I haven’t posted on here for a while have I? It’s roasting hot today, but my garden is lovely and shady so I have set up the small person with some chalks and he is happily drawing on the ‘patio’ and wall while I attempt to write something interesting.
We have had some nice adventures recently, and I did think about trying to write a post about my experience of visiting some touristy places with a toddler in tow, but to be honest lessons learned can be summed up as:
-Be prepared to listen to them whinge while you are trying to read a love letter from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII
– When it gets too much find the café and purchase sausage, beans and chips. They will be temporarily happy and so therefore you will be too.
Not much of a thriller is it? In more contemporary news, nappy free time in the garden has been swiftly terminated after I just watched him do a big piddle on one of his chalk drawings, examine it carefully for a minute and then splash about in it like we were going puddle jumping. Again, this is not going to set the world alight. So like the sleep-deprived, unoriginal charlatan that I am, I crowd-sourced a blog post topic from some friends the other day. For some inexplicable reason the consensus was that people were interested in how I became involved in politics, and becoming a councillor. I’d like to start by advising you that this is even less interesting than it sounds, but I shall have a bash at fashioning ‘well it kind of just happened, I don’t really know’ into a post of some kind.
Today I’ll talk about when I joined the party and how I got involved to begin with, and leave the council elections for another day!
I joined the Labour Party in 2010, a few days after the general election when Labour lost and we suddenly had the first Tory government for a long time. I had just started secondary school when Labour won in 1997 and so I don’t really remember much of life under the Tories. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to sit on my hands, moan and do nothing, so myself and my then boyfriend (now long-suffering husband) decided to join. This was almost certainly a horse and stable door scenario, but there you have it. I had moved to Milton Keynes mere days before the election and didn’t know anyone apart from Robert, so joining seemed a good way to try and get involved as well as meet some like-minded people.
There’s always something you can do to help out on a local level, often this is delivering leaflets to help get the word out there about what your councillors are doing, or campaigns you are running. We were put in touch with Pauline, who was standing as Labour candidate in our local area, and before too long we were delivering leaflets and helping to knock on doors to speak to residents. What no one had warned me was if you offer to do something then our local organiser Kevin is incredibly skilled at getting you to do something else, then come along to this, then deliver that, then do this campaign, then come to this meeting…you catch my drift.
After around a year as a member, I stood for our local Executive Committee as Women’s Officer. This is a role that not everyone felt was necessary, and not everyone agreed with all of our campaigns. All Women’s Shortlists can be controversial (I guess some people remain under the optimistic impression we actually live in a meritocracy and sexism isn’t deeply ingrained in society). ANYWAY. I loved being the Women’s Officer. When I first joined the party I went along to a Women’s group meeting and found this a really good ‘way in’ to feeling comfortable in the party.
One of my favourite campaigns as Women’s Officer was our ‘Don’t Turn Back Time’ campaign where we held a street stall dressed in 1950s clothes to highlight the regressive agenda of welfare reform and the disproportionate impact cuts to the welfare system have on women. The fact we were all dressed up got a lot of people coming over to talk to us. Campaigning plus wearing a cool dress? That’s my kind of campaign. We also organised a petition to call on the (then Tory run) council to pledge to protect Domestic Violence support services for women and this was then provided for in their budget.
I was the delegate for my constituency at the Labour Party conference in Mancheter during my time as Women’s Officer while the domestic violence campaign was running. I asked Ed Miliband a question about this in his ‘Ask the Leader’ session, which was a first that year at conference. I then ended up getting interviewed by BBC News about my question and what I thought about Ed! I remember after the interview getting an absolutely blinding headache and having to go into a back room with some paramedics and sign a whole load of forms and have a full health check just to get 2 paracetamol. By the time I came out of the room I had loads of messages from people saying they had seen me on TV! It was pretty surreal.
I’m not sure I have actually answered how I got into all of this. It really did just somehow happen! I don’t think you have to join a political party to get involved in activism or campaigning. The Labour Party also feels like a very different place than when I first joined. I’m not going to get into an ill-advised debate about the current leadership contest, but I will passionately stick up for the achievements and hard work of a huge number of people during the last Labour government and our time in opposition since. The chances are, if you feel passionately about something, there will be a party or an organisation that would love you to get involved. If you don’t know what you can do, go along and speak to them and find out!
Anyway, my chalk covered hooligan is climbing all over me and I have rambled on long enough so will leave it there for now. Well done if you made it to the end and I am sorry I am such a tedious human being.