Opinion: Christine Tongue – I’m officially old

The latest from Christine

It’s my birthday! I’m 75 – I’m officially OLD!

If I was in a Dickens novel I’d be wearing a lace cap and pontificating about changing times.

If I was in a fairy story I might have a pointy hat and be luring children into my ginger bread cottage. Or being wickedly exploited by the Big Bad Wolf.

In Neolithic times I’d be such a rare phenomenon I’d be Queen of the Caves and someone would make a carved goddess of my chubby self. Respect!

But now there’s quite a few of us and we’re angry.

We’ve come off worst out of this pandemic. Britain wasn’t the best for life expectancy but as a woman I could expect another seven or so years of life, perhaps in a care home as the joints deteriorate, or the brain cells get lazy.

Now care homes have been the most dangerous places to be for the old and infirm. We’re the most susceptible to covid 19 and we’ve been offered up to the god of “herd immunity”.

An idea that Boris Johnson floated – but didn’t commit to – was that we should “take it on the chin!” Well loads of people in care homes have had to do just that. In one care home in Thanet seventeen people died of the virus.

People were sent out of hospital without testing to be looked after in care homes so short of PPE the local community had to get out their sewing machines to make face masks. The local group, Thanet Facemasks, has now produced more than 10,000 for care homes and other key workers. We all stumped up our cotton sheets and unused fabric to help out.

But what a scandal! Sending elderly people to places full of other vulnerable people where the virus thought Christmas had come.

Now we’re being told that our pensions may effectively be cut back to help pay for the economic disaster of the pandemic. Do you know how much the state pension is? It’s among the lowest in Europe.

Well I have news for the Chancellor: Rishi, your government failed to cull us completely in the pandemic and we’re not putting up with this marginalisation any more.

I risked infection last week to go and join the Black Lives Matter demonstration when it reached Broadstairs. I wore my surgical mask and took a chair as my knees won’t take “taking the knee” any more. I took a seat, well away from my fellow oldies at the back of the gathering.

It was an enormously impressive emotional experience to see all those people following their consciences to defend the rights of all those in their community who have been marginalised for generations.

Now let’s start an OLD LIVES movement. We’re your grandparents and we’re angry. GIVE ME BACK MY SEVEN YEARS!


  1. IOts absolutely disgusting and an abuse of the elderly Population and taking away autonomy. Its truly disgraceful and taking the Mickey after long lives of hard work and being the basis of the Generations of today including Boris’s generation. Its a total lack of respect and literally has been killing people off like flies as though lets get rid of some of them anyway. It really hurts and needs sorting out. We need to send a petition to the Queen and the Government and the Church of England and anyone that can sort this lot out. The Tories need throwing out if this is their best work.

  2. Doesn’t that mean that all lives matter? as in fact they do, irrespective of race, age or deprivation?

  3. We all know that but Christine is refering to a very important aspect of Society that has been assualted and abused via the Health System recently and it appearing to be swept under the carpet and forgotton about. She knows all lives matter but emphasisng a certain group in Current topics. We all know all lives matter of course.

  4. Christine excellent stuff.

    But I wonder at your mention of marginalised people. I suppose Edwin Baars who featured in a Panorama 1975 was marginalised. Discharged from a mental hospital in another county with a hospital social worker letter and a single rail ticket to Margate where he arrived homeless.

    This was when Barbara Castle was DHSS minister with civil service advisers Jack Straw and Norman Warner (who had the cheek later to succeed the vile Revd Nick Stacey as Head of KCC Social Services.

    It wasn’t long before Babs had official secrets act charges planned for the civil servant she deemed had whistleblown on what she was presiding over. To her amazement Frank Swift straight left communist and mentor of Seamus Milne backed the civil servant.. And Babs, vile Straw and Warner backed off.

    Baars after a period of homelessness filtered into one of Thanet private care homes whose fees were paid direct from benefits.

    The next battle was about the ethos of and poor standards of care in “Section 37 care homes” And Babs, Straw, Warner dodged it.

    Were you living in Thanet at the time Christine ? I just wonder where you were at the time I was facing OSA charges and backing babs castle down

    Why this remains relevant goes back to Cllr Dr Charles McAvoy who tried to stop change of use to care homes. Because there was no commensurate increase in area NHS provision or contingency planning.

    I have argued, as you know, that Thanet was the perfect storm as also unaddressed was the matter of environmental hazards to health and a water supply that did not meet wholesome water standards of law.

    It has been the dickens of a job but I got through to expert inquiry into maternity tragedies and now the matter of drinking water borne “PFOA” contamination has been put in the inquiry planned workstreams. Whether to carry out blood serum testing as PFOA is a toxic risk for foetal morbidity and pre eclampsia So too is the polychlorinated bi phenyl environmental hazard to health.

    Far better you had stayed at home and avoided the SONIL attention seeking protest gigs re stroke units. Far better you had concentrated on the law of statutory duties and the law of judicial review so you did not hitch yer wagon to the timewasters SONIK and Cllr Constantine.

    When you went to the Marxist blm gig you admit you risked infection but surely that also means you risked infecting others ?

