A very British coup. They are plotting to kill off the state pension triple lock

Angela Rayner refuses to commit to state pensions triple lock

Maybe you can hear it too. It’s persistent and nagging, and gets louder every time the triple lock does the job it was designed to do, which is to protect pensioner incomes.

The triple lock was introduced by the coalition government back in 2010, and there were plenty in the Treasury who didn’t like it back then.

Yet it’s been a rare political success, in contrast to all the failures we have witnessed since.

It has lifted millions of pensioners out of poverty, by helping their incomes keep pace with prices and wages, with a 2.5 percent uplift in years when both were in the doldrums.

It isn’t exactly lavishing people with riches. The UK state pension is still one of the lowest in the developed world, even if it is topped up with lots of other benefits.

Pensioners would be much poorer without it, as they discovered when Rishi Sunak refused to pass on a 8.3 percent increase in wages in April 2022, saying they had been distorted by the pandemic. Instead, pensioners got 3.1 percent.

That cost pensioners a staggering £487 but it’s worse than that. They’ll continue to lose that money, every year for life (plus the annual uplift on it, too).

That’s how important the triple lock is, as if we needed reminding.

Next April, the triple lock will give millions of pensioners an 8.5 percent pay rise worth £900 a year to those who get the full new state pension.

Does anybody think pensioners would have got anywhere near that, without the triple lock?

Daft question.

The only thing stopping politicians from scrapping the triple lock in favour of something less generous is that they don’t know how to get elected after doing it.

That’s why Prime Minister Rishi Sunak keeps gritting his teeth and pledging to protect it. With an election due, there was no way he was going to block next April’s increase.

The obvious time to axe the triple lock is after polling day, in the hope that voters will have forgotten the betrayal come next election day. Or died.

In the meantime, we get sniping from the sidelines. This morning former Tory leader William Haguedamned the triple lock as “runaway train” fuelling a “dangerous” situation. 

He was followed by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride, who called it “not sustainable in the long run”.

Last year, it was the turn of former Chancellor Philip Hammond, who triggered fury after claiming the triple lock is “hard to justify”.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has also been evasive on the subject.

This afternoon, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner refused to commit to Labour keeping the triple lock if the party takes power at the next general election.

I wouldn’t be wholly surprised if the two parties had quietly agreed to avoid making this an election issue, to give the winner a free hand, either way.

On top of all that, we’ve been given a steady stream of figures showing just how much the triple lock will cost the UK in future, including last week’s contribution from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which said National Insurance may have to rise to cover the cost.

The sniping is coming from all sides. The aim is obvious. To soften us up before they finally strike.

The only question now is when it happens. I’m betting a month or two after the next election, regardless of which party wins. That’s only a guess, though.

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