Election 2015: Tories dodge election hustings on disability

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The Conservative party is refusing to defend its record in government on disability issues, after declining invitations to take part in three national, disability-related election hustings.

While the Tories’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have put up leading politicians to defend the government’s record in two of the hustings – and withdrew from the third due to “unforeseen travel difficulties” – the Conservative party have refused to take part in all three.

The first national event, on 24 March, was organised by the Alliance for Inclusive Education; the second, on 2 April, was run by Learning Disability Alliance England; and the third, organised by the British Deaf Association, took place this week on 8 April.

In all three, the Conservatives were invited but refused to send a representative, such as Mark Harper (pictured), their minister for disabled people.

UKIP attended two of the events, and were prevented by illness from attending the third; the Green party attended all three of the hustings.

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, attended all three events to put forward her party’s views on disability issues such as the closure of the Independent Living Fund, inclusive education, Access to Work reforms, and cuts to social care.

Green said: “It’s very disappointing that not a single Tory is prepared to defend their policy record to disabled people.

“Either they don’t care or they don’t dare to explain why the last Tory government hit disabled people so hard.

“They haven’t explained what their planned £12 billion of welfare cuts – if they win the next general election – would mean for disability benefits.

“But they can’t hide forever: on 7 May, more than 11 million disabled people can vote to have their say.”

A spokesman for Harper, based in his constituency office in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, yesterday (9 March) refused to answer questions about the minister.

Initially, Harper’s spokesman directed Disability News Service (DNS) to the press office of the Department for Work and Pensions.

After DNS pointed out that Harper’s ministerial department could no longer answer questions on his behalf because of the election, Harper’s spokesman added: “I’m afraid as you have come through to the campaign office, we cannot help you any further.”

After thanking DNS for the call, he hung up.

DNS called back and left a request for a comment on Harper’s answerphone, but he has yet to respond.

The Conservative party has also refused to comment.

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  • clivegsd

    Parasites the lot of them, including Pring

  • I personally don’t trust any of the political parties to do what’s right when it comes to disability issues as their track records show?

  • 11 MILLION DISABLED VOTE

    ALSO INCLUDES THE LOST POOR GREY VOTE

    Vote different and get a
    majority anti austerity cuts group of parties UK parliament.

    Otherwise get a TORY / LABOUR COALITION from Yougov
    prediction April 9th poll

    277 Labour

    264 Tories

    28 Lib Dems

    LABOUR CONTINUES TORY CUTS
    ONLY WITH VOTING IN THE PARTIES OF THE POOR OF THE LEFT BELOW THIS SECTION ON LABOUR, CAN LABOUR BE UTTERLY CHANGED FROM THIS COURSE OF ACTION

    Labour Manifesto Launch April 13th.

    Labour will keep the despised Work Capability Assessment,
    possibly making it worse with the ominous threat of it becoming even more work
    focused.

    This will come with a new, no doubt mandatory ‘support programme’ for sick and disabled
    claimants – by which Labour probably mean workfare.

    There are no plans to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund,

    reverse the atrocious reforms to Council Tax Benefits,

    scrap or even reduce benefit sanctions and

    Labour think Universal Credit is a good idea in principle.

    Labour will keep the despised Work Capability Assessment,
    possibly making it worse with the ominous threat of it becoming even more work
    focused.

    VOTE SNP IN ALL 59 MP SEATS IN
    SCOTLAND

    Reduces 1 Tory and 11 Lib Dems
    and 40 Labour.

    Ensures SNP voice loudest in UK
    parliament with 59 MPs.

    SNP is paying council tax support and Bedroom of poor Scots.

    What SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon said
    on the Leaders’ Debate

    http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2015/apr/snp-challenge-westminster-disability-benefit-cuts

    …”Rolling out Personal Independence Payments (PIPs)
    to replace Disability Living Allowance will see over 100,000 working age
    disabled people in Scotland lose some or all of their benefit by 2018 –
    representing a cut of £300 million a year, with a loss of at least £1,120 a
    year per person who loses out.
    Some 47,000 disabled people in Scotland are expected to lose up to
    £2,964 a year as a consequence of changes in eligibility to the mobility
    component.

    At UK level, the cut in disability benefit represents nearly
    £3 billion a year by 2017/18, with over a million people losing out.

    The SNP propose a modest increase in public spending in real
    terms in order to stop proposed cuts – and support halting the roll out of
    Personal Independence Payments to stop the “savage cuts” to
    disability benefits.” …”Labour’s track record in Scotland is voting
    with the Tories and Lib Dems against halting the roll-out of PIPs.” …

    VOTE PLAID CYMRU in all of Wales.

    Train 1000 more doctors and against cuts to NHS in Wales.

