Campaigning Graffiti: How an older generation of pension protesters are using the tactics of young activists

My image and blog on the side of the Bank of England

Disruptive protests are seen mainly but not exclusively as the preserve of the young. Whether it is blocking roads like Extinction Rebellion or organising street protests they are not the natural first choice of people old enough to be grandparents..

Yet the government’s refusal to even discuss any compensation with 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who are now waiting up to six years longer to get a pension has seen the first disruptive action organised by ” oldies” in the capital.

First there was a rally in Hyde Park and march which ended in Parliament Square where spontaneously some of the protestors blocked the road forcing the police to divert traffic for nearly two hours.

Then there has been an extraordinary partnership with young people in a guerrilla marketing organisation to project on to prominent buildings like the House of Commons, the Bank of England and the law courts – slogans demanding action to redress the problem. I am told there are no laws to stop anyone projecting slogans on any building. It also included one of my blogs revealing the Thatcher government’s decision to all but end the Treasury contribution to the National Insurance Fund.

Then in the dead of night graffiti started to appear on the pavements outside prominent London landmarks with slogans as part of the BackTo60 campaign to compensate the women.

Here are some of the pictures:

BackTo60 logo sprayed into the Westminster pavement
Graffiti praising the lawyer Michael Mansfield who represented the 50s born women in the judicial review demanding compensation.
Logo outside the entrance to Portcullis House, Westminster
Graffiti outside the Treasury.

None of this has been reported in mainstream media. And the public who see the graffiti may be puzzled about what it is all about.

But there is a deeper issue. This particular group of women are a large bedrock of the older generation. They have been until now mainly apolitical, bringing up their families, going to work and living normal lives.

But the total refusal of the government to even discuss the issue has transformed this. Shocked by this attitude they are becoming radicalised and for the government this is very bad news. They did form a large part of the group who traditionally voted Conservative. Very few will vote Conservative at the next general election. Some will vote Labour, some Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru or Scottish Nationalist, some the Brexit Party and some not at all.

This means given the antipathy to the Tories among the young that many Tory MPs who think they have secure majority may find themselves out of a job at the next general election. And the government will only have itself to blame for not listening to them.

BackTo60 take to the London streets to project their case to get their pension money back

While MPs were enjoying drinks and snacks in parties and receptions across London last week – I admit I was at one in the gardens of Westminster Abbey – a team of intrepid campaigners from BackTo60 took to the streets with the support Media Gang Guerrilla Marketing.

They stopped outside the Bank of England, The Law Courts in the Strand and opposite the House of Parliament to project images backing the 50s bornwomen campaign. One of my blogs was projected on the Bank of England and the Backto60 logo appeared on the side of Parliament overlooking the Thames.

Certainly if nothing else this campaign is creative – equal to some of the stunts of the younger generation. They should be proud that people never give up campaigning.

Novichoc: From Russia with Love

A rather sick  Christmas joke Pic credit: TVRAIN Russian TV

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I don’t readily comment on actions by other media but the decision by the Russian state broadcaster Russia Today to send out to other Russian state broadcasters chocolate models of Salisbury cathedral as a Christmas gift is one of the sickest messages I have seen at a time of festive cheer.

As a report in the Independent shows it has rightly raised hackles in Salisbury a city disrupted by the botched assassination attempt of a former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter using the lethal poison Novichok. This later tragically led to the manslaughter of Dawn Sturgess, another Salisbury resident. Her partner Charlie Rowley is still ill.

The idea that there is anything remotely funny about sending gifts of a chocolate Salisbury cathedral as a Christmas present from Russia to well wishers and supporters suggests those involved have a really disturbed mindset.

Everybody knows that the cover story of the two agents posing as tourists about visiting Salisbury Cathedral broadcast on Russia Today was an absurd explanation.

The only sad thing is that it is also a reminder every time Theresa May talks about leaving the EU to ” take back control of our borders” also looks pretty sick. This is particularly so when a couple from a non EU country can get into the UK intending to commit murder with impunity under the noses of our own security forces.

So I hope anyone who received such a gift from the Russians in the UK put it in the bin where it belongs.

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Boycott this mean Treasury National Savings ISA account that is slashing interest rates for pensioners and the poor

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HM Treasury: Slashing your savings in National Savings

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Over a month ago bank rate rose for only the second time in a decade – promising a bit more money for people who have savings and are seeing their money eroded by inflation.

They would probably hope to get an extra paltry 0.25 per cent interest on their already diminishing  savings – lucky to get just over one per cent on an instant access cash ISA when inflation is running at 2.7 per cent.

