I joined the Labour Party, and I pay my membership fee, and I thought that was that. The local element of the party sent me emails notifying me of meetings, but I couldn’t muster the balls to attend a meeting. I hoped at some point I might, but I had 3 major things stopping me:
- Time. I. Do. Not. Have. Any. Time. That may sound like an exaggeration, but i don’t feel like it is (it’s taken me months, for example, to find the time to start writing this, and I really, really wanted to). I have 3 kids, 2 of which are toddlers, my husband works 80+ hours a week, and we have almost no people to help. The babies don’t qualify for free nursery places yet, we cannot afford it ourselves. I have looked into it, because I really didn’t want to have to give up my job (not least because I couldn’t afford to, but apparently, I cannot afford to work, either). My life is an exciting mix of learning spellings, building lego, changing nappies, endless trips to the park/beach/forest/shops, hoovering, washing, play-doh, cooking (the end result of which i know will end up on the floor/in the bin/in my child’s hair), toddler groups, nursery rhymes, episodes of Bing…etc When I finally get the children to bed and the house prepared for tomorrows onslaught, there doesn’t seem time or energy left for meetings, even if there was someone here for the kids (there normally isn’t. Its 8.30pm on a Friday now for example, and my long-suffering and gorgeous husband is at work). But enough moaning! You get the picture, life is busy for all of us ‘just managing’ people (you know, us people Teresa May promised to help in her first speech at number 10?) It can be difficult at times, and we are the lucky ones, with a warm, safe home, food in the cupboard, healthy bodies and love in our lives. Perversely, this is all the more reason why we all must find some time to try to shape the society we live in: it is the only way we might be able to improve living standards for everyone.
- Anxiety. I find it quite stressful meeting new people at the best of times; a festival or a mates house, for example. So the thought of going to a formal meeting, with lots of people who already know each other, and most of whom know much more about what is being discussed (and the formalities of discussing it) than i do, does not fill me with great joy. In fact, it mostly fills me with complete dread. I am just not a naturally confident person. I try to remember that underneath the external facade presented to the world, very few people are, and (on good days) I fake it till I make it.
- I did not have any understanding of what becoming an active member of the party would offer me. I have since discovered that becoming active offers access to lots of people who live locally, who think along similar lines to me, people who care deeply about the same issues and who have a similar approach to my own in terms of how we might solve them. I have friends with similar things in common, but they do not live locally (most of them I met at university, and as such are now scattered all across the country). I have seen that there is a movement happening across this country, a sense of hope and of possibility, an increasing engagement in politics, a sense that we, The People, can take our country back. But I always view it through a screen, my laptop, the TV, my smartphone. I live in a Tory stronghold with a particular demographic (more of that later), and I have been wandering around thinking I’m the only person here who feels like I do. Becoming active within the party has (thankfully) opened my eyes to how wrong I was. If I had known before that joining and being active would facilitate my meeting people to channel and focus my energy and will for change into a collective campaign for change, then I might have done it years ago.
These things meant that I didn’t engage with the local party for a few months (and that it often requires military-scale planning now!)
I did however, respond to a request for help from a local campaigning group. In a nutshell, I ended up helping IoW Save Our NHS organise the local contingent of a national campaign to protect the NHS from covert privatisation. We successfully organised a demonstration and march to raise public awareness of how privatisation, cuts, closures and the mass-centralisation of services through the governments Sustain and Transform Plans (STP aka Slash, Trash and Privatise) will effect locals, particularly because we live on an island and therefore travelling when vulnerable to receive treatment is difficult and very expensive.
We also organised a free local screening of Peter Bach’s excellent documentary film ‘$ell Off – The Abolition of Your NHS‘, to empower people with the knowledge and platform we need to organise our local fight to defend our NHS.
Iow Save Our NHS is a cross-party group. The NHS rightly motivates everyone because it affects the vast majority of us (if someone tells you ‘politics doesn’t effect me’, ask them if they would care if the NHS was lost tomorrow), as as such people from all partys, all political affiliations, and none, should come together to insist and demand that it remains a public health service, free at the point of use, that it is properly funded and that those dedicated workers who provide such an invaluable service are properly taken care of, in every sense. I think it speaks volumes about the Labour party and its membership, that every person i met involved in the organisation of the group, is a member of the Labour party. They didn’t have to be; I know this because no-one asked me if I was when I got involved…it just so happens that the people who were motivated to come together, who are passionate about defending the services we all benefit from and who worked to make it happen, were all members of the Labour party.
Meeting these people in such an organic way, seeing how dedicated and enthusiastic and willing to work they are, and also what an eclectic bunch they are, made it easier for me to overcome my mis-givings about going to a Labour meeting, and I’m very glad I did.
Since then, I have met so many interesting, knowledgeable and caring people, from many different backgrounds. I am not going to lie, I have met some questionable characters too, but I’m pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of people I’ve met fall into the former category, mercifully. There are wonderful people in my local labour party campaigning to Save Our Schools from the devastating cuts and structural mismanagement coming from government, likely to impact our children and our country for generations. We are currently putting together a campaign day to increase public awareness of the realities of the planned roll-out for Universal Credit in its current form, and to urge the government to pause it until the inherent problems, (causing unnecessary and monumental suffering for far too many people) are remedied (more on this later). I have met people fervently campaigning to protect our local environment.
I spent my entire life walking around in my un-comfort zone, feeling like I was alone (or remote, at least) in feeling like I do, in caring like i do. I thought i was the only one that read the news, and felt sad, angry, despairing, inconsolable, outraged, bewildered..and frustrated because i felt powerless. I couldn’t do anything about it.
Joining the Labour party has given me hope that doing something about it might be possible, by putting me in touch with people who want to do something about it, too. We can do so much together.