Sunday, March 06, 2011

Protesters at Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference refuse to meet with Mike Moore and Danny Alexander

I have to confess to more than a slight annoyance at the lack of coverage of the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in today's press. A couple of articles in Scotland on Sunday and the Herald barely scratch the surface of what was going on. They were happy enough to mention the relatively small number of protesters who were outside, but they completely missed this story behind them.

We were expecting a fair few protests on various issues. So, it seems, were the Police, who had cordoned off a vast area around the Perth Concert Hall.

As party members, we'd been encouraged by Conference Committee to go and chat to any protesters who turned up. In fact, I know that some party people had even given them the string to tie their placards to the railings because they didn't have any. I went out to talk to the anti cuts protesters at lunch time to discover that they'd disappeared, much to my disappointment. I had earlier spent some time chatting to Royal Mail workers who were worried about the Government's plans for the organisation.

Rumours reached my ears, though, that at least one group of protesters had been offered half an hour with Mike Moore and Danny Alexander and had turned them down. I investigated some more and had those rumours confirmed by people in a position to know these things.

I don't know about you, but that horrifies me. They had two Cabinet ministers who were willing to listen to what they had to say and they knocked back that opportunity. What a betrayal of the people they say they're there to represent. Are they there to make a difference or just to make a lot of noise?

Mike and Danny did go out to talk to some people who were worried about the effects of welfare reform and other spending cuts on the services which are vital to them.

It's a characteristic of this Government that they are prepared to listen to people and are prepared to think again. We've seen that on issues like anonymity for rape defendants in England and Wales, the forests sell off and the persistent hard work of the Liberal Democrat ministers in delaying then stopping the plans to cut housing benefit after a year. This is not a characteristic I've seen in any UK Government I've ever known, but it's a welcome step forward. I certainly found it refreshing to see two senior members of the Government, who could have hid themselves away, out there and doing as much if not more listening than talking.

I came across this scene by chance en route from the Concert Hall to the hotel where the fringe meetings were taking place. Why the print journalists couldn't have done the same, I don't know. Maybe the red pepper and tomato soup being served inside was just too irresistible.


DougtheDug said...

I have to confess to more than a slight annoyance at the lack of coverage of the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in today's press.

Well it is just a regional Lib-Dem conference. The main Lib-Dem Spring Conference is on the 11-13 March 2011 in Sheffield.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but I'm sure the Scottish press will give more coverage to "regional" conferences of the other parties...

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I was at yesterday's protest as a disabled person. There were approx 200 of us present but the difficulties for many of us to be there were great. Accessible transport had to be booked, support staff arranged to accompany us, extra medication taken to be there and for many our conditions simply prevented attendance. The protest was initiated by disabled people and organised by the STUC, who were contacted re a meeting which was postponed until disabled people could attend. The protest was organised for 11am to 1.30pm and departure was prompt due to transport arrangements. Danny Alexander and Mike Moore did talk to a few remaining disabled people at 2pm as there was a delay in boarding buses. We were pleased they did, but the time was not long enough to talk about our fears re DLA reforms and experiences of The Work Capability Assesments by ATOS. This is not about party politics or political point scoring but about fundamental human rights. We are scared of a future without DLA. Disability Alliance's interim survey on DLA proposed reforms show 9% of it's respondents believed the reforms would lead to their death as conditions would worsen and others said they would commit suicide as life without DLA and no job prospects was unsustainable.Cuts may be neccessary due to the deficit but the effects of these cuts are disproportionate. For some of us they are about life and death.

Unknown said...

I am a disabled person who attended the protest. The diffic ulties for attending for many of us were many. Accessible transport had to be organised, support staff arranged to accompany us,extra medication taken to cope with being there,and some of us our conditions simply prevented attendance. The protest was organised by the STUC, who were contacted re a meeting but was postponed until later this week when disabled campaigners could be present. The protest was between 11am - 1.30pm and departure prompt due to accessible transport bookings. Danny Alexander and Mike Moore did talk to a few of us at 2pm as we were waiting to board our buses, which we were pleased about. However the time was not long enough to discuss our fear of DLA reforms,etc. These fears are widespread, as Disability Alliance's recent survey show that9% of their respondents believed that reforms would worsen their condition, and others said they would commit suicide. This is not about political point scoring but about fundamental human rights. These cuts may be necessary but their effects are disproportinate. For some they are about life and death.

Unknown said...

Sorry about blogging twice but new to this.


cynicalHighlander said...

Don't worry susan the LibDems prefer their limos and path to ermine cloth rather than to peoples needs. Michael Moore is acting treasonably to the people in Scotland in threatening to lump the damaging Scottish bill on Scotland whether we like it it or not.

Caron Moore is out of his depth that is why no one has any wish to waste their breath on someone who has no integrity left.

Unknown said...

