While some musicians cuss at home, they’re scared to use profanity when upon the microphone.

I swear. A lot. So do many people I know. It helps to express anger and it also helps to really demonstrate how you feel when you just can’t find the words. I swear at the telly and at my mistakes. I swear when I’m feeling anxious or fed up with my mental health and physical health problems. I basically swear.

You may have noticed that I did not swear in that paragraph. I tend not to use swearing in anything I write on social media. I tend only to use them when I think the audience will be receptive and understand why I chose to use that word.

That is the thing. At times nothing else but a swear word will do You stub your toe, you swear. You are running late and can’t find your car keys, you swear. Your team just lost or your team just won you swear. At times the placement of a swear word can turn and amusing line into a hilarious one. A swear word can encapsulate a shared understanding or feeling. It can express just how angry you are.

Wait a minute. Swearing is uncouth. It is not what you do in polite society. It is rough and indicative of a limited vocabulary. It is un ladylike and common. It’s use is an indication of a crumbling society and low intelligence and rising crime etc etc. 

Bollocks.

Swearing is a part of our language and is something that should be seen and respected as such. Calling someone a cockwomble is a statement of your feelings toward that particular person. If it expresses exactly what we feel about a persons behaviour. How they are treating others. What it’s doing to others, their integrity. Their political stance or view or what they are saying about particular groups may also result in someone swearing. Sentences should not be littered with swearing. It’s overkill then. But if someone swears it should not be jumped upon. It’s part of a grown up world. It is not the biggest crime.

The bigger crime is a racial slur, a sexist comment, a death threat. Constant undermining and twisting of your words or continual criticism or lies in the media. Bias reporting and ignoring your voice. The use of personal problems, family tragedy or sexuality to hurt or belittle. Personal insults about appearance, mental health, age, illness. Citing sexual assault, perceived sexual frustration which the writer can “cure“, stalking, threatening violence and invading personal space. Assault of any kind. This is abuse. This is a problem. This is not acceptable.

So I would like to say to anyone who thinks that the amount of abuse they get is terrible because someone swore at them on twitter just check yourself and instead of indignation think of those who every day open their emails to real hate. Don’t make excuses for those who spew real hatred based on ethnicity, colour, religion, sexuality, gender, mental or physical illness, disability, body shape or appearance
.

We need to agree what is abuse and what is expression. What words have real power and what words do not. What is acceptable and what is not. For me the odd swear word popping up is nothing to get your knickers in a twist over. Hatred however is.

,

These are our homes. 

My mum is in her eighties and she still lives in the home I grew up in. My father spent his final days here and the house holds memories of him. She has all her things around her. For my brother, sister and I it is our family home. My mum loves her home and she would not want to live anywhere else. That home is a two bedroom maisonette on the 11th floor of a council tower block in South London.

My parents were housed by the council as they were renting rooms in a house which was part of Southwark’s slum clearance in the late fifties early sixties.  My mum and dad were one of the blocks first residents. Growing up we knew all the neighbours. The lovely nurse  and her girls down the corridor who we could call on in an emergency. The wonderful lady who was incredibly posh and went on holidays every year.  Parents and children, old and young. We had neighbours from around the world. As my father lay dying a neighbour came in saying ” this wonderful man has prayers being said in every tounge and of every religion”.  My family were part of the fixtures and fittings, with our involvement in the tenants association fighting for the rights of all the tenants.

We fought to get new lifts installed back in the early 80’s. We had elderly people on the top floor who would become prisoners when the old ones broke, which was often. I remember one man who had a serious heart condition who also lived at the top. If he came home and the lifts were out he would have to sleep in his car.  He unfortunately died before we won our case. His death was an important factor in the council agreeing to the lifts being installed.

We had Christmas parties, and Santa would come around and give a gift to all the children in the block. We had jumble sales and fetes. We had ups and we had downs. We were a community and there was help if needed.

So the events of last week, seeing a tower block being turned into nothing more than a bonfire. Well it hit home. The deaths the stupidity of the whole thing. The crimes that have obviously been committed.

Don’t politicise it we are told. This is council housing we are talking about here. The same council housing which has been declining in number ever since Maggie handed over the first set of keys in the Right to Buy Scheme. Nothing more than a tactic to  to gain many more Tory voters. Indeed this was the crux of the “Homes for votes” scandal in Westminster council. We have had regeneration which basically results in gentrification. The accommodation that is left could be filled a thousand times over. There is even more of a need for council housing now as house prices mean that the majority of  people, especially young people, have no hope of buying a home.  Council housing is always political.

