I've seen some reprehensible individuals recently arguing that cutting disability benefits is necessary for the sake reducing the deficit and that no one should be exempted from having to share the burden, not even the disabled. But that's a load of crap.
So let me put this in perspective for you. A friend of mine is Sue Marsh and I visited her this weekend. She suffers from a debilitating illness called Crohn's disease - essentially she regularly gets massive kidney stones in her bowels which need to be surgically removed and which cause all sorts of associated health problems such as pain, lack of energy, lack of appetite, etc.
She's suffered since this since she was a child but was repeatedly misdiagnosed and therefore struggled through school and university and then through work for a few years before her illness finally became too much and she had to go on benefits.
She currently gets contributory ESA because she made National Insurance payments when she was working.
Under the government's proposals, in a few weeks her ESA would end (because the changes are retrospective) and she'd be cut off from support. She's ill enough to be permanently unable to work but not ill enough to go into the unconditional support group. And because of that, there's no provision for supporting her.
And, because her husband works, despite also having to look after Sue and their two young children, and despite having spinal problems himself and having had two nervous breakdowns due to stress, they won't get any support. The only way they'll be able to get support under the government's plans is if Sue's husband gives up his job - the threshold for receiving support is a household income of less than £7,500 a year. But the support they'd then be eligible for is too little to support a family of four off of. The alternative that Sue's husband keeps on working and trying to support the family after Sue's ESA ends. But the fact is that they simply can't afford to live without the ESA payments.
And there's no alternative to the disability benefits system because Sue being long term ill makes her ineligible for things like JSA.
This is the catch 22 that the government's changes will put thousands of disabled people in. Not to mention the permanently disabled children who will be denied all access to benefits when they become adults (because they won't have been able to make any NI contributions) because of the flawed logic that assumes that their family (despite the fact that a lot of disabled children are in state care) will always be around and willing to look after them.
Protecting these disabled people would cost £400 million a year - an insignificant fraction of the amounts we spend on far less worthy causes.
Yes, we need to get rid of the deficit, yes we need to spend less money across the board. But it goes completely against the fundamental principles of this party to make people like Sue, who are already living with debilitating conditions and who are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, bear the burden of the cuts. They're already living right on the margins - how the hell can we expect to take even more away from them without it causing disaster?
I can tell you, I've never been more ashamed of my party than I am right now.