A Tory candidate who said that claimants on Benefits Street “need putting down” and that she liked the idea of attacking homeless people with bats should still stand for election, the secretary of state for work and pensions said today.
Francesca O’Brien, who is standing in the Tory target seat Of Gower made the comments five years ago on her Facebook page in posts that have now been deleted.
Commenting on the Channel 4 programme, O’Brien wrote:
“Benefits Street . . . anyone else watching this?? Wopw, these people are unreal!!!”
She went on to say:
“My blood is boiling, these people need putting down!”
In response, another poster wrote:
“and im the man for the job and tomorrow is twat a tramp Tuesday take your batts [sic] to the streets lol”
O’Brien replied with:
“I’m liking that idea haha, made me laugh!”
O’Brien apologised when approached by the Guardian, saying “These comments were made off the cuff, a number of years ago. However, I accept that my use of language was unacceptable and I would like to apologise for any upset I have caused.”
However, many people would argue that it is far more than “use of language” that is at issue.
There is a huge element of naivete in falling for the deliberate claimant bashing agenda of a programme in which participants are portrayed in the most cruel light possible solely to gain ratings and sell advertising.
Comments like O’Brien’s simply raise the level of hatred towards claimants in general and sick and disabled claimants in particular.
Worse, there is the utter stupidity of being amused by, and publicly endorsing, the idea of physically attacking homeless people, who are continually at risk of random violence at the best of times.
This is a great deal more than just a poor choice of language.
But perhaps most dispiriting of all is the fact that the secretary of state for work and pensions, Therese Coffey, is happy to still endorse O’Brien as a parliamentary candidate.
Coffey told the Today programme that whilst O’Brien’s comment was wrong, she had apologised and it should be up to the people of the Gower to decide if they want her to be their MP.
There is little doubt what choice most claimants will hope the people of Gower make on 12 December.