Being Politicians, Not Protestors

I would like to propose that there are two main styles of campaigning, which are protesting and being political, with a small p. Protesting is about throwing metaphorical, and sometimes actual, stones at the windows of whoever they have an issue with. Protestors can say and do what they want, as long as it is legal, well most of the time, as they have no room for compromise with their hostile words. Most importantly protestors mostly complain against something happening without any regard to the consequences of what would happen if their ‘demands’ were met and no idea of what to put in place as a replacement to whatever they are against.

In contrast, I would argue being politicians is about working with the people you have concern with to achieve a positive outcome for the benefit of everyone involved. It is about rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty by having constructive discussions with the people you may ideologically detest for the benefit of your cause and the people you are trying to help. It may take months or years of negotiations and convincing the right people to achieve anything, but by not being hostile to those you need assistance from, you are far more likely to achieve something than protesting.

Regular readers may find it easy to correctly guess that I would prefer being a politician rather than a protestor, especially as I have plenty of experience. While I am far too honest and outspoken to ever become an MP, even if society was ready to elect someone with a speech impairment who dribbles, I have been very fortunate to have been at political receptions at the Commons, Lords, Number 11, and of course Number 10, as well as many other venues, on a variety of topics and issues. These are not the events where you can blindly shout demands, but rather the name of the game is networking, collecting colleagues who may become allies and indeed friends, who are then prepared to listen to your concerns.

Playing politics is not easy and requires a lot of work and patience, but I feel it is the only way to be properly heard without putting people’s backs up. While you may not be able to change the big ideas, you may change the finer detail and this can often make the most difference. It is not about being defeatist but truly understanding how life really works and what is really possible, away from the grand ideology often peddled by protestors.

I believe the problem with the current ‘sick and disabled’ movement, which is different to the older and more established disability movement, is that it has been formed as a protesting movement that as not really successfully moved into politics. They may argue they have the support of some MPs, but the support is for their protests against the government, rather than having the support of MPs who really want to make a difference on the issue.

This movement, who inaccurately claims to be the voice of all sick and disabled people, remains a protesting group making wild and hostile accusations about ATOS/DWP killing people, which simply discredits their ability to make any real difference to disabled people. While they claim they have been proven right again and again as they twist every available statistic to suit their accusations, what have they actually achieved? Nothing but increasing the distress of those they claim to care about by increasing fears, stress and confusion with their knee-jerk hostile reactions to anything the government says or does.

Until this movement is prepared to put down the placards and the hostile confrontational speeches, and tell the government as well as the public what positive changes they want and how they believe they can be creditably delivered, it will never get the opportunity to truly make a real difference to any sick or disabled person.

In the meantime, it is left to disabled people like myself, as well as the traditional disabled people led organisations, to keep playing politics to try to find positive solutions to current issues faced by sick and disabled people, within the hostile and harmful environment created by sick and disabled protestors.

from Simon Stevens


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