Tag Archives: age

The news in brief: Vox Political’s morning round-up for June 1, 2023

Paul Whitehouse, Lee Mack and Steve Coogan at Lake Windermere: here are three protesters who would be criminalised by Suella Braverman for causing “more than minor” disruption to other people’s day-to-day activities.

Right to protest: UK politicians urged to ‘do the right thing’

Peter Stefanovic’s emotional video clip demands that members of all Opposition parties in the House of Lords support Jenny Jones’s ‘fatal motion’ and kill Suella Braverman’s bid to stifle everybody’s right to protest with an undemocratic ‘Ministerial decree’. Let’s give him a moment to explain it:

Government hasn’t spoken to strikers since January

The general secretary of rail union ASLEF says the government hasn’t spoken to its representatives in almost five months because the Tories aren’t interested in ending strike action on the railways:

43 MPs throw support behind justice for WASPI women

From the i:

So far 43 MPs have written to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), calling for a speedy conclusion to its review of how much damage was caused by the way the pension age changes were communicated to women born in the 50s, and for fair compensation.

Among the 43 MPs are Ranil Jayawardena of the Conservatives, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron, former Labour Party chair Ian Lavery and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

The PHSO could recommend compensation anywhere from £100 to £10,000 or more per person.

Women born in the 50s claim they were not given enough notice that their state pension age would rise from 60 to 65, in line with men. It then moved to 66 for both sexes.

Many women retired early or made life-changing decisions based on getting their pension at 60. The ramifications of the policy change and lack of notice has left them in emotional and financial distress, they say.

Their plight is under review by the PHSO, which has already found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guilty of maladministration for failing to sufficiently inform the women about the state pension age changes.

Though the PHSO maintains its investigation is fair and impartial, it decided to take another look at its findings after recognising part of the report was legally flawed. This move has raised hopes of a higher compensation award, although it is not guaranteed.

As Waspi awaits the results of the review, which could come before summer, it is urging supporters to contact their MP to put pressure on the PHSO to “complete the investigation with a sense of urgency” and make “fair” recommendations for compensation.

Latest Universal Credit change will leave parents worse-off

From The Canary:

BBC News reported that the DWP will be rolling out a change to the amount it pays in childcare costs to parents/guardians. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced it in his Spring Budget. Until now, the department has paid £646 a month, per kid, towards childcare costs under Universal Credit. Now, as BBC News wrote:

The government will allow parents on the benefit to claim back £951 for childcare costs for one and £1,630 for two or more children – a 47% increase.

Universal Credit’s increase in childcare costs payments is still nonsense.

The cost of childcare is huge:

  • For full-time childcare, the average cost is £285 a week.
  • For part-time, it’s £148 a week.

The DWP’s £951 maximum for one child is per Universal Credit assessment period. That’s usually a calendar month – running from the same date one month to the next. So, on that basis the department would pay, at the most, £219 a week.

This is £66, or 23%, short of the average costs. Meanwhile, in 2022 parents were already paying out up to two-thirds of their wages on childcare.

DWP secretary of state Mel Stride has trumpeted about the news. Stride said: “These changes will help thousands of parents progress their career without compromising the quality of the care that their children receive. By helping more parents to re-enter and progress in work, we will be able to cut inactivity and help grow the economy.”

Stride’s claim of the DWP ‘helping parents re-enter’ work is based on parents effectively being worse off in work.

Labour policy pledges need a 3p income tax rise

From the i:

Labour’s policy pledges so far would cost the equivalent of a 3p rise in income tax, i analysis reveals.

Sir Keir Starmer has promised not to borrow for day-to-day spending, and to bring down the size of the overall public debt pile as a percentage of GDP.

Analysis by i suggests that Labour’s policies will require an additional £20bn of funding every year – the equivalent of raising the basic rate of income tax by more than 3p – beyond that already promised through small tax increases such as imposing VAT on private school fees and ending non-domiciled tax status.

