Why are disabled people being asked to die for Labour’s election hopes

Rachel Reeves: Does she expect disabled people to lay down their lives for Labour?

Rachel Reeves: Does she expect disabled people to lay down their lives for Labour?

… Especially when it won’t improve those hopes?

Extremely disturbing news has reached Vox Political, courtesy of Liza Van Zyl on Facebook. Extremely long-term readers may recall Liza was the lady who received a visit from police who claimed she had committed a criminal act against the Department for Work and Pensions, just before midnight on October 26, 2012 – being that she had been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following reassessment by Atos and the DWP for Employment and Support Allowance.

Fortunately for those who still have to undergo these assessments, she was not discouraged and has continued to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves. However, she is currently suffering severe disenchantment with the Labour Party, as she recounts below:

“We heard from Owen Smith MP today [Saturday, March 7] (a member of the left wing of the of the Labour Party leadership) that it is important for disabled people to continue to die, lest any commitment by Labour to scrap the Work Capability Assessment generate a negative response in the press and affect Labour’s general election chances.

“He said that while he personally doesn’t like the WCA, his Labour colleagues will not support scrapping it because of fears it will play badly with the right wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances… I’ve since been contacted by other disabled people who’ve raised the issue with their Labour MPs, and the response has been: Yes, the WCA isn’t nice but if Labour commits to scrapping it, it would appear to be ‘soft on welfare’.

“The similarities of these responses (and given that Owen Smith is a frontbench shadow sec of state and therefore presumably is up to date on party strategy) indicates that this is an agreed line or represents an actual decision. This is profoundly disturbing, given that a great many Labour MPs know in detail exactly what suffering and deaths the WCA is responsible for among their own constituents: Tom Greatrex organised a powerful meeting of Labour MPs with Chris Grayling two years ago. Dame Anne Begg is herself a disabled person, as are other MPs.

“So: When was the decision taken by Labour MPs that the opinion of the right wing press matters more than the suffering and deaths of disabled people? How was this decision made, and why didn’t the likes of John McDonnell, Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn etc kick up a holy fuss? I have put the WCA question to parliamentary candidates Jo Stevens, Mari Williams, Chris Elmore and Elizabeth Evans and got the strong impression from them that they were committed to scrapping the WCA… What is going on?”

What, indeed.

This writer would prefer to believe that Labour does not intend to keep the Work Capability Assessment in its current form. The claim here is that an offer to scrap the hated test would “play badly with the right-wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances” – it doesn’t say anything about what might happen afterwards.

But this raises two points:

  • Labour needs to be told that this ambiguous position is harming its chances at the election. Sick and disabled people vote; so do their families and friends, and so do the families and friends of the many thousands who have died or suffered greatly as a result of the current, demented assessment system. They don’t want to be told that Labour supports a system that kills people for being ill and will most likely vote for one of the alternative parties if this remains Labour policy. The people who read the right-wing press don’t – and won’t – vote Labour, and it is pointless trying to engage them; they are a tiny minority of the electorate. It would be far better for Labour to engage the far greater number of people who want justice in their social security system..
  • If Labour does intend to scrap or change the WCA, then we’re looking at electoral dishonesty of the kind that forced so many people to lose their faith in politics after the Conservative and Liberal Democrat betrayals that started in 2010 and have continued to this day. Those of us who support Labour want a government that is better.

This writer has tried to get answers from Rachel Reeves, her team, and Ed Miliband many times before, to be met with stony silence. Perhaps if they see a letter about this in the very right-wing papers whose support they are trying to gain, they might actually wake up and realise the stupidity in their handling of this serious issue.

I am quite happy to draft such a letter. Newspapers seem happy to publish correspondence with many signatories, so it seems logical to ask for people who are prepared to support it with their names. Please get in touch, via this blog’s comments, Twitter or Facebook with your name and (if you are part of a relevant organisation) position, and let’s get something sorted before the weekend.

Please share this article with anyone who might wish to contribute.

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132 thoughts on “Why are disabled people being asked to die for Labour’s election hopes

      1. Thomas connors

        Yep sure as hell up for it, Owen smith is my local m.p for Pontypridd he has avoided helping me in the past as I am disabled, tried going to him twice for support and help got very minimal help if you can call it that lol

      1. radicalpeter

        You’ve blown it Labour

        You took a massive beating in 2010
        And it looks like it will happen again
        You’ve lost the plot, you stupid twats
        Enclosed in your bubble, a fairies nest
        The unreal world of technocrats
        It was Tory Blair who destroyed our faith
        In all things socialist that we once embraced
        Plus Brown and Mandelson, lying cow sons
        Like Machiavellian wizards created the hated PFI
        That sold the welfare state belonging to you and I.
        Hoodwinking our unions with” jam tomorrow”
        As they ploughed in millions, for lies so hollow
        Union leaders gave pots of OUR money away
        So Ermine robes would grace their backs
        As in the House of Lords they finally sat
        You’ve blown it Labour with the working class
        As you talk and babble of the upper middle ones
        We are told to bend down and kiss their arse
        Labour is stone like dead and must be revived
        The Miliband millionaires in front row seats
        Will lead OUR party into certain defeat
        A working class hero is what OUR party we needs
        REAL working socialists for the party to succeed
        Old fashioned socialist and not multimillionaires
        Must take over labour for the working class
        Just as they did in Nye Bevan’s days
        When nationalisation of everything
        Gave us workers the socialist dream
        So pack your bags, you must go
        For we are sick and tired
        Of Ed Miliband’s one man show.

