David Allkins was invited to the launch of Labour’s Disabled Manifesto. Here, he reports on taking advantage of the chance to interview party members including the Shadow Secretary of State, Work and Pensions Rachel Reeve, and Shadow Disabilities Minister Kate Green.

A manifesto is a collection of promises that a party makes to people, which it will carry out if elected or re-elected. This was the first time that the Labour Party had launched a manifesto focused specifically on the needs of disabled people.

The launch of this manifesto took place at National Grid HQ on a London street called The Strand. If the name ‘The Strand’ sounds familiar, this is because The Strand Magazine was a famous publication where the first Sherlock Holmes stories were published.

A question that I suspect is being asked is: why was the National Grid HQ chosen for the launch of this manifesto? The answer is because of the work placements that the company has done for young people with learning disabilities. They select more than 20 people to take part in an employability scheme that enables them to spend a year in the workplace, carrying out assessments to build their confidence and social skills. While this is happening, the people on the course can learn more about the company and gain the regular experience of being in work. At the end, they gain a BTEC qualification with the potential to be taken on by the National Grid. Because this organisation is giving people with learning disabilities a great opportunity, the Labour Party chose to launch their manifesto there.

An informal occasion

The launch was designed as an informal one.  This meant that, rather than have everybody sit along a table and take questions from the people sitting in front of them, the politicians moved around and talked to the people attending, which included some of the young people on the National Grid’s employability scheme.

The members of the shadow cabinet attending were Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Shadow Disability Minister Kate Green, who I had interviewed before at the United Response offices in Manchester.

Also attending were former Home Secretary David Blunkett and Labour parliamentary candidate Emily Brothers, who is standing for the seat of Sutton and Cheam. David Blunkett has had a long career in politics and is best remembered for serving as, firstly, the Education Secretary and, secondly, the Home Secretary in Tony Blair’s government. Blunkett congratulated the National Grid on providing opportunities for young people with disabilities.

Who was there

In conversation around the table, Rachel Reeves mentioned a policy outlined in the manifesto to create a new specialist Work Support programme, which aims to work with local authorities to help more disabled people be supported into work. Kate Green spoke about abolishing the Bedroom Tax and ensuring that young people with disabilities have the same opportunities as other students to study for qualifications and go to university.

I was also fortunate enough to talk to Emily Brothers, who mentioned a manifesto pledge to introduce making disability hate crime a new criminal offence. This would mean that people could be prosecuted for attacking somebody because they were disabled in the same way that people can be prosecuted for attacking somebody because of their ethnicity or their religion.

Watch the full video report

The fact that a manifesto specifically for disabled people is being realised underlines the importance of campaigns such as Every Vote Counts.  People with disabilities are entitled to a say in how the state is run and to be allowed to exercise their right to vote. The release of this manifesto proves that the political parties are listening to us and being made aware of our concerns during this election.

To find out more about how to exercise your right to vote ahead of 7 May, visit www.everyvotecounts.org.uk.

David Allkins, Political Correspondent.