… or arise as questions in the House of Commons yet people like this man seem to think it is acceptable to ignore other people using the phrase ‘I’m not taking lectures from that person’ Why is that people who enjoy telling other people what to do and how to do it, get so defensive when someone challenges them for their lack of understanding? The phrase don’t lecture me is one that is regularly used by politicians who have simply been challenged to reconsider their arguments The MP for Mid Norfolk, George Freeman is someone who should certainly know the difference between a lecture and being challenged on twitter over remarks he made about disabled people in our nation. He is an old boy of Radley College near Oxford, an Independent boys School whose website returns 53 items when the term lecture is placed in the search box. He then went on to Girton College Cambridge where he studied Geography and no doubt sat through a great many lectures. Finally on his twitter bio he writes “Grtx3 nephew of Gladstone” which suggests he has probably read quite a few of the great mans speeches which come close to lectures. Mr Freeman has suddenly appeared on many social media timelines not because he wrote the phrase “I don’t need any lectures” even though it is rather ignorant to suggest a tweet could be interpreted as a lecture by anyone who does actually know what a lecture is. The reason he has been popping up is because of his own comments that frankly are just as ignorant, but a great deal more disturbing than his lack of understanding about communication techniques.
As the person who works as head of the Number 10 policy unit, Mr Freeman is bound to be asked to explain and even justify changes in policy. It is for this reason he was interviewed by the BBC about the latest changes to Personal Independence Payments or PIP which were introduced at the end of last year following two tribunal rulings which the Government claims would have a knock on impact on our benefits bill that by 2023 it is estimated would cost an additional £2.3Bn per year. In his interview Mr Freeman said: “These tweaks are actually about rolling back some bizarre decisions by tribunals that now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety,” he said. “We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it.” The problem with these sort of comments is that they imply that there is a hierachy of disability and that while Mr Freeman is not articulating what he understands by “really disabled people” in the interview he is certainly painting a clear picture of how he regards people who suffer from anxiety. The comment about taking pills at home is another aspect as most people who have poor health, mental or physical do take tablets. It is hard to imagine the NHS coping if all people on prescription based medication had to make a trip to the nearest hospital or GP to have their tablet dispensed and for these people to ingest them in front of the GP.
Understandably Mr Freeman’s twitter address was used to send him a number of messages including five in a row from someone who calls themselves BertLoch whose fifth message reads: “You should learn more about anxiety disorders & what they are. Could really help you to @. Learn the toll different ones take.” Mr Freeman, clearly felt his comments were under attack unnecessarily and so he then responded: “Having suffered myself as a child career from childhood anxiety & depression I don’t need any lectures on the damage anxiety does, tbh.”
Now irrespective of Mr Freemans personal history, telling people in distress that they should shut up and stop lecturing you, when you are in a position of great power and influence is at best a bit cack handed. However the outrageous comments Mr Freeman had just made shows what a pathetic person he is and how unsuited he is to the role he currently has able to greatly influence what policies the Government adopts and promotes. Governments have great power and with that comes enormous responsibility. There is no evidence that Gladstone ever used those words but Lord Melbourne who was Whig Prime Minister from 1835-1841 has been credited with it and also Winston Churchill. Perhaps for these reasons Mr Freeman has now been carrying out a ‘lecture’ of his own and on his twitter feed there are 3 consecutive tweets that read:
Having experienced myself traumatic anxiety as a child carer living w alcohol I know all too well the pain anxiety + depression causes which is why as a former Health Minister and Policy Adviser I am passionate about supporting Mental Health and Disability, and hugely regret if my comment about the need to prioritise the most ‘serious disabilities’ inadvertently caused any offence which was not intended.
It would be fantastic if this was an apology. However the four words in the middle of the lecture which I have highlighted show that he has completely missed the point and needs to leave his post before he does any more damage.