Oh I’m sorry, I have just noticed I should of course be saying “social housing”. We live in social housing now not council. I wonder how long the meeting was to think that one up.

However, regardless of what we call it the outcry at these tragic preventable deaths is quite rightly going to have repercussions for a long time to come. Social media is putting on the pressure as usual. And it is social media that has me made me realise something.

The comments I read from so many are of the shock of disabled people on high floors, the elderly in such a block. The lack of fire alarms or fire fighting equipment. The lack of a fire drill. The lack of emergency lighting.

I have replied to many that this is pretty normal. It is what social housing is like. It’s the no thrills every thing on the cheap. It is the Tesco value of housing. It is a limited resource that means people live in the wrong places for their needs and overcrowding is common.  What these very well meaning people did not understand is the acceptance and experience of those living in social housing. The “them and us” that is ingrained in the minds of us in dealing with authority as time and again we see our rights our needs neglected by councils. That councils only respond after we express anger or die. The mindset we have to have if we are to survive and protect our homes from those who want to take them away.

Then we get the other comments. They were all on housing benefit anyway, why should they be rehoused in London? Why aren’t they grateful for what they have? Why should they get luxury flats? Why don’t they just move to Preston? If they were so desperate they would take the first thing going. People should get social housing until they are earning then they move out.  The block was full of illegals and sublets anyway. They will trash those new flats it a disgrace.

It is these comments that have made me actually stop in my tracks. Not just because they are basically uncaring and unsympathetic judgemental and racist. But because I realised that those for who social housing is not their home know very little about the social housing experience. It suddenly dawned on me that the term social housing brought to mind Social workers, Social Security, Social invisibility. The belief that the only good people are those who own their houses and those who can’t must have some kind of individual fault. They are lazy, scroungers, good for nothings, immigrants, illegal, criminal. They are Benefit Street.

They seem to want us to be the cap doffing serfs who should be grateful that the Lord of the Manor grants us a hovel and a bag of coal. We should be thankful that our lives are controlled by our Local Authority which in this case was deaf to the voices of the Grenfell Tower community and indifferent to their suffering. .

Social housing should be available for the nurse or the firefighter or the teacher so they don’t have to work second jobs or visit food banks as they struggle to pay the mortgage or overpriced rent. For the veteran, the single man, the homeless.  It should be something to be proud of. To show the world that this country takes care of all its citizens. It should not be stigmatised as there are many great great people who have been nurtured and cared for in the centre of a council home and have gone on to great even historical things.  We need to stop decanting over a thousand tenants from their homes against their will and using the land their homes were on to build luxury apartments and only seventy nine social housing units. We need to stop councils voting to omit affordable housing on new developments, such as the project around Battersea Power Station.

It is not a gift nor a disgrace to be given a flat next to luxury apartment when your home has been burnt out. It is not disgusting that these people are being re housed in the posh end of Kensington. It is not unfair to those who work hard that they have been given social housing , although many still believe that they are being given million pound flats each.

Now we have the evacuation of hundreds of people from dangerous buildings. Flats, hospitals, hotels all worried about cladding. The cladding which gave the impression that life in Grenfell Tower was ok, that it would disguise the poverty, the injustice , the social stigma of the block. So that it would look nice for those nearby. As if it were an invisablity cloak, hiding from view those who have been forgotten anyway. Dehumanised by terms such as immigrant, Muslim, single parent, disabled, black, unemployed, mentally ill, white working class, benefit scroungers, uneducated, lazy, apathetic. Abused by the papers who sell to those who only want confirmation of their views. Those scared by the thought that their world is falling away. Those fighting against equality as they have the most to loose. Now the residents of Grenfell Tower have been gassed and incinerated.  I don’t think I have to spell out the similarities here. But don’t call for patriotism when that blackened shell of a building incorporates all that was fought against in World War II.

I think we need to drop the term “social housing”.  Why don’t we call them “affordable homes” or “sensibly price homes” or “rental homes”. Take away the terminology that so strongly  brings to mind those negative concepts.  Call them homes. Because that is what they are. Homes.

