The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th May 2011
THOUSANDS of disabled people, along with their friends and supporters came from all over the country to London to protest at the cuts to their services and benefits last Wednesday. For many of them it was an ordeal. Our public transport system is not friendly to the disabled and it required a lot more effort for them to get to London that it would for most people. But they were so angry at what is being done to them they wanted to tell the world.
All those of working age are threatened by the notorious work assessment tests, carried out not by medically qualified people but by agency staff with a mechanistic checklist. They are all at risk of losing their benefits and being forced instead onto Jobseekers’ allowance. Only this allowance comes with conditions — claimants must prove they are actively seeking work, something that people with physical and mental health problems will find very difficult to comply with. But if they fail they face losing everything. They are extremely distressed and afraid.
The Government has issued a briefing to the civil servants who administer Jobseekers’ Allowance on how to deal with claimants who become suicidal when faced with the withdrawal of their benefits.
The Government knows full well that its policies will drive many very vulnerable disabled people to take their own lives — and the Government is content to continue with such policies. The millionaires who sit on the Con-Dem Coalition front benches are effectively telling the weak and disabled to go away and die!
The protesters wanted to bring this to the attention of the world. Their protest was well organised, well attended and had a good sprinkling of high-profile celebrities.
But if you watched the news on ITV or BBC that evening you would never had guessed that it had happened. They carried virtually no reports at all, not even on the local London news. Apparently there were a couple of quick snatches on the lunchtime news bulletins. Only a handful of newspapers reported the events.
Yet the Russia Today news agency found the protest newsworthy and ran it.
A few days later the BBC, ITV and the rest of the media gave high prominence to a tiny demonstration in Westminster by a group of around 300 wealthy people claiming they supported the spending cuts and want more of them — because they think their taxes are too high. One senior London police officer commented they were the strangest bunch of weirdoes he’d ever come across.
The few papers that did report the Hardest Hit protest by the disabled people, like the Guardian, are read by the sort of people who are aware and sympathetic anyway. And it’s a fair bet that most people, if they knew the effects of the cuts on the disabled, would probably also be sympathetic.
But there are millions of people who are not aware, the sort of people who read right-wing tabloids, if they read any paper at all. Not the sort of people who would seek out news bulletins from foreign countries on the web. And they are the sort of people, many of them working class, who vote Tory and will continue to vote Tory because, so far, nothing really bad has happened to them and they don’t think it ever will.
David Cameron counts on these people to keep him in power; he counts on them remaining ignorant. And the BBC, ITV and most of the rest of the media — who are supposed to be unbiased — are helping to keep him in power by preventing most people finding out what the disabled protesters went to such effort to try to tell them.
As one of the protesters put it, as far as the media is concerned they used to be regarded as “poor dears”; now they are regarded as “benefit cheats” and “scroungers”. There is a campaign of hostility towards disabled people to justify the cuts in their benefits and allowances.
Well most disabled people are a part of the working class and the organised working class must rally to their defence. An injury to one is an injury to all.
Unions are already giving the protesters some support but much more is needed, especially from those unions involved in the media — and from all progressive individuals and organisations.