I am a fairly political animal. Or at least I was, my politics have become somewhat dulled in the past 20 years or so, prey to repeated disappointments and broken promises.
Plus, there is something disconcerting about candidates half your age coming to knock on your front door and lecturing you on why you should vote for them. Most of them don’t remember the ERM debacle in 1992, never mind the October 1987 stockmarket crash.
Which may help explain why – for the first time ever in more than 30 years – I feel thoroughly unenthused by the general election contest taking place.
My problem is this – does anyone seriously believe that any party winning the next election will make a significant difference to the way the country is run? Or, perhaps more important to some, to the way IFAs do their business?
All the parties are preparing to make serious cuts in public spending. Labour do not like to talk about it as much and they claim to be able to “ringfence” essential services such as health and education. The Tories may seem more gung-ho but the public sector is facing a decade of famine whoever gets in.
A similar situation applies to tax. Does anyone seriously believe that – National Insurance apart – the Tories will undo any of the higher taxes that Labour sneakily introduced? Again, if nice Mr Cameron gets in, we can be sure George Osborne will tell us that, while regrettable and all Alistair Darling’s fault, taxes must remain high to bring the deficit down.
As for the NI rises being “a tax on jobs”, as some allege, come on, if any employer were to base a decision on hiring solely on the fact that the firm might end up having to fork out another couple of hundred quid a year to take someone on, you would think they were mad. The key calculation, surely, is based on whether that extra employee can add substantial value, to the tune of many thousands of pounds a year, to the business.
What of industry issues? The Tories are promising to significantly redefine the way the FSA works and pass some of its prudential regulatory powers back to the Bank of England. But again, that has virtually no bearing on any of the core regulatory requirements faced by IFAs.
Neither is there any suggestion the burden of regulation – in terms of costs or intrusion and bureaucracy – will be lighter for IFAs if the Tories are elected.
The retail distribution review is now a given, with little, if any, last-minute tweaking. Lobbying against any of its key measures is highly unlikely to bring any real results.
Nest will also almost certainly see the light of day despite serious initial reservations from the Conservatives, if only because they do not have any immediate alternatives.
What about savings schemes? We have heard interesting ideas from the Conservatives, some of which I praised in earlier columns here in Money Marketing. But I also remember traipsing round the rubber chicken circuit back in the 1990s, as Alistair Darling gave suitably vague speeches to financial services audiences telling them how wonderful his new “Isas” were going to be.
The only major savings proposal I have seen coming out of Conservative Central Office is scrapping payments into child trust funds for most families. Now that is not a good move but it is not a tragedy either.
Overall, I cannot see any major difference between the two main parties this time round, both in terms of their wider policies and their interaction with financial services.
Am I missing something? I am happy for you to tell me if I am.
On a completely separate note, a number of comments have flowed in following my comment over Easter to the effect that the days of small IFAs may be numbered in the wake of the RDR.
A week or so ago, my mother-in-law died. Her partner chose the village undertaker to arrange the funeral. Having seen at first hand how funeral service providers work in a normal-sized town, I was not expecting anything much.
Essentially, this is a husband-and-wife operation based in a private house, with the “chapel of rest” taking up a slice of the downstairs living area. Yet the service has been astounding. The place is spotless, yet homely. The attention to detail was incredible and highly individualised.
The price was very reasonable and the sympathy seemed genuine. When we went to view the body – on a Sunday afternoon – the lady opened the door in her jeans, brought us mugs of coffee and chatted with the family.
Finally, much to my amazement, I discovered this little village firm is part of Co-op Funeralcare and can call on it for anything it needs. Food for thought?
Nic Cicutti can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org