Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Last Will and Testament

Despite this being the middle of the week, I’m going to go ahead and discuss a news story that came to my attention this morning.

I usually save news stories for Mondays’ blogs, but this is a proper silly season item, a human interest story and it also has a political bent, so it’s just a little bit up my alley, and I’ve decided not to resist the urge.

The Tory and LibDem parties have just come into some money; they were left it in the will of an old woman who stipulated that her estate should be paid out to, 

‘whichever Government is in office at the date of my death for the Government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit’.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron
looking pretty content with life
This government, (which nobody voted for by the way), decided that the bequest should be divided up by the two governing parties, according to the numbers of MPs in parliament, and was dumped into the parties' coffers, presumably to be spent on funding their next election campaigns.

Jean Edwards, the subject of the story, was 90 years old when she died, she had never married, had worked as a nurse her entire life, and had accrued a fortune of more than half a million pounds. She is spoken of several times in the article I read, although the source was the Daily Mail online, as intelligent.

I didn’t know Miss Edwards personally, and it is unpleasant and unnecessary to speak ill of the dead, but might I, at the very least, suggest that her solicitor did a less than convincingly good job of writing this will, or of advising Miss Edwards as to how she might dispose of her fortune.

It isn’t common for individuals to leave sums of money to the nation, but neither is it unheard of. The Treasury receives bequests of this sort of around a million pounds a year. Essentially, the cash in the Treasury is managed by the incumbent government, so wouldn’t it have been simplest for Miss Edwards’s solicitors to advise her to leave a bequest to the nation?

It seems to me that the wording of this will is extraordinary, and bound to be open to interpretation, precisely the sort of interpretation that might lead to some kind of cynical exploitation of one woman’s perfectly well-intentioned bequest.

It’s not difficult to imagine what a nurse might have gone without to save up half a million quid. She lived through a World War and spent at least twenty-five years living off a pension, for crying out loud! Just how cynical does anyone have to be to take advantage of that? Pretty damned cynical, I’m guessing.

Not to beatify Jean Edwards, because I’m sure she was no better than the rest of us, but this is a woman who spent her working life delivering babies and checking the heads of school kids for lice. I can’t help thinking that she probably didn’t expect her legacy to be spent schmoozing corporate types or holding receptions for soap stars and aging rockers. I’m guessing she might have thought her money would be spent in the classroom or on the hospital ward.

I’m not going to blame the governing parties for this. It wasn’t up to them to take the money. It was actually handed to them. Of course, if their spin doctors had been anywhere near any of this, they probably would’ve had the sense they were born with, declared the legacy and spent it, very publicly, on some good work or other; perhaps Cameron would have spent his £420,000 share on the Thatcher Museum, and called it a significant contribution to the nation’s education. Who knows?

I hope that someone, somewhere will see fit to challenge this will, although, I imagine it’s all too little, too late now. I wonder if, for the sake of decency, at least, the Conservative and the LibDem parties can’t do the sensible thing, as far as Public Relations are concerned, and each write a cheque to the Treasury for the amount of the bequest they each received.

In the meantime, I hope that whoever gave Miss Edwards legal advise when it came to her will is dragged over the coals for this really rather silly mistake. It shouldn’t have happened, and any solicitor worth his salt should have made damned sure that it didn’t happen. 

Someone, somewhere has egg on his face. I wish it was the politicians, I wish it was David Cameron and Nick Clegg, but, sadly, in this case, they’ve really got bugger all to do with it.

Except this: They do have the opportunity to spend that half a million on something worthwhile. They don’t have to use it as campaign contributions or as simply donations to their respective parties.

I know it’s naive of me to hope that they might do the right thing, but... 


I am much cheered up by this piece of news from the BBC, in which I hear that both the Conservatives and the LibDems have seen fit to write those cheques to the Treasury. Hu-bloody-zzah!

1 comment:

  1. ... it's well worth hoping for, even if in vain.