This winter, at least 15,000 British pensioners over the age of 75 will die from the cold. Their death is a normal, recurring fact of British life – since 1991 the figures have oscillated between 17,000 and 37,600. For reasons passing my understanding, it attracts minimal media attention and zero political outrage even though much of this is avoidable (the excess winter mortality rates in Norway for the elderly are about half ours).
As I say in my News of the World column today, it issues like the lives of foxes that whip our MPs into a frenzy. There’s something deeply unfashionable about the welfare of the pensioners (who usually make up the lion’s share of our MSRA statistics as well). Last winter, excess mortality amongst all over-65s was 22,300. This winter will be colder, so the toll will be even greater. And the policy weapon designed to help them – the winter fuel allowance - seems linked not to the price of winter fuel but to the electoral cycle.
There’s a great piece in The Sunday Telegraph today about the homeless at winter. But it’s the ones inside, afraid to turn up the heating, who are most likely to be casualties of the cold.