Love Labour’s Lost

When it came to voting in an election for the very first time, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, I would vote for Labour. Working class born and bred, nerdy Politics student who knew a Green vote would be wasted in our First Past the Post system, couldn’t bear the Tories, and saw the Lib Dems as an ‘also ran’. Yep, my X was definitely going in Labour’s box.

Much to my joy, Labour won the first election I voted in. I didn’t agree with all of their policies, or even like Blair all that much, but they represented my ideals and my background far more than any of the other parties. So I was happy; my little, wonky X had helped them to victory.

Fast forward to last year’s election. I’d spent all day at the hospital, but it was a close run campaign, and I was determined to vote. Dad had to wheel my chair right up to the booth, but I hauled myself up, read the papers repeatedly for the sake of my easily confused tired out brain, and then made another wonky X for Labour.

When the Tories made a coalition with the Lib Dems, I was achingly disappointed; the idea of spending at least four years under their supposedly joint government was almost painful. I knew all too well how the Conservatives treated the working class and those in need, like me, and it was plain to see, right from the start that Nick Clegg and co. just filled the benches. They soon came to be known as the ConDems, and along with my ill and disabled friends, I quickly realised just how apt that moniker was.

It wasn’t long before the ConDems started targeting the sections of society that they perceived to be the easiest: people with disabilities and illnesses, their carers, the elderly, and those who are vulnerable. Cuts in services provided by councils were happening at an alarming rate, the cost of services for those who need them rose dramatically, carers were being put under even greater strain. And then the vicious, painful rhetoric started.

Disabled and ill people have long been treated with contempt and even cruelty, particularly those with invisible illnesses or mental disabilities, but now the government seemed to be encouraging it, fanning the fire of distrust with words, and turning it into hatred.

Making those of us with disabilities and illnesses synonymous with ‘scroungers’, ‘benefit cheats’, the work shy and irresponsible lay-about, draining society with our greed and idleness actively increased disablist content in the media and actions in society: people have been verbally abused, vile notes have been left on cars where Blue Badges are displayed, carers have been spat at, and even worse.

As this situation worsened, Labour supporters like myself were certain Ed Miliband would speak out, defend us, and make clear the distinction between those of us who cannot work – however desperately we want to – and those who won’t work and have no desire to. We hoped that he would support us, and tell the world how we loathe those people who are making careers by faking the pain, trauma and misery we often live with, through no choice of our own.

But Mr Miliband stayed silent, ignoring our plight, and eschewing any hint of Socialism Labour had left – society sharing what it has to ensure everyone is supported.
Then the unthinkable happened; Ed Miliband began to use the same kind of language as the opposition. Truly, I could’ve cried. I, and many others, had been waiting for Labour to oppose what their opponents were saying: to show the discrepancy between the percentage of benefit fraud rates and the percentage of the government cuts; to state that the ATOS tests are ridiculous and give false results, as a man declared “fit for work” died just two weeks later, of the illness he was deemed to be exaggerating; to support carers and explain the millions they are saving the country by not leaving their loved ones to be looked after in care homes or hospitals; to tell the country that we are not scroungers, and that every single healthy person is just an illness or injury away from being in our position.

When Ed Miliband announced Q&A sessions on Twitter, many of us hoped they would be the way to engage him, to garner his support, or just get a 140 character statement that we’re being treated unjustly. Disability campaigners, individuals and on behalf of groups, sent tweet after tweet, hoping one would be seen, as did our Twitter friends with physical or mental health problems. Amongst untold tweets from our “community”, only one garnered a response, which could have come from any ConDem – all tiers of society have to be responsible, from the bottom to the top. The implication that we are at the bottom cut like a surgical scalpel.

Throughout each Q&A, we waited for more responses, thinking that surely we would be acknowledged? But no, favourite muffin flavours and other trivial nonsense was more important than Labour supporters who were desperate for his help.

When I think of the next election, I feel completely lost. The ConDems are marching ever closer to being my worst political nightmare come true, but for the first time ever, I truly do not know if I can bring myself to vote Labour. The party I’ve always supported has no support for me, or my friends. Ed Miliband spends his time parroting whatever David Cameron has said the day before, leaving voters like me to be spat at, to be deprived of our basic daily needs of food, cleanliness, human contact, and to be so fearful for our futures that some become suicidal, or actually take their lives.

I’ve always been adamant that those who have the vote should use it. Especially women, for whom the Suffragettes fought so hard for, and when women around the world are still be kept away from the voting booth, like an underclass.

