The newly appointed shadow women and equalities minister has committed to fight for the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) cause from the front bench, despite the leadership chaos engulfing the Labour party.
The Waspi campaign staged a mass rally outside parliament with opposition MPs and Lords turning up to lend their support.
Angela Rayner (pictured), previously shadow minister for work and pensions, until Labour’s recent front bench reshuffle, was out to support the Wapsi rally in Westminster in her new role, as it continued its campaign fighting the acceleration of state pension age rises.
Waspi was set up last year to demand ‘transitional arrangements’ for women born in the 1950s affected by the SPA acceleration. In April an All Party Parliamentary Group of MPs was created to support the cause, following a succession of debates in the House of Commons on the matter.
Waspi has accused pensions minister Ros Altmann, who campaigned for a concession to the changes when they were brought though in 2011, of turning her back on older women since joining the House of Lords.
Although New Model Adviser® revealed Altmann had drawn up costs of transitional measures, and has voiced sympathy, no changes have been formally put forward by her.
After singing the group's anthem on stage with campaigners and 60 other MPs, Rayner said Altman’s had been all talk and no action.
‘Instead of saying positive words, like Ros Altman has been saying to these women, it is time that action is taken and they get what they rightfully deserve.
‘I can tell [Altman] from the Labour front bench that we are fully supportive of the campaign, we do think there should be better transitional protections, and as the newly appointed women and equalities minister I will be ensuring that we carry out that endeavour.’
Rayner was this week promoted to the post of shadow minister for women and equalities under a reshuffle by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn - though his own position now hangs in the balance after losing a vote of no confidence from his MPs.
A handful of the campaigners met with Altmann after the event to discuss the options. Altmann's reticence to meet with Waspi has long been a bone of contention for campaigners.
Parliamentarians from all the main parties attended the event which comprised around 2,000 Waspi campaigners from across the country.
Joan Bakewell, who sits in the Lords, has spoken out passionately on behalf of the Waspi cause.
While the chorus sang on behind her she said these women had worked hard and deserved transitional arrangements:
‘They are unable to find work and they are going on to benefits. And these are proud women who have worked since the age of 15. That many years of work deserves consideration.
‘We want transitional arrangements that relieve the hardship,’ she said.
Between the songs there were hearty chants from the campaigners including ‘We paid in, you pay out.'
One campaigner said she was concerned that last week's vote to leave the EU would hinder the campaign as there would be less funds to meet the demands of a transitional arrangement.
Identical twins and Waspi campaigners Sheila Porter and Lesley Stubbs said they had calculated their combined loss from the state pension change at £84,000:
‘If nothing changes, by 2019, we calculated on our forecasts it will be £84,000 that this government has stolen from us,’ said Porter.