Democracy Denied By Kelly Grehan

On Friday, as on so many other occasions, we saw evidence that our democracy does not function properly.  As is now well known a tory MP, Sir Christopher Chope was, singlehandedly able to stop a bill which would have made taking photographs up womens skirts a crime in its own right from progressing.

According to Gina Martin, a campaigner to bring about this new law, Chope told her shortly afterwards he did not know much about ‘upskirting’ but objected to it ‘on principle that it had not been debated.’

So Parliament’s archaic procedures have allowed one man to prevent progress in protecting women, despite his having no real knowledge on what it was about.

Whilst the upskirting bill got all the headlines yesterday, he and his gang also blocked bills making tyres more than 10 years old on a public hire bus or coach an offence, stopping paid for parking in Hospitals and extending FOI requests to public contractors and Housing Associations – a successful days work for them then.

Chope, who has been awarded a Knighthood for services to Politics, has a long history of sabotaging Private Members’ Bills – sometimes by talking at length, known as filibustering, and other times by shouting his opposition as the bill is called.

Other indefensible political decisions he has made include:

Raising an eleventh-hour objection to the Hillsborough debate taking place because he believed a debate about MPs’ pensions was more important;

Objecting to the second reading of the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill in the House of Commons – causing the Government to use the royal prerogative of mercy instead;

And blocking revenge evictions being made illegal.

Sir Christopher Chope has tried to claim his actions represent some kind of moral crusade against private members bills.  I think this is nonsense.

If he disagrees with private members bills why did he support one attempting to give employers the right to opt out of paying the minimum wage?

It is apparent that Sir Christopher Chope is a vile man, and it is very unfortunate that by representing the safe Tory seat of Christchurch it is unlikely he will ever be held accountable for his voting record, despite experiencing the wrath of his fellow tory MPs on Friday.

But what is surely ridiculous is that all MPs present at the second hearing of a bill are allowed to block the progress of a bill, simply by shouting ‘object’.

This debacle is just the latest of numerous examples of one or two MPs being able to prevent bills that would make life better for ordinary people.

For example in  2015 Labour MP Karen Buck introduced the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill intended to ensure residential rented accommodation would have to be provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.  The bill was ‘talked out’ meaning that it was not put to a vote and dropped.  In fairness the proposals were reintroduced in 2016 as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill when 312 tory MPs voted against it and the amendment was defeated.

Then there is that beacon of non-democracy – the House of Lords.  

Now, I’m in favour of a revising chamber, but the House of Lords needs reform.  It  is the largest parliamentary chamber in any democracy, surpassed in size only by China’s National People’s Congress (2987 members).

Following 13 new peers being appointed in May there are now 785 peers, none of whom have been elected by the public – they are there either because of the family into which they are born (92 hereditary peers), or because they have been appointed.

It is therefore another area of our ‘democracy’ ripe for undemocratic processes.  

It also costs £93 million per year, of which £20 million is paid direct to the Lords themselves.  It is also noted that the chamber only seats 500!

Despite half of Britain’s now following no religion, 26 places in the House of Lords are reserved for Church of England Bishops – the UK being the only democratic country in the world to give seats in its legislature to religious representatives as a right.

The presence of the Church of England in the House of Lords entrenches a privileged position for one particular branch of one particular religion.

The House of Lords Appointment Commission was established in 2000, to appoint non political peers, but most of the life peers were appointed by Prime Ministers – so inevitably we end up with career politicians continuing their career – often after being rejected by voters not long before.

Then we have the ridiculous situation of the UK government being propped up by the DUP; a party whose values are so at odds with the majority of UK citizens that it is hard to fathom that they exist at all.

In a ludicrous twist of fate, their measly 10 seats have left them as Kingmaker of the UK Parliament, with power over our democracy not deserved by their voting share.

