Politics: `Rent-a-mob' behind benefit protests

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair's official spokesman last night dismissed as a rent- a-crowd the protesters who heckled Gordon Brown, David Blunkett and Harriet Harman at a series of welfare roadshows on threatened cuts in benefits to the disabled.

Ms Harman last night reinforced an assurance by the Prime Minister to the disabled who could not work that no-one in real need would be denied the support they needed.

As the Secretary of State for Social Security prepared to face more protests in Middlesbrough last night over possible welfare cuts, Downing Street said the protests were coming from Socialist Workers' Party activists and not members of the Labour Party.

"The same guys shouting in Sheffield were at Gordon's meeting in London. I don't know whether they can scrape together the bus fares to go to Middlesbrough tonight. I think it's a case of `have SWP poster, will travel'," said a senior government source.

- Colin Brown,

Chief Political Correspondent