Along with other commentators, an article in today’s Guardian by my own Tory MP, Zac Goldsmith (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/07/third-runway-heathrow-betrayal) set me thinking. In his article, Zac makes the comment:
political promises need to mean something
In my own comment on the article, I point out to Zac and his colleagues that if you value your integrity, you can’t demand that some promises are kept while supporting policies that clearly break other promises.
Let’s look at some of the promises in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto that gave some reassurance to disabled and sick people, who are often some of the poorest in our society (for information on the link between disability and poverty, see Leonard Cheshire’s report, Disability Poverty in the UK, 2008). Page 15 of the manifesto contained this promise:
recipients of incapacity benefit who are genuinely disabled will continue to receive the financial support to which they are entitled
and the Foreword contains this statement:
…fiscal responsibility needs a social conscience or it is not responsible at all: so we will not allow the poorest people in Britain to pay an unfair price for the mistakes of some of the richest
There is clearly some breathtaking promise-breaking happening here, as MPs’ caseloads are burgeoning with cases of disabled and sick people, who are quite clearly too disabled or sick to work, losing all support and ending up in even greater poverty than they were already experiencing (for confirmation that MPs’ caseloads are indeed swollen by these cases, see transcript of the Westminster Hall debate on Atos Healthcare on 4 September). Some reports, including those included in recent Panorama and Dispatches documentaries, are totally heartbreaking; disabled and sick people in desperate hardship – some even dying, due to suicide or to the condition that supposedly leaves them ‘fit for work’ – as a result of incompetent, compassionless, unrealistic welfare reform and gross mismanagement of the benefits system.
Half way through this Parliament, it just won’t do to blame the disastrous Work Capability Assessment and Atos contract on the previous Government. The Coalition needs to get a grip… all they’ve demonstrated so far is that they really don’t care either about disabled and sick people’s wellbeing or, for that matter, about the expense to the taxpayer of incompetent assessments and hundreds of appeals.
So yes, Zac and your Tory colleagues, political promises DO need to mean something. This Government’s manifesto promises URGENTLY need to ‘mean something’ for the hundreds of disabled and sick people and their families experiencing unimaginable suffering and hardship due to the utterly inept Work Capability Assessments undertaken on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, and for those mourning the loss of disabled and sick people who’ve died following these incompetent assessments.
Promise or no promise, the human cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s supposedly compassionate approach to welfare is far, far too high. As if this isn’t enough, the human cost is set to become a great deal higher when Disability Living Allowance is replaced by Personal Independence Payment, for which the assessment process is destined to be similarly incompetent and inhumane.