Further threats to democracy come from the fact the arrangement between the tories and DUP mean that the potential of favouritism towards one Northern Ireland party is sufficient to undermine the government’s insistence that it is impartial and  it appears to introduce a political bias which may breach the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

No one in England, Scotland or Wales voted for the DUP, but yet they now take centre stage in deciding what bill will be successful in the House of Commons in return for Northern Ireland receiving an extra £1 billion over 2 years (So there is a Magic Money Tree).

Then we have the strange situation brought about by privatisation of various industries which mean corporations keep any profit they make, but any losses are bailed out by the taxpayer – who had no say in the decisions that led to the loss in the first place – the railways are a prime example.

The UK is already one of the least regulated economies in the developed world, with little or no scrutiny or democratic debate, the policy-making process has been brought under an unprecedented level of control by private economic interests.

The very essence of democracy is that all decisions should be in the interests of the common good.

Private companies primary purpose is to generate profit for shareholders and this is often in conflict with the common good, so companies, often receiving money from the taxpayer such as those running the railways, care contracts, health contracts, refuse services and countless others often act contrary to the public good.

Up until recently the public were fed the nonsensical line that ‘regulation was bad for democracy’ and those being paid by public money (Serco, Carillion etc) acted pretty much as they liked despite their profits coming from the tax coffers.

Where will this all end, who will draw a line in the sand to protect the principles of democracy: ‘for the people, of the people, by the people.’

So all in all, our democracy needs some amendment as power spreads further and further away from the people, undermining the very principle of it.

Women’s Contributions In History is Under Represented… Even In Stone Statues By Kelly Grehan

Today Millicent Fawcett made history as her statue joined the 11 others already at Parliament Square and she became the first woman to feature there.

That it has taken 100 years since some women got the vote for her to be included perhaps, speaks volumes about the contempt women’s roles in history are viewed with.

Millicent Fawcett was a British feminist, intellectual, political and union leader, and writer.

She is primarily known for her work as a campaigner for women to have the vote, having led the nonviolent suffrage organisation, the NUWSS from 1890-1919, and therefore played a key role in gaining women the vote.

She also engaged in other political activities such as supporting worker rights and overcoming laws which were based on a dual morality for men and women.

Parliament Square is not the only place where women have been overlooked for commemoration.  

Research by feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez revealed; of the 925 statues listed in the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association database, only 158 are of a woman as a lone standing statue.

Included in this figure are numerous statues of Queen Victoria and numerous nameless sculptures, typically rendered as naked, curvaceous and reclining.

Criado-Perez commented that if you are a woman “ your best chance of becoming a statue is to be a mythical or allegorical figure, a famous virgin, royal or nude.”

The need for female representation was recognised as long ago as 1952 when a correspondent wrote to the Times about women being neglected in statues and memorials. The piece was entitled : “A Man’s World Even in Stone”.

Sadly there does not seem to have been a great deal of progress in the intervening years.  

It is not that women’s roles in history were minor, it is that they have not been celebrated enough to become common knowledge.

Many key women have not been recognised in stone… here are just a few;

Virginia Woolf,

Matchgirl strike leaders Mary Driscoll and Sarah Chapman (who’s pauper’s grave is at risk being moulded over),

Suffragettes including; Jessie Kenney, Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst (there is a plaque for the latter on the statue of their mother),

Family planning pioneer Marie Stopes,

Social reformer Octavia Hill,

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson –  the first woman to train to be a Doctor (the rules at the time designed to keep woman from doing so),

Rosalind Franklin – whose x-ray work eventually led to the discovery of the DNA double helix and

The first British astronaut Helen Sharman.

Hard to believe that none of these women have a statue to commemorate them isn’t it?

A campaign for a statue of  Mary Wollstonecraft to be put on Newington Green  has been started.

Wollstonecraft was the author of the 1792 text  “Vindication of the Rights of Women” which was the first book in English arguing for the equality of women and men.

She is also notable as an early human rights advocate, educational pioneer, icon of social mobility, key Enlightenment philosopher, first female war correspondent and mother of Mary Shelley – let us hope this campaign proves successful.

You may ask why this matters, well in my view it matters because history matters.

Much of our cultural identity comes from the people and events we choose to celebrate.