Labour’s biggest recurring spending commitment is to extend free childcare to all children aged 11 and under, promised by shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson earlier this year. The IPPR think-tank estimates the cost at almost £18bn, although taking into account the Government’s own childcare plans announced at the last Budget the net cost would be more like £13.6bn. The party said that an expansion of childcare to all children is not its current policy despite Ms Phillipson’s promise.

The pledge to increase the foreign aid spending target to 0.7 per cent of GDP, after Rishi Sunak cut it to 0.5 per cent, would cost around £5.5bn; party sources say this will only be implemented when it is affordable to do so. Labour has promised to set up a £1bn “contingency fund” for the energy industry, and would also have to spend around £1.7bn on GPs’ salaries if it went through with plans by shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting to nationalise the network of family doctors in England – something which the party now says it will not do.

Other current spending commitments which would total less than £1bn each include increasing the number of mental health workers, recruiting more police officers and setting up breakfast clubs in every primary school.

There’s a lot in the i‘s list that Labour now says it won’t do. Doesn’t this suggest that Keir Starmer is really planning just a continuation of the current neoliberal Conservatism that is pushing the UK further towards ruin every day?

Also, considering the Tories gave £800 billion to very rich people for no very good reason, This Writer can’t see why Labour couldn’t produce £20 billion from the same place, and then tax the rich to keep the books in balance and prevent any inflation.


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WASPI women win victory over Ombudsman in pension-age change row

The campaigning group Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) has won an out-of-court victory in its battle to get compensation for women born in the 1950s whose pension age has been raised by government decision.

WASPI is not arguing that the pension age should not have been raised, stating that this was done by democratic government decision – but that the way the Department for Work and Pensions provided information about it meant that women were unable to make appropriate choices that they would have made if they had known earlier that their State Pension age would increase, and that this has had emotional and financial impacts on their lives.

The group is arguing for fair, fast and straightforward compensation for the emotional and financial losses – both direct losses and lost opportunities – that women have suffered.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has been charged with producing three reports. The first was to establish whether there was maladministration by the DWP in failing to inform affected women that they would not receive their pension when they expected to do so, and that they should make appropriate financial plans.

That report has been published and has stated that there was maladministration.

The second report was to establish whether six sample complainants had suffered any direct financial loss because of DWP maladministration, or any loss of opportunities to make different financial choices.

That report was published and stated that none of them had suffered any such losses.

WASPI argued that the Ombudsman’s reasoning was legally flawed and this would impact on decisions affecting all 1950s born women who were victims of the DWP’s maladministration and said it would bring a judicial review if he would not withdraw the Stage 2 report and think again.

A decision last week means the Ombudsman will indeed withdraw that report.

It is now considered to be legally flawed, and a court will be asked to make a quashing order (because the Ombudsman has no power to withdraw a report that has been sent to complainants and MPs).

The Ombudsman will then reconsider the question of injustice in a re-written second report that must be changed to accommodate the agreement that the original report was flawed.

When a new second report is accepted, the process will move on to a third report which will consider what remedies are necessary for the injustices done to 3.6 million women.

It must also consider whether such remedies should be given to the estates of women who have died in the time since the change to their state pension age was announced.

You can find more complete details here.

This Writer’s view is that this is not a total victory; the Ombudsman may merely seek – and find – another excuse to deny women born in the 1950s any compensation for the injustice they have suffered and campaigners need to be aware of that.

And WASPI accepts that it doesn’t speak for all women who have been disadvantaged by the pension age change. Some are campaigning for full compensation – payment of the amount of pension they would have received if the age change had not happened. WASPI does not think the government will accept such demands.

It is a step forward – but the battle for compensation is a long way from being over.


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Smoking: Boris Johnson can’t impose plan to raise age of sale for one simple reason

Here’s where the bluff and bluster of Boris Johnson hits painful reality.

He has vowed to improve the nation’s health after the pandemic exposed entrenched social inequalities, worsened by poor diet and smoking.

A plan to cut smoking has been published today, proposing to raise the age at which cigarettes may be bought by one year each year, after ex-charity boss Javed Khan was asked to review the issue by ministers.

