PMQs sketch: The final screech

Clegg nods off as Dave's last friend covers the whole decibel range.

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote  that "into every life a little rain must fall,” he had not envisioned David Cameron or he would have changed the forecast.

After the worst night in his political life (so far) the Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons certain at last where to find his enemies: wherever he looked.

Bad enough to head for bed having been humiliated by his own side without being due a second slice of scorn at Prime Ministers Questions.

Indeed the House had a festive air about it as MPs on all sides celebrated their various parts in the drubbing of Dave, not to mention Nick (and nobody did) over the House of Lords.

Their mood was obviously helped by that wonderful parliamentary fact that wherever you are in the political calendar, another holiday is just around the corner; in this case a six week break starting next Tuesday.

Some seemed to have seized the chance to pack early and sadly amongst the missing was Hereford Tory MP Jesse Norman who played a large part in organizing 91 of his fellow travelers to desert Dave and described the Lords legislation as a “dead duck”.

MPs were hoping to check Jesse for signs of violence following reports of handbags incident involving him and the PM in the Commons late last night.

Mr Norman who, like Mr Cameron went to Eton and is old enough to have demanded Dave fetch his tea and crumpets, was apparently “escorted from the premises” following the conversation with his leader and is no longer tipped for promotion.

As Mr Norman weighs in among the “extra-large” size of MPs, observers were keen to see if Dave bore any marks of the conversation which his spokesman had denied could be characterized as an “argumentative exchange”.

Indeed there had been reports of the PM being spotted around the Commons at an ungodly hour this morning, no scars showing but with a face “like  a slapped ****,” to borrow a presentational technique seen this week at the John Terry trial.

But there were no extra signs of violence about Dave’s front as he took his place for PMQs although it was impossible to check his back for knife wounds inflicted the night before. 

As Dave sat waiting for his next humiliation his chief bodyguard and architect of the Government’s political strategy, Chancellor George, sat slumped forlornly in his seat. 

It would have been hard anyway to spot facial contusions since the PM had abandoned his usual practice of working himself up into a frenzy during the session by turning up already prepped.

In fact had he not been able to call witnesses to his whereabouts earlier his colour was such that you would have thought he had come straight from the tanning shop.

This then was the backdrop to the final appearance before the summer recess of not just hero-to-zero Dave but also zero-to-hero Ed Miliband.

Just eight short months ago you could have got better odds on Shergar winning the Derby than Ed winning the next election.

Indeed some of his own MPs would have been happy to splash their cash on Ed not even being their leader come 2015.

So the present PM must have thought he was living a nightmare as Mili uncoiled himself, to the cheers of those now happy to revise their opinions, to deliver an end of term report on his the last eight months.

Did Dave remember saying “I think I’d be good at it” when asked before the election if he wanted to be PM? asked the Labour leader. 

“Last night he lost control of his party and, not for the first time, his temper," said Ed as Dave’s regularly booked antagonist Ed Balls smiled so widely he almost swallowed his head.

The PM’s temper usually rises, like his colour, in direct mathematical proportion to his time on his feet. But having arrived in the Commons puced-up he was already in full Flashman when he got to his feet.

His own side - now apparently suddenly aware of the damage they had inflicted - tried manfully - and womanfully - to come to his support. So much so that MP Anne Marie Morris, sporting a suspicious sling around the arm that party whips are known to twist, spanned the whole decibel range to end in strangulated silence as she tried to show her leader that he still had one friend.

Meanwhile sitting silently by his side, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who described last night’s vote as “a huge triumph,” appeared to nod off.

Dave entered the Commons (unusually) pre-puced. Photo: Getty Images

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions

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Stability is essential to solve the pension problem

The new chancellor must ensure we have a period of stability for pension policymaking in order for everyone to acclimatise to a new era of personal responsibility in retirement, says 

There was a time when retirement seemed to take care of itself. It was normal to work, retire and then receive the state pension plus a company final salary pension, often a fairly generous figure, which also paid out to a spouse or partner on death.

That normality simply doesn’t exist for most people in 2016. There is much less certainty on what retirement looks like. The genesis of these experiences also starts much earlier. As final salary schemes fall out of favour, the UK is reaching a tipping point where savings in ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes become the most prevalent form of traditional retirement saving.

Saving for a ‘pension’ can mean a multitude of different things and the way your savings are organised can make a big difference to whether or not you are able to do what you planned in your later life – and also how your money is treated once you die.

George Osborne established a place for himself in the canon of personal savings policy through the introduction of ‘freedom and choice’ in pensions in 2015. This changed the rules dramatically, and gave pension income a level of public interest it had never seen before. Effectively the policymakers changed the rules, left the ring and took the ropes with them as we entered a new era of personal responsibility in retirement.

But what difference has that made? Have people changed their plans as a result, and what does 'normal' for retirement income look like now?

Old Mutual Wealth has just released. with YouGov, its third detailed survey of how people in the UK are planning their income needs in retirement. What is becoming clear is that 'normal' looks nothing like it did before. People have adjusted and are operating according to a new normal.

In the new normal, people are reliant on multiple sources of income in retirement, including actively using their home, as more people anticipate downsizing to provide some income. 24 per cent of future retirees have said they would consider releasing value from their home in one way or another.

In the new normal, working beyond your state pension age is no longer seen as drudgery. With increasing longevity, the appeal of keeping busy with work has grown. Almost one-third of future retirees are expecting work to provide some of their income in retirement, with just under half suggesting one of the reasons for doing so would be to maintain social interaction.

The new normal means less binary decision-making. Each choice an individual makes along the way becomes critical, and the answers themselves are less obvious. How do you best invest your savings? Where is the best place for a rainy day fund? How do you want to take income in the future and what happens to your assets when you die?

 An abundance of choices to provide answers to the above questions is good, but too much choice can paralyse decision-making. The new normal requires a plan earlier in life.

All the while, policymakers have continued to give people plenty of things to think about. In the past 12 months alone, the previous chancellor deliberated over whether – and how – to cut pension tax relief for higher earners. The ‘pensions-ISA’ system was mooted as the culmination of a project to hand savers complete control over their retirement savings, while also providing a welcome boost to Treasury coffers in the short term.

During her time as pensions minister, Baroness Altmann voiced her support for the current system of taxing pension income, rather than contributions, indicating a split between the DWP and HM Treasury on the matter. Baroness Altmann’s replacement at the DWP is Richard Harrington. It remains to be seen how much influence he will have and on what side of the camp he sits regarding taxing pensions.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has entered the Treasury while our new Prime Minister calls for greater unity. Following a tumultuous time for pensions, a change in tone towards greater unity and cross-department collaboration would be very welcome.

In order for everyone to acclimatise properly to the new normal, the new chancellor should commit to a return to a longer-term, strategic approach to pensions policymaking, enabling all parties, from regulators and providers to customers, to make decisions with confidence that the landscape will not continue to shift as fundamentally as it has in recent times.

Steven Levin is CEO of investment platforms at Old Mutual Wealth.

To view all of Old Mutual Wealth’s retirement reports, visit: products-and-investments/ pensions/pensions2015/