Yesterday’s back-firing LibDem rally outside St Helier Hospital has prompted further controversy over allegations that supporters of Nick Clegg acted in an intimidating and bullying manner towards the protestors, including a blind woman.
Emily Brothers is Labour’s candidate for Sutton and Cheam. She is blind. Yesterday, she began the protest holding up the “two faces of the same coin” banner ahead of the arrival of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Despite requests from her assistant, LibDem supporters confronted Brothers, pushing their placards in her face, causing concern for her safety.
Clegg, despite his Praetorian guard of secret servicemen and LibDem councillors and supporters – many of whom, including their parliamentary candidate for Croydon South had travelled to the hospital in for the visit – opted to scarper from the event after barely five minutes.
He had been confronted by campaigners against NHS cuts – specifically the closure threat to St Helier Hospital under the ConDem government – and the Beddington Lane incinerator.
Brothers was clearly shaken by her experience. “It was an unpleasant incident, but it is only to be expected when you stand up to LibDem bully tactics,” she said.
One LibDem attending the event, “Jean” Hickson, their candidate in Croydon South, shrugged off the suggestion that her colleagues had behaved in an aggressive manner by tweeting, “It was a pleasure to be among fellow Liberals. Politely putting up with others.”
Brothers and other campaigners at the event clearly have a different take on what is “polite”, and what constitutes free speech and the right to protest peacefully. “All I was seeking to do was to protest peacefully about the Lib Dem record in government – for backing Tory measure after measure on austerity, undermining our NHS and creating a local school places crisis,” Brothers told Inside Croydon.
“They now sadly seem to have also turned their backs on civil liberties.
“I had a sense that things were being held in front of my face, as it felt disorientating amongst the noise. It is difficult enough getting around without sight and poor hearing without that kind of nonsense.
“LibDem members and supporters may try to block and push me, but I’m not going to let them cover up their broken promises. I’m grateful to the words of support on social media, particularly from political opponents – nothing from the LibDem Party of course.”
One Croydon politician told Inside Croydon, “I am not surprised by the behaviour: the sanctimonious Liberal Democrats can turn nasty and unpleasant in an electoral battle for survival.”
In Croydon at next month’s election, the LibDems face a battle just to save their deposits in the borough’s three parliamentary seats, never mind repeat the relative success of their 2010 campaign, when they managed to beat Labour into second place in Croydon South.
Yesterday, their 2015 candidate Hickson made herself busy by publishing a photograph of herself outside a hospital in Sutton with the Carshalton and Wallington LibDem, Tom Brake, holding the sort of placard which, minutes later, was thrust into the face of Brothers by her fellow party members.
“Great to see him [Brake] and Nick in Sutton today,” cheer-leading Hickson said, who may have mistaken a political rally for a One Direction concert.
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