Labour Party

Disability News Service: Labour ‘on collision course with UN and EHRC over independent living’

The following article has been written by John Pring and appears on his excellent Disability News Service website which can be found by clicking on this link.

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The Labour party is on a “collision course” with the equality and human rights watchdog and the United Nations because of its failure to accept the need for a legal right to independent living, according to a national network of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) has called on Labour to join the TUC in backing its proposals for a new National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS) that would give disabled people crucial new rights to free support.

A meeting of ROFA members and supporters from across England agreed on Friday on their priorities for winning support for NILSS.

Among those priorities was to push Labour to include the plans in its next general election manifesto.

There was also “contempt” at the meeting for the Conservative-led government’s continuing failure to publish its own much-delayed plans for solving the adult social care funding crisis.

ROFA’s demands for a NILSS were first set out in January, in the Independent Living for the Future document, and backing for the plan appears to be growing.

On Friday, the Trades Union Congress passed a motion – proposed by Sean McGovern, co-chair of TUC’s disabled workers’ committee – that calls on the next Labour government to establish a NILSS.

The motion had been passed by TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in May.

Such a service, running alongside the NHS, would provide a universal right to independent living, with support provided free at the point of need, funded by general taxation, managed by central government, and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.

Similar motions have been passed by local Labour branches, with the hope that the proposals will be debated on the floor of the party’s annual conference in Brighton from 21 September.

And the day after Friday’s meeting, ROFA member Andrew Day passed Jeremy Corbyn a letter, when the Labour leader visited him during a visit to Norwich, in which he asked him to meet ROFA to discuss the NILSS proposals.

Mark Harrison, a ROFA member who helped draw up the strategy and took part in Friday’s meeting, said the disabled people’s movement was united behind NILSS.

He said the idea could be “transformational” if it was adopted by Labour as part of its general election manifesto.

But he said he did not believe that the party’s shadow social care minister, Barbara Keeley, had engaged with representative DPOs on social care and the right to independent living, as the party should have been doing because of principles laid out in article four of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Labour disputed this and insisted that Keeley had not refused to meet with RoFA, and “regularly consults with a range of stakeholders, including people with lived experience, on social care policy development”.

Harrison said Labour’s current policies on social care were “pathetic” and “neither transformational nor socialist”.

He said Labour was currently on a “collision course” with the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which has called for the UK to introduce a legal right to independent living, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has also backed such a move.

Although Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto (PDF) promised to sign the UN convention into UK law, the party has since shied away from promising a legal right to independent living, which is offered by article 19 of the treaty.

Harrison said ROFA would hold the Labour party’s “feet to the fire” over independent living.

He said: “This could be a flagship commitment of a new Labour government coming to power.”

He also said there was “complete contempt” for the government at Friday’s meeting over its failure to publish its plans for social care, and for its own failure to engage with representative organisations of disabled people.

He said “momentum was building” behind the NILSS idea, and he added: “That was the good thing about Friday: the momentum is building up and people are really on it, determined that we are not going to let this one go.

“The Labour party should not be waiting. It should be engaging with us now.”

A Labour party spokesperson said: “The proposals fall across a range of government policy areas, from work and pensions and health and social care to justice.

“They will be considered carefully as part of Labour’s policy development process.”

She added: “Labour is committed to addressing the crisis in social care.

“Our plans for a National Care Service will provide dignity in older age, and independence and support for people with disabilities.

“Our plans will ensure that social care receives the funding it needs, at a time when Tory austerity has created the national crisis in social care.”

The Department of Health and Social Care had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).

Corbyn Issues Brexit Update #JC4PM

EU Election Tweets #VoteLabour

Her are some of my favourite Tweets which show why we must #VoteLabour in the EU elections tomorrow.

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WLG Steering Committee Statement on Chris Williamson MP

You will no doubt have seen that Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, has been suspended by the Labour party and had the whip withdrawn pending an investigation into his conduct following complaints, including from other Labour MPs. This relates to comments that he made at a Sheffield Momentum meeting about Labour’s approach to anti-Semitism and his booking of a room at the House of Commons for Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), to enable them to show a film about the suspended Labour activist, Jackie Walker.

The initial announcement of an investigation into these matters was only later followed by the suspension and withdrawal of the whip, seemingly in response to demands from a number of prominent party figures, including the Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, and a letter from the Tribune Group of 38 Labour MPs, which includes the Welsh MPs, Chris Elmore, David Hanson, Stephen Kinnock, Anna McMorrin, Owen Smith and Jo Stevens.

There has been much discussion of this issue, within and beyond the Labour party, and the WLG Steering Committee felt it important to put our own position on the record, via the following statement:

The Welsh Labour Grassroots (WLG) Steering Committee is concerned by the suspension of Chris Williamson and by much of the public discussion of his case. We accept that the party needed to investigate the issues that gave rise to the complaint against him but we believe that the suspension and withdrawal of the whip was unfair and unnecessary and that much of the commentary by Labour politicians and media commentators misinterprets Chris Williamson’s comments and misrepresents his attitude towards anti-Semitism.

