Labour Party - the sequel
I was married to a miner in 1984. In those days, you didn’t think twice when your union said strike. You were part of a team. You were in it together.
My little girl spent Christmas 1984 oblivious. I had collected secondhand toys from charity shops and donations. I’m good with a needle and cotton. I once re-worked an 8 year old’s coat into a 2 year olds one. Necessity is the mother of invention. Students from Manchester University had put on a Christmas Dinner & Pantomime. We had food collected from the houses of our town, cans, jars, milk and bread generously given, gratefully collected.
We spent a year on donations of a food parcel a week and £8 from the social to stop us starving or being kicked out. We had a soup kitchen and clothes donated from unions all over Europe. There were four pits in my town, all on strike. We were all in it together.
Watching the police charge the horses into the protesting miners and the media film the chaos when the miners fought back....and only show that part on the news......changed me forever. I first became active in the Labour Party in the eighties.
I believe in equality. I believe in sharing. I believe in fairness. When I was a small child we would go on holiday to north Wales. At the end of every holiday when we had spent all our days on a beach for that year, my dad would say go find a little kid on the beach without a bucket and spade, without a ball, without a kite and give them yours. I don’t remember ever seeing this as a problem but I bet I did the first time! The thing is we were brought up to share. It’s a working class thing.
I was fascinated by Labour Party meetings in the eighties. Of course, I wanted to change the world but mostly we fought for zebra crossings and street lighting. The Labour Party in my town had got us through the strike. I wanted to carry on that community spirit, take it forward.
Then Tony Blair came on the horizon. I didn’t vote for him. He was everything I despised. He was ‘a suit’. I left and never looked back. I voted Labour, of course but my heart was never in it again. Over and over, like so many hundreds of thousands of others, I wish now I had stayed and fought like hell!
Whizz forward. Jeremy Corbyn! After years and years in a forced wilderness of despair -HOPE! This disgusting turncoat of a party, this plastic tory party lookalike full of capitalism and snakes AT LAST had a small glimmer of hope.
After years of being sick in my mouth watching Tory Blair slime his way through corporate ventures, brown-nose presidents and throw fire at poor and innocent people claiming their rags hid expensive weapons. After watching him titter behind his hand as he finally handed the country, like a ship of slaves, over to Gordon Brown knowing he had squeezed every last drop he could.
After watching the inevitable fall to the REAL tories knowing, by then, we were a runaway train. After years of swimming in affluent effluent trying to keep mine and my kids’....and their kids’....heads above the stench of debt, homelessness and hunger....after all this - HOPE!
My £3 supporter application was refused.
Thank you for your recent application to become an Affiliated/a Registered Supporter of the Labour Party.
As part of the process to sign up as an Affiliated/a Registered Supporter all applicants are asked to confirm the following statement; I support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and I am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it.
We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party or you are a supporter of an organisation opposed to the Labour Party and therefore we are rejecting your application.
Although you may have received or may still receive a ballot paper, it will not work and if you do vote it will not be counted.
Should you wish to dispute rejection by the Labour Party you would have to submit and pursue an application to join Labour as a full member.
The Labour Party
Sent by email from the Labour Party and promoted by Iain McNicol on behalf of The Labour Party, both at One Brewers Green, London SW1H 0RH.
Like many others, I had no idea why. It was only later I found out the extent of the corruption.
When Corbyn won the leadership election, I was euphoric. I joined the Labour Party and was excitedly awaiting my first meeting. Would it be very different after all these years? I missed a couple. It took me a little while to pluck up the courage. It’s quite hard for a woman, even nowadays, to go into a pub/club alone. I had also got this email from my MP and was definitely not impressed....
