John McDonnell to announce Labour’s plans for WASPI women on Sunday – Shadow Cabinet minister’s leaked Facebook message

Andrew Gwynne’s message that suggests more to come

The Labour Party is to flesh out details on Sunday of how it will financially compensate some 3.8 million women many of whom are enduring enforced poverty after having to wait up to six years to get their basic state pension.

The party’s manifesto yesterday pledged full support for the women and promised talks if it wins the next general election to draw up a compensation package.

But it did not put any cash figure on what it would pay the women or make any provision in the Grey Book to fund it.

This is in sharp contrast to a pledge given to pensioners living overseas in places like Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and many Caribbean countries which is fully costed in the manifesto. It would come into force in April and could £500m spread over four years. This is a victory for the all party group that campaigned for the pensioners and will mean their pensions would get their first uprating for years. If Britain leaves the EU pensioners living there would also get a permanent uprating rather than just for three years under the Tories.

The failure to mention any money for the women last night provoked a furious reaction from the women with many tweeting their anger to John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor and others saying Jeremy Corbyn had lost their vote.

Andrew Gwynne Pic Credit: andrewgwynne.co.uk

However one woman challenged Andrew Gwynne, the party’s shadow communities secretary, warning that Labour’s manifesto announcement did not ” look good”.

Gwynne replied: ” Yes John McDonnell is making an announcement on Sunday about how we will honour the pledge on Page 75 of the manifesto to the 1950s women. the costings are separate to the grey book.”

I have since heard from sources that this is indeed the case but Labour are being tight lipped again about what they are going to announce.

John McDonnell; Shadow Chancellor Pic Credit: Channel 4 News

The full manifesto section reads:

Pensions

People work hard for most of their lives and deserve a decent retirement free of financial stress and insecurity.

Under the Tories, 400,000 pensioners have been pushed into poverty and a generation of women born in the 1950s have had their pension age changed without fair notification.

This betrayal left millions of women with no time to make alternative plans – with sometimes devastating personal consequences.

Labour recognises this injustice, and will work with these women to design a system of recompense for the losses and insecurity they have suffered.

We will ensure that such an injustice can never happen again by legislating to prevent accrued rights to the state pension from being changed.

The Conservatives have repeatedly raised the state pension age despite overseeing a decline in life expectancy. Labour will abandon the Tories’ plans.

All I can say is that John McDonnell better come up with something concrete rather than warm words or else they are going to be 3.8 million women voters who are going to be bitterly disappointed, judging from the tweets I have seen, and Labour could well lose many potential votes on December 12 – not only from them – but from their spouses and families.

Frankly I am bit puzzled why they are doing this and prolonging the suspense..

Book Review: The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves

Lord Mountbatten in naval uniform. Pic Credit: Allan Warren and Wikipedia

This is an extraordinary biography. It is a story of one of the leading figures in Royal circles, friend of Edward VIII and mentor to Prince Charles, whose life was cut short when he and some of his closest relatives were murdered by the IRA in 1979.

But it is no eulogy for a Royal figure whose Christian name lives on in the names of two of the Duke of Cambridge’s children. As Mountbatten himself once said ” No biography has any value unless it is written with warts and all.”

This biography written by historian Andrew Lownie is full of warts as well as some startling disclosures. It draws on previously unknown information – despite many previous biographies – and still does not present a complete picture because of decisions by the British government, the United States government and his own estate at Broadlands not to release all the documents relevant to his life.

What emerges is a complicated man who is full of hubris, self importance, a natural risk taker whose life was privileged, setting himself,apart from the rest of society with his retinue of household staff. He was also extraordinarily methodical.

It goes into detail of the love life of his wife, Edwina, a wealthy socialite, whose adventurous affairs took in Hollywood film stars and India’s first leader, Nehru when Lord Mountbatten was the last governor general of India. Until World War II she lived the life of a bored heiress making exotic trips to remote places before finding an amazing drive to help with the war effort organising and looking after the interests of the troops injured in action.

The book describes his loves which in their ” open marriage” and reveals that he was also bisexual after tracing one of his gay lovers. It also contains an extraordinary chapter entitled ” Rumours” which goes on to suggest that he may also have been a paedophile, It describes claims by a former boy , Richard Kerr who was in the notorious Kincora children’s home in Belfast , where it is proven that boys were subject to child sexual abuse, that MountBatten abused him.

