Dame Anne’s warning to disabled people: ‘Be afraid, be very afraid’


A disabled Labour MP who lost her seat in last week’s general election has warned disabled people to “be very afraid” about the prospect of five years of a Conservative-only government.

Dame Anne Begg had won the marginal Aberdeen South seat four times and had been an MP for 18 years, but was a victim of the SNP landslide in Scotland, losing by more than 7,000 votes.

Dame Anne was chair of the influential Commons work and pensions select committee, whose reports held the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to account over the coalition’s welfare reforms.

Now she fears that disabled people will bear the brunt of a new wave of cuts to the social security budget, with the Conservative manifesto pledging another £12 billion a year in “savings”.

She told Disability News Service (DNS): “I think people will need to be afraid of what’s to come. I think we haven’t seen anything yet.”

She said the coalition had already taken the “low-hanging fruit, the easy stuff” when it came to cuts to benefits.

Earlier this week, she tweeted a link to a Guardian news report on Iain Duncan Smith being reappointed as work and pensions secretary, and therefore heading plans to cut another £12 billion from the benefits bill, adding her own comment: “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Dame Anne told DNS that ministers were now likely to tighten eligibility criteria for personal independence payment (PIP), and added: “The way to save the money is to have people not qualifying [for PIP].”

She also warned that ministers were likely to tax disability living allowance and PIP.

She said: “The problem was always where the cuts are going to come from. I don’t see how it cannot disproportionately affect disabled people.

“If they won’t touch pensioners, the big bill left is working-age disabled people.”

Dame Anne encouraged disabled people to campaign for change, and said she believed that – despite some of its “horrible” elements – social media would prove a valuable tool.

She said: “Aspects of social media have been a power for good, and that’s the way disabled people have been able to form themselves into a group and connect with people across the whole country, and in a way that they never physically would have been able to do without social media.”

And she said disabled people needed to lobby their own constituency MPs, particularly if they are Conservative.

Dame Anne also said there appeared to be a need for an “effective voice” to speak for the different communities of disabled people, after a period in which many disability organisations found it “very difficult to criticise the government”, including those charities in Scotland that rely on funding from the Scottish government.

She suggested a campaigning approach centred on realism and pragmatism, and developing a “common voice so it is stronger and louder” and has “very clear achievable aims”.

She said: “You can always have your wish-list but what you probably need are some identifiable, containable, achievable goals that you can start to build up your confidence with.

“That’s a slow process, but if you start to get results and have an impact then people start to sit up and listen.”

She said the “biggest challenge” for disabled people with the new parliament would be that the Conservative party now has an overall majority in the Commons.

She said it had been difficult to challenge the Conservatives when they were in a coalition, but they would be “much more determined… to not listen to any criticism [now]they are in a majority government”.

She said the reaction from constituents and colleagues and supporters wider afield to her defeat had been “lovely”, despite a small number of abusive comments on social media from triumphant Scottish nationalists.

Disabled campaigner Kaliya Franklin tweeted: “Very sad to see @annebegg lost her seat. She’s been a brilliant MP and example to disabled people that politics is for us.”

Many others echoed those thoughts and thanked her for her work championing disability rights and working for her constituents, and for her public service.

Disabled activist Adam Lotun was another who expressed admiration, tweeting: “You have been a lone candle in the wind for many a disabled person, I’m proud to have worked with you…”

Dame Anne said she realised about 10 days before the election that she was going to lose her seat, because of the polls indicating a huge SNP victory across Scotland, telling herself: “If there is that kind of tsunami, there is not a chance in hell that I can survive.”

But she and her team decided that “if we are going down, we are going down fighting,” and even had some last-minute optimism when a YouGov poll suggested she would hold her seat.

She said: “I had always depended on building a coalition of people who would vote for me, but who were not natural Labour voters.” The core vote of Labour voters in her constituency was only about 5,500, she said.

Now she says she has no idea what she will do next, for the first time in her life. She had wanted to be a teacher from the age of five, and fought the authorities for the right to go to teacher training college, and then to become a teacher.

She had not thought of becoming an MP until she was approached by Labour colleagues to stand.

But now, for the next five years, until she reaches pensionable age, she will need a paid job, although she says that she lives “quite modestly”.

She said: “I am hoping something will come along and I will think, ‘Oh, yes, I quite fancy doing that.”

But she thinks it unlikely that she will be offered a peerage, as there are unlikely to be many new Labour peers, due to the significant non-government majority in the House of Lords. She is also determined not to leave her home in Aberdeen.

  • User Ratings (44 Votes)
  • joe90kane

    What a pathetic whinge from Begg who vigorously campaigned for two years during the indyref to stop Scots getting rid of Tory rule altogether from Scotland claiming we were “Better Together” with the Tories. She told disabled Scots they had nothing to fear under Westminster rule now, less than a year later, she’s telling them to be afraid.

    Begg also promised disabled Scots that full control over the DWP in Scotland would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament in return for a NO vote in the referendum. Her party reneged on their infamouse Daiy Record “Vow” within hours of it getting the vote it wanted in the indyref.

    Not forgetting that Begg was part of the Labour Party of government which introduced the lethal, unscientific and unethical DWP ESA regime which Labour specifically designed to disappear 1 million disabled people from the welfare rolls. It also introduced sanctions for disabled people and single parent families.

