Heroes and Villains of 2014

I am truly humbled and embarrassed to have been selected by Professor Peter Beresford OBE as his choice of “Hero” for the year. For those that don’t know him, he is a tireless fighter for human rights for disabled people and others who has done a phenomenal amount to influence the social policy agenda towards the rights and needs of people. I have immense respect for him. To be declared a hero by such a stalwart… I am speechless.

crop-54885dc7cedfe-imgID8404369As his villain, Peter chose Ian Duncan-Smith. I agree entirely. IDS has been found to have massaged figures, he demonises welfare benefit recipients and has caused the death and suffering of innumerable people, most notably disabled people. He is a ring-leader in the nasty cripple-kicking, disemboweling and most destructive Government I have ever experienced. But given that Peter has already chosen him, I will choose somebody else.

I am in danger of falling into a trite trap: award recipients and givers always say “There is too much good competition and it is too hard to choose” – but it is. Many people are unsung heroes and have made a massive, positive impact in my life this last year: family (especially parents), friends, care workers (especially Mike), Church staff and volunteers, Oxfam staff (Louisa), volunteers and customers etc. – but they aren’t public figures.

I have been truly flabbergasted by the huge support I have received from all quarters in my recent public battle over wheelchair spaces. Chris Fry, Natalie Rodgers, Unity Law and Cloisters Chambers have really stuck their neck out, without them my legal battles would not have been what they are; and indeed the Equality and Human Rights Commission who have funded my case.


I’ve decided to choose a Group of people as my “Hero” of 2014: Transport for All.

I have found them truly revelatory and awe-inspiring: their staff – especially Lianna and Faryal – and their members. I was in tears when I saw the number of people who had come out in support of “my” case against FirstBus. There are far too many influential and powerful people to mention here – but special mentions must include Chris (Squirrelpot), Sue Groves, Tracey Proudlock, Martha Ellis, Paula Peters and so, so many others. You guys have truly inspired me: I am in awe of all that you achieve (Crossrail, for example) through your incredible energy and constant, hugely successful campaigning. Long may you continue, and God bless you all.


Pelham-20140930105114887Clare Pelham, CEO of Leonard Cheshire.

Clare Pelham is a phony.

In my view, she is the antithesis to everything good about Transport for All. She is an overpaid (£140,000+) leader of a charity that fundamentally provides social (notably residential) care to disabled people (including me,) yet she has self-appointed herself as ambassador and representative of disabled people (of which she is not one) and seems to measure her success purely in the number of column inches she manages to glean for herself and her band of self-selected (non-disabled) cronies. Any disabled peoples’ rights she spouts are purely a mechanism to this end.

2014-12-19 18.37.13She is a purveyor of saccharine sweet vomit-inducing homilies whilst actively undermining and disempowering both those who deliver the services for which she claims credit AND those disabled people she illegitimately claims to represent. She has actively attacked service user involvement and co-production within Leonard Cheshire, and shown at best complete disinterest about the quality of the services “her” residents pay for.

It is clear to me, and to many other right-thinking disabled people, that she is only interested in campaigning and not in service provision; and even then she only campaigns when it serves her purposes of self-aggrandisement and career-building. She jumps on the bandwagon of campaigns, but only if if they give her exposure.

As usual, I am expressing widely held views by a wide range of committed disabled people, but Clare Pelham probably isn’t even aware people think this of her as she surrounds herself solely with people she thinks important, blanking everybody else. Her judgement as to who is important is warped: she brown noses the “Great and the Good” (usually non-disabled do-gooders) whilst treating service users and advocates etc. with contempt to the point of blatant rudeness.

Worst of all, she is a duplicitous fraud, as exposed in the current (Christmas) issue of Private Eye (which references this chintzy horrificness at the Huff, the Leonard Cheshire Jobs Page and her salary as quoted in Leonard Cheshire’s Annual Report and Accounts.)

I could be accused of biting the hand that feeds me here, as Leonard Cheshire are paid £1,000 per week for me to live in one of their care homes; also I could be accused of bias, given that the charity has previously been found to have institutionally abused me – but the truth is I think that most disabled people would agree that their cause would be better served if Clare Pelham was not around; if she buggered off back to Coca Cola, IBM, the Judicial Appointments Commission or any of her other numerous previous positions.

I say so as she does not represent anybody, is transparently solely interested in her own status and as her presence actively undermines the voices of those “hard to reach” groups she claims to represent.

I now await the inevitable backlash for daring to speak my mind against the oligarchy – I wonder how long it will take, and how blatant or pseudo-underhand it will be this time


On to 2015! Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all; and may we inch ever further towards rights and equality.

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