But there is one big reason why it won’t happen – comprised of two big problems.

Firstly, raising the legal smoking age over 18 would see a Conservative government telling adults they are not free to make bad decisions – and they are ideologically opposed to that.

After all, the smoking electorate may decide that voting Conservative is a bad decision – and stop doing it.

Secondly, it would look extremely bad for a prime minister who was fined for breaking lockdown rules and spent tens of thousands of pounds on a gold wallpapered renovation of Downing Street to lecture us on poor choices.

Expect this policy choice to be quietly retired. Smoking may create huge burdens for the NHS but Johnson won’t be the PM who stops it.

Source: Why Boris Johnson is intent on pouring cold water on new plans to raise the smoking age in England

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#DWP bungled #Waspi women’s #pension-age rise. How long must they wait for #compensation?

WASPI protesters: this image is from 2016 and women born in the 1950s had already spent years protesting against the way the Department for Work and Pensions mistreated them.

The so-called Waspi women have finally won recognition that they were mistreated by the government, after an ombudsman found maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions.

But they won’t get any compensation for it – at least, not yet – because the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has no power to order it.

The PHSO found that the DWP failed to act quickly enough, once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware that the age at which they would qualify for the state pension was going up.

It should have written to the women affected by the change, at least 28 months – more than two years – earlier than it did.

The ombudsman’s report said

Between 1995 and 2004, accurate information about changes to State Pension age was publicly available in leaflets, through DWP’s pensions education campaigns, through DWP’s agencies and on its website.

[But the DWP} failed to give due weight to relevant considerations, including what research showed about the need for ‘appropriately targeted’ information, what was known about the need for individually tailored information, or how likely it was doing the same thing would achieve different results. Despite having identified more it could do, DWP failed to provide the public with as full information as possible. DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about next steps in August 2005.

It did not ‘get it right’. And its failure to use feedback to improve service delivery meant it did not ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was maladministration.

DWP then failed to act promptly on its 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women, or to give due weight to how much time had already been lost since the 1995 Pensions Act.

It did not ‘get it right’ because it did not meet the requirements of the Civil Service Code, and it did not take all relevant considerations into account. And it failed again to use feedback to improve service delivery and ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was also maladministration.

The maladministration led to a delay in DWP writing directly to women
about changes in State Pension age. If the maladministration had not happened, DWP would have begun writing to affected women by December 2006 at the latest, 28 months earlier than it did (in April 2009).

It follows that affected women should have had at least 28 months’ more individual notice of the changes. For women who were not aware of the changes, the opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.

The investigation is not over; its next stage will consider the impact that the injustice had on the women it affected.

The co-chairs of the All-party parliamentary group on State Pension Inequality for Women, Andrew Gwynne (Labour) and Peter Aldous (Conservative) have both welcomed the findings.

“The DWP must urgently address these findings, and advise 1950s women what actions they will take to right the wrongs committed by successive Governments. For too long 1950s women have been ignored, and this must change,” said Mr Gwynne.

And Mr Aldous added: “We now must see a cross-party effort to sort this problem out. This issue is bigger than any administration and has been raised repeatedly over the last 25 years. The PHSO findings must now be scrutinised by the DWP and parliament, and then we must set out about compensating women for this injustice.”

It seems the DWP itself isn’t ready to comment yet:

Waspi women have already waited many years for an admission that they were mistreated by the government, and that they have suffered loss as a result.

It seems they may not have to wait even longer before getting any compensation for the loss they have suffered and the huge amount of distress it has caused.

Source: Women’s state pension: Compensation closer for Waspi campaigners – BBC News

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Tories plan to hit people over 60 with prescription charges

Prescription: if you’re over 60 and you need one of these – especially if it’s on a regular basis – then the price is set to skyrocket under a new Tory plan to make money for private healthcare firms.

Is this some of the government policy Lord Bethell has been discussing on his private email account, to keep it away from pesky Freedom of Information requests?

The Conservatives are planning to raise the age at which people may receive free prescriptions in England from 60 to 66, in line with the state pension age.

