The Independent have picked up on a story I was following on Twitter from the moment it broke. Right before Ed Miliband’s speech on Tuesday, a few disabled delegates were told to move from their front row seats and, in the transit process, one who walks with a crutch fell. They were replaced in the front row by ‘bright young things’ in suits and, sure enough, Miliband walked that way on his exit from the venue. Stewards tried to explain that the seats were reserved for disabled delegates but were overruled by conference organisers.
First of all, let’s dispense with all this ‘alleged’ rubbish. I’ve followed the woman in question on Twitter for quite some time and know her to be a decent, hard-working carer and mum who has been very vocal with her criticisms this year about the Labour conference being unaffordable for less affluent party members. By sheer bad luck, the organisers couldn’t have budged a more committed and outspoken member of the audience.
What message is Labour trying to send out here? That when Miliband walks from the hall they want you to see young people in suits and not the vulnerable who the party still claims is their priority? That corporatism trumps need? I think if I was a member of the Labour Party (grassroots, not that extortionate number who live in Greater London according to some figures yesterday I can’t lay my hands on) I’d want to see a representative audience. I’d want to see people who spoke to the average Labour vote, not the politicos who will go back to an expensive lunch with their think tanks.
Maybe it’s just, as I keep saying, the lack of a coherent overarching message that’s the problem. I’m glad that the Labour Party is taking these complaints seriously but I’m not sure it goes much way to fixing the damage done.