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FactCheck: who runs the country? | The FactCheck Blog

July 11, 2013 Leave a comment
Categories: Data, Elections, Equality, Politics

Why did the Lib Dems really U-turn on spending cuts in 2010?

May 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Have you heard? The immigrants ruined Britain – Comment – Voices – The Independent

May 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Farage admits there are some UKIP candidates “we’d rather not have”

April 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Unions Together | protect the minimum wage

April 2, 2013 Leave a comment

On MPs salaries

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment
Categories: Elections, Funding, Politics

Owen Jones, The Indepedent: Against George Osborne’s war on the poor and the vile stupidity of his ‘workers vs shirkers’ narrative

December 10, 2012 2 comments

Against George Osborne’s war on the poor and the vile stupidity of his ‘workers vs shirkers’ narrative

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/against-george-osbornes-war-on-the-poor-and-the-vile-stupidity-of-his-workers-vs-shirkers-narrative-8397330.html

 

The hope is that, by opposing such a cap, Labour can be painted as the unapologetic champion of the widescreen-TV-watching, multiple-child-producing, closed-curtained-home-dwelling “shirkers”.

Class warriors

That a gang of multimillionaire class warriors is intentionally attempting to turn poor people against each other for political advantage is as shameful as the often grubby world of politics gets. When even the mildest suggestion is floated that Britain’s booming wealthy elite should cough up a bit more, the Tories slap it down as “the politics of envy”, and yet they shamelessly attempt to direct the resentment of struggling low-paid workers towards the supposedly luxurious conditions of their unemployed neighbours. Has there even been such a concerted, deliberate attempt by a postwar government to turn large chunks of the electorate against each other? Thatcher would blush.

It surely represents the most aggressive attempt to drive down the living standards of the poor since the second-ever Labour government was destroyed in 1931 after an attempt to slash payments to unemployed people and wages. Disastrously, it will further suck desperately needed demand out the economy. Austerity has proved self-defeating (just as the critics, smeared as “deficit-deniers”, warned) and it is the working poor and unemployed who must pay the price.

Just look at what this ideologically crazed cabal has done to our economy. According to Citibank, further large revenue shortfalls will drive the Government’s debt-to-GDP ratio close to 100 per cent of GDP, up from 43 per cent before the crisis unfolded. The underlying deficit is growing, despite attempts to massage figures with raids on the Bank of England’s quantitative easing coupons and the gifting of assets from the Royal Mail’s pension funds.

Osborne is borrowing £100bn more than expected. We are in the most protracted economic crisis in modern times; the economy is still 3.1 per cent below the pre-Lehman Brothers crash peak, and analysts warn that an unprecedented triple-dip recession is approaching. A “lost decade” is upon us. As the catastrophe unleashed by this Government worsens, so the campaign to redirect anger to our neighbours must intensify.

Bleak

To be clear, the situation facing the working poor and unemployed people was already bleak. The Resolution Foundation predicts that, in 2016, wages will be no higher than they were at the turn of the century. The poorest 10 per cent face a slide in living standards of 15 per cent by the end of this decade. Unlike the economy, food banks are booming like never before. Osborne claims his measures are to make work pay but, given that the majority of people in poverty are in working households, this is a nonsense.

There is now talk of the Labour leadership taking a stand against Osborne’s cuts. It comes after backbencher John McDonnell sent a desperate plea to his fellow MPs that, “instead of falling for this grubby trap, let’s take them on”. Labour’s response to the onslaught against the welfare state has been weak, partly because its spokesperson on the issue is Liam Byrne, a man who sums up all that is wrong with modern politics – technocratic, obsessed with tactics and stripped of purpose or belief. It has proven totally counter-productive: while the Tories can claim a clear message, Labour’s top team has risked looking hopelessly muddled and cowardly.

