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Monday, 22 June 2015

Politics is Brutal!

WOW! It's been a while. Can't believe how quickly a year flies by. While I've been poor at keeping this Blog this doesn't mean to say I haven't been writing! Local politics has been taking up lots of my time recently. Frustrated at my lack of 'a voice' I've been seeing whether getting involved in local politics and trying to become a local Councillor - sitting on the Plymouth City Council would make me feel that my voice as a mature, talented, organised, disabled woman would be listened to. Sadly I haven't managed to get elected yet. Two years in a row I've pounded the streets of two different Wards. Here are the letters I wrote to my local newspaper after each election.

Letters to Herald Newspaper 2014

A few weeks ago I was delighted to be a candidate at the count of votes in the Guildhall in Plymouth. There was a great buzz around especially as the ballot boxes began to be tipped on the tables and the fierce counting began. It was also exciting to be watching as each ward was declared but I noticed something very striking. As the Ward candidates stood waiting to hear the results one after the other I couldn’t help but notice the disproportionate number of white, middle aged or elderly men. Yes, ‘male, pale and stale’ muttered the woman I was standing next to. Yesterday that balance was redressed when I attended the South West Women’s Manifesto for political change at Exeter University. Here I witnessed the amazing passion and strength of women like Finn Mackay from Bristol University and Joanne Kaye from UNISON arguing the need for a change in our political culture and the need for 50:50 representation in Parliament and on decision making Boards. There were plenty of powerful women in the room who would do a brilliant job in Parliament and I came away utterly convinced that we need to continue and push for more all women shortlists and quotas to ensure these talented and powerful women are selected. Many argue that these methods are divisive and people don’t like them. It’s men who don’t like them and women who don’t understand that without them it will be another hundred years before we have the equality that will bring about lasting political change.

As Labour’s local candidate in Eggbuckland I would like to thank the 1,129 people who voted for me in the recent elections. As a first time candidate it was a great experience for me meeting many interested and committed voters. It was easy to canvass on behalf of our present Plymouth City Council because there are so many brilliant and exciting projects planned for the city, not least the New Deal and of course the most recent History Centre. I was however, disappointed by the number of people who chose not to vote at all. Many people I spoke to very honestly told me ‘I don’t know what it’s all about’. They listened attentively when I explained my view of the ethos behind the main parties. We need to do a much better job of educating the general public about why their vote is so important and with better political education more people would vote. I was also very discouraged by people who placed votes to ‘teach the main parties a lesson’ or to ‘protest ’. The local elections are not a classroom exercise where selecting a personality or a single issue cause merely ‘shakes things up’. Our city councillors have a huge (albeit ever decreasing) budget to spend. We need people who are willing to take the role seriously, represent everyone within the Ward and  collectively help make vital economic decisions. Of course this is also the case when it comes to electing MPs. I sincerely hope that before the general election next year the people of Plymouth will take time to properly evaluate the quality and experience of the candidate they chose, check their understanding of all pertinent issues both locally and nationally and crucially their ethos and commitment to equality, which for me is the most important measure of a party’s worth.

Letters to Herald Newspaper 2014

I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the 1,912 residents of Moor View Ward who voted for me the Labour candidate in the local Council elections. I’m sorry that more people were persuaded that the Conservatives will provide better opportunities for our country over the coming five years. Many of us are feeling worried and immensely unsure about the future, not least those who rely on benefits because they have children, are in low paid work, have a disability, or can’t find a job. While I sincerely hope that our fears are unfounded I can’t help feeling the outlook is bleak because the last five years have already seen many deaths of sick and vulnerable people waiting to receive benefits. We have also witnessed immoral and illegal ‘sanctions’ applied to people who have been unable to defend themselves, leaving them destitute and forced into food banks and the hands of loan sharks. Many people in Moor View Constituency have been helped over the last 10 years by the dedication and work of Alison Seabeck. I know that she has helped many people across the Ward because I met you on the door steps and you sang her praises. In the hands of Johnny Mercer now, I hope you will be helped in the same way. However, no one could have been impressed by his first great error of judgement on polling day. Agreeing to the illegal plastering of the Moor View Constituency with hundreds of posters and banners was ill judged and unethical. No doubt he will expect his residents to uphold the law – what a shame he set such a terrible example on the day he came to office and hopefully we will hear about the meting out of justice, ideally within this newspaper which has so far been silent on this issue.

Politics is Brutal

You can imagine the feelings of the Labour camp in the Guildhall on the night of the election when Alison Seabeck MP lost her Plymouth Moorview seat. Only to be followed a few hours later with the devastating news that Luke had failed to win Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. The next day was better for Plymouth when we retained all our Council seats bar one. However we did not win the Moor View ward which I had been fighting. All those weeks and months of canvassing on the door step and speaking to hundreds of people on the telephone were for nothing?

However this was all overshadowed by my feelings of sheer terror and disbelief at the prospect of another five years of Tory rule.

It has been a struggle over the last few weeks to come to terms with it all. I thought I had done with politics because it was too bruising, callous and unfair but I guess like everyone I’m getting over the shock, picking myself up and looking for the next way forward.

They say politics is in the blood and I guess it must be because why else would activists like myself and so many other hard working, loyal Labour Party members put themselves through this? The answer I guess is clear. We have to keep fighting; renew and recharge our vision of a fairer more equal society and offer an alternative to the mirage that the Tories present.

Here’s hoping that you are feeling incensed and ready to begin campaigning again and doing everything we can to stop the Tory march to see the vulnerable and poor in our society back in the workhouse! Come and join us! We need your energy, belief and help! 

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