The Labour Party has a proud history in government of action on behalf of underrepresented and discriminated against people. For us disabled members, however, it is an inescapable fact that Labour has not done enough to become an accessible party or to build an accessible society.
It is good news then that the disabled members’ position on the national executive committee (NEC) has been created. We cannot waste this opportunity for change. I am standing because I have a burning desire to make our party a better place for disabled members and to ensure that we back policies that will provide dignity and opportunity for us. My experience in Labour, trade unions and as a disability activist mean that I am ready to fight for our place in the party.
I have left-sided cerebral palsy, which makes certain things harder. I’ve never let being disabled hold me back, but I’ve had to overcome challenges in my life and the organisations I’ve been part of have had to do so, too. Cerebral palsy is part of the lens through which I’ve seen my life. I am proud to have become a councillor in Sheffield, where I’m cabinet member for health and social care. I lead the transformation of services for the most vulnerable citizens of my city in the most challenging of times. Covid-19 has been a tragedy for disabled people and Labour has an important job – nationally by holding the government to account and by showing our values where we hold power locally.
Throughout my life, I have been an advocate for disabled people. At university, I represented disabled students, reviving a moribund disabled students committee. My first real job was as an employer engagement worker at Disability Sheffield, an inspiring charity, where I worked to dispel employer myths about disabled people. After this, I became a trustee and activist for Disability Sheffield and the difference the organisation continues to make locally is truly important.
Being disabled is expensive. Scope’s disability price tag research has shown that the costs that disabled people and our families face go far beyond that which any benefits will cover. This must be tackled by a Labour government, but we must also tackle additional costs that many disabled members face when taking part in party activity. I will lobby hard for the party to provide funds to help with the cost of everything from travelling to meetings to support in selections. This is not simply about equality but also about unlocking the huge talent in our party that our disabled members represent.
Removing financial barriers to involvement is just the start. It is a scandal that such a tiny fraction of the House of Commons identifies as disabled. To unleash this untapped talent, we must ensure that every selection shortlist has a disabled person. I want to support this effort with high-quality training, modelled on the excellent Jo Cox and Bernie Grant programmes. In our policy development, we must focus on building an accessible society where every proposal we put forward is threaded with actions to tear down the barriers for disabled people. I will be bold in challenging the orthodoxy that change for disabled people is a matter simply for the Department for Work and Pensions or as part of a set of ‘disability policies’ at an election.
I strongly believe that real change for disabled people can only come under a Labour government, and that means getting behind Keir and Angela’s plan to form a Labour government at the next election. On Labour’s NEC, I will always put the interests of disabled members first, but I also want to contribute my experience as a campaign organiser and agent to ensure that we are organised enough to win.
I am proud to be backed by Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) the length and breadth of our country and three of the biggest trade unions in our movement – GMB, UNISON and Usdaw. If you believe that we need a truly accessible party, where the policies of an accessible society flow through every strand, and one that knows only a Labour victory can bring the justice in a society that we need, please vote for me to be your disabled members’ representative.