I have put up tonight a very interesting story on Byline Times about a rushed award of a £1.7m contract without competitive tendering to Idox, an electoral management software company, which will change the canvassing system to get you on the electoral register next year and mean sharing data on you held by the Department of Work and Pensions. Read it here.
Last year was an extraordinary year for this blog and my readers deserve a big thank you for following me. The number of hits is at record levels topping over a million for the first time.
This is more than double the previous year and the main driver has been the campaign by BackTo60 along with other groups to get back lost pensions for 3.8 million people born in the 1950s. The interest in this issue has been phenomenal. In 2017 I had less than 100,000 hits. In 2018 it was 464,000 and this year’s figure shows it has grown ten fold since 2017 – at over a million.
Reporting the campaign for 50swomen has been a big insight into how difficult it is for such a large group of people to get justice or even get noticed by the mainstream media.
That there was injustice over the five and then six year delay in paying out pensions to the 50swomen is unquestionable. That the Department of Work and Pensions took every step possible to deny the women the money – even down to arguing in court that the ministry has no duty to tell anyone about their pension was unbelievable.
The campaign by BackTo60 has had its highs and lows. The fact the claimants initially won the case for a judicial review at all – when detractors said it would never be granted- was a key victory. But to be followed by a comprehensive defeat at the High Court was a big low.
Ironically the defeat finally brought the issue to front page mainstream media and TV and secured sympathetic coverage.
Then there was the general election campaign. Labour became the first party to publish a compensation package with support from two of the biggest trade unions, Unison and Unite, was a major acheivement.
It was only half way to full restitution – but it opened a debate on how it should be paid and that compensation should be paid to the women.
But Labour was defeated in last month’s election- and the very offer to the women was derided by opponents as an example of the party making too many generous promises with public money.
So where does it go now? There are three routes to justice. First there is the approach to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the judgement. Lawyers for BackTo60 would not have recommended this action and the raising of money to do it unless they could see there was a good case.
Then there is the approach by Waspi and others to the Parliamentary Ombudsman – putting forward six test cases – this will take some time before he issues a judgement.
There is also the case for a special temporary measure being passed by Parliament to pay out the money on the grounds of inequality – this could lead to full restitution without going to the courts. But the composition of the new Parliament will make it difficult to get it passed.
That all this is problematic does not mean people should give up – and I for one will still continue reporting this campaign – because the sense of injustice has not changed one iota and the women deserve to be compensated.
People will notice this year that many of the blogs are appearing in full on Byline Times – a growing independent print and on-line media group dedicated to holding power to account. I have a retainer with them to analyse and investigate issues arising in Whitehall and Westminster especially as now Britain will be in a post Brexit world.
Given the government now has a solid majority this is needed more than ever and I intend to pursue this vigorously.
Child sex abuse
I have not done so much this year on this topic but it does not mean I have lost interest in it. Many of the cases involve people who have never had justice so I will return to it.
I did put forward my opinions following the conviction of the paedophile Carl Beech for perverting the course of justice.
Travel and reviews
This blog will occasionally do a review of a film and a book. This year I reviewed Andrew Lownie’s biography of the Mountbattens and a film on the Durham Miner’s Gala.
I also travelled this year taking my disabled wife, Maragaret on an eye -opening world cruise – blogging from Bermuda, Samoa, Waitangi in News Zealand, Darwen in Australia, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Singapore.
I am taking another break later this month when I am taking my disabled wife on a cruise round South America, going up the Amazon and across the Beagle Channel and visiting Rio, Buenos Aires, Chile and Panama among other places. So expect some more blogs from unusual places.
I shall be back by April ready to resume full domestic coverage of everything from the continuing battle for justice for the 50swomen and the latest political developments. Have a great New Year everybody.
For those who are following the fight by all groups to get compensation for 3.8 million women who have waited up to six years for their pensions, here is a detailed video with John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor on how he intends to implement the £58 billion package
There are a number of new points revealed in this video.
- Labour is looking at offering both a weekly payment and a yearly lump sum depending on whether the women would like it.
- The implementation of the plan would begin as soon as Labour enters government.
- Labour has already talked to Whitehall civil servants so they can work up the scheme immediately Labour gets into office.
- Every woman will get a letter to prevent the previous debacle under successive governments where women did not hear of the offer
- He discloses he has talked to Michael Mansfield, the QC, who is drawing up the appeal for BackTo60 who are seeking full restitution to make sure it cannot be legally challenged.
- Labour ruled out means testing the offer because they found it would be complicated and expensive to do this and would delay payments. Bad luck economist Frances Coppola your idea wouldn’t work
- Yes it would mean Theresa May and Harriet Harman would get payments – but because it is taxable they will have to pay a big chunk back.
- Means testing would also break the principle that it is a national insurance based payment – based on entitlement not a benefit.
- He reveals the BBC had great difficulty understanding what the deal was about and why he had decided to pay it.
- Finally for tech lovers the end of the video he talks about introducing a national free broadband system – citing a small tech company in a rural area which devises new games – but can’t expand because of the poor quality broadband in its area. He points out this will be a boost for business.
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
One really has to ask what lengths will these people go to ” fix ” the election result.
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.
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.
Another day. Another taxpayer disaster for the Conservatives. This time it is the National Audit Office reporting on the full cost of Michael Gove’s failed vocational education initiative which cost taxpayers £800m and left a trail of brand new closed colleges. Read the horrendous details of this latest scandal on Byline Times here.