The Telegraph 2024-07-04 07:10:31

Labour could be lining up council tax raid

A Labour frontbencher has expressed frustration at the “out of date” council tax system and hinted that a tax raid on wealthy people’s homes is coming.

In a leaked recording, Darren Jones, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, admitted that Labour cannot openly talk about revaluing homes for council tax because no party that does so is ever elected.

He also suggested the whole council tax system “needs to be changed” in comments that have been seized on by the Conservatives.

The Tories say Mr Jones, who is likely to be second in command at the Treasury if Labour wins the election, has been “caught saying the quiet part out loud” and that Sir Keir Starmer intends to increase taxes on people’s homes, cars and pensions. Labour described it as “scaremongering nonsense”.

As Britain goes to the polls, Rishi Sunak warned voters not to “sleepwalk into a Labour super-majority” and insisted the election was not a foregone conclusion.

He said: “Telegraph readers know the Conservatives, the party of Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, will always represent their values. We will cut taxes for every generation, make sure work always pays, support families, safeguard drivers’ freedoms, secure our borders, boost our national security and preserve our precious countryside for future generations.”

A final opinion poll for The Telegraph has predicted the largest Labour majority in history, with Sir Keir’s party winning 39 per cent of the vote and the Tories 20 per cent. Another poll predicted Labour would win the biggest majority of any party since 1832, and other polls this week have suggested the Conservatives could end up with as few as 64 seats.

On Wednesday, analysts at the investment bank Citi forecast that Labour will launch a £15 billion tax raid on pensions, capital gains and inheritance if the party wins a large majority.

Tax has been central to the election campaign, with the Conservatives insisting that families will pay more than £2,000 extra under Labour – a claim that was criticised by the statistics watchdog.

Sir Keir has ruled out increases to income tax, VAT or National Insurance, but has refused to make any commitments to freeze or cut other taxes.

Mr Jones has previously been recorded saying that Labour’s green energy plans will cost “hundreds of billions” and that inheritance tax will be used to “redistribute” wealth. His latest comments were made at a coffee morning in the Bristol area on May 18, four days before the election was called.

The Labour frontbencher was asked by a voter about the prospect of council tax rises on 700,000 homes worth more than £1 million.

Mr Jones replied: “There’ll be people in this village that will pay a lot more council tax than they currently do, many of them older people. So the fact is again, I get the frustration but you live in a capitalist democracy.

“So that requires people to vote for you to have power to hold power in order to be able to do things within a framework people are willing to work within. Now you can say that the whole system is like c–p and needs to be changed.”

When he was asked about increasing council tax “for those people who can definitely afford it” and then “pour[ing] that money back into working-class people”, he replied: “And I agree with you that the council tax system is very out of date.”

He went on: “Let me be frank with you about council tax, right. Any party has ever suggested revaluing council tax has never been elected. They just haven’t.”

When the questioner pointed out that Labour had a huge poll lead, Mr Jones replied: “They won’t if they start telling everyone they have to pay more council tax.”

Neil Amin-Smith, a policy adviser to Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, authored a report in 2019 calling for a national revaluation and reform programme for council tax.

‘Radical overhaul’

Ms Reeves has in the past called for a “radical overhaul of the tax system”, saying “our current system of wealth taxation isn’t working”.

At a final campaign rally on Wednesday night, Mr Sunak warned that Labour would increase taxes.

He said: “Ask your friends, ask your neighbours: can you afford to pay another £2,000 more in tax? Because that is what they will be paying if Keir Starmer walks into Downing Street in a week’s time. Are they ready for a council tax revaluation?”

Laura Trott, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Labour have been caught saying the quiet part out loud. Darren Jones admitted that talking about any of their secret taxes on the family home before the election would cost them votes.

The real risk of a Labour super-majority cannot be clearer. A vote for anyone other than the Conservatives will deliver a Labour government, intent on taxing your home, your pension, your car – even your children’s education.

“Do not give them a super-majority to lock in higher taxes for a generation.”

A Labour spokesman said: “If the best the Tories can offer on the day of the election is a recording of Darren Jones explaining why Labour has no plans to raise council tax, then it shows the utterly desperate state they are in. Any other interpretation of his words is entirely false, scaremongering nonsense.”

In a message to Telegraph readers, Mr Sunak said: “The five years ahead will be the most transformational for a generation. They bring great risks but great opportunities too if we take the bold action to seize them.

