Alana House – Labour Attack Misfires
The Reading East Labour candidate Matt Rodda has not got his campaign off to a good start with a petty, personal and inaccurate attack on sitting Conservative MP Rob Wilson. Rodda, who is also a Reading Borough Councillor for Katesgrove ward, is quoted in a Labour press release at the end of December attacking Rob Wilson for planning to bring Government Minister Helen Grant to visit the women’s centre at Alana House in South Street in support of their campaign for continued funding.
Rob Wilson has a long history of working with local groups and societies to support their activities. When Rob was approached again by Alana House last year he spoke to Ministers and raised the matter of their funding in the House of Commons on 18 December. In response Minister Helen Grant acknowledged Wilson’s long interest in Alana House and promised to visit the centre.
In the Labour press release (which can be found in full here) Rodda is quoted as saying, “Rob Wilson visited the centre before the 2010 General Election to get a photo taken which then appeared in his election literature, but slowly over the last two years since the election, the budget has been cut…… The reality is that this excellent project, which supports 300 women, has deliberately been run down by the Coalition Government in which Rob Wilson is a Minister…… What Alana House needs to hear from Rob Wilson is not that he is bringing a Minister so he can have another photo-call but that the Minister is bringing a cheque.”
However, Rodda failed to check his facts. He also appears to have not actually visited the centre despite it being in Katesgrove ward. Had he done so he would have discovered that it was Rob’s intervention which stopped the previous Labour government from cutting the centre’s funding in the past.
Rob Wilson, who has now put out his own press release, said, “This is a very disappointing start for the Labour candidate, who appears to be putting Labour politics before achieving a successful outcome for Alana House. He has never visited Alana House and never shown any interest in it before I raised the matter in Parliament, despite it being in the ward where he is a Councillor. He also does not appear to understand the history of its funding. It was the last Labour Government that proposed cutting the Ministry of Justice funding but I managed to stop that in its tracks. I have already fought and delivered for Alana House, and they will no doubt vouch for that fact. My visit in 2009/10 to Alana House, at their request, was not for a photo opportunity but to celebrate securing the funding.”
Labour Parliamentary candidates in Reading do not have a good track record for displaying local knowledge but I would have expected better from Rodda who is at least a local Councillor. Sadly, the poorly judged Labour attack has only served to politicise what is a very deserving cause.
Rob Wilson highlighted this point in his final comments, “Instead of embarrassing himself with his lack of understanding and local knowledge I would urge the Labour candidate to do something more positive than simply sending out inaccurate and negative press releases. If he had contacted me I would have been happy to give him the true picture. He should work with me to resolve the funding shortage not jeopardise the funding by making this matter political.”