Dear Friends, The Labour leadership is a tough job, which needs experience and new ideas, the readiness to recognise that there aren’t always easy answers, but the strength to change ourselves so we can deliver the change the country needs. Our next leader has to be someone who can take on the Tories and be an alternative Prime Minister from the very start – and that's why I'm backing Yvette Cooper. We face one of the most brutal political Tory governments we’ve seen for years. None of us should underestimate this Tory Party and how they will be ruthless in trying to win again in 2020. Over the last five years, Yvette has shadowed both William Hague and Theresa May - neither of them landed a glove on her. In fact, Yvette often had them on the run. I’m confident she will be effective in pulling apart David Cameron and then George Osborne or Boris Johnson. Her record in government speaks for itself - as a Minister, she was responsible for tackling youth employment with the Future Jobs Fund, and helping to roll out Sure Start. The Tories will also find no advantage in attacking her for policy positions as shadow Home Secretary. Quite simply she’s the toughest opponent for the Tories - and the one most feared by Tory campaigners and activists, as a recent poll made clear. Yvette is setting the policy debate - a credible candidate for Prime Minister We know where we stand with Yvette. She recognises that our message in the last election was too narrow and we need broader appeal to win in 2020, but that doesn’t mean trying to hug the Tories. Already Yvette is the candidate in this campaign who is setting out an appealing Labour policy agenda – she has outlined proposals to increase childcare, to build more homes, invest in the hi-tech jobs of the future and tackle shameful levels of child poverty. Yvette will nail Tory myths on the economy Crucially, Yvette recognises Labour failed to nail the myths over supposed Labour overspending in the last five years. So instead of just capitulating to George Osborne, she is the only frontbench candidate seriously arguing Labour’s spending in government didn’t cause the financial crash - and that historically Labour has run a surplus four times as often as the Tories have. Given the economy is a central issue for every election, I think Yvette is the candidate equipped to devise a convincing economic policy for the future. Yvette understands the voters we lost Yvette was the first candidate to visit Scotland and face up to the challenge Scottish Labour faces. But she is also aware that UKIP hurt Labour in many ‘safe’ seats and was one of the first to recognise the threat of UKIP five years ago - before it was fashionable in Labour circles to warn of UKIP. And Yvette knows that although we performed well in our cities, voters in towns and suburbs turned away from us. For Labour to win in 2020, we need to win here in the North West in seats where the Tories increased their majority. Yvette is the best placed to reach out and win voters over. I also think it’s time for a woman. We are the party of equality, yet we’ve never had an elected female leader. I think it’s time to change that. The Tories are already trying to turn the clock back on equality and it's clear David Cameron has a woman problem. It's time to give him an even bigger one, smash that final glass ceiling and elect our first woman leader and future Prime Minister. Finally - and perhaps most importantly - I passionately believe that we need a leader that can unite our party, then win in 2020. We cannot afford to vote for the candidate that makes us feel good - we need to back the person that can deliver the Labour Government that our country so desperately needs. I firmly believe that Yvette is that person. Of course it’s an OMOV ballot, so I hope you consider all the candidates carefully and take part. But if you are interested in supporting Yvette or getting involved with her campaign, you can find out more on the website, www.yvetteforlabour.co.uk If you have any questions about my decision please let me know. Best Wishes, MP
My partner drove me to my first meeting. It was in a catholic club. There was a bar on one side, a function room on the other. As there were only people in the bar, I chose that. I asked a guy buying a pint if this was where the Labour Party meeting was. He looked at me as if it was none of my business, said it was in the other room and turned back to the bar.
I sat in a corner of the function room and noticed a table the size of a dinner table with chairs around it in the middle of the room. I presumed that would be where the committee members sat to control the meeting. I was casting my mind back to the eighties and the way meetings were then. One by one the members came in. They greeted each other and one or two briefly glanced at me. They started chatting and giggling and taking seats around the table.
I watched, feeling like an uninvited guest at a family Sunday dinner. I was waiting for the room to fill up. I had no idea that these ten people who, it turned out, were related to each other in the main, were the meeting! The guy at the bar – well it turns out he was the head of the town council..
The secretary called me over and asked if I was here for the meeting. He had emailed me already so I explained.... and somewhat reluctantly another chair was pulled. The meeting started and finished with only a name introduction, no welcome, no interest. One of the women came up to me at the end to say she was rushing off but pleased to meet me. I went home, bewildered.
It took a short while for the penny to drop. I WAS A CORBYNITE IN A NEST OF BLAIRITES! LOL for me....
