Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledges support for ‘crucial’ over-50s voters | Politics | News

January 27, 2024

Rishi Sunak talking to two other people in Bainbridge

Prime Minster Rishi Sunak visits Corn Mill Tearoom in the village of Bainbridge (Image: Getty)

The Prime Minister has reached out to the “Saga generation” with ministers working on a raft of policies aimed at middle-aged voters in Red Wall seats.

He wants to unlock new job opportunities, boost healthcare, help with personal finances and put “money back into people’s pockets”.

And in a direct message to 26 million people last night, he said: “I’m on your side.”

His pledge comes as new figures reveal a 29 per cent rise in the number of over-50s buying their first home.

The Conservatives are locked in a fierce battle with Sir Keir Starmer for the support of older voters in former Labour strongholds won over by Boris Johnson.

In today’s Sunday Express, Mr Sunak sets out his determination to deliver for this crucial age group.

He wants to harness their “energy, wisdom and experience” and a personal priority is addressing the suffering endured by many after the pandemic. The PM told

us: “The over-50s can judge me by my actions – I’m on your side. But the job’s not done and there’s more I want to do.”

Mr Sunak’s chances of staying in power could be transformed if his work to bring down inflation results in lower mortgage costs for this core group of voters.

“The over-50s have tons of energy, wisdom and experience, but have suffered particularly from the effects of the pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.

“Many have dropped out of the workplace and lost their sense of identity and belonging in the process.

Rishi Sunak walking in a line with Yorkshire locals

Sunak on a receny trip to Yorkshire (Image: Getty)

“That is why as part of our plan to grow the economy, we’ve committed £70million in employment and skills support for the over-50s – so they can regain that sense of purpose and community, as well as helping to pay the bills and contribute to public services. This investment is already paying off with an extra 54,000 over-50s added to payrolls in the last year.”

Experts say Mr Sunak needs to make progress on NHS waiting lists if he is to seal the deal with this age group.

“As people live longer lives, I’m determined to make sure they also live healthier lives too,” he said.

“That’s why we’re working hard to cut the waiting lists and making it easier to get a GP appointment.

“We have virtually eliminated the longest waiting lists and delivering 50 million more appointments a year compared to 2019.”

Boasting of how the economy has been revived, he said: “We are making good progress with inflation more than halved from its peak last year – falling from 11.1 per cent to four per cent.

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“And thanks to our careful management of the economy, we’ve been able to give tax cuts to 27 million workers worth £450 to someone on the average wage, which will be boosting pay slips this week.”

A surge in people only getting on to the housing ladder after turning 50 means many older voters will be better off if mortgage costs go down. There are hopes the Bank of England base rate will fall from 5.25 per cent to four per cent by the end of the year.

Figures show London has seen a 63 per cent rise, ahead of Northern Ireland (58 per cent), the East of England (46 per cent) and the South East (36 per cent).

But the Financial Conduct Authority’s figures also reveal an eight per cent drop in first-time buyers aged 18 to 25 between 2018-22.

Mr Sunak has made bringing down inflation a top goal. It has crashed from 11.1 per cent in October 2022 to four per cent today – and experts this month suggested it could fall below two per cent in April and May.

The power of pensioners at the ballot box has ensured successive governments have delivered measures including the pensions triple lock – which guarantees that pensions keep pace with earnings and inflation.

But campaigners such as Independent Age chief executive Joanna Elson condemn the “dangerous misconception most older people are financially well off, living in mortgage-free houses and enjoying cruise trips”.

She said: “While true for some, this doesn’t reflect the struggles felt by the nearly one-in-five older people living in financial hardship.

“Many people approaching retirement age are struggling with high levels of financial hardship, with 18 per cent of people aged 60 to 64 living in deep poverty.”

And she warned a “massive 67 per cent” of people aged 50-plus who have not yet retired “think their financial situation will be worse when they retire”.

It all comes as the country could be hit with a “feel-good factor” in time for the election expected in the autumn if homeowners are no longer worried about hikes to mortgage payments and inflation.

With average annual earnings rising by 6.5 per cent, workers may also feel better off.

Pollsters WeThink found 38 per cent of those aged over 75 are likely to vote Tory, alongside 30 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 and one in five in the 55 to 64 age group.

But just seven per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 15 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds intend to vote for Mr Sunak’s party.

Polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice said: “The obvious potential problem that the Government faces is the size of the NHS waiting lists. Older people are much more likely to use the NHS; dissatisfaction with the NHS is at a record high.”

But Sir John cautioned immigration was a risky campaigning issue for the Tories.

He had the following advice for Tories: “If you do manage to stop the boats, which is going to be very, very difficult, by all means shout about it. But until you do, say nowt.”

A Labour party spokeswoman insisted that Sir Keir Starmer would improve the lives of the over-50s.

“With a plan to grow the economy, deliver two million more NHS appointments a year, and to take back our streets from gangs, drug dealers and fly-tippers, Labour will get Britain’s future back,” she said.

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