Last Day Of The Lords – Welfare Reform 11.1.12

I am not qualified to give the low down on Welfare Reform. I am only clear that the government is taking steps to hurt disabled people on the basis that we are all currently in the hurt game together. Neither do i feel qualified to comment on the job of the Lords but i am given to believe it is their job to place a safeguard on bad legislation which i presume means checking and taking action to stop the government from hurting the people that it is there to serve. So, it is that i find myself out on the streets again, aiming my gaze at the House of Lords, psyching them into taking steps to support us. Should they fail today then it will be the last day of the lords – the day that they failed, the day that they should be dismissed.

I am also mindful that I am an old New Voice, selected by Disability Arts Online to receive training that will improve my writing. I commit the rest of this entry to them.

Arriving at the meeting place I am once more concerned about the turn out. What kind of activism is this? Why are there so few people in a once proud movement turning up to help safeguard our own through lobbying, picketing, direct action? Indeed who is this I stand with today? The clearest banners read Single Mother’s Self Defence and Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group.

Few Activists Gather Opposite the Lords

I see an old activist friend, Clare from Winvisible. I say is this it? Where is everyone? She introduces me to Joan from UK Uncut who asks me who i’m with. I say that, i’m used to being with DAN, the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and explain that we are a bit sleepy today. I take a picture of them both, breaking photography laws by looking down on a wheelchair user. Truth is i’ve taken so many pictures of Clare and more correct photos of her will appear later. Suddenly I am interested in a coalition of mutual interest, For the first time ever I am looking outside the confines of the Disabled People’s Movement and taking an interest in what people are saying.

Clare from Winvisible and Joan from UK Uncut Oppose the Welfare Reform Bill

If the clear message is to oppose welfare reform. Why do it? What does it affect. Clare’s placard says what is at risk.

Clare's placard shows what is at risk

She is chanting into a loud-speaker. The people behind her join in. The chant is ‘Welfare not Warfare’. Alternative strategies could be adapted if cuts really have to be made. But it feels strange to me to be listening to this. No chants originate from the movement. Other placards seem to show a lack of understanding about disability issues.

Mad Pride, Single Mothers' Self Defence, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group show off their Banners

I am puzzled by the Mad Pride banner that describes the Benefit Cuts and Condems as being ‘mental’. This is clearly a pejorative term. The issue is something that people see as being pejorative and some feel members of the coalition need to be treated the same way but….’mental’. Does it make it ok if mental health service users and system survivors say it? Is there some  kind of recognition going on in terms of what is and what is not mad? If I am proud of being mad do i want to share the term with my enemy? At least Dave Skull when he takes the mike is clear and simply gives the outstanding speech of the day (which is something that i cherish Winvisible for – I have seen them sharing the mike for 10 years now, giving a voice to anyone with something to say).

Dave Skull Takes The Mike

I also cherish the protestors whose banners talk about the consequences of Welfare Reform, ‘Cuts Make Women and Kids More Vulnerable to Rape’, ‘Cuts Equal Racist Attacks Of A Financial Kind’, ‘Cuts Put Women On The Street’, ‘Welfare Reform Bill – Drives Women into Destitution and Prostitution’ and just here ‘1 Year Time Limit on Sickness benefit = Assisted Dying’ which has been the DPAC line for a while now. Remember ‘ATOS Kills’

Protestor Links Benefits cuts To Assisted Dying

Other placards just betray my own prejudices; ‘Lords Help Us’, a play on the christian democracy that led us to this mess (Blairism) and ‘Single Mom’s and People with Disabilities All Deserving and Entitled’. I’m a disabled person. Get used to saying it. I don’t want help. I want rights. Yes, there should be no distinction between deserving and undeserving. Lets destroy that old christian idea once and for all. It’s not helpful. Its medical model in that it leads to the construction of testing through eligibility, it causes division.

I didn’t stay long after shooting my roll of film. I’m not sure I belonged with this group of activists or not. In terms of the aims yes. In terms of the style, in terms of the overall presentation and language – well, it’s very mixed – but, because i was there for the moment maybe I can share in the success because this was not the last day of the lords. This was the day the lords made the right stand, this was the day they drew a line, extending the period of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), ensuring that cancer patients received benefits for a longer period thus enabling recovery and the day when young people receiving ESA also received a contributory payment to their pensions. And this was the day that I wondered what is the movement all about today, where are we, what are we doing, is it enough?????

Just time for a favourite photo from the action. I like the smiley face, i  like the  suggestion of a clenched fist and i like the hat. Good activism style and the extra idea of a new local contact. We could all bc friends one day.

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group Rep and Placard


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