While 3.8 million women born in the 1950s are waiting for a decision of the judicial review into their compensation claim against the Department for Work and Pensions about their lost pensions, the August Bank holiday weekend offers them the opportunity to let their hair down.
I will be chairing a panel at the festival in Pippingford Park. Nutley in East Sussex to discuss the issues and facts behind one of the biggest scandals in Whitehall – how such a huge generation of women were cheated out of the pensions – ostensibly in the name of equality.
The dodges and dives taken by successive governments to conceal what was happening , the false facts now being propagated about ever rising longevity and the real hardship being suffered by many of these women who thought they would now be living a life of leisure, will be highlighted in a session on Sunday.
Joining me on the panel will be Professor Jackie Jones, Barrister, Labour MEP for Wales;Dr Davina Lloyd, UN Envoy, Yvette Greenway, CEO, Silence of Suicide and Joanne Welch, Campaign Director, BackTo60.com .
The lively festival put on by Byline Times runs from Friday August 23 until Monday August 26 and will include groups like Pussy Riot ( bad news for Vladimir Putin), The Blow Monkeys, The Feeling, Jerry Dammers and Don Letts.
Other speakers include Luke Harding former Moscow correspondent from the Guardian ( again not good news for Putin), campaigners and journalists Nick Davies, Carole Cadwalladr, Gina Miller, feminists Bonnie Greer and Afrua Hirsch and comedian, Hardeep Singh Kohli.
There will also be debates on issues from the Extinction Rebellion campaign , Brexit, race and civil rights.
I am reprinting this article by an Irish academic because it not only finds a way of dealing with major providers like Facebook and Google harvesting personal data for financial gain but could help stop anonymous attacks on people and organisations by spreading hate and fake news.
It has struck me for some time that some of the most vile attacks on people – whether on anti semitism,or directed at survivors of child sexual abuse, on Brexit or the 50s born women courageously fighting for a pension come from anonymous accounts which can’t be easily verified.
This proposes a new way of identifying people before they can get on the internet without the whole system being controlled by the state.
It would stop attempts by people – particularly by those who support paedophiles and regularly abuse child sex survivors on line – being able to hide behind anonymous Twitter handles or claim websites they run are not their responsibility.
And it would make it much easier for the police and other regulatory authorities to identify people behind these attacks and prosecute if necessary. It is an interesting read.
Four ways blockchain could make the internet safer, fairer and more creative
The internet is unique in that it has no central control, administration or authority. It has given everyone with access to it a platform to express their views and exchange ideas with others instantaneously. But in recent years, internet services such as search engines and social media platforms have increasingly been provided by a small number of very large tech firms.
On the face of it, companies such as Google and Facebook claim to provide a free service to all their users. But in practice, they harvest huge amounts of personal data and sell it on to others for profit. They’re able to do this every time you log into social media, ask a question on a search engine or store files on a cloud service. The internet is slowly turning into something like the current financial system, which centrally monitors all transactions and uses that data to predict what people will buy in future.
This type of monitoring has huge implications for the privacy of ordinary people around the world. The digital currency Bitcoin, which surfaced on the internet in 2008, sought to break the influence that large, private bodies have over what we do online. The researchers had finally solved one of the biggest concerns with digital currencies – that they need central control by the companies that operate them, in the same way traditional currencies are controlled by a bank.
The core idea behind the Bitcoin system is to make all the participants in the system, collectively, the bank. To do this, blockchains are used. Blockchains are distributed, tamper-proof ledgers, which can record every transaction made within a network. The ledger is distributed in the sense that a synchronised copy of the blockchain is maintained by each of the participants in the network, and tamper-proof in the sense that each of the transactions in the ledger is locked into place using a strong encrypting technique called hashing.
More than a decade since this technology emerged, we’re still only beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. People researching it may have overlooked one of its most useful applications – making the internet better for everyone who uses it.
Help stamp out hate
In order to use services on the internet such as social media, email and cloud data storage, people need to authenticate themselves to the service provider. The way to do this at the moment is to come up with a username and password and register an account with the provider. But at the moment, there’s no way to verify the user’s identity. Anyone can create an account on platforms like Facebook and use it to spread fake news and hatred, without fear of ever being identified and caught.
Our idea is to issue each citizen with a digital certificate by first verifying their identity. An organisation like your workplace, university or school knows your identity and is in a position to issue you with a certificate. If other organisations do the same for their members, we could put these certificates on a publicly accessible blockchain and create a global protected record of every internet user’s identity.
Since there’d be a means for identifying users with their digital certificate, social media accounts could be linked to real people. A school could create social media groups which could only be accessed if a student had a certificate issued to them by the school, preventing the group being infiltrated by outsiders.
Never forget a password again
A user could ask for a one-time password (OTP) for Facebook by clicking an icon on their mobile phone. Facebook would then look up the user’s digital certificate on the blockchain and return an OPT to their phone. The OTP will be encrypted so that it cannot be seen by anyone else apart from the intended recipient. The user would then login to the service using their username and the OTP, thereby eliminating the need to remember passwords. The OTP changes with each login and is delivered encrypted to your phone, so it’s much more difficult to guess or steal a password.
Vote with your phone
People are often too busy or reluctant to go to a polling station on voting days. An internet voting system could change that. Digital currencies like Zerocash are fully anonymous and can be traced on the blockchain, giving it the basic ingredients for a voting system. Anyone can examine the blockchain and confirm that a particular token has been transferred between two parties without revealing their identities.
