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Posted by: John Brace | July 22, 2014

The politics of jealousy: why Wirral’s 66 politicians need to be careful what they say about disability


Liverpool Carnival 12th July 2014

Liverpool Carnival Parade 2014: A number of wheelchair users taking part in the parade

The politics of jealousy: why Wirral’s 66 politicians need to be careful what they say about disability

                         

Above is a photo of a carnival you will probably never get to see in a newspaper as it shows two disabled people in wheelchairs participating in the parade. So why am I showing you this and what relevance does it have?

For years, Wirral Council has got itself into trouble on disability issues. I’ll briefly recap, Martin Morton and the way Adult Social Services treated disabled adults, the proposed closure of Moreton Day Centre and now the proposed closure of Lyndale School.

The thread running through all of those is an extremely dangerous one to tell society. It’s one of withdrawing services for those with a disability or in the case of Martin Morton’s whistleblowing shamefully taking advantage of adults with disabilities as some of them due to the nature of their disability can’t stand up to organisations like Wirral Council without outside help.

So what sort of message does this give out? It’s one of jealousy of the vital services people require because of their disability. It’s one that fuels an increase in disability hate crime (much of which goes unreported). It’s one (that in the case of Lyndale School) thousands signed a petition against it going any further.

Disabled people are a part of society. I was brought up in the 80s and we were taught to be accepting and tolerant. When I was a teenager I went to school with a lad who had epilepsy, he used to routinely have fits and the school called an ambulance due to him knocking himself out. We didn’t treat him any differently though because of his epilepsy! We treated him as a friend.

In adult life I sat on a university committee of staff and students (I was there to represent the views of ~17,000 students). In what to some will seem an extremely ironic twist, the law library wasn’t accessible to wheelchair users as it was on the first floor. Despite our pleas, despite this being unlawful, the Chair of the committee was told that the university wanted to spend the small amount of money for adapting the building on other things. Disabled students weren’t a priority you see, not to senior management who came from a bygone age when people with disabilities didn’t go to university.

However, politicians have to be extremely careful when dealing with sensitive issues involving minorities. There’s a sensational over reporting of benefit fraud cases in the media. Officially more is lost to administrative errors than benefit fraud and the rates of benefit fraud are extremely low. Due to the press coverage this isn’t what some of the public think. Telling the public such boring facts sadly doesn’t tie in with the political line of some irresponsible tabloid sensational journalism.

So going back to Lyndale School. My views on it are well known and on public record. I don’t have any personal connection to the place other than having known its Chair of Governors Tom Harney for many years. The problem for Wirral Council is this though, it has a very chequered history involving disability issues that the public know about through the press. Such issues weren’t caused by one or two people being prejudiced but a culture at Wirral Council that allowed this to operate.

Now I know there are plenty of politicians at Wirral Council that know what happened in the past was wrong and despite what some people may think about politicians I know that many have a highly developed sense of right and wrong and know in their hearts when they’re asked to vote for something they don’t believe in. Yes, I’m being reasonable to politicians for a change.*

*A rare occasion I know.

The change has to start with them though, the rhetoric has got to change, the demonising of the disabled and minorities in society that they know can’t speak back has got to stop. For that they’ve got to look into their hearts. They’ve got to realise the damage their actions, that their words are doing to society at large, they’ve got to have some understanding of the consequences.

The people involved in the Lyndale School campaign are wonderful, pleasant people. Just because I wrote about what was happening I got sent a thank you card! I’ve never received a thank you card for a story I’ve written on this blog before (or since).

No, don’t be silly I’m never expecting a thank you card for writing about politicians but I’m trying to get across that the people involved with Lyndale School are very different to the political class. Unlike how certain politicians are being portrayed I don’t think many of the people involved in Lyndale School have even one ruthless bone in their entire body.

Yet this has been a struggle for them, they have families to care for and children with very complex and life limiting conditions. Many of them should be rewarded, applauded for the unsung work they do every day, unthanked by some politicians who now propose pulling the rug out from under their feet. The work of unpaid carers doing hard work in difficult circumstances saves the taxpayer billions each year.

