Labour conference: Disabled members welcome Corbyn’s re-election


Disabled party members have given overwhelming backing to the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party.

Corbyn was elected with 62 per cent of the vote, in a result announced on the first day of Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool, easily beating former shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith.

Nearly every disabled party member approached by Disability News Service at the conference welcomed that decision.

Ken Audin, a member of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said: “He’s got very good ideas. His heart is in the right place.

“He thinks a lot about the needs of disabled people. I’m hopeful that he pulls the Labour party together and they get themselves in a position where they will win an election.”

Janet Blackwell also welcomed his re-election.

She said: “I hope it will lead the Labour party away from austerity, so there will be fewer cuts in benefits.”

But she warned: “I have heard a lot of words but we will wait to see if we get into government to see what the action is.”

Another supporter, Sarah Finlayson, said: “He’s very passionate about people with disabilities, people on benefits, [and opposing]austerity measures.”

And she said his focus on trade union rights would give more rights to disabled people in the workplace.

Dave Allan, chair of Disability Labour – the network of disabled Labour party members – which nominated Corbyn to be leader because of his record on disability, said: “It will be a fundamental step forward for disabled people’s rights in the UK if Jeremy is elected prime minister.

“He has supported disabled people for decades. He has been with us on virtually every demo. He has supported all our campaigns.

“I think it’s going to make a tremendous difference.”

He pointed to the disability rights manifesto that Corbyn put together in the last weeks of his re-election campaign, which both Disability Labour and Disabled People Against Cuts had fed into.

The manifesto includes a commitment to implement fully the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ensure that the 12 pillars of independent living inform Labour policy-making, and to develop an inclusive education system.

The manifesto also says that investing £500 billion in infrastructure and other public spending, backed by a publicly-owned national investment bank, would lead to progress on equality and ensure “accessible public transport and housing”.

One disabled delegate, who asked not to be named, said she was disappointed with Corbyn’s victory.

She said: “Jeremy is a lovely man but he’s not a leader.

“People need a leader who can provide the leadership and a shadow cabinet that shows depth, quality and experience.”

She said the current shadow cabinet did not demonstrate those qualities.

Austin Harney, who was due to speak at a fringe event being held to launch the development of a Labour manifesto on neurodiversity, welcomed Corbyn’s victory and said he hoped it would lead to “breakthroughs” in rights for neurodiverse people.

But he particularly praised Corbyn’s shadow chancellor and close political ally, John McDonnell.

He said McDonnell had worked closely with families with autistic children in his London constituency, and had even been instrumental in his own decision to be open about his autism.

He said: “I would never have come out in the open if it was not for John McDonnell.”

He also praised McDonnell’s call in May this year for Labour to appoint a shadow minister for neurodiversity.

Anne Pridmore, a party member and former chair of the British Council of Disabled People, said she was “very glad” that Corbyn had been re-elected.

She said: “If we have got any hope, we have got hope in Jeremy.

“He has given a statement that he is going to make independent living a right, so let’s hope that he sticks to his manifesto promise.”

Another disabled party member, Jan Turner, also welcomed his re-election.

She said: “I am really glad he’s got in. We just have to hope that the other MPs will support him in parliament. I hope they will get united.

“I think he’s a man of principles and honesty. I believe I can trust him. I can’t say that about many politicians.”

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