As a carer to children with disabilities and a disability rights campaigner I was very interested to read David Cameron's comment about Tourettes Syndrome in his interview with the Sunday Telegraph. I was interested because in a piece launching his call for a fairer Britain, using disability as an insult to denigrate the opposition is insulting, but unsurprising.
Disabled people, the rightwing press tell us, are "responsible" for the vast majority of the nations problems. As they claim benefits for disabilities, impairments and illness they are, we are told, scroungers liars and thieves in the majority with genuine claimants forming only a tiny minority.
In actual fact the department loses more money for work and pensions through administrative error than is lost in fraudulent claims, which account for less than 0.5%. But don't let the facts get in the way of a nice discriminatory story, eh lads?
You won't know this because apart from a very few exceptions, a report which details the facts about Disability Living Allowance claims is being widely ignored by the mainstream media who instead seem to prefer reading and regurgitating the Government line on disability benefits recipients; that of scroungers and liars.
That report can be found here
Sue Marsh who recently had her claim for disability living allowance turned down despite having a serious and genuine disability attempted to explain to the seemingly selectively uninformed minister for disabled people Maria Miller MP in this interview for Radio 5 Live
She and other disabled people and carers took to Twitter and managed to get it to the top of the trending list yesterday, yet their report which makes clear that these cuts and changes will impact very negatively, the vast majority of the media completely ignored the story.
The huge volume of tweets in support which came not just from disabled people but also celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Tim Minchin and Sue Perkins were given the hashtag label #spartacusreport. We could, any one of us, become disabled at any point so we are all in danger of facing this bleak and uncertain future together.
So with that in mind let's return to the Tourettes "gaffe". It's not the first time that disability has been used by the cabinet as a "clever" put down. It's not the first time that Cameron has referenced Tourettes negatively either. On Sunday after registering my rage with Cameron's comments John Prescott sent me a link from 2002 where the PM then leader of the opposition referred to his fury at the hunting ban and describing Tourettes Syndrome as a demented state.
However seeing the prime minister making this comment and then give a clearly half hearted non-apology apology on The Andrew Marr show, I was reminded of the times my children were bullied at school for their disability. The "I'm sorry if you're offended but I didn't mean it" approach may work with a stressed out teacher - ill-equipped with the realities of language and its place within hate crime, but from the prime minister whose life experiences teaches him of the hardship endured by disabled people and their families?
Mr Cameron, this simply won't do.
In the 1930's propaganda was used to convince Germans that certain undesirable people were deserving of discrimination. The T4 euthanasia programme was rolled out because the parents of a learning disabled child wrote to Hitler and requested that their "defective" son be euthanised. This programme gained ground and soon the mobile gas trucks began rolling up and dealing with the "less than perfect" inhabitants of the various institutions.
My point in raising this is that there is a historic precedent, which cannot be ignored in terms of disability. As ATOS are currently refusing genuinely disabled people reliant upon Disability Living Allowance to live and work, only to re-establish the benefits after costly appeal processes, the notion that this is a cost effective method is a nonsense.
This is a question of semantics on one hand but it also reinforces stereotypes on the other. Hate crime against disabled people is on the rise according to a survey by Scope. If our prime minister can use a stereotypical and wrong assumption about Tourettes syndrome as a term of abuse then why can't everyone else. Only 10% of people with tourettes syndrome swear.
I spoke on Radio 5 live and was apparently referred to as a Zealot by Philip Davies MP - this is the same MP who told us that disabled people should work for less than minimum wage incidentally.
It's not political correctness gone mad. I'm simply asking that the people who are leading the biggest assault on the welfare system since its creation remember who it was created for and why. Yes, there is a deficit. Yes, we are living in times of austerity, but disabled people didn't create this financial Armageddon, they are simply expected to pay for it.
If a civilised society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members then currently the fairer Britain, which David Cameron is hoping to promote, seems by his own, hurtful and denigrating language broken beyond repair.Suggest a correction