Harman aide in fracas at old people's home

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Labour's attempt to turn the election spotlight on the plight of pensioners suffered an embarrassing setback yesterday, when it emerged that a party supporter canvassing on behalf of social security spokesman Harriet Harman had been involved in a fracas at an old people's home.

A Labour Party volunteer has been accused of attacking a 53-year-old woman warden of a sheltered housing complex while he was leafleting for the party on Friday in Ms Harman's Peckham constituency in south London.

Ann Jonah, the warden of sheltered accommodation for the elderly in Camberwell Green, had refused to allow a man to distribute Ms Harman's leaflets inside the complex. Following an altercation in the doorway, police were called and Mrs Jonah was taken to King's College Hospital for stitches to a head wound.

Her daughter, Mo, said it was against the rules for anyone to hand out leaflets inside the old people's home. "Mum had been saying the same to all the leafleters, whether they were Labour, Tory or whatever," she said. "They had to leave them at the door for her to hand out." She added: "She is terribly upset by what has happened."

Yesterday Ms Harman made five pledges to pensioners to safeguard the basic state pension, reduce VAT on heating, stop the sale of care homes, and cut crime.

"Pensioners can't trust the Tories," she said. "Britain's pensioners deserve better".

Later Ms Harman said she was "appalled" at the allegation of violence at the sheltered housing complex. "I have asked police to report to me on the progress of their investigation," she said. "I have expressed my support to the warden who was the victim of the alleged attack and I have sought to reassure the residents of the sheltered housing unit."