UKIP – voice of the working people.
Or so they’d have you believe. But if anything they’ve ever said or done leaves you in any doubt about that, then Neil Hamilton – disgraced former Tory MP, now Member of the National Assembly for Wales on behalf of UKIP – can be relied upon to quash those doubts once and for all and reiterate the fact that they are most definitely not the voice of working people.
During a plenary debate on Brexit in the Welsh National Assembly building on Wednesday 29th March 2017, Neil Hamilton was heard making a comment about the people most likely to be affected by Brexit.
Speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, Eluned Morgan (Baroness of Morgan of Ely) observed: “Today is a profoundly sad day for the nation and also for our children and our children’s children. Of course, those who will pay the highest price for Article 50 will be those who can least afford it.”
As she spoke these words, Neil Hamilton was heard responding: “Suicide is an option.”
Protest quickly ensued from various vociferous Members, to which Neil Hamilton responded: “What was unparliamentary about the remark?”
Presiding Officer, Elin Jones faced repeated calls to make Mr Hamilton apologise. “What is there to apologise for?” he said.
Following further calls, Mr Hamilton said this: “In deference to you Llywydd, I will apologise for whatever comment I’m supposed to have made.”
But Mr Hamilton’s responses say as much about his fitness for politics as his original statement. Quite frankly, dismissing the plight of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable in such a dispassionate, callous manner and suggesting they have suicide as an option reflects sadistic and unacceptable views that have no place in the British political system.
Furthermore, his inability to take responsibility for the remark, by first suggesting that there was nothing wrong with what he’d said before then feigning some sort of ignorance about it suggests incompetence of such a high degree that this incident must not be allowed to slip discretely through the net. Make no mistake: Mr Hamilton did not apologise for his comment. He expressed no remorse for it. He took no responsibility for it. He merely dismissed it as “whatever comment I’m supposed to have made.”
The notable silence from UKIP in response to this is overwhelming. Paul Nuttall himself has attracted plenty of negative attention of late and he’s no doubt gritting his teeth and letting the prevailing winds of yet another UKIP-based scandal move on.
But the behaviour of Mr Hamilton must not dwindle without some focus. He is an elected member of the Welsh Assembly, and as an elected Member, he is there to speak on behalf of the public that voted him. Do the public who put him there really want to be associated with a man who flippantly suggests suicide is an option for those who will suffer as a result of Brexit?
Should any elected politician ever get away with comments of this nature, when – at a fundamental root – their job is looking after the public’s best interests? Should they ever get away with showing such blatant disregard for the lives of whole swathes of the very society in which they live and prosper and whose interests they are duty bound to have in mind?
The Codes of Conduct for MPs and for Members of the Assembly in Wales specify that there is a duty to act in the best interests of the Nation as a whole, and that they must act with integrity.
But in 2015, Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, was recorded hurling abuse at a disgruntled London taxi driver which included the line: “Fuck off and die!”
Comments such as Boris Johnson’s and Neil Hamilton’s may have been said in a fleeting moment of emotion, but as officials elected to represent the interests of the public as a whole, they are wholly unacceptable. They reveal unprofessionalism, a disregard for the duties they have sworn to uphold and quite honestly, a lack of fitness for the job they were elected to do.
You could argue that they don’t actually mean it. That they don’t truly believe people who protest against what they represent politically should go and kill themselves. And it may be the case. But does that make what they’ve said any less unacceptable?
The Tories – through their savage welfare reforms – arguably have thousands of deaths already on their hands. The poor and vulnerable of this country are already dying as a result of brutal cuts to benefits and the degrading, dehumanising fit-for-work assessments. Of course, the Tories deny that the thousands of people suffering some form of ill-health who’ve committed suicide or worsened in health have any correlation to their welfare reforms. But the Black Triangle Group (in Defence of Disability Rights) have gathered various sources of media coverage dealing with the many deaths and suicides which are argued to have links with the welfare reforms. Coroners have recorded verdicts in line with the assertion that many of these deaths have occurred as a result of welfare reforms and fit-for-work assessments.
Furthermore, The People’s Review of the WCA published the following report in November 2012. There is a long and depressing list of other people whose health has deteriorated after being “found fit for work.”
The People’s Review of the WCA published an update to the above report in December 2013:
In summary, the country is being failed, and dismally so. Brexit remains a divisive and contentious topic, and research seems to suggest that the more vulnerable people in society will suffer as a result of it. In times like this, our elected representatives really should be doing their best to show some interest and compassion for the suffering and injustice that is being experienced by large numbers of people. Those in power, exerting control over people’s lives, must show some regard for human life, and if all they can do is so flippantly mock people and dismiss their concerns with sentiments such as Boris Johnson’s and Neil Hamilton’s then they are most definitely not up for the job they were elected to do.