Could a reason why women make up only 32% of the MPs in the House of Commons and local authority councillors be because we are socialised from birth into expecting those in such roles to be men?

I think one reason I have always been so drawn to the stories of the suffragettes is that learning about them  is the only time at school I that I can recall learning about females in history who were not Queens!

Another question is does the nature of many of the male statues being war related lead to a culture where we celebrate achievements in battle high above those in say medicine, or education?

I would say the evidence that we do this is all around us.

So let us celebrate our new statue of Millicent Fawcett, but let the real celebration be when the number of statues of women matches that of men and the number of women inside Parliament does the same.

Donate to the Mary Wollstonecraft statue here https://www.maryonthegreen.org/project.shtml

Petition to save Sarah Chapman’s grave is here https://www.change.org/p/minister-of-justice-save-sarah-chapman-s-grave-a-leader-of-the-1888-matchgirls-strike-trade-union-heroine?recruiter=109957635&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

Petition for 50:50 parlaiment here: https://www.change.org/p/50-50-want-to-build-an-inclusive-modern-and-gender-balanced-parliament-it-would-lead-to-more-responsive-and-informed-decision-making-so-everyone-would-benefit-50-50-are-asking-those-in-power-for-solutions-and-taking-action-join-us-5050parliament

Information of some statues that are of women in London http://www.secret-london.co.uk/Women_2.html

UK: There Is No Profit In Peace By Kelly Grehan

On 15th February 2003 I was one of the 3 million people who marched through the streets of London, one of 600 cities that held protests around the world at what was then, the imminent bombing of Iraq.

You might think that such a big, and a global show of feeling would have at least slowed down the march towards the invasion, but days later, on March 19th, George Bush announced:

“On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign…..My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.

His words could not have turned out to be more ironic: the invasion, turned into an occupation.

No thought was given to what came next.  

Credible estimates of Iraq War casualties range from 150,000 to 460,000.  Iraq’s armed factions still remain locked in a struggle with the forces of the Islamic State.

This morning we woke up to the news Britain, France and the US had launched air strikes on Syria, or as Donald Trump put it:

The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”

To quote Jeremy Corbyn “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace.”

This action occurred despite Reports saying UN Inspectors were in Damascus last night to carry out inspection of Douma today.

The UK could have enabled the inspection and not joined the US & France launch strikes in Syria.

The BBC are reporting that Theresa May pushed for an early strike “to avoid having to get parliamentary consent”.

This while we lecture other countries on democracy!

The Syrian conflict began seven years ago as a peaceful uprising against the president, but has now turned into a full-scale civil war.

Many groups and countries are involved and perhaps unsurprisingly the jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda have flourished.

The US, UK, France and other Western countries have provided varying degrees of support for what they consider “moderate” rebels.  A global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory from the jihadists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 353,900 people (up to March 2018).

This includes 106,000 civilians.   1.5 million people have been left with permanent disabilities, including 86,000 who have lost limbs.

At least 6.1 million Syrians are internally displaced, while another 5.6 million have fled abroad.

The figures do not include 56,900 people who it said were missing and presumed dead. The group also estimated 100,000 deaths had not been documented.

Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where 92% of them now live, have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.

As the 6th richest economy, you might have expected the UK to play a role in aiding the civilalians, but the truth is this country is incentivised to pursue conflict for profit.

But as I wrote a few months back Britain is the worlds second biggest arms exporter.(https://theavengeruk.com/2017/09/13/blood-on-our-hands-london-hosts-worlds-biggest-arms-fair-by-kelly-grehan/).

In July 2014 the then Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed to Parliament that the UK had indeed exported chemicals that “were likely to have been diverted for use in the Syrian programme”.

This morning David Cameron said  “I firmly support the military action taken in Syria. The barbaric & intolerable use of chemical weapons should never go unchecked.”

Yet, 10 months after the Syrian uprising David Cameron granted chemical export licences to British firms so they could supply chemical weapons to Syria!!

