SQUEEZE the grey vote.
It's not the greatest of election pitches but that was one of the eye-catching lines to emerge from the ex-Labour minister Alan Milburn's commission on poverty and social mobility.
Why, the former Health Secretary, understandably asked, when youth unemployment was so high, working families were seeing their income stagnate and public spending was being cut, was it right for wealthy pensioners to have their benefits not just protected but in some cases enhanced? "There's a strong case," he declared, "for looking again at the winter fuel allowance and free TV licences, particularly for better-off pensioners." It was intriguing to see, when the Commission was so keen for its findings not to be leaked in advance, Nick Clegg pop up ahead of time - in the grey vote-friendly Daily Telegraph - to insist the Coalition was not in the game of "punishing pensioners".
But, hold on, wasn't it the Liberal Democrat leader who was the first party chief to raise the issue of removing benefits from better-off pensioners and didn't he suggest that paying the winter fuel allowance to the well-to-do over-60s was simply not fair?
Back in 2012, Mr Clegg insisted: "Further reforms will be necessary." He made clear he was looking again at universal benefits paid to the wealthiest pensioners because "money should not be paid to those who do not need it".
At the time not only was the winter fuel allowance mentioned but also free bus passes and free TV licences.
Yesterday, there was a deal of nuancing from LibDem Towers.
A senior source made clear Mr Clegg remained committed to stripping "millionaire pensioners" of benefits - how many of those are there? - but was opposed to any bid to target pensioners more widely. Rather, there should be a greater contribution from the wealthiest through policies like the London-centric mansion tax.
Of course, it was Prime Minister David Cameron, recognising the importance of pensioner power, who said ahead of the last election: "We will keep the free television licence, we will keep the pension credit, the winter fuel allowance and the free bus pass," stressing how Labour propaganda to the contrary had made him "really very, very, angry".
Political leaders mess with the grey vote at their peril given that pensioners are the most likely people to vote.
Expect there to be vague, if any, references in party manifestos to looking at the issue of grey benefits beyond May 2015. Cuts and plans to cut are things to be announced after you have won power, not before.
Interestingly, Mr Milburn noted how - remarkably - the politicians he had spoken to during his research had said one thing in private and another in public.
Referring to squeezing the wealthier pensioners more, he said: "Certainly, I've not met a politician in private who does not agree with that sentiment. So the question is whether they are prepared to say what they say in private in public and, more importantly, to act in a way that is consistent with their private views."
Not at least, until after the next General Election.
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