When people on social media were posting that the Tories were following the example of the Nazi regime with regard to the disabled, my initial reaction was to feel slightly shocked. After all, I knew disabled people were sterilised and gassed by the Nazis, I knew thousands had died.
So I decided to read up on the history and I was shocked to find parallels that do mirror what happened under the Nazis: the propaganda, the treatment, the secrecy, the wording and phrases. Have the Tories gassed disabled people? No. But thousands have died. The safety net all citizens should enjoy has been stripped away leaving an inevitable outcome. The Tories may not be deliberately setting out to kill people, but they are responsible, by omission, for the deaths of people they should be helping.
The Nazis used propaganda to convince the population that disabled people were, in part, responsible for the economic problems of Germany during the 1930s depression. The propaganda came in the form of posters like the one above, where disabled people were described as freaks. There were newsreels and cinema films that portrayed disabled people as ‘useless eaters’, whose lives were ‘unworthy of living’. The propaganda stressed the high cost of supporting disabled people and how unhealthy and unnatural it was that society was forced to pay for them.
Disabled people who were targeted and considered ‘unworthy of life’ included those suffering from epilepsy, alcoholism, deafness, blindness, mental illness, developmental delays, and even orthopaedic problems. They were viewed as marginal human beings who were a burden on society. As information about the first deaths of infants began to surface in 1938, Hitler used the pretext of looming war to control any protests among the population.
The Nazis then set up a committee of physicians who asked doctors and midwives to fill out questionnaires because the first disabled people to be targeted were children. They were deciding who lived and who died. 275,000 disabled people were killed during the Holocaust.
I’m going to show you the parallels with life in Tory Britain.
Do you see the parallels between Nazi propaganda and Tory media propaganda? The Nazis called disabled people ‘useless eaters’, referring to the fact they didn’t work and were a burden on society because of the cost. Now look at propaganda put out by the most vocal supporters of government policy in the UK – the Mail and Express, read by over one million people every day. This has been going on since the 1970s as the Tories and their supporters have sought to reduce the state by attacking the most vulnerable in society. This wave of propaganda has been used to justify the cuts to their benefits and social care, the removal of the Independent Living Fund, the introduction of the bedroom tax and the introduction of a benefit cap. The Tories also removed the severe disability premium (SDP) under Universal Credit, knowing that disabled people find it almost impossible to qualify for social care and that the SDP helped to pay for a little help, a couple of times a week.
Some of the ableist comments made about disabled people by Tory MPs should have ended their careers. There were comments made in the House of Commons, on national TV or to the media. Occasionally a quick apology. Rinse and repeat. Here are a few examples:
In 2005 a Tory deputy mayor, Owen Lister, sparked outrage by calling for disabled kids to be guillotined to avoid wasting cash on their care. A retired GP, he claimed the comments had been taken out of context.
In 2011 the Tory MP Phillip Davies suggested that disabled people with mental health problems should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage. He concluded it would make it easier for them to compete for jobs.
In 2017 the Tory MP and later Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told a distressed disabled woman (live on air) that her concerns about disabled cuts and lack of health and social care were a ‘childish wish list’. He has also stated he doesn’t believe in human rights.
In 2019 the Tory MP Sally-Ann Hart told voters at a hustings that disabled people with learning disabilities should be paid less because they don’t understand money. She was met with boos and jeers.
I could include more examples such as Priti Patel’s 2016 remark that cutting £30 a week from the benefits of disabled people would give them an incentive to find work. She was Employment Minister at the time. But quite frankly, having to research and seeing how many Tories have made immoral, ableist and inhumane comments about disabled people, has left me yet again feeling fearful for my well-being.
The Tories are not the Nazi Party. They do not, as far as we know, have a secret plan to promote racial purity by wiping out those who do not conform to their ideal. But the parallels are uncanny. The Nazi Party brought in a new law to protect the ‘medical professionals’ they hired to determine which disabled people lived or died. The DWP also has its army of ‘medical professionals’, chosen by them. Some aren’t qualified to make a determination on the disabled person they are assessing. This has led to severely disabled and seriously ill people being forced into work against the advice of GPs and hospital consultants. Ask yourself why a government department is given powers to override qualified medical professionals and why that same department has the power to amend a report once it’s been submitted to their superiors if too many disabled people are deemed to qualify for said benefits. This isn’t a governmental department acting out of responsibility toward its ‘clients’, but one determined to reduce their budget regardless of the cost to said ‘clients’.
Disabled people in this country have died in their thousands. Some have starved to death after being penalised for not being able to make it to a job centre or for refusing to take work they are not capable of. In 2015 a DWP report found that as many as 50,000 claimants had died within a year of being removed from ESA, though as lack of benefits is not recorded as a cause of death, it cannot definitively be claimed that was the reason.
IN 2019 The Independent reported that 17,000 people died whilst waiting to hear whether their claim for benefits had been successful; over 4,000 of them had cancer and over 2,000 had mental health problems. The DWP didn’t even bother to record over 9,000 disabled people. They were denied benefits when they needed it most, most of them at the end of their lives. It is callous and cruel. Marsha de Cordova, then Shadow Disabilities Minister, accused the government of allowing a “cruel and callous” process to create a “hostile environment for disabled people”.
Over the course of 30 years there have been more than 150 separate peer reviews by the DWP into thousands upon thousands of disabled people’s deaths by the DWP. The bulk of deaths have happened in the last 12 years since the introduction of Universal Credit. A recent report also revealed that in that 12-year period crime rates and the use of food banks have risen exponentially. The Tories are deliberately and callously plunging citizens into poverty. When that citizen is disabled they may very well die. The Tory government know what is happening but have created a benefits system designed to punish and degrade the most vulnerable in society.
This is why, as a disabled person who worked for over 35 years and became disabled through multiple co-morbidities, I am terrified of having to live in Tory-controlled Britain. I don’t matter. I’m a burden on the state. The taxes I paid are of no consequence. I lost my house and my life savings, all because I became too ill to work. They took everything from me and, when I was at death’s door, they kicked me some more, refused me benefits and left me to live on £450 a month for two years. It was only with the help of charities that I was eventually awarded the full Personal Independence Payment.