They knew perfectly well who I was. I had been blocked from Twitter and Facebook by my MP after I questioned her vote on the extension of bombing Syria. I had told the secretary why I had returned to Labour. CORBYN = HOPE. They were not happy.
After some research, I found one of the members was the son of the MP. Another a cousin.....married to the secretary......brother to the treasurer and so it goes. Get your banjos out! I was about to find out what a small village I lived in....and I WAS NOT LOCAL!
I JOINED MOMENTUM
My next encounter was the CLP. I had made two friends at the momentous Momentum meeting that had renewed my faith in friendship and socialism. They said they would be going and I was grateful. I nearly ended up in a line-dancing class as there was no sign on the door and the Lurch-lookalike showed no sense of humour when I told him this as I signed in.....he had pointed to the book to get me to sign.
Thank God, my two friends waved to me across the room as I was just about to reach for a coffee and was snapped at that I would have to pay. Sitting with two friendly faces empowered me. That is the spirit of socialism. My branch family walked in and sat close by but didn’t look at me. The chairperson stood and I swear this is as close as I can remember...
‘Before we start this meeting I need to remind you that our MP was elected by the people of this constituency because she has the skills and experience to research and decide what is best. She doesn’t answer to us and has been elected because of her capability to do what she thinks is best’
At that point, seconds in, I was ready to flounce out. THIS was not what I saw as socialism or democracy. My friends and I looked at each other.... I hung fire.
What I had found out was that my MP had taken part in an altercation with new members at the previous meeting. They never came back. She had also told the secretary to ‘f*ck off’. He had since resigned. This chairperson was standing in and making the MP’s stance clear to all new members.
The CLP was a blur of events. A guy kept shouting that he couldn’t hear and demanded everyone stood when they said anything. One of my friends had brought a printout of all the Momentum recommended MPs for nomination to the NEC. I was bobbing up and down asking questions and getting dirty looks as a side serving with inadequate answers.
Then, one of my branch family stood and said...
‘Why do we have literature from an unaffiliated association circulated here....’
He was talking about the Momentum printout and he must have taken it from our table. We quickly said it was for our information only as we wanted to put them forward for nomination. After the furore died down, we soon realised what we were dealing with as among the nominations from the CLP was LUKE AKEHURST!
The extremely loud intake of breath that escaped from me was met with dark looks and sneers. I was on a roll.
The CLP decided to offer NO NOMINATIONS AT ALL rather than allow a tussle over the ones offered.
Then, the moment I was waiting for. I had received an email concerning conference. I was eager to go and there seemed to be two chances....
Hi All National Conference Delegate Nominations I have been asked by the CLP gather nominations from our Branch for selection of the following CLP delegates for the National Conference in Liverpool: Main Delegate who must be a women. Women Delegate Youth Delegate. If you are interested in being put forward for any of these positions, the selection of delegates will be made at the CLP meeting on Friday 17th June (agenda attached). Labour members are welcome to attend the CLP meeting. Yes, More Leaflets to Deliver We are looking for volunteers to help deliver EU Referendum IN leaflets, we have a batch arriving tomorrow for distribution by our Branch. If you can help, (even a street or two) let myself, NAME or NAME know and we will be very grateful for your kind help getting the Labour message out. Next Branch Meeting The next meeting of our Branch will be at 7:30pm on Wednesday 13th July 2016 at VILLAGE Catholic Club. If you have any agenda items for discussion let me know.
The 13th July meeting had been cancelled when an embargo was put on Labour Party members meeting up so the CLP was my first chance. BUT NO, it was not to be as my branch secretary’s wife’s name was read out and accepted as official delegate without question......I stood up and questioned it. I was dismissed as it was a branch issue. I guess that branch family meeting had been between the secretary and his wife. I had to pay for a day pass to conference. I couldn’t afford more...... and that was not without its story!
Like hundreds of others, I waited with bated breath to see if I had opened my big gob on facebook or splattered on twitter. Would I be purged? I sent two emails and rang a few times before I eventually got my vote at the very last minute. Many of my friends didn’t. I totally believe that the extreme BLAIRITENESS of this constituency contributed to that. On a number of occasions in heated debates on facebook political pages, members of the branch family actually said they were ‘going to report that to the compliance unit’!
