Fiona Robertson: Voting Tory in #GE17 is a vote to kill people like me, and you need to know why

Disability activist and writer Fiona Robertson says the UK's most vulnerable are screaming for help

IT IS to their credit, and to our collective doom, that the Conservative Party are masters of controlling narrative. 

Although, much of the groundwork was done during Tony Blair’s days of rhetorical tricks and language manipulation to sow doubt about the veracity of a person’s disability, to seed suspicion and harden attitudes. It is these linguistic and narrative tricks which have been used to make people think of the tens of thousands of deaths under austerity as a sad but necessary evil, or to make people ignore them completely. 

They speak as if what they say is reality, and we usually just go along with it until it is.

Read more – Ben Wray: Here's what Scotland needs to do in #GE17 to beat the Tories and get closer to indy

Theresa May’s General Election announcement included a lot of these narrative devices, accusing anyone who doesn’t agree with her of treating politics as a game, and framing the vote as entirely a vote regarding Brexit and the mandate she needs in order to negotiate from a place of strength.

We cannot, under any circumstances, allow the Tories to reframe the concept of a General Election.

This is not just a vote on Brexit, it is a vote on their entire manifesto and a judgement on their policies on everything from crime to social care to housing to international relations. Voting for the Tories may well be a vote for Brexit, but it is also unquestionably a vote for certain death for some, and permanent damage to the health of tens of thousands of disabled people.

Never, ever forget that.

When I and my fellow disability activists woke up on the morning after the last General Election, we spent an unrelenting few days tag teaming as we tried to keep people in our community alive. We were not always successful. Over and over, hour after hour, we saw iterations of the same message: "I do not think I will survive this government."

The day of the election, we had all taken a few moments to remember the people who were not there to vote because of the actions of the coalition government. We took a moment to think of the people who would not make it to the next election if we lost. 

Amid the elation so many in Scotland felt at the sweep of SNP seats, we disabled people also felt utterly betrayed and hopeless, because the population of the UK had voted to enforce extreme, frequently lethal, damage to our health.

If you do it again, if you do this to us again, we will never forgive you. You can't pretend you don't know, you can't pretend that other things are more important, that it’s not the killing of disabled people you’re voting for really; it’s the other stuff. 

Read more – 5 key ways the snap General Election will impact Scotland and the UK

The point of civic nationalism is that we have to take responsibility for the choices we make as part of a society. We cannot tick a box and say 'I didn’t know', or 'I care about this bit but not the other bits'. 

We have to weigh our decisions, weigh our actions and inactions, and live with the results. We have to accept responsibility, and we have to ensure that others accept their responsibility. We have to not look away.

There were 30,000 extra deaths in England and Wales in 2015 as a result of cuts to health and social care, according to research by Oxford University. There were hundreds of suicides by the very lowest estimates, though we who spend our days working with people who are struggling to survive this government know there are more which aren’t counted; that there are many, many deaths because the stress and fear and pain and malnutrition and isolation exacerbated a person’s condition to the point of lethality. 

More than 50,000 people have lost their motability vehicles and become chronically isolated. Every one of those is someone who was considered disabled enough to require high mobility care until the Tories changed the narrative of who deserved assistance, against all the evidence from expert organisations who responded to the consultation. 

There has been "almost universal" deterioration in and frequently permanent damage to the mental health of people going through the Work Capability Assessment.

Read more – Rosa Zambonini to seek SNP candidacy in Natalie McGarry's Glasgow East seat for #GE17

We have to be completely clear to the people we speak to. We can no longer afford to mince words or be neutral because, again, the narrative is that neutrality is rationality. In situations like this, anger and bluntness are the only rational responses.

We need to tell them, with no platitudes or appeasement: "You will be voting to allow the government to kill us. We will not forget, and we will not forgive."

Nothing else is more important than this.

Do not let them change the conversation.

Picture courtesy of Flickr

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Tue, 04/18/2017 - 16:15

I could write that a vote for Scottish independence is a vote for killing people. Because Scottish independence would require years of austerity budgets similar to what is happening in Greece in order to generate budget surpluses in order to generate the reserves needed to back the new currency.

I could even write that a vote for Scottish independence is a vote for killing people like me, because I am a pensioner and because I need the NHS.

Of course, if I did write that, separatists would swarm around me and lob all kinds of abuse about what a disgusting resort to emotive language this was.

"Project Fear", even.

And you know what? They would be right, and I would deserve it.


Tue, 04/18/2017 - 17:17

The difference is that disability campaigners can point to an actual death toll caused by Conservative policy. This is not supposition. People are dead. They've died prematurely because of stress, because of suicide, because of malnutrition and in one case a man died because sanctions resulted in his electricity being cut off which meant his insulin couldn't be kept cold.

People are dead. More people will die. And if you really want Scotland to remain in the UK then you'd better hope that the English electorate come to their senses. Because another election in which the Scottish electorate is powerless to defend itself might guarantee independence.


Tue, 04/18/2017 - 17:55

I could write a reply about the actual death toll caused by the SNP refusing to exercise their power to set a minimum unit price for alcohol. I could say that is not supposition. People are dead. They've died prematurely because of easy access to cheap alcohol that would have been cut-off years ago if the SNP weren't afraid of acting without the SWA's permission.

But then you would accuse me of cheap sensationalism and emotive appeals to anecdotes instead of reasoned discussion of policy.

And you'd be right.


Tue, 04/18/2017 - 18:05

Indeed. This message does at least get shared across some party boundaries as a call to people's humanity, that the Tories, UKIP, and at least some Lib Dems and Labour seem to lack. It transcends the independence argument.

The fact that certain people would rail against this cry as emotive scare-mongering and attempt to compare what is actually happening with a dystopian future of their own imaginative making, should tell you all you need to know about that person.