    For the past 18 years as an MP Begg has been in the top 10% of wage earners in the UK and leaves her MPs job with a gold-plated pension. Yet here is this red tory parasite trying to solicit sympathy from her disabled victims especially those in Scotland who are faced with yet another 5 years of Tory human rights abuses and Tory government they didn’t vote for

    But hey, Anne’s got massive amounts of money in the bank and a gold-plated state pension. She’ll never have to suffer the consequences of her party’s policies or those of her Better Together pals in the Tory Party. Except in Scotland of course where her two-faced pro-tory party has just bee wiped out forever and its 5 month old leader been forced to resign.

    • Gordon Anderson

      Couldn’t add anything better to that assessment.

  • clivegsd

    What a joke! She wouldn’t accept that Burnham wanted to scrap DLA for over 65’s for his VP the National Care Service, add to that she refused to accept Labour started the Remploy closures.

    Oh, and Pring is a self-serving parasite.

  • Allen Smith

    I am a Scottish Nationalist and I know Anne Begg – she was an English teacher in my School. She does not target vulnerable people or make them anxious or insecure for no reason, the changes that the conservative government will need to make to achieve their stated objective should leave anyone who has the misfortune of depending on welfare worried and concerned for what the future holds. My Uncle and My sister are registered disabled and worry about both of them!

    As for the fact she argued to stay in the Union, everyone was entitled to their own opinion in the Indy ref and events such as these changes are likely to make many people who voted no re-evaluate their decision and as such we should not alienate them by calling them names. Lets keep the positive feel of the Yes Scotland movement and continue to make the case for Scottish independence.

    Anne – You are a strong person who has got through all life has thrown at you. I am confident you will make it through this and find a role for yourself. All the best in your future endeavors.

  • Joshie Bhoy

    The definition of someone with a disability no longer has the same emphasis that it used to have. Even gangs of vagrant drunks and drug addicts get extra benefits as they are apparently “disabled” which makes a mockery of the system. The system is now widely abused and under Anne’s party, the claimant count for incapacity benefit soared to it’s now unaffordable level. Perhaps if the Labour Party had been more financially competent with our money we would not be in the mess we are in now. Hopefully once the deficit is paid there will be more money available or those who are genuine and in need. It is just a pity that Anne Begg did not warn all disabled and non disabled people of soaring council tax bills and the removal of tax relief on mortgage interest pre and post 1997, both of which had a devastating effect on me and my family at the time. She is just pissed off that she is now off the gravy train like all the others who lost their seats but suspect she will still shop at M&S as opposed to Lidl or Aldi.

    • Linda E

      Correct me if i’m wrong but it was Thatcher who parked everyone on the sick in order to keep the unemployment figures down , As for you thinking she is pissed off because she is off the Gravy Train I think you live in Tory frame work of disabled or not get a job , The biggest gravy train is not the disabled but the Government it’s self and in 5 years we will se just how much they will give to there rich mates while starving the poor .

      • Joshie Bhoy

        You are wrong so I have corrected you as requested – it was under LABOUR the incapacity count soared. I live nowhere near Torry (note there are 2 r’s in Torry) but there are a lot of decent hard working people there BTW who don’t deserve your assumptions of them based on a postcode. I have a very good job and have worked continuously since 1992. By gravy train I was referring to the one that all MP’s are on which has noting to do with disability. Your grammar needs close attention BTW! The way out of poverty is simple – start working and work your way up which is what I did!

      • nyssa

        …spot on! Big corporations use our resources, infrastructure, labour, then abuse our benefits system and avoid/evade paying tax. Unclaimed benefits are 8x the amount of benefit fraud, tax evasion is 100x benefit fraud, yet the very people who have paid into the system are hounded and vilified. Austerity is a lie – it is in no way like overspending on your credit card! If people have no money to spend then the economy shrinks doh! ..and if we’re all in it together doesn’t it make sense to cut back on the ridiculously extravagant expenses claimed by mps before cutting services that are vital to the well being of our countrymen. There may well have been no money left when labour last left government but at least we had assets, which are now being run down and sold off cheap leaving us with nothing but an increasing debt as the tories have borrowed more in the past 5 years than all the labour governments in history put together. But people won’t listen/don’t care until it affects them directly. Low wages mean people need to claim top-up benefits – low wages paid by the very companies who do not pay their way in taxes. Free labour is eroding the employment market – why pay anyone to do a job when you can get free labour? Vulnerable people are losing the services they need to be able to stay in work. Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Will Free You a slogan used not only by the Tories today but historically by the Nazi regime which forced prisoners to work in inhuman conditions) is a word play on a phrase from the bible -Truth will free you (Wahrheit macht frei). Arbeit Macht Frei appeared over many forced labour and concentration camps where the work which was said to liberate more often than not ended in premature death.

  • Steve Bowers

    This from a woman who actively campaigned with the local BNP leader in Aberdeen for a NO vote in the Scottish referendum.
    You brought us this Government Anne Begg, you lied, scared, and cheated the people of Scotland for your Westminster masters, how dare you now complain about a Tory Government when you were so instrumental in bringing it to Scotland.
    Have your head in shame and sod off.

  • BadgerTom

    So… A labour MP who sucked hard in the election is saying that a conservative only government is bad… Well then Labour, you shouldn’t have picked a moronic leader, had a terrible campaign that made you look like Red Conservatives and sided with UKIP on immigration issues. What did you expect?

    If you really wanted to still be the main opposition party you should’ve been yourselves and not everyone else.

    I’m not pro-conservatives but I am sure as hell never going to be Pro right or pro fake right (Newer Labour).