Kick them in the ballot box

Following announcements this week, there is to be a new £3 a week tax for 1.7 million over-75s

Strangely, that’s not how the government described the decision to end free TV Licences for the over-75s. But that’s what it is equivalent to.

More than 4000 over-75s in my constituency – and more than 20,000 in Sheffield as a whole – will lose their free TV Licence.

And it’s yet another broken promise from this incompetent, shambolic Conservative government.

The Conservative Party Manifesto for the 2017 General Election stated

“We will maintain all…pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this parliament.”

There was no ambiguity. There are no ifs and no buts.

In one foul swoop, the Conservatives – including each and every one of those standing in the election to be the new Leader of the Conservative Party – have broken their promise to 3.7 million pensioners.

If those candidates can break one simple unequivocal promise with such a total lack of concern, why should electors put their trust in any of the other promises those candidates are now making…about Brexit, education spending, our NHS, or housing?

We all remember Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg’s broken promise on student tuition fees. This is on a par. What these two broken promises have in common is that they were made in full knowledge that they were going to be broken.

Is it any wonder ordinary people have become sceptical about what their elected representatives say? I’m ashamed of them. I may have many weaknesses, but I have never made a promise to my constituents that I didn’t intend to keep.

In abject dishonesty, the government has tried to blame the BBC for this broken promise. This was because the government had forced the BBC to take responsibility for Free-TVs in the negotiations about the BBC budget and the Licence Fee.

This week, in the House of Commons, I challenged the Conservative Minister, Jeremy Wright, about this broken promise.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)

More than 4,000 of my constituents will lose their free TV licences. Will the Secretary of State explain to them ​simply and clearly how he expected to keep the promise made to them in the 2017 manifesto about their free TV licences? What mechanism did he intend to use?

Jeremy Wright

As I have said, the Government’s view as to what we expected of the BBC was clear. It was expressed clearly a number of times, including by me and indeed by the Prime Minister. However, the statutory fact of the matter is that this is a decision for the BBC to take. We made our view very clear, and other hon. Members made their views clear too, but it remains the BBC’s decision to take. I regret that it took the decision it did, and we must now speak to it about what more can be done.

So, just as bad as actually breaking the promise is the Ministerial confirmation that it was a promise that the Conservative Government was actually incapable of keeping.

But, instead of pleading guilty, all I got was mealy-mouthed words saying he regretted the decision that had been taken.

Of course, the BBC should never have been forced to take this responsibility and the BBC should never have agreed to become responsible.

But both knew where it would end up. As the former Minister (Conservative MP Ed Vaizey) said:

“The Government should either take back the policy or support the BBC changes.

They should not use weasel words to undermine the changes that the BBC has made.”

I couldn’t have put it better.

I hope 3.7 million over-75s take their revenge in the way they know best.

Kick them in the ballot box.

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