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Disabled would-be councillor advised 'don't bring walking stick'

LABOUR mentors’ only advice to a disabled woman hoping to become a councillor was not to take her walking stick to selection meetings, Unite conference heard yesterday.

The Unite activist, who wished to remain anonymous, served as a Labour councillor in Lancashire and hoped to represent her new community when she moved to the West Midlands five years ago. 

But she found herself frozen out of public life after being left disabled by a car crash. 

Patricia Seaman read out her story to Unite delegates yesterday to unmask the “deplorable” attitude of some local Labour parties to disabled candidates. 

“I have been trying for five years to get any (council) nomination without success,” the woman’s statement said.

“When I had a mentor during coaching all I was told was do not take your walking stick to the interview.

“Friends have told me that some people feel a candidate with a disability would not get elected as they cannot campaign effectively.”

Her disability does not fit with the “stereotypical image of the perfect candidate,” it added. 

West Midlands delegate Paul Birkett also recounted the story of disabled Unite member David Jones who had his ambitions of reaching Parliament dashed. 

Conference heard how Mr Jones lost out in his bid to stand against Iain Duncan Smith — who has cruelly slashed benefits and job schemes for disabled people — in the Chingford and Woodford seat.

Mr Birkett said: “Statistically the position of disabled candidates is quite demoralising.”

Both delegates pointed out that just 5 per cent of MPs are disabled compared to 30 per cent of people in Britain. 

Unite conference called on Labour to review its selection procedure to ensure disabled people receive support — including shortlists exclusively for disabled people. 

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