I’ve been following the #CameronMustGo hashtag with great interest. It’s been an opportunity for those of us who have been negatively hurt by the coalition’s policies to amplify our voices. Of course there are a few people who will just throw insults, but I would not like to question their validity in doing so. I’ve met some great people over the last week. Most of whom have heart breaking stories about the hell they’ve been put through. Those who follow me on Twitter @Lubottom, or who regularly read my blog will know that this is something I and my family have been through ourselves. Many of us are too disabled to attend rallies or hold placards and are often spoken about in the media, but denied the opportunity to tell our own stories. So when a hashtag like this, which allows us to have a virtual protest, comes along I can only see it as a good thing.
For all of the virtues of the campaign you would think, for all that the mainstream media and politicians discuss, that we were flat Earthers, dragging our knuckles through the mud whilst setting effigies on fire. The Telegraph dubbed what is largely a polite campaign of valid criticism “bullying.” The BBC ignored the story, only to pick it up far too late and then undermined its validity. Numerous other articles have simply stated that it’s pointless. Many have taken the hashtag literally instead of seeing it as a means to disseminate information. Whilst others have accused it of being a flash in the pan and gone to great pains to say that it will not have any impact upon the election.
One twitter exchange between Hannan (MEP) and Dr Sarah Woolaston (MP), unsurprisingly Conservative, suggested that we did not understand economics and that the HT was basically silly. On the one hand it’s a bit rich for members of the party which has overseen the slowest recovery from a recession, to judge the economic understanding of others. On the other, this completely ignores the large number of economists and similarly skilled people who are tweeting on the hashtag and who probably have a much deeper understanding of economics than a medical doctor. Now this was a flagrant abuse of the general public, inspired by a belief in the uneducated masses who are, of course, inferior to our good and great politicians, and yet she was unapologetic and continued to dismiss the upset of those she’d offended-dubbing it “faux outrage”. As a disabled person all of the outrage I have for a medical doctor who has been complicit in cuts that disproportionately hurt disabled people, and who then dismisses their reaction as mob rule, is very much real. It is worthy of note that Emma Thornberry- an MP from a working class background who simply tweeted a picture of a flagged house should lose her position in the shadow cabinet, whilst Hannan and Woolaston can discuss us in much more elitist terms and get away with it scot free!
Some of the most surprising and upsetting criticisms have come from the left. There has been a Twitter backlash from those who dismiss the hashtag as pointless, but worse still we have been called the “unthinking mass”. We’ve been told how we should politically respond and had everything we’ve said dismissed by people who should be our natural allies. The left has always been more open to infighting than the right wing, but this is something I wish we could be united upon.
In all that has happened most of the articles have written about the hashtag- is it any good, isn’t it premature, democracy doesn’t happen on Twitter (even though it’s much more democratised than offline spaces) etc etc ad infinitum. Meanwhile the very real stories about how this government has made people suffer has been ignored. Many people on the hashtag have been discussing important statistics (thousands who soon later died were found fit for work) about the very real people who had their lives, which prematurely ended, made a living (dying?) hell by this government. Others have been drawing attention to the selloff of the NHS, the bedroom tax, changes to PIP and ESA amongst others. And behind each of these is the very real and very heart-breaking story of the suffering people have experienced through no fault of their own.
This government have NOT paid down debt, they have increased child poverty, they have increased wealth inequality, they have placed thousands upon thousands of people in a state of penury. They have overseen the cut of welfare, carers, transport and housing for people who have disabilities. Their cuts have impacted upon children’s health services, children’s carers, and special and mainstream education. They have created another housing bubble through poor legislation. They have placed people in salary-free jobs, forced people to take zero hours contracts, overseen an exponential rise in the need for food banks, and reinforced the class system in further and higher education. They’re selling off the NHS and seeking to remove workers’ rights. They’ve celebrated a recovery founded upon the personal debt of the population and they’ve made the most vulnerable in our society pay for the mistakes of the wealthy- who have carried on as if nothing has happened. ALL of this (and there’s much more) is bad enough, but behind each of these things are people who have suffered.
There are families who have lost their homes. Disabled people dying because they can’t afford to eat, or heat their homes. Others dying because they can’t afford the electricity to refrigerate their insulin. There are disabled people so desperate that they’ve gone to that darkest depth where they have taken their own lives. There are children, like my son who have been denied educations. There are disabled people who have been beaten because ableism is now state sanctioned. Grandmothers who have died from the cold. These are the stories the media should be focussing upon. Not whether the hashtag is this, that or the other, but instead they should write about the information which is being shared. Whilst the mainstream media fails to highlight these things I will thoroughly defend our right to do so on Twitter. Ally Fogg recently wrote an article about how the worst thing about poverty is when it becomes normalised and not discussed as something to be abhorred. If you look at the media we seem to have reached that point, but one look at the hashtag inspires me to believe we’re not there yet.