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Weekly secures exclusive with MP on petition ‘stunt’

A weekly newspaper series secured an exclusive interview with its local MP Iain Duncan Smith after a petition called for him to live on £53 a week.

The Guardian Series in East London gained the exclusive quotes from Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith, who is the Woodford MP, after the petition attracted more than 125,000 signatures.

It was started after Mr Duncan Smith was challenged on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme over sweeping changes to the benefits system, and said if he had to live on £53 a week, he would.

In the interview with Guardian reporter Dominic Sutton, which has been widely reported by national media, the MP branded the petition as a “complete stunt”.

He also said he already knew what it was like to live on the breadline because he had been unemployed twice in his life.

Group editor Tim Jones said: “It was good old-fashioned journalism, of the sort practiced daily by our journalists and others in the local press, which secured our reporter Dominic Sutton the exclusive quotes from Iain Duncan Smith.

“Speed, tenacity and an excellent contacts book are the essential qualities every journalist must have. All of our titles have an excellent relationship with our MPs, even though two have considerable commitments being cabinet ministers.

“We have worked hard to build strong contacts with both Iain Duncan Smith and Eric Pickles, who understand the importance of speaking to their constituents through their local newspaper.”

The newspaper series includes the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian, the Epping Forest Guardian, Chingford Guardian and Waltham Forest Guardian.

The petition, which has now been signed by more than 400,000 people, calls on Mr Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week for at least one year.