Opinion: Political reasons for people to back the ESA motion‏

If any of you are wondering how we can improve our situation in the polls then I’ve got a suggestion for you: back the Liberal Youth sponsored ESA Motion.

Now there are all sorts of compassionate, liberal and financial reasons to back this motion. The current system is unfair, inhumane, inaccurate and expensive. But, putting all that to one side for a moment, there are sound political reasons to back it.

At the moment the treatment of people with long term illnesses and disabilities is appalling. The media are starting to wake up to the issue, the government is facing a legal challenge from disability charities and the impression that several campaigners have is that the entire issue will be erupting quite soon – rather similarly to the way the NHS issue exploded last spring.

The situation we have at the moment, which any decent human being would consider a national disgrace, is one which was introduced by Labour with complete disregard for all common sense and evidence. They have a track record on this issue which is despicable. Similarly, we have a Tory minister, Ian Duncan-Smith, who was told by the Chancellor that, if he wanted to introduce the Universal Credit, he would have to find the £3 billion to fund it by cutting the welfare budget. So IDS’s response was to introduce a time limit of 12 months on contributory ESA. After this period has elapsed, claimants have all support taken away and they are left facing destitution.

And I’d like to emphasise that this time limit only applies to contributory ESA e.g. payments to people who have made a National Insurance contribution at some point in the past. This, coupled with the fact that the time limit often forces partners of claimants to give up work to look after them, has the overall effect of actively disincentivising work, in addition to all the other issues such as being a purely money saving exercise.

The current system has been condemned time and time again by parliamentary committees, enquiries and independent tribunals.

One committee produced a report on the issue which debated whether it would be better if the Work Capability Assesments took into account “real-life context”, that is the ability of claimants to do actual jobs in the real world rather than their ability to, say, pick up a pen once during an assessment. However, employment minister Chris Grayling responded that he was “absolutely unreservedly and implacably opposed” to a real-world test.

You quite literally cannot make stuff like that up. Labour and the Conservatives have given us a very big political stick to beat both of them round the head with. You could not have imagined a more potentially damaging scenario for either of them or a more potentially beneficial one for us. Potentially, in addition to helping some of the most vulnerable in society, this issue could bring the same political dividends that our opposition to Lansley’s health proposals were supposed to bring.

But if we wish to reap those political dividends then it cannot be done half-heartedly as we tackled the NHS. On the NHS our ministers woke up too late to what the party was saying and, though they challenged the Tories over it, it came too late for the public or the media to give us any credit on the issue. But if we were to take the initiative on this, and if our ministers were to take the lead right from the start, then it is hardly beyond the realm of possibility that we could see a significant result in terms of winning back some of the voters who have deserted us since the election. Admittedly the 3% figure is just a complete guess but it is far from impossible.

So, even if you aren’t prepared to back the motion on compassionate ground then you should do so out of self-interest. From a political and a compassionate perspective, this really could be a win-win situation.

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  • I agree. Labour and the conservatives have been despicable in their treatment of the disabled and the poor. Standing up on this issue would win quite a few votes back and coupled with a clear distinction between Lib Dem policy on higher education and the coalition’ stance would do a lot to demonstrate to the young that the Lib Dems are a truly progressive political force. it would certainly win my vote back. But the more general problem is trust and the economy. Osbourne’s economic plans are looking shakier and more hysterical by the week. Even his supporters in the press are asking questions.

  • formervoter 28th Jul '11 - 1:12pm

    win-win, eh?

    What’s the point? The Party in Government is not listening – the NHS listening exercise was a sham. They tell you one thing and do another. The first one billion pound’s worth of NHS services is going out to competitive tender right now. The NHS is being privatised before it even comes to the final vote. The Orange Booker’s in government have completely caved in to the Tory agenda for the NHS and Welfare. They are enabling the cruelest, most irrresponsible regime we have ever seen.

    What this government is doing to the disabled will be written up in history as a pogrom. I am ashamed of this country and I wil never forget or forgive Lib Dem complicity.

  • Language like ‘pogrom’ is ridiculously emotive, formervoter. I’m ashamed that people like you have no sense of proportion when it comes to political debate, and have to frame the issue in terms of racist references. No wonder politics is in the doghouse.

