The Spanish Civil War. Photo: STF/AFP/Getty Images
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Limehouse III

The eccentric opponents faced by Clement Attlee in 1929.

In 1929, Clement Attlee had interesting opponents. The Communist Walter Tapsell went on to fight in the Spanish civil war in the first company of the British battalion, named the “Major Attlee Company” after the Labour leader. Tapsell was killed in the retreat from Aragon in 1938. His body
was never found.

The Liberal candidate was Jasper Jocelyn John Addis. In 1933, he was declared bankrupt; in 1947, he was struck off as a solicitor. Addis was jailed for fraud in 1954, having claimed that his life was in danger from the financier and alleged war profiteer George Dawson.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Evan Morgan (the second Viscount Tredegar) was a papal chamberlain, occultist, spy and owner of a boxing kangaroo. After the election, it was reported that one of his supporters had failed to turn up to his own wedding, after he was beaten up while canvassing.

This article first appeared in the 08 January 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Churchill Myth

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.