Project Hope By I.R Sandford

I’ve never really been one for discussing politics with members of the public face-to-face. During the last election campaign, I spent a day helping out the local Labour Party but that’s about all I have ever done, though anyone who knows me, knows how frequently I post about politics on Facebook.

I am well aware of the fact that posting about politics on Facebook is a bit like shouting in a box – not many people are likely to hear you and those that are listening tend to be those already in your social circle and many will broadly agree with your politics anyway. So, to try and counter this limitation, I have decided to try a different tact and actually engage with people face-to-face. Sometimes it might be a conversation with a colleague, sometimes it might be an opportunity that presents itself in everyday life.

I have to say that my actions haven’t really got me very far. The most common argument that I have encountered was “what’s the point of voting? They’re all the bloody same.”

Once a guy I was talking to, a taxi driver, used this argument, claiming that all politicians were corrupt and only in it for themselves. When I tried to counter him by telling him that Jeremy Corbyn was different and that he had one of the lowest expenses claims of all MP, he replied that he was a ‘mug’ for not claiming more. “You can’t have it both ways”, I thought to myself, “you’re either complicit in corruption or you stand against it”, but there seemed little point in arguing this point. The taxi driver’s argument, like those of everyone else who claims that they are ‘all the bloody same’ shows that they haven’t really been paying attention to this election.

Until recently, you couldn’t really blame people for saying “they’re all the bloody same”.

I’ve spoken these words myself more than once before. I had utterly given up on following politics – it just depressed me. New Labour had essentially become ‘Tory-lite’, as it moved away from its traditional working-class roots to more central ground.

However, over the past few years, since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, The Labour Party has transformed itself into a political party more attuned to their working-class roots. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have moved further to the right and seek only serve the interests of themselves and their billionaire backers. The Conservatives are bankrolled by billionaires, supported and protected by a media owned by billionaire.

As Labour’s Barry Gardiner said of Boris Johnson – “This is not a One Nation Prime Minister. This is a 1% of the nation Prime Minister.”

After nearly ten years of Conservative power, it feels as if we are no-longer moving forward, that all progress has stopped and that we are slipping rapidly backwards.

Recent data from UNICEF shows that the UK has dropped dramatically in the global rankings for child rights within a year – falling from 11th to 156th, whilst the charity Action for Children recently estimated that nearly 1 million children under the age of 11 will spend Christmas this year without a warm home or fresh food.

Meanwhile, it was reported earlier this year that £3.5 million given by the EU to help alleviate child poverty and homelessness in the UK is in danger of being lost, due to our government failing to use this money. Food Bank use has skyrocketed in the UK over the past ten years, with one recent article pointing out that the UK now has more food banks than McDonald’s branches.

Life for people with disabilities has also got harder over the past decade, due to the government’s cruel austerity measures. It was reported earlier this year that more than 17,000 sick and disabled people have died while waiting for welfare benefits.

This level of fatality should not be unacceptable in one of the richest nations in the world.

I recently read an article about a 58 year old Kevin Donnellon, who was born with no limbs, and has needlessly had to complete an “intrusive” 24-page DWP booklet 3 times this year, in order to keep receiving benefits “It’s not like my arms and legs have grown,” he remarks, highlighting the absurdity of this process.

Just a few years ago the UK was a torchbearer for disability rights, now it feels as if we are heading back to the days of workhouses.

A few days ago, Sally-Ann Hart, the Conservative candidate for Hastings and Rye remarked that people with learning difficulties should be paid less than the minimum wage because they do not understand money.

This exploitative attitude toward people with disabilities reminds me of a story somebody once told me about their experience of working with people with disabilities in the 1970s. In those days, the people that she supported were working in a match factory where they all suffered from burns on their fingers. It concerns me that we are slipping back to these days, or perhaps even further back in time. With Victorian attitudes still prevalent amongst the Tories, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the reintroduction of workhouses of the kind we had in the 19th Century.

This isn’t progress. 

The ‘Oven-ready’ Brexit, that Boris Johnson is offering has been revealed to be nothing more than a farce. Like the chlorinated chicken we will soon be expected to eat – it comes without a health warning. As the leaked documents highlight, Boris Johnson’s promises to protect our NHS from a trade deal has been revealed to be yet another lie. 

The leaked papers show that the US wants sweeping liberalisation, based on a so-called ‘negative list’ – unless you specifically list it, assume it will be opened up to US corporate penetration.

As one commentator remarked “Far from taking back control, Britain has clearly entered into a relationship where we hold none of the cards”. 

I’ve heard it said, many times that all politicians are liars, and with good reason, but there was a time when the lifespan of a lie at least lasted until after the election. These days the lifespan of a lie is much shorter in the minds of some, but linger in the minds of others. Many of you may have heard the joke or seen the meme about how we are breeding a strain of fact-resistant humans, but the truth is we are all creatures of habit and tend to stick rigidly to our beliefs.

Brexit, and those avidly devoted to its cause is a case in point.

Before continuing, I should state that I voted to remain in the EU back in 2016, although I did consider voting leave at the time. The whole shit-show Brexit has become demonstrates to me that it was an ill-conceived idea in the first place. It’s all very well saying ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and ‘Leave means Leave’, but you wouldn’t ‘leave’ your house without having some destination in mind, why would you leave a trade pact with your closest neighbours without having some realistic idea of what you want instead?

Many of those seeking to leave the EU seem to think that the spectacle we have seen over the last few years have been delaying tactics by those who don’t really believe in the cause, but this seems a rather weak argument.