If the Labour leadership does show courage, it must defend the interests of the battered working poor without fuelling the sense that unemployed people are “shirkers”. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, there are now 6.5 million unemployed or under-employed people, all looking for work that does not exist. Neither are unemployed people a static group: at least one in six of us has claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance in the past two years, and millions are trapped in a cycle of low-paid work and joblessness. And as a recent report from the foundation showed, the widespread belief in ”three generations who have never worked” is a total myth. “Despite strenuous efforts,” reads the report, “the researchers were unable to locate any such families.”

To be fair to the Labour leadership, the political space for challenging welfare cuts is limited indeed. While a YouGov poll in September revealed that more than half opposed further welfare cuts, there is a Government and media-fuelled pandemic of hate against “scroungers”. There urgently needs to be a campaign led by trade unions and charities to challenge myths and give a voice to those affected – challenging the all-pervasive extreme caricatures of layabouts.

There is an alternative

Such a campaign needs to push alternatives, too. It is often alleged that the original plans of the Beveridge Report have been subverted, but it was published at a time of near-full employment. In the 35 years after its publication, unemployment rarely topped a million. Long-term unemployment alone was higher last year than all forms of unemployment in the early 1960s – the damning legacy of the trashing of British industry from the 1980s onwards. Most do not realise that by far the biggest chunk of welfare spending is on elderly people. And if Beveridge’s original aims have been corrupted, it is because the welfare state has become a subsidy for landlords charging extortionate rents and employers paying poverty wages.

Today, Labour unveils plans that move towards German-style rent controls. If combined with a council house building programme – creating jobs and stimulating the economy – the £21bn wasted on housing benefit (which should be renamed “landlord subsidy”)would be reduced. Similarly, the number of working families receiving working tax credits has risen by half since 2003 – because of a surge in low-paid jobs. A living wage would bring down spending on tax credits, and increasingly in-work benefits like housing benefit and council tax benefit. Improving workers’ rights stuck in the Victorian era would allow working people to demand better wages from their employers, too, at a time when big corporations sit on a £750bn cash mountain.

Osborne has set a trap made out of the livelihoods of the poorest people in British society. Labour must call his bluff, but a campaign challenging the Government’s demonisation campaign must create the space to do so. Let this ruse backfire – and expose the inhumanity of a Conservative Party determined to make the poorest pay for the economic calamity it is responsible for.

The News Statesman: Ed Miliband speech on mental health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2012/10/ed-milibands-speech-mental-health-full-text

 

“It is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband delivered his speech on mental health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Photograph: Getty Images.

It is excellent to be here with you today at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

I spoke a few weeks ago in Manchester about the future of our country.

About the huge challenges Britain faces, as we attempt to rebuild our economy and create a stronger society.

A country where everybody has a stake, where prosperity is fairly shared and where we protect and improve the institutions that bind us together.

I called this approach “One Nation”.

One Nation means nobody is left out, or written off.

Because it is wrong.

And we can’t succeed as a country if that’s what we do.

And today I want to talk about one of the most serious challenges our country faces.

One that writes people off in just that way.

Affecting:

North and south.

Rich and poor.

Old and young.

Those who work and those who can’t.

Disabled and non-disabled people.

A problem that can strike anyone.

It blights millions of lives.

And undermines the welfare of our nation.

And it is also a challenge that affects our competitiveness as a country.

That places a huge strain on our public services.

And that costs our economy tens of billions of pounds a year.

I am talking, of course, about the challenge of mental health.

From the people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to those fighting bouts of depression and panic attacks.

Now, you would think a widespread and important challenge like this would be something we would all talk about.

That it would be top of the political agenda.

That every leading politician would be obliged to address to it.

That we would be falling over each other, as we do, to prove that we had a solution.

But that doesn’t tend to happen.

For far too long leading politicians from all parties, including my own, have maintained an almost complete silence about mental health.

Only in emergencies and at the extreme end of conditions do we tend to talk about the issue.

Now there will be some people who say that mental health is the kind of subject we can talk about in the good times, but not when the economy is such a priority.

In my view, that is the opposite of the truth.

