George Osborne should have expected to be
booed, say Paralympic spectators
Chancellor was given hostile reception at Olympic Stadium due to his
government's heavy cuts to disability benefits
Video: Osborne greeted by chorus of boos at Paralympics
Ministers should expect to be booed at the Paralympics given
the strength of feeling about the economy and cuts in services
for disabled people, according to Games spectators.
Several people suggested it was bad form to boo the
chancellor, George Osborne, on Monday night, at an apolitical
sporting event. But many more said they were not surprised he
elicited a negative response from a crowd made up of a high
proportion of people affected by the government's changes
to disability benefits.
Robert Darby, who was on his way to watch the wheelchair
fencing with his wife and two children, said: "If you are cutting
back on the disabled, then to present a disabled athlete with an
award is probably pushing your luck a bit. If you put your head
above the parapet you can expect that reaction."
Carolyn Allan, a worker with the charity Vitalise, which takes
disabled people and their carers on holidays, was at the park
with a group of guests, supported by the charity. "People have
a democratic right to express their opinion. I think it reflected
the mood of the people," she said.
She said her charity had been affected by the government's
austerity programme; local councils now have less money to
help the charity's work, individuals have less funding to allow
them to pay for the holidays themselves, and fundraising has
dipped dramatically over the past two years. That could have
been the context that triggered the boos, she said.
Aimee Rowe and her husband, Craig, also felt they had been
negatively affected by the government's changes to disability
benefits. Rowe said Craig, who has a brain tumour, was waiting
to hear whether he would need to go through the eligibility
assessment for the new incapacity benefit, and described the
uncertainty of the process as "very stressful".
"I wasn't surprised, given what he's doing on benefits. He
probably thought he was showing his support for disabled
people but it was a stupid choice of politician to send to the
Paralympics," she said.
Others said they thought it had been impolite. Robert Dulin,
from north London, said: "He's obviously not a popular chap at
the moment and I don't necessarily agree with his politics, but
the true spirit of the Games went out the window yesterday."
Sam Bull, from Sussex, thought the booing might have spoiled
the moment for the winning athlete. "It wasn't fair on the person
he was giving the award to."
Spectators who saw both Osborne and David Cameron's
appearances at the Games said the boos for Osborne seemed
much louder and more sustained than those directed at the
prime minister, who was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers
by a crowd buoyed by just having seen Ellie Simmonds win her
second gold medal.
A Locog spokeswoman said that the large number of medals
awarded meant that they needed a large pool of people ready
to hand out medals over the course of the games, and several
cabinet ministers had been invited to take part.
"In terms of the medals, there are a lot of medal ceremonies.
We, working with the International Paralympic Committee, have
agreed there are a small number of ministers who we have
invited to hand them out, along with people within sport and a
whole range of other people.
"There are over 500 medal ceremonies, that's over 1,000
people who need to be available. We did invite the cabinet
ministers, that was our decision," the spokeswoman said.