Chris Williamson has been accused of suggesting that Labour has apologised too readily to people in the Jewish community who may have experienced anti-Semitism. It seems clear to us, however, that this was not his intent; rather, he was seeking to argue that Labour politicians have often been too quick to accept questionable claims about the scale of the problem and ill-informed criticism of its handling of it, rather than accurately quantifying the incidence of reported cases* and acknowledging the party’s positive record in challenging racism, while admitting that more could still be done.

One may agree or disagree with this view, or feel that Chris Williamson should have taken greater care in the way he expressed it (as he himself appears to accept in his public apology) but it is surely well within the scope of legitimate debate. No significant Labour officer or elected representative has disputed that anti-Semitism is abhorrent or sought to deny that it exists within the Labour party. But to seek to close down any discussion about the prevalence of anti-Semitism or the best way of fighting it is to undermine Labour’s best traditions of healthy debate and to hamper efforts to root out prejudice and address the conditions that allow it to develop. The conduct of some commentators also risks creating a “hostile environment” in which anyone defending Palestinian rights and criticising the Israeli state fears being tarnished as “anti-Semitic”.

Chris Williamson has a long record of actively opposing racism and fascism in all their forms – indeed, a more impressive record in this respect than many of his detractors can claim. Like Jeremy Corbyn, he has distinguished himself by speaking his mind fearlessly on a range of issues, from Labour’s housing policy to the campaign to undermine the elected government of Venezuela. Unlike many other MPs, he has been a strong advocate of democratisation within the party and a loyal supporter of our elected Leader. 

We find the ‘trial by media’ to which Chris has been subjected deeply unedifying; those who object to his comments and actions are, of course, within their rights to submit formal complaints but to air their grievances so loudly and publicly can only undermine Labour at a time when we should be united in holding the Tory government to account and risks denying Chris Williamson a fair hearing.

We note that the Labour NEC decided some time ago to abandon the automatic use of administrative suspension pending the outcome of a disciplinary complaint, in all but the most serious cases (such as when the member in question poses some sort of ongoing threat to others). We see no justification for suspending Chris Williamson and call for his suspension to be ended and the whip restored.

WLG remains implacably opposed to anti-Semitism, along with all other forms of racism, such as Islamophobia, and bigotry and prejudice of any kind. We offer our unconditional solidarity to all those who encounter such hatred, regardless of whether we otherwise agree with them politically. We believe that all cases of anti-Semitic abuse should continue to be dealt with through the party’s disciplinary procedures and we applaud the steps taken under Jeremy Corbyn and Jennie Formby to implement the Chakrabarti recommendations, including the expansion of the NCC to deal with cases more quickly, as well as the efforts made to educate our members about the issue.  

We believe, however, that the tone of public discussion on this issue often militates against the kind of frank and serious discussion needed to develop effective solutions. The strident calls for punitive action against Chris Williamson are an unhealthy symptom of this problem and we believe he deserves our support in seeking a fair hearing.
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*Statistics published by the General Secretary reveal that, over the last ten months, complaints received have led to 453 members being investigated for anti-Semitism; it has been pointed out that this amounts to 1/12th of 1% of the total party membership.

Our opponents are the Tories, not each other

Just received the following email from Jeremy Corbyn and I feel that it needs sharing as widely as possible in the face of disloyal MP’s and a hostile mainstream media.

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Dear Nathan,

Our country is in crisis and needs a Labour Government.

Our opponents are the Tories, not each other, and it’s disappointing that a small group of MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945.

Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.

The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a credible alternative, keeping all options on the table, including a public vote to stop a disastrous ‘no deal’ Brexit.

When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all. For those millions the only solution is a Labour Government that will invest in and transform our country.

That’s why we must be united – not for ourselves but to deliver a Labour Government.

Yours,

Signed, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party

Disability Labour Press Release #BoycottPurpleTuesday

PRESS RELEASE

Purple Tuesday

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Disability Labour deplores the concept of Purple Tuesday. This event, which is being held on Tuesday 13th November is an initiative endorsed by the DWP and run by a company called We are Purple to build a “partnership” between disabled people and businesses.

Fran Springfield Co-Chair of Disability Labour said;

“This is a disgraceful attempt to “sell out” disabled people to commercial entities. Every day should be an accessible shopping day!

Disability Labour are deeply concerned that the DWP which harasses and persecutes disabled people on a daily basis will use video footage to identify if claimants are shopping, what they’re purchasing and even how far they are walking.”

We are dismayed that supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Argos, M&S, and shopping centres as well as Barclays Bank have chosen to become involved in such a day.

Disability Labour will be contacting them to express our views and to encourage them not to participate in any similar schemes by We are Purple.

As Kathy Bole, Co-Vice Chair of Disability said;

“Sainsbury’s already has form in relation to sharing CCTV footage to spy on disabled benefit claimants. Their surveillance of disabled people has led to increased distress and isolation.”

[https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2018/05/29/the-dwp-has-been-colluding-with- sainsburys-to-spy-on-disabled-people]

Disability Labour calls on Labour Party members to boycott all the shops, businesses and banks taking part on 13th November, the day of Purple Tuesday.

Disability Labour also calls on DPAC to support this boycott and to campaign with us against the dodgy principles behind Purple Tuesday.

Disabled Access Day on 16th March 2019 would be a far more appropriate day for businesses to support and engage with disabled people.

ENDS