Parliament’s top official Black Rod displeased by Back To 60’s Flash dance on College Green

The BackTo60 Flash Dancers from @pandorasboxperformers.com pose in front of Henry Moore’s sculpture, Knife Edge.

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.

Soundtrack: Dave Gammie https://www.davidgammie.com/ Film: Manou Bendon Medigang https://www.mediagang.co.uk/ Dancers: Pandora’s Box http://www.pandorasboxperformers.com/

Pandora’s Box Flashmob dance on College Green




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.

Not amused: Sarah Clarke,The Lady Usher of Black Rod Pic credit: Parliament.uk

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,

BackTo60 Graffiti on the pavement outside Portcullis House
The guerrilla imaging campaign included a projection of one of my blogs on the wall of the Bank of England

Revealed on Byline Times: Prosecutions for tax evasion soar after the car tax disc is scrapped

DVLA’s advertising campaign to stop the tripling of untaxed cars and vans Pic credit: DVLA & RAC

 The abolition of every car and van in the UK needing to display a car tax disc has led to the tripling of the number of untaxed cars and soaring prosecutions and fines for drivers, according to the latest annual report of the DVLA, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

The scale of the problem led to a report from the new auditor general, Gareth Davies, to be attached to its annual accounts this year after the agency’s previous unblemished record in collecting car tax   became tarnished.

Up to 2014 when the car tax disc was abolished the agency collected up to 99.6 per cent of revenue. Since then the figure has fallen to 98.2 per cent – which might seem small – but is equivalent to an additional 500,000 vehicles evading tax. It is happening because people are telling the DVLA their vehicle is stored off the road but are continuing to use it.

The full story is on Byline Times here.

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.

On Byline Times: Grayling on track for next ferry fiasco

Chris Grayling: Transport Secretary faces fresh contract debacle

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, is facing a fresh fiasco over new ferry contracts to bring in goods if Britain leaves the EU on Oct 31.

The minister known as “Failing Grayling” has already cost some £3.5 billion in lost revenue and overspending in his three ministerial jobs since 2010.

A report from the Commons public accounts committee today reveals he just 21 days left to re-order contracts to bring in supplies if either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt sticks to the Oct 31 deadline – deal or no deal.

The full story is in Byline Times here.

Bonuses for Universal Credit bosses as record benefit errors and fraud revealed at the Department for Work and Pensions

The annual report that reveals the damning failures of the ministry to keep a grip on benefit and error fraud and the high pay and pensions of the people running the Universal Credit programme

Benefit error and fraud has reached record levels at the Department for Work and Pensions and it is going to get worse, according to its own figures released in its annual report for the last financial year.

 For the 30th year running the National Audit Office has qualified the ministry’s £86.6 billion benefit accounts because it considers them to be inaccurate

The most damning section of the report is on Universal Credit – whose current and previous directors – have just received bonus payments up to £15,000 each for their work.

The full story is on byline here.

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.

Byline Times Exclusive: The secret Whitehall memos that failed 3.8 million women planning a decent retirement

Peter Lilley, the Tory Secretary of State who decided not to spend money in 1997 telling the 3.8 million women born in the 1950s that their pension age was going up. Pic credit: Policy Exchange

Secret ministry documents reveal that successive government ministers and Whitehall officials failed over two decades to tell over 3.8 million women born in the 1950s that they would lose their pensions for up to six years.

The documents – made public in last month’s judicial review – call into question whether the ministry was up to the job to properly inform millions of people of such a drastic change to their retirement plans.

The full story is in BylineTimes here.