The Labour party has refused to explain why it watered down strong criticism of the government by its own shadow disability minister.
Last week, Disability News Service revealed that an email mistakenly sent to Disability News Service by a member of Vicky Foxcroft’s staff showed that her original draft comments attacking the government were weakened by someone within the party hierarchy.
The changes made by the party included the removal of a reference to the “vital” role played by trade unions in protecting disabled people from discrimination, while the party also removed any reference to disability discrimination from Foxcroft’s comments.
Responding to new pandemic guidance, Foxcroft (pictured) had also warned that disabled people who might need to shield again needed to be “properly compensated and not left without enough money to survive”, but that call had vanished by the time her draft comments had been amended and approved.
After the story was published, there was widespread concern expressed about the party’s actions on social media.
Steve Paget, president of disAbility Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said: “What hope do disabled people have, when the opposition water down criticism of prejudice policies that fail to adequately address the myriad of issues disabled people face?”
Another disabled campaigner, who tweets at @Richievilla, said: “Labour seem to think that being slightly less nasty and vindictive than the Tories will mean disabled people will vote for them.
“That isn’t enough for me. They lost my vote last year after I was subjected to ignorance and hostility from my local Labour for daring to challenge them.”
Anita Bellows, a researcher with Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “I am not sure why it was watered, whether there was an intent behind this, or whether somebody along the line thought it was too strong.
“It just shows that disabled people still have a fight on their hands, even within the Labour party.”
A disability rights campaigner who tweets at @mettlesometeri added: “This is extremely concerning.
“Disabled people have endured the biggest cuts to benefits and support leading to thousands of deaths. This is utterly grotesque.”
This week, DNS asked Labour why the comments had been weakened, and who in the party made the decision to water them down.
DNS also asked if Foxcroft’s comments had been regularly weakened by the party since she became shadow minister for disabled people after last December’s general election.
The party ignored the questions before eventually confirming that it had “no further comment to make” following comments made last week by the member of Foxcroft’s staff who mistakenly sent the email.
It also declined to explain how the party justified weakening Foxcroft’s comments.
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