Perhaps we should be grateful to Conservative councillor and “committed Christian” Fiona Robson. She's reminded everyone just how nasty the Nasty Party (copyright Theresa May) can be, perfectly timing a spectacularly crass intervention for the week of Chancellor Philip Hammond's budget.
That intervention was a tweet in response to a quarter of a million people taking to the streets of London on Saturday to protest against hospital cuts in England. “How many people claiming to be unfit to work were fit enough to travel to & physically MARCH around London yesterday?!” she snarled.
Vanishingly few, I would imagine. It may have escaped the attention of members of the “they’re all scroungers” brigade like Robson, who sits on Carlisle City Council, but the workplace fitness assessments brought in by the Conservative Government have seen people literally at death’s door told to get on their bikes and look for work.
One of the people who replied to her tweet said it had happened to their sister, who had been given just months to live.
Some of Robson’s other critics – and they responded in numbers – pointed out that among those at the march may have been some people prevented from working through mental illness.
Theresa May in quotes
Theresa May in quotes
1/10 On being described by the former chancellor Ken Clarke as “a bloody difficult woman”:
“Politics could do with some Bloody Difficult Women actually”
2/10 On keeping secrets even from her husband:
“There are some things I am told that I am not able to confide in anybody”
3/10 On the relentless focus on her appearance during a speech at the Women in the World summit:
"I like clothes and I like shoes. One of the challenges for women in the workplace is to be ourselves and I say you can be clever and like clothes. You can have a career and like clothes”
4/10 On comparisons to Margaret Thatcher:
“I think there can only ever be one Margaret Thatcher. I’m not someone who naturally looks to role models. I’ve always, whatever job it is I’m doing at the time, given it my best shot. I put my all into it, and try to do the best job I can”
5/10 On her rebelliousness, or lack of, as a teenager:
“I probably was Goody Two Shoes at school”
6/10 On being replaced as chairman by Lord Saatchi and Liam Fox in 2003:
“Yes, it takes two men to step into the shoes of one woman”
7/10 What Theresa May said when she was asked about her political ambitions during an interview with Miriam González Durántez, a lawyer married to Nick Clegg, in December:
MD: "My very last question is: that little girl who is somewhere there, is she dreaming of becoming the next British Prime Minister?" TM: "She’s dreaming of carrying on doing a good job in the Home Office"
8/10 On not being able to have children:
“I like to keep my personal life personal. We couldn’t have children, we dealt with it and moved on. I hope nobody would think that mattered; I can still empathise, understand people and care about fairness and opportunity”
9/10 On whether she can deliver the mandate of the EU referendum:
“I think for party members and indeed for others, I would say look at my record. I think they can see that I’m somebody who gets on with the job, but I’m also somebody who says it as I see it and actually delivers on what I say”
10/10 On the equally relentless obsession with her shoes:
“As a woman I know you can be very serious about something and very soberly dressed add a little bit of interest with footwear. I always tell women ‘you have to be yourself, don’t assume you have to fit into a stereotype’ and if your personality is shown through your clothes or shoes, so be it”
Now, just remind me, who it was that said they wanted to see “the stigma stripped away” from mental health conditions just a couple of months ago? That's right! It was Theresa May. Perhaps Robson just wasn’t paying attention.
She did subsequently attempt to – well, I suppose we might say clarify her remarks – admitting to the Carlisle News & Star that she may have been “naive” with her since-deleted post while insisting that she hadn't intended to stigmatise people.
"OK. I apologise for offending anyone. I asked a question," she told the newspaper.
But that barely even counts as a non-apology. And she stood by her “question”. She merely claimed it was not meant to attack those on benefits, or people suffering from illnesses that aren't visible. It was simply intended to “stimulate debate”. So that's all right.
Stimulate debate precisely how, Fiona Robson? I think we should be told. Because even if you accept that it was not the intent (and I have my doubts), the tweet clearly does cast aspersions, both on the marchers and on benefit claimants. Two birds with one stone. Score!
Robson seems to feel the latter should go beyond passing one of the Department for Work and Pensions assessments, despite the almost insurmountably high hurdle those assessments already set, and remain locked up in their houses all day when they’ve done so to prove they are sufficiently sick not to work.
Alongside her semi-backtracking, Robson went on to whinge about the outrage she has justifiably provoked. There is a hashtag bearing her name that people have been using since her tweet's deletion. Ironically, she finds that upsetting and abusive.
I don’t condone Twitter abuse, but most of the responses to Robson’s tweet that I read, while angry, fell some way short of that designation. In fact, people were doing what she asked them to do: engaging in a debate. Just not in the way she presumably intended. And given the nastiness of her initial “naive” Tweet, well, if you live by the sword…
Now, you might say, that’s just one pompous and self-righteous Conservative councillor with an understanding of Christianity that most followers of that faith would probably described as “deeply flawed”.
Unfortunately, Google will show you that Fiona Robson is far from being the only Conservative councillor to have worked hard to show that the moniker of Nasty Party remains particularly apt. And when the councillors pipe down, there are several MPs that are too willing to step into the breach.Reuse content