Each candidate could be given a digital wallet and each eligible voter given a token. Voters cast their token into the wallet of their preferred candidate using their mobile phone. If the total number of tokens in the wallets is less than or equal to the number issued, then you have a valid poll and the candidate with the most tokens is declared the winner.
No more tech companies selling your data
People use search engines everyday, but this allows companies like Google to gather trends, create profiles and sell this valuable information to marketing companies. If internet users were to use a digital currency to make a micropayment – perhaps one-hundredth of a cent – for each search query that they perform, there would be less incentive for a search company to sell their personal data. Even if someone performed a hundred search queries per day they would end up paying only one cent – a small price to pay for one’s privacy.
Blockchain technology started as a means for making online transactions anonymous, but it would be shame for it to stop there. The more researchers like me think about its potential, the more exciting possibilities emerge.
BackTo60s new guerrilla campaign to highlight the plight of the 50s born women who are waiting up to six years to get their pension took on a new dimension yesterday – and brought the displeasure of Parliament’s top official, Black Rod.
Campaigners engaged Pandora’s Box performers to do a flash mob dance performance on College Green opposite the House of Lords. This is part of a guerrilla marketing campaign that has so far seen images backing the campaign projected onto Parliament and the Bank of England at night and the appearance of campaigning graffiti washed into the pavement outside Portcullis House, the Treasury and the Supreme Court.
But little were they to know that College Green – which might seem to me or you a public green place – is in fact part of the private Parliamentary estate.
So no sooner had the music started and the dancing began, Black Rod, who is The Queen’s representative in the House of Lords instructed one of her 30 staff to come down to remonstrate with BackTo60 organiser, Joanne Welch.
A lively discussion followed only mellowed when the member of staff, Fiona Shannon, who had been instructed to ask the dancers to go, realised she was one of the women born in the 1950s who would benefit from a victory by the campaign.
She then went off however to get reinforcements – allowing the dancers to do a quick encore – before the dancers decided to disappear down a Westminster sidestreet.
Joanne Welch said: ” I genuinely thought this was a public place and didn’t think we needed permission to stage the event. It is used regularly by broadcasters and also has been used by Remainers and Brexiteers to stage noisy demonstrations. I apologise if we needed permission.We will know next time.”
A House of Lords spokesperson said that College Green is part of the parliamentary estate. Any requests for filming or other activity are dealt with by Black Rod’s office on behalf of the House of Commons.
The spokesperson added :”Protests and operating amplified noise equipment are not permitted on College Green. The participants were made aware of this and left voluntarily.”
But not without accompanying their mission.
For those curious about Black Rod,the current holder of the office is Sarah Clarke, the first woman appointed to the £93,000 a year post in 650 years.
She organises the State Opening of Parliament and the highest profile part of her role is summoning the House of Commons to hear the Queen’s Speech. She is also responsible for business resilience and planning for the House of Lords, and leads a department that includes the Yeoman Usher and the House of Lords Doorkeepers.
She was appointed last year having previously organised the Wimbledon tennis championships for a number of years.
As the Queen’s representative she now knows that her 1950s British subjects are pretty angry about the loss of their pensions.. Perhaps Her Majesty should be sent a video of Pandora’s Box great performance compliments of BackTo60,
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:
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.
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.
Now I am back in the UK after going around the world and visiting 22 countries I am introducing some changes to my blog.
I have a number of major projects for the current year and a backlog of challenging investigations following a number of you contacting me on this site to ask me to write about issues which are not being reported or ignored in mainstream media.
I am currently employed as a consultant to a national newspaper and an independent television production company scoping a long term investigation which hopefully will appear later this year.
I will also be regularly writing for byline.com on their new project bylinetimes – a print and on line paper that specialises in reporting issues not covered by the mainstream press. This will mean that my coverage of Whitehall mismanagement and political scandals will first appear on their site but every article will be highlighted on this site so you can link to it and read it.
This site has run a number of articles on the plight of the 3.8 million women born in the 1950s who have been hit by the raising of the pension age from 60 to 66. I decided to back the campaign by BackTo60 after seeing the poverty, stress and misery caused to so many people by this mismanaged policy. Apart from the Guardian and the Press Association, this site and bylinetimes were the only people to cover a judicial review hearing which could affect the lives of 3.8 million people.
Coverage of this issue will be intensified over the next few weeks as I have a string of exclusive stories and analysis in the pipeline.
This site has also covered very challenging child sex abuse stories in the past and some very controversial investigations through Exaro News . I am still planning to cover issues raised in this area and will come back to it shortly.
The rest of the news agenda on this site will depend partly on you, the reader, when you ask me to either investigate something that has manifestly gone wrong or expose mismanagement and corruption wherever it might be. I have had a number of you contacting me about local government scandals, housing and business scandals, racism, mental health issues to name but a few. Please bear with me as it takes time to do a proper investigation.
Finally I have made one change. My figures from WordPress show though this a UK site some 10 per cent of the traffic is from overseas – notably Spain, France, the US, Canada, Australia, Cyprus and Turkey. It also has had sizable hits from the United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Mexico, Bulgaria and Thailand to name a few. Many of these could be migrants or expats but I have added a Google translate button so the blogs can be read in other languages.
In the meantime I am very gratified by the huge increase in the number of hits on this site – mainly as the result of my support for the 50s born women. The site is running at record levels, so thank you all.
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 theIndependent 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.