In the UK, the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign has been pushing back against changes to the state pension scheme, which will disproportionately affect older women, many of whom will have to delay retirement by six years.
Earlier this week, Scottish National Party Member of Parliament Mhairi Black, who is the youngest MP at 21 years old, took to the floor to have her say, and it was amazing.
Although the specific issue is about retirement benefits in the UK, the overarching issues she addresses of integrity in politics, fair representation, austerity, and rights will certainly be compelling to people outside the UK.
Here she is:
Transcript: —and on the front page, it says that the government can't do anything, because [reads from paper in her hand] "WASPI are campaigning for all women born after April 1951 to be given their state pension from age 60." No they are not. That is not what they're asking. And the Member for Gloucester earlier on was talking about misleading—that is misleading! Nobody is against equalization.
Now, on Monday, I was—I attended a media training course. You know, teaching you how to look at the camera, where to put your hands, and one of the guys who was taking it said to me, "As a politician, if you ever find yourself in a difficult situation, where you think 'I'm in the wrong here, and I need to get through this interview,'" he says, "Don't address the issue; just start talking about what you want to talk about." And it hit me immediately: That's what this government's doing! Every single time we talk about this, you talk about things that are completely irrelevant!
The second page states: [reading] "The National Insurance Credits are available for many people to help them build entitlement towards the state pension. National Insurance payments also impact on entitlement to a range of other benefits." Pensions are not a benefit. They are a right.
One of my constituents described them as a contract, and that's exactly what they are. So let me make this very simple: Everybody in here has a phone. In fact, iPads that some people will be sitting on right now. We have a contract. If O2 or Fortune or whoever else three were to change the terms and conditions of our contract, we would have something to say about it. And if they waited fourteen years to tell us that the terms and conditions had changed, I'm sure that everybody in here would have something to say about it.
And if they said on top of that, "You're also gonna be forced to live off your life savings because of the changes of that contract," you would be up in arms about it, and quite rightly so. So why are pensions any different here?
We hear all the time about how— "Where's this money going to come from? Where are we going to find this?" But the truth is, this comes back down to austerity. This is austerity of choice!
And the front bench can roll their head all they like; this is a choice! I have yet to hear of a general or a defense minister say, "We can't bomb that country because we've exceeded our budget. We can't find the money."
When we want to bomb Syria, we can find it. When we want refurbish Westminster, we can find it. But when it comes to giving our pensioners a pension, we cannot do it! I just don't accept that whatsoever!
We've spoken before— In fact, this debate actually reminds me of the tax credit debate. We were giving all these arguments as to how it was so unfair, and the government responded with that exact response: "We don't have the money." And then when the heat was turned up and political pressure was put on them, all of a sudden one hand down the back of the couch and out comes: "Oh, okay, we can afford it. We'll just do a u-turn!" Quite rightly so!
Which brings me to my last point here. How can we ignore the will of this House? We have debated this! In this chamber! And voted a hundred and fifty-eight to zero! How can we ignore that? We debated it in a Westminster Hall that was packed to the gunnels with almost everybody speaking against this government. The government cannot continue to ignore the will of this House.
And I'm no fan of Westminster—I don't think that's a surprise. I think it's more about ego than it is about usher(?). But the truth is, even the most politically savvy minds must be able to see that this is not party political. We have the chance to come together and do something that will earn you respect.
So I think the government should take this chance and act.
[H/T to my cousin-in-law M.]