— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) August 30, 2018
Yesterday I reported that Chris Sier and Andy Agethangelou were appearing in front of Frank Field’s Work and Pensions Select Committee. Today I’m writing about Frank Field.
The first time I came in touch with Field, I was a very out of my depth pensions salesman, who’d blagged his way into an academic pensions conference in Oxford.
Frank Field was speaking and afterwards I introduced myself. He was then “thinking the unthinkable” but he proceeded to do the unbelievable. He asked me whether I wanted a lift back to London and offered to continue our conversation in the back of his ministerial car. I only accepted a lift as far as the park and ride, but that act of generosity has stuck with me.
So when Jo Cumbo, wrote this statement of support, I – along with many of the people I admire – retweeted and liked it.
As chair of the Work and Pensions select committee, Frank Field has achieved more than any other Labour MP, in recent years, to hold the government to account on pension policy.
— Josephine Cumbo (@JosephineCumbo) August 30, 2018
Even if Jo was wrong, and I think she is right, my support for Frank Field would remain, for the way he gave me confidence when I had no right to be asking the questions I asked about how we treated the less advantaged in our society.
Frank Field, thinks about little else, his religious, political and social self is driven by an almost obsessive belief in the importance of treating all citizens fairly. Like my Father, his opinions are born out of a personal ownership of the problems he sees before him.
I am very pleased that Frank Field will continue to be chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and look forward to attending Wednesday’s oral evidence session.
For anyone who wants to find out more about Frank Field, it’s worth reading this excellent article published by the BBC yesterday, in response to the announcement of his resigning the whip.
Holding the Government to account
Jo’s comment is perceptive. The Work and Pensions Committee is not there to make policy but to hold the Government’s conduct to account. Some question the relevance of this function, there being an opposition pensions spokesperson in Jack Dromey.
But the cross-party thinking of the WPC is not driven by the whip and can talk common rather than political sense. Another Committee, the Treasury Select, recently condemned a key Treasury strategy – using ISAs for everything – despite being chaired by Nicky Morgan – a conservative,
I suspect that Field will be recognised retrospectively by a “grateful “pensions industry when he leaves the commons and the Select Committee, which looks like being at the next general election.
It is of course easy to praise someone in retrospect. The fear that Field currently commands over the Pensions Regulator, the FCA and even the two key ministries (HMT and DWP) currently engenders plenty of gossip, back-biting and bitterness. Many who will sing his praises when he’s gone, are currently celebrating his demise.
I’m with former government whip and Labour MP Siobhain McDonaghon who said on Newsnight last night (Aug 30th)
“For me Frank Field is what a Labour warrior should be… don’t we want in our politicians and our MPs mavericks who are prepared to stand up and say it as it is?”
Here is the Frank Field resignation letter to chief whip Nick Brown
I am writing with considerable sadness to inform you of my intention to sit as an Independent Labour Member of Parliament. I am resigning the whip for two principal reasons.
The first centres on the latest example of Labour’s leadership becoming a force for anti-Semitism in British politics. The latest example, from last week, comes after a series of attempts by Jeremy to deny that past statements and actions by him were anti-Semitic. Britain fought the Second World War to banish these views from our politics, but that superhuman effort and success is now under huge and sustained internal attack. The leadership is doing nothing substantive to address this erosion of our core values. It saddens me to say that we are increasingly seen as a racist party. This issue alone compels me to resign the whip.
The second reason is that a culture of intolerance, nastiness, and intimidation now reigns in too many parts of the Party nationally and is sadly manifest within my own Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in Birkenhead. This is, I fear, just one example of a phenomenon that has tightened its grip on CLPs across the country and is being driven, in part, by members who in previous years would never have been able to claim Labour Party membership.
My original submission to the Party on a specific bullying issue goes back eighteen months. Many submissions have since come from me as well as from loyal Party members. No decisive action has been taken. At best, the Party’s failure to act on these numerous complaints about the thuggish conduct of some members demonstrates a wilful denial. At worst, it serves to legitimise appalling levels of bullying and intimidation of lifelong Labour supporters.
You know that I wrote to the Labour Party nine months ago about the atrocious behaviour of the then councillor Louise Reecejones. That Ms Reecejones should not be a member of the Party, let alone represent us in public positions, has been underscored by decisions taken by Wirral Council.
As you know, she was found guilty of using her position as a councillor to intimidate members of the public. She has refused to apologise properly for her behaviour, and for breaching the Council’s code of conduct, even though one of those on the receiving end of her attack has only now a precarious hold on their livelihood.
The charge sheet against this individual’s suitability ever to hold office, let alone represent the Labour Party, has been detailed to you in separate correspondence. While she was withdrawn as a Council candidate in Wallasey, she has still been able to join the Party’s shortlist for another seat and continues to hold an official position within the local Party.
I intend to continue to represent Birkenhead in Westminster, as I have had the honour to do so for almost 40 years, and I will do so as an Independent Labour Member. I shall of course remain a Party member as I have been since 1960. The values I have espoused during this time will be same that will continue to govern my conduct and I also intend, providence willing, to represent those views when the next election is called.
Few events would give me greater pleasure than to apply to the Parliamentary Labour Party for the whip. But great changes in the leadership’s stance on the issues outlined in this letter will need to take place before I will be able to do so.