    VOTE IN ENGLAND:

    TUSC – Trade Unionist and
    Socialist Coalition

    1 in 5 parliamentary seats set to have a TUSC choice
    on 7 May ,

    TUSC getting nil national media coverage at all,
    just like all
    real anti austerity parties.

    TUSC is fielding the biggest working class challenge in generations on 7 May

    TUSC PARTY POLITICAL BROADCAST
    FRIDAY APRIL 17TH

    Watch out for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
    party political broadcast on

    Friday April 17th….. BBC2: 5.55pm… ITV: 6.25pm… BBC1:
    6.55pm… Channel4: 7.55pm

    EXAMPLE TUSC POLICIES ON
    DISABLED:

    Noreen explains why she’s standing as an MP for TUSC in the
    general election in Salford and Eccles on Thursday 7 May.

    …”I feel the need to fight the most vulnerable people
    in Salford because they are getting a rough deal from both the government and
    council.

    I’m standing for TUSC because all through our fight for
    transport for disabled adults, TUSC supporters were there too. They are
    genuine. We are genuine.

    We need an MP who will fight for the most vulnerable – for
    the homeless, for the elderly, for those unable to voice their opinions. I
    don’t want to see the city that has been so good to me dragged to its knees. I
    want to stand up for the people of Salford”.

    Read more:
    http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/campaign/Disability/Disabled/20371

    WHERE NOT TUSC CANDIDATE IN
    ENGLAND:

    VOTE

    SOCIALIST GB – SAME POLICIES AS
    TUSC

    CLASS WAR
    DOUBLE DOLE AND PENSION

    MEBYON KERNOW in all of Cornwall – votes out Tories and Lib
    Dem MPs – a socialist alternative

    THE LEFT UNITY PARTY

    THE LEFT UNITY PARTY MANIFESTO
    2015 – DISABLED

    The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been misused to
    force disabled people off benefits and has caused distress and poverty.

    WCA is unfit for purpose and must be scrapped.

    Disabled people should be supported to work but never
    penalised by the benefits system.

    Other benefit cuts, justified using unfair media attacks on
    benefit claimants, are having a disproportionate effect on disabled people.

    The Independent Living Fund and Disability Living Allowance
    should be reinstated – these are vital benefits for basic day-to-day life.

    As a party Left Unity supports disabled people’s campaigns
    and aims to be accessible to all.

    http://www.anastasia-england.me.uk

  • Barry

    It is a shame that only anti-tory stories get reported on
    DSN. John, you forgot to report about the 28 disability charities and yourself,
    attending the Conservative Disability Group’s colloquium in November 2014, when
    they had the opportunity to question Ian Duncan-Smith, Mark Harper and PaulMainard
    on disability and social care issues: or the charities which attended the Round
    Table discussions with MP’s. Do any of the other political parties do this?

    There have been occasions when the stories you raise
    highlight the short-comings of the government’s policies, and rightly so but
    this constant left wing griping does you, or DSN no credit.

    Why don’t you report about the people who have had their ESA
    increased? or the Access to Elected Office Fund which covers the cost of access
    support to those who wish to stand for election? I would have thought that
    positive stories are just as relevant as those which show any government
    short-comings.

    To answer some of your readers who are probably disagreeing
    with what I have said, yes, I am a Conservative candidate who is disabled and
    is trying to influence the party from within. Remember, it was the
    Conservatives that brought in the Disability Discrimination Act and DLA in the
    1990’s, so we are not all bad, we are trying to put the country back on an even
    keel after the appalling mess which Labour left it in after 13 years of mismanagement.

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond, Barry. Sadly not all of your colleagues are as open as you are to discussion. Yes, I did report the colloquium, but it can hardly be compared to a hustings as it was mainly for party members, while I don’t remember IDS hanging around for questions (I can’t remember whether Mark Harper or Paul Maynard did). As for the Access to Elected Office fund, my understanding is that it has now closed, and I saw no mention in the manifesto of any commitment to it being reopened. My stories are determinedly not from an anti-Tory POV. The intention is that they come from a disability rights POV. And if you can point me in the direction of any disabled people’s organisations that have produced reports into increases in ESA then I would be happy to read it and report it. I’m afraid the truth is that Mark Harper has consistently shied away from being questioned on the govt’s disability record during the election period. I would be delighted if he would agree to an interview, but so far he hasn’t responded to my request. Last time I tried to talk to his office they hung up on me.
      Finally, if you are a parliamentary candidate, I would be delighted to hear your views on what you think the manifesto offers disabled people, particularly on disability rights and equality, and where it maybe falls short. I’m doing this for all the parties.
      Thanks again for getting in touch.
      Best wishes,
      John