However the well paid top mandarins and ministers at the Treasury and National Savings ( their chief exec, ex Barclays banker Ian Ackerley is on a pittance of £185,000 a year plus an annual £69,000 payment into his pension) had other ideas. Why not use the cover of the bank rate rise to slash the interest we already pay out to people who use National Savings as a safe haven but need to access money to meet unexpected bills for a broken boiler or fridge. Everybody will think interest rates will go up, they wouldn’t think anyone would slash them now

So in July when both the Treasury and National Savings knew a bank rate rise was imminent they agreed not to put up the rate of their cash isa but CUT it by 0.25 per cent to just 0.75 per cent. It was though Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England was about to announce a bank rate cut not a bank rate rise.

Today the new cut came into effect – just at the point when other banks and building societies are putting their rates on equivalent cash isas UP.

You would think from the blurb on their website that National Savings would do the opposite. Their comment on interest rate changes reads:

 “Can NS&I change the interest rate?

Yes – the rate is variable so we can change it up or down from time to time, for example when the Bank of England base rate changes or when rates in the general savings market change. See the customer agreement (terms and conditions) for more details.”

So we know now  in this case when the bank interest rate goes UP,  the National Savings rate will go DOWN.

And as for other providers- Metro Bank for example, has an equivalent instant access cash isa which was paying less than National Savings at 0.75 per cent. But since the bank rate rise it is now paying more. Its new rate is 0.90 per cent -UP 0.15 per cent while National Savings are DOWN 0.25 per cent to 0.75 per cent. Which Money? has other recommended providers paying more.

So what’s their explanation?

A spokesperson said today :”The decision to reduce the interest rate on Direct ISA was taken in order to deliver positive value for taxpayers. NS&I sets its interest rates to balance the interests of its savers, taxpayers and the stability of the broader financial services sector.

“In order to take this decision, we made a proposal to HM Treasury which was approved. We review the rates on all of our products regularly and recommend changes to HM Treasury when we believe they are appropriate, to ensure that we continue to balance the interests of our savers, taxpayers and the stability of the broader financial services sector.

“We announced the change on 16 July 2018. It is NS&I policy to give customers at least two months’ notice of any detrimental variable rate change on our variable rate accounts, so the rate change will be effective from today, 24 September 2018.”

So basically National Savings are paying lower rates to small savers ( the maximum you can put in the isa is £20,000, the minimum £1) to make sure high rate taxpayers are not having to bear such a burden to fund other public services. No doubt it is linked to the Treasury regretting it has to pay people’s pensions anyway.

 My view is the National Savings Direct ISA should be boycotted because the people who run it appear to  have the Treasury’s interests than yours at heart. The decision also helps other big banks not to increase rates if the state rival is cutting rates – and will boost profits for the major banks.

I took all my money out of this particular National Savings account today. I would not blame other people doing the same – now you can get higher isa rates elsewhere. Your only restriction is that if took out an isa this financial year ( from April) you can’t take out another tax free cash account. But if you did it last year you can and should – rather than leave the Treasury to profit from you.

 

 

 

IMPRESS dismisses complaint of intimidation, malice and invasion of privacy from child sex abuse survivor named in blog on Esther Baker

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In my view Justice done over Impress complaint

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IMPRESS, the independent press regulator,  has rejected a complaint from a child abuse survivor, who was named in a story on the Byline  site and  on my personal blog.

The ruling sets a precedent  for the regulator.  It ruled that survivors who rightly normally get anonymity,  but then decide to go public in the mass media cannot subsequently decide to ban other individual journalists from referring to them if no new information is published.

The dispute arose after a blog published by me on Byline and here which was critical of the treatment of Esther Baker in a  direction made by Alexis Jay, the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

As a side issue the blog pointed out that survivors who go public are rare and cited in passing another child sex survivor who “bravely” went public in the Scottish Sun about his experiences after an 82 year old paedophile priest was jailed.

The survivor subsequently complained to Impress. The grounds of his complaint were :

“The publisher failed to preserve the Complainant’s anonymity as a vulnerable
witness;
“Publishing of the Complainant’s name was an act of malice and intimidation
and unacceptable conduct by a journalist; and
“Publishing of intimidatory reference to the Complainant was done in an
invasive manner.”

The publication, the complainant said had caused him  significant distress.

Byline and myself vigorously contested this.

The report says: “The publisher believes that victims of sexual offences and their
privacy should be protected, but, does not believe that this means that such victims
can selectively waive their rights of anonymity with respect to specific
journalists or publishers.
“The Author argued that the Complainant had made public, multiple times,
that they are a survivor of sexual abuse. The Complainant had been named
in the UK national press, the Washington Post, TV, YouTube, social media
and on numerous national websites.
” The publisher argues that, in these circumstances, a requirement to request
specific permission from the Claimant to publish material in the public domain
would amount to a form of targeted prior restraint and censorship, in breach
of its Article 10 rights.

“The Author refuted that the naming of the Complainant was in any way
malicious or any part of a campaign of intimidation made against the
Complainant.
“The Author believes that ‘it would be egregious if it is held that no one could
link to the article [already in the public domain] and discuss it without their
permission’. Therefore, the Author disagrees with the Complainant’s point
that publication had caused enormous distress.”

