There was a protest in town yesterday; an anti-immigration march by The National Front and a counter march by anti-fascists. I love this person’s simple, but effective message:
I remember being with the kids in a quaint little patisserie in town recently, buying some of the local pastry based delicacies, and a woman, with a man of a similar age who I think was her husband, was in the queue next to us. Alfie began to flirt: he reached out, tugged gently at her coat sleeve, tried to get in her handbag, asked what her name was, kissed her hand. It was all very pleasant then she said to me “aw, ent thee appy” (translation: aw, aren’t they (disabled people) happy).
Loads of you will have had these experiences which make your heart sink. The thing is, she was quite frail, and Alfie liked her, and he asked her “what’s your friend’s name?” She didn’t hear/understand, so I said to her friend (husband) “he’s asking what your name is”, but before the man could speak, the woman told us. “His name’s Jim. He’s not from round here”, so I imagined a scenario where they might have met during the war, when he’d escaped Germany, and he didn’t speak good English, or something like that, but no, she continued to inform me “he’s from Tyldesley.”
I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, (Alfie was pick pocketing someone else at this point) because I realised she wouldn’t have understood why I was offended by her comment. I felt a bit sorry for her, and it was one of those ‘choose your battles’ moments. We were hungry for our pies, and I felt hypocritical because I always bang on about how we should all defend equality, but she was a nice person who was actually not bothered that Alfie had drooled on her hand when he kissed her. She wasn’t bothered that he was probably groping her in unusual places from his wheelchair seated position, and she didn’t appear to be in a position of authority or responsibility which could influence the local authority’s actions under the Equality Act 2010. Unlike the leader of Wigan council, Peter Smith (Lord Smith of Leigh).
Last night, I looked on Twitter to see if the leader had commented on the anti-immigration protest in town yesterday. There was no mention of immigration or the protest on his Twitter feed, but he had tweeted this a few weeks ago:
“@Lord_PeterSmith: Gt visit to Hunter Lodge fantastic work with challenging but rewarding people. Really supportive & caring staff! Thanks for invite & lunch.”
Guessing who these ‘challenging but rewarding people’ probably were, I googled ‘Hunter Lodge’…….
“Hunter Lodge in Marsh Green, Wigan provides services that meet the needs of people who have a physical disability, a sensory impairment, or a brain injury.
It offers a friendly, relaxed environment, where staff develop a programme with each member, which includes access to further education, community mapping, social and cultural activities and work-based tasks.”
So the leader of Wigan Council thinks disabled people are there to reward the staff (presumably being paid) who support them? And as if that isn’t enough, the disabled person quite possibly pays for the privilege of making others* feel good about themselves? This confirms to me that the pie shop woman’s comment was totally to be expected. When we have people hanging around in parliament, and leading councils, who believe disabled people are there to make others feel good, what hope is there of disabled people ever being seen as equal in value? If people in these positions are consistently allowed to get away with comments like these, how can anyone expect regular people on the streets to treat disabled people with respect?
Apparently Lord Smith also welcomes refugees, as long as other towns take their fair share. Maybe if they were disabled refugees, there’d be more of a feel good factor about it???
*I’m not suggesting staff at Hunter Lodge think this way.