Because mental health is an economic challenge holding back prosperity.

Because however hard the economic challenges, we cannot forget about people’s quality of life.

And, finally, if we want a politics that talks directly to the challenges that British people face in their everyday lives, we cannot allow the silence to continue.

Taboo

And it’s not just politics that is too silent.

It is a taboo running across our society which infects both our culture and our politics.

It is a taboo which not only blights the lives of millions but also puts severe strain on the funding of our NHS and threatens Britain’s ability to pay our way in the world.

It is a taboo which must be broken if we are to rebuild Britain as One Nation.

Mental health is subject we all, whoever we are, still instinctively avoid.

At home, in the workplace and in our communities, it tends to be brushed under the carpet.

Teachers and our parents are unlikely to talk to us about mental illness when we are young.

And we all fear the unknown.

Today in 2012, far too many people in this country still feel as if they have to pretend they have something else wrong with them when they are struggling with depression.

People can be scared to tell their boss.

Intimidated by the culture that still surrounds mental illness.

Scared into silence.

And it’s not just their employers.

It’s their family and friends who don’t know how to react either.

As Kevan Jones, a Labour MP who has bravely spoken out about his own depression, said to me recently: if you have a serious physical illness, the get well messages tend to flood in.

But when a friend of his was struggling with depression recently and Kevan sent him a message, his friend told him it was the only one he had received.

Mental ill health can affect anyone, but it is more openly talked about in some sections of society than others.

For people to talk about it and get help, there needs to be a common language and understanding.

If it isn’t recognised, it is as if it doesn’t exist.

People pretend they are OK, family and friends turn a blind eye, nothing happens until it is often too late.

A change of culture has happened with illnesses that have previously been taboo: from cancer to aids to other sexually transmitted diseases.

But it hasn’t yet happened as much as it needs to with mental health.

I’ve seen it in Doncaster, in my own constituency.

Just last Friday, I was at the Depot Community Drugs Project in a town called Mexborough, which does a brilliant job helping with drugs treatment and education, training and rehabilitation.

A man probably in his late forties happened to walk in and told me his story.

About fifteen years ago, his sister died of cancer and his marriage broke down soon after.

He couldn’t sleep.

Because of stress.

The trauma.

Anxiety and depression.

And he didn’t know what to do.

As he leaned on his gatepost one day, someone he knew walked past and said he could provide something to help him sleep.

It was heroin.

Having previously smoked cannabis, he tried it and pretty soon he was hooked.

It took eight years of him being pushed to the brink by drugs for him to seek help.

Now six years later, he had found paid work probably for the first time since his addiction.

I talked to him about what had happened.

And he volunteered that if we lived in a culture where the trauma of bereavement and the need to get help for mental health problems were more clearly recognised, things could have been very different for him.

Think of how much better that would have been for him, and think how much better it would have been for the country.

This is the reality for many people today.

From mothers struggling with post-natal depression, young people in schools, people facing stress and anxiety at the workplace, to some of our ethnic minority communities who face a higher incidence of some conditions.

Mental ill-health is a cradle to grave problem with nothing like a cradle to grave service.

The Scale of the Problem

As I speak here today, one in six people across Britain are affected by a mental illness.

That is one in six people in each town or city, each workplace or community.

Of course, this covers a range of illnesses.

From people facing catastrophic crisis and collapse to those whose condition is less severe.

There is some evidence that mental illness has become far worse in the 21st century.

Growing as a result of unequal societies, a long-hours culture, and from the erosion of social bonds.

But even if that is not the case, and it was always there, and never fully recognized, the scale of the problem is clear.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lifetime.

And that really means that mental illness affects everyone in some way.

If it is not you yourself who is struggling, it is your mum or dad, son or daughter, nephew or niece, friend or loved one.

The WHO predicts that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease around the world.

Physical or mental.

And people can lose years off their lives as mental illnesses undermine their physical health too.

Increasing their vulnerability in the face of cancer, heart disease and all the other great killers of our new century.

