Wednesday 3 October 2012

Disability Issues Finally Break Through at Labour Conference

I'm having a little sniffle.

Actually that's a fib, a few tears are plopping onto my generic hotel duvet.

It's probably exhaustion, but at the moment, it feels like catharsis. Relief.

Long term readers will know that I've been to every Labour conference since 2009 with the sole aim of telling ministers and MPs about the horrors of the WCA. Lately, the Tories have given me abolishing DLA, the ILF, the SDP and so much more to explain and expose. I've chased Steven Timms when I could barely walk. I've charmed and flirted and wangled my way in front of Yvette Cooper, Jonathan Shaw, David Miliband, Peter Mandleson, Ed Miliband, Anne Begg, Margaret Curran, Jim Murphy, Michael Meacher, Liam Byrne, Anne MacGuire and no doubt countless others I've forgotten.

Oh the disappointments. 2009 when I may as well have been whistling in the wind. Not one responded to my follow up emails.
2010 and the "Responsibility at the top and the bottom" disappointments
2011 and the "I met a man who met a man" disasters resulting in the word "disability" being totally airbrushed from conference. Well, until Kali and I handbagged Ed Miliband in a daring expose....

And now it's 2012. In one year, campaigners produced the Spartacus Report, the most read welfare report in history. We defeated the Conservatives in the Lords 8 times over the Welfare Reform Bill, we worked with the BMA to ensure that they voted to scrap the Work Capability Assessment. We watched and respected and revelled in the Paralympics whilst organising devastatingly effective protests throughout, shining a light on Atos Healthcare who administer the test. We worked with journalists to ensure that our campaigns were regularly on Channel 4 News, and in the Guardian, the Mirror, the Independent, The Times - hell, even the Spectator. We guided and advised Panorama and Dispatches as they exposed the horrors of our situation to ever wider audiences. 

There was more - so much more - and this year, disability and the attacks we face are front and centre at Labour conference. 

First the man from Bournemouth CLP who brilliantly pointed out that "Disabled people are to Cameron what single parents were to Thatcher. 

In every list of Tory disasters, speakers made sure sick and disabled people were there. At last

In every commentary, journalists made sure we were there. Here's La Toynbee this morning : 

"Watch that party [the Conservatives] writhe as One Nation Labour encapsulates everything divisive they do, from Cameron's tax bonus for millionaires to his cruellest cuts for the disabled......
An MP tells of the mother with cerebral palsy twins in her surgery this week losing disability benefits."

And even Ed, leader of the party, made sure we were there : 

"You can’t be a One Nation Prime Minister if all you do is seek to divide the country. Divide the country between north and south. Public and private. Those who can work and those who can’t work"

"You see I think it is incredibly important that to be One Nation we must show compassion and support for all those who cannot work. Particularly the disabled men and women of our country."

Please, I know politics is a strange, unfathomable game, but leaders make their once-a-year conference speeches in broad strokes. They are there to make the complicated clear, to laud the big beasts of the NHS, Education, the Economy or Housing. When disability makes it into a leaders speech, we can safely say we've broken through. 

This year, when I zoom after Jon Cruddas on my scooter or catch up with Michael Meacher at a conference stand, there is recognition, understanding, concern, where other years there was discomfort and a shifty eagerness to escape. 

We shone a light my friends, and now, no-one can turn it off. 

Sure, there is more to do, so much more to do, but I say to anyone who will listen "There are 650 men and women in this country who get to choose. They decide all of our futures. I just need 326 of them."

No matter what we did, we had to break the consensus. We had to make sure that the opposition opposed. Just two years ago we had nothing and no-one. Today, we have a very different board to play on. Many will say it is not enough, and of course, they are right. But as a friend once said to me, "Don't judge on where someone is, judge on how far they travelled"

We have travelled a long, long, way this year. May every year see the same progress. 


Here are some links from Labour this year that you may have missed. 

Liam Byrne's Beveridge 2 speech:

Making Rights A reality - the new discussion paper that will be taken out around the country - and online - in order that Labour might form disability policy with all disabled people. 

Here's Byrne in the Guardian finally accepting that WCAs are not working

Here's Anne Begg speaking at a parliamentary debate on Atos, called by Tom Greatrex


  1. Why bother with Yvette Cooper? Unless she thinks we're idiots with short memories as well as imaginary wheelchairs she'll be keeping herself inconspicuous. And while I notice, have you changed the settings on this blog? I see I have to sign in through Google now while others who wish to remain anonymous will have trouble posting comments at all.

  2. Glad that this is at least turning into a big stick with which to beat the Tories, but fear that we are still such a long way from helping those who need it. The progress is still significant, but changing the minds of those governing is always harder than affecting the parties in opposition.

    @Big Bill, the site has attracted a lot of trolls, the need for less anonymity is understandable if unfortunate.

  3. To be fair ... hardly anyone is called Kali and it was an assistant who assured him her name was Harriet. But I wasn't inspired to vote Labour after seeing his response to Kali.

  4. Thanks Sue for not only for the work you, Kali Sarah and others have and continue to do; but also for you all acting as catalysts for a much larger group of disabled people to engage in Politics.

    I agree we still have a good way to go but yes,we are now seeing some resistance amongst the opposition and thats a good start x

  5. I am having a little sniffle too Sue! I work in a field where tens of people with proper advertising and networking budgets work full time for years to achieve a quarter of what you, Kali and a few others have done. The next phase is going to be very tough; please keep telling us how we can help.