I have also realised due to the type of home I live in I am a voiceless one. A expendable existence. Someone who should not even live in London, my home city that I was born in and grew up in and which I love. I should be on my knees in gratitude. Don’t get me wrong I feel very blessed I have a home that is large enough for my family and in an area I love. But this is one of the richest countries in the world. It needs its cleaners and porters, it’s shop staff and it’s waiters. The minions who work to keep the city and the country and the economy going. It needs to realise that the people who live in social housing are not all on benfits. They are not all uneducated lowlife trash. They are humans and no matter what particular situation they are in at this present time they deserve a home. The social cleansing that is happening will mean there are no homes for these people. They cannot commute as wages are too low. What will all those who have moved into the once vibrant working class areas do when the working class are no longer there?

This crime against humanity, witnessed by all through the screens of the phones that captured the horror, almost had to happen. It was enevitable when the companies lied to councils about the cladding they used. When councils ignored the tenants. When the country became obsessed with home ownership. When lies became the truth. People cannot unsee the fire. Cannot unhear the screams. But those voices that once were silent are being heard.  I and many others  intend to make use our voices, talents abilities and passion in whatever way  we can to shout above the noise of inequality.  Those voices need to be heard. These voices will no longer be igonored. For the memory of those who can no longer speak and to stop anything like this happening again.

‘A matter of life or death

IMG_3725I said that this election was a matter of life and death to someone the other day. I was accused of being over dramatic.

I thought for a moment am I? Am I making everything more important that it really is?

Then I thought of the NHS. There already are signs of privatisation. Posters inviting you to pay £30 to see a GP and letting us know who they are now managed by. The underfunding which is being used to say we can’t cope with the budget of the NHS. Demoralising staff with derisory pay rises and leaving EU citizens who support our medical services unsure if they will be able to stay.  I thought of the ten minute appointments I have at my GP, the lack of mental health care, cutting back on diabetic test strips because government subsidy has been removed.

I then thought of ESA and PIP payments.  I thought of all those people who have died after being declared fit for work.  I thought of the mental anguish of those who have to go through assessments. Like me.

I thought of the terror attacks we have seen in the past few weeks. I thought about the cause of these attacks. The complete mess that has been the military action in the Middle East and the illegality of such action. I thought of the young Muslim men and women who feel alienated from our society. I thought of Saudi Arabia and selling them arms whilst preventing publication of a report on their links to terror. I thought of the cuts to essential services such as the police and fire-brigade.

I thought of the concept of using your house to pay for social care which basically results in those who want to give something to their children thinking a better option for them is to die rather than have the social care.

I thought of the cutting of winter fuel allowance and the deaths from hypothermia this would result in.

The free school meals which for some are the best meal they get.

I thought of the rising homeless population and the lack of good cheap housing to keep people safe.

I thought of those scared by childhood abuse by those in the files that were lost.

I thought of the death of the Duke of Westminster and all the steps he had legally  taken to avoid his son and heir paying billions in inheritance tax. Enough to nearly clear the NHS deficit.

I thought of Trident failing tests but this being hidden and the weapon which  cannot be used as a first strike as it is a deterrent. The millions that would die in a nuclear exchange which no one would win. That reminded me of the instant “yes” from the Prime Minister and the cheer she got for that and it made my blood run cold.

So yeah, basically I am not being over dramatic.

That is  why I am going to #votelabour on Thursday. If you are registered to vote please use your vote as well. Every one will count in this election and there has never been such an important one before.

 

 

Nobody left behind 

I am not a person to be writing a blog about the issue of BAME involvement within politics. I am not expert enough in this particular area nor can I talk of experiences or belief and understanding as whilst I am from an ethnic minority with its own issues I am white . I am writing this from a white perspective to a white reader as this is the only authentic experience I can write from.

I was disappointed at the level of support that a recent BAME rally received recently where Jeremy Corbyn was a key speaker and I felt that I wanted to write about this.

You may or may not be aware but the number of people eligible to vote from Black and Minority Ethnic groups is estimated at 4 million but 30% are not registered to vote.

That is over a million voters.

