Friday, 18 March 2016

Zac Goldsmith sacked as patron of disability charity

The Tory government have a pretty appalling record of mistreating and economically sanctioning disabled people, but in March 2016 their economic assaults on disabled people caused huge public backlashes, several PR disasters and a spate of self-interest fuelled Tory infighting.

The £1,500 per year ESA cuts

In March 2016 the Tory party concluded a vicious assault on sick and disabled people by voting to slash social security payments to people in the ESA group by over £1,500 per year (despite the House of Lords rejecting the plan as many times as they could). Not only did the Tories vote to impoverish disabled people, they also voted to torpedo a proposed impact assessment into the actual effects of impoverishing disabled people.

The absurd Tory justification for slashing disability benefits is that it would somehow make disabled people more likely to look for and find work if they are made £30 per week poorer. This ridiculous assertion is not backed up by any reasonable evidence and is hotly contested by opposition MPs and various disability organisations. In fact, many opponents of the cuts claim that slashing people's subsistence incomes will make them less likely to find work, not more likely, because they will have less money to pay for stuff like travel costs, smart clean clothes, printing CVs, or just keeping themselves healthy enough to even look for work.

"No longer tenable"

The Tory candidate for mayor of London Zac Goldsmith was one of 309 Tories to vote in favour of impoverishing sick and disabled people. Not a single MP from any other political party voted in favour of the plan.

The obscure backbencher Kit Malthouse was the first Tory MP to be removed as patron of a disability charity as a result of his support for economic sanctions against sick and disabled people. In the article I wrote about Kit Malthouse's sacking I wondered whether fear of losing donations from Tory voters was preventing the charity Richmond AID from sacking Zac Goldsmith as their patron. Just a few days later Richmond AID did sack Zac in the most unequivocal terms.

Here's an explanation of the decision from Lucy Byrne of Richmond AID:

"We are shocked and disappointed to find that both our local MPs here in the borough of Richmond voted for this cut, one of whom is patron of our organisation ... Zac's decision is a complete conflict with our social model and ethos ... Having voted for this brutal cut we believe that Zac Goldsmiths' position as patron is no longer tenable." [source]

Having their candidate to become Mayor of London sacked as patron of a London based disability charity as a result of his explicit support for the ongoing Tory economic assault on disabled people is a pretty spectacular PR disaster for the Tories, but that's not their only problem.

Backbench rebellion

Just one week after 309 Tory MPs caused a furious public backlash by voting en masse to load the burden of their ideological austerity agenda onto sick and disabled people, George Osborne announced in his budget of failure a new plan to slash another branch of disability funding (PIP) whilst simultaneously showering corporations, the asset rich and high income workers with huge tax cuts.

The public perception that the Tories are a political party that actively hates sick and disabled people is solidifying so much that several backbench Tory MPs are in open revolt about George Osborne's plan to impoverish hundreds of thousands of disabled people who rely on Personal Independence Payments to lead active and fulfilling lives.

Tory self-interest

This backbench revolt is very interesting because it's absolutely clear that it hasn't been brought about by genuine concern for the welfare of disabled people, otherwise these backbench MPs wouldn't have completely ignored the deafening chorus of condemnation from disability organisations, opposition MPs, the House of Lords and the general public in order to vote through their cruel £1,500 cut just the week before. Neither would they have ignored other huge scandals like the discriminatory and false economy riddled WCA reign of terror, the shocking number of people to have died within weeks of being declared "fit for work"the neglect and abuse of disabled people in the Work Programme, or the closure of so many Remploy factories.

My theory is that this backbench revolt is a rather obvious exercise in pure self-interest.

Pretty much everyone who uses social media will have seen some of the flood of images naming and shaming the Tory MPs who voted to impoverish disabled people by £30 per week. It's actually pretty rare for backbench MPs to be publicly held to account in this manner for the way they choose to vote, so it's easy to see the self-interest kicking in when obscure backbench Tories see widely shared pictures of themselves with text explaining their decision to impoverish disabled people in juxtaposition with something like their huge public speaking fees, lucrative outside work, employment of their own family members at the taxpayers' expense, 
extravagant expenses claims or outright expenses fraud.

It's no wonder they're suddenly so jittery. They're simply not used to being publicly held to account for their actions.

From the Tories' discriminatory and psychologically torturous WCA regime (that costs far more to administer than it saves in reduced social security payments) to Iain Duncan Smith's shockingly callous disrespect for dead disabled people, the utter Tory contempt for disabled people has been obvious for years to those of us who pay attention to things like disability rights. However their last two vicious economic assaults on sick and disabled people have really pushed the issue a lot closer to mainstream public awareness.

The public perception that the Tories actively hate disabled people is solidifying, and the backbench Tory revolt is clear evidence that several Tory MPs consider such a public perception to be harmful to their own personal self-interest. 

What can we do?

If you oppose this ideologically driven £1,500 per year Tory economic assault on sick and disabled people in the ESA group you could take a few moments to sign this petition.

If you oppose the ideologically driven Tory plan to impoverish hundreds of thousands of disabled people who receive PIP support whilst they simultaneously handed out lavish tax cuts to corporations, the asset rich and high income earners, you could take a few moments to sign this petition.

It doesn't matter which political party your local MP works for, you could take a few minutes to write to them to express your views (if you include your full name and postal address they have a statutory requirement to reply to your communications). If they are a Tory you can criticise their treatment of disabled people, and if they're an opposition MP you can ask that they do their best to hold the Tories to account for their appalling treatment of disabled people.

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