“To do that, we need a government with a clear plan to build for a brighter future for the whole country. Despite 14 years to come up with ideas, Labour have no plan for what they’d do with power, beyond hiking taxes.

“The choice at this election is between sleepwalking into a Labour super-majority that would give Keir Starmer unchecked power to raise taxes, raid pension pots and give illegal migrants an amnesty, and the Conservatives who will cut tax, grow the economy and start the flights to stop the boats.”

He added: “A vote for any other party is a vote for Labour, no restrictions and zero accountability. With such a majority they would have a blank cheque to raise tax. They would have carte blanche to expose our children to dangerous gender ideology and re-enter the EU by the backdoor, surrendering our Brexit freedoms and making us a rule-taker from Brussels once more.

“Don’t let anyone tell you the result of this election is a foregone conclusion. As few as 130,000 votes are set to determine the final outcome. So vote Conservative today as the last opportunity we may have to stop Starmer’s super-majority taxes.”

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We have just 24 hours to save Britain from Labour government, Sunak warns

There are just 24 hours left to save Britain from a Labour government, Rishi Sunak has warned in his final speech of the election campaign.

The Prime Minister told Conservative activists in Hampshire that Sir Keir Starmer use a “supermajority” to “rig the rules so they stay in power for a decade”.

“We have we have urgent work here, my friends, because at this point we only have a day left to save Britain from the danger of a Labour government,” he said with his parents and wife looking on.

“A Labour government that might have a super majority to hike up everyone’s taxes by thousands of pounds, to shift our politics to the Left, to make sure we do absolutely nothing to clamp down on illegal migration, to reverse the cost-saving net zero plans that we put in place, to tax the state pension for the first time in our country’s history, and to rig the rules so they stay in power for a decade.

“We need to wake people up to this danger. It is our job, it is our duty to make sure that Britain does not sleepwalk into this.”

Mr Sunak’s remarks came as four major polls predicted that Labour will win a historic majority in Thursday’s election.

The surveys by More In Common, Focaldata, YouGov and JL Partners forecast majorities of more than 200 for Sir Keir’s party – even higher than the 179-seat majority won by Sir Tony Blair in 1997.

Sir Keir, meanwhile, used his final speech of the campaign in Redditch, Worcestershire, to ask voters to back Labour so he can “change our country”.

“We’re a changed Labour Party,” he said. “We are asking for the opportunity to change our country and put our country back in the service of working people.”

The Labour leader, eyeing the widely expected move to No 10, said he was “quite pleased” to be close to power after “the least productive nine years of my life” as an opposition MP.

In Clacton, Essex, Nigel Farage led Reform UK voters in a chant of, “We want our country back” in his final campaign speech.

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, urged his supporters to “kick the Conservatives out of government”, while SNP leader John Swinney admitted that the race in Scotland was “incredibly close” and the party needed every voter to turn out to limit Labour’s gains north of the border.

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Queen and Duke of Edinburgh become members of Order of the Thistle at Scottish service

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh donned the elaborate green robes of the Order of the Thistle on Wednesday as they were formally appointed into the highest order of chivalry in Scotland.

The pair were installed as Royal Knights at a private ceremony at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, where they were joined by the King and the Prince of Wales, in their velvet mantles, and the Duchess of Edinburgh.

The King also personally selected Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Scotland’s first black professor, Baroness Sue Black, a forensic anthropologist and Baroness Helena Kennedy, a barrister and women’s rights campaigner, to join the order.

On arrival, the royals received a royal salute by a guard of honour founded by the Royal Company of Archers, which functions as the King’s body guard in Scotland, and the band played the National Anthem.

They entered the cathedral at the rear of a 33-strong procession.

The Princess Royal, who is also a Royal Knight of the Thistle, was listed in the official programme but did not attend as she continues her recovery from an accident involving a horse that left her with minor head injuries and concussion.

The service, which took place in the Thistle Chapel, was broadcast over loudspeakers to the congregation, although the speakers failed to pick up the Queen’s induction.

According to the order of service, the Queen stood in front of the King with Richard Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry and Chancellor of the Thistle and the Very Rev Prof David Fergusson, the Dean of The Thistle.

The King said: “It is our pleasure that Her Majesty The Queen be installed a Lady of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle.”

The Queen was then asked to stand in a stall on the right of the King to recite the oath, pledging to defend Christianity, to maintain the honour and dignity of the Order and to “never bear treason about in my heart against our Sovereign Lord The King, but shall discover the same to him”.