These are not people who are not going to the polls these are people who have no vote. And to be totally honest I can see why. The last general election the turn out was low. Very low. I voted as I do in every election voting for labour out of loyalty and a deep rooted distrust and possibly hatred (a strong word but think it is right) for all that the Tory party stands for. I was not happy with the Labour Party as I really felt that the middle ground politics, the stereotypical leader, the general lack of real opposition they offered was not screaming to me that a labour government would really be that different. In the minds of so many the legacy of Tony Blair is not what he did that was good but his taking us into an illegal war. And in the minds of many there is no point to voting at all.

The fact that the turnout was so low should worry us. Why are people not involved or engaged? What can we do about it? Just using common sense sociology a quick survey of people around us at work , in our families and community it won’t be long before you will hear the phrase “ I don’t do politics” . My response to you is normally well it is certainly doing you right up the …… But I digress. A look on Facebook can tell you with the I don’t want to see any more political view memes and the I’m sick of politics comments would confirm a body of people who are totally disengaged and remote from anything that goes on in politics.

So what are the political parties doing to engage us?. Well very little. Those who turnout are those who are set in their ideas about their political stance. Those who are not are the disenfranchised and those who really have too much going on in their lives to worry themselves about voting. Those who are not voting are the ones who think that their voice is silent anyway. Those who feel they do not belong. They are the masses and its best they don’t get their say. We can continue to ignore them because they will not have an impact on us getting into power anyway.

Then along comes the referendum. And the turnout on that is huge. Why?

Again our common sense sociology comes into play. Firstly it was a first past the post yes or no vote about an issues that a lot of people felt passionate about. Secondly it was something where people felt that they could actually tell the government exactly what they wanted. It was a voice for those who felt voiceless. And they spoke. And for some reason it shocked the government it shocked the press and it shocked those who voted for change.

And it was a vote based for many on misinformation , misunderstandings , rhetoric , personality and lies. It has released the cork of those who kept their racism bottled up as we see the rise xenophobia and racism. It has left people in limbo as to their rights to stay here. It cause the resignation of one prime minister and the creation of Maggie 2. It caused people to question democracy because the result did not go their way. And it highlighted that given the right circumstances people will engage and will vote.

Now what has this got to do with BAME? Like I said earlier imagine another million votes in this referendum. Imagine another million votes in the general election. Imagine another million voices speaking for a very underrepresented community within politics?

Imagine if it was seen that the voices of the BAME communities in this country counted and meant something to the politicians of this country and that they would be listened to and not ignored? Then we would see issues properly addressed, a more representative government, a movement for change.

Now before you say that the same is true of the voices of every community neglected by successive governments I will say this. There are times in life when you have to narrow down a big problem in order to address what it actually means for each group involved. In society sometimes the reality of existence within it of issues and problems that affect all in different measure has to be highlighted as a separate campaign because to lump it into one group will mean that the problem will be solved to the agenda of one group over another. And in most cases of social issues it is the white issue that is focussed on and is seen as dominant. Solving the white issues however means that a lot of people continue to feel disenfranchised and the issues become their problems, the root cause of issues their behaviour and their attitudes. It ignores the background, the affect, the problems unique to their community which are unseen and unfelt by those outside. Then the very forces who think they are helping all are actually reinforcing the oppressions which they think they are lifting. Hence black lives matter is not saying only black lives matter but highlighting the very real experiences of the feeling, endorsed by society and condoned by law enforcement of the life of black males especially being of no worth. Saying all lives matter in answer to this hides this issues and again we ignore what is ongoing turning the issue onto the very community in fear of the police and loosing their men.

As I stated before I am not the person to speak on behalf of the BAME community. The people to do this are those who organise the rallies who run the campaigns and who understand what particular issues affect people’s engagement with politics. What we can do however is listen to them. Understand what we can do to help by becoming involved in theses causes but not to try and take them over. By advertising their existence and sharing their information. And most importantly we stand beside them. We fight with them. We use the privileges we have to make their voices heard.

My children are mixed ethnicity. I’m white Irish their father Black British. I have argued with them about racism I have disagreed with them about racism until finally I listened to them about racism. I have understood that through institutionalised racism and white privilege everyday behaviour , the things we take for granted, and the things we look at and think what’s your problem here are not imaginations or complaints and excuses. They are real and oppressing and at times very disturbing. It is hard to hear this when you yourself are not racist in your opinions and you hope your actions. But in order to change this we need to accept that there is a different world out there for BAME communities. They are the ones experiencing it every day and they are the ones we need to stand next to, listen to, support to ensure that every person has a voice they feel is valid.

