I had a funny turn last week. I don’t know what came over me. Well, I do. I got cross and there is no point in getting cross unless there is something you can do about it. I agreed to do something that I could never imagine doing before the suspension of Parliament got my dander up.
The biggest crowd I have played is my kitchen. I can sit eight people round my kitchen table, at a pinch, and I’m used to everyone speaking over the top of me. If you are the only person on the platform and you have a microphone in your hand no one can speak over the top of you because, for those few moments, you are the loudest voice in the room, or in this instance, #Whitehall.
When I was asked to speak at last weeks’ protest against the suspension of Parliament, I thought about it hard. Throughout the Brexit circus, not much has been mentioned about the protection of the hard won rights of disabled people. I don’t want to be a bore, but actually I’m keen to preserve them.
I’m quite keen to see reciprocal health insurance maintained because, lots of people won’t be able to get private health insurance and that effectively curtails freedom of movement. We need Parliament to hold the Executive to account.
I’m interested in the rights of disabled workers in a post Brexit world. I’m interested in the supply of life maintaining drugs. However much they annoy me, I should hate to see my family drop down dead. We need Parliament to hold the Executive to account.
I’m getting a bit edgy about how hard it’s becoming to recruit personal support workers if you’re disabled. If the flow of willing Europeans, ready to do this role, is curtailed, what’s the alternative? Institutional care? Yack! We need Parliament to hold the Executive to account.
I could hear that crowd but I couldn’t see them. They stretched from the #Cenotaph to #College Green and up to #Trafalgar Square. It’s been reported that hundred of thousands of people were there. It felt like it.
At the moment of climbing the stairs onto the platform I could hear the roar of the crowd. Was it too late to back out? I thought of the smallest Von Trapp family singer who didn’t want to take the stage. “I can’t sing. My finger hurts.” I said something rather more visceral than this.
When I took the microphone and stepped forward and began to speak, a cheer went up. I hadn’t even opened my mouth. Perhaps I could just stand here and they would telepathically know what I meant to say. Could I get it all out without gabbling or losing my nerve?
Well, I did. What’s more I remembered to say that if no one’s looking after my rights they’re probably not looking out for yours.
The Flatmate sent me a film of myself on #Twitter. It’s taken me four days to pluck up the nerve to watch it. The thought of watching it was far worse that the thought of doing it. I needn’t have worried because if the number of shares and like is anything to go by, no one is particularly interested.
I didn’t deliver it quite as planned but it wasn’t as toe curling as all that. I even managed to make my principle point. I’m not all about identity politics. I’m interested in common ground. If no one is there to defend my rights, who will be there to defend your or yours or yours?
I’m glad I stood up. Things have moved on since then, but the roar of the crowd is something I’ll never forget.