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We need a Labour leader committed to abolishing the brutal benefit tests and hostile environment

14 February, 2020

• I ATTENDED the Holborn & St Pancras Constituency Labour Party meeting to nominate a new leader.

Sir Keir Starmer’s supporters booed me, a wheelchair user, for saying that he was not principled, because he didn’t vote against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in July 2015 which cut the disability benefit ESA by £30 a week.

He abstained instead, following the directive from Harriet Harman that they should send a message to the electorate that Labour was listening to concerns about the cost of welfare.

At the time the disability cuts caused huge ructions: Zac Goldsmith MP was expelled as patron of a disability charity; the host of the Conservative Disability Group website mutinied; and Iain Duncan Smith resigned.

Appearing on BBC Question Time in 2016 alongside Ken Loach, director of I, Daniel Blake, Sir Keir refused to agree with Loach on scrapping the hated Work Capability Assessment – which the British Medical Association has called for since 2012.

The deaths of Errol Graham, Lawrence Bond, Michael O’Sullivan, Jodey Whiting, after their benefits were stopped, are the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research 130,000 deaths since 2012 could have been prevented if improvements in public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of austerity cuts.

As disabled women we have paid a particularly high price, since 86 per cent of the cuts in benefits, services – and higher care charges – fall on women.

Given that we can expect worse under Boris Johnson, it is crucial for our survival to have a Labour Party leader who, like Jeremy Corbyn, is committed to abolishing the brutal benefit tests and the hostile environment.

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