought-provoking, Nik.

Here's an interesting afterthought for you. I live on the moors on the outskirts of Manchester, well above sea level. It can be bloody cold here. According to the MEt office, via the Beeb,tonight's overnight temperature forecast is 5 degrees.

That same forecast predicts your overnight low as four degrees.

Nik said...

Thanks, David. Number-crunchers...! We'll have to wrap up tonight. Pity IDS won't...