Who to back?

It’s been a while since our last blog. This is mostly because of the growing chip on my shoulder about the general state of things. I’ve gone to publish a couple of entries but each time decided Pelican is not the place to offload my grievances. Fortunately, a couple of weeks ago on Question Time, someone far more informed and better placed, spoke far more eloquently and decisively than I could have about some of the things that drive people working in the community completely mad. Francesca Martinez went viral with her QT appearance. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should catch it on iPlayer. I first became aware of her on Ricky Gervais’ Extras where she starred alongside a phone-sexing Kate Winslet. Genius. Martinez is a comedian, actress and writer who has cerebral palsy (or is a ‘wobbly woman’ as she likes to say). Her words speak for themselves. All I will say is that I am publishing them, not as a Pelican Project political message, but as her moral one, that speaks on behalf of thousands of families living with disability. We want change at Pelican, but we are not interested in Politics. Justice and equality are on our minds though. Here’s what she said:

“I think when we’re looking at politicians we shouldn’t listen to what they say, but look at their voting record and their actions. But the biggest reason I’m not a massive fan of Boris is because he’s backed austerity policies again and again, and I don’t know if this is widely reported but austerity has caused the death of over 130 000 human beings in Britain*. That is absolutely outrageous. You know that’s 130 000 mums, dads, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts who have died because the Tories and Lib Dems decided to make ordinary people pay for a crash caused by bankers who we bailed out…

As a ‘wobbly woman’ I really have to highlight the tens of thousands of disabled people and sick people who have died after being found ‘fit for work’. We are one of the richest countries in the world and this is absolutely outrageous. Even the UN has called the Tory welfare reform a violation of disabled people’s rights. I want to remind everyone here that anyone can become disabled or sick at any time and right now this government is taking away the safety net that we have fought for collectively over decades, to help those in need. And I think whatever your politics, you can agree that punishing disabled people and sick people for falling on hard times is absolutely morally wrong and they have blood on their hands.”

It’s hard to feel positive about much when you consider her words. The bottom line is that society’s most vulnerable members, including some of our core members and their families, are treated unfairly, be it through cuts to welfare, healthcare or education. Bare her words in mind, and bear with me; the unfairness is galling but it’s not my take-home point. Later on in the program, Martinez talked about character when answering a question on recent drug use revelations amongst the political elite:

“I just want to say…I think it’s quite hypocritical of these candidates because many of them have also advocated really harsh drug laws and this is the kind of behaviour that really erodes the trust in politicians, ‘cos it’s kind of “do as I say not as I do”. And I think we’re fed up of that in this country aren’t we? I’ve got to say, I am a Jeremy Corbyn supporter…I think the main reason I am is because I feel his words are backed up by decades of actions and I’ll just say one quick story; when my disabled friends were holding tiny demos all over to try and cling on to their basic human rights, only two MP’s turned up again and again, and those two people were Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonald. And I think that shows a real deep commitment to standing up for the rights of people who really need support and help…and campaigning relentlessly in their own spare time for equality, peace and justice, and that’s why I believe he is such a rare breed of politician; because his words are backed up by decades of action and how many times can we say that about an MP?”

I will reiterate that I am not making a political point. Corbyn’s politics are as flawed as anyone’s. But Martinez made me think about who I would back. Whose character deserves the vote? Whose record speaks for itself? Her words made me think of a group of people I know well. In the face of injustice, our core members and their families turn up “time and time again”. They “stand up” for the weak. They “campaign relentlessly” for the rights of their community. They are backed up by “decades of actions”. They are the embodiment of what community should be, working towards a common goal. Next to the colossal, gridlocked machine of Westminster, the quiet, focused change that our core members are making to their community has never felt so powerful. Their names aren’t on the ballot paper, but they get my vote every time.

This week, we launch our CrowdFunder campaign. We are seeking £2500 (matched by ECC to reach a total of £5000) to contribute to the cost of our project for 2019/20. Back our core members and the people who support them here:

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/pelican-project-where-disability-belongs