Labour must seize the chance to boost equality for disabled party candidates

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In January 2019, I started a campaign for disabled Labour candidates to receive the same support as party staff during the Sheffield City Council elections. On October 7th last year, the national executive committee (NEC) finally received this campaign, after numerous now defeated legal and rule book disputes, along with a request to trial this support from Sheffield’s local campaign forum (LCF).

What is the disability confident scheme?

The disability confident scheme (DCS) is an existing programme that means a disabled candidate will get an interview if they meet the “basic requirements for the role”. At the time of writing, there are over 18,000 organisations that have signed up to the scheme – including, importantly for this campaign, the Labour Party and Sheffield City Council.

Currently, if a disabled person applies to work for either the Labour Party or Sheffield City Council, they would have the support of the DCS. But, if they apply to the Labour Party to become a candidate for Sheffield, they get no such support.

Why is it needed?

Sadly, 25 years after the Disability Discrimination Act, I still have to face people telling me that disabled people do no work. Meanwhile, disabled candidates need to complete more work to make the long list in months than existing councillors do in a whole year.

We have recently seen arguments from Liz Truss – International Trade Secretary and minister for women and equalities – saying that this is ‘fashionable’ campaigning. This may be the first time I have ever been described as fashionable in my life.

My disability means that I experience graphic flashbacks of past events in my life. Finding what I thought at the time was my mum’s dead body, for example. She survived but the feelings at that moment get played over repeatedly. During good times, this is once or twice a day. At the worst, it is all the time, for months.

Liz Truss does not seem to realise that, far from being fashionable, this is about ensuring that all people have an equality of life chances. Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Marsha de Cordova had it right when she said that Truss’ comment “actually dismisses the devastating impact of discrimination and unfairness in peoples’ day-to-day lives”. So, will Labour’s NEC support equality or continue with the discrimination we have now?

What does the NEC need to do?

Under party rules, the NEC must agree to any trial. Appendix four (J) (a) states: “An LGC [local government committee] may apply to the NEC to pilot new or innovative procedures. Any such procedure must retain procedures for ensuring the party’s objectives under positive action are met.”

The motion was received by the general secretary’s office on October 7th, and I have spoken to a number of NEC members since then. I’ve been advised to expect that the application will be seen at the organisational sub-committee meeting tomorrow. We await a response.

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