June 18: Time to save for the longer-term

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BOTH David Cameron and George Osborne never waste an opportunity to highlight the virtues of the Conservative Party’s “long-term economic plan” in order to embarrass Labour, and yesterday was no exception when a self-confident Chancellor answered Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time.

Yet, while the Government is changing the dynamics of the debate with its plans to compel future administrations to preside over a budget surplus, and in order to expose Labour’s weakness on the economy, such initiatives smack of gesture politics when set against the hard-hitting report on indebtedness published by the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank.

For, while the Tories have paved the way for savers to access pensions, this is one of many short-term policies being pursued to boost the economy that does not take account of the long-term debt problem facing the so-called Generation Y – people aged in their 20s and 30s who cannot even save for their retirement because of the costs associated with university, housing and so on. There is now no guarantee that they will inherit a significant sum of money from their parents, or other windfalls from the “Bank of Mum and Dad” because of increases in care costs and this generation could be the first in history to be poorer than its forebears.

Yet, while the political careers of Messrs Cameron and Osborne will be footnotes in history when Generation Y reaches retirement age, it should not preclude them now from looking to the future and, at the very least, 
making an annual statement to Parliament on the projected state of the nation’s savings for the middle of this century.

For, while a longer-term outlook will not appeal to those whose policies are governed by the next set of opinion polls, it is the responsible course of action. As such, the pervasive 
short-termist political culture of today needs to be substituted by a long-term economic plan in the most literal sense of the phrase before Britain sleepwalks into a financial crisis entirely of its own making.

Building bridges

United front against extremism

NOW THERE is further evidence suggesting that an extended Bradford family, including nine children, are now in the hell-hole that is Syria, it is clear that the response to the radicalisation of Muslims needs to be driven locally, nationally and internationally.

Locally because it should be up to individual areas to shape policies on integration that are tailor-made to their needs, not least in West Yorkshire where police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson is at the vanguard of an innovative scheme – called Community Voices – which looks to provide an online rebuttal to the poisonous ideology of ISIS and other extremists that has gone unchallenged for too long.

Nationally because the Government does need to co-ordinate strategies intended to counter extremism and ensure that the security services have sufficient resources at their disposal. There is also the small matter of balancing the need to uphold free speech with silencing those using the internet, and other means, to brainwash the impressionable like 17-year-old suicide bomber Talha Asmal fom Dewsbury.

And internationally because the continuing bloodshed in the Middle East requires a global response if the Islamic State’s ruthless grip is to be loosened. This means redoubling diplomatic efforts to build bridges with all those who deplore ISIS and the threat that it poses – both on the ground and on the worldwide web – to global peace and security.

In the driving seat

Chris Evans reaches top gear

IT goes without saying that Chris Evans is an extremely talented broadcaster. He brings his own inimitable style to his programmes and was an obvious choice to succeed the disgraced Jeremy Clarkson as host of the BBC’s Top Gear. However the adulation which greeted his appointment also spoke volumes about the country’s obsession with fast cars and the cult of celebrity; a trend that is not likely to be universally welcomed by those bemused by the level attention afforded to this announcement.

After all, Mr Evans is likely to be handsomely remunerated for the privilege of occupying this most coveted of driving

seats – a state of affairs that will not sit easily with those critics bemoaning the fact that the BBC spends less than half of its £5.1bn annual income on programmes.

Perhaps the BBC should engage reverse gear rather than spending so much of its budget on celebrity salaries in order to uphold viewing figures.