Frequent tweeting doesn’t make one a benefit cheat, Nadine Dorries | Lucy Glennon | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk


Frequent tweeting doesn’t make one a benefit cheat, Nadine Dorries

The Conservative MP’s insinuations about a disabled constituent who uses Twitter reveal prejudice and ignorance

VARIOUS - 2006 Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Befordshire, urged readers of her blog who knew heavy users of Twitter to email her office ‘or, better still, if it’s someone you know is on benefits, contact the DWP’ Photograph: Adrian Sherratt / Rex Features

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, on Thursday urged her blog readers to report to the Department of Work and Pensions people who tweet more than 50 times a day and claim benefits. She had apparently being told of a tweeter who has posted 34,500 times in a few months. This tweeter is Humphrey Cushion, who is disabled through arthritis, yet does not qualify for disability living allowance. She had to give up work as a home carer, as she is currently on a waiting list for two foot operations. If someone tweeted so frequently, Dorries wrote, then clearly they had nothing wrong with their hands or mind and should therefore be fit for work.

Yesterday, I posted around 70 tweets – more than the amount Dorries feels is enough for me to have a compulsive tweeting syndrome. Because of my condition, epidermolysis bullosa, my hands are not in good condition. I cannot really do anything with my left hand at all, as all the fingers are fused together, and the thumb is fused to the palm. I’m having hand surgery soon to correct this and separate the fingers. Yet I still somehow tweet; something which takes seconds to do, and requires little effort. My 70 tweets started at around 5am, where I woke in pain that left me unable to walk properly for the rest of the day. I conversed with friends, and I read and shared useful information. I made social arrangements with a friend who was going to visit me in the evening, and she asked if I needed any food bringing. Twitter is an absolute lifeline for someone like me; it stops any feelings of isolation. Even when I have my left hand operated on, and it is bandaged and in a sling, I will continue to tweet with one hand.

Kaliya Franklin, a disabled blogger and activist, brought Dorries’s blog to the attention of her Twitter followers. Many were angry at the ignorance and misunderstanding of disability, which is more prevalent since cuts in welfare benefits were announced. The line between benefit cheats and genuinely disabled claimants has become been blurred, and disabled people are frequently pilloried by newspapers. Similarly, Louise Bolotin is a disabled journalist who frequently tweets as part of her work, as do many other companies who are aware of social media and its uses.

Following the Twitter outcry, Dorries responded with another blogpost, in which she writes that she has no problem with disabled people using the internet to chat to friends, but has an issue with people who:

“… Twitter all day, every day about claiming disability benefit in one tweet whist arranging a night out in the pub in the next. If you tweet about claiming six months rent from the social fund whilst tweeting how bad your hangover is and if you stride into political meetings and shout the odds with energy and enthusiasm with no sign of any physical disability and if you claim to work for the Labour party and write porn at the same time as claiming your disability benefit – then don’t expect someone like me not to a) inform the authorities and b) tell you to get off your Twitter and get a job.”

Dorries has misunderstood Cushion’s situation, and caused concern for disabled people. It is alarming that any disabled person could be singled out for having a social life, expressing political views, or doing any kind of physical activity. Disability is incredibly varied and complicated, and often not understood; it is not just a matter of wheelchairs and walking sticks. However, the least tolerant usually have the loudest voices.

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Frequent tweeting doesn’t make one a benefit cheat, Nadine Dorries | Lucy Glennon

This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 16.39 BST on Friday 1 October 2010. It was last modified at 16.49 BST on Friday 1 October 2010.

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Comments in chronological order (Total 248 comments)

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  • yahyah

    1 October 2010 4:37PM

    From the Sunday Times May 9th 2010

    NADINE DORRIES, the Conservative MP, faces the first expenses complaint of the new parliament after a row about a £10,000 claim she paid to a friend’s company. Her former Commons researcher, Peter Hand, is writing to John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, questioning whether the claim can be justified

    .


    Words like hypocrite come to mind when considering Ms Dorries.

    Pontificating about the unemployed and the disabled after lining her pockets with tax payers’ money.

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  • Questorade

    1 October 2010 4:37PM

    Isn’t the point about Nadine Dorries that she is a little bit silly, and so everything she does is foolish?

    Best to ignore her, really!

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  • elflojo84

    1 October 2010 4:39PM

    I don’t think you needed to extol the benefits of tweeting to prove this idiot wrong…you just need to look at what she said.

    Tweeting = fit to work.

    What a total arsehole.

    If someone tweeted so frequently, Dorries wrote, then clearly they had nothing wrong with their hands or mind and should therefore be fit for work.

