Politics isn’t a subject I cover on my blog, neither am I an activist. Despite studying politics at A level, and working in the political wing of local government when I developed M.E., I found very early on in my illness that the whole subject was just too stressful for me and zapped my energy to the point where I had none left to do anything else. I had to give it up and leave lobbying and activism to the healthy (and the sick daft enough to use their precious energy on it which, no offence, to me is lunacy when you have M.E.). However, as many may know, today is a General Election here in the UK and by tomorrow we will know who is going to govern us for the next 5 years.
I’ve voted Labour all my life (for my American visitors, Labour=Democrat and Conservative=Republican, kind of). Labour is the party of the working classes of which I am a card carrying member. For the past five years we’ve had a Conservative government in power and, if I’m honest, it’s been proper scary. They have demonized sick and disabled “scroungers” to such an extent I’m surprised we’re not stoned in the street. They have made sickness and disability benefits so hard to obtain that almost no-one qualifies, and there have been literally hundreds of people who have had their benefits withdrawn and gone on to either die from their disease or kill themselves as they had nothing to live on. The emphasis has been on “hard working families” of which I am not a member. I am single, childless, sick and unable to be “hard working” in the traditional sense of the word – in the government’s eyes I’m pretty worthless as a human being.
According to the government’s own figures, there are over 10 million Britains living with long term sickness or disability. Many are retired, some are working, and some are not. We are at best ignored and at worst denigrated. Big mistake. We may be ill, many of us may be benefit claiming scroungers, but we are still VOTERS – a fact the government seems to forget.
My local MP has a Conservative safe seat. My vote for some other party is wasted as I live in farming country and the majority of farmers vote Conservative. So, I decided to write to my MP and tell him a little bit about my life. Here’s a section from my letter:
Please remember, however, that we are not all fit enough to build Cairns or run community Pubs, or be “hard working” in the accepted sense of the word but that doesn’t mean we have no worth. I volunteer my time each month putting together our Parish newsletter from my bed – I’m not well enough to attend Parish meetings but by helping with the newsletter still feel I’m contributing to village life. I run a blog, which attracts over 400 visitors every day from 188 countries around the world – in sharing my life with others I hope I show them they’re not alone in their struggles. I do my elderly parent’s shopping from my bed via Tesco.com as they don’t know how to use a computer and nowadays struggle to get out as my Mum has heart and lung disease. I also shop for my next door neighbour, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, and his wife, who is 88 and unable to drive. I adopted an unwanted dog (one of several rescued animals over the course of my life). I even help to employ 2 local people, one to clean my house and one to walk my dog as I’m unable to do either. To all of the people in my life I have value and worth. It may not be on a grand scale, but to my parents and my little rescue dog I am everything – sick or not.
I received a reply, which stated:
I agree that rhetoric on issues like unemployment, or those who claim
benefit support, can sometimes go too far and take on an unpleasant
tone. You are a powerful example of the damage this can cause, and no
one should ever be made to feel worthless.You clearly do a tremendous
amount for your local community.
To give the man his due, he’s actually an excellent MP and did help to have my sickness benefit re-instated when it was removed when the new rules were introduced by his boss. He is also highly intelligent and has been touted as a party leader of the future, which is why he needs to know what life is like for everyone in his constituency. My letter was quite lengthy and I don’t think he’ll forget it in a hurry.
I hope sick and disabled people vote today – I do mine by post in case I’m too unwell to get to the polling station. And please don’t vote for a marginal party like the Greens – they’re never going to get into power and your wasted vote just lets the Conservatives back in. If that happens I truly fear for my future, as they’ve been bold enough to openly pledge that they will make further cuts to sickness and disability benefits, when many of us are already living in poverty as it is. Maybe they hope we’ll all just top ourselves or be killed at birth – it’d save them a bomb on welfare which they could then give in tax breaks to businesses. After all, a strong economy, money, greed and excess is what life is all about – people are unimportant.