Disability Labour Q&A – Caroline Flint
1. Engaging with disabled people:
1.1. Why should disabled people vote for The Labour Party at the next general election?
I'm proud of Labour's track record on disability rights, but the fight to achieve full and comprehensive civil rights for disabled people is far from over. Labour must lead that campaign. I want a Britain where everyone has the opportunity to realise their potential and all are treated with respect.
But we have to be very careful not to treat all disabled people the same. Of course, all people – disabled and non-disabled – should be treated equally. But there are 11 million disabled people in the UK and the challenges one disabled person faces can be very different to another.
We must also remember that disabled people care about exactly the same issues as everyone else: a strong economy generating good jobs, strong public services which are there for people when they need them, safe and clean streets, and a home to call their own.
1.2. What policies will you champion which will assure disabled people that a Labour Government is best placed to promote the rights of disabled people in society?
There are many important policies that Labour must have in place to win the support of disabled people at the next election, but there are three in particular I'd champion as our Deputy Leader.
First, an education system that empowers disabled people to fulfil their potential. I think it's a scandal that disabled people are three times more likely to not have any qualifications. If we don't support children and young people with disabilities to get the qualifications they need – and which they are capable of achieving – then it becomes so much harder for people to live full and fulfilling lives. I want all schools to be inclusive. Specialist schools still have important place, though, and as an MP I have supported many parents to get the right education for their disabled child.
Second, our social security system must always treat disabled people with dignity, and support those who can to work. Despite the fantastic progress that was made under the last Labour Government, the proportion of disabled people in work has stalled under the Tories. Work helps create a society in which people can be independent, raise a family and be part of a community. It also ensures that through those that work we can provide for schools, hospitals and other public services essential to the common good.
Third, life is for enjoying! All of us want to be able to enjoy doing the things we love. With the General Election and now my Deputy Leader campaign, I haven't had much time off recently, but when I do, I love going to the cinema with my husband. I'd hate it if, for some reason, I wasn't able to go the cinema any more. And I don't think it's acceptable that disabled people remain significantly less likely to participate in cultural, leisure and sporting activities than non-disabled people.
2. Disability and Diversity: What will you do as Deputy Leader to ensure candidates standing on a Labour platform reflect the diversity that is Britain today?
I joined Labour, never imagining I would be an MP. My mum was a lone parent at 17 and I never knew my real dad. We never owned a home. Twice in my teens I had to live away from home; the second time because of my mum's alcoholism – an illness that would kill her. Going to university was not my destiny. It was an escape. By my mid-twenties I was on my own with two children under two. I know what it's like to be on benefits, to worry about money, to need a job, childcare and a secure roof over your head.
So my background didn’t mark me out for political office. I’ve never felt ‘entitled’ and still work hard to prove myself. Who I am, coupled with my passion for equality and social mobility, drives me to ensure that Labour looks and sounds like the country we aspire to govern. We need more disabled, women, BAME, LGBT and working class candidates, councillors and MPs.
In the run up to the last election, I've campaigned in literally hundreds of constituencies around the country and I saw not just how hard our candidates were working, but also what a high cost it came at for them personally – and disabled candidates can face a particular set of costs around transport and personal support. I'd like to see more support given to candidates during the selection process and once they've been selected.
3. Disabled Candidates: What measures would you implemented as Deputy Leader to ensure that disabled people are able to stand as candidates and hold political office?
I'm so proud that David Blunkett is chairing my campaign to be Deputy Leader. David was one of our best ministers in the last Labour Government, and my very first job in Government was a junior minister in the Home Office when David was Home Secretary. David wasn't just an inspiration to all of us, he also showed that people with disabilities are every bit as capable of holding the highest political offices in our country as anyone else.
The election result was obviously a massive disappointment for all of us, including the many members of Disability Labour, who worked so hard to support our candidates. But it was even more disappointing because with David Blunkett stepping down and Anne Begg losing her seat to the SNP, the parliamentary Labour Party, and Parliament as a whole, is now even less representative than it was before.
As Deputy Leader I'll level the playing field for candidates so that money and connections are no advantage in selections.
4. Activism: What will you do as Deputy Leader to promote the inclusion of disabled members in all areas of party activities?
Our party must be open to everyone who shares our values and wants to see Labour back in Government. As an absolute minimum, all our meetings and events should be accessible to everyone - we can't claim to want to involve disabled people in our party if they can't even come to our meetings. All of our services must be accessible too. In this election, for example, I have ensured that all of my campaign videos have had subtitles so they're accessible to deaf people. As Deputy Leader, I will support Disability Labour's aim to make our party a centre of excellence on disability and equality issues, so that we can build links with the disabled people's movement and win the support of disabled people at the next election.
Whether it's helping with our policy development or supporting our campaigns and candidates, there are so many different ways people with disabilities can help our party to win the next election. If I'm elected Deputy Leader I'll create Labour's Got Talent so that we can make better use of the talents, skills and contacts all our members can share.