Interestingly the Northern Ireland Office still hasn’t released all the documents about this home even though the events took place over 50 years ago.

The book is fascinating in its description of their wealthy life style – which might sound dated – but in fact due to the growing inequality in the UK could well be replicated today by some of the uber wealthy from Russian oligarchs, Hong Kong billionaires, tech billionaires rather than Royalty.

There are some extraordinary revelations particularly during his career in the Royal Navy. His hubris and risk taking, and a habit of not necessarily following orders, was responsible for a disaster early in World War II When he ignored orders to pick up 600 captured seamen and chase a German battleship with the result the seamen spent the war in internment camps.

The book to an extent exonerates him from the failed raid on Dieppe during the war but it shows that because of his connections to King George V and Churchill he would never be taken to task for his failures.

This hubris actually led to his assassination in 1979 when he ignored repeated advice from the security services and the Irish embassy not to go his country home in the Republic during August. They knew he was an IRA target.

The book contains a remarkable disclosure of how one young corporal, Graham Yuill, responsible for the Mountabatten’s security, spotted a car near his yacht Shadow 5 which was identified as a vehicle used by the IRA for gun running and carrying bombs. His report was ignored and not taken into account when the Garda took over security. The yacht was then blown up killing Mountbatten, his 83 year old mother, his daughter,Patricia and husband John; two 14 year old twins and a 15 year old friend.

The report has been subject to a 40 year old gagging order which was only lifted two years ago. This is just one remarkable disclosure in this fascinating book. Well worth a read.

The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves by Andrew Lownie. Bonnier Books. £20

Bribery and Corruption at Number 10? Labour’s former Lord Chancellor demands an investigation

Lord Falconer: pic credit: parliament.uk

When someone as distinguished as Lord Falconer, a former Lord Chancellor, writes to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Met Police chief, and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, people should take sit up and take notice.

The extraordinary story that senior people in Downing Street and the Conservative Party were prepared to either bribe people with peerages or offer other inducements such as jobs, presumably funded by the taxpayer to stand down in a general election is almost unbelievable.

Not since David Lloyd George, a former Liberal PM, was involved in handing out peerages has this ever happened in British politics. And if anything this is almost Trumpian in its excess – only that the Prime Minister would not get impeached in this country if he allowed it.

I am not surprised that Downing Street and the Conservative Party is desperately trying to deny it happened – as they would know it was a criminal offence.

I am reproducing the letter in full here:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW

15 November 2019

Dear Director and Dame Cressida,

I wish to raise with you as a matter of urgency a number of recent reports in which senior figures in the Brexit Party have alleged that some of their candidates had been approached by the Conservative Party in an effort to persuade them to withdraw their candidacies from the upcoming General Election.

On 14 November the Leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage MEP, tweeted that “Boris Johnson’s Chief Strategic Adviser Sir Edward Lister is calling our candidates and offering them jobs if they withdraw”.[i]

The following day Mr Farage said that candidates from his party had come “under intimidation” from the Conservative Party, and added that “officials from Number 10 ringing up candidates and offering them jobs if they stand down.”

Mr Farage also claimed that he, along with eight “senior figures” in his party, were offered peerages.[ii] Meanwhile, it was reported on Thursday that one Brexit Party candidate, Anne Widecombe, was told she would be part of the government’s post-election Brexit negotiating team if she stood down, according to senior Brexit party officials.[ii

Today, Ms Widdecombe has given an interview to the BBC confirming that she had received multiple phone calls from a figure in No. 10 attempting to persuade her to stand down and offering inducements to do so:

“I was rung up twice by somebody at No 10.The first time it was really about how I had a moral obligation to stand down. It was all that kind of stuff. The second time it was to say that if I did stand down, I would be offered ‘a role in the negotiations’.” Anne Widdecombe, BBC News, 15 November 2019

On the 11 November, Mr Farage announced that his party would not stand candidates in 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, but would be standing candidates in all other seats in Great Britain. However, since then at least two Brexit Party candidates have withdrawn from seats which the Conservative Party did not win in 2017.[iv]

I believe these allegations raise serious questions about the integrity of the upcoming General Election, and in particular whether senior individuals at CCHQ or No. 10 have breached two sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983 namely:

s.107: Any person who corruptly induces or procures any other person to withdraw from being a candidate at an election, in consideration of any payment or promise of payment, and any person withdrawing in pursuance of the inducement or procurement, shall be guilty of an illegal payment. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/2

