Last week’s sudden split in the Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) campaign was the result of a “meticulously planned military-style coup”, according to the ousted founding members.
On Thursday (4 August), two of the five founders announced the Waspi campaign had split from the other three, and would be pursuing a new strategy, involving the recruitment of a large number of campaign organisers, under the same Waspi banner.
Mieke Vrijhof, a spokesperson for the two founding members of the Waspi campaign, declined to respond to claims the rival members had been unseated in a “military style coup”, saying it would not “benefit the campaign to answer those allegations”.
But the three excluded campaigners, now calling themselves “Waspi 3”, told FTAdviser they had only heard about the decision when it had been announced publicly on Facebook.
“This wasn’t a hastily put together plan or a ‘knee jerk’ reaction by one person, but a military-style coup, meticulously planned and executed over many months ... and implemented without discussion or agreement,” they said in a statement.
“This was the culmination of a series of successful strategies designed to deny three of the five equal co-founders a voice and the ability to work on their own campaign.”
While the Waspi 3 did not go into detail about their policy differences, they said they believed in taking a more pragmatic approach than the other two, having been advised “to manage the expectations of supporters”.
The Waspi campaign was set up to fight what campaigners claimed were unexpected changes to state pension eligibility age for women.
An increase to state pension age of 65 for women was originally meant to take place between 2010 and 2020 but in 2011 this was brought forward to 2018. Both sexes’ pension age is currently set to increase to 66 by 2020 rather than by 2026.
The Waspi 3 said they had been pushed aside because “we cannot agree with any ‘ask’ which is perceived as reversing the state pension law, which bears a similar financial implication, can be interpreted as not being in the spirit of equalisation and which puts age above need.”
“Despite being advised on many occasions to provide a realistic ‘ask’, an unwillingness to do so, together with activities designed to damage options which could be a resolve for some ... and the campaign’s lack of transparency, have been the root cause of the discourse amongst the five co-founders for some time.”
They said a long drawn out campaign with an uncertain outcome would “not help women with life limiting illness and those in financial difficulty, who need a resolve now”.
Ms Vrijhof, a spokesperson for the two founding members of the Waspi campaign, said that the new campaign did not want to roll back either the 1995 Act or the 2011 Act, but said it was seeking “provisions” for women affected by both.
Pensions expert John Ralfe of John Ralfe Consulting said he understood the Waspi 3 to be more realistic in their wishes, focusing on the 2011 changes that pushed the pension age back for a number of women by up to 18 months.