What seems clear to me, is that the term Brexit itself is very vague and is ultimately meaningless.

Yes, you can say that it means the UK leaving the EU, but what has become obvious is that there is more than one way to go about doing this. Various options have been laid out in parliament, but none have been accepted because nobody has been able to agree on what the alternative to being in the EU should be.

The endless embarrassing mess that the nation has dragged itself through over the past few years, could have been avoided if we had gone into the referendum with what Brexit was supposed to look like. It was all very well for Nigel Farage and the like to promote Brexit, but with no real power to make real on the promises that were made, how could anybody be expected to achieve something workable?

There are many Brexiteers that choose not to believe the grim forecasts for Britain’s future when we leave the EU, but I would take the word over experts over the groundless optimism offered by Brexiteers.

We have had warnings of a 500% rise in customs processing from the boss of one of the UK’s largest customs brokers, warnings of civil unrest and food shortages from local councils, warnings about shortages of medicine from medical experts and, warnings that Brexit will damage the economy from the Bank of England, but all these expert opinions are dismissed as ‘scaremongering’ by people with no-expertise in these fields.

They dismiss these expert warnings as being ‘project fear’, but I can’t honestly see anything to be optimistic about – especially if we were to make a deal with Donald Trump.

Of all the tactics used by the Leave faction, the use of language has been the most effective.

I have already talked about the term ‘Brexit’ itself – a word that uses a great economy of letters that makes it sound catchy, but when you strip it back, its meaning is ultimately vague. Perhaps the cleverest use of language by the Leave camp, however, is the idea of ‘Project Fear’ – the very idea that any argument that portrays the Brexit as being a bad idea is shown to be a conspiracy, by those who disagree with them.

In truth, the very forces that helped to shape the nations consciousness during the referendum campaign was the ‘real project fear’.

The poster showing the huge crowd of dark faces supposedly walking toward our nation, the targeted Facebook ads that peddled lies about Turkey and Syria joining the EU, the continued drip drip of the “fake-news” memes from Britain First and the misinformation printed in the right-wing press each day – This is the real project fear.

During the referendum, it was noted that there was a spike in hate crime, and given the hysteria that seemed to be breaking out Nationally the tragic murder of the MP Jo Cox by a right-wing extremist could have been predicted.

Fear is like a virus – those with the resolve to fight it off can resist it, but those whose resolve is weak can become infected.

Those who have fallen on hard times due to the Conservatives austerity measures, those marginalised by society because they are at odds with the changing rules of polite social conduct, proclaiming “Its political correctness gone mad” and those who are growing older and are suspicious of the rapidly changing world – these are the people that are most vulnerable to the effects of fear.

You can be infected by this fear and be oblivious to the fact.

It’s like having a cold for so long that you forget that it is there, fogging your senses and making you feel run down and groggy. 

Fear is like a ghost that whispers in your ear.

It haunts you when you walk down the street at night and hear nothing but voices in an unfamiliar tongue.

It tells you that the bag left by the bench is a bomb and that the loud crash of a falling sign in a shopping mall is a terrorist attack or that the face behind the niqab is the face of evil.

Boris Johnson and the Conservatives seek to manipulate people’s fears of terrorism and this has been extremely effective, but I suspect that many of them are haunted by the same fears that they’re projecting outwards.

I read recently about an unearthed Boris Johnson article in which he said that he would ‘turn-tail’ if he encountered a group of black youths in a park. The article indicated that this was evidence of his racist attitude, but I read this more of a sign of his fear of that what he is unable to understand. Granted, it is this kind of reaction that promotes ignorance, racism and bigotry, but I also recognise in this response, a human being who is scared. Though I am able to feel this empathy for him, I don’t think this is enough to forgive him however, for it is this fear and ignorance that also makes Boris Johnson so dangerous.

The spectre of fear whispers that the world is changing too fast and that the old days were better.

Maybe this is so, but change is inevitable.

Like King Cnut’s futile attempts to stop the tide – nobody is able to prevent what will come to be. I remember speaking to a successful business man a few years ago who was a keen UKIP supporter. He fondly recalled his youth knocking about London’s West End in the 1950s and how he knew everyone. The population of London at that time would have been much lower than it is today, and it would have been possible to know many people. He then described how much the area had changed since those times – so many foreign faces. It is doubtful though, that he was ever took the time to talk to these people. Had he done, so he may have found that he had more in common with these people than he thought.

Most people essentially want the same things as us – work, security, family, but fear whispers that we shouldn’t mix with other cultures. 

Statistics show that many of the places with the highest percent of leave voters during the referendum were in places where immigration levels were actually quite low.

This suggests that those who fear immigration most are those who have had the least experience of interacting with others from ethnic groups.

Here, in Gravesend, Kent, the pattern was different. Gravesend has had a large Sikh community for years and according to 2015 data released by the Office of National Statistics, has the highest percentage in the country of people born outside the UK, yet Gravesend voted overwhelming in favour of leaving the EU.

Though I do not know the exact reasons for why so many people voted leave locally, I suspect that this may be to do with immigration. Much has changed in the town over the past 20 years or so, as the London sprawl has spread out. The population has grown – bringing in greater ethnic diversity. Having been to university I am no stranger to socialising with people from many ethnic backgrounds and had made friends from all over the world.

