Thursday 28 April 2011

Labour: Still in Denial

I’ve been struck by several related issues over the past week.

First David Cameron launches a hate-filled attack on disabled benefit claimants – the Prime Minister of the country openly advocating bigotry on national news – and the best Labour can manage is Stephen Timms, Shadow Minister for Employment, wetly agreeing with him that maybe people whose disabilities leave them subject to addictions or obesity don’t deserve benefits. I’m sorry, did I hear that right, a Labour politician endorsing deliberate and calculated advocacy of discrimination against disabled people by the Con-Dem Prime Minister, discrimination that will inevitably spill over to affect all disabled people, obese or not, benefit claimant or not, in direct contravention of the Equality Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People? So you would assume there would be a double outcry from Labour, Ed Milliband staking Cameron through the heart for his bigotry at Prime Minister’s Questions while Timms is rapidly stripped of the Whip and expelled from the Party. But no, nothing.

Now Neil Coyle, Labour councillor and Policy Director of the Disability Alliance, has published a piece at Left Foot Forward, which, while pointing out deliberate distortions in DWP press releases, goes out of its way to endorse ESA, and therefore the WCA, as responsible Labour policies working for the betterment of disabled people. I’m sorry, I must have missed the moment I slipped into an alternate reality….

It’s truly sad to see Labour still claiming that ESA was a positive move for disabled people, whereas the truth is that they, not the Con-Dems, designed the ESA system to deliberately distort the assessment process and force genuinely disabled people out of the disability benefits system and onto the harsher, uncaring, disability-hostile JSA — been there, done that, had to complain to ministerial level just to get JCP to acknowledge my disability. Talk to individual disabled people and they will tell you of their genuine fear of ESA and describe the horrific abuse of the WCA system by ATOS and their tame quacks.

This isn’t a new Con-Dem plot, it is the system working as Labour designed it. Deliberate demonisation of disabled benefit claimants by DWP press-releases coordinating hate-ridden tabloid vitriol didn’t start under the Con-Dems, these press releases have been happening for several years now and disabled people were expressing their concern while Labour were still in power. The farcical plans for WCA and DLA assessments based on an access-all-areas imaginary wheelchair (yes, really!) aren’t something the Con-Dems dreamed up since coming into office, this is another Labour policy idea they are implementing to the detriment of disabled people. And while individual disabled people are banding together in groups like DPAC, Broken of Britain and WTB to fight for their right to be treated as equals and for the system to recognise and cater for the reality of their disabilities, Ed Milliband sits on his hands and does nothing for us beyond occasionally quietly admitting that he agrees with Con-Dem policy on the matter — the betrayal of disabled people by Labour is absolute.

If the Policy Director of the Disability Alliance truly believes that ESA is a positive step for disabled people then it is time for him to resign, because he has forsaken any claim to understanding how disabled people are being affected, to believing in ‘Nothing For Us, Without Us’ and has betrayed the confidence of disabled people in his ability to place their needs above party-political allegiance, and the same can be said for Labour as a whole.

Where is the party that is supposed to stand for everyman, to fight for real equality, to ensure a system that is fair for all regardless of class, creed, colour or disability? Is it sleeping, licking its wounds, is it sacrificing us for the electoral expediency of a good headline about people suffering under the Con-Dems, or is the unpalatable truth that Labour is just as actively disablist as the Con-Dems?


  1. Labour has sold out to big business just as much (but probably for less) as the Tories ever did. There's too much money to be made by plundering the public purse pulling scams like this, politicians from all parties want a share.


  2. Ive recently rejoined the Labour Party in the hope we can get the Party back to left wing policies and values. If enough of us follow suit we could change it from within. Its happened before, I particularily agree with your last paragraph btw. We should re-instate clause 4 and act on it.

  3. I'd like to say I'm shocked at a Labour politician saying this - I am shocked it came from one who works for the Disability Alliance though.

    I found it incredible to discover that 25% fewer households received assistance from local authorities in 2007 than in 1997. That means less people ended up receiving community care support under Blair and Brown than Thatcher!

    Recently I saw Johann Hari (whose work generally I really admire) blaming the Tories for massively reduced inspection frequencies of care services - but the reality is this began under Labour, and was dramatically accelerated by the formation of CQC.

    The outsourcing and marketisation of community care was begun under Thatcher, but increased under Labour - only a few weeks ago the CQC published a report which found that care outsourced to the private sector was poorer quality than dwindling in-house services.

    I could go on... There are some Labour politicians out there who I really rate, and who I think really understand and care about disability rights and care issues. But sadly the party as a whole is unwilling to confront the population with the unpleasant reality that systems of mutual support for times of need cost money. And the vast majority of the population prefer not to acknowledge that one day, they too might be in need.

  4. "Red Ed is dead but I will stand and my party will stand for the mainstream of Britain - for Sun readers and for their concerns.

    "I want to show to Sun readers that I get it about the concerns that they have."

    Showing a new public humility, Ed made a series of concessions about Labour's record in government, including:

    Bungling the key issues of the impact of immigration and welfare: "where frankly we lost touch".

    "Red Ed" ran to the left of his brother in the leadership contest as a tactic because he saw there was a niche there for him, to differentiate himself from his brother and gain union support which he needed. But he is no leftist, he's just another New Labour opportunist who would rule by the diktats of the right-wing tabloids given the chance.

    All Ed wants is power, the sick and disabled are just abstract to him and expendable.

    They're still New Labour.

  5. @Lucy: really agree with the sentiments in that last paragraph of yours.

    @nanobot: I'm actually a centrist, New Labour came closer to representing my views on most things than the traditional party. But disability policy is somewhere where it doesn't matter the shade of political opinion, no one is standing against the tide to say this is wrong, this is not what my party should stand for, whether that party be New Labour, Old Labour, Liberal-Democrat or Conservative, to say out loud that ESA is a deliberately disablist policy that must be abandoned as the failure it is.

  6. But David, it's the right-wing hate papers that keep pushing the benefit scrounger stories against the sick and disabled.

    It is predominantly right-wingers who support laissez faire and are hostile to the welfare state. On every political website I visit it is right-wingers viciously attacking and lying about the sick and disabled.

    If Ed is going to pander to the right-wing tabloids, that means pandering to anti sick and disabled sentiment and supporting polcies that hurt the sick and disabled, because the right-wingers who own most of the media are not going to stop until they have succeeded in their mission of completely destroying the welfare state.

  7. @nanobot: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.

    Milliband is doing worse than nothing, if pushed to an opinion, he chooses to support the attacks on us. Timms demonstrated that is a consistent view within the Shadow Cabinet last week.

    And remember, it was the DWP under Labour which started the attacks on us as scroungers.

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