    • Please don’t argue or bother, as frankly we know what your views are. It seems that the last 50 years have passed you by.
      Like Rip van winkle you have slept while the world has changed. Most of the people you refer to have long gone to meet their maker and your singularly inept view of history is riddled with inaccuracies and distortions. It is entirely possible that someone was discharged penniless, from a mental health institution 50 years ago, but to suggest it was because of the machinations of Barbara Castle is ludicrous. I would suggest cock up over conspiracy. But if it were true, then Theresa May is also personally responsible for deporting UK citizens from a settled existence in the UK to the West indies under the Windrush scandal. Two wrongs don’t make a right and a balanced view of the evidence is necessary.
      I don’t think you got the message. BLM may have contained, Marxists, but to dismiss the entire protest movement as a Marxist plot is taking conspiracy theories too far.
      I want to tell you something, people of colour are fed up of having to live in a society where they get shouted at by the likes of you. They want the same as you, to be left alone to live their lives in peace and prosperity, is that too much to ask!
      Most of us want Govt to function properly, a peaceful coexistence with our neighbours and an even spread of prosperity. That comes from right left and centre, from what ever group one feels happiest within.
      I think you should go back to sleep and try a different brand of water to drink, because it is giving you hallucinations

  5. I’m horrified that so many frail and vulnerable elderly were put at risk by this governments poor management of a pandemic.
    They have squandered millions on ineffective tracking but their chums who have zero experience have profited.
    Their ending lockdown in reckless. Obviously not satisfied with the demise of >45000 so far. It’s the elderly who have paid with their lives and will continue to do so.
    Great article Christine Tongue

  6. I agree, it is just Total abuse in ignorance and not acting fast enough. Discharging and dumping un tested Victims back into care homes diabolical.Further it is ironic and hypocritical to make out they have so called Shielded the vulnerable and frail, how can they say that?, what a lot of money wasting correspondence, telling the elderly and Vulnerable to be imprisoned indoors, doing lip service by such idiots in Government when on the other side of things making such mistakes and so many dying in Care homes including Carers, especially the Et5hnic minority workers and others Health. Its actually terrifying! They must not be allowed to get out of this one.

    • As Christine knows full well this goes back to postwar Attlee Govt and their enactment of Churchills plans and white paper for creation of NHS. In Churchills scrutiny of the Beveridge report the first concerns, I think from Kingsley Wood, were raised that Beveridge had his sums wrong

      In came Labour postwar. And we committed to become a nuclear power and to become a welfare state without being able to fund both.

      The National Assistance Act 1948 brought in a system of means tested non contributory benefits to throw the demand on to taxpayers while the flawed actuarial sums of the National Insurance system remained in place. And 1948 was Windrush year.

      So the philosophy was to end the poor law but in practice the ethos of the workhouse continued as the private care sector (Funded by taxpayers under National Assistance Act 1948 Section 37.

      By the early 70s North Essex Quakers withdrew as volunteer helpers from the Section 37 care home Sue Ryder HQ Cavendish Suffolk. Local GP Dr Nini Ettlinger took up the cause calling for Section 37 homes to be absorbed by NHS. In Thanet Cllr Dr Charles McAvoy called for end of granting change of use to care homes for failed hotels. There was no commensurate increase of local NHS provision and contingency planning.

      The trick used by Sue Ryder and many others milking section 37 resident fees, was to register as a care home, with no requirement to employ qualified staff. The Panorama I mentioned above is an example of Labour discharging NHS burden on to the Section 37 unqualified benefits milking private care industry. It has happened before and the perpetrator was lady of the left Barbara Castle.

      An aspect Christine fails to weigh is the care home duties and responsibilities.

      Nothing improved after replacement of the 1948 act.

      • Yet again you are distorting History. Churchill had no plans for the welfare state, apart from vague promises of reaching the sunny uplands.
        Henry Willink was the nearest in the tory hierarchy to appreciate the problem.
        Have you forgotten Beveridge and his 5 giants? Have you forgotten Attlee, Bevin and Bevan who steered a bankrupt nation towards that sunny upland and created the enduring legacy of the NHS? Perhaps Churchill was secretly working behind the scenes to manipulate these useful idiots to implement his master plan?
        No, I am afraid not.
        Churchill was many things and a great wartime leader, his legacy is secure, he needs no false attributions to bolster his reputation from back street, hack, info-distorters.
        What is it with you about Barbara Castle, are just an old unreformed misogynist or do you dislike left leaning ,strong women?

  7. A great excuse to get rid of people who are no longer paying into the system. This started with the disabled, an easy touch for the Tories as they find it hard to retaliate against the abusive benefits system and continuous assessments by the DWP then repeated Tribunal appeals. Now it’s the turn of the elderly, again a vulnerable group. I know it is the intention of this government to kill off as many non workers as possible so they have more money to give their fat cat friends and bankers.

    • Kent Resident, you should delete this comment. It’s ignorant and offensive.
      Kathy Bailes please remove.

  8. I am more than sure that in 30 years time when confidential government documents are made public it will show that many more thousands have died from the Coronavirus than what we have been told by Boris & co.
    When the nightly bulletins started the numbers we were told that had died from the virus did mention those who had passed away in care homes, in other care settings or in their own homes. There are lies, deceit and government statistics to hoodwink jo public. Watching Boris on Tuesday evening telling us all how things will be returning “to nearly normal”, one could not fail to see that the doctors body language on each side of him were not at all comfortable with what Boris was saying.

  9. Some of my friends of a similar age seem to have a more positive attitude to life and seem to enjoy it more, whatever their various ailments or circumstances. Anger is corrosive for your health. Too much mask wearing lowers your oxygen levels. We all make risk assessments every day when we get out of bed. Let’s look at what we can all do with positivity to contribute. And why not have a proper conversation about death and dying, and what constitutes a good death, and when a death may be a merciful release. My mother asked her GP to just give her a pill to go quite routinely at the end. Some who have faced it celebrate a life of a loved one well-lived with a quick merciful release if they are suffering. Some never ever want to go in care homes, while some have to and some have families unwilling to provide the care or time. There’s a rich mix in all stories and they are not all negative.

    • I think I have a positive attitude to life – that’s why I want my seven years life expectancy back! For everyone!

      • No-one has taken seven years off you.
        Such a strange argument.
        You may be right about not testing prior to discharge to care homes but to claim this is robbing you of extra years is bizarre.

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