I welcomed this influx into Gravesend, as I felt it might make the town a more colourful and cosmopolitan place, but others are not so convinced. At the time of the Office of National Statistic’s report, the local Conservative MP, Adam Holloway, expressed his concerns. “In Gravesend I have noticed huge changes over the last 10 years with people arriving from all over the world as well as the European Union. The UK has thrived on immigration, but when is enough, enough?”

Whilst I do not see this rise in non-UK born citizens as an issue, I do understand how this rapid change may cause concern to some, especially amongst older generations, who tend to be those most resistant to change.

However, are these concerns really justified, or is it just fear whispering in people’s ears?

Fear shouts out from the news-stands every day – it tells us that the immigrants are the ones who are taking our homes, our jobs, our money.

It tells us that we are being Islamified, that we have to adopt Sharia Law, that mistletoe is being banned, that the word Easter is being removed from Easter Eggs and that our traditions are being eroded away. When you dig beneath the surface though, these stories turn out to be mostly untrue. 

The media plays on our fears for the loss of our traditions and we accept what they tell us is the truth.

Traditions are important. We cling on to traditions because they give us a sense of identity. We believe we are who we are because we live in the same way our ancestors lived.

However, is this really the case?

Life has changed so much in the UK over the past few hundred years, as we have become increasingly urbanised. Amongst other things, we have experienced the industrial revolution and two world wars that have reshaped much of the world, affecting the way in which we live our lives, from the way that we travel through to the food that we eat.

As we grow older, it is easy to convince ourselves that the time that we grew-up in were halcyon days, but this is merely an illusion – Time moves forever onwards and traditions change. As I approach half a centry in age, I too look back with a fondness for the past and a sadness at its passing, but I am also aware that I cannot change things and there is little point in trying.

I have studied the history of science and I am well aware that new ideas often taken years to gain acceptance. Ideas, like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, were once seen as radical and were not accepted overnight. When these ideas were finally accepted, it wasn’t necessarily because those who supported his ideas had better scientific evidence – it was mostly because the old-guard had passed away and the new blood coming through were more open to the new way of viewing things.

The historian of science Thomas Kuhn put forward the idea that science goes through periodic ‘paradigm shifts’, which he defines as “universally recognized scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners”.

Darwin’s theory, for example relied on the earlier work of Geologist James Hutton (another scientist whose theories challenged the accepted view). Hutton was the first person to calculate the true age of the Earth. Without, this advancement, Darwin would not have been able to envisage the length of time needed for evolution to occur. Analogous to the concept of ‘paradigm shifts’ is the idea from German philosophy of each time period having a ‘zeitgeist’, or ‘spirit of the age’ that dominates its characteristics.

I mention these ideas here because they are relevant to what is happening in the UK today.

As was noted during the last general election, there is a clear voting pattern, with young people tending to favour The Labour Party whilst the old tend to favour The Conservatives. It has been recognised that support for the Tories drops away by 2% each year as their core support from older generations pass away. Whilst this gradual slip away from the Conservative past should be welcome news to many on the left, I can’t help but look on this creeping change in the demographics with a sense of sadness.

I distinctly remember a TV show from my childhood called “The Good Old Days”. The programme was a recreation of the MusicHall entertainment from the days of the British Empire. I didn’t like the show – it was too old-fashioned. It was always one of those programmes that we would switch over. However, when I look back on this TV show, I also feel a sense of sadness. It had clearly been intended to entertain the older generation, but as these people passed away the show had lost its relevance and was cancelled in 1983. Now we are seeing the gradual disappearance of the generations that followed them as WWII and the last days of the British Empire disappear from living memory.

The shockwave caused by WWII, sent ripples that have stretched across the past seventy years or so and are only now beginning to subside.

We are not the same people that we once were, and though we may mourn the passing of what went before, we cannot resurrect the past. The memories of the Empire are finally disappearing with the sunset, and with them the attitude of superiority that colonialism promoted.

I wonder sometimes if the recent rise in the popular far-right is just is just the agonal gasps of the passing of the old zeitgeist. The racist, misogynistic, homophobic attitudes of our ancestors is dying out. Young people, on the whole, tend to be more open-minded and accepting of ethnicity. They also tend to have a more fluid understanding of gender and sexuality. This is in stark contrast to the older worldview, and this frightens the older generations.

The young are still hopeful, they see Labour’s manifesto as offering them the kind of chances that have been denied to them at a time where social mobilisation has practically drawn to a stand-still.

Older people, do not seem to recognise that life is not as easy for young people as it was for them, when unemployment levels were as low as 3%. I have seen many attempts to promote Labour’s manifesto as a fairy-tale for gullible students, but when the policy has the backing of 163 economists and academics that recognise the need for “a serious injection of public investment” it can’t be that far fetched.

Labour’s manifesto offers hope, whilst the Conservatives talk of nothing but ‘getting Brexit done’, which, from the sounds of the leaked trade talks, is nothing more than the selling off of what is left of our nation’s assets. Whether it be through the gradual selling off of our NHS or allowing the dangerous practice of fracking, the UK is up for sale – This is not the sovereignty that Brexit promised us, this is where ‘project fear’ takes us.

Labour’s manifesto, on the other hand, can be looked on as ‘project hope’.

Labour are promising to build thousands of new homes, they are promising to renationalise key industries, to properly fund the NHS and to introduce a National Care Service. These policies and others are aimed at making life better for you, not the Billionaires that fund the Conservatives or the newspapers that would have you vote against your own interests.

A vote for Labour is a vote for hope. A chance to step away from the narrative of fear that has dominated the last decade.