So the next time you see something organised by BAME labour or the next time there is a petition regarding a BAME issue get involved. Stand and talk to people attending them to discover why we need these organisations and groups. Prepare to hear things that will be alien to you beliefs and even shakes your own identity but listen and understand. And show that you want everyone in this country to have a say, to feel empowered, to feel they belong.

And do your bit on social media. Share positive stories about the BAME communities as they get short shrift in the media. Highlight discrimination and stand against it. Learn about the true causes of poverty, homelessness, deprivation in this country and spread these to people you know so the blame is lifted from the immigrant to the feet of those it belongs to, the people who the lowest turnout in a very long time elected into power , possibly illegally.

Work against Islamaphobia, xenophobia, racism in every aspect of your life and do it not because it makes you look a better person but because it is what you want from your soul, the right of every human on this planet to be treated as such. Look inward before you look out and let’s make sure we are all working for each other in every community.

And we can all unite now behind a massive movement, that of supporting Jeremy Corbyn who stands for everyone In every community. To change landscape of politics so everyone can see that they have something to vote for. Someone who speaks at rallies who has supported the causes of those standing against racism who understand the politics of the oppressed and the oppressors and has done so all his life. We can reclaim the Labour Party so that it becomes the party who stands up for all who need support rather than those who pay the most money. Those fighting Jeremy are unaware of the social shift that has been brought about by the awakening of the masses to politics. Those who are are frightened as this will mean the end of their privilege. These masses need to include members of the BAME community who for so long have given so much and received so little. Their unique experiences need to be part of our new society and we need to stand beside them to ensure they are.


BAME Labour

Operation Black Vote 
Jeremy for Labour

Money money money 

I was up late last night.  I normally am.  At around three there was a ping from my partners I pad.  He has BBC news alerts on there.

Like most people if you get a phone call at three ( or a text message thanks very much Owen Smith ) you think “it’s bad news” and it’s the same with the ping – what is happening in the world should we be hiding under the bed?

So I looked at the alert and it was telling me that someone and won something at the Olympics.

After the sigh of relief that we were not about to be annilated I through what the…… Ok it’s interesting and important but really?

So I looked at the BBC news website today and it’s full of olympics stuff.  Again I love sport but there is a sports section on the website so why so much on the news.

The other day when the action of the NEC was deemed unlawful in the courts I looked on the website.  Headline news is some one holding a medal looking happy .

So today in my mind , which when it comes to the media is a little cynical I will admit, I thought what don’t they want us to know? So I began my usual look through the Internet for any interesting news.

I found within a couple of seconds a Mirror article explaining how a pet project of Iain Duncan Smith ( you remember him the guy who cried on telly about a single mother whilst fighting to hide documentation about how many deaths changes and cuts to disability benefit has caused ) in which those on job seekers allowance were made to go to an office for 35 hours a week and under supervision look for work has been scrapped.

It did not work basically.  And it cost £1.4 million pounds.

Mirror – Tories quietly cut IDS pet project
I then found another article in The Guardian about another scheme aimed at helping turn around families lives by support and intervention.  This has also failed due to how it was instigated and ran.

That one cost £1.3 billion pounds.

Guardian – failure go government scheme
So in the matter of a few minutes of looking at the newspapers on line I read how the government wasted £1.7 billion pounds.

What could that money have been spent on?

Well £1.5 billion is the bill for student maintenance grants which go to university students from the poorest backgrounds

BBC – scrapping grants
It could pay for the PFI payments for ten of the NHS trusts with the highest debts . At nearly £600 million it could pay it for a couple of years.  Of course it could go toward paying off the debts completely which would save the tax payer money and give the NHS money  to be spent on medical care.

Telegraph – the true cost of PFI
To put it another in another light £ 1.7 billion is actually higher than the amount of money lost in benefit fraud, with estimates based on government figures as being £1.3 billion .  However it is nowhere near the £34 billion in taxes which are not paid , a figure some say is conservative ( no pun intended) and it is more like £120 billion.

The week – which cost more benefit fraud or tax evasion
It is also a drop in the ocean when you consider that it is estimated between £13 billion and £24 billion in unclaimed benefits per year.

