Most amusing from Polly

Carve Joan Edwards\’ name in pride – and shame upon the parties who filched her cash.

Agreed that the attempt to filch a donation to government for political parties was pretty mean and stupid.

However, think of Polly\’s standard position. That the taxpayer should be paying for political parties.

This is different how? This is still, after all, money from us to government that is then filched by the political parties, isn\’t it?

26 thoughts on “Most amusing from Polly”

  1. You are aware that the solicitors have said it was indeed meant for the parties?

    You should learn that agreeing with Polly gets you nowhere.

  2. “You are aware that the solicitors have said it was indeed meant for the parties?”

    Yes. The *solicitors* claim that she did want it to go to the party of government.

    Joan Edwards, though, is not around to either confirm or deny it.

    For all we know, they are covering their backs after causing a massive cock-up…

  3. That clause alone is prima facie evidence that she was of unsound mind when she made the will.

    Is your will valid if you’re obviously nuts?

  4. “Carve her name with pride”

    Yes, let’s try to associate a rich woman giving money to the government with a woman who gave her life in the fight against fascist government.

    Polly really has a sense of perspective doesn’t she?

  5. @Tim Almond: if I was a grasping relative of hers (not sure whether there is any immediately family or not) I would be taking advice on whether it would be possible to petition the courts to declare the will null and void on the grounds of it being entirely unclear as to who the beneficiary actually is. Thus leaving the lady intestate (unless there’s another previous will floating around anywhere) and the money would go to the nearest relatives.

    Its a telling point in this case though that the solicitors have obviously fucked up royally, but will get away with it, because who is there to sue them for their error? The lady is dead, and they are the executors, so are hardly going to sue themselves. Don’t you just love lawyers? I’m am of the firm opinion that one of the biggest cancers on society today is the legal profession.

  6. Obviously a very forgiving lady : didn’t the state steal enough from her when she was alive? Will the sainted Polly be leaving her estate to the gubmint?

  7. @ Ljh

    “didn’t the state steal enough from her when she was alive?”

    She was a nurse who died with half a million quid in assets. Doesn’t that indicate that the state looked after her pretty well?

  8. Tim A

    “Couldn’t her relatives claim that she was clearly insane for wanting to voluntarily give money to the government?”

    Strange to say, it’s not that unusual. Not sure of the motivation. Guilt after a lifetime dodging taxes? To annoy your ungrateful children even more than giving to the cats’ home?


    “..being entirely unclear as to who the beneficiary actually is.”
    I disagree. It was *entirely* clear who the intended beneficiary was. That’s why the executors should have just sent a cheque to HM Treasury (and why the two parties backed down so quickly – a court would have ordered them to repay it).

    Yes, they have fucked up royally. But the money has ended up where it was meant to go, so why sue them, unless you want to make work for lawyers?

  9. Luke
    the solicitors state that she did intend her money to go to the party in government, not the treasury:

    “it was confirmed by Miss Edwards at the time of her instructions that her estate was to be left to whichever political party formed the Government at the date of her death.”

    So the solicitor did not do anything royally and the money is now where Polly et al. *assumed* it should be, rather than where the nurse in question actually *wanted* it to be.

  10. Jim>

    I take it you’ve never been in a solicitor’s office, particularly for the drafting of a complex document like a will. The solicitor will of course have kept notes of meetings, files of correspondence, and so-on. Your imagined scenario in which the client said a few words, the solicitor drafted a will, and the client signed it straight away is Hollywoodesque, but not a realistic scenario.

  11. “The solicitor will of course have kept notes of meetings, files of correspondence, and so-on. ”

    Keep believing all that if you like, but I’ll bet that no records surface of exactly what the lady’s instructions to her solicitors were. They’ll mysteriously ‘disappear’ if they look like dropping the firm in the shit. A friend of mine is facing losing part of his property over the negligence of his solicitor (they have lost the original deeds to his property, and he cannot now prove that a piece of his land belongs to him as it has been claimed via the Land Registry by an unscrupulous neighbour) so forgive me for laughing at your naivety about the nature of solicitors record keeping, and indeed ethics.

    My guess is that the will was drafted by a junior clerk, and never saw anyone senior at all, who might have picked up on the poor wording. She would have course have paid handsomely for this ‘service’.

  12. Portemat, Dave,

    Hmmm. I am a bit jaundiced by having spent twenty years defending solicitors (and other professionals) accused of screwing things up.

    Do you expect them to say “We cocked up, please sue us now?” It’s partly not wishing to make public admissions of liability, and partly human nature to convince yourself you were right. It is rare for someone to say, even in confidence to their own lawyer “I think I got it wrong.” And that is people with insurance. Folks just don’t.

    Dave, note keeping, records etc. Yes, most do. But imagine someone who carefully kept a note saying

    “X wished her cash to go to whichever political party was in government at the time. I asked her if she was kidding. She said no. She was quite clear that she did not care which party got the money, and that they could use it for anything at all.”

    Such a person would have written a will that clearly reflected that.

    OK, if I was defending them, I’d go into it all and not leap to conclusions, but this a blog.