Over the past few months politics has been more and more depressing as the no-deal Brexit loomed over us. It felt to me that our nation was doomed as we have sunk further and further into the Brexit mess.

Now there is an election, there is a chance for hope. Should Labour win, I have every faith that Jeremy Corbyn will stick to his word and will negotiate a deal with the EU that protects workers’ rights and our economic stability. Should he manage this, and such a deal should win in a second referendum, I would be more than happy to accept this eventually. Better that, than to live a life eating substandard US food, before eventually dying penniless from a curable disease because I couldn’t afford my medication.

You might like to kid yourself, that this couldn’t happen here, but what proof can you offer me that it won’t?

When you go to the polling station this Thursday, do not dwell on your fears – look to the future with hope.

When you enter the polling booth do not cling on to a fading past. Do not vote because you fear the passing of our traditions. Vote for the needs of future generations, not your own, but above all vote for the party that offers hope, not for those who have shrouded you in fear.

Why The Similarity In These Headlines Could Be A Good Thing For Labour By Lisa Mulholland

The election is less than 3 weeks away.

Labour are significantly behind in the polls and the mainstream media are doing their usual tactics of ridiculing Corbyn, and painting the tories in a glorious light; despite two disastrous performances by Johnson on the leaders debates. Not to mention a week full of fake news skulduggery by the tories.

It’s enough to make you want to give up hope.

9 years of austerity, services stretched to beyond their limit, with the final nail in the privatisation coffin of the NHS hanging over us.

The U.K. electorate should be fired up. We should be ready to kick the tories out. In normal times we probably would be. But in the last 4 years have seen an extraordinary rollercoaster. We are now on our third election, not to mention the big referendum, and third Prime Minister. The public are saturated with politics.

A December election is unusual, and inconvenient.

The media are resorting to hostile tactics.

They call Corbyn a ‘Marxist’, a ‘terrorist sympathiser’, a ‘Russian spy’. The list is endless and the media are relentless.

Here we have a radical Labour manifesto published yesterday. Built on hope. The light at the end of this dark political tunnel. It speaks of ambitious but realistic plans of not just ending austerity but of smashing it to pieces with large investment and nationalisation in public services.

Surely this is what people want? But the media have convinced people that it’s laughable and ‘communist.’ And they can vote for ‘ anyone but Corbyn’. He’s so weak and unelectable, so much s that the BBC has to mute the chants of his supporters outside the studios tonight…

I have really felt like giving up hope. 2017 offered a glimmer of something but the constant media smears and the headbanging frustration of Brexit has worn me down.

I told myself not to get my hopes up with this election. And just to hide away from all coverage of the election.

But then I remembered something. I spotted an old newspaper front page and it reminded me that isn’t the first time a potential Labour government proposed something radical, and it’s not the first time the media laughed it off.

It happened right before Labour were elected on a landslide and started the construction of the very “socialist, radical” idea of the NHS and welfare state. The media states that people were terrified of the prospect of the NHS, as it would “bankrupt us”, “never work”, and that state ownership would mean “controlling everything we do”.

Does this sound familiar?

The similarities don’t end there.

The Labour government of 1945 with its’ Keynesian economics and The Beveridge Report of 1942, painted a picture of radical change to post-war Britain. It set out plans for the Welfare State, something which the Tories clearly opposed, favouring instead austerity over grand public spending. This, even after 14 years of events starting with the Great Depression of 1931, austerity and a World War that plunged many of the poor into even worse conditions, proves that the Tories were out of touch then with the public desire for a change and are still out of touch now, over 70 years later. Back then the media called them ‘ gestapos’, ‘ socialists’ and opposed Labour’s plans at every single opportunity.

A similar turn of events has happened in recent times with the Global Crash of 2008 and subsequent recession led to the conservatives excuse for the introduction of crippling austerity in 2010.

Since then homelessness has doubled, use of food banks increased daily, wages stagnated and many public services are in crisis, National Debt has increased to the trillions and we still have a deficit, with Tory deadlines to clear it off being extended and extended.

Following the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Crash, Keynesian economics was brought up again with many saying that if it had been followed throughout the last 40 years, the Crash could have been avoided.

But it was caused by the over inflation and free market economics, much like 1931. Keynesian economics would have controlled the over inflation that preceded the 2008 crash and would have opposed austerity measures that followed. Keynesianism works on the belief that economic demand determines economic output, in other words the more the public are willing and able to spend, the better the economy will perform; which is the opposite of Neoliberalism.

Today we see that austerity has not reduced the debt. The UN even called austerity a political choice and found it to be ‘ cruel’ and yet the government were quite happy to continue with it while spending generously when it suited them with the £1 billion DUP deal, and promoting a Halloween Brexit that never happened. So how long can the notion of austerity and neoliberalism limp on for?

After the rollercoaster year we have had in UK politics, with Brexit looming and then delayed, we now have the manifesto of hope and an opportunity to implement it . With its vision of an end to austerity; a universal social care system, free education for adults and grand ideas of reinvestment into public services we are being given that glimmer of hope in the same way that the Beveridge Report of 1942 probably gave the public all those years ago.

The creation of NHS and the Welfare State provided an antidote to years of austerity and changed the social and economic landscape of the UK for the better, and I’m certain that if given the chance, Corbyn’s vision would do the same for generations to come.

So, what comes next? Are we heading for a similar fate we did all those years ago when Labour were ridiculed by the press and then shocked them with a landslide.

