Tory councillor Fiona Robson asked how many NHS marchers were benefits scroungers and now she's complaining about the answer

'OK. I apologise for offending anyone. I asked a question,' she told the newspaper, before whingeing about the tone of the tweeters who had taken issue with her 'question'

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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.

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.

Corbyn tells Theresa May to watch I, Daniel Blake to understand benefits system

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.

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