What a weird, strange week it’s been here in Wayne’s World, dear readers. From photoshoots (I offered to pay for the broken lenses afterwards, I promise) to missing Members of Parliament (I was so concerned for his welfare - I know, I know, bad word to use around the Tories - that I considered phoning the Police) and all places in between, it’s been a week that will live long in the memory. Well, at least till next week, that is…
So welcome to my first Wayne’s World blog, a (hopefully) weekly look at the week that was and a peer, like a cheap shorefront palm reader offering to tell my fortune, into what the coming week may bring. And who knows, maybe have a few small insights along the way. You never know.
Andrew Stephenson MP - Missing, Presumed… Incompetent?
Last week, as many of you may know, I wrote an open letter to my local Member of Parliament, Andrew Stephenson with regards to my situation because of the Bedroom Tax. A couple of weeks before that, I had booked a meeting with Mr. Stephenson, not only to discuss this but also his recent voting record, specifically in the Opposition Day debate on holding a Cumulative Impact Assessment into all the cuts being made to social security and services for disabled people. The appointment was made for 9.15 this past Saturday at Nelson Library, as part of his surgery that he holds.
As you may be already guessing, Mr. Stephenson did not turn up to the surgery.
I arrived at Nelson Library at a little before 9.10am. As a wheelchair user, I always try to ensure I’m early because I never know what difficulties I may face when going somewhere. I was sat waiting, in increasing agony, until just after 10.30am as there was no one to contact to find out what was happening - his constituency office is, I presume, not manned on Saturdays. The library staff were brilliant, I have to say, and even phoned through to Colne Library, where Mr. Stephenson was due to go next, and where I was informed that he had 2 people booked in for appointments with him.
Not exactly the way to treat your constituents, is it?
This morning I contacted Mr. Stephenson’s constituency office to query his no-show. As soon as I identified myself, the lady who answered recognised my name immediately and was very apologetic. I was told that Mr. Stephenson had been “called away urgently” and that I was “the only appointment” that he had on Saturday. She denied that there were any other appointments booked, even when challenged on it. She arranged an appointment with Mr. Stephenson tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2pm for me, which I agreed to.
So far, so ok, I guess. Or perhaps not…
After being out this lunchtime, I returned to a Direct Message on Twitter from, very surprisingly, a local newspaper (I won’t identify them at this time). The tweet simply said this:
"Andrew4Pendle called away… funny that he’s tweeting about being in Gibralter!"
They were, of course, correct:
Naturally, I got straight back on to the constituency office, and was called back by the lady I’d spoken to earlier in the day. I asked her about this tweet, and this is where it got really interesting. Her first reaction was to reiterate that Mr. Stephenson had been called away urgently, then Mr. Stephenson had travelled on Friday. ”So Mr. Stephenson was only there two or three days then?” I replied incredulously. ”Oh, well, he may have travelled on Monday… I only work three days a week here.”
Of course, none of this does nothing to excuse the fact that I, and the other constituents who had taken time out of their days to speak to Mr. Stephenson on matters that were of importance to them, were let down badly by their Member of Parliament. I find it utterly distasteful and downright dishonest that I am getting different stories every time I speak to a member of Mr. Stephenson’s constituency team, but the bottom is line is very stark and simple: The buck stops with Mr. Stephenson.
Let me be clear and state that everyone, even Members of Parliament, are absolutely entitled to holidays. I would have no issue with that, if that is indeed the case here. But Mr. Stephenson had a duty to contact myself and the others affected and ensure they were not left hanging by him. Constituency surgeries are a vitally important part of being a Member of Parliament, perhaps the most important part of what an MP does, and Mr. Stephenson must ensure this never, ever happens again. After all, if Mr. Stephenson was a jobseeker and had missed an appointment, his benefit would have been stopped immediately and he would probably have faced sanctions.
Perhaps Mr. Stephenson should be facing sanctions himself?
Bedroom Tax: The Mess Continues
As many of you will be very much aware, I have been affected badly by Bedroom Tax. Even now, when we’ve been one of the “lucky” ones that have been moved into a smaller property, we are still affected because of the debt the move put us in and the changes we’ve had to make. It’s still putting huge pressure on our finances.
Of course, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are still using their tried and tested stick-fingers-in-ears-and-shut-eyes approach to their policies, and waiting for the criticism to go away. Good luck with that guys.
And the criticism and getting louder and more widespread. The Independent ran a front page story today about the “‘Big lie’ behind the bedroom tax: Families trapped with nowhere to move face penalty for having spare room”. The fact that this is making front page headlines alone should be cause for major concerns in the halls of the DWP, even over their screams of "it’s not a tax!"
The Independent goes on to say that “more than 19 out of 20 families hit by the bedroom tax are trapped in their larger homes because there is nowhere smaller within the local social housing stock to take them”, and include a quote from Liam Byrne MP who said, “This hated tax is trapping thousands of families, forcing vulnerable people to food banks and loan sharks, and there is now a serious danger it could end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private rented sector.”
I disagree with Mr. Bryne on that last part - no could about it, it is costing us more. With rent arrears rocketing under this idiotic policy, coupled with the costs of recouping that (if that’s ever going to be possible), the associated court costs, and so on, and so on, it’s a disaster in the making and, much like the Universal Credit scheme which has been hit by a multitude of setbacks and who’s staff describe chaos behind Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy, is limping on as ministers put on blinkers to the world.
Somebody really needs to wake Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud up. They’re living in a dream world and, as I said to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph last week, the human cost could well be incalculable.
WOW Petition well over halfway, and heading to Edinburgh Fringe for “Bedding Out”
With just over 4 months left to go for the WOW Petition, we’ve hit a crucial stage of Phase One as we continue to raise awareness and ask for everyone’s support for ill and disabled people against the multitude of cuts to social security payments and services that we’re facing. Fronted by the amazing comedian Francesca Martinez, we’re over halfway to achieving our goal of 100,000 signatures.
As part of the ongoing campaign, WOW Petition is honoured to have joined with Liz Crow, the artist and activist, who will be staging a Bedding Out event during Edinburgh Fringe on the 9th and 10th August. You can read more about the aims of Bedding Out here and can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #beddingout.
And as always you can read more about the WOW Campaign by clicking here or by contacting us on Twitter @WOWpetition.
… and finally!
Sunday night became 12th Doctor Night as the BBC went typically overboard in their unveiling of Peter Capaldi in the role of the Timelord. Perhaps I was the only sci-fi fan in the world who was surprised by this announcement, but it’s a very interesting way to go, although some may say that the braver choice would have been a woman in the role. Who knows! (sorry, pun definitely not intended). I guess we’ll have to wait till Christmas Day to find out just how the new Doctor fares. It’s going to be interesting, if nothing else.
And that’s all folks! Please remember that I can be found on Twitter @crazybladeuk and welcome any comments on these or many other subjects.
Thankyou so much for reading, till next time…