At face value when I look around me I think ‘no chance’. How can we ever come up against that amount of hostility.

But the optimist in me however, would like to think that we are on the brink of a radical change for the better, not just with this election but for the future to come and that it is only matter of time before Neoliberalism is finally exposed for what it really is – greed under the guise of economic philosophy.

And maybe, just maybe we could take the right path at this enormous crossroads.

 

Job Share MPs – A Realistic Proposal? By Anya Sizer

If we have learnt anything over the last few years (in this post referendum era) it must be that our political structures urgently need review. We need change in how we represent the people of the UK and indeed in who should be representing us.

Small signs of these changes have begun to crop up: from professor Sarah Child’s “Good Parliament” report, to the introduction of Proxy voting and Stella Creasey’s call for a Locum MP to cover her maternity leave.

It is within this context that yours truly, (CotL member Anya Sizer) and my Labour party colleague Charlotte Carson, have launched a campaign to allow MPs to be able to job share.


Just like many Labour Party policies, this is in some ways a radical concept but in others an obvious move. Allowing for a more diverse group of people to be able to represent us within the chamber, whilst making parliament truly democratic and fit for purpose.

The idea for me personally grew out of my experiences in politics over the last few years.

Let me explain. I have worked for three different MPs and received incredible training from both Labour Women’s Network and Fabian Women’s Network and I would really love to stand as a Labour candidate.

However, the reality of my life is I am a mother of three, one of whom is adopted with significant additional needs. Whilst I have the capability, skills and the drive to represent my constituency, that just doesn’t match my availability, especially when you consider the 50+ hours a week that many MPs put in.

A throw away comment to a colleague that “what I would really love is a job share” soon led to a journey of discoveries…


Much work has already been done on this issue: from John McDonnel’s 2012 private members bill to the Fawcett societies “Open House” report and even a court case on behalf of the Green Party.

Reassuringly, these people had already come to the same conclusions we had; job sharing the role would increase the diversity of citizens eligible to be an MP, it would help alleviate some of the enormous pressures individual MP’s are under and ultimately it could mean even more scope to better serve their constituencies.


#JobShareMP Charlotte Carson, Sadiq Khan Mayor of London and Anya Sizer, Member of Christians on the LeftThe main arguments against the idea fall into two categories:

Firstly, the practicalities.Many people wonder how the role would or could be divided. For example, would one person mainly focus on constituency casework and another one on parliamentary work?

For myself and prospective “running partner” Charlotte, the way we would divide the role would be to follow a one-week-on one-week-off model, in order that both partners would undertake all aspects of an MP’s schedule. There are valid alternatives such as 3 days each a week, or working different hours more flexibly, but the underlying intention should always be to equally split all responsibilities.

The other practical major obstacle to overcome is the issue of voting intentions in parliament and what to do should there be disagreements within the partnership.

Charlotte and I have tested this personally by looking at several months of actual votes and issues from the commons, secretly assessing how we would individually vote and then sharing the results with each other. I am pleased to share that every single voting decision we made would have been the same.

However, there would of course need to be a formal mechanism for when this breaks down. Should this happen, the partners would simply defer (as MPs already do) to the party whips’ decision and party line on the matter. There may be times when one or other would have to compromise on issues, however this is an experience MPs face already on a daily basis and not a valid argument against the idea of a job share.

 

The second main argument against a job share is that the public perception of a Member of Parliament is that of a sole representative of an area and the face of a constituency.

The Fawcett society investigated this as an issue via a public survey. They found that once the positive arguments had been shared around increasing diversity and allowing for greater representation, that nearly half of all people agreed it would be a good idea.

For us, some of the campaign will have to be about helping the public to understand the merits of job sharing the role. Many people will need a change of mindset and help with understanding this culture shift. Perhaps this is also a case of needing to demonstrate in a practical way what this would look like, something we are both keen to do.


#JobShareMPIn August 2019, we officially launched the #JobShareMP campaign with a round table in Westminster and representatives attended from the Green Party, the Women’s Equality Party, Labour Women’s Network, The Fabian Society and chaired by Rosie Duffield MP. We are really keen that Labour lead the way on this and it was fantastic to have Rosie at the event.

Since then we have launched our campaign page on Facebook (click here and follow us to keep up with updates) we have spoken to dozens of MPs and we have written to Jennie Formby and applied to stand as candidates.

We are keen to keep building momentum for the campaign and to get the message out. We are also preparing (if required) to launch a second legal battle to allow for a change in the law.

Ultimately, we want to see the House of Commons as a place that truly represents the people it seeks to serve, fit for purpose, reformed and modernised. We believe that alongside other changes this could be exactly what is needed after the political difficulties of the last few years.

Sharing the role of an MP may well be just the change that politics currently needs.


Please do share the campaign page, use our hashtag on social channels and just as importantly, share the idea with your friends. You can also message Anya on Twitter here.

#JobShareMP

References

Please note that this blog is also published on Christians On The Left

Mums Don’t Need To Justify Their Involvement In Politics

Kelly Grehan

I will be honest and say I am writing this in anger. One of my fellow councillors is a mother of two children with additional needs. I won’t go into details, but yesterday someone saw fit to question whether it was appropriate for her to be a councillor in her circumstances.

I am so sick and tired of people thinking women must justify their choices.

When I decided to run for council people asked me what my husband thought. I am certain no one has ever asked him what I thought of his career choices.