        You’ve Blown it Ed now just p*ss off
        And go.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        What does this have to do with the article?
        This is not – I repeat, NOT – about deriding Labour for the sake of it.
        It’s about telling the political party that is our best hope for the future that it needs to reform its vote-haemorrhaging welfare policies.

  1. Guy Lawfull

    Count me in. I may be one individual, but many such individuals working together can make a difference!

  2. HomerJS

    I think you are right Mike that this is Labour’s greatest area of weakness. I agree that they have been too scared of the reaction from the right wing press, and are probably over-estimating the danger from the media. A lot of vulnerable people have suffered under this coalition, and with Universal Credit all the low paid will be made to suffer next. My calculation is that there are far more votes to be won than lost here. They don’t even need to work hard at making the case, as all that has been done by others, and they just need to collect the ‘evidence’. Quite happy to add my signature to this.

  3. loobitzh

    I would willingly put my name to it.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly Mike, I have been waiting in anticipation for the Labour party to begin to state their honest intentions and beliefs around the WCA etc.

    For me, it is vital that if Labour wants my vote, then it needs to start speaking out in a very loud voice about the damage being caused by this policy and WHAT THEY INTEND TO DO ABOUT IT,,, IDEALLY SCRAP IT

    Their apparent reticence does not reassure me or fill me with confidence that they are on our side and will get things fixed., it leaves me very unsure and Insecure.

    We need a Strong Labour Leadership, which speaks out for the Working and Unemployed Classes with a Reassuring Voice which offers Real Hope, because without it I fear we are sunk. And that does not bear thinking about…

    I cant take much more of this psychological torture being handed out by the Tories.
    I live in constant fear and anxiety. and when Im not fearful, I become filled with Rage.

    This is no life…. Ive just about had enough…….Im hanging on for a Labour Victory so I can breath again, so we can all breath and taste Democratic Freedom. I feel like a prisoner, a slave. Its destroying me. Im 55, I live alone and have lived through some unimaginable abuse, which I have survived but not without its lifelong consequences.

    I never dreamt I would get to this age and have to endure such torment from our Government.

  4. casalealex

    I agree with Guy Lawful, and would sign the letter!

    I have just posted this article on the Labour Forum with my comment;

    Please, please, please, Labour MUST read this post and make the right decision. We do not have to pander to the Tory press and media. Come out and tell us you agree with the sentiments of this post! It will give incentive to those suffering under this totalitarian regime!

  5. Steve Grant

    If this is indeed policy then I will not be voting for the Labour Party and my vote will go to the Greens..I have a very disabled wife who I have looked after for 17 years and I have no intention of leading her into suicide to elect yet more corrupt politicians. A pox on these morally corrupt people.

      1. Larry McCauley

        Time is running out for them to do that. I’m disabled and a vote for Labour is currently a vote for the WCA. I have gone through suicidal thoughts and stress related illnesses over the WCA on top of my painful disability. I can’t vote for any party that wants to keep torturing me.

    1. psfmsocialists

      I am with you Sir, I am profoundly disabled Veteran, I am a Revolutionary Socialsit at heart and I have enough issues with Labour as it is such as letting 40 odd of their MP’s not turn up to a vote in 2013 to scrap the Bedroom Tax or as the Policy actually calls it a Spare Room PENALTY (not Subsidy thats Tory propaganda). When it only took 20 MP’s to scrap it, but Labour have been on internet in video’s saying they will keep the Bedroom Tax and then they claim they will partially abolish it so those who can move but refuse to will be forced to pay up (Lib Dem policy there).

      The fact Labour just voted with the Regiem for another £30billion in public sector cuts, they keep up wit ha failed policy, for me as a profoundly disabled person the WCA is important even though im in Support Group and I am the founder and leader of a Political Party of my own and a qualified Social Scientist and Political Scientist, I have used all legal medication and it has failed so my human rights matter to me and it might be mundane to some but legalisation of medical and restricted recreational Cannabis (like Europe and America and Israel and Palestine and most of the World has done). This will not only help people like me who need it medically, it will generate revenue from Cannabis Medical Licenses to buy yearly from local authorities for £50 a pop that permits the patient to grow up to 30 plants for personal use legally. I also, support it because it will create 50,000 jobs in sales, over 10,000 jobs in collective farms and it will generate lots of money thru saved policing, releasing Cannabis only offenders from jail, by creating slaes tax, employment tax, business tax and lowered unemployment bills.Also, I back stronger Green policies like expansion of solar panels and thermal panels for the poor and disabled and veterans, a home for all policy meaning all privately owned homes that are empty should be seized by the State and put to good use without renumeration to the land owner.

      I also, support a living wage of £8 per hour with a review after 18 months for all workers regardless of age and sex, no one wage for 16-18 year old and another for over 21’s and over 25’s just one flat living wage for all workers, I back 16 year old right to vote, I back a social stimulus in economic spending not for big business or banks but for the people, if they owe over a certain amount of money in debt, then clear that debt off them, give the peopel a bail out to increase disposable income and stimulate high street spending. Yet Labour seem to hate the SNP Nationalist proposal for this.

      One thing Labour NEVER will do that I and many other disabled people want that is this Regime Ministers to be arrested for Corporate Manslaughter, Genocide, Criems Against Humanity, Corruption among a few charges, shut down the Conservative and Liberal Democrats as a criminal organisation like the NSDAP of Germany was in 1945. Then give a 1 time execution of the said Minisers for their serious crimes.