The issues involving disability, culture, prejudice and stereotyping are extremely complex. They won’t be solved overnight. The law has changed, such legal battles have been won but society itself needs to catch up. My plea to politicians is to show leadership, to realise the sensitivities of these issues and to realise there are times when the politically right thing is to show compassion, humility and be flexible enough to have an open mind on such issues. The days of prejudice and stereotyping by politicians should be confined to the history books as they no longer have a part to play in 21st century society.

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Responses

  1. G’day John

    I sincerely sincerely apologise for hijacking you blog today but as everyone just ignores us, media, police, council officers, councillors today is the day of The Fudgit and Risk It Special Meeting at 5pm.

    You say

    “Now I know there are plenty of politicians at Wirral Council that know what happened in the past was wrong and despite what some people may think about politicians I know that many have a highly developed sense of right and wrong and know in their hearts when they’re asked to vote for something they don’t believe in. Yes, I’m being reasonable to politicians for a change.*

    *A rare occasion I know.

    The change has to start with them though, the rhetoric has got to change, the demonising of the disabled and minorities in society that they know can’t speak back has got to stop. For that they’ve got to look into their hearts. They’ve got to realise the damage their actions, that their words are doing to society at large, they’ve got to have some understanding of the consequences.”

    If “Highbrow” and I get whitewashed tonight I suppose all that leaves in our locker is publishing all the irrefutable evidence that we have as Burge(r with the lot plus super duper car)ss and Sir Git imply, cos, they don’t talk and Sir Git tells the Chamber Pot to just keep her gob shut.

    Could be very embarrassing. Just saying.

    You do not have to reply John and once again i sincerely apologise for the hijack and God Bless all the victims of the EVIL BARSTARDS at Wirral. They know who they are.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps Hope to see you and your good lady this evening.

    Keep up the wonderful effort.

    Like

    • Don’t worry about it, I appreciate all comments (well except the spam ones!).

      I know today is the day of the special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee. You are right that what I wrote applies to areas beyond minorities.

      I will reply however to your points:

      a) It all depends whether Wirral Council have changed in how they treat whistleblowers. After getting so much wrong when it came to Martin Morton you’d hope that the politicians’ rhetoric of “lessons have been learned” was actually the case.

      b) Well I have a “publish and be damned” philosophy towards things, even when it comes to a certain email about golf from the Chief Executive Graham Burgess. Attacks on such things, just serve to bring them to a wider audience.

      c) all being well you will see me (and Leonora) this evening. A decision was made at Level 80 has decided to invest in some more batteries, so I should have enough tape and battery life even if the meeting goes on for 5 hours! Oh and you’ll get to see the new video tripod too so I can pan on whoever’s speaking.

      P.S. Won’t be able to write up what happens tonight tomorrow as usual as I’ll be at a planning appeal during the day followed by Planning Committee tomorrow evening. However the video of tonight’s meeting will be uploaded at some point tomorrow.

      Like

  2. Thanks John

    Looking forward to seeing your tripod too.

    I hope it has a secret weapon that detects liars and shoots g(p)oo on them.

    Ooroo

    James

    Like

    • Liars? You mean you’ve invited some liars to tonight’s meeting?

      Well and there was me thinking well things like the officer’s code of conduct and councillor’s code of conduct meant they were either under a contractural obligation or legal obligation to tell the truth.

      Tonight though isn’t a court room and those speaking won’t be asked to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Hey if everyone speaking tonight told “the whole truth” we’d all still be there by the time the sun came up in the morning!

      Like

  3. G’day Again John

    Just tarting myself up in case “The Dunny Chain Wearer” wants to court and fete us tonight. Like the council “Super Redacter” one must always be ready.

