On May 7th, the British people elected the most vicious right wing government and leader in our history and gave it an increased majority with a full mandate to govern needing no coalition, giving full reign to 12 billion pounds more welfare cuts for the poor, sick and disabled. With disabilities myself I have got to make some serious plans and changes and do some serious thinking to safeguard my future as this is a five year government of misery for people like myself and we will suffer. Already heart rending posts and personal stories of fear are appearing on Facebook.
Well done my own wonderful Labour MP who increased her majority , but Labour as a party needs to get its act together , and be seen and felt to really support and fight for the people who make up its voters which I no longer feel they do…and this is not just as they keep spouting . ..Hard working families.
At the heart of Labour’s electorate are the low paid, the unemployed, the sick and the disabled hounded to death and even suicide by welfare reforms, the pensioner alone and afraid to turn the heating on and the millions like myself who do not have young children leaving school and needing jobs but who are older and often sick and if going to be forced by welfare reform to get jobs, need jobs available that that they can do and help to get them.
We have had five years of misery under the Tories already and this election result is a grim future for the vulnerable in the United Kingdom. Australia is going the same way and so is the USA and other nations, with the poor, sick and disabled being blamed for their country’s budget problems and recession. It’s a scary time for the world!!
However, it seems that in the UK at least, the people have spoken and they want more of the same austerity, attacks on the sick and disabled, after all this is what they voted for. We woke on Friday 8th May to the hell that will be five years of a Tory Government with a majority. Those on low wages, the unemployed, pensioners and the sick and disabled will now have to live in further fear of the cruel spite of the Tories. I was amazed that after five years of what the Tories managed to do to the vulnerable in Britain, even though they did not have a majority and were part of a coalition, Labour did not manage to beat them …but then again, in spite of the risk of sounding disloyal, I was never sure that they would.
Why was I not confident of a Labour victory? Because Labour seems to have become just a paler version of Tory blue. They no longer can be relied on as the party that will help the vulnerable and underprivileged, and these people make up much of the basis of their voters. It is I admit hard for a well-intentioned Labour cabinet, who mostly just like the Tories , are from wealthy backgrounds, went to private school and university, never have to rely on the NHS or endure an appointment at the job centre and a work capability test and have more money than real common sense, to have any real idea what life is like for many of their core voters who have been lifelong Labour supporters and feel a loyalty to the party and want to vote Labour but feel let down. We did not want a Labour government saying they would reform the work capability assessment…we, the sick and disabled needed it to be scrapped, so that we need no longer live in fear of it and that it would be enough that our doctors would be believed when they write a medical certificate saying that a person should not work. However, I and indeed thousands of others these past five years have had job centre staff say that it is not your doctor who decided if you are too sick to work anymore, it is the government: and many have dropped dead or committed suicide as a result of it. Labour was not strong enough, not loyal enough to its electorate to offer an alternative to welfare reform that we could trust to support us, instead. It was had they been elected, going to be more of the same.
I can in part understand this , Labour lost the last election in 2010, and the media have portrayed them as being to blame for the country’s debt and deficit , in no small part due to paying welfare benefits to too many people, most of whom are so the electorate are told , idle lazy scroungers . Of course Labour wanted so much to win , So, they said that they too would make more severe cuts in public spending and would be even ‘tougher on benefits’ than the Tories !!! Had it not been for a personal vote for my MP, I really didn’t want to go and vote at all, Labour no longer supports me and there is no real alternative with any chance of winning a general election. For all of us so desperately needing an end to welfare reform done in the way that it is, we could see we could not count on the Labour party…Maybe some stayed at home and maybe some voted for the Green Party, with not a hope in hell of actually forming a government, but they did say they would scrap the work capability assessment. The Green Party also said that they were keeping the Independent Living Fund, increasing spending on disability living allowance and ending the bedroom tax. They had no chance of forming a government to do it, but I was very very tempted to vote for them and around a million did …how many were Labour voters? The horrendously right-wing UKIP…UK Independence party came second in over 90 constituencies and many of those had been strong Labour seats.
The then Shadow and would have been work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said that “We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work,” Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people. ”trying to sound like Labour’s version of her Tory opposite Iain Duncan Smith who has seen many benefit claimants go to their graves as a result of his policies . Well, Rachel, if Labour is not the party for support of people out of work, I would be interested to know which party is and I might be tempted to go and join it. Also, it needs to be noted that many people claiming a benefit are actually in work. To be fair Rachel Reeves did say that Labour planned to increase the minimum wage to £8 per hour and increasing wages must surely help to lower the number of people needing top up benefits such as housing benefit to help to pay rent.