It is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age.

That means mental health must be at the top of the agenda of the next Labour government.

Fighting the taboo

Fighting the taboo is the first thing we need to do.

People like Marcus Trescothick, Stephen Fry, Fiona Phillips, Labour’s Alastair Campbell and Kevan Jones, and politicians from other parties, like Charles Walker, have all been exceptionally brave in sharing their own painful stories with our country.

And some newspapers from the Sunday Express and Observer have tried to break the taboo and they too are to be congratulated.

But far too often there is scepticism and abuse.

Abuse that reinforces the taboo.

And it’s not just casual name calling in the streets or the school playground.

There are still people who abuse the privilege of their celebrity to insult, demean and belittle others.

Such as when Janet Street-Porter in a shocking article says that depression is “the latest must-have accessory” promoted by the “misery movement”.

And Jeremy Clarkson, who may have at least acknowledged the tragedy of people who end their own lives, goes on to call them “Johnny Suicides” whose bodies should be left on train tracks rather than delay journeys.

It is attitudes like these that reinforce the stigma that blights millions of people’s lives.

And holds our country back.

The fight against racism, against sexism and against homophobia, made the acceptable, unacceptable.

So we should join the fight against this intolerance.

It is wrong.

It costs Britain dear.

And it has to change.

But it is not just open prejudice that we have to overcome.

We have to confront the unspoken discriminations too.

Like the vast inequalities in funding for research.

Like the lack of training in mental health of many NHS staff – whether in GP surgeries, outpatient clinics or A&E. Eight out of ten primary care professionals say they need more training in mental health than they have.

Like the lack of understanding of mental health that seems to characterise parts of the social security system.

And like the willingness of governments to make the first and deepest cuts in services for mental health.

Indeed, it is a very troubling sign that for the first time in a decade we have seen a cut in total spending on mental health.

A reduction of £150million, including cuts in crisis services and out-reach programmes.

Imagine if this had happened in one of the key killer physical diseases.

People would have been up in arms, and rightly so.

The Consequences of our Inaction

The toll of all this neglect is enormous.

In the trouble stored up over the years as minor problems become major ones.

The extra physical healthcare necessitated by mental illness costs the NHS a further £10 billion a year, according to the London School of Economics.

The criminal justice system also picks up the bill.

Seventy percent of those in our prisons have a mental illness.

But it is not just our public services that bear the burden.

British business does too.

In time off work.

In unproductive days at work.

Mental ill health costs Britain’s businesses almost £8.5 billion in sickness absence each year.

The single biggest cause of long-term sickness absence.

It costs almost £2.5 billion in replacing staff who are unable to continue at work.

And it costs £15 billion in reduced productivity.

That’s almost £26 billion a year.

Or £71 million each and every single day.

And think how little we talk about this major burden on business.

Costs our economy cannot afford.

So mental health is an economic as well as a social challenge.

Our failure to act is a national failure.

It’s one we must put right if we are to be a One Nation Britain, where everybody has a stake and we build shared prosperity.

One Nation

So can we do it?

It is often hard for a country to admit that the time has come to confront new problems.

Particularly when economic times are difficult.

But our country has faced these kind of challenges before.

Major unaddressed challenges that affect the whole country.

Challenges that seem to too big to overcome.

It was true in the 19th century.

The speech that Benjamin Disraeli used in 1872 to launch the idea of One Nation was, in fact, about sanitation.

He called upon Britain to rise to the challenge of public health.

To take on the squalor in our towns and cities and to reject “unsanitary living conditions” wherever they were to be found.

Because it was in all of our interests.

It took at least thirty years for British politics to respond fully.

It was only when unfit and unhealthy soldiers were sent to the Boer War and were unable to rise to the demands of the conflict that governments dared properly to act.

In the 20th century, in the Great Depression of the 1930s, it was apparent that the patchwork of private and charitable health services was inadequate.

But it took the Second World War and the great reforming Labour government that followed it, to rise to the task and establish the National Health Service.