  13. The solicitors have shot themselves in the foot with their statement.
    If it is true, as the solicitors assert, that the lady wanted the money left to a political party, the obvious question is: Why couldn’t the solicitors word the will so that this was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt?

  14. Possibly the solicitors followed their question up with “Would you like us to reword the will to make that clear?”, only to be told “No, I think it’s fine as it is: I want to sign it now and get it over and done with”?

  15. Yes, but they were obviously trying to keep the statement brief and to the point. The fact that the will wasn’t changed to reflect the discussion is obvious, so saying so doesn’t add much to the debate.

  16. The debate is really whether “whichever government is in office” should be read as “whichever party is in office” or just “the government”.

    To me, the former seems far more likely anyway. All you have to do to get that meaning is read “government” as “party”, and given that party leaders form governments it seems not too much of a stretch. People often talk about Thatcher’s government, or Blair’s government, and so on, meaning their party as it was when in power.

    To read it as the latter makes the whole bit about “whichever is in office” completely otiose. The only way to give those words any meaning while interpreting the whole to mean “the UK government” is to suggest that somehow a government other than that of the UK could be in office, which is absurd. You couldn’t meaningfully give the cash to any government other than the current UK government: any previous administration doesn’t exist anymore, and was in any case still the UK government; any future administration doesn’t exist yet (and ditto), and no non-UK government couldn’t be in office.

    If she’d meant the money to go to the Treasury, but was using “government” to mean that, then all she’d have to say is “Give the money to the government”. But because she added the extra words, she must have meant something by them.

    The real objection is just one of incredulity: how could anyone have meant to leave money to the *Tories*, for crying out loud? It’s inconceivable! There must be some mistake!

    Whereas I can very easily see that she might want to. Possible chain of thought: “I want to leave it to a political party. Which one? The best one. Which is best? The one most people like. Which is that? The one most people have voted for – ie, the one in office. That way I reward whichever party is generally considered to be doing the better job.” Seems reasonable to me 🙂

  17. Re Pellinor’s suggestion that the solicitors might have suggested a clarification, but Joan Edwards declined.

    I don’t think that would cover them, because AIUI solicitors have a fiduciary duty to their clients to do things properly. I assume that duty would extend to the testator and the beneficiary, and it would require them to produce unambiguous wording.

    It really would not have been beyond the wit of man to draft something unambiguous, for example:

    “I leave my estate to the political party having the greatest number of representatives in the House of Commons at the time of, or immediately before [1], my death”.


    “I leave my estate to the political party of which the Prime Minister at the time of my death is a member”.

    Note how, were she to have asked me to ensure that the money went to the relevant political party, I would cunningly have inserted the words “political party” to make this clear.

    Because that’s how you make things clear- by using words that mean the things you want to designate. Maybe they un-learn that at law school.

    Or, were her intentions different:

    “I leave my estate to HM Treasury, to be used in its absolute discretion for such purposes as it thinks fit.”

    See? Simples. Less than 5 minutes thought. Even at Band A fee-earner rates, £28.50.

    Two more good articles on this story:

    [1] This covers the possibility of the testator passing away during an election campaign- after Parliament has been dissolved and before the Queen asks the new PM to form a Government.

  18. Ho, CJ Nerd! Not so simple! Your two formulations do not mean the same.
    It is quite possible for the political party having the greatest number of representatives in the House of Commons to be in opposition, so that the Prime minister is not a member of that party. That was the case after the 1923 general election.

  19. Ho, Bart!

    My point is not that the formulations are equivalent, but that they’re clear.

    Having said that, I must admit that I’d thought of them as equivalent until you pointed out that twist of Parliamentary arithmetic.

    Re-reading my post, it might appear that I was being patronising towards Pellinor. That was not my intention at all- it was my intention to be patronising towards whoever drafted the will.

  20. Pellinor has it: there really can be no doubt as to the testator’s will. The phrase “whichever … is in office” expresses a definite uncertainty about the precise nature of the recipient, which can only be explained by a will aimed at the party or parties of government. No interpretation which results in the same recipient under all circumstances (assuming a constant constitutional settlement) can possibly be correct.

    It’s an idiotic way to frame a will, and unless they are disclaiming all responsibility a rotten advert for the firm which drafted it. (Maybe it was a shoddy DIY job?) Whoever wrote it failed to consider possible undesirable recipients and the difficulty posed by coalition government, quite apart from what is now clearly unfortunate phrasing. But it’s clear all the same.

    And no-one has yet pointed out that if you wanted to do something as seriously bonkers as leave a pile to a non-specific Parliamentary party (and you still get the BNP problem here), the obvious choice is Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, in order to try to clip the wings of whoever currently holds power. (Much as I despise the current putative recipients. It’s clear the cash would do them no good anyway.)

  21. Oh yeah, and everyone should be happy now.

    The parties got the money to do with as they saw fit. As the testator wished.

    They have seen fit to donate it to the Treasury. As some shouty people wished.

    And Paul Dacre hasn’t resigned for disrespecting the dying wishes of an elderly nurse. As, um, Paul Dacre wished.


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