The Lord Lyon King of Arms then proclaimed the style and titles of Her Majesty before the King spoke with the same words to install the Duke.

The King appointed his younger brother, the Duke of Edinburgh, to the order to mark his 60th birthday.

He appointed the Queen to the order last June, and she wore the green mantle for the first time the following month at a service of thanksgiving in Edinburgh.

The Duke holds several patronages of Scottish charitable organisations including the Edinburgh International Festival, while the Queen is patron of Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, founded in Edinburgh in 1996, as well as several other Scotland-based charities.

The Order recognises 16 Scottish men and women who have held public office or who have contributed in a particular way to national life.

In England, it is second in precedence only to the Order of the Garter.

The King is the Sovereign of the Order, and appointments are entirely in his personal gift and do not require prime ministerial advice.

Elizabeth II decided in 1987 that women should be eligible for the Thistle in the same way as men.

Current Knights and Ladies of the Thistle include Lady Marion Fraser, a music teacher and the ex-director of St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, and Sir Garth Morrison, a previous chief scout of the UK.

In addition to the 16 Knights and Ladies, the Princess Royal and the Prince of Wales are also Royal Knights of the Thistle.

Hundreds of children and well-wishers lined the Royal Mile hoping for a glimpse of the royals.

Among them was Holly Cooper, 11, who waited outside for more than three hours with 80 children and parents from the Queen Victoria Military Boarding School in Dunblane.

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Nine-year-old chess player picked to play for England

A nine-year-old girl who took up chess by accident has been picked to play for England’s women’s team in the Chess Olympiad, becoming the youngest person to represent the country in international competition.

Bodhana Sivanandan, from Harrow, who only got into chess during lockdown, according to her father, will compete alongside players in their 30s and 40s at the Chess Olympiad in Budapest in September.

The next youngest player chosen for the five-strong England’s women’s team is 23-year-old Lan Yao.

Bodhana, who has declared her ambition to become a grandmaster one day, said: “I’m so pleased to be picked for England. It’s a great honour and I’m looking forward to being part of a team.”

It was only when the youngster came across a chess set among items left behind by a friend of her father when he returned to India in September 2020 that she began to take an interest in the game.

Sivanandan Velayutham, Bodhana’s father, who is a software engineer, told The Telegraph: “A friend of mine who was studying in the UK returned to India during the Covid lockdown and left a couple of bags of books and games behind.

“Bodhana didn’t understand it was a game at first but she became very excited when she saw the King and Queen because that is the sort of thing she was into.”

Mr Velayutham showed his daughter a YouTube video setting out the rules and principles of the game and his daughter was hooked.

“That’s when her chess journey began,” he said. “She wanted to know more and more about it.”

Bodhana, who was back at school on Wednesday, first came to the sport’s attention in 2022 when, at the age of seven, she put in what observers described as “an eye-catching performance” at the British Championships.

A few months later, she tied for second prize in the UK women’s blitz championship and further underlined her abilities when she became England’s first world youth champion in 25 years – after powering to victory in world under-eight titles in classical, rapid, and blitz last October. Bodhana won every one of the 33 games she played.

‘Focused, calm and content’

Her father describes as “focused, calm and content” – though he tries to manage any anxiety by not telling her too far in advance that they are off to another tournament.

“I’ve had to tell her about being picked for the Olympiad in September of course, because of all the press interest,” he said. “She is very happy and proud to have been picked for the team.

“But today she went off to school as normal and I’m not sure she’s fully grasped the significance of it yet.”

Mr Velayutham said his daughter’s coaches and mentors limit her to an hour of chess practice a day so as not to rob her of other interests and avoid her love of the game burning out.

“She loves reading as well,” he said. “And she also loves travelling, so when I say we are going to Iceland or Finland for a tournament she is very happy and gets excited about going there.”

Malcolm Pein, one of the selectors for the British team, said that Bodhana’s place was fully justified.

He said: “Bodhana’s success at European level includes victories over many established players, and her fearless style of play and immense focus on the board has already caused a sensation in the chess world.

“At nine years of age, she must surely be the youngest to be selected to represent England in any international sporting competition.”

‘Truly breath-taking’

According to Hilary Evans, a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, there is no known record of anyone younger having represented England or Great Britain internationally at senior level.

“Sky Brown made her US Skateboard Open debut when she was eight, but was representing Japan until she was 11,” he told The Guardian. “Also in skateboarding Mazel Alegado of the Philippines was also nine when she competed in the Asian Games last September, but I really can’t think of anybody until 10 playing for England or GB.”

