Twelve months ago, Nicholas Boles MP said on Newsnight that the phone-hacking scandal – which has since consumed News International and brought down the best-selling newspaper in Britain – was ‘a little local difficulty puffed up by Labour.’
It’s reasonable to presume, therefore, there has to be a question mark over his astuteness and political acumen.
However, this has not stopped him becoming one of David Cameron’s closest allies, a favoured position no doubt influenced by a shared public school background and membership of what has become known as the ‘Notting Hill set.’
It is from this rarefied place in the social stratosphere that Boles has been asked to pronounce upon the most effective way to make cuts in the welfare budget.
Boles has the elderly in his sights – and if he has his way ‘better-off’ pensioners will be deprived of free bus-passes, free prescriptions and their annual winter fuel payments.
‘Better-off’ is a deceptively simple compound adjective, but it could prove to be an election minefield for David Cameron. For example, it has been suggested that ‘better-off’ could refer to any OAPs who pay tax.
Ask people who have spent their working lives earning a meagre pension which takes them a few quid over the £10,000 tax threshold just how affluent they feel.
At PMQs this week, Cameron was quick to bat aside Boles’ ideas, and inferred the Tories would stick to their manifesto pledge of protecting such payments to the elderly. But to his evident annoyance, the connection has now been established between his party and possible pensioner persecution.
The older generation have done their bit, and by way of a thank-you from a grateful nation, millions are now faced with the prospect of having their homes snatched to fund social care for which they feel they’ve already paid.
Cameron knows only too well these people form the biggest electoral bloc by some distance and political parties threaten them at their peril.
During the last war, it was said careless talk could cost lives. In contemporary politics, careless talk could cost elections.