The 21st century challenge of mental health is as profound.

Like sanitation, it is a massive public health challenge, affecting millions.

Like the demand for an NHS in the 1930s, our national response is wholly inadequate against the scale of the challenge.

In both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it took war to shock us out of complacency.

This time we can’t wait for greater crisis.

We must act.

It means changing the ways that we do things in this country so that we actually save money.

And improve lives.

But it requires us to break the taboos, to build a consensus for action, to change our NHS and to deploy all the resources of Britain – a truly One Nation solution – to put it right.

One Nation Solutions

So, we need to change the status of mental health in our National Health Service and in our wider society.

I don’t come today with all the solutions but a clear direction of travel.

The last Labour government began to transform mental health provision in our country.

It made well-respected, evidence-based therapies available to more people than ever before.

Taking mental health treatment into communities that had never received them.

We need to do all we can now to protect those programmes.

But even the last Labour government did not do enough to acknowledge the scale of the challenge.

Too often governments have been stuck in a mindset that thought that physical health should always take priority.

That waiting lists for cancer or heart surgery were always going to be more important than those for mental health.

I am proud that Labour peers won the fight to go further than we had in government and ensure that the Health and Social Care Act contained a commitment to “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health.

This was accepted by the Government.

But here is the problem.

Governments are in the habit in this country of passing laws and then forgetting about them.

Think how radical a commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health really is.

Waiting times.

Access to treatment.

Professional knowledge.

Patient experience.

Making “parity of esteem” real is a monumental and generational task.

Here’s where we should start.

We should rewrite the Constitution of our National Health Service.

The Constitution is a great thing because it sets out the rights and guarantees patients have.

But it is inadequate in mental health.

For example, the Constitution does give patients the rights to drugs and medical treatments, for mental health problems. Something I suspect that many people don’t know.

But it doesn’t give them the right to therapies.

This seems the wrong approach, particularly given concerns about over-prescription of medication in mental health.

So we should re-write the NHS Constitution and create for citizens a new right – for the first time – to psychological therapies that help people recover from conditions like anxiety and depression.

Currently there is money allocated in the NHS budget for this purpose, but reports suggest it is not always being spent on what it was intended for.

This is a completely false economy.

Wrong for patients.

And wrong for the country.

Talking therapies can help people and can save money, so they must be a NHS priority.

And we need to look right across the board at how we can make parity of esteem real in practice.

And we need to match parity of esteem in the NHS with an end to the artificial divide between physical and mental health services and ensure that they are properly integrated.

As Andy Burnham has said, the commitment to proper integration of mental, physical and social care will run through Labour’s whole approach to health care.

We need to see more mental health specialists working in teams with GPs, nurses and carers.

We need to look at extending personal health budgets that enable patients to select the best combination of services and treatments for themselves.

Both mental and physical.

We also need all health professionals to see promoting good mental health and spotting signs of mental ill-health as part of what they do.

So we should ensure that the training of doctors, nurses and all professional staff who work in the NHS includes mental health.

So a One Nation solution to the challenge of mental health starts with our National Health Service.

Beyond the NHS

But fully to rise to that challenge, we need also to look beyond the NHS itself.

Too often we act as if the answer to our health crises starts and stops with new government programmes.

And we don’t ask enough of others in our society.

Thinking of the service provided by government as the answer on its own misses the point of how we can succeed as a country.

Mobilising the contribution, the talent, the expertise of the patient, the parent, the carer, and changing the way our wider society works, is as important in determining whether any public service can succeed in its intentions.

Good mental health doesn’t start in hospital or the treatment room.

It starts in our workplaces, our schools and our communities.

So the task falls as much to organisations like British business and the CBI as it does to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

In fact, everybody has a part to play.

Only a nation acting together can overcome the challenge we face.

That is what One Nation is about.

There are already some excellent examples of new plans for mental health in Britain today.

Take British business.

A few years ago, British Telecom acknowledged that mental ill-health was costing their firm dear.