Now we, who have disabilities and illnesses, are becoming an underclass, and so our ability to vote is a treasure.

But who on earth do we vote for? Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems have all merged together, creating a three-party system that strikes fear into anyone who cannot care for themselves or needs support. A vote for any other party is a wasted one. So do I not vote at all?

When I stand, wobbling, in the booth at the next election, I have no idea where my wonky X will go. Or if it will go anywhere at all.

Thanks to you, Mr Miliband, I’m another love Labour’s lost.

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7 Comments

Filed under Disability, People Power, Politics

7 responses to “Love Labour’s Lost

  1. sad isn’t? no not saddening, infuriating! This afternoon, allegedly,’ Millibrand will be expounding on the ‘deserving poor’ implying that the undeserving will not qualify for social housing. Great fear that the disabled will qualify as undeserving; if ATOS says you’re fit for some sort of work and you don’t then will that make you, us, automatically part of the undeserving.

    Where’s the opposition? Parliamentary democracy does not exist without, without government is no more than a cheap prole management team :(

  2. great post , do I given up with labour when it seems theyve abandoned the sick and disabled, time for a legal challenge metinks A

  3. sorry about the spelling mistakes

  4. I know how you feel and I’m not disabled. I’m just a lowly mother of 3 who can’t work right now because the childcare costs are astronomical, I’d be in debt if I went to work to pay the cost of being a responsible mum and having someone watch the kids. My disabled friends are all petrified of the future. All the talk of ‘responsible’ and ‘doing the right thing’ really makes me angry. 99% of people I know who are disabled or unemployed are more responsible than anyone in parliament. Most of us work harder without a wage too. For some just getting out of bed requires more effort than the politicians have ever experienced.

    I used to vote Labour. Like you, I don’t know who I’ll vote for next time. I know I can’t vote for a party that wants me to live in poverty and encourages hateful attacks on those of us who need help the most.

    We need an opposition from somewhere who isn’t afraid of the right wing press, who won’t compare benefit claimants to phone hackers or bankers, and who will stand up and defend us!

  5. This is heart-rending and I am sorry for your plight and the plight of all the vulnerable people who are being attacked by this government with no mandate. I too am one of you being a sufferer of PTSD, chronic heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. However there is an alternative to the three main, uncaring, millionaire Oxbridge set, run parties and they are gathering momentum. That is the Socialist party who are tirelessly protesting and taking part in various actions nationwide, on your behalf. So take heart, you have not been forgotten by all parties. Just the ones that get all the publicity. The mainstream media are not even reporting on the 5,000 strong protest at the LibDem conference, or the 2,000 strong protest at the Labour conference and I doubt they will even mention the protest coming up in Manchester for the Tory conference either. But I assure you that things are happening and the Socialist Party is growing in numbers as people look for an alternative. We are preparing ourselves for the next general elections where we expect to have members standing on a alternative to cuts platform. Because there ARE alternatives, just that the corporation owned main parties are not even looking at them because it endangers there biggest contributors. Take heart and don’t despair.

  6. Sue Brock

    A really moving blog. I am a member of the Labour Party and have struggled with the dilemma re staying or leaving. I think I will stay and I so wish that others who usually vote Labour would join as well. Together we are stronger and until something better explodes onto the scene maybe we can attempt to influence things from the inside? I am going to ask my local CLP to support a letter to Ed contesting his assessment of the welfare situation. If enough CLPs do it then he may have a re-think. Sue

  7. I was actually a Labour member in the mid-1990s in south London, and was active in the college Labour branch when I was away at uni. At that time, they were trying to subdue the whole student union scene to make it drop its demands for bringing back grants, basically because they didn’t want the NUS to embarrass it as it went into the 1997 election. They had placemen all over the NUS and in local unions (including ours, although he was constrained by other members of the executive and a heavy Plaid Cymru presence among the student body), most of whom wanted careers in the party, preferably as MPs. I can see now why going back to the pre-1979 grant arrangements wasn’t practical, but the NUS adopted no particular policy and as soon as they caved, Labour announced that it would introduce tuition fees.

    Labour under Blair have always run scared from the right, though — whether it’s the US government or the Tory press. They seemed to think they were a guest in someone else’s house, rather than a government elected with a massive majority (and with no less of a mandate than any of their predecessors). No serious progress can be made in this country without the corporate press being taken down a peg or two. Labour should have done that in their first term in office, rather than try to ride it as long as they could.

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