THE search for Patrons was started in earnest in 2005 by then AMP chairman (now our life-president) David Thompson. There were rumours circulating at the time that Trinity Mirror was about to sell off its National titles. The AMP was deeply alarmed.
“The idea was to have people in the Commons and the Lords to give MGN pensioners a voice if necessary,” says David. “It was deliberately cross-party and in both Houses.
“I had got chucked out of Mirror Group in 1993 by David Montgomery when I was the Daily Mirror leader writer, but I had spent nearly 19 years as the Mirror’s chief Parliamentary correspondent and still had many good friends in the House.
“So Gerald (Mowbray, AMP secretary) and I got to work, took them to lunch and signed them up.”
The AMP later also re-charged its fighting fund, set up to pay for potential legal representation to protect AMP members’ pensions in the Courts. This was the forerunner of today’s Contingency Fund. (Our Contingency Fund has since closed to further donations, and members’ continuing contributions go towards our day-to-day running costs.)
Among our first five Patrons were Jacqui Lait and Tom Clarke. Dennis Canavan, our original Patron in the Scottish Parliament, has been replaced by our very own Rona Mackay, who worked on the Daily Record for many years.
Matthew Oakeshott (Baron Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay) was a Patron from the start, and stood down when he took a leave of absence from the Lords. We thanked him warmly for his long service.
Our other original Patron in the House of Lords was Alf Morris (Baron Morris of Manchester) who died in 2012 – “A good man and a dear personal friend,” says David. Lord McFall of Alcluith became our Patron in the Lords after the death of Alf Morris, but stood down when he became Senior Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. (He has since become the Lord Speaker). The Lords Oakeshott and McFall have offered their continuing support as ex-Patrons.
(We also previously had a Patron in the European Parliament, Jacqueline Foster.)
MEET OUR PATRONS
LORD Austin of Dudley became a Patron during his 14 years as an MP, and has continued the connection as a life peer in the House of Lords.
A former media officer for the Labour Party in Scotland, he was the MP for Dudley North until he resigned from the Party in 2019 when he became ashamed of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.
Adopted as a baby by a Jewish couple (they were refugees from the Holocaust), the anti-Semitism issue caused him great distress, and he said in his resignation statement:
“A culture of extremism, anti-Semitism and intolerance is driving out good MPs and decent people who have committed their life to mainstream politics.” As Lord Austin, he is chairman of Mainstream UK, a new cross-party campaign to combat extremism in public life. He is a non-affiliated peer – his Twitter account says: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.”
Ian says: “I’m pleased and proud to continue as AMP Patron in the Lords. Pensions is an important issue on which we always have to be vigilant.”
CHRISTINE Jardine, MP is our Patron in the House of Commons, succeeding Ian Austin.
She is a former editor of the Press Association in Scotland, and has twice held Edinburgh West for the Liberal Democrats. She is the Lib Dems’ spokesperson on the Treasury.
Christine was delighted to accept our invitation to become a Patron, and as a senior journalist was well aware of Robert Maxwell’s pension plunder.
She said: “If I had ever doubted the value of a pension, or the cruelty of an employer mining it for their own benefit, it would have been brought home to me when my husband died in 2017.
“What would it have been like to discover that the pension he had contributed to for 25 years was gone? Yet that was the reality which so many Mirror Group employees faced.”
Before entering politics Christine was a well-known journalist in Scotland, having worked on the Scotsman, at the BBC and PA, and taught both post- and undergraduate students at the University of the West of Scotland.
She added: “That pension funds must be protected and the state pension kept ahead of inflation are surely principles to which we can all lend support.
“The memory of how Robert Maxwell stole his employees’ future security and the lack of protection and justice for them is one we should learn from and ensure never happens again.”
RONA Mackay, a former Daily Record sub-editor during her 20-year career on national newspapers, is a Member of the Scottish Parliament.
She left full-time journalism to become Parliamentary assistant to a Glasgow MSP for nine years. Then in 2016 she was herself elected for the Scottish National Party, with a solid 8,100 majority.
Shortly after her election, Rona became the AMP’s Patron in the Scottish Parliament, when she agreed: “It is becoming increasingly obvious that we need a voice on financial and pension issues.
“During the 30 years since their members’ pension fund was raided by Robert Maxwell, the Association has fought valiantly on behalf of its members. I am proud to be a voice for justice and for the AMP.”
As MSP, she has taken a leading interest in issues such as animal welfare, fair trade, LGBTI+, men’s violence against women and children, tourism and women’s justice.
Rona lives in Glasgow with her husband and son.