Blog – unclaimed benefits
Gov report – take up of benfits
Turn2us – unclaimed benefit
Mirror – unpaid benefits
We all know what has been happening to welfare under this government.  We all know the word austerity. We all know who voted for and against welfare cuts.  However we are told every day of the cheats and the frauds who are robbing the tax payer.  those on benefits who are too lazy to work.  We are told of the drain on resources this is.

The media and the government do not want you to know the truth so they hide the release of reports, ensure that the media do not give these stories the blanket coverage they deserve.  They wait for good days to bury bad news.

And most importantly they label those rare politicians who know about this, want more money spent on fighting tax evasion , want to ensure that money goes to people who need it are foolish, talk nonsense economics, are unelectable.  They want to make sure that those who support them and his plans are seen as easily fooled , Trotskies , out of touch cult followers living in a dream land.

And this is coming from those who claim to be for the people.  Claim they stand for true Labour Values. From the Deputy Leader.

Theresa May said the other day that we should not think of austerity as a bad thing but rather that people live within their means.  How is it Theresa that the people have to live within their means but the government can waste a substancial amount of money ? Can misinform us about what really costs us the most ? Can de humanise people so that someone actually thought it was right to treat them  in a contemptible and humiliating manner. Forcing them to be supervised in an office to look for jobs and which failed.

It is because we keep watching the news and accepting what they say and present without question. Because most people do not spend any time looking at political news as they don’t do politics.  They may know the people in suits and shirt sleeves are not working in their best interest but nothing will change.

I would say watch the coverage of plucky Team GB tonight by all means . But then take a few minutes to look elsewhere.  Because there is going to be a change, and it would be wonderful if you were a part of it.

Since writing this and after the sad death of the Duke of Westminster , have read his heir will not pay inheritance tax on their fortune.  The full article is here.

Guardian – Duke of Westminster will not pay inheritance tax

The late Duke did give to charity and said that he was not happy he was born rich.  If this were the case then why take steps to avoid paying tax ? This one payment alone would equal the entire revenue collected by HMRC for  inheritance tax from the UK last year.  I think his title is rather apt , don’t you ?

 

Hear my voice

So we have today a lovely piece in the guardian today from Tom Watson.


Let’s just take a few moments here to digest the headline.  The article here.

Tom Watson guardian article
I thoughts about how to respond and I though how unfair it is that he gets to express himself in this national newspaper which I think to be honest is also having an existential crisis if that is possible for a newspaper.

And I thought about the response to and the events happened because of a recent blog I posted.

What’s the deal with this guy
My words inspired someone to write a comment which inspired many.  This then lead to the responder amongst other things giving a speech and my being asked to write for a website.

What would happen if that voice had larger audience?

Also today I read another post by someone like me.  Trying to calmly explain that we are not idiot or fools, we are not the ones hell bent of the distraction of a political movement that we love nor are we all coerced into blindly following one man like a brainwashed cult.

So I shared it on here as it made me think two voices are better than one.

But we have 500,000 voices.  Not all of them will sing with us but the majority would.

So here I will post Sarah’s response again to my blog and I am asking you to do something .  It is one small thing but we can make it massive.

Take a few seconds to like and then reply.  It can be a long or short reply .  I want to hear how you feel , why you support Jeremy, why you became interested in politics even why you joined.  No insults or derision , no personal attacks or hate.  Just why you want Jeremy as leader.

Let’s have a central collection of voices . Share blog posts and links so that all of this information can be put together so all our single voices become one and this can then be shared even more to show people who we truly are.

We have been demeaned and vilified for too long – we need to respond with a united voice.

Please share and post and reblog and Twitter and print and do whatever it takes for this to get off the ground and start running .

Thank you #wearehismedia

Sarah says:

