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A plan by MP David Willetts, Conservative spokesman on work and pensions, ...
A plan by MP David Willetts, Conservative spokesman on work and pensions,

to spend tonight on a Birmingham council estate, was criticised as

'tokenistic' by a local councillor on BBC Radio Four's Today programme this


Richard Bashford said: 'It's good to have shadow spokesmen trying to know how the other half lives, but an overnight stay is a bit tokenistic. It smacks more of gesture politics than the real understanding of what it means to live in relative poverty.'

Mr Willetts told the programme his visit to Birmingham was part of a series

of 'one nation hearings' the Conservative party is undertaking. He said the

numerous initiatives for deprived areas could be a confusing obstacle for

people working to help these neighbourhoods.

David Williams, secretary of the Labour group on Bimingham City Council, was

disparaging of Mr Willetts' approach but agreed there is a danger of

'initiative overload'.

But, he told Today, the new deal for communities, which pulls together

different initiatives, is doing good work in the Kings Norton area of


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