Neil Parish does the Brexit hokey-cokey


He was one of 79 Tory MPs who voted with the opposition to force the EU referendum.

He then backed – vociferously – Remain,

Now he backs Brexiter Andrea Leadsom.

Hugo Swire has not yet declared. Might he also back a Brexiter?

Well, you have to be flexible in the Parliamentary jobs market.

Self-serving, narcissistic MPs

” … politics has always been a dirty business, a world of treachery, narcissism and self-interest. And, yes, of course the bear-pit of Westminster has never been a place for shrinking violets.

Yet something has changed.

In the past few decades, too many MPs have stopped seeing themselves as representatives of their home areas, or even as representatives of larger social and political movements.

Instead, they see themselves merely as individuals, fighting for promotion and survival like characters in a box-set drama.

Parachuted into provincial constituencies, unmoored from the constituencies these men and women are meant to represent, they fancy themselves as real-life equivalents of Francis Urquhart, the Machiavellian operator in the BBC’s celebrated political thriller House Of Cards, which has now been remade in an even bloodier and more implausible American version.”

American company in UK dumps its pension fund into UK taxpayer rescue package

“An American company has struck a secret deal which allows it to walk away from the British pension scheme of engineering firm Halcrow – jeopardising the retirements of thousands of workers and setting a dangerous precedent for millions more.

Engineer CH2M has been given permission to dump 3,000 savers from the Halcrow scheme into the lifeboat Pension Protection Fund after arguing it has no legal responsibility for the promises made to the British workers before it took over the 148-year-old company in 2011.

Since then, the black hole on the Halcrow final salary scheme has climbed to £500million. And now, in a deal that is thought to be the first of its kind, CH2M has managed to argue that pensioners must accept lower retirement incomes than they were promised or have the scheme handed over to the PPF.

Colorado-based CH2M – which has a number of lucrative contracts including work on the High Speed 2 Railway – is solvent and made a £60million profit last year.

It is a move that experts believe poses a threat to thousands of other company schemes which have giant pension deficits, particularly those with foreign owners.

Labour MP John Mann, who sits on the Treasury Select Committee, said: ‘This could set a dangerous precedent for other foreign firms buying UK companies.
‘These employees have paid into the pension and this company shouldn’t be trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities.’ CH2M said that without being able to pare back generous annual cost of living increases the scheme’s members receive, it will have no choice but to put Halcrow into insolvency.

The deal has been thrashed out by CH2M, the Pensions Regulator and the trustees of the Halcrow Pension Scheme.

In a further twist, the Mail can reveal that the chairman of the trustees of the Halcrow scheme is Chris Martin, who is also chairman of the BHS pension scheme which is set to fall into the hands of the PPF.

The move tears apart an important principle of pensions law, which is that any benefits promised to savers cannot be reversed.

Savers must either accept being put into a new pension scheme set up by the company or being pushed into the Pension Protection Fund. In the former option anyone with a pension built up before 1997 will effectively see it frozen.

Pensions built after this date will receive cost of living increases in line with the consumer price index.

This is likely to be far lower than the up to five per cent annual increases they receive now. If members do not accept this deal they will have their nest eggs taken over by the pensions lifeboat.

With this arrangement those who have not yet retired will receive 90 per cent of their annual payout up to a limit of £34,470 a year, as well as reductions to cost of living increases.

A spokesman for the Pensions Regulator said: ‘These types of pension restructuring are permitted under law, but have stringent conditions attached so that they are not abused. We will only agree to them in rare circumstances.’

A CH2M spokesman said: ‘The interests of members have at all times been very well protected.’ ”

Top Conservative says: “look after NHS nurses not BHS bosses”

“The Conservative Party is “in danger of dying” unless it convinces people it stands for NHS nurses not BHS bosses, the party’s Deputy Chairman warned today.

Speaking to the HuffPost UK, Tory MP Robert Halfon spelt out his fears for the future of the Conservatives and warned that whoever takes over as leader will be inheriting a “collapsing” party.

