LETTER: Leaders should know better

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I was deeply disappointed to see the news of a couple with learning difficulties being attacked in Horsham town centre.

As a parent of a six-year-old with learning delay, who goes to Horsham’s excellent local special needs school, this strikes especially close to home. I hope that Horsham will be a town where she can find a life, and not live in fear of attack.

However, this news is not surprising. Since the government’s war on benefits, attacks on the disabled have increased, both physical and verbal.

People find themselves accused of faking their disability in order to get benefits, which seems incredible in our modern society.

But because our leaders keep on talking about benefit fraud, cuts, and so on, the image builds up in people’s minds that the weak are the problem in society, that they are the reason we are suffering in an economic downturn, when in fact the reality is very different.

This is known as ‘othering’, and it’s a deeply distasteful way to conduct public discourse. Our leaders understand this, they know that what they say influences the way people think, and so this cannot be anything other than intentional distraction.

Turning people against each other, and blaming societal problems on a minority, whether unemployed, disabled, or immigrant, has a long an unpleasant history that we should be learning from, not repeating.

Our leaders, and those who seek to represent us, should know better.

JAMES SMITH

2015 parliamentary candidate for Something New for Horsham, Greenfinch Way, Horsham