The Winter Fuel allowance is now a major story.
This is probably entirely egomaniacal, but I do sort of feel that I’ve some minor role in this. I’ve been banging on about it for days, and yesterday it turned into a proper story as journalists followed it up. This is clearly all down to me going “Oi, look at this” on my blog, and nothing at all to do with journalists working their sources and getting real stories out of it.
Anyway, some developments. Labourlist have fished out the video of the Cameron Press Conference where he talked about the Winter Fuel Allowance.
It’s worth paying attention to the last question. I think it’s James Langdale asking the question. Transcript is below.
Cameron :…Stop his candidates from lying about Conservative policy. Glad I got that off my chest, it’s something I feel very, very, strongly about.
Q: Just to be clear, you will keep benefits, but you will not change them in any way. You will not means test, you will not change the criteria?
Cameron: We will keep what we inherit in all of those important areas. All of the things Labour has been saying are complete and utter lies.
Pretty Definitive, and it comes pre-clipped for handy repeated play on 24 hour news.
Compare and contrast to today’s Telegraph:
“The Daily Telegraph has learnt that ministers have resolved to increase the qualifying age for the annual payment from 60 to at least 66. Talks are under way about an even bigger rise.
The basic winter fuel payment, made to more than 12 million people, will also be cut by £50 for new recipients and £100 for the oldest.”
As Nick Clegg said this morning, this is all irresponsible speculation (Pause for wry smile from veterans of Labour years). Quite right too. This sort of quiet briefing was bad for Labour and it’s bad for the Coalition too.
The only way to stop it is for some sort of definitive statement to be made, as it was with the School Milk story. I suggest that No 10 could quell this speculation with eleven simple words.
“What the Prime Minister said in March is still true today”.
Alternatively, If David Cameron really feels so “very, very, strongly” about this, perhaps he should have a word with the government, so they know they’re on the wrong track?
He is, after all, the Prime Minister.