      Also, abolition of Fractional Reserve Banking, allow the State to print its own debt free and interest free currency, abolition of interest rates on mortages and loans for small and medium size business and the people, to break interest debt slavery, the connection of currency valuation to national productivity that helps to create a strong currency that demands business have high employment levels and productivity at msot times for a strong economy and no gold smith or busienss can manipulate the economy unliek at present, the arrest and jailing of bank fruadsters, money launderers and tax evaders, making tax avoidance a crime. Forcing Corporations to pay what they owe us since 2007 or face being taken over by the people with no renumeration to the owners and with CEO’s being jailed for tax avoidance and evasion. This way the ideological theory of Austerity aka Herbert Hoover Principle will be abolished and not required.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        I think you’re a little confused on a couple of issues. Those who didn’t attend the Bedroom Tax vote were ‘paired’ with MPs from the opposing benches. Pairing allows other business to take place while these votes happen, without affecting the result. Labour would not have won the vote in either event. Secondly, it is Labour’s policy to abolish the Bedroom Tax, and Rachel Reeves has vowed to put the mechanism in motion to do this on May 8, if a Labour government is elected.

        Nor has Labour voted with the Coalition for a further £30 billion in cuts. Labour voted to support the Charter for Budget Responsibility, which is fully in accordance with Labour’s own fiscal plan involving just £7 billion of cuts, spread over four years between 2016-2020. The Tory plan is – as Ed Balls revealed yesterday – for no less than 10 times as much money to be cut – £70 billion. If a Conservative government is elected, these cuts will take place; if Labour is elected, the effect will be less than £2 billion cut from a budget of more than £300 billion. That’s a big difference!

  6. Roy Bard

    Rachel Reeves and Kate Green made their plans for WCA clear in April 2014 (1), and Kate Green said similar things at the open SERTUC meeting in October 2014 (2)
    (1) http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment-9265479.html.
    (2) http://dpac.uk.net/2015/01/alarm-bells-are-ringing-answers-please-kate-green/

    The Mental Health Resistance Network sees no place for profiteering in assessments, and continuie to believe that the basis of the tests is wrong and they cannot be reformed. They need to be scrapped.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Yes – it’s not entirely encouraging, in that it still contracts the work out to organisations whose ‘healthcare professionals’ have, so far, proved to be anything but.

  7. k j

    The problem is the wca are large employers and I wonder if the hcps employment is more of a concern to labour than the rights of the disabled to justice

  8. Thomas

    I’ll be voting Labour as the other left wing parties are too small to get anywhere but I don’t know if I trust them.

  9. Alan Frost

    I and all my family have always been ardent Labour supporters, with never any thoughts of drifting, until ATOS medicals (full of downright lies and ill intention). I want to see Labour return to trusting the NHS for assessments. The fee paid to the likes of ATOS would be far better given to the NHS and assessments would be fair.

    There is a need to encourage people into work and to follow directions, but sanctions should be reasonably/fairly applied and only after warnings and as a last resort. The 20M walking distance for DLA is totally unreasonable and people should not live in constant fear of the unfair practices as currently applied.

  10. bookmanwales

    This article and the some of the comments show just how badly Labour are performing in the opinion of those that matter.
    Labours lack of clarity on both the WCA and sanctions leaves people wondering just what they will do. The statement “helping disabled into work” is a line from the Tory rhetoric over the last 5 years along with their “sanctions have a place in the system” in regard to unemployment.

    A Labour party that cannot give concise clear answers as to what they will do about these issues is at risk of losing themselves the election and throwing their votes at the Greens or UKIP.

    We all know some people, no matter how much they want to work, will never be acceptable to an employer ( or their insurers) especially not with 2 million or so able bodied, healthy individuals chasing the same jobs and we also know ( despite legislation against age) that some older unemployed will have extreme difficulty gaining employment regardless of sanctions, signing every day or undergoing 6 months “work experience”.

    The WCA and sanctions should be scrapped altogether and real meaningful support provided for those that can work and support for those that can’t.

    The £5 billion + spent on the Work programme and WCA over the last 5 years could have kept Remploy open and also provided many full time jobs for those long term unemployed rather than lining the pockets of wealthy, offshore banking corporations or individuals.

    1. Mr.Angry

      You have my total support in what you have stated the most logical reasoning I have read in a long time. Please keep your logic and thoughts running in deciding the future for many unfortunate individuals in the campaign groups blogs I am disgusted with the assessment procedure used to determine one’s capabilities Labour who started this fiasco better wake up soon before it destroys them.

      Rachael Reeves needs to wake up and quickly the voters are running scared they have suffered enough and many have taken their own lives.

      I am starting to get second thoughts as to who I would want to save our country.

  11. Phil The Folk

    Agree wholeheartedly Mike. You know my personal reasons. You also know that I have phoned London Labour HQ on several occasions now lambasting them about this and pointing out that they could destroy the Tories in one fell swoop by revealing the truth about all the deaths from the WCA and the ESA assessment process. This issue is the main reason for me being VERY worried about going with Labour again just to get the Tories out. I would sign it!

  12. Bert

    Sadly I don’t think that Labour is going to win, Mike. The party might have had a chance if it wasn’t going down the plughole in Scotland, but as it is I reckon not. Miliband tried his best but his best turned out not to be anywhere near good enough. If he had a good team around him, helping and advising him, Ed Miliband might have done better but with Ball, Reeves, Cooper, Alexander et al, well, it was never going to end well was it?

    So where to now?

    Ed Miliband will eventually step down I suppose but all the dross surrounding him will continue floating at the top of the Labour hierarchy for years, and years, and years, before the party cleanses itself. God help the sick, disabled, poor, young, unemployed, single parents and disadvantaged citizens of any and every kind while these carreerist politicians continue to rake it in while others suffer.

    Prepare yourselves for another five year reign of death and terror with IDS at the DWP.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It is this kind of attitude which the current Labour welfare policy nurtures.

  13. David Stringer

    It infuriates me that Labour haven’t been bolder in making the moral case against IDS’ policies. Yes, it’d be risky, but even in narrow electoral calculations there’d be a benefit to drawing attention to just how many innocent people are being hurt.

    Is Rachel Reeves biting her tongue out of perceived necessity, or does she not comprehend how much suffering is taking place? (That’s a genuine question to those who follow the minutiae of individual beliefs closer than I do.)

    Ed Miliband has many fine qualities (as pointed out by the Guardian’s weekend profile) but areas like this tempt me to fall into the ‘Ed is completely useless’ trap.

  14. TomMagenta

    Count me in, too. I cannot give my full name, so sign me as Tom H.

    I do not trust any of the current parties but if there’s even a small chance to make a change, I’ll gladly contribute where I can.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m not sure I should be putting pseudonyms on – it would open the letter up to criticisms that these weren’t real people.
      One solution might be to note (after the signatures) that other people asked to be linked to the letter pseudonymously.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Yes. Just send it in a comment and mark it ‘confidential’ or ‘not for publication’ and it’ll be fine. I have to moderate everything anyway, so there’s no chance of it going up by mistake.

  15. jaynel62

    Goes without saying Mike add me to the signatories – I too have made many attempts to get response from Labour MPs to no avail x

  16. lallygag26

    I continue to be stunned by your collective belief, in the face of all evidence, that the Labour leadership will change its ways when it wakes up to the reality of what we, the people, actually want. You think they don’t understand. I can promise you that their agenda is something different. They believe in TINA – there is no alternative. They don’t want to be seen as irresponsible with the economy from a neoliberal/ monetarist perspective, so they will shrink the state. They believe it is up to the individual to make choices about their own life, so will continue to dismantle the state apparatus that would provide a social security safety net. They don’t understand why public ownership is important – they see the State’s only role as commissioning and paying for public services, not owning or providing anything beyond the ‘poverty provision’ that the public sector won’t touch. They believe in the supremacy of the market and repudiate public regulation as ‘the nanny state’.

    I live in despair. The Tories are genuine haters of the poor – how many times have we seen their derisive laughter as yet another cruel trick has been played on benefit claimants or the disabled by Osborne or IDS? Another 5 years of them and our already damaged world will be unrecognisable, our safety nets and our NHS gone.

    But Labour works within the same framework. There is no fundamental challenge and only tinkering round the edges and kind ways of working within the system are on offer – because the system is seen by them as unchangeable.

    We need the Tories out and a minority Labour government in that’s held to account by the left. That’s the only viable solution for change. (That’s how we’ll get them to pay attention to our agenda) Then we need collectively to work to throw FPTP out of the door. Rainbow coalitions and ‘weak’ governments are extremely good for democracy. Whips systems become ineffective and MPs have to debate what’s going on in legislation and understand what they are voting for. It becomes difficult to ram through radical agendas which work against the interests of the people. Far too many well intentioned MPs currently have no effect whatsoever within our sham democracy.

  17. ukwatching

    Ed Miliband and the shadow cabinet are coming to Birmingham on Saturday, March 14th, International Convention Centre, Birmingham to announce their policy proposals for the general election.
    Dpac : 12.30pm – 2.30 pm Join us to protest and to tell Labour we want more from them if they want our votes
    Please support the thunderclap and on twitter if you can’t be there in person.

  18. Jim Round

    Not surprised in the slightest here, as I have said previously, many times, we are dealing with politicians here.
    It seems like a throwback to the Blair era, pander to the likes of the Mail, Sun etc…to see if they can garner a few more votes.
    I remember a comment on here not so long ago, about how parties go on about “hard working people” and no, according to them, people looking for work, the disabled and their carers don’t count.
    We’ll see if all these Labour “promises” are actually carried out if they win the election.

  19. L. J. Liburd

    I will sign, I’m a Party member, but have no official role. We could include membership numbers if that’ll have more clout. I shall share the about.

  20. Robert Fillies

    Hi Mike, please add my name, as i too have written to Ms, Reeves and get no reply.

  21. dennis mclaughlin

    I wouldn’t trust any reassurances from Labour,they are just another Tory Party in disguise.
    Here in Scotland at least we have an option to vote for a party that has a social conscience…something Labour has long since abandoned.
    Our SNP Govt here are doing what they can to nullify the Coalition’s attack on the most vulnerable,and hopefully come May 7th we will be rid of the Toxic Labour Party in Scotland.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Oh really?
      What would the SNP do about benefits for the sick and disabled?
      The BBC says it would “reform” ESA. How?

      What a shame you thought this was an opportunity for some petty party political point-scoring.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You’ll have to remind me what your real name is!
      I’m so sorry – I’ve just become used to calling you by your nickname on here.

  22. Gav

    Agree with everyone about the main thrust of this. But there’s a really quite chilling aside in here:

    If you’re an ordinary person and decide to write about the government you may receive a visit from the police. This is a sign of a really horrible country.

