The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is probably breathing a sigh of relief. Because the Labour Party just effectively let it off the hook. And in doing so, it whitewashed thousands of deaths.
The DWP: not a Labour priority?
At the Labour conference, Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) and affiliated groups submitted topics for debate. I won’t bore you with the mechanisms; but as I previously wrote, I was reliably informed that welfare, specifically Universal Credit, was one of the topics that had repeatedly come up.
So, on Sunday 23 September, delegates voted for which of these topics the party would debate in full. These were the results:
Priorities ballot results at #lab18 – Economy for the many, Brexit, government contracts, housing, in-work poverty, Windrush Palestine, schools systems.
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) September 23, 2018
To say some parts of the party disgust me would be an understatement. I’m (again) reliably informed that CLPs voted for welfare to be debated to the tune of around 89,000 votes. So how was one of the most important issues of the decade scuppered?
The party of the workers. THE WORKERS.
It appears that it was some of the unions and Momentum ‘what done it’. Not that I’m surprised. As a note, I should say I’m not attacking grassroots members of these groups here. But union bosses naturally have precious little interest in the welfare state or claimants; you only have to look at the snivelling wretches in the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union who represent DWP staff to realise that. Meanwhile, the leaders of Momentum – those oh-so-middle-class yet ‘prolier-than-thou’ university student pressure group types – probably wouldn’t dare step foot in a Jobcentre; let alone defend people on benefits. Or maybe I’m wrong. If so – prove it.
Otherwise, my only conclusion is that some factions of the Labour Party don’t give a shit about sick and disabled people. But ultimately, I can hear you asking ‘why does this matter? It’s only a debate, after all!’
The overarching problem is the message that not debating welfare sends out.
Lynchings and beatings
Swathes of UK society already see sick and disabled people as ‘scroungers’. The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) noted this. It was part of its damning 2017 conclusions about what it called “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. These are abuses committed by our government and the DWP. The committee chair said that the UK government and media “have some responsibility” for society seeing disabled people as “parasites, living on social benefits… and [living on] the taxes of other people”. And she said these “very, very dangerous” attitudes could “lead to violence… if not, to killings and euthanasia”.
Learning-disabled Lee Irving was tortured and murdered in 2015. In 2016, 23-year-old Brendan Mason, who had learning difficulties, was lynched and beaten to death in Leicester. Lee and Brendan are just two examples of a surge in disability hate crime in recent years. If a black, gay, or Muslim man had been lynched in England, in 2016 – we’d probably know his name and his story off by heart. But Brendan was disabled. So you’ve probably never even heard of him.
By pushing welfare onto the conference floor, Labour could have taken the opportunity to start redressing the hatred that exists for sick and disabled people. But it’s chosen not to.
Thousands and thousands dead
As I previously reported, we now know that around 100 claimants a day have been dying while on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Of these, 10 a day were people the DWP said were ready to move towards work. That’s over 10,000 people. This is on top of around 90 people a month that were dying after the DWP said they were fit-for-work. And that’s on top of the 590 people that took their own lives due, in part, to the DWP’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA). We also now know the DWP is having to investigate its own role in the deaths of people on Universal Credit.
Thousands and thousands of people dead. Dead, under the watchful eye of the DWP. If this many people from the Windrush generation had died, the scandal would rightly be unimaginably huge. Or if thousands and thousands of workers had died at the hands of one employer, the whole of the UK would be aghast. But these were sick and disabled people. So the public, media and politicians barely lift their gaze.
By pushing welfare onto the conference floor, Labour could have taken the opportunity to expose what the UN called a Tory-created “human catastrophe” for sick and disabled people. But it’s chosen not to.
The fight will continue
Labour has chosen, instead, to stick with what it knows: work and workers. The party is riddled with cowards flinching and traitors sneering. Because Labour has bailed on sick and disabled people. No amount of ‘jam tomorrow’ (which is really ‘pie-in-the-sky’) from shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood will cut it.
So fuck Labour. Because in all honesty, sick and disabled people have been fighting virtually on their own for the past eight years. And trust me – they’re stronger than most ‘workers’ could ever hope to be. The fight for their most basic of rights will continue, regardless of whether there’s a red rose stuck in the armoury or not. If Labour wishes to join in, that’s up to the party.
A lesson from history
Oh, and a word to all the ‘workers’, trade unions and Momentum members who voted to ignore every sick and disabled person in this country. Don’t worry. Check Universal Credit. Because the DWP and the Tories are coming for you next.
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