Cost of the link
It is a quarter of a century since Margaret Thatcher broke the link between pensions and earnings, and in the minds of some pensioners broke faith with them and their right to expect to share in the nation's prosperity.
From that day to this the basic state pension kept pace with prices - rising faster only at the whim of chancellors. The guarantee that as workers grew richer so too would retired workers was at an end.
The link, Margaret Thatcher's ministers insisted, was simply unaffordable. A view scorned by Labour then but years later echoed by New Labour - desperate to demonstrate financial prudence and political virility in the face of insistent demands to spend more.
It was Barbara Castle who first linked the basic state pension to the average rise in earnings in 1974 and she fought - even into her 90th year - to have it restored. Six years ago she roused a Labour Conference still fuming at the decision to raise the basic pension by just 72 pence - the price, she said, of a bag of peanuts.
But Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were unmoved.
"We did reject returning to the earnings link. For the next two or three years we could afford it; but 10, 15 years down the line, it would have imposed a huge financial burden on a future generation that would have been unfair. And yes we do want to do more now for middle and low income pensioners. You do not meet long term need by giving the wealthiest the same help as the poorest," the Prime Minister declared to applause.
What once would have been condemned as the hated means test was now hailed as targeting resources on those who needed them most. Only Old Labour talked of restoring the link.
But outside the Party the political plates were moving and a new consensus was being forged. The country, it was said, faced a pensions time bomb. The young weren't saving for their retirement. The spread of means testing had to be halted. The pensions industry said so, big business said so, the Lib Dems said so. Even the Tories said so. And soon Lord Turner - asked by Tony Blair to address the pensions crisis - would say so as well.
He took up the old cry of the Left that the link between pensions and earnings should be restored. Only that way - he argued - could people have the certainty that if they saved for their retirement means testing wouldn't rob them of those savings. To those who said it was unaffordable, he had an answer. We would all have to work longer.
But Turner still had not convinced the Chancellor. Just 6 months ago Gordon Brown talked privately of shelving Turner, claiming that his sums didn't add up and would force taxes to rise. The battle over whether and when to restore the link became yet another catalyst for yet another Blair-Brown split. The Prime Minister talked of over-ruling the Chancellor. Meetings between the two became so long and so acrimonious that Downing Street officials advised ministers waiting to join them to go back to their offices and to leave them to have it out alone.
Today we see the outcome. A carefully worked deal.
Brown has abandoned his hostility to restoring the link and has agreed to cap means testing. Blair has conceded that the link will be restored later than Turner recommended. 2012 at the earliest but later if - Brown insisted on this wording - it proves (you guessed it) unaffordable.
Does that mean that Brown can tear up the plan if he becomes PM? No, because Blair insisted on some wording of his own. Today's white paper will say that the date for the restoration of the link will be announced at the beginning of the next Parliament. Blairites believe that Brown will come under irresistible political pressure to confirm 2012 in an election campaign.
So, the link which Castle created and Thatcher destroyed refused to die - but the debate about its future is very far from over yet.