Every now and then I write a weekly roundup when the week gets a bit frantic.
This must have been the most frantic week since I started writing! When I wrote my notebook on Wednesday it looked like I'd started writing a screenplay for some political drama - either that or I'd tipped over into total self delusion and some form of personality disorder.
The big news of course, is that the Welfare Reform Bill passed it's third reading in parliament by 288 to 238 votes. It was always going to pass, but I think it's worth stopping to think about how successfully we raised our issues and made sure that they were fully scrutinised. Removing the mobility component from care homes & time limiting ESA were "technicalities" buried deep in the bill, but we found them early and made them vital issues. Abolishing DLA in favour of the new PIPs was discussed in terms of the objections that sick and disabled people raised, not politicians. ATOS and the form of assessments the carry out is now mainstream news and I have much more faith that in the end, government will be forced into changing them properly to make them fairer.
It's hard to see these things as achievements when the bill passed, but they are. During the third reading, Margaret Curran pointed out to parliament that "sick and disabled people and their campaign groups are watching us today" whilst later Dame Anne Begg MP praised the campaign groups who "have come together in solidarity as never before to oppose this bill, often leading the way over important issues."
Now, as the bill goes to the Lords and our main issues are clearly defined, well debated and achieving large degrees of public sympathy, we start from a very strong position.
The sadness for me, was that I didn't oppose all of the Welfare Reform Bill. I largely support a Universal Credit. If our very reasonable amendments had been taken seriously and allowed a free vote, we might be in a very different place today. Myself and the other members of Broken of Britain would be sleeping for at least a month, content with a job well done and the coalition could move forward without us buzzing in their ears all day every day.
Of course on Monday, we were dismayed by Ed Miliband's speech on "responsibility". Whilst the blogosphere debated endlessly whether or not Ed should be making speeches about "cheats" and "scroungers" at all, sick and disabled people were devastated to see that the very example of irresponsibility Ed used was a man in Incapacity Benefit. It's hard to see how this can be anything but a clear warning that Ed is not ready to admit what a mess ESA is. I find it hard to see at this stage how Labour could ever gain the trust of sick and disabled people in the future. They are furious and totally disillusioned.
Liam Byrne spoke at the Progress event on welfare reform, which as your intrepid welfare-warrior, I felt it my duty to attend. Some tiny chink of something made me think he might actually be hearing us, his tone shifting to acknowledge that the issues sick and disabled people face are very different to the issues able bodied jobseekers face. Nonetheless there is a very long way to go and we still lack support across the political spectrum.
It did however lead to this quite extraordinary article from Liberal Conspiracy offering Mr Byrne a "deal" to "save his career" over welfare reform. That the entire blogosphere is now urging politicians to work with us at the highest level can only be a good thing, though the tone of the article has had me chuckling all week. A "screenplay moment" if ever I saw one!!
Then, in the most jaw-dropping moment of my entire blogging adventure, Ed Miliband stood up at PMQs and devoted all 6 questions to Time Limiting ESA!! My technical, hard to explain issue, that I've hammered away at for months became the top news story of the day! Mr Miliband pointed out that 7,000 cancer patients would lose their contributory ESA after just one year, whether they had recovered or even finished chemo treatment. Now, we must work tirelessly to make sure that people know this measure actually affects 700,000 people in total as well as those 7,000 cancer patients. Nearly three-quarters of a million seriously ill or disabled people who've paid tax and NI all their lives will lose everything after one year.
This issue gave Mr Miliband a scorching win. A win he desperately needed. He was passionate, confident and determined at the despatch box. He stood up for some of the most vulnerable people of all and the public were delighted. I hope very much that he will now look into some of the other issues we work so hard to highlight and see that they are equally important to the public - not just to our movement. I hope Mr Miliband concludes that standing up for your beliefs is always popular when people can see you genuinely care.
So, off to the Lords! I have no idea what that entails yet, but if it's half as exciting, frustrating and complex as parliament, I think I'd better have a wee lie down.
Well Done Everyone!!!!!!! You've all achieved amazing things together and we can achieve much, much more.