This is what they will stoop to, and have to resort to, in order to offer up any sort of argument for their point of view.


Tue, 04/18/2017 - 22:56

Just out of interest, what makes you think I'm not also engaged in reasoned discussion of policy, and attempts to change policy?

That you can't see the difference between an ideological campaign against people who need state assistance, which has resulted in extraordinary levels of suffering as a *direct* result, and a law which may or may not save lives not being enacted, is of concern to me.

These aren't people who have died as an indirect knock-on effect, although plenty certainly have. These are people who have died as a direct result of the policies made by the Tories, made in ways which violate the law (see recent tribunal decisions), in ways they know are actively killing people (see the repeated Prevention of Future Deaths reports from coroners). They had a series of consultations, every single organisation which responded said these policies will cause massive, active harm, and they chose to do them anyway.

It may seem like a trolley problem to someone who hasn't been involved with it - that failure to act is as bad as action which kills people - but this is action on a massive scale, where people have repeatedly laid out the ways they could stop killing people, and they have ignored and doubled down at every opportunity.

There is a reason the UN cited the UK for 'grave and systematic violations of the human rights of disabled people'.

Yes, it's emotive, but it's also accurate. Neutrality isn't the same thing as rationality when tens of thousands of people have died as a direct result of the considered actions of a government which knew what the human cost would be. There is a level of intentionality which cannot be denied.


Tue, 04/18/2017 - 23:36

Incidentally, your concern about post-independence Scotland was why I was a unionist all my life, until around 2013. It finally reached the point where, in an independent country, at least citizens will be a priority, and the risk of staying as part of the UK became greater than the risk of leaving.

My commitment to independence is utilitarian, certainly. It's not a dreamy-eyed idea of freedom or windswept mountains. It's that the Scottish Government has repeatedly taken actions to prevent harm to disabled people from the UK Government. Most of us don't think it'll be easy, but what we do think is that, when we decide on the priorities of spending and negotiations, the Scottish Government is unlikely to prioritise turning us into the Cayman Islands, but instead things like the NHS and the welfare of the citizens. That makes a difference.

lulach the simple

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 15:39

You would deserve it.
Your assertions are without foundation - like May's masterly rhetoric...


Wed, 04/19/2017 - 17:09

"Its the economy , stupid"

Dear SNP, to fight the battles ahead can I please have an Industrial Policy, a Fiscal policy, a Monetary policy with a non GERS statement of accounts. Then and only then will we win the war.

Its the Economy Stupid


Wed, 04/19/2017 - 23:11

Disabled people's voices rarely get heard in the MSM and alternative sites like this may be one of the few places they can get a hearing. So why do you feel the need to try and drown out the voice of this brave lass who is feeling very vulnerable faced with the return of a heedless cruel Tory party for five more long years?
Your analysis is false as well. An independent Scotland would be able to generate any reserves needed by issuing treasury bills like any other rich country. No need for austerity at all. Austerity depresses economies as witnessed by Greece's plight. Greece receives bailout money which goes straight to French and German banks to save them from insolvency. Repeating neo liberal talking points doesn't mean you understand economics.
I feel sorry for you that you have been reduced to such heartless commentary. I wonder what your parents would think of such a debased view of life as you must have. Poor you.


Wed, 04/19/2017 - 23:14

The SNP don't sell cheap alcohol. Large corporations do. Don't you have any friends left to reign in your soulless hatred for your fellow human beings?


Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:52

My Grandmother became disabled in the 1950's. Her husband - my grandfather - had died during the war. She had a modest state pension and like many in a similar position, she survived. Why? Because her family lived all around her and helped as much as necessary. So whilst the problem now is seen as benefit amounts, the real problem is a shift from a dependable family to dependence on the rest of society - most of whom don't, and never will, care.


Thu, 04/20/2017 - 23:26

Out of interest, given that you keep repeating my accusations are baseless, did you follow the links to the sources I use to make reasonable assumptions about future effects of current policy?


Thu, 04/20/2017 - 23:31

You might think that it's because of some breakdown in society, but the whole world is different. A single wage no longer supports a whole family, there isn't the money in the average household for someone to stay home to provide full-time care, we no longer tend towards the warehousing of disabled people where they're put in institutions at birth and the family is told to forget they ever had a child, we don't expect women to just sacrifice their whole lives to be unpaid carers.

If you want us to go back to those days, you want women to go back to not working and disabled people to be kept in institutions, no matter their abilities. Otherwise, we need a robust health and social care system with support for disabled people, which we had for a time.

Mike McMonagle's picture

Mike McMonagle

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 17:01

Maurice Bishop > The difference being that the Conservatives already have previous for reducing the income from disabled and removing the "enabling" aspects of our Social Services. So you are comparing Fact to your assumption.

Maybe if you stopped for a second and worked your head out of your agenda you might actually hear what people are saying and are rightfully concerned about.


Tue, 04/25/2017 - 19:33

It's easy to understand why the author feels so strongly about the issue but if you read the text which the link above takes you to then the article suggests there may be a link - it doesn't say there is.

I don't agree with what the conservatives are doing with benefits but that isn't the only issue that will be affected by this election.

It would be better to campaign against this policy rather than to try to swing the whole election on one emotive issue.
The writer is saying don't vote Tory rather than saying this is how we fix the problem. A real and important issue diluted into another meaningless anti-tory rant with no solution.

Civic nationalism is a meaningless term used to try to hide the nasty face of Scottish nationalism. To suggest that it might be a better way is nonsense - nobody knows how the countries money would be spent under independence because the SNP haven't yet figured out how to balance the books. If the elderly or disabled benefit it's likely that someone else will suffer. Children? education? Police? General health services?

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