Do you remember Ed Miliband's "I met a man speech"? Or Liam Byrne's "Strivers V Skivers"? How could we forget the workfare debacle?
Just how many times have we slammed our heads into the desk in despair, wondering if they actually live on the same planet as us mere mortals?
Before we can expect policies from Labour on "welfare", first we have to see they get it. Do they really see what's so horrifically wrong with this whole system? Do they truly accept it? Do they still think WCAs are the right thing or do they accept that they're fundamentally flawed, that tinkering around the edges is not an option?
In their hearts, is a system of punitive sanctions and cruel tricks still necessary? Do they still doubt and judge us as they did in power? Or have 3 years of constituent's tears and suffering thawed their resolve?
You might remember that during my conference speech, I referred to a document, Making Rights a Reality, the Labour response to a year long consultation up and down the country asking sick and disabled people and their carers what is wrong with the system as it stands.
I've read many "listening exercises" and usually there's nothing even vaguely controversial in them. They simply "listen" to the bits the politicians want to hear.
Well, here is the document, released at last.
The first section recounts the problems in the system as we reported them. I don't think much is left out.
The second section suggests ways forward if Labour regain power and would involve totally fundamental reform of the system. Far from tinkering around the edges, it suggests root and branch reform that would fundamentally change the entire nature of our social security provision for people with disabilites or long term illnesses.
When I first saw the document, we were asked what we thought. I said this :
"If the INTENT has truly changed. If we have truly persuaded you to approach the whole system differently, from judgement to trust, from sanctions to incentive, then I think this document and the suggestions within it are incredible. If we've truly persuaded ALL of the party that we need support not penalties, inspiration not punishment, then this is more radical than I ever dared hope for. But it's all about INTENT. Do you truly believe now that helping us to the best of your ability will create a more efficient, cost effective system? Because unless we've truly won your hearts and minds, unless we've truly persuaded you, this will fail as abjectly as ESA and PIP."
So, here it is. This document is a blueprint for our futures, it will affect our lives fundamentally if Labour regain power. I really hope you read it all. I think I may have given up hope that Labour were listening at all at times. I think I'd stopped believing they could hear us. This document gave me hope. I hope it gives you some hope too. Hope that they did hear us and hope that they might continue to.