    There are however, significant reasons to back the ESA motion, of much more importance than a political bounce – which is relying a lot on our ability as a party to get the good news out instead of sitting and throwing toys out of our factional prams! Unless a miracle happens I don’t see a polls bounce resulting from this due to our usual cack-handedness, but I’ll be supporting it all the same despite being one of those wicked Orange Bookers.

  • I Fear you will have your work cut out in winning back support and improving your polls by supporting the sick and disabled.

    The Tories have already succeeded in their plans to turn the public against those on welfare and especially those on sickness benefits.

    That was the whole scam with the Tories Treasury “Spending Review Forum” The Government put out misleading figures and painted a false picture towards those on welfare, They where backed up by their pals in the media, who printed article after article with false and misleading headlines that vilified people claiming sickness benefits. They whipped up loads of public dissent towards welfare, Then invited the public to take part in “The Big Spending Review”
    And what happens next? Surprise Surprise the site is flooded with suggestions and a barrage of assaults towards sick and disabled people.
    And Cameron and Osborne have the audacity to trumpet what a success the site was with over 100’000 suggestions from the public.

    By turning the public and the media against the most vulnerable people in our society the Government won approval for their assault on welfare claimants and those on sickness benefits.

    I am afraid there has been a humongous amount of damage done, towards those on sickness benefits and the way they are perceived by the public. I think it will now take a miracle for the party to be able to “fight” to win back public support and sympathy towards our sick and disabled.

    However I applaud Liberal Democrat Youth in their efforts and I sincerely hope they are able to prove a voice for the people, Maybe there is hope for the parties future in its youth core.

  • pogrom – “An organized, often officially encouraged persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews.” It might be worth remembering that before the persecution of the Jews in Germany, they persecuted the disabled.

    The word is very emotive, yes, but using the above definition of the word, the statement might be justified.
    The evidence is there. Submissions have been recently made to the EHRC Disability Harassment Enquiry as Disability Hate Crime and abuse is on the rise. There is no doubt that these attitudes are largely a result of defamatory press and media reporting about disability benefits. And as Dame Anne Begg MP states in her letter to Chris Grayling yesterday –

    “You will have seen that in our report, we highlighted the concern amongst incapacity benefit claimants about the negative public perception of them. We deprecated the coverage of the reassessment in some sections of the media and in particular the use of terms such as “scrounger” and “work shy”. We drew particular attention to the way in which releases of official statistics about the reassessment process were covered in the media and said that:

    “We believe that more care is needed in the way the Government engages with the media and in particular the way in which it releases and provides its commentary on official statistics on the IB reassessment. In the end, the media will choose its own angle, but the Government should take great care with the language it itself uses and take all possible steps to ensure that context is provided when information about IB claimants found fit for work is released, so that unhelpful and inaccurate stories can be shown to have no basis.”

    By what I assume was a coincidence, the Department chose to release statistics on new Employment and Support Allowance claims yesterday. The coverage of the statistics in some newspapers, notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, was a particularly egregious example of the way they can be misused.”


    There are many examples of physical and verbal abuse against disabled people in newspapers across the country as well as on Police websites, some of them very serious.

    Here is one milder example from Anne Novis, who is disabled herself, and was awarded an MBE in the Queens New Years Honours in recognition of her dedicated work and ‘Services to disabled people’
    posted on Facebook –

    “Just returned from post office, we were followed and man spat in my PA’s eyes, it may have nothing to do with me as a wheelchair user but knowing how other disabled people are experiencing spitting attacks I have to wonder. Reported to police, its on CCTV, and several witnesses. Wondering if I now have to put a warning… in my PA job descriptions that due to being with me they may experience hostility, I do tell them about attacks I have experienced but they tend to not believe me. Very upsetting.”

    here’s another –

    “Today I went to an appointment, and afterwards, when I was almost home, a man who was coming from behind me shouted something. I turned to him and laughed and said, “that made me jump”, and he yelled it again, but I couldn’t work out what he said. He crossed over the road and yelled the same thing for a third time, and I worked out that he was saying “f***ing DLA stick”. I said, “I don’t know what you mean?” but as I was saying the words I realised that I did. He was implying that, as I walk with a crutch, I was faking a disability to receive benefits.
    For the rest of the length of the street, he yelled ‘f***ing DLA stick’ at me again and again. I felt very intimidated and frightened.”

    and a tiny sample of comments under some of the Press articles disability benefits – the worst ones have all been removed by the newspapers themselves. —

    “The more sane amongst us have known for years that sickness benefits are being misused by worthless individuals of the sub-human species. But, in the present climate where are the jobs for these “shirkers” to fill?”

