Booing is part of the civic dialogue, albeit in one of its more primitive forms, and the British Chancellor would be well advised not to try and brush off what has happened to him this week - writes PR expert
Questions remain over why 80,000 people decided to boo British Chancellor George Osborne at a London 2012 Paralympic medal ceremony earlier this week. The uncharitable among you may already have jumped ahead to the inevitable punch-line: "Because there were only 80,000 people in the stadium." The person most surprised by this turn of events seemed to be Osborne himself - who spent the first few seconds under the illusion that it was all good-hearted, knockabout, pantomime villain stuff. What was extremely obvious to everyone else took at least 10 seconds to become painfully apparent to him: this was not theatrical; it was an upsurge of genuine discontent.
What exactly he was doing there in the first place is anyone's guess. It is common enough for senior politicians to attempt to siphon goodwill off the back of sporting events, true. However, to send along a Chancellor who has been kicked from pillar to post by the right-wing and left-wing press, and who has been specifically targeted by disability campaigners, is a fairly spectacular misfire.
Indeed, only last week a group of British Paralympians expressed their anger over ongoing government plans to cut the disability living allowance, a vital source of enabling income for more than three million disabled people in the United Kingdom. The benefit, which is used to cover extra costs such as specialist equipment and transport needs will soon be replaced by the far more restrictive 'personal independence payments' - a move which, will see more than half a million people miss out on payments altogether. Whatever your political persuasion, it is hard to deny the irony of talking about a "long lasting legacy of access and integration" on the one hand - while forcing people to give back their specially adapted mobility cars on the other.
There is a feeling amongst many that this is the tip of the iceberg. Paralympic sponsor ATOS has been engulfed by protests, due to the perceived unfairness of their eligibility assessments. Accusations that the company is being financially incentivised to send disabled people 'back to work' have been gaining ground over the last six months or so. When you consider the choice to grant ATOS sponsorship rights alongside the decision to invite Osborne to dish out medals, it is difficult to ignore the nagging feeling that everyone involved has severely underestimated the British public's sense of irony.
Symbolically, it is a mess. So distrusted is the current government on issues relating to disability that some commentators
have gone as far as suggesting that coverage of the games are serving to reinforce a narrative that runs something like this: "Look at these heroic, inspiring, hard-working Paralympians - wouldn't Britain be better if more of the 'apparently' disabled people clogging up our benefit system were more like them?" This may strike some as a step too far but be that as it may, what happened to Osborne was an important illustration of public anger.
Booing is part of the civic dialogue, albeit in one of its more primitive forms. And Osborne would be well advised not to try and brush off what has happened to him this week. With Ken Clarke being given an economic brief and the opposition making political hay out his evident embarrassment, his position is looking increasingly fragile; impaled as it is on the twin peaks of a lack of popularity and a perceived economic incompetence.
Osborne is no longer the poster-boy for reforming Conservative Party economics. He is now the figurehead for a clutch of failed policies and brutal cuts to the vulnerable. It took him ten seconds to realise how angry the crowd were and change his face accordingly. How long, you have to wonder, until the volume of public protests increase enough that he changes more than just his face? Keiran Goddard is an author, journalist and communications consultant
One thing is certain with regards to the next election and that is the fact that there will be no complacency at the polling booths when it comes to the disabled of this country voting this government out of office. Expect a massive turnout from those affected by the sheer brutality and bloody mindedness of those in power today. People are actually dying every day, having been told they are fit for work when they quite obviously are not.
There can be no justification for the manner in which the current work capability assessment is being carried out. There can be no question that genuinely sick people are living their lives in sheer terror of the reforms, which go far beyond what is right and reasonable. There will be some serious issues arising from these current measures with people being injured at work through being forced into work while being unfit to do so and in some cases taking very strong painkillers to enable them to do so. When this occurs as it surely will - I would imagine someone somewhere will take the matter up with a higher authority to establish liability for the events which occur.
The whole system needs bringing to a halt and more measured method of deciding who is fit for work and who is not. At present, ATOS and the DWP completely override any medical reports from surgeons/consultants who know their patients limitations first hand. How can this be justified? Quite plainly, it can't be. But they go ahead with it no matter what. Come the next election, there will be no question that the Tories and their partners are out of office - if not before.
Disabled veteran - UK
As a disabled person myself, both physically and neurologically, I agree, but what's the viable alternative? Labour? I don't think so. I'd like to remind you that Tony Blair attempted to introduce something identical to work unfair after he was voted in. It went by the prosaic moniker of 'Gateway To Work', but it was identical; I was compelled to work in both Oxfam and a dog kennels - I didn't last a week in either. What followed was four years of fighting to get my DLA and IS fully reinstated. Now they keep stopping my IS and I'll lose my DLA altogether under the new rules I'm sure. If they force me into the 'work related activity group' - or whatever it's called this week - and I'm certain they will, that's it, I'll have absolutely nothing to live on.
I have Asperger's, with severe social and interpersonal dysfunction but, despite this, I obtained 12 Os, 4 As, and a degree. Not boasting, merely making a point that I have a brain - but I can't be forced to be around other people for eight hours a day, I can't cope with it. My disability is 'hidden', it would be easier if I was low-functioning because then it would be blatantly obvious. The bitter irony here is, of course, that a LF individual wouldn't mind stacking shelves in Tesco - in fact they'd probably relish it - but they'd be considered too disabled.
So what am I to do? Starve to death? Is that what Osborne and co want - another statistic gone. Oh aren't we wonderful? Look we've knocked another 100 off benefits this month. Clever old us. Now someone give me a lift to Harrods so I can buy some Bolly. Okay, I'll stop ranting now.
Sarah - Gerrards Cross, UK