Here is an idea for you David, maybe we could prevent chemical weapons attacks by NOT SELLING CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

Maybe Britain has redeemed itself with its’ efforts to secure safety for those who have left Syria?

In 2016, Lord Dubs sponsored an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain amidst the European migrant crisis. Originally rejected by the House of Commons, the amendment was eventually accepted by the government following a second vote in favour by the Lords.

In February 2017, the Home Office abandoned the scheme after accepting just 350 out of the planned 3,000 child refugees.

To quote David Lammy MP “We have today found ourselves in the morally untenable position of bombing Syria without Parliament voting at the same time as refusing to take in child refugees who are fleeing the bombing in Syria. As a society we must reflect hard on how we have ended up in this situation.”

Inspiration Follows Inspiration By Kelly Grehan

I was 11 when my Primary School teacher said something that has never left me.

Talking about the suffrage movement she said “I hope none of you, but especially the girls, ever forget what others gave up so you would have the right to vote.”

This was the beginning of a love affair with the suffragettes and feminism for me.  

So I have been surprised that some of my fellow pupils from that class in 1990 have gone on to be apolitical and others opposed to feminism.

My experience has always been that to mention women and equality is to be met with a accusations of men bashing and to point out the subjectification of women in the media is to be accused of jealousy.

So, despite being a very vocal person I had not always fought as hard as I could on women’s issues.

Over the last six months, however,  I feel as if I have found my voice as a feminist.

This has coincided with a few things: firstly Kent’s new Labour MP Rosie Duffield has been instrumental in raising the profile of Kent’s Labour women, and very quickly we have formed a network, or what could be called a ‘sisterhood.’

It sounds corny, but it’s true, I feel supported by my Labour sisters, that we are all routing for each other.

I have also started blogging (https://theavengeruk.com/) and increasingly write about my lived experiences and those of my friends, and so by default these are often experiences that could be deemed women’s issues.

This has brought me into contact with a whole new network of women.

I have got involved with 50:50 Parliament, having met the founder Frances, at an event and it has brought back memories of all the reasons I became enchanted by the suffragettes 28 years ago.

Following on from this, myself and my friend Kate this week ran  Women’s Event at Dartford Labour, the first in our time as party members.

I spoke with one veteran member of the party who said her heart leapt with joy’ when she saw the invite because at last the issue is gaining attention.

Armed with the stories about the disparity between men and women at every level of government in the UK we made the case for 50:50 representation.

With our new network of Labour Party women we were able to find four amazingly motivational speakers, who represented the diversity of women in terms of backgrounds (the videos can be found here (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKTFQzBXXEWXQwebXL76jNQ).

Hearing them led to other members telling their stories.

These stories are about lived experiences, and of course, women’s lived experiences are different to those of men, and both need representing.  

What the event confirmed is this:

Hearing women tell their stories inspires other women to tell their stories.

When woman speak up it inspires other women to speak up and so it stands to reason that more women standing will lead to even more women standing for election.

For me this is just the beginning of speaking out for 50:50 Parliament and I cannot wait to see where else it takes me and to all the fabulous women I will meet on the way.

A Review Of The ‘Inspiring Kent Labour Women Event’- 10th March 2018 By Kelly Grehan

Spurred on by International Women’s Day on Thursday a group of us from Dartford CLP headed down to Canterbury for this event.

Since becoming Kent’s only Labour MP last June, Rosie Duffield has become the pride of the Labour Party movement throughout Kent, with all of us feeling that she is ‘our Rosie’ .

The fact she worked in ‘ordinary, but important’ jobs such as a Teaching Assistant and for charities and juggled this with being a single mother has certainly been inspiring for the rank and file female Labour members.

Ive written before about how in my experience women often play down their skills and experiences and do not realise the value they could add to their communities as councillors https://theavengeruk.com/2018/02/28/a-womans-place-is-on-the-ballot-by-kelly-grehan/ ; so it was interesting to hear Rosie say that not so long ago she felt that standing as an MP was not a realistic option for her and that talking to a fabulous woman called Frances Scott from 50:50 Parliament had made the difference in her outlook.