    “Employer want to employ normal people. Druggie and some others may cause their own problem could be fit to work with treatment and made to take the treatment. If you take illegal drugs and make your self unfit for work then just let them die they won’t be missed and cause less troubles, if people supply illegal drugs and maybe use them, jut let them die, they are no good to society. They will soon stop or correct themselves.

    “It is about time to pull the dependency rug from under these people. The hard work, saving, contributors to the Government’s “Scroungers Fund” are fed up to the back teeth with having to pay taxes to keep the Flotsam and Jetsam of this country. What is the point of people working, saving, managing their own lives on their own, making a worthwhile contribution to the success of the country when a shower of hangers-on, cheats and feckless get away with not making any. Make these people feel the pain all us taxpayers feel.”

    “France is right in UK it just go’s on and on me fed up with walking past lane after lane with disabled badges on them stop the car allowance and save us some tax”

    “Doctors can save us many more millions in benefits by recalling and thoroughly rechecking all the layabouts on sickies etc. they want equal rights in every part of life except for the bits that do not suit them LIKE PAYING for parking, isn’t it funny how they want to be treated as able bodied one minute then not the next ”

    “I also cannot believe that someone who is supposed to be intelligent and sensible can make a statement that he thinks that 25% of people on incapacity benefit are actually fit for work. I live in the real world and I would put the figure at 75%. Most are just idle scroungers.”

    “Came home today and noticed a rash on my stomach/chest – possibly due to antibiotics. I called the NHS24 hotline to talk to a nurse, see what to do. She helped a little, but not before being condesending and telling me to just get a job at Tesco! She asked me what I did, and I said I was on disability due to my health. This is how politicised it all has become here in the UK. Even a nurse who is supposed to be helping me in a time of need, needs to comment on my status of disability and lack of work – when she doesn’t even know the whole picture! Horrible! I felt like a little shrivelled up person when she spoke to me like that.”

    “How do you suppose we encourage employers to employ disabled people when there are so many able-bodied people out of work? Like it or not, there are plenty of disabled people whose skills simply aren’t worth the minimum wage to employers.”

    “Natural human diversity manifests itself in differentials in labour market remuneration. It is a fact of life that some people are of such marginal worth to business that it is not really worth paying them much more than £1 per hour to half heartedly sweep muck off the floor.”

    “Why should I pay 50% tax on my earning so some workshy, oblivious, lowlife scumbag feels they have a right to receive benefits by deception. Get a life, get a job, get some self-pride and take care of yourself.”

    “All benefits should be abolished. I am sick of funding those that cannot e bothered to work or have made no provision for a period of ill health. If they have not had the foresight to put something in place I should not have to pay for their fecklessness and idolence.”

    According to a poll by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the charity Mencap, nearly half (49%) of the British public think that cuts to services and public spending may make people who receive disability benefits more open to abuse or attack. Furthermore, 61% believe that the focus on cuts may make some people angry at those who receive disability benefits. In a survey of about 1,000 adults in March, the charity found that one in two people believe those with disabilities are more likely to be the targets of abusive comments or aggressive behaviour than others.

  • If there is one non-parliamentary Liberal Democrat who I now have total faith in, as well as a deep respect for, it is George W. Potter.

    As a disabled person who is lucky enough to be able to work, and help disabled people in my work, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the one man in the LDs to stand up to this disgraceful, anti-disabled (and anti-human) policy. Danny Alexander used to campaign for and with us, but as soon as he entered the government he dropped his objections to the WCA and literally stopped returning our calls. We now have hope. We did not have that two days ago.

