Protesters heckle minister during ‘top secret’ visit
11:50am Friday 1st March 2013 in News
WORK and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith was greeted by angry protesters and members of the public on a visit to Bolton.
The man in charge of the Government’s welfare reforms was in town yesterday on a fact fiindng secret visit to the Department of Works and Pensions building at Elizabeth House in Back Spring Gardens.
Not even the local Conservative party had been made aware of his trip, but a tip-off led to Bolton’s unions quickly organising a small group of about a dozen protesters.
They followed the former Tory Party leader from Caffe Nero in Deansgate — where he had been enjoying a coffee with two aides until 9.45am yesterday — for the 300 yards to Elizabeth House, opposite the Octagon theatre.
On his walk, a clearly uncomfortable Mr Duncan Smith was constantly heckled by the protesters, who blew whistles and shouted “he wants your bedroom” and “how many bedrooms have you got in your subsidised mansion?”
Once they became aware who he was, several members of the public joined in, including a group of teenagers.
During his walk — flanked by his two aides but no security — Mr Duncan Smith was heard to say several times “how much further?”
When The Bolton News approached Mr Duncan Smith for an interview he replied: “I’m sorry I’ve got a meeting at 10am”, and one of his aides added: “He’s very busy”.
Demonstrator Florence Hill, a retired former chairman of Bolton Unison, said: “He said ‘hello’ to me.
“I said “don’t say hello to me, you’re not welcome here”, and one of the two men with him said ‘we’re always welcome in Bolton’.”
Bill Hardman, aged 59, of Little Lever, joined the protest outside the building and had been following Mr Duncan Smith in his wheelchair. Mr Hardman, who was born with spina bifida, lost his job at Remploy in Bolton last September after working there for 33 years said: “I’m here because I know what effect this is having, not just on myself but on every disabled person, it’s absolutely frightening.”
Matt Kilsby Bolton Unison branch chairman, said “We heard it was happening and decided to contact people. Whether four people or 40 turned up didn’t matter, the message was that he was not welcome here.”
The DWP refused to comment.
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