I have copied this statement from Liza Van Zyl, a disability rights activist who has highlighted the Tory-lite mantra of Owen Smith MP who wants to get Labour elected at any cost, even if this means morphing into a right-wing media whore with no substance. Surely victory without principle is no victory at all?
‘Owen Smith needs to be challenged robustly on his position on the Work Capability Assessment and on his commitment to disabled people’s rights. I was a Labour Party activist who had no choice but to resign from the party after a very unpleasant encounter with Mr Smith. I am recounting it now because I believe it is very important that his views are robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership.
On Saturday 7th March 2015 I attended a Labour meeting in Pontypridd at which the guest speaker was Owen Smith MP, then shadow secretary of state for Wales. When questions were invited from the floor, I asked Mr Smith why, given that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been responsible for a great many more deaths than the Bedroom Tax, Labour had pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax but had said nothing about pledging to scrap the WCA. Mr Smith replied that Labour could not pledge to scrap the WCA because this would make Labour appear weak on benefits in the eyes of the media and compromise Labour’s general-election chances.
I posted this on Facebook and a journalist took it up and posted the story online. Subsequently the journalist was threatened with legal action by Mr Smith if he did not take the story down. I was very intimidated by the prospect of defending myself in court, and I had no money for a legal defence. In addition my Labour colleagues were terribly keen to maintain good relations with Mr Smith and would probably have backed Mr Smith and not me if it came to a court case (one of them had even contacted the journalist and briefed against me). So I asked the journalist to pull the story and I deleted references to it on Facebook.
I am publicising this incident now because I am very concerned about Mr Smith’s attitude toward disabled people and particularly to his views that the deaths of disabled people are less important than Labour’s “tough on benefits” standing in the right wing press. If he threatens me with legal action again it will be incredibly stressful and will probably exacerbate my disability-related ill-health. But I believe it is important that Mr Smith’s attitudes to the WCA and to disability rights (and freedom of speech!) be robustly challenged if he stands for the Labour leadership. And because we should be able to discuss things that profoundly impact on us, like the WCA, without being intimidated into silence by threats of legal action. I will provide more details to journalists who can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org’
Appalling behaviour by a candidate for the leadership of a supposed DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST PARTY
Let’s be clear that New Labour are just as dangerous to disabled people, and the disadvantaged in general, as it was Gordon Brown’s administration that kick-started the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in 2009. They closed this fund to new applicants and did not have a alternative plan to allow disabled people to employ PAs and live in their communities independently. The Tories eventually closed ILF in 2015 and left disabled people fighting for their rights.
Who was the most prominent MP campaigning alongside disabled people against their oppressors? Jeremy Corbyn of course. Says it all really and it is up to us to make sure that British politics has a true left-wing alternative to the repressive right…