Very comradely... No meetings were allowed but the MP backed Smith publicly and a number of councillors went to the local press backing him too.. Up against it!
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn and awaited my pass to conference. There was a pickle over my photo. They were as strict as passport control and it took me three goes. OMG it could just be the way I look! Then, I was made to go to the centre in Liverpool on the 22nd to prove my identity to the police. Compliance...
I finally got a day pass for the balcony on the Wednesday....the last day of the conference. I had been ill in the days running up to the conference and it took the edge off my excitement. I crossed the bridge and was amazed to see loads of people coming the other wheeling small suitcases. Was I late? I checked my phone....it was midday. My plan was to look around the exhibits and then go into the leader’s speech at 2.15. The best laid plans....
I walked through the tent entrance into the forecourt. Yvette Cooper was strutting across pretending she didn’t know she was being filmed. A handsome guy in a bright red suit and matching trilby was talking to a face I recognised but couldn’t remember. The whole forecourt was filled with designer clobber, shiny shoes and the same designer fragrance that hovers over Liverpool One. It was NOT what I expected. There were mayors and dignitaries, reporters and film crew and young women....and not so young women...with eyes like saucers following MPs around. Students were shouting MPs names and selling copies of their speeches.
EVERYONE LOOKED SO IMPORTANT! I felt SO excluded.
Entering the exhibition hall, I caught the branch family delegate in the corner of my eye. She pretended to answer her phone so she didn’t have to say hello. Waste of effort. I wasn’t going to look at her anyway!
Wandering around the exhibits, I began to feel more relaxed. There were books and even clothes....great but a bit overpriced. It felt quite empty. Like a market at 3 in the afternoon. All the stallholders were chatting to each other. It was definitely winding up. Then I spotted a dog....my heart leapt, but he didn’t raise his head. Even he looked fed up. There were NO chairs! People were sat on the floor in skirt suits, exhausted. Even the food outlets had tables you stood up at!
The whole atmosphere was CORPORATE. I felt very out of place.
I asked someone where the balcony was and followed the direction. I soon found out they’d sent me to the ‘terrace’ overlooking the Mersey. I retraced my steps. Eventually I showed a guide my pass and said ‘can you direct me to where this lets me go please?’ This is a good bit...
‘Oh, you can’t go on the balcony. It’s closed off for the leader’s speech. Only people who are dignitaries, parliamentarians or have won a ticket in the ballot get to go to the leader’s speech’
AArrgh! Right? What ballot? I went to the help desk and was explaining the story when a member called Anne came along with the same story. We were directed to a cinema sized room with hundreds of others. None of us had heard about a ballot for a ticket to the leader’s speech. Eventually a video of the main hall came on screen. We noticed at the same time that people were being taken out of the cinema by the stewards at the back. We found out later that they were being taken to fill up empty seats that had been deliberately left by Blairites to make a stand against Corbyn. Well, that backfired! KARMA!
It worked out OK in the end. We saw the speech. The lip-sync was a bit off but it still got a number of standing ovations in our little reject overspill. Best of all, Jeremy had been told of our disappointment and after The Red Flag, he hot-tailed it around to give us a rousing after-speech. People were crying!
I had been disgusted with the rule-breaking by Blairites at the conference the day before. I had been in despair at the sheer brick wall I face every time I go to a branch and CLP meeting. I have always believed that if the rot that Blair introduced is so deep in the Labour Party, we may never save it. It may die.
Yet, Jeremy Corbyn brings HOPE, genuine, unaltered, down-to-earth HOPE. Like he said, it is not going to be easy. It is going to take time. BUT that glimmer of hope for our future, our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future is SO worth fighting for!
PS.... just this evening my branch secretary has (probably reluctantly) emailed to say that a vacancy has come up for a parish councillor if I was interested... I said YES! WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?!
ONCE WE WERE FEW, NOW WE ARE MANY
ONWARD & UPWARD
Sue Pownall AKA Susie English <3