Cecilia Colledge and Megan Taylor, were 11 years and 74 days and 11 years and 108 days old respectively, when they competed in the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics figure skating competition, becoming Britain’s youngest Olympians.

Anna Hursey was 10 when she first competed for Wales in table tennis in 2017 – before becoming the youngest athlete to compete at a Commonwealth Games a year later, aged 11.

Lawrence Trent, International master, described Bodhana’s play as “truly breath-taking”, adding: “I have no doubt she will be England’s greatest player and most likely one of the greatest the game has ever seen.”

There will be an opportunity for chess fans to pit their own skills against those of Bodhana and others from the new golden generation of English chess youngsters at the ChessFest 2024 in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

The nine-year-old will join Shreyas Royal, 15, Ethan Pang, 9, and Supratit Banerjee, 9, in taking on all-comers at speed chess.

An estimated 15,000 chess enthusiasts are expected to attend, testament to the surge in the game’s popularity.

“The chess craze in the UK triggered by Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit has created millions of new players and a golden generation of emerging talent,” said Mr Pein.

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‘State schools are in pieces – my 4-year-old autistic daughter is living proof of that’

Are you currently on a state school waiting list because of Labour’s private school tax plans? Email

Sam Howell is running out of time. There are 61 days until the start of term and her daughter, Maddie, 4, who has autism, is facing the prospect of being left without a school place in September.

It’s certainly not for want of trying. Sam has visited a dozen schools over the past year within a 20 mile radius of her home in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, but all can either not cater for her daughter’s behavioural needs or are full.

As a last resort, the council has given her a place at a local mainstream school which says they can only accept Maddie if they receive more funding to adapt the school to fit her needs, a funding application which isn’t guaranteed to be accepted.

The current preschool she attends has also ruled out being able to accommodate Maddie meaning she cannot be held back to wait for a space to open up at a special educational needs school.

Ms Howell fears Labour’s tax raid on private education will pile even more pressure on the state school sector – with children like Maddie left to bear the consequences.

She says: “100pc the system is going to fall to pieces, absolute pieces because there are going to be no spaces for anyone.

“There are going to be children who aren’t getting any help. It will be horrendous.

 “It’s [state schools are] failing the children and you just feel so alone dealing with it.

“There’s not enough staff to be helping, there’s not enough funding. The schools don’t have the experience trying to keep up with the rapid increase of all of these children coming to the surface with learning difficulties and it’s so hard to get a diagnosis.”

Funding for special educational needs and disabilities (Send) pupils in state schools has remained frozen for more than a decade and Sam says the signs are clear to see.

“If you’ve got a diagnosis it’s real, the struggle that child is having whether they are on the spectrum or they’ve got another disorder, these children need help and it’s as if they just don’t belong anywhere and schools clearly don’t have the money to facilitate these children, they are getting lost and it’s failing them massively. It’s awful as a parent to see it happening and to go through it.” 

Sam’s experience presents a snapshot of the experiences of thousands of parents with children who have special educational needs and disabilities. It is precisely why so many have turned to the private sector.

There are currently 111,154 Send pupils in private schools who receive additional support. The figure, which equates to almost one in every five pupils, has grown dramatically in recent years. It’s up 7.5pc from last year alone and almost 70pc in the past decade.

But Labour’s tax raid on private schools looks set to put an end to that.

The party has said pupils with an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) will be exempt from VAT. What they haven’t mentioned is this document, which sees the local authority cover the cost of school fees, is nigh on impossible for families to access.

Labour’s own shadow education secretary previously admitted the system is “broken” with the backlog stretching back two years in some instances for children to have their paperwork processed.

Of the 111,154 Send pupils in the private sector, 103,508 don’t have an EHCP. Using Labour’s own estimations it means up to 7,246 pupils, often with diverse and complex needs, will be forced out of private schools and into a state system which is already crumbling. In Scotland, no such funding scheme exists.

Sam says it is hardworking single-parent families like her who will be the losers of Labour’s policy.

“There will be a domino effect, it will be awful,” She says on the shortage of spaces.

“Surely they [Labour] can see how bad this is? It’s nationwide, this issue.”

Sir Keir Starmer has repeatedly defended the controversial policy by saying the £1.5bn the party hopes to raise as a result of the levy will be spent on state schools, including the flagship pledge to recruit 6,500 new teachers.

