Tory Majority Day 12: Disabled and Stuck, Between Left Wing Sympathy and Right Wing Hard Place

Yes, the mundane but essential task of getting the half price Oyster card was sorted out yesterday. I can hear you cheering loudly from here. Crack open the champagne! Thanks.

But that’s not what’s stuck in my mind from Monday.

I’m stuck between left wing rock of sympathy and the right wing hard place. 

Here’s a text conversation with my sister, HS. It came through on election results morning 8/5/2015. She’s a manager in public sector Education and in case that doesn’t give you a hint I’ll confirm that she has no love of the Tories:

Me: “Not a happy bunny over here, well done that your area is a strong Labour lead.”

HS: “I’m devastated. Reeling at how stupid people are, scared for society’s future x”

Me: “I haven’t slept and have bloody anxiety stomach. Been on the loo all night! Cool, calm and collected about what to do when they cut my benefits. Gutted.”

[I was literally gutted as election night panic got to my stomach …]

HS: ” I am sickened by people, what more can I say?”

Me: “When I was making my cushions last week I stood back and wondered if I’d have a home to keep them in for much longer. I don’t think anything will happen that quickly, but…”

HS: ” Lindy, you’re my example of why this is so f*cked. You’re the very opposite of benefit scroungers as people are portrayed, I don’t know what to say…xx”

Me: “Awww. Thank you sis! x”

and the other view 

Yesterday I heard from an old, old friend – a loved friend – EB.

I’ve been avoiding texting her as she voted Tory. That in itself isn’t a reason but initially I didn’t know what to say and I really didn’t want to stray into a political row. Since having ME, arguments feel like banging rocks in my head and take a lot to recover from.

EB thinks Margaret Thatcher was the great saviour of Britain, like a modern Boudicca. She calls her: “My wonderful, wonderful Maggie.” Actually, they never met but no matter, she still feels the same way.

On the other hand and in retrospect and, before you send round the cops, I am obviously being tongue in cheek here, I would willingly have done time to take Margaret Thatcher out.

I’m left wing, or left of center to be more precise.

EB and I have never discussed politics before. Well to be more accurate again, I’ve never responded to her before.

I’ve let all her right wing stuff wash over me rather like someone who supports an arch rival football team goes on about how brilliant their team is when you know you support yours every bit as deeply and passionately so you decide it’s not worth the argument.

Then I got ill. Having CFSME often means walking away from things that you know will take up too much of your precious mental energy.

Like apportioning out my ESA every fortnight, I didn’t have the energy budget to devote time to an argument that I know will not sway either of us from our opinions. Not worth it.

Until this came through over text yesterday

EB:  “It’s the 31st I’m down but will let you know when down again. That’s if I don’t get killed by rampaging Labour supporters who seem to think it was everyone else’s fault their party didn’t get it and want to kill everyone who didn’t vote their way. Conversation heard this morning!! I can’t even find anyone who voted Labour as they all said they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Ed Milliband so wasted their vote Xxx”

[ She lives in the Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes’s constituency in Southwark. He lost his considerable majority in the election and it is a London area that is now Labour. ]

I’ve really had enough. I’ve had enough of letting this all wash over me. I also think writing this diary has made me bolder and more certain about what my point of view is.

So I went for it.

Me: “Now as you know I am left wing and I was gutted that so many Lib Dems lost. When I saw Simon Hughes go I was stunned ;-)”

[ I was hoping for a decent response there – she and her partner had both voted for Simon Hughes despite being Tory voters]

Little did I know what would happen next. I have to admit her passion is impressive particularly as this is in the middle of her working day and her comm’s with me are all via text:

EB: “Even if I thought that Labour was the best party I still wouldn’t have voted for Ed. The man couldn’t even tell the truth about the massive black hole of debt they left. Interesting though that the people who are running for Labour now admit this massive error. Yea, yea, yea, to little, way too late and the party f*cked up by choosing the wrong Milliband. And why did they do that because Ed brought the unions in and look what’s happening now, they are going to vote this week on whether the unions will support Labour. OH the irony and the one man who I thought would be excellent at running the Labour party has backed down due to intense media interest. Nothing to do with how he bought his houses due to complicated tax havens, eh? Hold on was tax avoidance one the main policies Labour put forward…they really have ballsed up immensely. ”

[ EB cheered when Ed Milliband had someone throwing rolls at him as he did a walkabout in a local market. The ‘man I thought would be excellent at running the Labour party’ is Chuka Umunna – quite an admission from someone who genuflects to Maggie Thatch ]

I decide to tread that center line but at the same time, honest:

Me: “I’ve stopped watching the news. The idea that there will be more welfare cuts and that I might lose my housing benefit and my ESA is too stressful. I really hope the letter all the councils wrote to the government to say ” no more austerity” does some good. I’m not fit to work -I paid all that NI for over 25 years and it might go towards paying a deficit is wrong, totally wrong. I can’t get a council flat because there are none, despite being medically suitable. It’s a very personal thing this time. ”

EB: “I was gutted that Simon Hughes won but the Labour guy campaigned really hard. He even sent flyers round to land on Thursday AM before people left to vote. No-one else did that.”

Then while I was thinking my next text through she added:

“I wouldn’t stress until you find out what is happening. It’s not personal to you but there are a lot of people who do abuse the system. It needs to be fair to everyone regardless of personal circumstances but on the other hand tough questions need to be raised. Some of the benefit cuts are way too harsh. You should write a letter to the PM in all seriousness and tell him. I’m thinking of writing one myself about the benefit cuts.”

I ignore the fact that there is good evidence that the deficit is not the same as debt, and that the deficit in terms of borrowing actually increased over the last 5 years of the coalition, not reduced.

EB’s the walking definition of confirmation bias. That’s the way people skew thinking to attend to things that confirm beliefs rather than challenge them.

I do try and read around something before I make my mind up. EB’s a ‘going with her guts and sod the consequences’ sort of girl.

confirmation bias

I find a reply I’m happy with, hey ho. Looks like the conversation is going to take up some energy after all:

Me: “I’ll tell you about the system is from my experience sometime. It is already very rigorous and in my case I’ve been through 3 appeals. Not doing a ‘poor me’ honestly but I can’t handle more stress, My health has suffered enough over the last 2 years, I know you understand.”

EB: “Yes I do but I still, think you should write a letter and copy in the housing unit but go and see the MP. Tell him how they helped my brother and how they attended meetings to help him get his flat. How they went to the council offices to sort out my brother’s finances, how they followed up with the Council etc!! Make him work for you!!And make sure he knows what you have been through and tell him how you had to leave a successful career due to illness.”

I want to close down the conversation.

Me: “Good ideas. Anyway, how’s your new job going?”

and we start talking about other things…..

Last week I had a brainwave about approaching my MP but this conversation made me go online and find the contact details. Guess what. No email address. You either have to go there – nice for people who are limited in terms of mobility as I am – or write. That’s old fashioned snail mail. Blimey, do people really write actual letters still? Novel.

Congratulations to the old MP who worked so tirelessly to help EB’s brother. That’s proper constituency politics in action and I hope that the new MP even half way lives up to the legacy that he’s left in EB’s family. Look at how hard he worked to get what he was entitled to.

I know her brother. He’s had a very rough deal. He has a mobility vehicle to get around, had to fight both the NHS for treatment and then the council for appropriate sheltered accommodation and there’s no cure for his progressive deteriorating health condition.

His MP made a vast difference to his life in helping him since he’s been ill.

Her brother is disabled as well, you see.

© Lindy 2015 

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