    Words fail me

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  • Drottle

    1 October 2010 4:40PM

    Here in the countryside, tweeting’s strictly for the birds.

    P.S.: A tweeter is not a person, but a high-frequency loudspeaker unit. Perhaps you could write Twitterer or something.

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  • Strummered

    1 October 2010 4:40PM

    Why is it that people with outlandish views consider themselves to be the voice of reason?

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  • yahyah

    1 October 2010 4:40PM

    Sorry, my last sentence should have been:

    Pontificating about the unemployed and the disabled after lining her friend’s pockets with tax payers’ money.


    Edit function please Guardian.

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  • Danny69

    1 October 2010 4:40PM

    Personally, I am of the view that anyone who tweets has a disability….

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  • elflojo84

    1 October 2010 4:41PM

    Questorade:

    Best to ignore her, really!

    That works fine for the idiot in the pub, unfortunately this fucking woman is in fucking government!

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  • BaraLawr

    1 October 2010 4:41PM

    It’s fine to stay at home watching TV all day , but woe betide anyone who tries to do anything.

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  • CharleySays

    1 October 2010 4:42PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.

  • MickGJ

    1 October 2010 4:43PM

    Humphrey Cushion…does not qualify for Disability Living Allowance….Dorries wrote, clearly (she) had nothing wrong with (her) hands or mind and should therefore be fit for work.

    I hate to spoil a good fight but doesn’t that mean that everyone is actually on the same page here?

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  • msludicrous

    1 October 2010 4:44PM

    this woman is an idiot

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  • francoisVoltearouet

    1 October 2010 4:45PM

    Isn’t the point about Nadine Dorries that she is a little bit silly, and so everything she does is foolish?

    Lets be fair about this 28,815 voted for her. Thats’ scary more than foolish.

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  • yahyah

    1 October 2010 4:46PM

    Before a second stroke rendered him almost completely blind, a relative of mine used to post on sport and social forums using a large lettered key board etc.

    He is also unable to stand or walk unaided, has mental impairment following a stroke.
    The internet use helped take the place of a lot of the social interaction he missed from his pre stroke days.

    By Dorrie’s reckoning should he have been chucked off his care package benefits and forced to work ?

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  • mononom23

    1 October 2010 4:46PM

    In attacking the disabled, Dorries has shown herself to be absolute scum.

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  • Stu49

    1 October 2010 4:46PM

    BendyGirl rules!

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  • lightacandle

    1 October 2010 4:47PM

    Does that mean we’re going to start getting Tory prefects monitoring our posts too and then running of to tell tales if we’ve managed to do more than two in a day.

    I feel a CiF commenters strike coming on – next week would do nicely and then we wouldn’t have to face commenting on the stomach churning spectacle of a Tory Party Conference.

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  • elflojo84

    1 October 2010 4:47PM

    MickGJ:

    It means one individual is both able to tweet and able to work (although I must say I’m surprised arthritis in the feet doesn’t qualify), it doesn’t quite lend credence to this insane woman’s theory that ability to tweet = ability to work.

    On top of which, why does 70 tweets prove that but 1 doesn’t? If sending a tweet proves that her hands and mind are working, why shouldn’t people start furiously emailing the DWP as soon as they see one tweet?

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  • NatashaS

    1 October 2010 4:47PM

    Dorries is a horrid, horrid woman. Stupid (campaigned against a “ban on high heels at work” which was just a suggestion to employers to consider if dress codes allowed for comfortable footwear) and dangerous (she and I are at polar opposites in our views on abortion time limits; I remember shouting at the TV when she was pressing for a reduction to 21 weeks.) So this doesn’t surprise me, but it does make me dislike her even more.

    Why is it people think you have to be bedridden to count as disabled, ffs?

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  • CharleySays

    1 October 2010 4:48PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.

  • TheseColorsDontRun

    1 October 2010 4:48PM

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  • francoisVoltearouet

    1 October 2010 4:48PM

    Anyone who feels the need to tweet even once is likely to have mental health issues at the very lease!


    Much like those who post inane rants instead of working or is it better to berate others than actually do it yourself.

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  • vorpalcynic

    1 October 2010 4:50PM

    What was that she’s twittering on about now? Twat syndrome?

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  • yahyah

    1 October 2010 4:51PM

    Jesus H Christ, will you euro commie pansies listen to yourselves


    Here come the US Tea Party loons.

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  • ZacSmith

    1 October 2010 4:52PM

    Click through to the link to Nadine’s blog. I think it’s pretty clear that she isn’t seriously suggesting this. That said, she does come across as an absolute moron.

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