In a statement that is frankly staggering in the callousness of its disregard for Britain’s disabled citizens, Caroline Dinenage, a health minister, has made it clear that “no formal impact assessment has been conducted by her department of the potential effect on people with disabilities and long term medical conditions through the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a deal.”
There are two possible ways to interpret this.
Option 1: Dinenage and her colleagues simply don’t care because they view us as not sufficiently worth caring about.
Given the last ten years of government policy you could easily conclude that this must have at least played a role.
But I lean towards Option 2: they are well aware that it will be very bad and so opted not to commission one to avoid the possibility of its conclusions leaking out and resulting in their having to face some very uncomfortable questions, now and in the future.
Picture a parliamentary select committee, or even a public inquiry, grilling Dinenage or her boss Matt Hancock.
Imagine them being asked to justify ushering in a no-deal Brexit (if that's what happens) as part of, let’s say, a Boris Johnson-led government having received an impact assessment saying people would likely die for a lack of drugs or one of the other problems such an outcome will throw up.
Hancock, Johnson’s new best little buddy, has previously said he couldn’t guarantee no one would die. But there's a big difference between that and having to admit to having had a document saying that, yes, it’s almost certainly going to happen, and pressing ahead anyway.
Having a long term medical condition that will kill me if it goes untreated, combined with disabilities that require fairly heavy duty pain killers, it’s frankly horrifying to have to live in a country where this is a serious threat and where we have people as low as those two overseeing the National Health Service that I rely on. That I may not be able to rely on come the end of October.
Earlier this week I wrote about Theresa May’s vapid and cynical “new drive to tackle barriers faced by disabled people”, pointing out that it ignored the ghost of Tory Policy Past which has erected them up all over the place.
However, in comparison to the Ghost of Tory Policy Future, it looks a bit like one of those kids’ Goosebumps books when set against classic Stephen King. Think Salem’s Lot multiplied by The Shining.
I keep hearing people telling me that it’s a chimera that can’t happen because MPs won’t let it. Pardon me for feeling ever so slightly sceptical about the willingness of parliamentarians to intervene on behalf of their countrymen and women.
That’s particularly true of the Conservative ones, but to listen to the way Margaret Beckett tells it, my community can’t afford to put much faith in Labour either, what with Jeremy Corbyn having his strings pulled by best pals Len McCluskey, of the Unite union, and Seumas Milne.
The fact is that while parliament has repeatedly said it doesn’t want no deal, when it has had opportunities to formally outlaw it it has dropped the ball. That is why we are where we are now.
Another one is brewing and former minister Philip Lee, who is a doctor by the way, has called upon fellow Tories opposed to a no-deal Brexit to show a bit of fire and copy the “ruthless” tactics of the Jacob Rees Mogg’s European Research Group. So far, there’s been little sign of it happening, albeit with a few notable exceptions.
So forgive me if I can’t feel blasé about this. You wouldn’t either if you were facing the risk of your prescription not being there the next time you turn up to the pharmacy.
Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit by 31 October “do or die”. As his former leadership rival Rory Stewart pointed out, the phrase originates from “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Tennyson which concerns British casualties during the Crimean War.
Britons with disabilities or long term medical conditions now appear primed to play the role of the troops gunned down in that fatal endeavour in his war with the EU.
With that looming, and their careers to think of, is it any wonder Hancock and Dinenage didn’t want to see any impact assessment?
Were a corporation and its bosses to behave in such a manner, with such colossal and potentially tragic negligence, it would be in danger of prosecution for corporate manslaughter.
But because those two are politicians, the only thing they’re risking is taking a half day off from their new gigs after leaving parliament for a tough afternoon in a draughty committee room when the dust has settled.
Where on earth is Marley’s ghost when we need him?
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