THE general election is fast approaching and it is very clear what the two main parties think they need to secure in order to win: the grey vote.

Sure, the Labour Party has vowed to increase the minimum wage from £8.21 to £10 within the next year while the Tories have pledged to extend English childcare provision into school holidays, but to all intents and purposes it is those of retirement age rather than working-age that their manifestos have been designed to woo.

Take the Conservatives. The Boris Johnson-led party has always done well with older voters, securing the backing of 58 per cent of 60 to 69-year-olds and 69% of over 70s in 2017, but it clearly isn’t resting on its laurels. One of its key manifesto pledges is to maintain the pensions triple-lock that was introduced by the coalition government in 2011 and will see pensioners effectively get a pay rise of 3.9% come April next year.

So far so predictable. It would, after all, be a very brave party that would risk losing the grey vote by taking away something pensioners have become accustomed to receiving for the best part of a decade. And let’s not forget the trouble Theresa May ran into with confidence-and-supply buddy the DUP after she tried to water down the triple lock during her time at Number 10. Short shrift hardly begins to cover it.

READ MORE: Waspi women will not go away 

Labour, which in 2017 won the hearts and minds of teenage voters but failed to make an impact on the older generations, has gone much further. Not only has Jeremy Corbyn’s party pledged to keep the triple lock, it has vowed to scrap the planned rise in the state pension age from 66 to 67 and pay compensation to Waspi women too. A whole £58 billion of compensation.

Speaking after his party had revealed its manifesto last week, at the weekend shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told The Observer that a “debt of honour” was owed to women born in the 1950s because during their working lives the state pension age had increased from 60 to 65 then on again to 66. Peddling the myth that these women had “paid in” to a pension pot and so deserved to get a specific level out, he called that shift an “historic injustice” and promised to introduce a universal scheme that would see millions of affected women handed an average compensatory payment of £15,380 if Labour wins the vote.

Perhaps he had only just realised that his party only won 27% of the sixty-something vote in 2017 and thought this would be a good way to secure a bigger share this time round.

Perhaps he was making hay out of the fact that the Tories refused to offer any Waspi compensation during their manifesto launch on Saturday. Or perhaps he really believes, as the 1950s women have become very adept at repeating, that these women have been robbed of what they believe is rightfully theirs. Either way, Mr McDonnell has made one hell of a shaky move, not least because the £58bn hasn’t been costed.

Speaking on Sunday’s Andrew Marr Show, Paul Johnson, the director of non-political organisation the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the Labour Party would have to borrow an additional £12bn every year over the next five years in order to honour the commitment, something that could have a devastating impact on the public purse. Indeed, Mr Johnson, a former Treasury economist, said it “drives a coach and horses immediately through [Labour’s] manifesto pledge" to balance the books. Worse still, it prioritises one relatively small group of women while failing to address the needs of the working-age population.

READ MORE: Labour pledges to settle 'historical debt of honour' for WASPI women, footing £58bn bill 

That is a big mistake. Women have faced financial inequalities since the beginning of time and there is no doubt that many of those born in the 1950s will be facing less secure retirements than men thanks to a lifetime of lower wages, career breaks and part-time hours. But they have not suffered any injustice because their retirement age has risen and they certainly haven’t had any money stolen from them. Rather than going along with that lie, the Labour Party would do better to pledge to educate all of us on how the state pension system works to make sure everyone knows their national insurance contributions aren’t accumulating in a pension fund with their name on it and that all of us should be doing more to save for retirement.

Yet while Labour said it would expand automatic enrolment into a workplace pension to low earners and the self-employed, it made no commitment to compel bosses to increase the paltry amount they are currently obliged to contribute on their employees’ behalf.

As of April this year staff must pay 5% of their salary into their workplace pension in order to qualify for their employer’s 3%, but it is widely accepted that that will be nowhere near enough to fund a comfortable retirement. With the taxes these workers pay having to fund an extra year’s worth of state pension if the Labour Party gets its way, surely the least it could have done is offer something to the workers to make amends. Perhaps, given that it commands a far greater share of the vote than the Conservatives in every age group up to 50, it thought it didn’t have to bother.

Not that the Tories are any better. Having pledged in its 2017 manifesto to include the self-employed in auto-enrolment, the Conservative Party has quietly dropped any mention of it this time round, while Mr Johnson’s ongoing promise to “fix” the pension problems dogging the NHS continues to ring hollow. Yes, the party’s manifesto says that within 30 days back in power the Tories would “hold an urgent review” to solve the pensions crisis to “make sure that doctors spend as much time as possible treating patients”, but it fails to mention the pig’s ear the Government has made of solving the issue so far.

Indeed, despite reviewing the situation since August and coming up with a number of not very satisfactory solutions since, the Government appears still to be pursuing a sticking-plaster approach when only a complete overhaul that takes account of everyone affected, and not just senior doctors, will do.

Sure, chasing the grey vote could make the difference between winning or losing on December 12, but if we’re all in this together, in a country made up of the many and not the few, then our parties need to find ways for us all to move forward together. That means looking out for our workers just as much as for our pensioners. They'll be retired one day too, you know.