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A Day For The Lords / 17 January 2012

black and white photo from the action of a protestor behind a placard which reads 'Stop Welfare Reform Bill. Zacchaeus 2000 single mothers self defence'

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group Rep and Placard. Photo by Rich Downes

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I'm unqualified to talk Welfare Reform. I know the government takes steps to hurt us because we are in this crying game together. I'm unqualified to comment on the Lords. I believe they place safeguards on bad legislation, taking action to stop the government hurting the people it serves. So, i find myself on the streets, aiming my gaze at the Lords, psyching them into supporting us.

I'm concerned about the turn out. What activism is this? Why do so few people in our movement turn up to help safeguard our own through lobbying, picketing, direct action? Who am I with today? Single Mother’s Self Defence, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group. I see Clare from Winvisible who introduces me to Joan from UK Uncut who asks who i’m with. I’m with DAN, the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network.

This gathered coalition of mutual interest intrigues me. I look outside the confines of our Movement, taking an interest in what others say.  The clear message - 'Oppose Welfare Reform'. Why? What does it affect? Clare chants into a loud-speaker. We join in. ‘Welfare not Warfare’. Alternative strategies could be adapted if cuts must be made. It's strange to hear this. No chants originate from the movement. Some placards show poor understanding of our issues.

Mad Pride's banner call Benefit Cuts and Condems ‘mental’ - a pejorative term. The issue is pejorative as are some members of the coalition but….’mental’? Is it OK if mental health service users, system survivors, say it? Does it ask questions? What is: what is not mad? If I'm proud of being mad do i want to share this with my enemy? Dave Skull takes the mike giving the outstanding speech of the day.

Banners talk about consequences of reform, ‘Cuts Make Women and Kids More Vulnerable to Rape’, ‘Cuts Equal Racist Attacks Of A Financial Kind’, ‘Cuts Put Women On The Street’, and ’1 Year Time Limit on Sickness Benefit = Assisted Dying’ - the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) line. Remember ‘ATOS Kills’. Other placards talk to my prejudices; ‘Lords Help Us’, sounds like Blairite christian democracy. ‘Single Mom’s and People with Disabilities All Deserving and Entitled’. I’m a disabled person. Get used to saying it. I don’t want help. I want rights. There should be no distinction between deserving and undeserving. Lets destroy this old christian idea for ever. It’s not helpful. It leads to testing through eligibility, it causes division.

Did I belong with these activists? I support their aims. I'm not keen on the style, presentation and language but, because i was there I share the success. The Lords made a stand, extending the period of Employment Support Allowance (ESA), ensuring cancer patients received benefits for a longer period thus enabling recovery, giving young people receiving ESA a contributory payment towards pensions. But today I wondered what our movement is all about, where are we, what are we doing, is it enough?

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