Deirdre Kelly, better known as ‘White Dee’ has told an audience at a Conservative Party conference fringe event that she “very well might” vote Ukip at the next election. She also indicated that she may consider running for a seat in Westminster as she thinks politics needs more people who are down to earth.
Kelly shot to fame through the hit TV show Benefits Street which depicted life on James Turner Street, a residential road located just two miles away from the glitzy conference centre in Birmingham. Kelly was one of a number of residents portrayed by the documentary, which followed long term benefits claimants in their day to day lives. She quickly became well known for her outspoken attitude and her informal role as the street’s ‘mum’ as she helped younger and vulnerable residents with their problems, including assisting them in their claims for more money.
This morning she appeared on a panel hosted by the think tank Policy Exchange entitled Benefits Street: What more needs to be done to help people into work? The panel also featured Conservative Member of Parliament Mark Hoban, and Steve Hughes, head of economic and social policy for Policy Exchange. It was chaired by Allegra Stratton, the political editor for the BBC’s Newsnight.
During the discussion Kelly had a dig about the recent defections by Conservative Members of Parliament to Ukip, saying “I like to speak for myself but Mr Farage doesn’t seem to be doing a bad job. He’s had a few extra members join him recently hasn’t he.”
When asked by Stratton whether she would be voting for Ukip at the next election, she replied “I very well could”.
During the discussion Kelly slammed the welfare system for being too generous, saying “It’s not fair that someone works a 40-hour, if not more, week and doesn’t have as much to live on as someone who sits at home, doesn’t work and is given money from the Government.
“But that’s not that individual’s fault, that is the Government’s fault. I think the Government also has to look at (the) minimum wage and things like that. It’s the Government that says how much someone is entitled to live on, not the individual.”
However, her concurrence with Conservative thinking stopped there. When asked about changes to the welfare system since 2010, she replied “I have noticed a change. I think it’s considerably got worse.
“I think people are too quick to sanction people who are looking for jobs. You do have to deal with it on an individual basis.
“There are people out there who are very happy to sit at home and receive their benefits and not physically look for a job. But I know people who apply for 20, 30 jobs a week.
“You can’t force an employer to give you a job, so what you have to do is make sure the resources are there to enable the jobseeker to get a job, be a bit more realistic with what kind of schemes are available to them, because not everybody wants to work in an office or build a wall.”
When it was put to her that Ukip under leader Nigel Farage currently had no coherent policy on welfare, she was unperturbed, saying “He’s been clever then hasn’t he? He’s leaving it to everyone else to dig a big hole for themselves and then he’ll swoop in and take over.”
Other comments may have been more heartening for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. At one point she insisted “I really think what we’re going to have to do is concentrate more on the kids of today, school leavers, we have to try to stop them leaving school and going straight into the system that they’ll get stuck in for years and years and years.”
The comment echoes the Conservative pledge, announced by Cameron yesterday, to scrap housing and unemployment benefits for single people under the age of 21. In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday, he said “I want us to end the idea that aged 18 you can leave school, go and leave home, claim unemployment benefit and claim housing benefit. We shouldn’t be offering that choice to young people; we should be saying, ‘you should be earning or learning’.” The Conservatives plan to use the money saved on funding three million more apprenticeships.
However, she has joined the ranks of those accusing the Conservative party of being out of touch, saying “It’s like you have someone, who I think is completely out of touch with the real world, making decisions on people who do actually live in the real world. That is Iain Duncan Smith. I think it is just about being realistic.”
When asked whether she might run for a Parliamentary seat she indicated that she would, as there were too few people in Parliament currently who are in touch with common people. “I would think about it because I am interested in politics and I am interested in normal people and I am interested in the country,” she said.
“Just because you are a little bit common doesn’t mean that you are stupid and you wouldn’t be able to have a good input. I think the more common you are the more in touch you are with real people, so yes it would be something I would consider.”
Kelly has in the past been known to vote Labour, but she dismissed Ed Miliband as childish, saying “I’m not a massive fan of him”.