Pensioners and veterans have warned Boris Johnson that they will never forgive him or his party for the Tories’ TV licence betrayal.
OAPs at an Age UK day centre told the Mirror about the vital lifeline a television offers many of the 3.7 million over 75s across the UK as the Prime Minister prepares to clobber them by breaking a manifesto pledge.
Labour ’s deputy leader Tom Watson met with concerned pensioners at the Onneley Centre in Birmingham today (Friday) and threw down the gauntlet to Mr Johnson.
He said: “People think he is a liar anyway, he has lied about his private life and he has lied about policy.
“There is an easy thing for him to do to rebuild some trust.
“That is why I am challenging him to honour Labour’s pledge to back the free TV licence for the lifetime of not just this Parliament, but the next one as well whenever it comes.”
In 2017 the Conservatives promised in their manifesto to maintain free TV licences.
But the BBC was handed responsibility for funding the benefit from June 2020, under a deal stitched up in 2015.
Mr Johnson told the Mirror earlier this week the BBC should “cough up”.
Just 1.5 million OAPs who receive Pension Credit are likely to continue receiving the benefit – but 470,000 people entitled to the support last year didn’t claim it.
More than 900,000 veterans are part of the 3.7million pensioners set to be stripped of their free TV licences from next June.
Speaking to the Labour’s deputy leader, veteran Mick Horton, 63, who served for 12 years with the Second Batallion Royal Fusiliers, pointed out that the extra £154.50 a year they will have to pay will send many now OAPs into the red.
He said: “This is going to do a lot of harm to pensioners and veterans in particular.
“People are proud and they don’t want to be seen asking for help, and it’ll mean money problems for lots of people I know.
“My neighbour is 94 and lives alone – the sound of her TV is how you know she is okay and going about her day.
“The Tories have come for our TV licences, and they’ve raised my wife’s retirement age, what is next?
“Is the winter fuel allowance safe? We can’t trust promises that it is anymore.”
Another former squaddie Bob ‘Knobby’ Clarke, 72, who served for 31 years in the Army (Royal Signals) and only left the Reserves aged 60, said that for many ex-serviceman the TV is a chance for some company and support in difficult times after a life spent serving their county.
“I visit my former Sergeant Major he’ll speak about his family, but the other thing that keeps him talking is TV – speaking about what he has seen.
“It gives people a chance to recall memories of their life – and some company.
“For people with dementia or Alzheimer’s it helps them keep the time – they know if Good Morning Britain is on they should have their lunch and if the News at Ten is over then it is time for bed.
“It makes me furious to think of Boris Johnson taking that away from people who’ve worked their whole lives.”
Ex-Army cook Jim Tennant, 70, branded the PM’s decision not to keep his promise “mean and dishonest”.
“If he would listen to me I would tell him to keep his promise – because if he doesn’t a lot of people will never vote for him or his party again,” he said.
Carol Goult, 63, said that for her 95-year-old father who died earlier this month the TV was a friend that allowed him to explore the world when ill health confined him to just four walls.
She said: “He loved Blue Planet and the Discovery channel.
“For him television kept his mind active, it meant he never had to give up his love for learning. If pensioners have to choose between feeding themselves or paying the TV licence they lose so much, Boris Johnson should come here and talk to people about what he is taking from them.”
Alan Powell, 75, an ex-street furniture fabricator from West Bromwich, said laid out what for most is the biggest injustice.
“I worked my whole life in a dirty job which is now affecting my health.
“For so many, the TV makes all the difference – and that extra expense is going to mean that so many pensioners aren’t going to be able to live out the end of their lives how they would have wanted.”
Last night a government spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed with the BBC’s decision. We expected them to continue free TV licences for the over-75s.
“Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to make sure it delivers for UK audiences, which includes showing restraint on salaries.”
More than 18,000 have The Mirror’s campaign for the Tories to reverse this decision.
Some 634,334 people signed Age UK’s Switched Off petition – handed into No10 – calling for free licences to be preserved and the Government to take back responsibility.
Age UK director Caroline Abrahams told the Conservative leader OAPs would be “forced to choose between giving up their TV or reducing spending on essentials like food and heating”, while others would be hauled before the courts for refusing to pay the £154.50 fee.