    Never underestimate how much power the very notion of hope can have and how just a tiny bit of hope can make the weakest of us fight for justice. Thank you so very much.

  • The article is quite correct and timely given the front page headlines in the Daily Mail and Express this week.The stigma of being disabled and on benefits must be appalling and it is a deliberate government strategy to make it ‘unacceptable’ not to work regardless of your disability. Frankly, the disabled are now a burden to be harrassed and ridiculed. It’s all very well blaming the Tories and Labour but exactly what are the Lib Dems doing about it it? One of the Mknsters rolled out to support the new work capability test is Lib Dem Steve Webb. And while the anti-disability barrage continues Clegg sits quietly alongside Cameron.

  • Barry George 28th Jul '11 - 11:44pm

    @ sam

    Very informative post. Although I would (currently) refrain from using the word ‘pogrom’ I thank you for taking the time to put your post together and I certainly think you have given adequate reason for people to stop and think..

    It’s a shame your post seemed to have been delayed by the site filter and so your hard work will no doubt have been missed by some so I am bringing it up in the hope that others will also scroll back and read it..

    As for the article.. I agree entirely… this really is a chance for the Lib Dems to show some spine.

  • Everyone needs to read Sam’s post again.

    Imagine those comments were directed towards YOU and people like you. Those comments are, indeed, indicative of what sick and disabled people have been facing since about 2009. It has gotten much worse since the Liberal Democrats came to office.

    We expect this from Labour and especially the Tories, but you kept quiet for so long on this. It took the youth wing of your party to show some humanity.

    Again, imagine those comments directed at you. And imagine that a party who previously promised to stand up for the most vulnerable just went silent. That is what we are dealing with. Who is worse? The party who is open in their attacks on sick and disabled people, or a party who has the power to try and stop it, but does nothing? Your MP Stephen Webb has been nothing short of a Quisling, parroting the Tories’ anti-disabled line when prompted.

    Again, thank you Liberal Youth. If you are the future, begone with every current LibDem MP, we want you now.

  • I totally support the Liberal Youth sponsored ESA motion. The record of the previous Labour government on this issue was despicable, and was one reason why I voted for Liberal Democrat at the last general election. But there iwas/is opposition to that record by many in the Labour party. Sue Marsh, who has a must-read blog called ‘Diary of a Benefit Scrounger’ {sorry I don’t have the link to it], is a disability campaigner and a Labour activist. Also I believe that the attitude of the Labour leadership has changed since the last general election.

    Liberal MPs have voted with the Conservatives and against Labour on the Welfare Reform Bill. If they were really concerned about the rights and dignity of disabled people they would have voted with Labour. I don’t know if the Welfare Reform Bill was in the coalition agreement. The parliamentary Liberal party is suppporting policies in the area of welfare and disability which they would have passionately opposed before the last general election.

  • I congratulate George Potter for pushing this Motion and getting it on to the Agenda for debate at Conference. I know myself how very hard he worked to get it just right and to get the necessary support for it to reach the FCC. he has been working on it for months and has had the support of many people, including many disabled people, in the drafting of it. His persistence is impressive so, Thank you George!

    It is such a shame that the FCC has seen fit to put the debate on a Sunday, the last day of Conference, when many will have either gone home or may not even bother to go to the debate. I suspect it has been put into, what I call “the coffin slot” where “difficult debates” are put- I do hope not.

    This Motion deserves EVERYONE’S support – if it does happen to be at 9.00 a.m. on the Sunday morning, PLEASE everyone get up and got to it! Vote for the Motion!

    The media is very much to blame for putting all disabled people into the same “scrounger/layabout” box. They have a great deal to answer for in my opinion.

    I have been disabled all my life, I have tried to live a normal life for as long as possible and I worked for over thirty years paying National Insurance and a “full stamp” at that. I had to give up work early due to deteriorating health. I will never forget, though, having been told by one of my GPs in England that “Well you’ve certainly had your money’s worth out of the health Service!” This was after I had three hip replacements due to failure of the joints which had been put in – it was not my fault at all! I was very angry. If some doctors can speak to their patients like that it’s no wonder that we have incompetents at ATOS Health doing the ESA Assessments which are not fit for purpose.

