My Blog in 2018: Year of growth

50s women dancing in front of the Royal Court of Justice after the judge granted their request for a judicial review

To my surprise the number of hits on my blog soared to a new record of 464,000 this year- up by over 350,000 from just under 100,000 last year.

This huge increase was almost entirely to the support given by this blog to the plight of the 50s born women who are facing up to six years delay in getting their pensions.

I was persuaded by Joanne Welch, director of the BackTo 60 campaign – who I knew from previous work she had done in helping the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse – to investigate for the energetic campaign whether the government’s reasons for raising the pension age from 60 to 66 were justified. I found they were not on all counts from money, longevity to equality.

The result was a blog which revealed that a decision taken by the Thatcher government in 1988 – as much as £271billion had been denied to the National Insurance Fund – by the abolition of the annual Treasury grant and later limitation of grant payments by successive governments. This post attracted a phenomenal 188,000 and more hits. It still is attracting new readers today.

Subsequent blogs on the subject attracted 14,500, 19,000, nearly 31,000 and over 33,000 culminating in over 56,000 when – against the odds- the 50s women with the help of Michael Mansfield QC won permission for a judicial review. The blog telling you how you can boot out your MP if he or she won’t support the campaign – attracted nearly 31,000 hits – and led to an amazing 4,600 hits on the House of Commons library reference paper which gave a constituency by constituency breakdown of where the affected women live.

Thanks for the deluge of Christmas greetings from so many 50s women this year supporting the blog and my work.

Gosport

The other main achievement this year which I can’t blog about – as I was member of the independent panel- was the report on the scandal at Gosport War Memorial Hospital where at least 456 elderly people had their lives shortened by the over prescribing of drugs. I am very proud of this report and the amazing professional collaboration led by former Bishop James Jones, who chaired the panel inquiry, that produced the findings hidden from people for nearly 20 years.

mental health

I also this year worked with the extraordinary Professor Suman Fernando, who at 85, is a tireless campaigner for mental health reform and author of a book outlining the history of racism in psychiatry.

I was a member of a working party which tried – with only partial success – to influence Theresa May’s planned reform of the mental health act. They were particularly exercised by institutional racism in mental hospitals which sees a disproportionate number of Afro-Caribbeans sectioned every year and some appalling examples of deaths in police custody. The mental health service is in a pretty bad state anyway.

I am unhappy about the outcome and will blog about this later.

domestic and sexual abuse

Last December I was invited to attend a national conference hosted by the BBC on domestic abuse and addressed by leading figures in government, the ministry of defence and Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner on how employers could help people suffering domestic abuse.

This campaign was led by Elizabeth Filkin, another tireless campaigner and a former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I blogged about it last December and was reminded this Christmas again when I willingly agreed as part of a libel settlement with John Hemming to donate £500 to the Victim Support charity and got it earmarked solely for dealing with domestic abuse.

There also was a great story of hope for child sex abuse survivors when a former victim who successfully saw his abuser jailed for 33 years for crimes committed in North Wales decades ago set up a successful volunteer project in Cumbria to tackle the issue of child sex abuse. See here

fire engine scandal

This year has seen a very gratifying outcome for those who followed the scandal over the privatisation of London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines which led them to be handed to a bunch of spivs who milked the contract for personal gain.

I have been following the story since 2011 when the Fire Brigades Union raised the issue of Assetco taking over responsibility for maintaining and replacing London’s fire engine fleet.

This year the Financial Reporting Council caught up with former Assetco directors John Shannon, Frank Flynn and Matt Boyle and barred them from practising as accountants for 16. 14 and 12 years respectively. They were branded fraudsters and liars for the way they handled the firm’s accounts and the Serious Fraud Office has been passed their details. The blog got over 4000 hits.

The accountant from Grant Thornton who supervised and passed the fraudulent accounts has also been fined along with his firm.

lack of reporting

The one common theme in all these stories – with the major exception of Gosport – has been the paucity or non existence of coverage in the mainstream media. They have been diverted by wall to wall coverage of Brexit but I think it reflects the fact of an increasing reluctance to put resources into proper investigative journalism. The country will be a far less informed place if this continues and it will give a green light to those who think they can get away with bad practices, incompetence, maladministration and fraud and ruin the lives of ordinary people without any proper scrutiny.

11 thoughts on “My Blog in 2018: Year of growth

  1. Well done in 2018.

    It’s alarming that so much essential reporting is left to unpaid bloggers. I had hoped the BBC funding for ‘local democracy’ reporters would help, but it all went to the major media companies.

    Regards, Pat Dodd Racher, westwalesnewsreview

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  2. Well done David I am always interested in what you gave to report main stream media is so lacking in credibility it’s refreshing to get researched information to make your own mind up. So thank you for this.

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  3. Excellent work and so good to have an investigative journalist holding the Government to account. Don’t forget the women born in the 1960s who have suffered too when the pension age was raised. Suffered to the extent in fact of 7 years added meaning a 1961 babe has now got to work until 67. Many do not know and those who do are not happy. It is not just 1950s women you are fighting for, I hope.

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  4. Well done David When I tweeted your article through my Twitter account it was well received and received a high number of like clicks and retweets. As I have said many times, the Media is controlled in such a way that real problems facing real people are rarely discussed. We face a new challenge of the robotic age, that could lead to millions facing unemployment., We are told of the technical advancements, but not its drawbacks and its possible catrosophic consequences.

    I think it was the efforts of independent reporters like yourself that exposed the extent of child abuse in children’s homes and other places. If it had been left to the mainstream media, the issue would never have led Child Abuse Inquiry,

    So David, there is still room for the independent reporter like yourself who expose injustices in society.

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  5. I’m 64 today & still hoping my pension might be paid before I am 66. My complaint to ICE was recently closed without any resolution. Thank you for all you have done for 50’s women this year David. You have taken our case out into the media when no one else did !

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  6. David, I follow your blogs, they cover such desperate causes, the smoke screens and detractors, particularly ‘Brexit’ make it difficult to get the truth out there. But your relentless investigations and reporting on these matters have a big impact. Thank you for your dedication, I look forward to seeing your work in 2019.

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