And/or s. 113 (2): (2) A person shall be guilty of bribery if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf— (c) makes any such gift or procurement [gives money or procured an office] as mentioned above to or for any person in order to induce that person to procure, or endeavour to procure, the return of any person at an election or the vote of any voter,or if upon or in consequence of any such gift or procurement as mentioned above he procures or engages, promises or endeavours to procure the return of any person at an election or the vote of any voter. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/15-16/72

Given that ‘payment’ is defined in s.118 of the 1983 Act as meaning “any pecuniary or other reward”, this would indicate that s. 107 is wide enough to cover promises of the kind alleged to have been made in this case. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/2/section/118

I also bring to your attention s.1 (2) of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, which states: If any person gives, or agrees or proposes to give, or offers to any person any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person, or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/15-16/72

Furthermore, as breaches of the 1983 Act may have taken place, pursuant to s. 181 of the 1983 Act, I am formally requesting that the Director of Public Prosecutions do institute the necessary investigations and commence such prosecutions as he sees fit. Finally, as a senior civil servant has been named in these allegations, I am also sending a copy of this letter to the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Mark Sedwill.

Sincerely, Lord Falconer

Footnotes: Nigel Farage, Twitter, 14 November 2019, https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage/status/1195010065947869186?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Et weetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1195010065947869186&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com% 2Fpolitics%2F2019%2Fnov%2F14%2Fnigel-farage-says-he-is-unlikely-to-vote-for-any-party-in-election

Sky News, 15 November 2019, https://news.sky.com/story/general-election-farage-claims-no-10- offered-brexit-party-candidates-jobs-to-stand-down-11861383

Guardian, 14 November 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/14/nigel-farage-sayshe-is-unlikely-to-vote-for-any-party-in-election

Express, 15 November 2019, https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1204603/nigel-farage-newsbrexit-party-general-election-2019-news-Rupert-Lowe

One really has to ask what lengths will these people go to ” fix ” the election result.

On Byline Times: Johnson’s power grab over EU withdrawal bill revealed by Lords report

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at Queen’s Speech. Pic credit: UK Parliament/ Jessica Taylor

Boris Johnson thought he had got away with Parliament not being able to scrutinise his EU Withdrawal bill by calling an election. But on the last day of Parliament the House of Lords rumbled him and their analysis does not paint a pretty picture. Full report on Byline Times.

For purists actual House of Lords Constitution Committee report here.

Tory election strategy: Don’t pledge anything to 3.8 million 50s born women who lost their pensions

Pic credit: Sky News

A leaked document in today’s Guardian revealed what Conservative Central Office has said to all its Parliamentary candidates on how to avoid giving pledges to people during the election campaign.

It covers a wide variety of issues including Brexit, the NHS, trade deals, Voter ID, private schools, rivers, climate change and shooting. But a special section has been devoted to the Waspi campaign showing that MPs are acutely aware of the demands of 3.8 million who are waiting up to six years for a pension.

The section reproduced below includes a template letter to be sent to anybody inquiring what the Conservative candidate’s views are on paying women. So you needn’t bother writing as this will be the reply. It is more about future pensions – claiming that by 2030 pensioners will be £550 a year better off under the Conservatives. It also contains a 20 year old attack line on Labour reminding people that Gordon Brown once raised pensions by only 75p a week in 2000.

The Tory advice to all candidates: Don’t sign any pledge to any WASPI or BackTo60 group

Rather extraordinarily there is one pledge all candidates can sign – that is supporting any rural sport especially shooting. Here candidates are free to support any pledges. This is almost Trumpian in its advice – put guns before pensioners.

On Scarlet Standard: How the 50s born women could swing marginal seats in 2019 election

BackTo60 outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the judicial review.

My first article for Scarlet Standard – a new on line magazine for the Labour movement – highlights the plight of 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who are now waiting up to six years to get their pension.

Read it in full here. The gist is the present Tory government don’t plan to do anything about it – but the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have got to up their game to get their vote. And there is everything to play for. And the women have the power to decide who could be elected.

On Byline Times: The failed Tory manifesto pledge that dashed the hopes of 200,000 first time buyers

Promised starter home? Pic credit; Money Which?

As the manifesto season gears up – a very timely report today from the National Audit Office. It reveals David Cameron’s 2015 manifesto pledge to build 200,000 homes for first time buyers has resulted in not a single starter home being built. The full facts of this failed pledge are on Byline Times here.