Actor Ricky Tomlinson is never known to mince his words unnecessarily, so his reaction to Atos sponsorship of the Paralympics might well have been: “Friends of disabled people, my arse!”
It beggars belief that the organising committee could have thought that a company taxed with declaring people with disabilities fit for work in order to skimp on state benefits would be an appropriate sponsor.
Aside from putting King Herod in charge of children’s nursery facilities, it is difficult to imagine a more bizarre choice.
Accepting Atos must have seemed a logical consequence to the scandal of the London Olympics being sponsored by Dow Chemicals, which continues to dodge its responsibility to compensate the survivors and dependants of the 1984 explosion at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in India’s Madhya Pradesh state.
If there was an awards ceremony for unacceptable sponsors for sporting events, Dow would probably be a shoo-in for gold, having distinguished itself previously by supplying napalm and Agent Orange, containing dioxin, for the US air force to drop on huge areas of Vietnam as part of Washington’s unsuccessful dirty war to subjugate the Vietnamese people.
But whereas 1960s and ’70s history cannot be rewritten, so that Dow can only be told to assist Vietnam to finance the clean-up of its countryside and compensate the survivors, Atos is involved at this very moment in doing disabled people down.
Public sustained pressure can be applied to the company to persuade it that its image will not survive the negative publicity associated with its £100 million-a-year contract with the Department for Work and Pensions.
Olympians kept quiet over Dow, leaving it to members of the public to organise protests, but Paralympians are not so timid.
They understand that, were they not in the spotlight at the Paralympics being simpered over for epitomising British grit and determination by David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson and other assorted silver-spoon-in-the-gob characters, they could be at the mercy of an Atos investigator’s tick box.
Some have spoken out clearly and many others showed their colours by covering up their Atos-marked lanyards in protest.
As former soldier Jonathan Williams said before taking part in Thursday’s mass die-in and blocking of a major road in Cardiff, “I’ll do this to show that veterans – those people David Cameron calls heroes in Parliament – are being Atossed off as a thank you for their service and injuries.”
The hypocrisy of the rich people running government to swan around in the limelight applauding disabled athletes while putting the boot into claimants with disabilities is about as low as you can go.
But it sums up the priorities of the conservative coalition government as it presses on with its aim of making those with no responsibility for the economic crisis pay for it.
Found a dodgy but legal way of avoiding tens of millions in tax? Well done. Come and be a government adviser on state spending efficiency.
On the other hand, if you are being paid a pittance in incapacity benefits because you’re unable to work, think again. Thanks to Atos tick boxes, you can be adjudged fit to work and have your benefits stopped.
The death toll of claimants forced into work-related activity for benefit and the incidence of suicide attempts should shame any civilised country.
It should even embarrass the Con-Dem coalition government.
For more on Dow Chemical’s sponsorship see: