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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.

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