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Commons Condidential: Nige shows his true stripes

Farage looked a bit of a prat in an old boy’s black-and-blue-striped blazer and tie on a return to his alma mater, Dulwich College. 

I’m told self-styled man of the people Nigel Farage looked a bit of a prat in an old boy’s black-and-blue-striped blazer and tie on a return to his alma mater. The smouldering snout watched as the Ukip leader visited Dulwich College, the private school in south London that charges day pupils £17,400 a year. The young Nige was accused by teachers of being a “fascist” and shouting “Hitler Youth songs”. The older Farage denied the allegations, suggesting that lefty teachers were causing trouble.

Farage’s two daughters were in tow and sniggered disloyally when cartoonist Martin Rowson cheekily suggested Farage strip off to be sketched nude. Nigel mercifully declined. I wonder if he’ll wear his Alan Partridge-style old boy’s blazer-and-tie combo when Ukip stages its autumn conference in Doncaster to appeal to working-class northerners.


Newly promoted Michael Fallon must feel lucky when he’s chauffeured around town in the Defence Secretary’s tank-sized armoured BMW instead of sharing a Prius in the Business Department. On the eve of the reshuffle, at a defence manufacturers’ shindig, contemplating the pale, male, stale colleagues who were to be mown down as if on the first day of the Somme, Fallon was overheard musing: “They’re all being culled for the girlies.” He’s all heart, Fallon.


Old Etonians look after their own. A very grand source whispered that David Cameron has promised his school chum Ed Llewellyn a cushy diplomatic post to reward his chief of staff after next year’s election. The word is that Little Ed is heading for Rome. Her Britannic Majesty’s embassy in the Eternal City, a modern palace designed by Basil Spence, should satisfy even an Old Etonian. The electrical plug sockets are the standard British three-pin, so Llewellyn wouldn’t need to buy adapters.


Paranoia cloaked Ed Miliband’s US jaunt in secrecy. Fearful of an Obama brush-off or a trial by hot dog, the party refused to release advance details. Then one of the few hacks invited – BBC politics editor Nick Robinson – pulled out. Heigh-ho.


The phantom bike snatcher struck again in the precincts of Westminster, with the theft of Julian Huppert’s transport. The formerly freewheelin’ Lib Dem is co-chair of the all-party parliamentary cycling group and was miffed to turn up with his helmet to find the machine had vanished. Dennis Skinner’s was nicked a few weeks ago, and Miss Marple would notice that both disappeared over weekends. This isn’t the first time Huppert has lost his bike. It was confiscated in 2012 when he didn’t read signs warning that racks were being replaced at Cambridge Station.


I saw a tear drip down the cheek of Stephen Hammond when the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, praised his axed roads minister. Hammond is seen as one of the most decent Tories. Maybe that’s why Lizard of Oz Lynton Crosby, who is the real PM, decided he had to go. 

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 July 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double 2014

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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/