  23. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I’m a party member and you can add my name to it. I want the DWP replaced by a genuine DWP which is there to help people not discriminate against them. Of course, people need to be encouraged to work and I hate shirkers. but the DWP in its current form is destructive in its dealing with those in need. Putting this right does not mean that Labour is soft it means Labour is strong.

  24. Ephemerid

    Reeves and Green have said they will “reform” the WCA.
    As far as I know, this will involve various changes to the decision-making process involving assessments on what work people can do etc.

    This is not much use to anyone who is ill and whose own doctors do not opine they are capable of work; the test is the problem.

    Lest we forget, ESA is a benefit for the sick.
    Reeves and Green continually conflate illness with disability, and this really annoys me; but it’s an argument for another day.

    What concerns me about the title of this blogpost and the comment it comes from is that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Owen Smith wants people to die.

    I was not at the meeting in question; however, I doubt that Smith would express the view that “disabled people are being asked to die for Labour’s election hopes”.
    The comment that has been attributed to him is a personal interpretation made by someone who has defended that comment by saying that “My reflection of Smith’s response is absolutely fair comment”. In other words, this is a personal reflection of what Smith said, it is not evidence that he actually said it.

    The WCA is a warped interpretation of a discredited model. It uses statements made by claimants in a twisted way in an attempt to disprove or deny illness.

    It seems to me that we do our cause no good by doing the same thing with comments made by third parties. Hyperbole and misinterpretation (whether accidental or deliberate) will not help us to be taken seriously.

    We have enough of a battle on our hands without presenting “a personal reflection” as fact. I think this is potentially libellous, too.
    Labour are not perfect and I am no tribalist – however, they are our best chance of getting IDS and his henchmen out, and at least we can then open negotiations and take our cause to the people who can DO something.

    I have a lot of respect for you, Mike. Please don’t spoil it.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      All right, that’s enough of that!

      Read the blog post again. At no point does it say that Owen Smith wants people to die. It quotes Liza saying “We heard from Owen Smith… that it is important for disabled people to continue to die, lest any commitment by Labour to scrap the Work Capability Assessment generate a negative response in the press and affect Labour’s general election chances”. It also quotes her saying that he made it perfectly clear that he does not like the Work Capability Assessment himself, but “his Labour colleagues will not support scrapping it because of fears it will play badly with the right wing press and damage Labour’s electoral chances”.

      That is most certainly not saying that Owen Smith wants people to die.

      You were not at the meeting. Liza was. Not only that, she was so disturbed by what was said that she had to leave the meeting. When a person is that deeply affected by something, they remember everything about it. I’m sure you can find something in your own past that has affected you in a similar way. I certainly can. Yet, despite not being at the meeting, you insist on telling us that Liza is using what was said in a “twisted” way, applying “hyperbole” and “misinterpretation”. You were not there; you are not qualified to do so.

      You should also be careful about bandying the word “libel” around. Look at the facts. Liza was making an honest comment on what he was saying, based on knowledge of the subject. We know that the Work Capability Assessment has been a catastrophe for people all over the UK. It is based on a system evolved by criminal US insurance firm Unum, designed to be hugely difficult & stressful. The stress of having to prepare for an assessment kills many, as does that of taking it. Some commit suicide when they are refused benefit, some die from the stress of having to appeal. Some who are granted the benefit die from its requirements – like trying to become ready for work in a year if they’re in the work-related activity group of ESA. Some who are granted benefit die from the strain of being reassessed, sometimes at short notice. Death surrounds the work capability assessment process. When Mr Smith said Labour would not oppose the work capability assessment because of the right-wing press, he was effectively saying Labour is willing to let these fatalities continue. That is the message being put out to people all across the UK by Labour’s unwillingness to denounce the whole process and Liza had the guts to stand up and say it.

      I put it to Mr Smith, after he commented on this subject on Twitter earlier: “If this is not the case, then why aren’t you screaming for this corrupt process to be scrapped?” At the time of writing, he hasn’t responded.

      I agree with you that Labour are our best chance of getting rid of IDS and the Tories, and restoring some kind of sanity to government. However, having had to deal with the facts of this matter almost non-stop for the past three years, I know that Labour would improve its chances hugely if it rejected the Work Capability Assessment altogether and promised to devise a new system.

      There’s nothing wrong with making a decision based on information from a claimant’s GP and any specialists working on their case. These are the experts, not some so-called ‘healthcare professional’ hired by a private company, who might have no experience of the conditions involved at all. In fact, Mr Smith indicated he was quite happy with that idea, later in the same meeting Liza exited so abruptly, I have it on good authority.

      1. suzimae

        I am totally confused by this article and I can tell you that many labour campaigners, desperate to be rid of the tories and get some stability back into this country have had to dodge the bullets that have been fired since this has been shared far and wide and the comments taken out of context… It has done us a huge disservice and some of us as you will appreciate are not as fit as we would like to be and dodging those bullets can become very challenging.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Would you rather I hadn’t mentioned it, and the state persecution of the very people you mention as “not as fit as we would like to be” should be allowed to continue unquestioned?

  25. Chris Seal

    This was my first reaction to this article and anyone who wishes to use this, from the point of view of someone who has suffered the inept (or deliberately malicious) scrutiny of the WCA, please feel free to do so:

    One of many key points here: “They don’t want to be told that Labour supports a system that kills people for being ill and will most likely vote for one of the alternative parties if this remains Labour policy.”