Halfon, who served in the Treasury under George Osborne for 10 months before becoming Deputy Chairman last May, revealed some local associations were facing a “disaster” due to a lack of new members. He called on the party to stand up against “so-called crony capitalism” and pledge to redistribute money gained from tax cuts to poorer communities.

Halfon also said the public don’t trust the Tories on the NHS and any of David Cameron’s achievements are seen through the prism of austerity. Speaking in his parliamentary office, where a framed photo of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson hangs on the wall next to a picture of Margaret Thatcher, Halfon explained the potentially dire situation his party is in.

He said: “The party is in danger of dying in my view – the infrastructure is collapsing around the country, the membership is ever aging. “Of course we have an incredible party and the members are unbelievable, and I would not be here if it wasn’t for volunteers, but everywhere you go, particularly in marginal seats, it’s a disaster in many cases.

Halfon, who campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, went on: “Labour are getting thousands of new members, Ukip are getting thousands of new members and if anything, if I can praise Vote Leave, what did they do in one year with very little money – they created a grassroots organisation, in every constituency in the country with badges, stickers and signs, brilliantly organised from nothing.

“That is the way politics is nowadays. The Conservative Party has to create a grassroots movement like Vote Leave and campaign on issues one by one which are appealing to people. “You have to rally people around an issue but do it in modern ways – whether it’s through social media and also doing the ground war. “You can have the existing stuff going on but you need to create a new kind of grassroots movement.”

Halfon has represented the Essex seat of Harlow since 2010, winning it from Labour in that year’s General Election. He admits that since working in the town, which has below average earnings compared to both the region and the country, his political views have changed from being a “free market Thatcherite” to someone who recognises the need for a “social ambulance” alongside a meritocratic ladder.

Halfon said: “We are in danger of being deserted by the millions of working people who have deserted Labour because they don’t feel we are on their side. They feel they are the party of BHS and not the NHS – by BHS I mean the corporate, awful revolting people like that Phillip Green and the dodgy guy he sold it to.” Halfon claimed workers in his constituency’s branch of BHS were “thrown on the scrap heap because of the greed, the mismanagement of corporate capitalism.”

He went on: “The modern Conservative party needs to launch an assault on the so-called crony capitalism and protect workers and stand up for them.” Branching into policy ideas, Halfon called for the Conservatives to become the “party of redistribution”, arguing that extra money generated for the Treasury by tax cuts for the wealthy should be used to cut taxes for the poor or help impoverished communities. “That’s a Conservative idea of redistribution, rather than a socialist one which says you increase taxes on people and redistribute the wealth,” Halfon said.

He also called for a massive increase in house building, and argued that while schemes such as Help to Buy are a step in the right direction, it was not enough to solve the crisis. “If I think of my own constituents and I think of millions working people across the country they can barely afford a few thousand quid. “The idea of getting £5,000 is impossible. Even if the Government says ‘We’ll match it’ they can’t do it.

“We need to build millions of social housing. I prefer it to be done by housing associations but I’m not against council housing. “But social housing should be as much of a priority of as building millions of affordable houses or by-to-let schemes.”

There is one area where Halfon does not want to see fundamental reform, and that is the NHS. The Tory MP is very open about how the voters view his party when it comes to the health service. a“The public don’t trust us on the NHS. There is an umbilical chord between the public and NHS, they do not want us to privatise it. They do not want us to mess around with it. They just want a good service.”

Halfon has yet to decide who he will back in the Conservative leadership election, but the support of the man who so successfully battled for a freeze on fuel duty will be a bonus for any candidate’s “white van” credentials.

When asked by the HuffPost UK why he didn’t put himself forward, Halfon shook his head said he didn’t think it was a role to which he was suited. “Whoever is the leader, this is a huge chance,” he said, before reeling off the achievements of David Cameron’s Governments: equal marriage, the National Living Wage, the pupil premium, free school meals.

“Everything was seen in the frame of austerity by the public,” said Halfon.
“We will never get support again unless, in my view, we radically change our narrative, radically change our policies in terms of how we reach out to the public and radically change the way our political party operates.”