Labour’s Emily Thornberry pulled a pledge on state pension inequality quite literally out of her handbag in a live radio debate on Tuesday, after stepping in for beleaguered colleague Diane Abbott.
The shadow defence secretary appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in place of Abbott, who was suddenly taken ill following the latest in a series of car crash interviews on Monday evening.
Blaming her last-minute appearance, Thornberry admitted she couldn’t place her hand on figures relating to Labour’s pledge to help the Waspi Women (Women Against State Pension Inequality) who were born in the 1950s and are negatively affected by changes to state pensions.
“We have a fully costed manifesto and it has been looked at and the figures are simply there and I’m sorry it’s slightly last-minute my coming in here,” Thornberry said, when asked about Labour’s plan to allow women affected tax-free access to the women’s pension funds.
“Perhaps we can try and find those figures between now and 10.30, perhaps someone in the Labour Party can get onto that,” host Jane Garvey suggested.
Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd accused Labour of proposing a £77bn commitment on the issue. “Once again dipping into the magic money tree,” she said.
But amid rustling in the studio, and a loud “Okay,” Thornberry said: “I’m sorry about this, I have found at the bottom of my handbag a brief.”
She continued: “What I’ve got is that, hundreds of thousands of women have had their retirement plans scuppered by the Tories speeding up the increases to the state pension without adequate notice, to tackle this injustice, Labour will extend pension credit to help those who are due to retire before the Tories’ chaotic changes.”
Listen to the clip, below.
However, the information did not answer Rudd’s contention that the pledge will cost many billions to implement. HuffPost UK has approached the Labour Party for clarification on the cost of the policy.
Waspi Director, Jane Cowley, who appeared on Woman’s Hour, said later: “We have been disappointed that a number of parties, including the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, have chosen to ignore us.
“We were particularly disheartened by the comments from Home Secretary Amber Rudd this morning when she suggested that a solution would involve ‘dipping into the magic money tree’.
“Comments like this show a serious lack of understanding amongst our politicians about Waspi women and our campaign.”
Comments like Rudd's show a serious lack of understanding amongst our politicians about Waspi women and our campaign Jane Cowley, Waspi director
Meanwhile, the Conservatives accused Labour of “hiding” Abbott from voters.
“The woman who would be in charge of our police and the intelligence services cannot even be trusted by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to go on the airwaves to explain their shocking record on national security,” Tory International Development Secretary Priti Patel said.
Yet Prime Minister Theresa May also pulled out of an appearance on the Radio 4 morning programme two weeks ago.
It came after Rudd revealed for the first time that police were concerned that a second bomb could have been in existence following the Manchester Arena attack.
She made the admission during a discussion on the decreasing the terror threat level before terror struck London on Saturday.
Describing the previous increased threat level following the Manchester attack, Rudd said: “Critical means an attack is imminent.
“After Manchester, the police believed that there may be material out there for another attack. [Decreasing the threat level] doesn’t mean we take potential activity any less seriously.”
Rudd also claimed that cutting numbers of police officers since 2010 has led to a reduction in crime. The Centre for Economic Performance has suggested a reduction in crime may be due to both improved productivity within the police and fewer people turning to crime in the first place.