    Tens of thousands of us (yes, I’m disabled) have already been starved or hounded to our deaths by the current coalition government. The actual figure is known to central government, they have simply refused point-blank to make this information public for over three years (since the number hit 10,600). Any of us who stand up (those of us who CAN stand) to try to raise awareness of this are often hounded into silence and retraction by the police. How many more of us must die before people wake up? The message here seems to be “don’t get sick or you’ll be murdered by the right-wing or become a political tool for parts of the left.” Unfair? Try having YOUR income stopped (twice) for months when you’re too ill to fight back, while the same administration actually enables tax dodging at the highest levels, costing the country many times more than protecting its most vulnerable citizens, then come and tell me I’m being harsh. If it weren’t for my family’s support, I’d be dead too. So many of the people who have died didn’t have that.

    ATOS were going to send me a nurse with a clipboard and thankfully for me, I had someone with me who (correctly) argued that this person was not qualified. They sent a doctor to assess me and though he was thorough, patient and very nice, it was still one of THE most harrowing things I’ve ever had to sit through. ATOS then LOST that assessment and told me I’d have to do another. So… they couldn’t GO to the person who came to see me and get another copy?

    It’s curious that the moment I mentioned the DWP’s OWN rules to them – namely that any person who is deemed to be a danger to anyone, INCLUDING themselves, MUST be exempted from this process, within days, they quietly moved me to the ESA Support Group and stopped harassing me.

    Iain Duncan Smith turned up to the Select Committee to answer for his lies about his department. Why was this man SO scared of the disabled people who showed up to see him make account of himself (he didn’t, he disseminated, as per) that he had armed police officers point guns AT them? Not at rest, AT them, when they had already been frisked to within an inch of their lives before being allowed through.

    No doubt all the neoliberal types want to know my worth to society, as someone who is currently unable to work (not unwilling – UNABLE). I have several Autism Spectrum Disorders (only recently properly diagnosed) but for years I have helped others get their own diagnoses, either for themselves or for their children. Think about it: Einstein, Mozart, Newton, Bill Gates – ALL ASDs. If more people were to help those with disabilities live lives free from persecution and able to get the right support, consider this… you could be helping the person who grows up and cures cancer, or invents the warp drive, or something else just as wonderful. Is THAT worth something?

    Labour needs to make its mind up – is it a party intent on righting these injustices and actually working FOR the people who vote for it, or not? I’d like to say that they’d be better than the shower who are currently culling anyone who can’t or won’t go to their new workhouse schemes but until they stand up and CLEARLY announce this, I shan’t be doing that.

    At least Hitler had the balls to say he hated disabled people before he started his own cull.

  26. Joan Edington

    I know you probably don’t want my name on this but I would like it listed. After the “transparency” that was promised by the current mob I think that Labour ought to actually be transparent, if only to show they are above the Tories. If they are holding back simply to keep middle-of-the-road voters happy, that goes against the grain for most traditional Labour voters. If they showed some transparency they might find more voters would respect them for it than might be won by playing the keep-the-middle-happy game.

  27. david Pearce

    Mike you can have my signature, as a member of TUSC, who at minimum aim to push Labour back to the left, and failing that are also standing against them where they wont

  28. Damien Willey

    I’ll happily sign it. As you know my political beliefs do not gel as well with Labour as they do with the Greens, but as the husband of a disabled woman and the father of a disabled child a potential future Labour govt will know exactly what I think, and on this I’m completely with you Mike

  29. Fran Yeldham

    I will also put my name on any letter, I’m a Party member, and I agree with L.J maybe with our membership numbers included there could be a little clout there.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to include them in a letter that might be published in newspapers!

  30. Ian

    I’m in.

    I’ve been saying consistently that Labour and Miliband are cowardly. Seems I’m right. I, too, have emailed Labour repeatedly and asked specifically about this and I, too, have had no response. Literally none. They reply when I ask a question on less controversial ground but silence on this. Seeing as this is my line in the sand issue I really want to know where Labour stands before I vote and Rachel Reeves’ public statements don’t fill me with confidence, rather the opposite; I dread a Labour government almost as much as I hate the current shower and the fact Labour are acting like this is the reason I won’t vote for them this May. They really would need to take giant steps in the right direction for me to trust them now and the fact that they are so cowardly brings into question their fitness to govern.

    As I said, this is my line in the sand issue, so maybe you (Mike) will understand why I sometimes seem unreasonably negative and ranty about Labour on these pages. I’m a dialysis patient and according to averages I have maybe 2 life years left unless I get a kidney and the DWP have me worried sick. Now we have Labour who should be offering me an escape from the misery the DWP are causing me and… This.

    So excuse my occasional outbursts of fury. It doesn’t come from nowhere…

  31. Ian

    If you’re concerned about accusations of using fake signatories you set up a 38 Degrees petition..? Put it on here, readers will circulate t on Facebook and Twitter etc, maybe go on newspaper comment sections and post it there under a relevant story?

      1. david pearce

        be more than happy to sign a 38degrees/change.org/sumofus petition but my concern is it might not get the same attention as an open letter (plus it will take a while to drive people there). Could be done as an extra (along with the extra work). But an open letter can also be replied to by those that also wish to endorse it after the fact

  32. Gary

    This is part of a greater problem, and not just in the Labour Party. Instead of grass roots work to persuade the electorate that doing the right thing is good and ‘please vote for us’. Too much time is spent finding out what the public already thinks and moving policy towards that. I’m not saying this should never been done, but building policy round it moves away from guiding principles and these are what unite the core of the party. All parties are affected but Labour has more to lose as it has always been a party guided by principles and not expediency. Those at the top have little experience outside politics and are less relatable than the giants we knew from before. To truly win you have to be a leader, not a follower.