That’s the wrong yardstick, of course.

Firstly, prescriptions should be free to everybody because we all pay into the National Health Service via our taxes. If you are in England and you pay for prescriptions, you are literally paying twice for your medicine.

Secondly, if free prescriptions must be rationed, then in a country where many people are extremely poor, it makes sense to provide them to those who are most likely to need them – meaning, if they must be pegged to age, that they should become available at the age when most people start to suffer the illnesses associated with age.

The problem is that this is not a matter of medical need; it is about giving more money to the private companies that the Tory government has allowed to flood into the health service in order to make a profit from your pain.

That’s around £300 million per year, according to Lord Bethell – around £46.75 for an average person without need for regular medication – or £130.90 for people who need more than 12 prescriptions a year. And that’s at current prices which are sure to increase.

It’s a typical Tory back-of-a-fag-packet idea, based on a desire to rake in cash for people who don’t need it, from people who desperately do – but aren’t being given a choice about whether to give it up.

In other words: extortion.

Ministers are consulting on raising the age when people become eligible for free prescriptions in England to 66-years-old – but pharmacists branded the plan ‘unacceptable’

Source: People over 60 could be hit by prescription charges under new Government plans – Mirror Online

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The Tories are cheating us out of our pensions – and our retirements

Arguments used by the Conservative government to justify increasing the age at which we may draw our pensions are increasingly false, it seems.

Fellow social media journalist David Hencke has all the information on his website.

He says the Tory claim is that as life expectancies continue to rise, it will be impossible for the pension fund to pay out for everybody unless the pensionable age rises too.

There’s just one problem:

Ministers always quote figures up to 2011… [the] last year of any big rise in longevity which had risen for decades.

Since then the rise has flattened – in one year it actually fell – and last year was the first in five years that showed a small rise. Next year the ONS is warning will be the first year they will have figures of the effects of Covid-19 – and the hint is that longevity will fall because of the disproportionate deaths among pensioners.

Worse still:

When you compare the UK to many other developed countries both men and women have lost out big time in the longevity stakes. The countries that make up the UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) are all near the bottom of the table.

So while we all are being expected to wait longer for our pension in the UK, our extra weeks of life expectancy fall well below many comparable developed countries. We are being cheated – or at least not given the full facts – by our political leaders. So don’t believe any facile claims we have a world beating system for pensioners. Far from it.

The increased longevity argument was used strongly by the Department for Work and Pensions in its court battle to avoid paying compensation to 3.8 million women whose pension age rose from 60 to 66 – but who were not given enough warning to make proper preparations for it.

But our people aren’t living as much longer as people in other countries. What are those nations doing about pensions? And how are they doing it?

It seems clear that Mr Hencke is right and we are being cheated.

I wonder what we can do about it, if DWP representatives are prepared to perjure themselves in court to preserve a lie.

Source: The chances of living longer are getting shorter – new Office of National Statistics figures show only small rise in longevity | Westminster Confidential

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Tory propaganda war to push over-65s back into the workforce

Over 65? LOOK OUT: the Tories are backstabbing senior citizens by forcing them to stay in the workplace longer. In some cases, they could be literally working people to death.

This is sick from the Tories and their shills in national papers like the Express.

The state pension age is rising steadily, month by month, after successive attempts to stop the changes have failed.

This means hundreds of thousands of people at a time are being forced to wait longer for the pensions that their elders received earlier in life.

And how do papers like The Express report this?

BRITAIN’S booming economy will be powered to new heights by over-65s who want to carry on working.

Because they are being forced to work the extra time!

The nonsense continues:

The 282,000 expected to take up jobs when over 65 will be crucial to British economic performance in the years to come, say experts.

Really? Why’s that, then? And what experts?

But last night employers were urged to end age discrimination against those who still have much to offer.

Were they? Or were they just told that they have to retain people who would have retired otherwise?

You can read the Express story (if you’ve got the stomach for it) to see comments by the shills (including one from Age UK) who are supporting this propaganda bid to make pressganging people into work acceptable when they should be drawing their pensions.

