Disabled protest Tory hate

One of the problems of the Conservative Party has long been a failure to understand how most people live. Of course there are poor people who vote Tory, and people in the party who have come from working class backgrounds, but their policies are largely made by people who have never known (or long forgotten) what it is like to live in poverty. And those few who started poor often seem to blame those who remain poor, feeling they worked their way out of it so why can’t everyone else?

Austerity was always the wrong policy and it hasn’t worked, but it has led to a great deal of suffering and misery, punishing the poor for crimes of the rich and the failures of successive governments to regulate the activities of the wealthy, allowing huge levels of tax avoidance and encouraging scams such as ‘buy to let’ and the use of housing as an investment vehicle, particularly for foreigners, which, along with a concerted attack on social housing are at the root of our ‘housing crisis’. We don’t really have a housing crisis – there are enough homes to go round, but many are empty part or all of the time and beyond the means of those who need them, while private landlords benefit from high rents made possible only by heavy housing subsidies – and low pay for workers means companies are subsidised by ‘in-work’ benefits while CEOs and other higher management get silly money.

A recent study published by the BMJ concludes that austerity has led to an increase in death rates and suggests that this has led to 120,000 additional deaths since 2010 due to cuts in public expenditure on healthcare and social care. The study’s lead author was quoted in The Independent as saying “It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics. This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.” Though those who get their news from the BBC will probably have missed the story.

The Tories seem to have a special hatred reserved for the disabled. They seem to see them simply as a drag on the economy, taking high levels of benefits without any return to society (though paradoxically they have cut much of the support which did previously enable many to make a positive contribution.) They appear to have thought the disabled would be an easy target and would just go away and die quietly. But although far too many have died, campaigning groups such as DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network) have been some of the most active protesters against their policies. And on this protest they reflected back a little of the Tory hate with t-shirts that read ‘Who 2 vote 4? Not the f**king Tories’.

In part this comes from desperation, and from clearly seeing that the cuts are life-threatening. But it is also helped by considerable public sympathy – at least once the public are told what is happening. The police find disabled people difficult to deal with, partly out of a genuine sympathy, but also because they realise how badly they might look in the press attacking the disabled – which is one reason why its important that I and other journalists cover their actions. There are also practical difficulties for them in making arrests, needing specially adapted vehicles for those protesters in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters – and police stations also may lack disabled facilities.

Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs, and not all disabilities are visible. One of the groups present at many of these protests is Winvisible, women with visible and invisible disabilities, and of course there are men too. But wheelchairs and scooters have proved very useful in protests, especially for blocking roads, and after protesting outside Parliament on the last day of its sitting before the General Election and then going on to protest outside the Tory HQ nearby, the protest finished by bringing traffic to a halt on busy Victoria St, leaving the road only after final warnings of arrest from the police. Stopping traffic in London, though an annoyance to those blocked, is one of few reliable ways to get any protest noticed.

More at: DPAC against Tory Hate


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