Then there are the constant insinuations that places of power are not suitable for mothers, as if they lack something or bring strain on institutions by their very presence.

This attitude that women with children are somehow a burden to an organisation is pennicious and harmful.

In fact I will go as far to say its advantageous for councils to have women on them.

It is well documented that the cuts the Tory government have made to council budgets have disproportionately hit women and children. For example, earlier this year The Women’s Budget Group launched a report entitled Triple Whammy (authored by Heather Wakefield, the former head of local government at Unison) which looked at the impact of local government cuts on women.

It found the network of local government services which are vital to women’s lives as workers, mothers, carers and citizens have been torn apart by central government cuts to council funding since 2010.

Ms. Wakefield commented

Women’s refuges, public transport, street lighting, libraries, adult education, social care, youth services and community centres have all been affected, leaving women less safe, unable to access learning and leisure facilities and increasingly having to fill the gaps in care provision.’

And of course, when care services are rolled back its typically women that end of stepping in.

With only 32% of elected councillors being women, and only 14% of all councillors being under 45, is it not inevitable that services used primarily by those groups are the ones that will be lost ?

I’m not saying councillors cannot act for all groups and demographics they are not part of – of course they can. But, bringing up children today is vastly different to 20 years ago. With my oldest child now being 13, I’m aware that I became a mother at a very good time – when Sure Start services were at their peak, breast feeding support services had not yet been dismantled and Health Visitors were accessible to all mums. Just over a decade later and it’s a very different situation. My experience is not fit to base current judgements on. It is simply out of date. Of course I talk to lots of people in my ward who are experiencing these services (or lack of them) but having diversity in the room makes a difference, and its hardly like mothers of school age children are a rarity so why are they a rarity in councils?

We need people on councils who are experiencing services – and cuts – first hand, who understand their impact.

Furthermore it’s no coincidence carers are largely missing from policies – because their presence is missing from the decision making processes.

I’m sick of people who are carers – for children, older people, ill people, or whoever – being made to feel they don’t belong. It’s indicative of the attitude this country takes to carers and it’s indefensible. I want to hear the voices of those living with these roles. Until we do they will remain ignored.

So why do people take the attitude mothers dont belong in places of power? I wish I had an explanation. But let me say this, those who cannot appreciate the hard work and the importance of the role taken by mums who are councillors are seriously lacking in empathy and basic common sense and must be challenged whenever they spout these nonsensical opinions. Not just for the sake of those they criticise, but for the sake of all people that lose out when other mums are deterred from standing and we have councils which are not representative of the people they serve and there is no one advocating for those people who are not represented.

When Judging Someone’s Appearance, Think Before You Speak By Lisa Mulholland

Something happened to me this week that I just feel I need to share.

After a tumultuous few months of my health spiralling out of control, hospital admissions, and all manner of tests, as well as launching a complaint against my former GP for negligence (that’s a long story for another blog): I decided to move GPs. I quickly got diagnosed with diabetes and have been trying to come to terms with that, amongst a long list of other health conditions and chronic illnesses; but at least I finally started to feel like I was being taken seriously.

My diabetic specialist was really supportive this week and has finally started me in some medication. She even said “you should have been treated a long time ago, and the medication will not only help the diabetes but help you lose weight”. I was relieved and feeling very positive.

I’m determined to beat diabetes.

Just one final hurdle to this sorry saga and that was having to have a telephone conversation with one of my new GPs before starting the medication.

She called me up and discussed it all and then… ‘fat shamed’ me.

She’s not met me in person, doesn’t yet know my medical history or anything but she took one look at my BMI and made assumptions about me. I instantly felt awful, responsible for all these issues and like the diabetes is all my fault. I felt deflated.

This is how the conversation went:

Doctor: “I see you’re diabetic and we should start you on some medication. But I am looking at your BMI, (and then she tutted) well what are YOU going to do about this”

I said “ well I’m going to try and lose weight, but I don’t actually eat that badly : and I’ve been trying to follow diabetic recipes and lost…” she interrupted and sniggered at me, and made a noise that sounded like “Pah” . Before I could tell her that I’d lost 5lbs since being diagnosed two weeks ago.

So then I tried to explain again and she spoke over me and said ” I want to know what are YOU going to do” and I said “I just explained” and she said “ I don’t like this BMI AT ALL, this is terrible” so I said “no neither do I, I’ve been trying…” again she interrupted me ” OK I’ll put you on this medication but YOU need to do SOMETHING” . Again I tried to explain what I had been doing and the endless doctors visits and blood tests that had been ignored by my previous GP. Not to mention my pleads for referrals to dieticians, but she wouldn’t let me speak despite asking me what I was going to do! And on it went. Me justifying myself about my weight like I have done all my life…. The thing is I’ve been justifying myself since being medically underweight too.

Yes, I am overweight, obese in fact, but she has made assumptions about me without talking to me properly. Perhaps she assumes that I sit around eating cake all day, or that I over eat? Perhaps she assumes that I like being like this? Or that it is my fault?

What she doesn’t know is that there has been a long and winding journey in getting to this point. She also doesn’t know that before I first encountered diabetes when I got diabetes in pregnancy 15 years ago, then in subsequent pregnancies, was that I was actually medically underweight and battled then for answers too. Only to be rubbished then.

And I promise you, I haven’t changed a single thing about my lifestyle from that point until now, except acquire diagnoses for long standing health conditions such as EDS and an EDS related heart condition (from birth , not from being overweight I might add) and pernicious anaemia to name a few.

