Daniel Pryor highlights the gross hypocrisy of the Labour Party in light of today’s Backbencher report on ATOS.
Today’s Backbencher report on ATOS is a damning indictment of the Labour Party. It shows that the last Labour government awarded the much-maligned private IT services firm the contract to carry out work capability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. ATOS has repeatedly come under heavy criticism – largely from left-wing media commentators and Labour MPs – for their perceived incompetence and poor value for money. Regardless of the truth behind such criticisms, it is time for Labour to come clean and admit that ATOS Healthcare is, for better or worse, their own creation.
Led primarily by left-leaning journalists, disability right campaigners and Labour MPs, opponents of ATOS paint a gruesome picture of the corporation’s testing procedures. From ex-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne branding them a “disgrace” to emotional descriptions of suicides and deaths allegedly related to ATOS in January’s Commons debate, the firm has faced relentless condemnation. There have been calls for a public enquiry into hundreds of deaths that critics say may have been related to ATOS’s assessment procedures. Described by Labour MP Dennis Skinner as a “cruel, heartless monster”, the firm has also been repeatedly slated by The Guardian. But perhaps the most vocal critic of ATOS is The Independent’s Owen Jones, who famously incurred Iain Duncan Smith’s ire on Question Time after citing two cases of disabled people dying days after being deemed fit for work.
Described by Labour MP Dennis Skinner as a “cruel, heartless monster”, the firm has also been repeatedly slated by The Guardian.
Linking the deaths of disabled people to politicians is perhaps a step too far. However, if Owen Jones (and many others) want to play the blame game, then the blood is largely on Labour’s hands. Of course, their vociferous opposition to a policy that they themselves created is hardly a new development; this website has previously reported on the Bedroom Tax originally being a Labour policy and the Luciana Berger lobbying scandal. Moreover, Labour’s broad opposition to unpaid internships seemingly hasn’t been shared by Rachel Reeves or Chuka Umuna.
The Labour Party should, if it believes ATOS to be responsible for preventable deaths of the sick and disabled, make an unreserved apology to the electorate for hiring the firm in the first place. Media commentators and disability rights activists should make it clear that they think the Labour Party made the wrong decision. We should all be more mindful of the rank hypocrisy that is continually displayed by so many of this nation’s politicians.