Susan, I’m really glad you were able to make your comment in the end. Blogger can be a real pain sometimes – in fact, this is the second time I’ve tried to post this.
Thanks for the background – although can I just clarify about time. I am not usually so precise, but I know that I left the Concert Hall at 13:28 as I checked my phone mid conversation and realised I was late for a meeting in the Royal George Hotel. When I passed and took the photos, Mike and Danny were already there, so it wasn’t as though they came out at 2.
I’m still not really clear as to why a more formal meeting was refused. Mike and Danny were available and willing while you were all there, and a quiet corner could have been found so that you could have discussed your more detailed concerns with them. For some reason, that offer was turned down and I think that’s a shame.
I understand and have written many times on here that I find the changes to DLA and the work assessment stuff really scary especially if it’s done in the same way as the Labour Government used to do things. I have seen enough people who clearly qualified for benefit have to go through a stressful appeals process, which, virtually all of the time, they won. That’s not right – and I’d rather see the money spent on appeals be spent on giving people in need more benefit.


See commentary:

"Muse all you like, Caron..."

Craig Lundie - "The meeting was offered to the STUC who rightly turned it down as it was not extended to any disabled activists. We take the line "nothing about us without us" seriously and the Liberal Democrats were told that a meeting will be very welcome just as soon as it is extended to disabled activists themselves. I'd be grateful if Caron takes this on board. She may be "horrified" that no meeting took place and maybe if she goes back to those "people in a position to know these things" she can report our own horror at how this government, the one before it, the press, media and right-wing think tanks all supported by and held to ransom by corporate capital continue to defame disabled people across our country, remove their independence and dismantle the welfare state that supports them. Disabled activists will meet cabinet ministers just as soon as the invitation is extended to them personally."

Craig: "Furthermore, she is right to point out that the press & media should be reporting these events better but she doesn't realise that this is because there is currently a de facto blackout on genuine disabled activism. The press & media establishment are only interested in reporting middle-class commentary on activism, or more likely, a watered down version of what the activism is about without actually mentioning any activism at all. To take the real activists seriously would undermine all the work they have been doing for the last thirty years characterising us as loony left extremists."

John McArdle: " All this was explained in explicit detail by BT's John McArdle to Danny Alexander. Caron is yet another politico who is only too happy to report the only side of the story that she feels supports her preposterous statement that "It's a characteristic of this Government that they are prepared to listen to people and are prepared to think again."

John McArdle: "Caron - your comments are not only patently misinformed, disingenous and and untrue - they are a profound insult to all the disabled activists who moved heaven and earth to be there on Saturday! SHAME ON YOU!"

Let's see if you are "Liberal" or "Democratic" enough to allow this response to be published! Somehow, we doubt it!

Unknown said...

There's not much I don't publish, BTC.

Thank you for your comment. I still don't quite get why the meeting couldn't have gone ahead on Saturday with the people who were there. I am sure that they would have been able to articulate their fears and concerns to Danny and Mike. I certainly agree that ministers need to hear directly from the people affected - and also to put their point of view directly to them. Communicating through third parties is not always an efficient way of doing things.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should say D Alexander was willing to talk. I have asked for a meeting twice as I wanted to know why he changed his mind on the ATOS medicals after all the stuff he said as an mp about the worries he had over the assessments being too harsh and not fit for purpose. Sorry but I wouldn't believe a word that man uttered and don't know how he sleeps at night.

disabledbabe said...

Caron - I'm pleased that STUC declined the 'kind' offer of a meeting on the day of the protest. We would like a reasoned discussion between disabled people and Coalition Ministers, not 30 minutes of face saving by the Liberal Democrats. The disabled peoples movement abides by the fundamental principle of 'Nothing about us without us'and what 'the people who know' had in mind was something very different. Presumably the invitation for us to have an inclusive meeting is in the post. I was one of the people who spoke with Michael Moore and Danny Alexander after the protest. I asked Danny Alexander why he was now silent over the WCA and Atos, when he had been so vocal in his condemnation before the general election. He just repeated the usual platitudes that the Coalition had instigated an independent review and was acting on the findings. When I pointed out that this was a rather misleading assertion he just looked either stunned or bored, I wasn't sure which. My 10 year old son hit the nail on the head when he said to Danny Alexander 'You're not listening, are you?'. Out of the mouthes of babes....

Unknown said...

Have contacted Dave Moxham, Assistant Secretary of the STUC re why meeting was postponed. The Lib/dems offered the meeting only 24hrs before the protest, and stipulated who they would meet. This did not include disabled activists. The STUC offered them every chance to widen the meeting, however this did not happen, No offer of a meeting to disabled people was offered on the day, however willing Alexander and Moore might of been!

The STUC are writing to the party to request such a meeting. These policies directly impact on our lives and it is vital we are part of any consultation process.


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