I got quite upset after the phone call and started to think about everything I’d done or not done and felt a lot of guilt about being diabetic.

I started to think about where it all started to go ‘wrong’ for me in the weight department. I had gestational diabetes in each of my 3 pregnancies which made me gain almost 5 stone very quickly despite being on insulin injections. Each pregnancy has made it harder to shift the weight. And over time the weight just started piling on. Without me literally changing one thing about my lifestyle.

Hard to believe but it’s true.

So a dramatic weight gain of this proportion, in my opinion, was odd.

Yes I know that we tend to gain a bit of weight as we get older . But we are talking a dramatic weight gain.

I now weigh more than double what I weighed before I was pregnant for the first time!

When I’ve tried to explain this to doctors and other people that didn’t know me before my weight gain, you see in their eyes the lack of belief that someone could change weight that dramatically with no known cause.

But the photos prove it.

From underweight :

To morbidly obese :

Without changing anything in eating habits or exercise...

Then I got thinking about my ‘skinny days’. And the memories came flooding back. People used to make assumptions about me then too. Friends and family used to be shocked that I could eat a fair amount of food and not exercise much yet look like this:

Then I remembered the abuse I used to get. See the thing is I may get fat shamed now, but it’s not nearly as vicious or frequent as the ‘skinny shame’ I used to receive.

Yes. Not a subject we hear of very often. Is it even a thing? Skinny shaming…

I’d be walking down the road minding my own business and a car would drive past. People would shout out cruel things like “Anorexic” or “ Eat a burger for fucks sake”.

I once had someone approach me in the street. She crossed the road and came up to me and said “Are you anorexic” I said “No” and she said “well you look like you are and you look like you’re dying”. I was left standing there in total shock and really ashamed. So I started to wear bigger clothing to hide my body. I got a real complex about my looks and my self esteem took a nose dive. When discussing this problem with friends or family they would just roll their eyes.

There is no sympathy for people that are too skinny.

I tried going to dieticians and had some tests done to find out why I could not put on weight. All the tests came back inconclusive, but with a diagnosis of an inflammatory bowel condition.

So I got on with life. But as my weight went up and up, I started to feel the same embarrassment creep over me as when I was underweight.

Even when I was a normal weight people that knew me would be shocked how I’d changed and feel the need to comment on my weight.

“Oh look at you , you’re finally putting on weight” … “It’s really funny seeing you with a bit of weight on you, it’s about time” etc etc blah blah blah BLAH

Then I went back to covering my body, worrying about what people would think. And this was before I entered the official ‘overweight’ category. On top of having to deal with underlying conditions, it can be really damaging to one’s self esteem.

So when the doctor called me and ‘fat shamed’ me, after all the hell I’ve been through after the last few months. I felt I had to put pen to proverbial paper.

The point of this rant is that it didn’t matter what weight I was. People felt compelled to comment.

Whether I was underweight, gaining weight, overweight or obese (and I have been in all 4 categories) the fact remained; people make assumptions about you and your appearance.

They feel the need to comment, ask intrusive questions, make jokes and judge you.

They have no idea the story behind your appearance.

They have no idea about the person behind the BMI score.

But the effect is the same. It leads you to have low self esteem and make excuses about my eating habits or the content of my wardrobe. Things that are personal.

The bottom line is people don’t have the right to judge others by the way they look. Ok I guess the doctors’ job is to be concerned about my weight, but did she have to patronise me, interrupt me and make me feel like shit?

Did she have to make assumptions? Couldn’t she have asked me about my BMI and let me explain instead?

Does it really matter to anyone (who is not my doctor) if I am obese or underweight? Why does it bother other people?

Surely the questions people should be asking themselves about me are am I a good person?

Am I a good friend?

Am I a good mum? Wife? Citizen? I certainly try to be.

So to the next person who thinks about judging someone’s weight or appearance, maybe it’s a good idea to remember that everyone has their own personal story.

And to the next person that wants to be rude enough to actually ask, I have 5 words for you:

Mind your own damn business !!

Judge The People Making Unwanted Advances, Not Those Who Receive Them By Kelly Grehan

When I was 17 I went to a birthday party in a school friends’ house. I wore a short blue dress, with a high neckline, flesh coloured tights and blue velvet shoes with heels that were about an inch high.

I wore that dress hoping I looked attractive. I expect I was hoping one of the boys there, mostly fellow school friends, would try to kiss me.In the event, none did, but the father of the birthday girl, a particularly rough man, whose wife was in another room, put his hand up my dress and on my bum. One of the boys I was with, bravely told him to stop. The man replied “don’t fuck with me boy, I’m a Millwall supporter.”

We all laughed and the night carried on. I don’t recall feeling particularly upset. 20 odd years later I look back on the incident with horror, that a man probably older than I am now would think it’s acceptable to touch a teenage girl.

Then there was the time I went to a Halloween ball when I was a university student. I guess I was 19. Not long before The Spice Girls had gone to the premier of their film wearing colourful bras and blazers, without shirts and I thought they looked amazing. I worked as a health care assistant in the holidays and my flatmate and I decided it would be good to go dressed as sexy nurses. We pinned up the hems on my uniforms, wore stockings and wonder bras, which were the big fashion item at the time, with newspaper articles about them, seemingly every day. We let the zips on the front of the dresses stay just low enough that a decent bit of cleavage was on display, hoping we looked as good as Geri Halliwell. When we arrived a friend of my boyfriend introduced us all to a friend of his. My boyfriend went to the bar and the friend of a friend put his hand up my skirt and undid my stocking and brushed my knickers. I automatically slapped him round the face and ran into the toilet. When I returned he was telling my boyfriend there had been a misunderstanding. He apologised and said it was difficult for men to resist when women dress so provocatively. I said not to worry and he then proceeded to put his hand on the back of my dress. I walked away.

