The very recent election has lead me to fully commit myself to being an active Tory. I have always been interested in making a big difference in improving the life experiences and opportunities of people with significant impairments, and getting involved in mainstream politics is the next step in doing this. Labour has chosen a shallow policy of protest in relation to disability, pandering to the emotions of those fearful of losing their benefits and a desire to wrap disabled people in cotton wool as a form of kindness and compassion.
My greatest criticism of the Tory party from my specific perspective is that it has not be brave or smart enough to defend its welfare reforms for disabled people at a personal level. When a policy can appear harsh because of the institutionalised pity for disabled people, quoting a bunch of statistics does not win the argument. Corbyn has been clever in tapping into people’s emotion in a way the Tories has not been able to achieve since Margaret Thatcher.
The Tories can reclaim the disability agenda if it begins to confront the messages coming from the left-wing and liberal media, and here is an example of how. Lets take an imaginary war veteran in their 30s who has lost a leg, but otherwise fit and healthy. They may well be found fit for work while eligible for other benefits. The Mirror and Guardian would frame the story in terms of outrage that this war hero has not been found ‘disabled’ enough in a civilised society who can well afford to compensate ‘the disabled’.
But what is this kind of media saying? Because someone is physically diferent but able to function physically and emotionally, they have to stay at home living in ‘acceptable’ poverty for the rest of their lives with no reprieve? Is it right to condemn someone to boredom, social isolation and depression because society still accepts a social construction of disability that existed since the start of the industrial revolution? And if someone with this level of impairment is unfit for work. what does it say to those of us who are more impaired in terms of our place in society? We all have potential to achieve great things in our own way.
Thee anti-cuts activists have framed supporting people with impairments into work as labelling them as benefit scroungers, blaming the government for a rise of hate crime towards disabled people. The rhetoric is very much the product of the activists themselves and something the party should not be frightened to challenge. I do not accept when many disabled people say “I would like to work but…”. It is perfectly normal for many people to not regard paid work as their core purpose in life but an economic necessary. The safety net of the welfare state comes at the price of social responsibility, and that includes all people with impairments as far as they are able to.
Reclaiming the disability agenda is not something that can happen overnight, but it must start now and it is as important to create if the Tories remain in power or in opposition to a Corbynate steamroller. All people with impairments deserve better than what Labour is offering as the Tories are the party that nutures individuals rather than letting people slip through the net with the assumptions of collectivism offered by socialism.