Letter: Tough on disabled

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Sir: I broke my neck playing football in 1978, which left me paralysed from the neck down and dependent on state benefits. Since then I have had to listen to a succession of Tory ministers labelling benefit claimants as scroungers, fraudsters, wasters and losers who sit contentedly at home waiting eagerly for the next benefit cheque to arrive.

I woke up on 2 May 1997 with a feeling of exhilaration - not because I thought the election of "New" Labour would bring a decent income for disabled people, but because I believed it would mean a change in attitudes, and the end of vilification of the vast majority of people who live on benefits because they have no choice.

Sadly, with his parroting of Tory rhetoric and talk of the end of the "something-for-nothing welfare state", Tony Blair has indicated that the song remains the same: benefit claimants, no matter what their circumstances, remain social pariahs. Indeed, the assault on the disabled in particular has intensified to a level that even the Conservative leadership never contemplated. Being "tough" on the powerless may give Mr Blair and Mr Darling a feeling of political machismo, but from where I am sitting it is a chilling development.

I find it ironic that, a week after the "outrage" caused by Glenn Hoddle's implication that the disabled people are in some way to blame for their situation, Labour policy reinforces this view by intimating that the disabled are just another group who just will not help themselves.

CHARLES WHEELER

Norwich

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