Later the friend who introduced us shouted at me about how unreasonable I was not letting this guy round to my house for the after party drinks!

I never saw him again, thankfully. I learnt a valuable lesson that night – women will always be blamed for the actions of men.

On neither occasion did I think of going to the police, or even in the first instance phoning my parents to come and get me.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to describe what I wore on both of those occasions. What I was wearing should be irrelevant, but we all know it isn’t. I know that what I was wearing on both occasions will be scrutinised by people reading this story. Oddly enough I can’t recall what either of the males were wearing, and as a teen I must have gone out hundreds of times, but I struggle to remember what I wore on most times. I think I recall it with these instances because subconsciously I attribute some of the blame to my choice to wear these outfits.

I also feel compelled to mention that on neither occasion was I drunk. On the first incident I would have consumed what I always drunk at house parties- 2 bottles of alcopops, as agreed with my parents. At university I would have been drinking snakebite, but this occurred at the very beginning of the night, and realising I needed my wits about me I stopped drinking then. It should be irrelevant, of course, but somehow I know it isn’t for some people.

Neither incident has scarred me for life. I know very few, if any women who do not have similar stories to recount. I would probably never have felt a need to commit the stories to print if it were not for reading the comments directed at Charlotte Edward’s in the last few days.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Sunday Times journalist Charlotte Edwards has written that Boris Johnson groped her upper thigh under a table at a private dinner in 1999 when he was editor of the Spectator magazine.

I’ve heard people questioning why she did not react at the time, or complain then. Well without knowing Charlotte I can take a pretty good guess. It simply wasn’t worth it. I presume she was at an early stage in her career. Speaking out at the time would have been to invite attention on herself, none of it good. Humiliation was likely.

Even now, as a successful journalist, in a relationship with a very prominent journalist (Robert Peston) there are those accusing her of attention and fame seeking or looking for a career boost. It’s not clear to me in what way they think she will achieve this, or why, if this was the case, she would not have done this earlier.

There are also those that take the view that men touching women are either doing it by accident or that it is the only way of knowing if a woman is interested in them. Isn’t it funny how men don’t seem to touch each other in intimate places by accident? Is talking not an appropriate means of finding out if someone is attracted to you?

Then there are those that seem to think she should count herself lucky: that women enjoy being inappropriately touched. I’m genuinely shocked at how many of these comments come from women.

There is something every single one of these types of stories has in common – power.

From Trump grabbing women by the pussy, to Weinsein ruining carers of anyone who rejected his advances, to the men at the Presidents Club who told waitresses to ”down that glass [of champagne], rip off your knickers and dance on that table” to Boris Johnson, the magazine Editor putting his hand on Charlotte Edwards inner thigh when she was a journalist starting out – in each case the men concerned knew the women had more to lose by speaking out than they did if the women spoke out.

And, in every single case, you will see more comment about the women’s behaviour – before, during and after the incident then there is on the mans.

And this is why women don’t say anything at the time, and why they often wait until they themselves are in a more powerful position to say something.

Some men will continue to behave like this while society let’s them.

Why Words Matter By Lisa Bullock

“You are so GAY!” A person younger and hipper than me once said to me at work, when I was being particularly difficult one day. I have a feeling I was being dismissive about Friends, or Greys Anatomy or Skins or fidget spinners or Fortnite, or dabbing, or some other cultural landmark of which I am totally clueless, because I spend all my time watching old episodes of ER and imagining it is still 1996, instead of accepting that it is almost 2020 and I am knocking on a bit.

 

I digress. The colleague didn’t man to actually offer a statement on my sexuality. What they meant to do, is imply that I was a bit useless, unknowing, hopeless, stupid, yada yada. Instead of just saying that, they chose to use the word gay. I should have challenged them on it. I don’t believe for one moment that this person was a homophobe – but they were entirely guilty perpetuating inequality by misusing language.

 

“Oh come ON! All the kids were saying that 5 years ago…does it really matter? They don’t really mean gay people are bad! Oh my GOD lighten UP!

Well, actually, it does matter.

When you use language to negatively ascribe traits, you are cementing the idea that being gay means you are less than, wanting – unequal. In the same way that I regularly hear both men and women saying “stop being such a girl” when trying to say someone is weak, shy, scared, pedantic, bitchy or any other number of negative personality traits, these connotations seep into our collective cultural brains, and are dangerous for the body of people the words themselves represent.

How can we hope to create a more equal society when we chose to deliberately use words as a catch all for things we view as bad?

 

In a week where the language of our ruling classes and those who seek to make and administer laws which govern every facet of our lives has reached a terrifying nadir of spiteful carelessness, I’ve thought so much more about the language I use on a daily basis, and how those words might feel to someone.

We can use language to love, to be kind, to thrill, and most importantly, to help others understand us, and what we mean.

Language is powerful, and deserves respect.

Misusing that power can lead us down dangerous paths – we’ve seen that in our not very distant past, and it is not an exaggeration to say that humans have died as a result. In a world where it is increasingly easy to be heard through social media, comment and demonstration, use your voice but please, mind your language.