The following is a statement regarding the resignation of autistic and disabled MP Jared O’Mara from the Labour Party. This comes shortly after his reinstatement after being temporarily banned from the party after allegations were made of homophobia and misogyny online.
It is true that disabled people, autistic people, and people who fit into the wider neurodiversity umbrella – are not given a voice within UK politics as a whole. Mental health, too, is a topic only recently brought into discussion.
For this reason and this reason only, it is a shame to see a disabled and autistic member of parliament resign from their party.
Autistic UK believes that O’Mara’s resignation from the Labour Party, and his continuation to serve as an MP for Sheffield Hallam, is a failing on his part to uphold his role to represent his constituents, his party, and to autistic people as a whole.
As a representative of the UK, O’Mara – like all MPs – is to be held responsible for his past and present actions by the public. Whilst, as stated, his actions were not necessarily “criminal”, to excuse discriminatory actions in the form of harassment and victimisation online as such is disgraceful.
There is a notable difference between behaviour that is considered “poor” because autistic people misunderstand a society that does not work for them, and discrimination. There’s a notable difference between laughing during a cinema screening and discriminating against women and LGBTQ+ people. Discriminatory, cruel and vindictive behaviour is not due to an autistic person’s relationship with society and is, like neurotypical people, entirely upon themselves.
Autistic UK stands against all forms of discrimination. We will never condone an individual using their place in one discriminated group as an excuse, however veiled, to discriminate against others.
It is true that people do change and a person should not solely be judged by their past. However, any individual must be held responsible for their past actions if they have not openly done so already. To refuse to acknowledge your past only causes more harm to those you have harmed and failed.
Through his recent actions, he has – whether consciously or not – made his prior comments, his resignation, and his treatment by the party as a whole, about being autistic. A decision that undermines autistic and disabled people as a whole.
Using your place within the autistic community – or any marginalised community – to excuse discrimination is incredibly dangerous and is a method used widely within certain circles to excuse white, often male, violence against women. Using the fact you are autistic as an excuse for poor behaviour only serves to damage the reputation of all autistic people.
It is deeply hypocritical to accuse a political party of not sharing a “commitment to the true definition of equality and compassion” when suspended for misogynistic and homophobic comments that go against the exact beliefs stated.
The fact an individual is disabled, mentally ill, neurodivergent or a mixture of these neither explains or excuses behaviour that is abhorrent, and O’Mara’s unwillingness to accept a formal warning and attend any form of training shows an unwillingness to accept and learn from his past wrongdoings.
We, too, would like to suggest reading about autism. However, we would also particularly like to highlight the use of autism and autistic people as a scapegoat for wider discrimination.