As we slide inexorably towards a general election, there is a lot of talk about our processes and systems, representation and choice.
What we will also see in abundance is the ubiquitous PR enhancing photo-op and no one is more in demand for a political photo-op, than people with a disability.
It yells compassion, understanding, inclusion and democracy at it’s finest, yet where are disabled people when it comes to policy? Well HG Wells said it best. He was writing not about our heart of democracy and those who purport to do it’s bidding.
He was talking about Martians who swooped and then fed on us unsuspecting humans, but it will fit here “ slowly and surely they drew their plans against us”
You only have to pick up a tabloid these days, or any or the previous hundreds of days since the welfare reform bill was mooted then framed, proposed and legislated (resulting in disabled people getting booted) to know that disabled people and carers are the scapegoats de jour.
Welfare reform sounds so sensible, so necessary and so plausible, yet a quick scan of any number of disability rights campaigning blogs or numerous pieces in Society Guardian and others, will tell you the real, staggering and “inconvenient” truth.
Disabled people and carers are being stripped of crucial benefits. Many are committing suicide, more die as they wait for their assessments telling them that they are fit and able to return to work.
Many more are left in abject poverty as they fail the tests for the benefits which their conditions (and a decent society) make theirs by right and makes our collective responsibility.
These benefits are often in work benefits, enabling disabled people to do just what we all want to do- work and live.
Not even Margaret Thatcher in her tub-thumping, union clumping and fat cat plumping zenith, would have dreamed of this.
So there we have it, canon fodder for these days of austerity presents itself as the most vulnerable people in society. As determined by those paid to protect their rights..
“Well done and Huzzah chaps, well done and huzzah. Open the champagne and let’s celebrate”
This brings me to my point and it’s this.
I have a proposal for any disabled people and carers out there who see the cracks in the ground appear and find a shiny faced and slavering, earnestly emoting candidate, darkening their door.
There they are oozing ‘political rosette’ honesty and sincerity as only a candidate can, complete with photographer or intern wielding an iphone, primed and pulsating for that "lovely photo moment".
Tell them this, either you won’t oblige or if you feel less hard hearted tell them you might, if they first autograph a small pledge which you feel may be important to your future and the futures of approximately 10,000,000 of your fellow citizens:
“I the undersigned pledge to endeavour not just to forget disabled people and carers once the election is over but instead agree to add my name to a list of MPs who are in agreement that no policy which directly affects disabled people and carers should henceforth be drawn up, without disabled people and carers.
I call for a committee of independent disability rights campaigners and groups (with no financial input from government) to be a working group who will oversee all policy decisions directly addressing disabled people and carers. in the future.
I also agree to be held accountable if the aforementioned group is not assembled within 3 months of my election.
Because I actually do care and this is just the sort of thing that made me want to be an MP in the first place not merely all those expenses which everyone tries not to mention.”
So there it is a small pledge in exchange for free PR seems like a good bargain to me.
If they have forgotten or intend to forget, then I feel there is no harm in reminding all candidates that really they work for us, all of us, every single day. Nor does it hurt to remind them all that their minds, so full of ameliorating promises, are not immeasurably superior to anyone.