More than 1,000 Deaf and disabled people and their allies have backed Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to be re-elected as Labour leader, after signing a letter recognising his years of support for key disability rights campaigns.
The letter was written by the grassroots campaigning network Disabled People Against Cuts, which said it wanted to repay Corbyn (pictured) – and his deputy John McDonnell – for their past support.
The letter says: “You have supported deaf and disabled people’s causes for many, many years.
“You have spoken in Parliament. You have voted against vicious welfare reforms that have blighted our lives, often having to rebel against the Whip to do so.
“You have campaigned with us during court vigils, at street protests and you spoke at the ‘10,000 cuts and counting’ memorial for people who had died as a result of welfare reform.”
The letter adds: “During our campaign to save the [Independent Living Fund] when we asked the then Labour Leadership for help and got none, you publicly supported our campaign.”
And it tells Corbyn: “You have supported deaf and disabled people in so many ways over so many years and now it is time for us to have a chance to rally in support of you and John.”
Many of those who signed the letter have added comments of their own.
Disability rights activist David Gillon said: “A return to New Labour is a return to ignoring disabled people.”
Another to sign the letter was the veteran inclusive education campaigner Micheline Mason, who said: “You have also both supported our fight for inclusion, which, as you know, is another word for socialism in practice.
“We will win this struggle together, but thank you so much for keeping the flame of hope burning in dark times.”
Ian Jones, co-founder of the WOW campaign, praised Corbyn’s support, which helped secure a parliamentary debate for the WOW petition, and said: “Most Labour MPs ‘talk the talk’ about disabled people getting true equality of opportunity in our society. Jeremy ‘walks the walk’.”
Another to sign the letter, Katy Marchant, said: “While the media and parliament has largely ignored the brutal attacks by Tory Austerity on disabled people and the enormous suffering and deaths this has caused, both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have steadfastly spoken out and supported us.”
Cornelia Roesskamp said: “You have supported inclusive education when in and out of ‘fashion’ because you understand that it is [a]human rights issue fundamentally.”
Janine Booth, a member of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, said: “As well as the comments in the letter, I’d like to add that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s support for autistic and other neurodivergent people fighting for our rights has been nothing short of outstanding.
“Only a Labour government under their leadership will deliver the radical policy changes that we need after years of Tory austerity and bigotry.”
Mandy Bell said: “As the mother of a disabled child, I believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the ONLY candidate of choice, the only person I would trust my daughter’s future to.”
And Geraldine O’Connor said: “I thank you for defending people with disabilities, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
“You have fought for us, now we will fight for you.”
Meanwhile, Corbyn’s opponent, former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith, claimed in an interview with the Guardian that – if he became prime minister – he would rewrite the eligibility rules for personal independence payment (PIP), scrap the work capability assessment, and move from outsourcing benefits assessments to private firms, such as Atos, Capita and Maximus, to using the NHS and social services to carry out the tests.
But his claims to support disabled people were undermined when a video emerged on the Independent website the following day of him using disablist language to describe Corbyn at a campaign rally.
Smith told the rally: “We’ve got to get two million people who actually voted Tory 12 months ago to vote Labour, in 106 seats.
“And what you won’t have from me is some lunatic at the top of the Labour party, you’ll have someone who tries to form a coherent narrative about what’s wrong with Britain.”