Labour needs to rebuild, that is for sure and build a party that is really and truly seen to stand up for its grass roots voters, the working class, even if they are not working. If they are not, perhaps because they are disabled, then they need targeted help to get into jobs that physically and or mentally they can do and for those jobs to be there. Sometimes the best solution to work for the disabled is in schemes such as Remploy. However the Remploy factories employing many disabled people were closed and the part of the company that survived, a specialist disability recruitment company has been sold by the Department of Work and Pensions to an American company that just happens to also do some of the work capability assessments for the department …
Another route to employment for sick and disabled people and indeed older people now being forced to work until they are at least in many cases 70 before they can claim retirement pension, which can be as good as impossible to do for people in certain professions that are physically demanding such as nursing and my previous career, childcare, also for men in such roles as building and engineering is self-employment from home, making use of the many opportunities that can be found online. However, there is practically no financial help available now for people to make the transition from claiming disability benefits to entering work since the government during the last administration removed the job grant which used to help with the transition from benefits to getting your first salary or payments . Labour would have benefitted from promising schemes that would encourage people to try to take jobs, rather than doing as they did, which was to make it clear there would be just as much, even more austerity with them as there would be with the Tories.
Something that may well help to restore confidence in Labour amongst its core voters is that in the five years of hell ahead for vulnerable people Labour are seen to defend and fight for them. It won’t work if they just sit back and tell us everything will be just fine when they win the election in 2020.
Labour needs also to return to what it was, I for one and I know many are tired of the endless debate about is the party Blairite or Brownite, New Labour or Old Labour…all of those terms are getting a bit of a joke and what Labour needs is to be a party, not just for the vulnerable, much as they do need a party that supports them. Labour also needs to be what it was…a party of ambitions and opportunities …cut the deficit by taxing the rich, not punishing the poor and sick, continue the jobs guarantees and promises of jobs and training opportunities for young people …and end tuition fees , so that once again university is achievable for everyone, not just the rich . Yes, there are student loans, but the low paid and those on disability benefits already dread debt and not being able to pay it, while it is true that a student loan only has to be paid back by the student once earning over £21,000 I know that my parents way back in the 70’s never allowed me to even consider university, my mother furiously accused me of jumping out of my class, and this is going to happen again. It has come full circle that just as mine did, parents will feel the need to force their children to drop ambitions of going to university because they are terrified of the resulting debt and as my parents did …desperately need their child’s income in the family budget, so force them to take whatever job they can get. I had the thrill of beginning my degree with the Open University, but like many Open University students have had to stop at least for now as I am not in a position to take on a student loan.
Provide more job opportunities for young people by restoring the state pension age to 60 for women and 65 for men. People like myself worked for years and paid taxes expecting as we were told that this was the age we could have our pension. This money is not the governments money to do as they choose with , it is money that we have paid in having been told what we would get in return for it and when . Is it right to force women who by that time may well have health issues, to still work in such professional as nursing when they are 70? Which is what will happen in time, or for men to work on building sites …? If older people could get their pension then they would not need to claim Jobseekers allowance or disability allowances if they were unable to do their job in later years.
How to pay for all this? Well, any British government that really cares about British people working or not, would do no harm by tightening our borders and the rule that means just because you come from a European Union country you can come to the UK and undercut a British worker in the job market by being willing to work for peanuts, and not only can you get a job but a council house as well. There are just too many people here and the country does not have the resources to support them all on the National Health Service and the state if they don’t find a job.
My Labour led local council, has managed not to pass on the cuts to their budget from central government by increasing council tax. However, many councils, including Labour ones did pass on the cuts to residents by increasing council tax and cutting council tax benefit.
Vulnerable people were already scared witless and exhausted by five years of the coalition, and yet it seems that they didn’t all rush to the polling station to vote Labour, surely if they had really felt that Labour was there for them…they would have done so ? A problem that I feel about my relationship with the Labour party now is that when I was fit and well and working, I really felt they were for me. Now, they too when it comes to the low paid, sick and disabled have the same policies as the Tories, just different methods of going about it…the same but different and I and thousands of other vulnerable people need it to stop …cut the deficit by taxing the rich and their mansions, not by driving sick people to their deaths and suicide by forcing them to work or leaving them with no money for even essentials.
Yet might it be also, that Labour need to take a long hard look at their election campaign machinery? After all it can’t all be a lost cause for Labour, my own Labour MP has increased her majority for the past two elections …it can be done . Labour needs to go out and listen to its voters and show they care …just like she does ….