The figure may sound grand but given there are more than 25,000 state schools in Britain, it means for every school that gets one additional teacher, three schools will get none. A brief look at Labour’s manifesto shows none of the £1.5bn raised would be spent on support for Send pupils in state schools.

Julie Robinson, the chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, which represents around 1,300 private schools, has called on Labour to carry out a “full impact assessment” to understand what impact its VAT levy will have on Send pupils.

She said: “Over 100,000 children and young people without an EHCP receive specialist Send support in our schools.

“VAT on their parents’ fees will disrupt education for thousands of them, placing further strain on state Send provision, which is already in crisis.

“Without a full impact assessment, Labour cannot say what the immediate effect of its policy would be on Send services and local councils.

“There is a real risk that they would unintentionally pour fuel on a fire that is already very much ablaze.”

As for Sam, she is at a loss with what to do and feels she will be left with no choice but to keep her daughter at home come September, which will see her fall further behind her peers.

“Maddie is dysregulated and has unpredictable behaviour. She can get very upset or aggressive because she can’t control her emotions and her communication is behind,” she says.

“I feel forced to say ‘ok let’s chuck her in this mainstream and hope for the best’ but as her mum I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I feel for them and I feel for my daughter.

“Because of how unequipped they are, I will have to keep her with me and just deal with it.”

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Inside the ‘bedwetting brigade’ fighting to oust Biden

Joe Biden spent the whole of the last election campaign trying to shrug off his nickname “Sleepy Joe”.

Now, the idea that the 81-year-old president often gets tired is not just an accusation by Republicans. It is a political fact.

At a Democrat donor event in Virginia on Tuesday, Mr Biden told his supporters he “nearly fell asleep on stage” at his disastrous head-to-head with Trump last week. “I didn’t have the best night,” he said.

That extraordinary admission came after a challenge to his leadership from the president’s new political opponents – in his own party.

Dubbed the “bedwetting brigade” by Mr Biden’s allies, a growing number of Democrats no longer believe he can beat Trump in November’s presidential election.

“The bedwetting brigade is calling for Joe Biden to drop out,” wrote Rob Flahery, Mr Biden’s deputy campaign manager, in the aftermath of the debate. “That is the best possible way for Donald Trump to win and us to lose”.

An increasingly loud portion of the party, however, feel that it is Mr Biden staying in the race, not leaving it, that makes a Trump victory most likely.

A source close to the president told the New York Times on Wednesday morning that the president believed he had just four days to save his campaign by performing well at two campaign rallies and in a television interview this weekend.

As Democrats squabble over what to do next, three main factions have emerged.

The first group believe the election is doomed if he remains the party’s nominee and should drop out immediately to be replaced by a younger candidate.

They include former aides of Barack Obama, who worked with Mr Biden in the White House but have never believed strongly in his electoral strengths.

“I think you’re going to hear discussions that I don’t know will lead to anything, but there are going to be discussions about whether he should continue,” David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr Obama, said following the debate.

Van Jones, another former Obama aide, said he is happy to be classed as a “bedwetter”.

‘I’m sitting here where I’m in Pampers,” he said on Tuesday. “Behind closed doors, what people are worrying about is what the polls are going to show in the battleground states a week from now.”

Other prominent voices are Democrat donors who have contributed to the $91 million (£71.4 million) Biden-Kamala Harris election war chest but think they stand no chance against Trump.

On a call with the Biden campaign this week, one donor simply asked: “Can the president make it through a campaign and another term?” Another asked for their money back.

“Anybody trying to prolong the inevitable here is just basically putting us on a giant f—-ing death march towards the end,” a major donor told Politico.

“Our only hope is that he bows out, we have a brokered convention, or dies,” another insider said as the dust settled on the debate. “Otherwise we are f—-ing dead.”

On Tuesday, Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first sitting Democrat to add his name to the pile of anonymous quotes from his colleagues about the commander-in-chief.

He said Mr Biden should make the “painful decision to withdraw”.

So far, only Mr Doggett has publicly called for Mr Biden to stand back, but plenty of Democrats make the same argument behind closed doors.

“Consider me a bedwetter,” one angry representative told Axios. “This is not getting better.”

The second camp of worried Democrats say Mr Biden has some time to recover from his TV performance, but think he should spend more time reassuring allies in the party before making a decision.

Those who are expected to go out and defend the president on a daily basis expect more contact from him at the most difficult time of the campaign so far.

The group includes JB Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, who convened a call with fellow Democrat governors on Monday to discuss the situation.

