Calls for Carlisle councillor to resign over Twitter benefits row

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Calls are being made for a Carlisle city councillor to resign after she sparked an online Twitter row over her comments about people on benefits.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is calling on Fiona Robson to resign, saying her "deliberately inflammatory" tweet fueled hatred towards people on benefits.

Mrs Robson, who is a Conservative councillor representing Stanwix Urban, wrote a post on Twitter in relation to the high-profile NHS march in London on Saturday.

She posted: "How many people claiming to be unfit to work were fit enough to travel to & physically MARCH around London yesterday?!"

She later apologised, but the tweet caused uproar on social media with about 2,500 people commenting on it before Mrs Robson deleted her Twitter account yesterday.

One Twitter user said: "My terminally ill sister, declared fit to work but given til April/May to live, managed 5 mins. Thanks for your interest."

Gail Ward, 59, of DPAC in Cumbria and the North East has called on Mrs Robson to stand down.

She said of the tweet: "I was absolutely appalled. I was shocked that somebody could be so naive, but that wasn't the point really - I think it was a deliberately inflammatory remark designed to provoke a reaction but not the reaction she actually wanted.

"This just fuels hatred of people who happen to be in the unfortunate position to have to claim."

She added: "A person in a public office shouldn't be making those kind of comments."

Labour councillor Les Tickner, who is deputy leader of Carlisle City Council, said Mrs Robson's comments were a reflection of the Conservative Party policy.

He said: "I am not at all surprised by the recent comments in regard to the sick and the unemployed.

"Being unemployed and being too ill to work is seen by some Conservatives as a life choice. There but by the grace of God as the saying goes."

Some social media users have even been sharing the councillor's mobile number and email address.

Mrs Robson has been supported by her fellow Conservative councillors however.

John Mallinson, leader of the Carlisle city council Conservative Group, said that although he wouldn't have asked the question himself, he would not be calling for her to resign.

He said: "That's a matter for her, but I shouldn't think she'd be standing down over it."

Mrs Robson declined to comment on the calls for her resignation.

She previously admitted to the News & Star that she had been "naive" with her original post and said she has had incredibly abusive tweets from some, and as a result regretted her initial post.

