A step back in time?
For the first time in over 40 years the group set up to ensure all future rules and laws promote and progress disabled peoples equality and human rights (the All Party Parliamentary Disability Group) is chaired and vice-chaired by non-disabled people. That’s ok, you say, they will work closely with disabled people, you say, but step back in time for a moment and ask yourself this – when women campaigned for the vote, would you have stood by and argued that men could simply vote on their behalf? … We didn’t think so. That is why today we at the One in Five Campaign have written to the new chair of the All Party Group to ask them to consider appointing a disabled person as co-chair.
Now, as a campaign working to get more disabled people into politics, we know that finding a disabled MP to chair or to co-chair is not without its challenges. Disabled people are so poorly represented in politics that there simply may not be enough of them in Parliament to choose from. We also know that new rules mean the chair has to be an MP, and not a peer – which only serves to further reduce the pool of disabled people to choose from. And therein lies the issue – the under-representation of disabled people in politics is not only a sad indictment of our time and letting disabled people across the UK down, but it’s letting down the very structures that are meant to be there to emancipate disabled people in the first place. Disabled people have a right to represent themselves and we can represent ourselves.
So what’s the solution? Despite the low numbers of disabled people in politics, we’d bet (or hope!) there are at least a few disabled MPs. So first, let’s look at appointing a disabled person as co-chair – and if no one comes forward, maybe we need to ask why? Is the role inaccessible, does it put too much pressure on, could it be a job share opportunity, are MPs afraid to ‘come out’ as disabled? We’d bet that part of the answer lies in those questions.
But then of course there’s the bigger issue – we simply need to get more disabled MPs in the door in the first place. That’s why that as well as asking the new chair and vice-chair to look again at a disabled person co-chairing the group, we are also asking that the Group put addressing the issue of the under-representation of disabled people in Politics front and centre of their work – and they could start by signing up to One in Five!
“The fact that this is the first time in its near 50 year history the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group is being chaired by a non-disabled person highlights how under represented disabled people are. We hope the group addresses the under representation of disabled people in politics and have proposed they sign up to our campaign and support our calls for every Westminster-based party to sign the One In Five charter.”
One in Five Campaign spokesperson
Notes to editors:
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The letter sent to chair of APPDG Dr Lisa Cameron MP