  33. jim

    I have repeatedly said that the three main parties, Labour, Tories and Libdems all HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS. I will vote Green, SNP or independant, I will not stand by and I will not support any Party that has conspired to push citizens in there thousands to commit suicide. They are not fit to hold public office and should be arrested by the UN for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.

  34. leonc1963

    So it will effect there election results (so they say not me) then they should scrap it if they win election and then spend there term educating the public and right wing MP’s why it is so wrong indeed fire back at the despatch box every Wednesday

  35. weebles1703

    I would be happy to put my name to a letter that raised these issues. Why should we have to put up with voting for a party because we might be slightly less likely to die with them in power.
    Nicki Myers.

  36. Joy Morby

    You can add my name . I’m also disabled, and when I asked for help from Andy Slaughter, none came

  37. Sara White

    I would like to be included too, Sara Ann White. Both myself and my husband are visually impaired and have other health issues. We have nearly been driven to ground by this regime, and I will note vote Labour until they commit to stop this horror. We are both in the WRAG and are hauled into the jobcentre regularly to account for what we are doing. If not being hassled by them, then its the DWP. I have MH problems and this regime has affected me so badly that we have resolved to leave the UK if the Tories get in again as I cannot stand another 5 years of this and more, and am worried this may really finish us off!

  38. jaypot2012

    I don’t know if you want my signature as you know that I am voting SNP – however, I want Labour to win the election but they won’t if they do not do and say something about the WCA now!
    There are literally thousands of people who have died and their families are still grieving – they don’t know who to vote for due to the WCA whilst actually knowing the suffering they are going through. They would vote Labour if something was said and done.
    How about the millions that are on benefits? We have all suffered through the welfare cuts and know that things are going to get harder and harder for all.
    The WCA is a huge reason for so many deaths, and so many due to suicide. It has to be scrapped. By not saying that it will be scrapped Milliband is going to lose hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of votes.
    It really doesn’t matter what the right wing press/media print or say, they say/print lies and don’t need any excuses do so. Milliband’s popularity would soar if he was to say that the WCA that they first brought in (didn’t they?), was to be scrapped should they get into power, and would do so with immediate effect and reverting back to Sickness benefit with Income Support, and keeping DLA instead of PIP. Our own GP’s and Consultants can verify if the person is disabled and to what extent, or if they are long term ill and are not going to get better.
    I am terrified of any more cuts just as I am of brown envelopes coming through the door. I am disabled and am only going to get worse, not better and I certainly can’t grow my leg back! Me and my husband are struggling to pay our bills and have enough to heat and eat, we cannot afford to have more cuts 🙁
    My name to be included on the letter is: Jacqueline Evans and my husband has told me that he would also like to be included, his name is John Evans.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Send in a comment with your name on it – mark it confidential if you don’t want the world to see.

  39. Alex Wasyliw

    Given labour legislated for and brought in work capability assessments (having axed incapacity benefit and brought in ESA for all new claimants) in 2008 (as well as benefit sanctions which were also included in their same welfare reform bill), and put ATOS in charge of them with no opposition from the unions, the charity groups now opposing them, nor their own supporters, I suspect this is more a case of avoiding throwing stones in their own glass house.

    Just for the record, on a monthly basis benefit sanctions were as great and as bad, causing as much damage in the first few months of 2010 under labour as they have been under the coalition, and WCA’s were causing as much distress when they were carried out under labour too.


  40. Jenny Hambidge

    PLease use my name, Jenny Hambidge. We MUST tell Labour this. What alarms me is ” payback” mentality of some commenters. Why don’t they realise that we have NO chance if the Tories get in: with Labour there are a lot of decent politicians and of course the Human Rights Act and the Equalities Act against which social justice can be measured. If they vote GReen SNP PLAID or whatever those parties will do ZILCH except to serve smaller than UK national interests. Mad to say that one wants a party to represent Wales or Scotland ;we desperately need people to serve the whole of the UK.

  41. patrickroden

    Mike Silver said: “Oh really?
    What would the SNP do about benefits for the sick and disabled?
    The BBC says it would “reform” ESA. How?”

    The SNP have said that they will negotiate with the Labour Party for an extra £180 billion to be spent on welfare projects and that they will oppose the Neo-Con ‘Austerity Agenda’

    No petty political point scoring, just old fashioned and genuine Socialism, which you don’t seem to know about.

    Labour are consumed with hatred of the SNP in Scotland and you can see a similar bile being ramped up by the MSM in England, because they do not want people throughout the UK knowing that there’s a well costed alternative to the Austerity Programme, currently supported by all of the big three parties.

    The thinking in Scotland is that the Labour Party have been getting pushed to the right, by other parties since the Thatcher years, but that the SNP will start pushing them to the left.

    Yes the Labour Party is being pushed around, but that’s what happens when you sell out…and no one can deny that the real Labour heart and Soul was sold to the Conservative/ right wing, by Tony Blair et al.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Who’s Mike Silver?

      Yes, we know that the SNP want to spend an extra £180 billion, but nothing has been said about it going on “welfare projects”. The money is to be used to boost productivity, as I understood it from what Nicola Sturgeon has said.

      The jury is out on whether the SNP is a socialist organisation. There’s a commenter on the VP Facebook page who would dispute this claim hotly.