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Suzanna   Byrne , Huntington Beach, California, USA Wednesday, 08 March, 2017 at 11:24PM
Oh my dear Conservative person, so you have been so fortunate to have never had to resort to benefits nor I suppose did your mother or other carer before you! My mother was neither lazy nor without ambition. She worked all day to maintain a decent home and fairly well stocked table, bought my expensive school uniform without the help of grants, and grew all our fresh garden food. All the time she had to rely on government handouts called National Assistance Board in those days, and doled out by upper class volunteers who pratically made my mother beg for her bit of money. How dare you make such a presumptious statement about anybody who has the misfortune to have to rely on government help.
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John   Armstrong , Wetheral, Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 10:02PM
This newspaper has been campaigning to get people to fight for the NHS and local services and this "person " tries to undermine people who have done just that. Shameful
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Tony   Skillen , Cockermouth Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 7:35PM
Resign? Of course not. I'm still laughing at the "left wing Twitterati Warriors", summed them up nicely. People need to get a grip, living in a world where you're scared to speak your mind will lead us to a spineless, pathetic world where causing offence is held more seriously than criminal acts. Oh, wait a minute....
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Me   , Cumbria Wednesday, 08 March, 2017 at 4:54PM
So people should be allowed to speak their mind in your opinion, well that's what people are doing by saying they don't like her comments, unless you're suggesting people should only be allowed to speak their mind if the comment is something you agree with? She made a typical Daily Mail inspired comment which wasn't backed up by any facts or relate to what was actually happening and people are picking her up on it, what's wrong with that? Unless you are in favour of people making right wing hateful comments of course.
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32w4g   , Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 4:40PM
There are many ill and disabled people who would like to participate and campaign equal to the fully fit but they are often not heard and often not seen. Those who were able to attend, perhaps, have conditions that fluctuate from mild to severe and may depend upon upon many factors including activities, illnesses etc.; may have "invisible" symptoms and interaction with society may be part of their health and well being strategy; we should not inflict further harm. We haven't enough beds, we haven't enough care and Cumbria's suicide rate is already higher than the national average. Be responsible and think before you speak.
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Narked   , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 4:27PM
Cllr Robson should not be made to resign. She made stupid, ill-informed, inflammatory comment for reasons only known to her. And now she is facing the backlash. However, can we just remember that the march in London was not about cuts to benefits, it was about cuts to the NHS. Regardless of whether you claim benefits or not just about everyone will need use of the NHS at some point in their lives. Perhaps Tory Cllr Robson's comments were made to draw away from the actual topic in hand, cuts by a Tory Government. Even Cllr Robson must be able to see how badly further investment in the NHS is needed. Both Whitehaven and Carlisle hospitals have been labelled as 'requiring improvement' by the CQC with medical care at Whitehaven rated 'inadequate'. Surely THAT is the story?!
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Outraged   , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 4:24PM
I would like to point out that 0.7% of benefit expenditure is lost to benefit fraud, which is small in comparison to benefits not claimed by people who are entitled to them, & minuscule in comparison to tax avoidance & evasion. In 2013/14, HMRC estimated that illegal tax evasion & legal tax avoidance cost the government £34 billion a year. 3,675 staff investigate benefit fraud; & 700 HMRC staff investigate the tax evasion & avoidance activities of the UK's wealthiest individuals, which is also disproportionate to the amounts involved. I don't see the same level of outrage or even any awareness whatsoever being levelled towards tax avoidance & evasion. Benefit fraud & demonisation of benefit claimants, particularly for disabled people is used as a head turning exercise to distract the population from the real problems affecting the country, which don't fit with the vested interests of the ruling government, the Conservative Party.
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John   , Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 3:08PM
She should apologise for this behaviour
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Happy   Carlisle , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 3:02PM
When will people learn that public forums such as Twitter aren't the right place for sharing the first thing that pops into their heads. You won't catch me writing things in public forums... oops.
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Yvonne   Roberts , ISLE OF HARRIS Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 1:50PM
It would have been a question if she had left the exclamation mark off! It was an inflammatory comment due to ignorance and the look at me mentality. Katie Hopkins you have competition!
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Rachel   , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 1:01PM
This councillor works tirelesslessly for the local community. I am shocked by the level of venom and misinterpretation that the initial somewhat naive question has provoked. Twitter, emails texts cannot show tone of voice (hence the invention of emoticons ) and are open to misinterpretation. Whatever people's views there is no excuse for this lynch mob mentality.
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Me   , Cumbria Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 12:18PM
Of course she should resign, her comment was a pathetic. Maybe those that support her views should spend a day with someone who bearly manage to survive on the benefits they receive, people who are in constant pain and misery yet are meant to feel like dregs of society by the likes of Cllr Robson and those that support her views. Not that they will spend a moment to empathize with others, they're too busy wondering who to stigmatize next. Sadly these days if you complain about someone's comments you're labelled a keyboard warrior by funnily enough a keyboard warrior, or your a liberal busybody or "Labour Activist", pathetic really that right wing political types can say what they want yet anyone questions them about it and they're jumped on, free speach only goes one way these days.