You may be particularly sickened by the paragraph claiming it is “ageist” to turn down older job applicants.

It is unreasonable to accuse employers of ageism for rejecting somebody who is only looking for work because the Tories have raised the retirement age without anybody else’s consent.

If they genuinely wanted a job because they wanted to work, and were rejected, that would be ageist – but that isn’t what’s happening here. Be prepared to hear a lot of whining from Tory apologists who want to use this as justification, though.

This is pro-Tory propaganda of the lowest, sickest, vilest kind because it tries to put a shine on cruelty. But (of course) 14 million people voted for it and dragged us all into the Tory mire with them. Expect much more of this in future.

Source: Job boom for older workers: Britain’s economy to be boosted by 282,000 over-65s | UK | News | Express.co.uk

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Pension age ‘could rise to 70’, say the Tories. But what do we get in return for the delay?

A knife in the back: This is the Conservative offer to pensioners. Labour is proposing a higher quality of life in our twilight years. Which would you prefer?

Look at the state of the Conservatives.

Having been slammed after Iain Duncan Smith suggested raising the pension age to 75 – past life expectancy for people in several parts of the UK – they are now trying to get us to accept a rise to 70.

Don’t they understand how badly they upset people with the ham-handed way they handled the increase to 67 for everyone?

The Labour Party manifesto has it right: “Under the Tories, 400,000 pensioners have been pushed into poverty and a generation of women born in the 1950s have had their pension age  changed without fair notification.

“This betrayal left millions of women with no time to make alternative plans – with sometimes devastating personal consequences.”

Labour says it will legislate to prevent accrued rights to the state
pension from being changed.

There’s no such promise from the Tories, who are simply pointing to a study by the Office for National Statistics that says life expectancy is increasing. They say this means the pension age could be pushed back to 70.

But this is based on a belief that men can expect to live to 85 and women to 87 – and this is disputed.

The Independent published a report within the last fortnight saying life expectancy for women in the least deprived areas of the UK is now 86 years and two months – but this is more than seven years more than women in the most deprived areas.

Average expectancy is 83 years – not 87 – and is among the lowest in comparable countries.

Men in deprived areas suffer a similar deficit – with some likely to live only to 74 – not 85.

So claims that increased life expectancy supports raising the pension age are bunkum – they would be an excuse to steal our twilight years away from us.

Going back to the ONS report, it says, “More older people means increased demand for health and adult social services, and increased public spending on state pensions.”

But the report adds, “It might mean the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends and to pursue personal interests with more time for leisure activities.

“The key to shifting the balance from challenge towards opportunity… is for older people to be able to live healthy lives for as long as possible.”

It seems clear that such claims are based on very shaky ground.

Under the Conservatives, health care has been increasingly hard to find, with people of all ages struggling to make appointments with their GPs and hospital waiting lists skyrocketing.

What are the opportunities available for older people to enjoy their lives, post-retirement? Under the Conservatives, they have been increasingly restricted.

And of course, any Tory-run plan to increase the pension age means people in the targeted age range will automatically lose thousands of pounds in pension entitlement with no right to recompense.

And they will probably be informed about the change in a completely inadequate manner, meaning they will have no opportunity to make alternative plans.

It is a trapdoor leading to poverty.

Labour’s manifesto offers a much more reasonable view: “The Conservatives have repeatedly raised the state pension age despite overseeing a decline in life expectancy.

“Labour will abandon the Tories’ plans to raise the State Pension Age, leaving it at 66. We will review retirement ages for physically arduous and stressful occupations, including shift workers, in the public and private sectors.”

This reflects the different aims of the Labour and Conservative parties.

While the Tories want to save money (presumably so they can give it to fat cats who already have too much), Labour’s offer is to improve the quality of life for everyone.

Doesn’t that seem better all around?

Source: Pension age ‘could rise to 70’, new government figures suggest | London Evening Standard

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Labour vows to help women affected by pension age changes after court lets them down

The Labour Party it will do what it can to compensate the so-called ‘WASPI’ protesters – Women Against State Pension Inequality – after the High Court ruled that the government had not discriminated against them on grounds of age and/or sex.

