If you thought the students were trouble, wait for the disability movement
My esteemed colleague Toby Young makes a brave attempt to stand up for Ben Brown’s interview of Jody McIntyre on BBC News 24. He really needn’t have bothered. The clip speaks for itself. To be honest, Brown looked like a police stooge when he repeated their claim that prior to the clip on YouTube McIntyre was rolling his wheelchair towards them. “Aw, diddums, did the man with with Cerebral Palsy scare you, and you in your riot gear and all” would have been the right response to whichever Metropolitan Police flak had the chutzpah to offer up that nonsense. But when McIntyre responded:
I can’t physically use my wheelchair myself. My brother was pushing me.
it was game, set and match to him. But the whole government should have shivered when McIntyre asked Brown:
Do you seriously think a person with Cerebral Palsy in a wheelchair can pose a threat to a police officer?
For this is the next wave of protest they face. There are high profile benefit cuts coming for people with disabilities – billions of pounds of cuts to Disability Living Allowance to start with. And, as I always remind Coalition ministers and their advisers, a billion pounds from welfare is £1,000 a year from a million people. But a particularly nasty one was sneaked out yesterday. The Independent Living Fund will be abolishedfrom 2015. This fund of nearly £300m a year pays an average of £300 a week to people to support them staying independently in their own homes. If it didn’t exist, it would be exactly the kind of thing that would be branded as a Big Society welfare reform – it helps individuals, and it saves the state millions since the alternative is expensive residential care. Instead, it’s being cut.
What I don’t think the Government – or the mainstream media – were aware of until Jody McIntyre’s interview is quite how articulate and media-savvy modern disability campaigners are. As the waves of cuts – to benefits, to the ILF, to social care provided by councils – impact on people we are going to see the Coalition with their immovable case that there must be cuts come face to face with people with disabilities and their irresistible case that the most vulnerable should not pay the price for a bankers’ crisis.
While Frank Field was asked to “think the unthinkable”, today Iain Duncan Smith is going one better – he is “doing the unthinkable”. I look forward to many more blogs from Toby Young explaining precisely why the protesting public have got the wrong end of the stick about a change to the system which is really in their own best interests.