Labour MP Chi Onwurah boycotts St James' Park over Wonga row

A City MP has revealed her decision to boycott St James’ Park as the row over Newcastle United’s sponsorship deal with payday loan firm Wonga intensifies

Chi Onwurah at the meeting in the Lit & Phil
Chi Onwurah at the meeting in the Lit & Phil

A City MP has revealed her decision to boycott St James’ Park as the row over Newcastle United’s sponsorship deal with payday loan firm Wonga intensifies.

Labour’s Chi Onwurah has said she will not be attending home matches while the payday lender continues to be a shirt sponsor.

Writing for The Journal, she revealed her disgust at Newcastle United’s decision to enter into a deal with a company she says traps people in debt.

While the digital finance firm says interest rates claimed to be linked to it misrepresent Wonga’s offers, Ms Onwurah says it is wrong that families should have the fear of unpaid bills.

“When Newcastle United announced that the payday loan company Wonga would be sponsoring I was horrified,” she said. “Only last week I met a man at a drop-in centre who had learning difficulties – and the little money he had was going on payday loans.

“Could it really be true that some of the richest men in the city, the ones every kid looks up to, were going to be telling us to get a payday loan?”

Only this week the Newcastle Central MP told a meeting that a “special place in Hell” is reserved for businesses that use technology for unfair gain. The MP, a long standing NUFC fan, said her move was partly inspired by her own memories of her mother’s debt fear.

She said: “Growing up in Newcastle in the 60s and 70s there were only two topics of conversation in our house – politics and football. My mum was as committed to Newcastle United as she was to Labour and she passed that on, my brother even played with Paul Gascoigne for Newcastle youth team.

“My mother was a strong woman – she had to be, bringing up three children on her own on a North Kenton council estate. Not much scared her.

“But I shall never forget the look of fear in her eyes when she talked about debt. When she was ill she would worry that we would not be able to pay for her funeral. I would say that if she left us, we’d have a lot more to worry about than a few hundred quid of debt. But she would shake her head.

“She had grown up in Newcastle in the 30s, during the depression. She had seen what debt could do to hard-working families on difficult times.”

Ms Onwurah, who will continue to support the club and its charity foundation, is one of many MPs to voice concern. Wansbeck’s Ian Lavery has also said he will boycott matches as a result of the deal.

Last night a Wonga spokeswoman said: “We charge 1% interest a day. APR is meaningless when applied to a Wonga loan as we never charge customers thousands of per cent and we loan money for around a maximum of 30 days, not a year.

“Even Ms Onwurah’s political colleagues seem to agree with us, with the Public Accounts Committee describing APR as an ‘outdated and misleading’ measure for short-term credit. Despite our differences of opinion, we enjoyed meeting Ms Onwurah at the forum we hosted with NUFC last Monday.

“We respect different points of view and look forward to further discussions with her in the future.”


Why I won’t be at St James’ Park today: Page 51


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