July 31, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Hi there! Erm… I’m the woman in the photo! Someone recognised me and sent me your article (very surreal experience). I just thought I’d write a bit to expand on what you’ve said, to give a bit more insight to why I was so lit up.
Growing up, I used to ask questions about what I saw when my dad watched the news. My dad would say “shush I’m watching the news” and my mum would say “I don’t know, I don’t bother with that stuff anymore.” Any mention of something political and she would shut off with a look of faint disgust. As a kid I didn’t really put two and two together, but it made sense later on. That my mum had difficulties with mental health, that she had been prevented from being able to be employed by that and was placed under the additional crushing weight of poverty, trying to get together enough food to keep me and my brother well. That she had no access to any support and at the same time was labelled one of those council estate scroungers… what would that do to your faith in politics? What was the point? They would come along with their promises, rarely aimed at you in any case as you’re below the level they’re pitching at, and would break any designed to shatter poverty/inequality and improve mental health anyway. That’s the thing, even Labour had stopped aiming at families like ours. The rhetoric across all parties became increasingly aimed at those lucky enough to dream of buying a house, not those who struggled to buy bread.
Jump forward to me being a teenager, brought up to treat others nicely, as you never, ever know how bad a day someone is having, so you should try to behave like they might be sad. Because there’s no way of knowing. To have a deep knowledge of how bad things can happen that nobody expects or would will on their worst enemies and that those things can make life hard enough that basic functioning can be a major struggle. Knowing my mum was bitter about politics but that she was proud of having a daughter who cared about stuff, even if she wasn’t sure it would ever end up helping anything. I ended up with my own mental health difficulties, also Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Was knocked flat out of education. Got a middle class boyfriend. Had to explain to him that he couldn’t just say I could help myself to anything in the fridge, that the idea terrified me (anyone who has been in a similar situation might understand that). Hearing his parents talking about politics and feeling hurt for not growing up in a house where politics was something to be discussed, not given up on, and feeling so very, painfully stupid. Relearned that I was different and didn’t truly have a space at the table.
Early twenties, and I’ve have been cajoled into trying university, discover I like it. Study sociology, as it seems to look closest at the things I find fascinating but don’t understand. Hierarchies. Intersections of oppression. Why I have always felt in some vital, essential way different and lower than my middle class counterparts, to those without illness. I learn about inequalities. I learn about micro-aggressions. I learn about it not being all my fault no matter how much my subconscious screams that I’m stupid in spite of my grades. Not that it made much difference, I felt no connection with Labour as much as I wanted to, as it wasn’t fighting for those who desperately needed fighting for, and I felt there was nowhere realistically to turn.
I manage to get a scholarship for a post-grad I could never have afforded otherwise, eventually decide academia is not for me for various reasons, then what happens? The world starts to feel like it’s turning on its head as it looks like someone that’s actually loudly talking about poverty, about mental health, about the benefits of immigration might get into a position of power. Can you imagine? I watch a video and here’s someone talking about how they always, even in times of great stress make sure they *make* time to do nice and relaxing things – promoting self-care for mental health. I see someone suggesting that they aren’t sure about a plan for single gender train carriages and that they need to look at more evidence and *speak to women* to find out if it would really be appreciated. I see someone saying they refuse to be involved in slanging matches, that vociferously campaigned against apartheid, that supported numerous campaigns in spite of them not necessarily being the best for his career. Helping those at the very very bottom is never good for your career. They don’t seem to have the power to immediately make it worth your while. They’re often disenfranchised and bitter about politics and don’t see the point in bothering.
I called my mum to ask her if she’d think about joining as an affiliate (if I sent her a bit of money to cover it) to vote for Corbyn as I felt he could actually do something. She laughed angrily and said “I don’t think so.” She had only recently written to Cameron to explain that the bedroom tax meant she couldn’t afford a winter coat. That there wasn’t a smaller council house for her to move to with her son. He explained in his cookie cutter letter that we all have to make sacrifices and tighten our belts. Can you imagine? Can you? Still, she realised how important it was to me and asked me to explain what I thought was so different.
My mum watches the news now. She watched newsnight even. She calls me to ask me to explain political stuff. She is engaged. She calls Corbyn “our Jeremy, bless ‘im.” But it’s not about just one person, it’s about someone trying to turn the oil tanker that is the Labour Party, trying to get it back on the course we need it to be, when we don’t have any access to the steering wheel. I feel like there might be space for me in the Labour Party now, and my mum. There might be more people who care as deeply and will let us in, not just tell us we’re naive, not tell us we’re stupid, not tell us we’re fanatics, not crow over bits of news reveling in difficulties the campaign has, not rubbing salt in that open wound. There might be a way to feel empowered. To allow my mum to feel empowered. I won’t have been the only one with a story like that either – I can’t tell you how it feels, but “unrestrained joy” comes pretty close.
That’s what was running through my head as I stood there smiling.
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