    PLEASE support George & LDY’s Motion – tell all your friends to get to Conference to support it and vote for it – even if you do have to get up early on as Sunday morning to do it! Thanks again, George!! Good man!

  • @Barry George – thanks for your appreciation and for bringing attention to my earlier post.

    On the subject of political reasons to back this – there are 10 million disabled people in this country and even if a large number of them are unaware of what is happening, there are a very large number who are. Add to that their families, friends, carers, nurses, therapists, doctors, etc – not to mention the support groups, charities and disabled people’s organisations which represent them… that adds up to a LOT of votes.

    Then there are the ordinary, decent people of the country, many of whom voted Lib Dem at the last election when they hadn’t before. Since the coalition came to power they have been hugely disillusioned about the lack of “spine”, as someone else said earlier, and the way the ministers and most MP’s have so easily gone along with the Conservative policies.

    In my opinion, although there has been a sense of betrayal and a huge amount of anger and about this, if Nick Clegg and the party were to make a BIG moral stand about this, they would win back a lot of voters. Everybody loves a hero. A champion of the underdog. A protector of the vulnerable. In the wake of the Murdoch scandal and the revelations of corruption, this is the time. And the corruption going on in welfare ‘reform’ (for reform read abolition), in my view is on a par with recent events.

    This could turn the tide, not only for the Lib Dem party, but for milions of sick and disabled people who otherwise will be condemned to a life of misery. And this is not an exaggeration.

    On the subject of the dreadful “coffin slot” at the Conference – if enough people start showing an interest and emailing, tweeting, blogging, talking about this subject to raise awareness and make it an important part of the agenda, then maybe they could demand it be given a better slot in order to be fairly addressed. I would encourage all who have an interest to start doing that in a big way – social networking is a powerful tool.

  • I will certainly be backing this motion, not because it will pull us back up in the polls, but because it is the right and proper way for Lib Dems to express our Lib Dem views. It sets out the problem, and proposes a way forward.
    Just to clear up the point about a Sunday morning – not a convenient time for most people but it is at the beginning of conference not the end – so it will be talked about all week !

  • Thank you, George W. Potter, for this article and for the excellent work you’re clearly contributing to, on this issue.
    As a moderate Lefty, I applaud you and Liberal Youth.

    May I offer a few thoughts for consideration?
    Firstly, I wonder where, geographically & politically, the hostility to disabled people is. I don’t share, as yet, the view that the public has been turned wholesale against the chronically-ill and disabled; I suspect there may be a noisy aggressive assertive antagonistic minority, (say a few hundred thousand in number), mostly in areas where there are concentrations of Tory MPs. If so, there could be a significant amount of potential electoral gain for the Liberal Democrats outside these ‘true blue’ constituencies.

    Secondly, I’ve observed many comments beneath blog-posts which indicate that some naive voters believe that any “savings” on welfare will be redistributed to ordinary middle- and working-class taxpayers. This will NOT happen; the Conservatives have their commitments to reducing the tax paid by the wealthiest (expect reductions in Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, top rate Income Tax and Corporation Tax)
    i.e. some selfish voters are being played for idiots by the Tories, in that they’re being encouraged to be hostile to welfare “scroungers” and to support cuts in benefits on a false premise (this Tory tactic could backfire if exposed). When the Tories talk of “fairness to the taxpayer”, they really mean the taxpayer who is liable to pay the wealth taxes and who is likely to be a supporter of the Conservative Party.

    Thirdly, I believe that the govt is especially vulnerable on the issues of expense and the “real world context”. The Tories, like New Labour, are prepared to pour hundreds of millions of pounds into private companies, such as Atos and A4E, allegedly to assess qualification for disability benefits and to ‘help’ people back into work. In my view, these companies do not give value for money to the general taxpayer – and how could they in an economic climate where there simply aren’t the jobs?

  • Barry George 30th Jul '11 - 10:54pm

    @ Mark Pack and the team at LDV

    I noticed with interest the addition of the ‘featured’ articles section on the main LDV page. Could I request that this article is given a longer shelf life by being included in the featured articles selection so that more people will see it ?

