Protest outside the High Court as investigation begins into undercover policing in protest groups (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The scandal of undercover cops abusing women into relationships didn’t end in the 1980s. Last week there were ­revelation of such an outrage which was carried out—and covered-up—until almost today.

An undercover police officer used his fake identity to deceive a woman into a 19-year relationship in which they became partners and had a child together. The officer concealed his real identity from the woman for the duration of that period, never telling her his real occupation, and using his fictitious identity on the birth certificate of their son.

In 2020, after the couple were engaged, the woman discovered that her fiance, whom she believed to be a businessman, was in fact a cop. He had ­subjected her to a deception ­lasting almost two decades.

The tame Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating senior ­officers at Avon and Somerset police, who knew about the ­undercover officer’s ­relationship with the woman as far back as 2013. They waited at least seven years before informing the woman that the person she knew as her fiance had been using a fake identity given to him for use in covert police operations.

The woman, whom the Guardian newspaper is referring to as “Mary”, does not want to speak ­publicly about the experience. However, her relatives say that she is “a shadow of the person we used to know”.

“This whole thing has broken her,” Mary’s sister said. “She has expressed suicidal thoughts. She cries daily. She does not sleep. She is really fearful.” Mary’s family accuse Avon and Somerset police of ­bullying and threatening them over the last three years in an effort to discourage them from speaking to the press.

Senior police warned them that if the public were to become aware of the 19-year relationship the revelation could spark riots.

Mary’s family now believe this and other warnings were used to co-opt them into a “cover-up” of the scandal. Mary’s sister said the family believe that Avon and Somerset police “want to protect themselves at all cost. They’re supposed to serve and protect,” she said. “I don’t believe they will protect you, I believe they will protect themselves. They’re using us and making us cover for them for their failings. They are trying to silence us.”

You can tell what the bosses expect from the “consultation” over ticket office closures. Three major rail firms—Southeastern, South Western and Govia Thameslink Railway—admitted last week they had halted recruitment of new ticket office staff. A final decision on closures is not expected until next year. But a lack of new recruits has forced London ticket offices to shut.

“Labour’s Rachel Reeves has opened up a clear lead over the Conservatives’ Jeremy Hunt when voters are asked who should be the next chancellor of the exchequer”. That was the message from Sky News about its “exclusive poll”. Absolutely true. But…the Labour shadow chancellor was the choice of just 21 percent of voters, according to YouGov, while Jeremy Hunt was judged to make the better chancellor by only 14 percent.

Lack of support for bills means more deaths

The number of excess winter deaths in Britain caused by living in a cold, damp home climbed by about a half last winter after more than 1 million households missed out on government energy bill support. Fuel poverty campaigners told a parliamentary committee last week that despite relatively mild weather, the number of excess winter deaths had climbed to 4,706, up from 3,186 a year earlier, as a result of the energy cost crisis.

Simon Francis, a coordinator at the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, added that the number of excess winter deaths was likely to rise again this winter because of higher levels of energy debt while vulnerable households were forced to “hope for mild weather”. As the deaths rocketed, profits at British Gas parent company Centrica went up nearly 900 percent. Other energy producers double or tripled profits.

A lobbyist in Labour selling inside knowledge 

A staff member in Keir Starmer’s office is selling his knowledge of “politics, government and public policy issues” to corporate clients through a major consultancy firm.

The staffer, who joined Starmer’s team in the summer, is listed as an associate director of Grant Thornton. The arrangement does not breach any regulations because Labour is not in power. But equivalent roles advising government ministers come with an obligation that holders must not “misuse your official position.

That includes using information acquired in the course of official duties to further private interests or those of others”.

Corporate lobbying firms have started expanding their offerings to clients looking to influence a likely Labour government next year. In November, it was reported that two major lobbying outfits had set up “Labour Units” to help clients influence the Starmer’ party. The staff member appears to work part time on Keir Starmer’s team, and part time selling his political insights through Grant Thornton.

Last year, before he took the role, he wrote a blog on Grant Thornton’s website discussing the likely priorities of a future Labour government.

New schools collapse too

The government’s turmoil over school buildings at risk of collapse due to the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) overshadowed another similar scandal. Three virtually brand-new schools were suddenly told to close by the Department for Education with immediate effect because of safety fears.

A further two primary schools had to be demolished before completion. The schools minister, Nick Gibb, was forced to admit there were issues with the structural integrity of the buildings and said they may not be able to withstand extreme events, including severe weather or being hit by a vehicle. Raac had played no part.

These condemned school buildings were modern and built using the latest modular, off-site construction methods favoured by the government. As a result, Sir Frederick Gibberd college in Harlow, Essex, which opened in 2021 was ordered to close its main building and sports hall. Buckton Fields primary school in Northampton, which opened two years ago, was advised not to reopen, and Haygrove school, an academy in Bridgwater, Somerset, was told to close its main building, only completed in October 2020.

Boom time for shareholders

Payouts to shareholders are rising up to 13 times faster in Europe than pay for working people, an analysis by the European Trade Union Confederation has found. Dividend payments increased by 75 percent in Portugal and 66 percent in Denmark between April and June this year. Pay in those countries rose by 6 percent and 5 percent. Across Europe, dividends increased by 10 percent—double the rate at which wages are rising —and reached a record £150 billion. It’s the second consecutive year that shareholders have celebrated bumper payouts.

Things they say

‘We went on being too generous for too long’

Former chancellor Philip Hammond on support measures for workers during the pandemic

‘The government must be decent and humane’

Alex Chalk, the justice secretary—in what was reported as ‘a cabinet split’

‘At a time of war in Europe, it is unacceptable that frigate numbers have fallen so low’

Labour shadow defence secretary John Healey wants more war

‘I have made arrangements to resign and leave the Commons’

Tory MP Chris PIncher is off after losing his appeal against a suspension following groping allegations

‘The problem was there wasn’t enough support for Conservative ideas’

Liz Truss on why she was prime minister for such a short time

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