Impress called in lawyers to advise them on the naming and dismissed all the complaints made by the child sex abuse survivor.

“The Committee considered that merely referring to the Complainant in this
article did not constitute an act of intimidation in the course of journalistic
activities, particularly so in light of the fact the Complainant had identified
themselves to the media as a victim of sex offending.”

It went on :”The fact the Author had been copied into various emails from a third party to the Complainant,was not in and of itself evidence of intimidation in the course of journalistic activities.”

“The Committee noted that the article only cited information that had been
reported in other publications. Therefore, there could be no reasonable
expectation of privacy on the part of the Complainant in the published
information. The Committee considered that it had been reasonable for the
publisher to believe that the citation of this information (given its recent
widespread dissemination at the date of publication) would not significantly
exacerbate the Complainant’s grief or distress. Furthermore, the Committee
considered that in this case there had not been ‘intrusive newsgathering or
reporting’.”

Impress say no further action is necessary so the blog stays on both Byline and my own blog in its entirety. The full report is here.

 

Why there should be no Cliff’s Law following the chilling judgement by Mr Justice Mann

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High Court decision on Sir Cliff Richard should not mean a new law

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The scathing judgement by Mr Justice Mann condemning the BBC for the invasion of  Sir Cliff Richard’s privacy has profound implications for crime reporting.

The BBC is condemned  for reporting the raid on his home following allegations of child sexual abuse which did not stand up- not just for the sensational way they did it – but for reporting it at all.

This is a double edged judgement. True the freedom of the press to do this has led to innocent people like  DJ Paul Gambaccini and Sir Cliff suffering enormous traumatic stress and having their reputations trashed over unproven child sex abuse allegations.

But in other cases noticeably broadcaster Stuart Hall, the entertainer Rolf Harris ( both child sexual abuse allegations) and for that matter ( on perverting the course of justice)  ex Liberal  Democrat  Cabinet minister and former colleague on the Guardian, Chris Huhne, press publicity helped the police to pursue the cases to a successful conclusion. The publicity before anybody was charged led to more people coming forward or to new evidence being discovered.

That is why I would like to see the decision challenged  because of its profound implications for reporting and would certainly not want a new law giving anonymity to suspects in criminal cases.

Thankfully Theresa May seems to have ruled out the latter and so have ministers and  some MPs.

  On BBC Radio 5 Live last week  Treasury minister Robert  Jenrick said that he didn’t believe that the law should be changed to give anonymity to people accused of certain offences.

He said:“There’s been a long debate, as you know, about whether that should be the case for particular types of crime – crimes which have such a serious effect on individuals’ personal reputations, like sexual offences for example.  And at the moment we’ve chosen not to proceed on that basis.  We don’t think we should discriminate between different offences.  And I think that that’s probably the right approach.  But I do feel that both the police and the media need to proceed with great caution when they’re reporting.”

His point is where you draw the line. A limited law saying only those accused of child sex abuse should be protected could be seen  by victims and survivors as ” a protect paedos” law. And if there is discrimination between offences it won’t be long before some famous personality brings a case – saying their reputation was damaged by a police raid on their home in say, a fraud case.

Also do you protect alleged murderers or low life drug dealers from the press reporting raids on their homes until they are charged. After all until a drug dealer is charged  reporting a police raid on his or her home is breaching their privacy. It could also have implications for some of the popular reality  TV crime programmes.

Why I also don’t want the law to change is that it is a matter of judgement for the police and the press to come to a conclusion. The police need to be able to judge whether publicity is necessary – even Mr Justice Mann admits in his judgement that if people’s lives are at risk there is a case for naming a suspect.

The media also need to show some judgement on how they report the issue as well – and sometimes investigations can be published without naming the suspect  or giving too much of  the suspect’s identity away. In other cases the suspect’s name is part of the story.

Finally I see that the  BBC reporter Dan Johnson  who broke the story gets some criticism from the judge. He is described as honest and over enthusiastic. The judge says:

“I do not believe that he is a fundamentally dishonest man, but he was capable of letting his enthusiasm get the better of him in pursuit of what he thought was a good story so that he could twist matters in a way that could be described as dishonest in order to pursue his story.”

Some ten years ago Dan Johnson was our principal researcher for a book I wrote jointly with author and journalist Francis Beckett, on the miner’s strike of 1984. Called Marching to the Fault Line.

This is what we said about Dan in the book:

” A talented young journalist, Dan Johnson, was our principal researcher, conducting some of our most important interviews. Because of his deep knowledge of mining communities, and because he was brought up in Arthur Scargill’s village of Worsbrough, he turned into a great deal more than our researcher: he was also also a thoughtful and knowledgeable guide to what it all meant.”

In my view enthusiasm is vital if you are to be a good journalist. Journalists who are not enthusiastic about their job aren’t real journalists.