Holding them back.

So they implemented a new mental health strategy across the whole firm.

They abandoned pre-employment medical checks that had blocked opportunities for those with mental health conditions.

They saved £400,000 a year in the process.

And instead they said that mental ill-health should be no barrier to working at their company.

And they offered new training to managers so they could help everyone in the firm play their part.

And they found that after four years, sickness absence rates due to mental health problems had not risen, as you might expect, but had fallen by a third.

Despite all the pressures and stresses that people have been facing in recent years.

It is the kind of transformation we need to see across our economy.

One encouraged by the campaign Time to Change, which has done a fantastic job in tackling mental health discrimination at work and the new Mental Health Discrimination Bill currently before Parliament.

And it’s not just business that needs to change.

The same is true in our schools.

The last Labour government placed an emphasis on the mental well-being of their students.

To give them the emotional, psychological resilience that they need.

To help them face the challenges of the twenty-first century.

But David Cameron’s government dismisses these concerns as peripheral and they’ve told the school inspectors to ignore them.

Offering no incentives to innovation.

No encouragement to teachers who know that children who are mentally and emotionally tougher are also better able to pass exams and make their way in the world.

It is a short-sighted, old-fashioned, conservative in the worst sense of the word, way of running British education.

It is as simple as that.

So too we need to tackle mental health issues in criminal justice, which I have already talked about, in the social security system, in families.

So we need a mental health strategy outside as well as inside the National Health Service.

Tackling the culture and changing the way our society treats mental health.

A One Nation solution will bring together people from every walk of life to address this problem.

And that’s what I have asked Stephen O’Brien, chair of Barts NHS Trust and Vice President of Business in the Community, to do as he leads our new Mental Health Taskforce.

We will ask searching questions about the culture of work in Britain, about the impact of inequality, about the way our schools work and relate to their wider communities.

We will learn from the best of the rest of the world.

We will plan what needs to be done.

And when we are in government we will act.

Conclusion

I don’t remember people talking about mental health much when I was growing up.

Times were different.

The taboo was even more intense then than it is now.

The problems hidden even deeper under the surface.

I am proud to live in a country where that taboo has been challenged by some.

To live at a time when some people are beginning to speak out.

But I know that not enough has yet been done.

I know that far too many still suffer in silence.

Too many stay away from their GP.

Or work in offices and factories not set up to help.

Or live in communities with far too few services.

Or feel isolated and alone.

The next Labour government won’t be able to put all this right overnight.

Silences in our culture are hard to break.

Taboos are resistant to being overcome.

But just as Disraeli was right back in the nineteenth century that we could not build One Nation unless we addressed public health, so it is true today we cannot build One Nation unless we all speak out about mental health.

The next Labour government will reform our health service to guarantee that mental health enjoys real equality of status.

The next Labour government will work with British business to improve our workplaces, helping people stay in work and make their contribution.

And the next Labour government will work with our schools to prepare our children for the demands of life.

But most of all the Labour Party I lead will speak out against prejudice.

We can’t prevent all mental ill-health.

There are not cures for all conditions.

But we can help change the culture in our country.

We can insist that everyone counts.

That everyone matters.

And that no-one dealing with any form of illness should ever feel ashamed.

That’s how you bring real change to Britain.

That’s how you build One Nation.

The Guardian: Disabled people need a louder voice in parliament to represent them

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/sep/11/disabled-people-voice-parliament-represent

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 September 2012 16.33 BST

White, male, middle class and Oxbridge educated. It’s the traditional makeup of this country’s political arena and one that, depressingly, became more entrenched after last week’s cabinet reshuffle.

David Cameron had five female cabinet ministers before the reshuffle, four afterwards, and two more (white) men. It was described as a “bad day for women” , but at least this was commented upon. The complete absence of disabled people didn’t get a mention. A group truly knows they are marginalised when their absence from power isn’t even noticed.

