Paul Routledge: ( Daily Mirror ) Don’t switch us off! Over-75s revolt in Leeds over TV licences.
The Mirror’s Paul Routledge, centre, joined protestors in Leeds angry about the axed TV licence benefit.
They came from all over Yorkshire to show their anger at the Tory-inspired raid on free TV licences for the over-75s.
Protesting pensioners, mostly ladies, filled the pavement outside the BBC’s northern HQ in Leeds.
My, did they make a noise.
And they were just one of 20 such demonstrations all over the country.
Through the plate-glass windows of their plush offices, Beeb bosses must have got the message that the oldies are on the march.
It must also be filtering through to the traitor Tory politicians who reneged on their manifesto pledge to keep all pensioner benefits.
Protesters waved placards showing a TV set with the message Don’t Switch Us Off! and they cheered as passing drivers hooted their support.
Jacqueline Robinson, 63, from Castleford, is one cross lady.
Protesters outside the BBC building in Leeds.
She said: “I’m absolutely disgusted with the licence being taken away.
“My father-in-law is 93 and the TV is his lifeline. He lives in the middle of the countryside, there are no buses at the weekend. The television is his best friend.”
Another “Cas Lass”, 71 year-old Barbara Cotton, said: “We’ve earned it and we deserve it.
“We’ve put up with things youngsters wouldn’t put up with. We were deprived – but we won’t be deprived again.”
Bob Harris, 84, a retired electrician, added: “I’ve had a free licence for 10 years and now they want to take it away. People like me did national service – two years on pittance pay.
“It’s outrageous and it’s the thin end of the wedge. Next they’ll have the bus pass, the fuel allowance and then attack the NHS.”
Nearly 3.7 million old people will lose their hard-won concession in less than a year’s time.
Most protesters are in no doubt who the culprits are – Tory ministers who forced this cost-cutting treachery on the Beeb.
“The Government should fund the over-75s’ TV licences not the BBC,” proclaimed their placards.
Hundreds joined the nationwide protests, organised by the National Pensioners Convention.
In Glasgow, demonstrators chanted, “BBC, BBC, Keep our Licence Free”.
Billy Foster, 72, reminded the politicians: “Lots of elderly people are really proud and they will refuse to be means tested, and will end up without a TV, which is their only contact with the outside world.”
Outside Broadcasting House, in the centre of the capital, Londoner Ian Burleigh insisted “It’s a stealth tax by the Government, hiding behind the skirts of the BBC.
“I have great respect for the BBC, but they should have had the guts to stand up to the Government.”
The mood over at the Beeb’s northern HQ in Salford, Greater Manchester, was just as vehement.
Leonard Mather, an 87-year-old Korean War veteran, was “disgusted” by the actions of the Corporation and the Government.
“Gary Lineker gets paid a fortune for Match of the Day, but they can’t do anything for people who have given so much for their country,” he said.
Veteran Leonard Mather with wife Pamela.
Jeremy Hunt says Tories are breaking vow to over-75s to protect free TV licenses.
“The Government should step in and pay the licence fee. If they don’t, the Tories will get slaughtered at the next election as people are very angry.”
He has a point. This is electoral dynamite. It’s not just those directly affected.
They have sons and daughters, and grandchildren, who are just as passionate as their old folk.
This campaign unites the generations.
And, if he fails to honour his 2017 manifesto pledge to keep pensioner benefits, it could well gather enough momentum to shorten betrayer Boris Johnson’s time in No10.
MPs will debate this injustice on July 15, after a petition gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
The Mirror is campaigning to save the free licences, backed by celebs such as Len Goodman and Dame Esther Rantzen.
Yesterday, it was the turn of the ordinary British people to have their say and their message to the politicians was loud and clear: “You do this at your peril.”