There’s much to elaborate upon, notably how the rise will affect female retirement age and exactly how much money would be saved overall. But essentially, this move should be welcomed. It is realistic and proves that there’s substance to the Conservatives’ cuts agenda beyond ‘trimming bureaucracy’ and burning quangos. George Osborne describes the proposal “one of those trade-offs any honest government has to confront."
However, honesty is not the best electoral policy. Labour will probably pursue that Mirror’s line that the Tories are ‘Pension snatchers’. Ordinary people can see plainly that they stand to lose from Tory pension plans, a fact that has inspired comparison with John Smith’s disastrous 1992 Shadow Budget. But times have changed. Public concern for the public finances is so advanced that a degree of pain is recognised as necessary: I doubt the Tories will suffer as Smith did. Additionally, this long-term retrenchment measure illustrates that the Conservatives are beginning to think in terms of governing rather than opposing. Their plan contrasts with the deluge of eyecatching but unworkable initiatives that were proclaimed at last week’s Labour conference.