    George is doing a splendid job of preparing for the motion at conference and deserves more shelf life than this site normally permits due to the pace of new articles appearing.

    I think the work he is doing is vital in helping the party to regain a distinct identity that is independent from that of the coalition and with the popularity of the party being what it is , this is a chance to highlight good positive Liberal Democrat politics in action and by reading the comments it is clear that he has significant support for his work.

    Help George by making his article featured. You will be helping the Party and more importantly the sick and disabled who are suffering under the current system.

    If you are reading this and you agree that the work of Liberal Youth deserves more time on the front page of this site then please say so and maybe we can help George to help those who need our help most..

    Thanks for reading…

  • @ Barry George

    I agree, i think this article should be placed on the featured article section, it is a very important topic that needs a longer shelf life and too enable people to debate and contribute more towards the issues.

  • http://www.bhfederation.org.uk/component/k2/item/1236-society-is-%E2%80%98in-denial%E2%80%99-about-extent-of-hate-crime.html



    Hansard Extract 23 June 2011 Disability Hate Crime
    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller):

    Until recently there has been no formal collection of data on disability hate crime. We are committed to promoting better recording of it, and from April this year forces started collecting the relevant data. When the statistics are published next summer we will have a clearer picture of local patterns and trends, which will help the police target their resources in the most effective way…The first stage in the overall process involves our ensuring that we are aware of the magnitude of the problem.

    Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) (Lab): I was surprised to discover that the data have not been collected, so that trends cannot be found. I welcome the Government’s commitment to collecting those data. May I suggest, however, that the Government also consider the catalyst of the crime that is reported, particularly as a number of disabled people say that they have been spat at in the street or called scroungers because of some of the headlines that have been in the newspapers?

  • http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2021507/Widow-awaiting-cancer-surgery-told-to-work-benefits-inspectors-following-Government-welfare-reforms.html

    A 60 year old woman with Cancer and awaiting a Mastectomy Operation who also has a painful leg ulcer and suffers an umbilical hernia, was on employment support allowance of £114 a week and disability living allowance of £78 a month, Has had her benefit removed.

    ATOS and the DWP have now deemed her fit for work and removed “ALL” her sickness benefits and forced her to claim JSA at £67 a week.

    This is the kind of despicable behavior that is going on with this government at the moment.

    You may wonder, why a woman of 60 has to claim sickness benefits or indeed JSA in the first place, well that’s because you do not become eligible for a state pension till your 61st Birthday.

    It is also Ironic that someone who is over the age of 60 is not able to put in a “new” claim Disability Living Allowance.
    If you are claiming before your 60th Birthday, you can continue to do so. But if you apply “AFTER” retirement age, you have to claim for attendance allowance instead, which is less money and does not include a mobility component.

    It is a fact that sick and disabled people through no fault of their own have a higher cost of living and need the extra support. It is disgusting that a Lady of this age and with these medical conditions has had her benefits taken away in this manor. This woman is fighting Cancer and fighting for her life, and now she is go to have to appeal and fight the DWP and ATOS to get her benefits back.

    It is Vital that the public gets behind the sick and disabled people and start fighting the government over these unfair draconian targeted cuts that are targeted at our most vulnerable people in society.

    It is time the British Public put the Great back in to Great Britain and force the government to restore our country to the proud nation that we once was.

    It is time to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which noone shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
    we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, DISABILITY, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.
    we promote human rights and open government, a sustainable economy which serves GENUINE NEED, public services of the highest quality.

    I sincerely hope Liberal Democrats will throw their weight behind this issue, support the ESA motion and become a voice for the vulnerable.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2021507/Widow-awaiting-cancer-surgery-told-to-work-benefits-inspectors-following-Government-welfare-reforms.html#ixzz1Tsl1zDSL

  • Thank you, matt, for the support as well.

    I hope the LibDems in Parliament are listening: you can regain many, many voters and be seen as compassionate once again by supporting and fighting for Liberal Youth’s motion at conference. If passed, and you fight for us in government, you will once again find the sick and disabled voting LibDem en masse. Especially if the Tories and Labour continue their “all sick people are scroungers” narrative that the Labour’s odious and regressive James Purnell was so proud of.

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