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Tommy   Thompson , Wigton Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 11:57AM
She was only stating what a lots of people were thinking. She is allowed to voice her opinion. The country is being stifled by people too scared to say what they think in fear of being slated. There was no offence intended, nor meant by her comment. Fuelling hatred etc etc... what rubbish! h
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Ted   Email , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 11:38AM
"She admitted she had been naive......" How long has she been on the council ? Unfortunately this seems to be typical of our council representatives these days. And it is not just because she is Conservative - it happens with ALL political parties. Was she thinking she was trying to be like the President of the USA by tweeting ??? It is about time candidates for council took exams to make sure they are fit for the job! Most of our city councillors I would not consider employing for fear of what they would do to my company!
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Dave   Evans , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 11:01AM
Cllr Robson asked a perfectly reasonable question and only the far left Twitterati warriors could possibly find offence in it. It's a shame more councillors and politicians didn't ask such probing questions instead of burying their heads in the sand as I'm sure a significant number of those taking part will be unfit for work, after all I know a few spongers locally who have never worked in decades but live the life of Riley! One has had a "bad back" since the 1970's and lived on benefits the whole time whilst breeding and selling dogs. But his back back doesn't stop him walking the dogs and it never stopped him building a house extension either! Good on you Fiona, you'd be surprised at just how many agreed with what you said, although the newspaper wouldn't quote them or attempt to answer your question. I'd like to know myself how many "unfit" people marched. Ignore the vile abuse and the professional "Labour Activist" keyboard warriors who go out of their way to find offence in anything and everything. Asking a perfectly reasonable question certainly doesn't warrant the abuse Cllr Robson got. But why no mention of that?
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Hugh   O'Connor , Wednesday, 08 March, 2017 at 12:49PM
There appears to be a (wrongly held) belief hat there are thousands of people claiming bnefits who ae not entitle to them. If people are aware of people they believe to be "spongers" then they should report them, not moan about them. However, Cllr Robson tried to suggest that of the over 250,000 people on the march a large number were unfit for work. Not only does her comments indicate that she has no idea what is meant by "unfit for work", she also insulted hundreds of thousands of people who are concerned about the NHS. One would expect a councillor (and special needs teacher) to actually have some understanding of what the term "unfit for work" actually means nd t realise the problem does not have to be physical.
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John   Armstrong , Wetheral,Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 9:57PM
You not being "A keyboard warrior" we must presume that you will be telling that "sponger"what you think of him personally ?
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Marc   , United Kingdom Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 7:47PM
Dave, perfectly put!
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John   Armstrong , Wetheral, Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 5:00PM
People gave up their time and money to try and protect the NHS which belongs to ALL of us. They should be applauded not derided. If the Tories destroy it of course it will cause offence to millions of hard working people and while you are on about a "few" local spongers how about the billions taken out of the country by the banks and tax dodgers ? is that not also a reasonable question she could have asked ? THEY are the people who are destroying this country not a "few spongers". Why will May and Manning not reveal their tax returns ? You and her should justify this to people in rural areas who even now are about to lose their lifelines. Whatever you do make sure that you never become ill or injured.
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Paul   , Carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 10:11AM
Of course she should not resign, she was merely drawing attention to the serious issue of the fact that there are some people fraudulently claiming disability benefit. These claimants are effectively stealing from the tax payers and more should be done to sift them out. If you are genuinely disabled and were able to attend the march on Saturday, then you should not be concerned as these comments clearly are not aimed at you. They are aimed at those that are misusing the system designed to help you. We should support Mrs Robson for drawing attention to these criminals.
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Nick   Fletcher , Derby Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 9:38AM
Yes she should resign. Just for a moment change the demographic in the comments she made to say...foreigners, gay people, or black people. Being a disabled/not fit to work person makes me no different to those demographics which by the way hold many sick/disabled people too. So if she would not had said the same about them why sick/disable people? Her comments were deliberately loaded. They were not naive she knew exactly what reaction she was hoping to evoke. The only thing she regrets is the fact that its back fired on her - and rightly so. There should be no place for the demonisation of people because they are sick/disabled. I pity the people she purports to represent.
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Charles   Farish , carlisle Tuesday, 07 March, 2017 at 3:15PM
This is not Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia, or Communist China, and in our country the freedom of speech has to accepted , the Liberal luvvies can get away with calling anyone who disagrees with them fascists but in reality they are the bigots and fascists , some of what she said is stupid and offensive but guess what , next time shes up for election go out and vote for someone else, thats how democracy works, unfortunately the luvvie lefties spend their adult lives looking to be offended.
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