The government has implemented changes to the pension age for women, in order to equalise it with that for men, in a move that affected nearly four million women who were born in the 1950s – some became homeless as a result and many became suicidal.

They said not enough was done to publicise the changes and to ensure that those affected would be ready.

The UN committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has said the rise in the pension age has added to “poverty, homelessness and financial hardship among the affected women”.

“The 1950s women helped build Britain and were let down by the government’s pension changes. They will understandably be very disappointed by today’s finding,” said shadow pensions minister Jack Dromey.

“Labour has already made commitments to support women affected, including by extending Pension Credit to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable women. We will consult further with the 1950s women affected as to what future support we can put in place once in government to help ensure that all these women have security and dignity in older age.”

Michael Mansfield QC, representing the women affected, added: “They have pushed women who were already disadvantaged into the lowest class you can imagine.

“They’re on the brink of survival, and I’m not overstating that. This group – especially the percentage of the group affected born in 1953 onwards – are increasingly having taken away from them four to six years’ worth of state pension. We’re dealing with very serious sums: £37,000 to £47,000. I think any citizen would be concerned by that withdrawal.”

In a summary of the court’s decision, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple said their hands were tied: “The court was saddened by the stories contained in the claimants’ evidence. But the court’s role was limited. There was no basis for concluding that the policy choices reflected in the legislation were not open to government. In any event they were approved by Parliament.

“The wider issues raised by the claimants about whether the choices were right or wrong or good or bad were not for the court. They were for members of the public and their elected representatives.”

In fact, it seems the only person happy about the verdict was Boris Johnsons spokesperson, who crowed that it has “always been our view” the changes made were “entirely lawful and did not discriminate on any grounds”.

“Government decided in 1995 it was going to make the state pension age the same for men and women as a long-overdue move towards gender equality,” the spokesperson said. “Today the court recognised the extensive communications that the Department for Work and Pensions made to publicise these changes over many years.”

Did it?

It seems clear that there’s only one way these pensioners are going to get compensation for this decision – made by a Tory government in 1995 and implemented by a Tory government in 2010:

Elect a Labour government.

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Planned pension-age rise means most will die before ever seeing it

Iain Duncan Smith is a genuinely evil little man, isn’t he?

He spent years orchestrating the deniable deaths of uncounted (literally – the Department for Work and Pensions deliberately did not check on what happened to these people) sick and disabled people by changing the benefit assessment system to make it easier to cancel their payments.

Now the Centre for Social Justice think tank, of which he is chairman, is recommending that the age at which we may qualify for the state pension should be raised to 75 by the year 2035.

(Its previous big success – ha ha – was Universal Credit, which it dreamed up on the back of a fag packet in 2009 and which David Cameron adopted as Coalition government policy a year later.)

Apparently all the state-shrinking cuts inflicted by the Tories, along with the tax cuts they have given themselves and their super-rich friends, mean that the Treasury can no longer afford the ballooning cost of supporting an ever-increasing elderly population while the birth rate continues to decline.

Importing workers from other countries would have helped, but Brexit and the xenophobia the Tories have nurtured alongside it have put an end to that.

The aim, of course, is to avoid paying the state pension at all – to make ordinary people work until they die.

This is one of the reasons the Tories have been working to ensure that life expectancy – the age at which we may expect to die – falls.

They have succeeded in this aim, as David Hencke noted in an article last year:

“Britain is literally dying. Ever since the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition came to power a 50 year improvement in the death rate year on year went into reverse.”

He wrote that the lowest life expectancy in April 2018 was in Glasgow, Blackpool, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire, where men could expect to live until the age of 75.4 at the most.

Under Iain Duncan Smith’s plan, that means most men living in these places would never draw the state pension, despite having paid into it for the whole of their working lives.

As comedian George Carlin told Americans, the same now applies in the UK: “They’re coming for your social security money, they’re coming for your retirement money. They want it back.”

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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