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Daily View: The politics of elderly care

Clare Spencer | 10:25 UK time, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Health spokesmen on the Politics ShowCross-party talks on elderly care have broken down, insults between parties have been flying in Parliament and on BBC1's the Politics Show. Commentators consider why elderly care should be such a contentious issue and if a cross-party policy would ever work.

Mary Dejevsky in the Independent says the recent all-party approach is suspicious:

"When the three major political parties go into a huddle to reach a consensus on anything, you should smell a rat. In the case of what is optimistically called 'social care', you should small a very big rat indeed. Separately and together, the parties seem to have judged that this one issue risks being a deal-breaker with the voters. Far safer to take it off the electoral agenda by dint of agreeing to agree. Whoever is elected can then set about the unpopular job of actually doing it."

Harry Phibbs in the Daily Mail welcomes the failure to work out a unified policy:

"A failed deal is better than trying to cobble together some scheme in secret based on cosy consensus, splitting the difference, and then telling us that whoever we vote for it will be adopted as policy."

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail says a cross-party policy could never work:

"Achieving a consensus is a nice idea in theory. In practice, it founders on profound ideological divisions. For Labour, the solution to the care problem - like everything else - consists of top-down, state-controlled funding.
Yet that pattern of taking money in taxes and disbursing it through the Treasury has been tested to destruction in the NHS."

The Telegraph editorial accuses politicians of playground antics when dealing with social care:

"No bigger social issue confronts the country, yet it has been reduced to a political football. And if Labour has been negligent, the Tories are unrealistic. Their plan for an £8,000 one-off insurance premium is unconvincing."

Sam Lister in the Times warns that shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley risks isolating himself by saying he won't turn up at this week's conference on elderly care unless the inheritance tax levy is removed:

"The positioning is damaging for the Conservatives and unfortunate for Mr Lansley. His claims that the gravestone billboard posters "was not a negative campaign" is plain wrong, and all know it.
His absence from the consensus conference will only underline this further, and enhance the impression for key stakeholders on care and the wider public that the party is now not prepared to enter sensible discussions on this most important of policy issues."

In the Guardian Peter Wilby says a death tax is hated because it runs up against the emotional mythology of a home-owning population:

"For millions, building up a home - saving for one, buying one, gradually paying off the mortgage, trading up and making improvements - is the central narrative of their lives, and all the more so when jobs, particularly working-class jobs, offer little satisfaction or personal development. Governments encourage home ownership because it buys off dissent and delivers a more docile workforce. Over the past decade particularly, the capacity to borrow against the security of a house has helped disguise stagnation in ordinary people's incomes. No wonder they wish to hand on this precious, hard-won asset to their children just as aristocratic families wished to hand down intact estates to their heirs. No wonder, even where an inheritance tax is unlikely to affect them personally, they empathise with those who have to pay it."

Joan Bakewell is the government-appointed voice of older people. In the Telegraph she has been following the debates over social care and says that, among the political furore, one thing has been forgotten:

"One fact remains alongside all the arguments and fuss. The poor - those with no wealth to bequeath - are, not surprisingly, left outside this debate. The poor have no worries about threats to their estates or the legacy they leave their children. Yet the poor when they get old are the most needy of all."

Links in full

IndependentMary Dejevsky | Independent | Tomorrow's aged will demand better
TelegraphTelegraph | Our elderly deserve better than playground politics
GuardianPeter Wilby | Guardian | A death tax is the fairest one. Yet now no voter will buy it
TelegraphJoan Bakewell | Telegraph | Why the elderly deserve better than this
MailDaily Mail | Care for the elderly and taxing the dead - how Labour could grab an extra 10 per cent of all estates
Iain Dale's Diary | Politics at its Worst
MailHarry Phibbs | Daily Mail | Shouldn't we insure the elderly instead of taxing the dead?
MailMelanie Phillips | Daily Mail | Yes, the Tories are up to dirty tricks. But Labour's death tax is an absolute shocker of an idea
TimesSam Lister | Times | Tories' hard line could isolate them on care

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