Labour has chosen just three new disabled candidates to fight seats at the next general election, but is still refusing to accept it has a problem with selecting disabled people to run for elected office, conference delegates have heard.
A fringe meeting organised by the newly-launched organisation Disability Labour at the party’s annual conference in Manchester heard from several disabled activists who called on the party to do more to improve its selection process.
One told the meeting: “The selection process for me was absolutely horrendous and humiliating.”
He described how the chair of the meeting – attended by about 30 party members – to select candidates for a council election had wanted him to explain how he was going to “manage to do door-stepping with my ‘problem’ as a disabled person”.
He added: “There is a problem in the Labour party which I do not think it fully acknowledges. The example has to be set from within.”
He wants the party’s national executive committee to guarantee an interview for all disabled applicants for elected office.
Cllr Laura Booth, the newly-elected chair of Disability Labour, and the prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester, told him: “I am a local councillor as well and I understand exactly what you have said.
“We need to be absolute zealots to tell people at the top what we need and what support we need. We certainly don’t need to be told we have a problem.
“It is a hard fight and it is one we will have to do together. We will have to go on and on and on until something is done.”
She said that disabled people within the party “feel we have been left behind”, thanks to problems with funding and support.
The other two new disabled Labour PPCs, Mary Griffiths Clarke and Emily Brothers, were also at the fringe meeting.
Kirsten Hearn, a leading disabled activist and now a Labour councillor in London, who has benefited from Access to Elected Office funding, called on Disability Labour to collect success stories of disabled party members who have benefited from good practice.
Dave Allan, a member of Disability Labour and also of the Unite union’s disabled members network, was among those who paid tribute to the work of Nicholas Russell, who died last month and spent years raising disability rights issues within the party.
He said Russell had been deselected by his local party – following four dedicated years as a councillor – because it failed to provide him with the reasonable adjustments he needed as a disabled politician.
Kate Green, the shadow minister for disabled people, suggested that Disability Labour should write to the national executive committee about the standards that disabled people should expect from the party.
24 September 2014