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  7. Yvette Cooper, said that no one had been arrested over the Libor scandal at the conference today did anyone say at the conference if anyone at ATOS or the DWP had been arrested for the negligence for the many sick and disabled deaths that had come about with regards the welfare reform bill ?

    I didn't hear anything ? i know I'm ill but i am not deaf

    i hope you are OK sue but you'll still need to press home the main message and that's to put a halt to these untimely deaths that are and continuing to crop up

    ed knows all about them as his secretary has told me so he thought it was low key a few but as i told him it has gained momentum and now admits it runs into many hundreds across the country

    that video clip is not current is it i seam to have seen that many times before ?

    I'll just stick to the justice for those families left behind following the death of one of their family members due to the gross negligence by the DWP AND atos

    It may sound negative to some but to me it's the only thing worth noting at the conference as without some redress in law for those that have died this country can never go forward as everything a politician says will be meaningless

  8. Great post Sue. Was feeling a bit depressed that Byrne was still calling for welfare cuts. You are right to point out how far they've come. Thanks to you and Kali for doing what you are doing and keeping at it. Good luck with the Nasty Party.

  9. Well where now at the end of the labour conference and with regret i found it just like all the others I have seen and heard over the past 50 years and that is repetitive and boring

    Same old thing about more affordable housing and the creation of jobs

    neither have those been achievable in the past and neither will they be achievable in the future such is the clap trap talked at in conference these days by so called educated people but which in reality are a farce but for those that are sick and disabled a deadly farce that has destroyed the lives of many families to date across the country

    The conservative conference next week will be much the same a lot of old bull listened to by people without any brains and who have got by in life by talking bull

    The only thing that will come out of the Tory conference will be more punishment handed out to the sick and disabled and that's a fact so you had better watch out if you plan to tune in next week as you'll be very much in the firing line as Osbourn delivers more cuts and yes he'll be talking to the sick and disabled and not his chums the bankers

    for those that dont understand why the above is not possible is because as a country we are not at the level of education needed to be a world player with a high skill set for high employment and with regards affordable housing our population is way to large and would need to be reduced

    There will be far to many elderly people in the years to come living in the uk and we need to think of plans in how we deal with this in a manor that will benefit everyone and not the few

    I have some very radical and inspiring ideas but will leave that for another day

  10. I think Ed Miliband and so many others do not understand that so many people can't get jobs because employers do not want to employ them. That's why it is so evil to punish people for failing to achieve the impossible. Discrimination in employment is rife and should be the first priority for government.

  11. What Ed Miliband doesn't understand is that the public whom he is trying to reassure with his rhetoric about 'being tough on abuse of the benefit system' appear to believe that you're only entitled to help if you *look* disabled 24 hours a day. As a result, many sick and disabled people with invisible and/or fluctuating conditions will continue to be seen as the legitimate target of this rhetoric.

  12. This made me cry tonight, I feel so tired from the years of writing letters, and fending off people who think we are scroungers if we are on benefits.

    The old system seemed at least to understand that disability rears its head in many ways. I worked through mine till I could not, benefits helped me stay in work, I have a son who has a disability which makes him very unemployable, we never claimed a penny for him, preferring to seem as able but with an impairment that others could accommodate if they wanted to. He has been my sole carer since he was 12, we didn't claim for that either.

    And that is the real crux of all of the problems, for those able and in need of work but with impairments there is NOTHING to prepare employers to accept them into the workplace, and even the civil service employees guidelines as set out by the DDA have disappeared from view. And the rest, who are unable to work, or incapable of sustained work throughout the day/week etc, are in such fear. For those of us who are aging and whose needs are growing, and whose illnesses have no cures, and often no effective treatments, there has been no respite from the onslaught either.

    The brown envelope is now feared, and many thousands are not even aware of what might come.

    I pray that you are right about this, that there are still politicians who will listen. We are all different, we don't fit into those tick boxes, some of us are simply ill.

    There is a need for haste, for a change soon. Not everyone has family, not everyone has a carer. It is not just the WCA but the combination with the changes due next year to housing, and the unremitting and relentless pursuit of those now in the WRAG and how they are likely to be pushed onto JSA if they fail to meet what is demanded of them.

    Does Ed understand this urgency, and the need to fight the changes in Parliament? To actually stand up and say that they are wrong? How many will not be able to make it till the next election?

  13. the conservative conference has started with the opening speech by the failed x housing minister Grant Shapps and yet again a speech full of hot air

    The same old rhetoric clapped and cheered by the brainless faithful

    Oh well at least i haven't been brain washed

  14. oh and grant by the way you stated ed milliband last week said nothing in his speech he left out everything as he wasn't reading from a script.

    well grant you made no mention of the faults that have killed people in the welfare reform bill in which the sick and disabled are told their fit for work and there not and have then died

    you also failed to mention that this young child dying through your negligence in which a Child starves to death in Westminster

    you need to keep on top of things grant like the reading of papers and the heading off of problems before disaster strikes and not like since you have been in government in which you ignore all deaths from all quarters at all times

    To all of the people of this country i would say be careful as this country is in a sink or swim mode and only the fittest will survive and very sadly this young child has died

  15. Kaliya Franklin confronted welfare minister Lord Freud well done kaliya i know someone who warned him about the deaths with regards the welfare reform bill and he just looked blank so he might

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