      From where I’m sitting, it is more likely that the SNP is consumed with hatred of Labour. We have yet to see much by way of policy announcements from the Party of Scotland, but have already witnessed a wealth of Labour-bashing. By the way, the SNP alternative isn’t that well-costed – it relies on a lot of borrowing and the hope that productivity will rise enough to cover it!

      I think it’s accepted that the Labour Party lurched rightwards under Tony Blair, and has only begun the long climb back where it belongs under Ed Miliband. As this article suggests, there is still a long way to go. Labour doesn’t need the SNP to get back there, though.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Just send me a comment with your real name on it. Mark it confidential if you don’t want the world to see.

  42. cherade9

    Both myself, Liz Ashton and my husband Martin Beer happily sign that letter. Lets see them try to hide us away like a dirty secret yet again.

  43. concernedkev

    count me in Mike I will make contact on FB for you to get my real name. Perhaps that might be the best form of communication with the letter posted there like Keith Ordinary Guy. We need to garner maximum support for Labour despite the stupidity of national figures. On the point of fear of right wing press 1. What happened to Ed’s commitment to take on the likes of Murdoch 2. If they do go on the attack it will elevate the level of debate on the subject and heighten the knowledge of the electorate on the subject.

  44. Michele Witchy Eve

    This might cost me, but I’d like to add my name, Michele Eve, to that letter if it helps. In the end, any possible loss to me is insignificant to the losses suffered.

  45. NicB

    I don’t understand why anyone would want to prop up a party of red tories. The Greens are the only party of the left standing in the vast majority of seats. A few Labour MPs voting against their own party hardly count any more. Once, Labour rose up to replace the Liberals, now that may not ever happen with the Greens, but they can certainly force through a people’s constitutional convention if people would get behind them. Who will hold the Labour Party to account if not the Greens or the social movements who are increasingly aligned with the Greens? The President of the RMT is a Green candidate!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The Red Tories are an invention – most commonly used by the SNP to smear Labour. It is notable that claims against the SNP would have you believe they are Tartan Tories, so who do you believe? It all get a bit tribal then, as none of the allegations are actually based on facts.
      I don’t see why you’re so keen on the Greens; if you’re after a constitutional convention, Labour intends to bring about one of those. Apart from that, as another VP commenter, who happens to campaign for the Green Party, told me, “It’s amateur hour here.”

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Yes, I do trust Labour to back up its pledges with action – that’s why I’m so concerned about Labour’s position on disability benefit assessment.

      2. Alex Wasyliw

        Where was all this concern when labour brought in work capability assessments and appointed ATOS to carry them out back in 2008? Where was this concern when, under Labour in March 2010 over 50,000 benefit claimants were sanctioned under theMarchcurrent benefit sanction rules which labour brought in in their welfare reform bill of 2007?

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        I take it you mean “under the then-current benefit sanction rules”, as the Tories (by which I include the Liberal Democrats) have brought in crueller rules since then.

      4. Alex Wasyliw

        Actually I don’t. The sanction rules themselves, including the circumstances they can be applied, and the sanctions themselves haven’t been amended. The argument and criticism of the current government rages around whether targets have been brought in or not. IDS says not, but who would trust him. On a monthly figure basis, the number of sanctions isn’t actually greater than they were under the last few months under labour.

        You may be talking about the WCA’s which has now been applied by the DWP to all of the previous incapacity benefit claimants instead of just new ones, who were the target of WCA’s under labour (who also replaced incapacity benefit with ESA as well, phasing it in by making it for new claimants only, although it was always intended to completely take over). There was significant criticism of ATOS during this time as well… the same criticism as they received right up until the current government negotiated them off the contract (they should have just fired them, but labour’s poor contract with ATOS didn’t allow for that).
        The problems with both of these issues have been consistent across governments, (although criticism disproportionately been aimed at the current one), and neither have covered themselves in glory over it.

      5. Alex Wasyliw

        Actually I stand corrected. Some of the sanction rules were brought in by IDS, interestingly a lot of them were originally proposed by Labour.

        Labour started dancing to the anti benefits tune long before they lost the 2010 election, and I see no reason why they would dance to another now, although they will happily pretend they had nothing to do with the current problems and lie about how different it would be if they were in charge.

        It’s telling that the only thing labour have said they would change is to have no targets, which didn’t stop huge numbers of sanctions last time they were in charge. On the other hand the Lib Dem have plans to reform sanctions so that no one is sanctioned on a first offense.. which doesn’t go far enough imo but is a better proposal that I’ve heard from anyone else.

      6. Mike Sivier Post author

        Labour is proposing other reforms to the assessment as well – but in my opinion these simply aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. There’s no point having an assessment at all – on top of what doctors will have already done – other than to try to find a way not to award the benefit. Claimants know this, and therefore they are always going to go into that situation in a highly stressed state, which simply isn’t good for their health.

  46. Francis Varley

    Left Unity member and ESA claimant. Whilst Labour are too right wing for my vote, I’d (provisional on seeing the letter first) be happy to sign a letter that encourages them to clarify their position on WCA.

  47. CarolinePlebMolloy (@carolinejmolloy)

    Any party that wants to be considered progressive has to challenge reactionary (or worse) Daily Mail style attitudes to disabled people.
    Compare and contrast:
    Labour:”we’ll try to make Maximus be nicer than Atos http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/03/how-do-we-make-fit-work-tests-fit-purpose
    Greens:we’ll kick private biz out & end #wca https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/11/03/green-party-condemns-three-pronged-government-attack-on-sick-and-disabled/

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