As the Bullingdon bully boys make hay while the sun glares on the Falkirk furore, and the media misrepresent the affair with impunity, Labour languishes in the eyes of many of its natural supporters within the disability movement.
Many within the disability movement feel that Labour betrayed them during their thirteen years in office. From taxing incapacity benefit in their first term to introducing the reviled work capability assessment in their last, with its awful attendant, ATOS, Labour is viewed by some to be just as bad as the Tories.
As Labour make greater attempts to distance themselves from the unions, and Len McCluskey in particular, ex-Blairite minister Blunkett throws in his poison pennyworth:
"We don't want to go back to divisions and diversions of this sort. We are a broad church, we should be and we should be able to welcome and engage with a whole range of people. We shouldn't be afraid of ideas and policy. At the moment, if we are afraid of those and the idea of looking to the future and being radical then, I'm afraid, we'll be the party of the graveyard and none of us want that."
Blunkett, this broad church you speak of has undergone a seismic sectarian shift over the past twenty years. Trade unionists are barely welcome amongst the high church congregation that many CLPs have become. In my own CLP if you don’t work in or around the Westminster village as a researcher, lobbyist or some other parliamentary affiliated job you’re ignored. Those who have the temerity to have a trade union connection are simply marginalised, so much for being able “…to welcome and engage with a whole range of people.”
Blunkett, your words hold as much credence today as they did when you were backing Blairs neo-liberal line; when you went along with his illegal wars for the sake of political expediency.
If as Blunkett claims Labour isn’t afraid of ideas and policies, why aren’t they listening to the trade unions on issues ranging from the economy to the NHS. After all there are over 7 million of us, many of whom belong to the Labour Party, and still, maybe tenuously, support Labour.
If the Labour Party is this broad church Blunkett claims it is, why then did Anne McGuire recently set up disability and poverty taskforce charged with looking into, amongst others, the failing WCA (a Labour initiative) and DWP’s Work Programme (another spectacular failure. Indeed so failed that it would have saved the tax payer money if the scheme had not gone ahead).
The six members of the commission are mostly on the right politically and many come from a Disability Rights UK (DRUK) and Scope background. Remember the CE of DRUK, Liz Sayce, was responsible for writing a report whose findings called for the closure of Remploy factories. Oh, and a couple of years later while a guest at the TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee tried to distance herself from the closures claiming she no longer had any involvement with the report she wrote.
So, David Blunkett, don’t you think the Labour Party is being exclusive when it sets up a commission to look into the links between disability and poverty – oh by the way, you don’t need to look far to find the factors that form the link between disability and poverty, no further that is than many of New Labour’s social policies between 1997 and 2010.
What other organisation in this country represents 1.5 million members, of whom something in the region of around 250,000 are disabled people. Of course, the only other organisation with more members is the TUC, with over 6 million members, of whom perhaps over 1 million are disabled.
The TUC has by far the largest membership of disabled people in the country. The DRUKs, Scopes, RNIBs, Leonard Cheshires of the disability world have neither figures that can anywhere match those, or indeed, I doubt if they apply the kind of democratic discipline found in unions.
I say to you Mr Blunkett that the Labour Party itself and all too many of its CLPs are unwilling to welcome and engage trade unionists; they are afraid of our progressive ideas and policies; it adopts a sectarian and reactionary stance towards us rather than embracing the forward thinking we promote in areas such as disability, nuclear disarmament, green industry, and international relations.