STRIKING firefighters defied police orders and brought traffic to a standstill outside Parliament yesterday, turning the heat up on hated Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt in their bitter pensions dispute.
Yesterday’s 24-hour walkout came after brigades across England rowed back on a unconvincing pledge made by Ms Mordaunt in a Commons debate on the issue.
The Tory MP, who is pioneering plans to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60, promised in December that firefighters over 55 who failed a fitness test would still be able to retire on pensions at their current levels.
The pledge was crucial as it persuaded a number of uncertain MPs — including several Lib Dems who had pledged their support to the firefighters — to vote with the government to push through the reforms.
Norfolk FBU branch secretary Kevin Game blasted: “We supposedly live in a democracy, but apparently it’s OK for an MP to tell lies to sway a vote.”
In a overflowing Methodist Central Hall, Labour MP John McDonnell told over 2,000 firefighters: “They legislated on a lie and now they need to repeal that legislation.”
And he praised his party leader for finally supporting the cause.
“For the first time in 20 years a Labour leader instructed MPs to support a union in dispute,” he said.
But his colleague Kate Hoey called for the Labour front bench to go further. “We don’t just want words, we want (a commitment to repeal the reforms) to be in the manifesto, she said.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack defiantly called for union members to march “spontaneously” to Parliament after the police refused to facilitate the protest saying that the union will be its own security.
“This union is not paying for the right to protest,” he said, to rapturous applause.
Attacking Ms Mordaunt, nicknamed “Pennocchio” by angry firefighters wearing Pinocchio noses, Mr Wrack said that “Cameron and the speaker should act over Mordaunt’s lies to Parliament.
“There is money for the fire service. But the money and power in society is in the wrong hands,” he said.