The Parody of Politics

As autumn draws in, there’s a generalised darkened mood over in these parts. I am, as some on Twitter would describe me a “liberal lefty”, although I prefer to think of myself as a humanist. I have retained the idealistic notion of my youth that a person is still a person no matter what their colour, gender, birth place, sexual orientation, or ability. It was one of the “British values” I was brought up with where community was celebrated. 

And now? In the UK we have a Prime Minister who got the job by default after all other candidates dropped out (albeit, she may well have been the lesser of a number of evils) who is forging ahead with a policy that she campaigned against with such zest that it is possible to imagine that she is doing it as some bizarre punishment to those who voted to leave the EU. Claims of making everything fairer come across like Goldilocks talking to what appears to be grandma, but in this scenario the woodcutter is too busy being bludgeoned by other woodcutters to burst in and save you. Our opposition party should just be ashamed of themselves. Politics is about representing the people, not fighting for top positions. They have a leader with an idealistic vision with the potential to inspire a whole generation to become politically engaged. The Labour party has in its power the chance to have its Obama moment. 

Politics in the UK is rather like the weeping angels scene in Dr Who: it’s OK whilst you have your eyes open, but blink & they’ll bite your face off.

The US is a whole other kettle of eyebrow raising fish. There are parts of the US that make me pleased to be alive – tales from The Tree house Guy who’s entire purpose on this planet is to make people happy is my secret delight right now. On the days when the kids are with Mr Geek’s parents, when I get home from work I sit and watch this with my Dad & all is right with the world. And that conversation always goes:

Dad “I’d love to do that”

Me “Yeah. You’d be amazing at building that stuff. It’s a shame we’re not over there with the space & planning laws. You could never do that here.”

Dad “But it’s not a good place to be really”

Both sigh.

Either one “Have you seen/heard/read the latest Trump fiasco?”

For two people with such wildly differing political allegiances, we agree that Trump is beyond a nightmare and fear for the wider world if he gets elected. Thankfully, that’s looking less likely, but I’m baffled after the past month how anyone would consider him fit to hold a sharp knife, let alone the post of president of the US. I’ll address the elephant in the room- I’m not wholly keen on Clinton either, but let’s face it, she’s less likely to push the big red button because someone hurt her feelings on Twitter.

I had a whole other tangent planned after reading this report on the policies, but they rather speak for themselves.

Instead, for now, I will leave this imploring note to anyone unsure which way to vote. During the campaigning here, the leave campaign used the phrase Make Britain Great again (sound familiar? Although it makes more sense here as Great Britain is our official title). A fraction over half of the voters believed this, and despite not yet leaving, we have seen a spike in violent hate crime and our currency is at its lowest point in living memory having lost a fifth of its value. Food prices are going up & wages are already being squeezed with major companies moving elsewhere. People who were born as Europeans face having that removed from them & just being British. Anyone who complains is labelled a “bremoaner” and told to suck it up. Oh and our political parties are too busy infighting to actually function as a parliment. This is a tiny taster of what it might be like to have to live with that kind of decision.

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Brexit – A Kids Breakfast or An EU Referendum

To quote the words of a friend, a Brexit is not in fact a toddler’s mispronunciation of breakfast, but the possible exit of the UK from the EU based on the voting of the masses. It’s now been officially announced that the vote will take place in June and will likely be used as a fabulous shiny distraction from the crappy things the current government are doing to the more vulnerable. (Cue onslaught on “liberal leftie” comments below).

I’m not really one to take propaganda at face value, so decided to look at the reasons for and against a Brexit on a personal level … Nope, still sounds like a toddler breakfast…

One major factor in my life right now is my physical disability. I make no secret that I am a wheelchair user and despite a chronic pain condition am also a full time member of the workforce. I Googled EU benefits for disabled (looking for the dictionary definition rather than the monetary kind) and found the European Commission page on Disabled benefits determined by the European Human Rights Act.

Its objectives are pursued by actions in eight priority areas:

1. Accessibility : make goods and services accessible to people with disabilities and promote the market of assistive devices.
So, without this protection the UK could make accessibility an opt in feature. It’s already not great in the UK and because it’s costly this objective could impact greatly on the ability of people with physical disabilities to participate in daily life. Off the top of my head, this could affect the insistance to provide ramps, parking spaces or hearing loops in the effort to save some money.

2. Participation : ensure that people with disabilities enjoy all benefits of EU citizenship; remove barriers to equal participation in public life and leisure activities; promote the provision of quality community-based services.
This could be interpreted in many ways. Could this mean that councils might not be forced to provide adult social services? Buses with ramps? Airport assistance? It’s all costly & with a Government that sees it’s current disability assessment process as fair, they could just as easily see working hard to provide your own equipment as fair.

3. Equality : combat discrimination based on disability and promote equal opportunities.
It’s already hard enough to arrive at a job interview with an obvious disability. The removal of this could allow employers to not interview, or just fire you once a disability is identified. My employer has been incredible, but I know that I am already very lucky even with this in place.
Discrimination can however be seen where airport staff won’t address you, or staff sigh and grumble that “it’s just a few steps”.

4. Employment : raise significantly the share of persons with disabilities working in the open labour market. They represent one-sixth of the EU’s overall working-age population, but their employment rate is comparatively low.
Right now, the reason I am able to continue working is down to the assistance I receive from Access To Work who co-fund a wheelchair accessible taxi, and perform an accessibility review every few years. They give a list of devices required to help me perform my role in the best way I can (such as trackball mice, or movable armrests). Without this help, I couldn’t continue with my role – with it, it’s hard work but the support is physical and mental.

5. Education and training : promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for students and pupils with disabilities. Equal access to quality education and lifelong learning enable disabled people to participate fully in society and improve their quality of life. The European Commission has launched several educational initiatives for disabled people. These include the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education as well as a specific study group on disability and lifelong learning.
My CPD must be accessible. This also comes in the form of providing text to speech so that I can listen to notes when fatigue hits rather than reading through overstrained and bloodshot eyes.

6. Social protection : promote decent living conditions, combat poverty and social exclusion.
There’s enough out there already on the degrading process of applying for PIP, or ESA. As a well educated person with few mental health issues, I can confirm that it was one of the most dehumanising and distressing processes I have encountered. This is a rant for a different post.

7. Health : promote equal access to health services and related facilities.
I rely on the NHS to hold the stupid bendy pieces of me together. Imagine if we could only get treatment for things that were curable in a cost effective way?

8. External action : promote the rights of people with disabilities in the EU enlargement and international development programmes.
When you’re not the cookie cutter model of the “hard working taxpayer”, there’s always going to be a fear of being marginalised. It’s not that far fetched.

Objectives obtained & copied directly from the European Commission Website.

It’s an awful lot of protection that I’m afforded by being a European citizen and yet I can’t find anything to identify how being in the EU makes it worse for those with disabilities.

Clearly, this isn’t the only issue that matters, but it’s a start…