As this is my first blog as Co-Chair for Disability Labour, I’d like to welcome all our members, new and old, to what I believe is a new beginning for our socialist society.
As many of you will be aware, it’s been a difficult period for Disability Labour, and we have in many respects been letting our members down. However, since our Annual General Meeting on 8th September in Leeds, and the installation of the new Executive Committee, we’ve seen actions being taken and more communication in 25 days than we saw in the last four years.
A commitment to our members unlike anything we’ve seen since the change to Disability Labour in 2014.
I am, frankly, ashamed of how Disability Labour failed to communicate with members in the past – one member’s newsletter sent only by email and very little else in four years is simply unacceptable.
I cannot, and will not, apologise on other’s behalf, and I am certainly not going to apologise for previous Executive Officers or the previous Chair. I am, however, aware of the anger and disappointment felt by our members and for that I offer not only my disappointment and solidarity but also my determination to ensure this never happens again.
As Co-Chair of Disability Labour I make you this promise on behalf of the new Executive team – our focus will always be our members and we will work hard to regain your trust and support to Disability Labour.
OUR FIRST CHANGES
Our new Executive is a strong and diverse team, with members from across the country. I am in the North West of England – my fellow Co-Chair, Fran Springfield, is a resident of the People’s Republic of Vauxhall in London. We have members in East and West Midlands, in the North East, and all points in between. We are committed to ensuring our members are represented across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and beyond – at Conference we had solidarity from the Labour International CLP!
Our first twenty five days have seen a number of changes and the foundations laid for our plans.
Our Disability Labour website – www.disabilitylabour.org.uk – has undergone a huge facelift. Our 12 point plan for a socialist Disability Labour has been put front and centre on our website, with updates on how this is progressing (4 done, the rest are ongoing!).
Our first Executive following the AGM was held online, with members able to watch and ask questions. We’ll be doing the same with all our meetings, whether online or meetings in person, and ensuring member participation at each and every meeting. Our Secretary, Simon Lydiard, has done a fantastic job in getting the minutes done promptly and, as we promised, available to all our members.
We’re also in discussion with the Party to ensure our membership is held by Disability Labour to ensure effective communication. This should have happened a long time ago!
And, very importantly, we’ve ended the barrier of a membership fee in favour of a donation and affiliation scheme. Now every member of the Labour Party who identifies as disabled or a supporter is able to join Disability Labour!
You can join Disability Labour at https://www.disabilitylabour.org.uk/join/.
OUR CONFERENCE PRESENCE
On 22nd September, the Labour Party headed to Liverpool for our Annual Conference. We were determined to have a strong presence at Conference, despite a lack of organisation from the previous Executive.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our great team – Fran Springfield, Nico Pollen, Claire Harris, Kathy Bole, Dave Townsend and Barb Roberts for the work they did on our Disability Labour stand in the Exhibition Hall and the welcome given to all our members who visited.
Our Fringe event on the Monday, a hastily put together Q&A with myself, Fran and Kathy, was a great success and I’m also grateful to Marsha de Cordova, our Shadow Minister for Disabled People, for joining us and speaking on her position for a few minutes. Thank you to all who attended and asked a number of questions – I intend to do a separate blog addressing the Fringe in the next few days.
You may also be aware that an issue arose following a tweet from Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley-Brewer regarding the safe space provided by the Party for those who may need it. Following concerns raised by members to us the Co-Chairs and Co-Vice Chairs and one of our members met with the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) on the Wednesday morning prior to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to outline our concerns.
I want to be clear – nothing is more important to Disability Labour than the wellbeing of our members. It is for that reason that we called on the CAC to ensure that Ms Hartley-Brewer was not welcomed at future Labour Party Conferences, and I am grateful to the CAC for unanimously agreeing with our calls and taking swift action.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
The Executive Committee are continuing to engage with the Party in ensuring we have all of our membership details and that we never again have a situation where our members are not fully involved.
As Co-Chair, I’m going to be focusing on one of our first campaigns to persuade the Party to adopt a policy of stopping and scrapping Universal Credit. With the rollout continuing across the country, including here in my home area of Pendle in late November, I share members concerns about its implementation and Disability Labour will continue to be clear about our position:
Universal Credit cannot be fixed. It should not be paused. Universal Credit must be stopped and scrapped with immediate effect.
We’re also looking at expanding our network, working with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) such as Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) and others and contributing to discussions and campaigns going forward.
Most of all, we want to work with you, our members, to make this a great organisation. What do you want to see from Disability Labour over the next 12 months? What changes do you want to see? Is there something you feel we’re missing and how can we rectify that?
A thank you. To all those who attended the AGM. To those members and supporters who have engaged since and supported us through Conference.
As Co-Chair I’m proud to lead this Executive and work with our members to ensure our voices are heard. We have a lot to do, and Disability Labour are working hard to ensure that you, the disabled members of the Labour Party, have that voice.