Disabled people do not just need equal access to public spaces and buildings - they need equal access to the democratic process too.
That was the message from Anthea McIntyre MEP in an impassioned speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, during a debate on involvement of disabled people in the 2019 EU elections.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, was speaking after attending the 11th Conference of State Parties to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations in New York.
She told MEPs of a session titled Nothing About us Without Us which outlined the steps some countries were taking to ensure everyone can vote – including mobile polling stations, voting in hospital and portable polling booths that can enable a wheelchair user to cast their vote in private.
She said: "As a signatory (to the Convention), the EU and the Member States have a responsibility to take appropriate action to ensure that all 80 million European citizens with disabilities, including those with mental or intellectual disabilities, can fully participate in the electoral process.
"The European Parliament has traditionally been a strong ally in implementing the human rights of persons with disabilities and the 2019 European elections should be no different."
Following the debate she said: "I have said before that you can judge a country's character as well as its progress by its expectations of disabled people. The acid test is whether, and to what degree, disabled people are allowed, helped and expected to participate fully in the democratic process - as voters, politicians, ministers or leaders."
Knife crime and religious tolerance were both on the agenda when the cross-party campaign group West Midlands Together met in Birmingham
Alison Cope, a campaigner against knife crime who is supported by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, spoke of the death of her son Josh who was stabbed through the heart.
She said new campaign groups were springing up every six months - but they were not working together. Children as young as seven were being groomed and exploited by gangs, she said, and young people's preoccupation with social media and video games was fuelling the problem.
Meera Sonecha, from West Midlands Mayor's office, spoke of Andy Street's Faith Action Plan and his determination to be a mayor for every faith community. She said hate crime had affected many people and communities were fearful about expressing their religious identities.
She said the mayor wanted particularly to target hate crime on public transport and was looking at what could be done in respect of cameras and monitoring, and how to achieve better messaging on the subject.
The joint-founder of West Midlands together Anthea McIntyre MEP said: "Violence involving knives is the real curse of our younger generation and we need to do all we can to guide them in the correct way. Alison's message is personal and powerful, it speaks directly to young people and it needs to be heard more widely.
"Meera made clear the mayor's commitment to building good community relations and countering hate crime.
Philip Seccombe, Police and Commissioner for Warwickshire, said: "Most important thing is to make our forces are representative of the community they represent - all communities and groups. That is what will give groups confidence in us."
West Midlands together was founded by Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, and her Labour colleague Neena Gill to foster tolerance and understanding following a spike in hate crime in the wake of the EU referendum.
In a letter to local papers she said:
"Congratulations to Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, Mayor Andy Street and Dame Caroline Spelman MP for looking to create Britain's 16th national park here in the West Midlands.
"What a perfect antidote that would be to the popular misconception of our conurbation as a grim, grimy and crowded place that is in the Premiership for manufacturing and commerce, but non-league for beauty and fresh air.
"In fact - as we all know - our region has some of the most beautiful urban and rural landscapes anywhere and they deserve to be recognised and appreciated more widely.
"This is an opportunity to rethink the parameters of what a national park has to be. It does not need to be a Lake District or Snowdonia
- endless acres of wild countryside. Instead it can be a patchwork of greenery and parkland adjoining and incorporating more built-up areas
- more accessible but equally good on the eye and suitable for outdoor enjoyment.
"Let us press ahead with this plan - not just because it is good for our economy, jobs and tourism - but because it will bring a much overdue correction to our public image."
Campaigning MEP Anthea McIntyre has condemned Iran's killing of prisoner Mohammad Salas, executed in defiance of an 11th hour plea made by international parliamentarians.
He was sentenced to death by the Iranian Supreme Court in April.
West Midlands MEP Anthea was at the Royal Three Counties Show today to canvass opinion on trading relationships between farmers and retailers.
Miss McIntyre is lead negotiator for her political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists, for proposed EU legislation on unfair trading practices by major food retailers.
She has a stall at the show, held at the show ground in Great Malvern, and on Friday spoke to a range of farmers, growers, processors and marketers, to hear their views on retailers’ purchasing operations.
Miss McIntyre, Conservative Agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, also held a reception to thank figures from farming, academia, conservation, research and engineering who have helped in her two key projects: promoting the application of advanced technology in agriculture, and campaigning for a science-based approach to the regulation of pesticides and herbicides.
She said: “The Royal Three Counties is a fantastic show and a great celebration of agriculture and out rural way of life. It also gives me an opportunity to thank all the people we have worked with over the year.
“It was good to hear from farmers themselves what they think of the deal they get from the major retailers.
“In the UK we have the Grocery Code Adjudicator - a kind of mediator or referee - and that has made a big difference to the way farmers and growers are treated by the big 10 supermarkets.
“I am using the show as an opportunity for some unofficial consultation on the changes or improvements growers would like to see in the Adjudicator’s powers and responsibilities.
“I think our UK system could provide a model for the EU’s new framework so I am keen to hear about its strengths and any weaknesses.”
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