10 January 2012

Sue Marsh, one of the lead authors of the Responsible Reform report which argues that the government misled parliament over the strength of opposition to DLA reform has been hospitalised due to the strain of campaigning.

The report was released yesterday and became an immediate hit on Twitter, trending at number 1 early in the day and at number two for the whole of the rest of Monday.  It has received support from high profile figures such as John Prescott, Alistair Campbell, Stephen Fry and Mark Thomas.

Such has been the interested generated that sites hosting the report were frequently unavailable yesterday due to the sheer numbers downloading copies.

An attempt to deliver copies to every member of parliament almost failed after House of Commons staff demanded £239 to deliver  the documents internally.  Fortunately, a supporter within the Commons volunteered to hand deliver every single report.

The DWP responded to the blizzard of tweets and retweets by tweeting itself.  However, not only were their counter arguments stale and wide opf the mark, they even made the mistake of using the #spartacusreport hashtag, thereby helping to keep the report trending on Twitter.  DWP staff, it seems, have a lot to learn about campaigning on Twitter – something they will no doubt continue to do at the taxpayer’s expense.

DWP staff subsequently fell back on what they do best:  they released another disability hate story about disabled people claiming benefits whilst living abroad, which the Daily Mail obligingly ran as its lead story.

Coverage of the report in the mainstream media is still almost absent, with the exception of the Guardian.  Channel 4’s Jon Snow has indicated his interest but says that the media need examples and case studies if they are to cover the issue.

It seems unlikely that the lack of coverage will unduly dismay campaigners, however, frustrating though it undoubtedly is.  They are continuing to urge supporters to contact peers and MPs directly as they as they seek to force the government to delay plans to axe DLA for six months so that a genuine consultation with disabled people can take place.

However, it is clear from the hospitalisation of Sue Marsh and the obvious exhaustion of fellow author Kaliya Franklin on a video recorded today, that disabled campaigners are paying a high price for making their voices heard.

Campaigners are now asking Twitter users to wear a Spartacus Report  ‘Twibbon’ on their avatar.

Updates on the campaign are available from Diary of a Benefit Scrounger.

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