Just over two weeks ago, 38 Degrees published the results of their poll on what they should campaign for next.
They can claim some considerable credit for preventing the privatisation of forests and for raising awareness on library closures. 38 Degrees has considerable influence to mobilise people in public opposition, an opposition currently missing in Parliament. They were for many, the single greatest hope for punching much of the disability-denying parts of the Welfare Reform Bill into the dust, which wouldn't be difficult once it was publicised because the justification for reform of disability benefits is so delicate it might as well be made of talcum powder.
The most popular proposed campaign just a short while earlier was that of stopping the cuts to Disability Living Allowance. Then, 38 Degrees decided to open up the poll to a much wider number of people. Now, the direction of the poll was not being decided by those most informed of a wide number of progressive issues, but vested interests and campaigners for other things. This meant that DLA stopped being the top issue, the one that needs addressing most urgently as the danger is so near and affecting those with the least means to be heard in the media and national discourse. Once it has been done, it can not be undone and the government are trying their damn hardest to get it out the door before non-disabled campaigners realise what's happening and come to our rescue.
I've had a delayed reaction to this because I've had a mountain of stuff. I've had the National Autistic Society lobby in London and all the arrangements that needed to be made for that, to find someone to support me, to actually get there and then to write about it when I came back. I've tried contacting A4e because it's nearly a month since I had to cancel my last appointment with them and they said I would be getting another one but have had no word. If the Jobcentre had not told me about my time on Flexible New Deal and with A4e was coming to an end, I never would have known because A4e conveniently never told me anything. My mother, who is also my de facto carer has a greater than 50% chance of losing her job this year because of the cuts and we're having to consider selling the house and making other arrangements for me to live somewhere else. If I lose DLA, there's no chance she could keep herself and me when we're both just on Jobseekers Allowance. If she loses her job, she loses it just three years from retirement.
With all this it's taken me until now to get it out: I am furious with 38 Degrees. I'm furious with middle-class latte liberals who can just go for a walk or to a library when ever they want and were happy to put these priorities, these things which they had plenty of time to campaign for and could have done so when ever they wanted before actual people for whom to enjoy such things can take a day's planning in advance to go a mere mile or two. It shows in the results what most them feel about it: the proposal to oppose DLA cuts has a huge number of 'a little' votes regarding how important it is, almost equal with AV support. If you take the 'a lot' votes and the 'a little' votes and combine them, DLA is the biggest issue. All the ignorant placard waving pricks who've deliberately kept themselves ignorant about the issue but who have milked the plight of the disabled for their own agendas relentlessly have had to throw us a bone, so voted en masse for 'a little'. Thanks.
When you're protesting something and are prompted to speak at length about cuts in general, you will never fail to link disability in; no one wants to be seen to ignoring or even picking on cripples so when you want to bash the Coalition, you'll always make a platitude about the disabled. But when you're actually called on to do something, we're the issue that is of 'a little' importance.
The campaign on forests had actually had it's major victory, yet it was submitted again and was included in this poll and came out top. In fact the problem with opening the poll up is that the clear winners are things which are already getting massive publicity. Those with the least but need the most publicity are those collecting the 'a little' votes.
Look at the proposed campaigns that are up now; DLA is nowhere to be seen but at least the broken record on forests is gone even though some of the other populist but not life-and-death matters have been submitted again and we can expect again for them to soak up a load of the votes.
Complaints have been made about how this has been handled, but 38 Degrees have said nothing concrete. Until they do, I withdraw what ever goodwill and moral support I had for them and everyone reliant on DLA should too; they've shown us nothing in return.
Case File #3 finds the relationship between disability campaigners, carers and disabled people and the wider protest movement on Coalition cuts is not one of mutual respect and reciprocation. After ten months it has shown no signs of changing. We are used to attack the Coalition and occasionally co-opted as arguments in other campaigns, such as how library cuts and forest enclosure might affect us. But when our direct priorities come up and we need help because we are least able to help ourselves, they just don't want to know and sound empty platitudes at us.
Something has got to give and until we see the help we've been hoping for, all campaigns focused on helping the disabled should actively distance themselves from the larger anti-cuts movement. If their actions reflect their opinions, then their opinion is that we don't need help in this. That means we don't need them at all. I want the same rights as trees.