I have a mild love-hate relationship with Liz Jones. Strange because all I know of her is what she writes.
The (imaginary?) rock-star boyfriend, the name-dropping of various (very expensive) home furnishings and clothes that seem to make their way into her daily life, the fact that she loves her animals. It all makes for an entertaining read on a Sunday morning, not least for the readers comments.
She attended a Mumsnet conference last year – presumably getting a very nice fee – and, according to bloggers looked quite miserable throughout and resembled a rabbit caught in the headlights. It was obviously a two-way feeling because she produced quite a vicious article following that – link here – stating that blogging mothers were constricting themselves and mocking what they blogged about. That received some very justifiably annoyed comments, particularly amongst those she’d name-dropped in the article.
Part of me thinks “live and let live”, she’s entitled to her opinions and part of her job is to entice a response, to get the “traffic” to her article, to get the “how dare she?” comments, part of any writer yearns to be recognised and appreciated, after all.
But, earlier this year, I felt she went too far.
She wrote an article defending a politician’s use of a disabled parking space and, not only that, made some very sweepingly offensive comments about the disabled community as a whole, during a time when disability hate crime is on the increase and cuts are hitting hard.
I’m not going to reference the whole article, just highlight the bits that I felt strongly enough about to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission:
“I have a lot in common with George Osborne. Not the private education.
Not his views on what turns a man into a child killer. But the fact he parked his SUV in a disabled bay.
When I heard this news, in the week cuts to benefits started to bite, my only thought was: ‘He parked in a disabled bay to buy a burger?’
Because that was the crime.
Not parking in a bay expressly designed for people with no arms or legs or eyes (why are they driving?). Because I do it all the time. I make a point of doing it.
The second reason is that there are just far too many of these squares, a PC PR move by local authorities to prove they are nice people, when they’re not.
Have you ever seen seven paraplegics, all at once, at your local cinema? No.”
There is more, an attempt to firstly justify herself because she is “disabled”, she is deaf and then later on, she decides that she parks in those spaces because she’s a “non-conformist, a rebel.”
As the mum to two special needs children, both with an invisible disability, I felt that her words not only discriminated against those with mental but physical disabilities also.
Her words will only fuel people’s emotions against those who they feel are “getting an easy life” when the reality is anything but.
The disability living allowance (DLA) is not an automatic right, I know of people who have been refused three times because of the severe cuts and the forms are sent out for renewal every three years, it is certainly not an automatic benefit for life. Despite what certain media may have you believe.
Many councils and organisations additionally do not recognise a diagnosed disability until DLA has been awarded so that award letter for someone who has never met the individual is vital.
I wrote therefore to the Press Complaints Commission and my case for discrimination within the article was considered but rejected.
Here’s their reasoning below:
“The Commission recognised that the complainants had found the column offensive, in particular, that the columnist had implied that disabled people should not be allowed to drive or live “normally” in mainstream society, and should seek recovery from their disabilities. The Commission made clear that the terms of the Code do not address issues of taste and offence. The Code is designed to address the potentially competing rights of freedom of expression and other rights of individuals, such as privacy. Newspapers and magazines have editorial freedom to publish what they consider to be appropriate provided that the rights of individuals – enshrined in the terms of the Code which specifically defines and protects these rights – are not compromised. The columnist had been entitled to express her personal views, so long as in doing so she did not breach any of the terms of the Code. The Commission could not, therefore, comment on this aspect of the complaint further.”
So, personal opinions seem to be okay – in their eyes – however offensive they may seem, after all, it’s all about traffic and responses in the end, isn’t it?
I’m glad that I – and several other people – contacted the PCC though.
I’m going to carry on attempting to raise awareness and acceptance for everyone within the disabled community, I owe it to my children .