It was raining when we arrived in Manchester. Rains a lot I’m told. Armed with my pac-a-mac, programmes, lists of events, names, Pat’s Petition business cards, and tons of enthusiasm we launched ourselves into the conference halls.
We had a good idea who we wanted to meet and made a few contacts beforehand. Fringes where the topics were Social Care, NHS, Welfare and we hoped, disabled people.
Conversations where Ministers were given a chance to speak freely. And breakfast discussion groups where we always missed the food. No amount of homework could prepare me for what lay ahead. Delegates, Ministers, MPs all seemed to have turbo charged roller skates on as they rushed in all directions. I couldn’t keep up with them. Karen my friend, fellow PP and ‘enabler’, had a hard time preventing me from being mown down. We quickly learnt how to side step.
I went with one question, to ask as many who would listen:
“Why are you doing nothing to stand up and fight for ALL disabled people, their carers and families?”
We are facing disproportionate cuts to ALL our services. Some listened politely. Others dismissed this question – lumping us together with the elderly. We are after all – living longer. Not sure how the two are connected but it seemed an answer of sorts. We changed our minds about who we wanted to listen to as our confidence and side stepping skills improved.
I talked to members of the public who wanted to tell me their life stories and how they sympathised with disabled people, but it was challenging to hear too many stories of the real scroungers they knew who are cheating the system. Nothing will convince them of how we are being treated disproportionately.
I enjoyed meeting Andy Burnham. A very approachable young man who actually listened. And I won’t mention names as they’ll know who they are, but the word disability gave one Senior politician great difficulty. He had his super turbo skates on and left before I could even stand up.
Overall I was extremely disappointed and angered that the subject of disability was still an unsexy and taboo word for Labour politicians. Many words were spoken which were less meaningful than reading the telephone directory. No it wasn’t political jargon – just strings of clever sounding nouns, verbs and adjectives. Worthless. They didn’t get it.
But for me the prize for star speaker goes to Richard ‘Scope’ Hawkes. He gave a powerful speech about how we will suffer unspeakable deprivation. This got him huge applause and quite rightly so. Thank you Richard. You’ve got it.
I did enjoy visiting the stands. In particular the unions – from burly firemen who gave me sweeties to paramedics who were impressed I knew the difference between a paramedic and technician!
Unite, PCS, Unison and the TUC all got it.
The Post Office didn’t get it and neither did the pleasant chap on the Motability scooter stand.
Many new contacts were made, and conversations were had with old friends, of which we have too many to list but including PCS, Carers UK, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness – thank you to each and every one who has stood by us since the start.
My overall verdict? I would definitely go again but not today.
The Labour party must listen to what we are saying and take notice. They must admit disabled people are facing serious problems. My message to them is that you managed to parade the Paralympians with no worries, so remember there are tens of thousands of us who cannot hop skip or jump.
We know our supporters are many, some have walked side by side with us since the beginning of this petition.
We only have a few weeks and we need you again. It is vital to give a final push to gather more signatures. Remember to check junk boxes for the activation email you will be sent.
If you have e newsletters please include the petition details. This is the area where we have witnessed the biggest spike in numbers.
Add to blogs and social media sites. Maybe you have done so in the past, but do so again.
For further details contact Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org