Just under a year ago I joined the Labour Party partly because I was clinging to the desperate hope that Ed was red and that there was still a truly left-wing element within the party. Although since then there have been various assorted things that have dealt mighty blows to that hope, none were more effective than Miliband’s recent speech on responsibility. Now numerous people have already conducted a more decent and thorough post-mortem on this speech than I could hope to do, for example over at HarpyMarx, but the disability angle alone is enough to exercise me.
“The issue I want to talk about today can be summed up in a couple of stories.
While out campaigning during the local elections, not for the first time, I met someone who had been on incapacity benefit for a decade.
He hadn’t been able to work since he was injured doing his job.
It was a real injury, and he was obviously a good man who cared for his children.
But I was convinced that there were other jobs he could do.
And that it’s just not right for the country to be supporting him not to work, when other families on his street are working all hours just to get by.”
What makes this more sinister than any Tory product so far churned out by their hate factory is that Miliband is quite clearly ‘going for’ a genuinely disabled person. He tries to sugar-coat it by calling him a ‘a good man who cared for his children,’ but he nevertheless effectively encourages the audience to scrutinise disabled people and second-guess their fitness for work. It is not difficult to see how this can lead to grotesque unfairness – it is a McCarthyist/Orwellian society that promotes such uninformed and unqualified guesswork. Disabled people have enough things to deal with without this nonsense on top.
This over-simplistic guess – ‘[b]ut I was convinced that there were other jobs he could do’ – conveniently ignores the following points:
Even if he was able to do the work Miliband thinks he should be doing, there is the small matter of actually finding this work. How many people can afford to be fussy about the type of jobs they can apply for in the present climate?
Even if he did find this particular work, there is the further small matter of whether the employer will actually take him on. A survey has found that only 8% of employers are willing to take on somebody on Incapacity Benefit.
This is why Miliband’s speech is worse than anything put forward so far by the Tories. He is stirring up hatred against disabled people for things that are not even their fault.