After hearing that most of the attendees had not spoken to the president, he arranged a meeting between Mr Biden and his allies at the White House on Wednesday night.

Nancy Pelosi, one of Mr Biden’s staunchest allies, said on Tuesday she had not spoken to him since the debate and argued that questions about his age were “legitimate”. Shortly after her interview on MSNBC, her office released a statement clarifying that she did not think he should stand down.

Others have expressed concerns about how long it took Mr Biden to call Hakeem Jeffries, the party’s leader in the House of Representatives, as concerns grew about his age.

The third group of Democrats have already accepted that the White House is lost – but think Mr Biden must now do more to take the House at the same time.

If Trump wins, they argue, it is vital that the Democrats have control of the legislature to oppose his “extreme” and “unhinged” policy plans.

The “frontline” group of House Democrats are organising a private letter to be sent to Mr Biden urging him to protect their jobs at all costs.

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a representative from Washington state in a marginal district, said on Tuesday: “We all saw what we saw, you can’t undo that, and the truth I think, is that Biden is going to lose to Trump.”

A senior Democrat told Politico: “The House is the last firewall, folks. We have to flip the House”.

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Listen: Mother admits to ending life of terminally ill son

A mother has admitted live on radio to ending the life of her terminally ill son when he was seven years old.

Antonya Cooper, from Abingdon in Oxfordshire, acknowledged she was potentially admitting to manslaughter, but said authorities would have to act fast if they chose to prosecute as she is suffering from her own terminal cancer diagnosis.

Ms Cooper, 77, whose son, Hamish, had stage-four cancer before his death in 1981, said she would happily face the consequences for ending his life.

Aiding assisted suicide can be prosecuted with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years in England and Wales.

Hamish was five when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that mostly affects children, and was initially given a prognosis of three months to live.

After 16 months of “beastly treatment” at Great Ormond Street Hospital, his life was extended but he was left in great pain, Ms Cooper said.

Hamish died at home on Dec 1 1981 after Ms Cooper administered morphine to ease his pain. The mother likened his death to an “amputation” and said she would “never get over” it.

She said: “He was expressing that he had pain and I said, ‘Would you like me to take the pain away?’

“He said, ‘Yes, please, Mama’, and so I gave him a dose of morphine sulphate through his Hickman catheter.

‘The time was right’

“We had watched him brave through all that beastly treatment, we had had him for longer than the original prognosis, so the time was right.”

Ms Cooper added: “The simplicity of it is that you suffer an amputation and it takes you time to learn to live with that amputation.

“You never get over it because you’ve lost that limb, it’s gone for ever, but you learn just to cope.”

In the years after Hamish’s death, Ms Cooper had four more children and helped to launch what is now known as Neuroblastoma UK – a charity dedicated to finding a cure for the “aggressive” childhood cancer.

Speaking to BBC Radio Oxford, she claimed Hamish knew she was intending to end his life, when he asked her to stop the pain.

‘I was not going to let him suffer’

She said: “I feel very strongly that at the point of Hamish telling me he was in pain, and asking me if I could remove his pain, he knew, he knew somewhere what was going to happen.

“But I cannot obviously tell you why or how, but I was his mother, he loved his mother, and I totally loved him, and I was not going to let him suffer, and I feel he really knew where he was going.”

Asked if she understood she was potentially admitting to manslaughter or murder, Ms Cooper replied: “Yes.”

However, given that she is facing her own incurable cancer, she said authorities would have to take swift action if they chose to bring charges.

“If they come 43 years after I have allowed Hamish to die peacefully, then I would have to face the consequences. But they would have to be quick, because I’m dying too,” she added.

‘Seeking a kind end’

Ms Cooper is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast and pancreatic cancer, which has spread to her liver.

She said Hamish’s suffering and her own diagnosis have cemented her feelings about euthanasia – so she has joined Dignitas, the assisted dying organisation.

“The whole point of assisted dying is to be able to seek a kind end for yourself if you know you’re going anyway and not to be wracked with pain and not to be testing the facilities of some local loving hospice,” she said.

Along with raising awareness of neuroblastoma to help others, Ms Cooper hopes her work with the charity will be another part of her “legacy” after she dies.

A police spokesman said: “Thames Valley Police is aware of reports relating to an apparent case of assisted dying of a seven-year-old boy, in 1981.

“At this early stage, the force is making enquiries into these reports and is not in a position to comment further while these investigations continue.”

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