I am aware of only four MPs with a physical disability: Anne Begg, David Blunkett, Gordon Brown and Paul Maynard. No one knows the exact number because the data has never been collected. Forget a place around the cabinet table; disabled people are barely getting in the building.

An MP sharing a characteristic with a group is no guarantee he or she will fight for them. The new female minister for women, Maria Miller, has the necessary reproductive organs, but apparently no interest in protecting a woman’s right to make decisions about hers. But this does nothing to reduce the need for women’s increased presence in parliament – and it is no different for disabled people.

The makeup of parliament is important. When people from a marginalised group get a foot in the political process, that group – both their faces and their interests – begin to be represented.

For disabled people, this means the interests that affect the majority as well as those that scar them as a minority. Disabled people are more likely to live in poverty, have no formal qualifications or be unemployed than their non-disabled counterparts. Often, the critical issues that affect everyone hit the disabled harder. It’s all too easy, though, for a House of Commons with barely a disabled person in it to overlook the disability dimension to mainstream policy, let alone issues that only affect disabled people. As disability benefits are slashed, you can’t help but wonder how things would be if Iain Duncan Smith or George Osborne had to ask Atos for Disability Living Allowance.

It is particularly stinging for a group that is routinely patronised to be again placed in the role of passive recipient of “care”. Disabled campaigners sit ignored on the sidelines, as, over in parliament, non-disabled MPs make the decisions.

There are 11 million people with a disability in Britain. In light of their absence from power, either we’re to believe being disabled makes a person less capable of holding office or there are multiple obstacles standing in their way.

In truth, there are barriers everywhere; even the most basic such as not being able to use public transport with a wheelchair or communicate without a sign language interpreter. In June, the government launched a £2.6m fund to help with this. But little will improve until we address the barriers that go beyond financial; be it the refusal to let MPs job share or perceptions of disability that, in the secrecy of a ballet box, may affect a disabled person’s electability. These obstacles are cultural and all the harder to shift for it.

The message that must be understood to get disabled people into parliament is the same one that will get them anywhere: needing support for a physical disability does not mean a person is any less able.

The fact is, as disabled athletes represented their country, there were still no disabled cabinet members permitted to do the same. Who represents us matters. A society that is not represented by disabled politicians excludes all disabled people.

• Frances Ryan is a writer and a political researcher at the University of Nottingham. She tweets @frances__ryan

Disability campaigner standing for parliament in protest against cuts

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/9917762.Disability_campaigner_standing_for_parliament_in_protest_against_cuts/

 

A disability campaigner will try to give the major political parties a bloody nose by standing in a parliamentary byelection.

Adam Lotun, from Tolworth, will stand in the Corby and East Northamptonshire seat on November 15.

The independent candidate is director of a disability workplace company but is also a spokesman for Disabled People Against Cuts.

The father-of-two is also a former Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, safer neighbourhood ward panel chairman and member of the Kingston community police partnership.

He said: “I am standing on a number of issues, although my specialism is disability.

“I am standing because disabled people have had enough. This is no idle flash in the pan – this is serious.”

As a wheelchair user Mr Lotun said his biggest challenge will be campaigning and door knocking but he said so far the support has been extremely generous.

He said: “I never thought I would be in this position. I have done a lot of sort of political work around Kingston and online as well but I never thought I would stand as a candidate for Parliament.

“It is just fantastic the amount of support that I am being given. It’s just gone mad.”

The election is being reported as a significant test of Government policy at the polls and will see Mr Lotun go head to head with Conservative candidate Christine Emmett, Labour’s Andy Sawford and Jill Hope for the Liberal Democrats.

The election was called after Louise Mensch stood down as Conservative MP for the Northamptonshire constituency in August.

Mrs Mensch, who is moving to New York to be with her three children and husband – who is manager of rock band Metallica – won the marginal seat in 2010 with a 1,951-vote majority.

Corby has nearly always been a marginal seat.

The seat was Conservative in the 1980s and 1990s but swung to Labour in 1997, before shifting back to the Tories.

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