    Fair dinkum though John I just heard the Australian Prime Minister (Who is a conservative like the wanna be “Phil the Dill”) saying

    Quote

    “After the crime comes the cover up…… what we have seen is evidence tampering…… on an industrial scale and obviously that has to stop.”

    Well blow me down.

    No idea what he was talking about but sounds familiar.

    Ooroo

    James

    Like

    • Well I can tell you where the Mayor will be this evening.

      Tuesday 22 July

      6.00 pm – The Mayor and Mayoress will attend the “First World War: Reflecting on Liverpool’s Home Front” Private View at the Museum of Liverpool.

      I bow to your superior knowledge of Australian politics, but isn’t it always the cover up that draws attention to what people aren’t being told and makes everybody think the worst?

      Like

  4. Ohh Shucks

    Away with the suit then I’ll put my old shorts on.

    He was my bet to win the most sunburnt head from the Goof Competition.

    Who’s gonna say we have lessons to learn lessons to learn lessons to learn now then John?

    ooroo

    James

    Like

    • Well I’ll give you a list of who will probably be there tonight on the committee:

      Cllr Jim Crabtree (Chair)
      Cllr Ron Abbey (Vice-Chair)
      Cllr John Hale (Conservative spokesperson)
      Cllr Stuart Kelly (Lib Dem spokesperson)
      Cllr Paul Doughty
      Cllr David Elderton
      Cllr Joe Walsh

      Councillor Matthew Patrick and Councillor Adam Sykes can’t make it and have sent deputies Councillor Philip Brightmore and Councillor Leah Fraser in their place.

      Like

  5. G’day John

    Thanks for that list of attendees…….why did they bother attending?

    Half an hour on were they are going on holidays.

    They have had 3 years of Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro sending irrefutable evidence that stood up to Grant Thorntons forensics so they should know what it is about by now.

    The truth never changes.

    Then there is is Chief Executive saying everyone at WBC is innocent without one iota of evidence FORENSIC or otherwise. He wasn’t even there at the time of the worst offences.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps The smart arses thought they would leave this for long enough that no one cared then spring it on the busiest week of the summer and make it vanish overnight.

    Pps Apparently John you could have gone into the pre meeeting one hour meeting we were told in the pub by the chair of the meeting and his cohort.

    You know John so they can be open, honest and transparent. ha ha ha

    Like

    • RE: PPS Vice chair said wait in Committee Room 2 until 10 to.

      Like

    • See the Lyndale call in for how this works. Adjourned meeting is about 20 minutes long.

      Once meeting is adjourned the first Lyndale call in lasted about 3.5 hours…

      Mind you I was at a planning appeal today, after 3 hours they’d decided to take a one hour lunch break and go see the site itself to make a decision…

      Like

  6. Regrettably, it’s not just politicians who seem to hold people with disabilities in low regard.

    The current batch of obnoxious so-called alternative comedians, such as Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais, seem to think it acceptable to get cheap laughs from kids with disabilities. ( http://tinyurl.com/74ljt79 ).

    Having little or no understanding of the difficulties faced daily by disabled people and their carers and the inevitable acceptance of laughing at disability seems to be getting engrained in our culture – especially, I suspect, with the younger, social media adept generation. As you say, a change has to start somewhere – maybe Wirral Council could hold its head up high for once, turn the tide and do the decent thing!

    Like

    • You are right, it is not just politicians but other high profile individuals such as comedians that need to think through what they say.

      However in the case of comedians, humour is a very subjective thing, but you’re right in saying that if they had a greater awareness of what disabled people or their carers go through, they’d be less likely to make jokes that are seen as being in bad taste.

      When I was at university studying Irish Studies modules, the same issue of jokes used to target a minority was brought up too. However how often do you hear jokes made about the Irish these days?

      I’m not saying there can never be humour made about disability, but I’m sure there jokes can be phrased in a way that draws attention to the issues disabled people face, rather than those that encourage discrimination and victimisation.

      Wirral Council as a public authority has all sorts of legal requirements placed on it (and its politicians) in the area of disability.

      Like


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