Frances explained that she launched the 50:50 Parliament campaign which campaigns for gender equality at Westminster with the aim to inspire, encourage and support women in being elected to Westminster and is asking Parliament and all the political parties to work on solutions.

It is very exciting to know that this is exactly what encouraged Rosie.

Women are 51% of the population so it is indefensible that women make up just 32% of our MPs.

Frances spoke about how men can represent women (and vice versa) but are more likely to do a good job when there are women around.

All people use their experiences to understand the world, so it is no surprise that issues which primarily concerning women such as maternity, childcare, the wage gap and domestic abuse have not been priority issues within a male dominated parliament.

Men and women have different experiences – it is not that one is superior to the other – they are just different and all people benefit from those different experiences being valued.

Laura Cashman is Programme Director for Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. She made the point that woman and men vote in the same proportions – yet the false narrative that ‘women are not interested in politics’ persists.

The idea that women cannot be good mothers and good politicians is a myth. Just look at the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern who is currently pregnant, and closer to home, in France last year; Senator Larissa Walters addressed the chamber whilst breastfeeding her baby.

Yet woman are sidelined in arguments, for example in the Brexit debate only 16% of media appearances to discuss the issue were women!

Given a choice of seminars I opted (after some deliberation it must be said) for Confidence In Campaigning; led by an inspiring woman called Fiona Crawford.

Like many Labour party activists Fiona came to prominence after feeling compelled to campaign on issues she felt strongly about such as racism and the ‘Save Broadstairs High Street’ campaign. This spurred her on to other campaigning.

Other women told of their campaigning experiences, with the message being that campaigning is so varied that there is something everyone can excel at – whether it be door knocking, designing leaflets, making displays and numerous other things.

Hearing women talk with passion about their champion of various causes was so motivating, and a reminder of how much woman have to offer.

What I am increasingly learning is that ‘inspired women’ inspire other women.

As women, we need to get better at telling others what we have achieved and what we value about them.

#AskHerToStand was a campaign championed by 50:50 Parliament.

The power of the movement was bought home to me speaking to one of the members of my group, Sarah Crook, attending her first political event.

Sarah commented “50 : 50 really struck a chord with me. It has seriously made me think about standing. I cannot believe in 2018 it’s still a 2:1 ratio of men to women in Parliament. Frances was so impassioned – she made me want to campaign for the movement”

I ask all women (and men) to join https://5050parliament.co.uk/ and ask friends to think about standing for parliament, council and all other public offices.

Together we can make a difference.

Kelly Grehan is a member of Dartford Labour Party and co founder and writer for The Avenger.

A Woman’s Place Is On The Ballot By Kelly Grehan

So here we are 100 years on from the first women in the UK gaining the vote and the political class continues to be dominated by men.

208 women are now MPs making up 32% of the Houses of Parliament, including 206 female peers, making up 26% of Members of the House of Lords.

In 2015 of the 3,971 candidates who stood for election only 1,033 (26%) were women and this was hailed as major progress.  

Women were 34% of Labour’s candidates, compared to 30% in 2010.  169 Conservative candidates, 26% of the party’s total cohort, were women – a 10% rise on 2010 and the highest number in the party’s history. Similarly, 166 (26%) Liberal Democrats candidates were women.

It is the same picture in local government: 32% of local authority councillors in England are women.

Small, slow progress, but I hardly need to remind everyone that over half the people eligible to vote in this country are female!

Globally, the UK’s 30% ratio for women in the House of Commons puts it 49th in ranked list.

Rwanda is first, followed by Bolivia, Cuba and the Seychelles. Three countries in the ranking have no women in their lower or single house, while 31 have fewer than 10%.

So why don’t women stand?  

Well several studies have found evidence of well-entrenched gender bias in British party politics, including widespread incidences of direct and indirect discrimination by party selectors towards women candidates; ranging from gendered assumptions regarding women’s traditional roles to explicit sexual harassment.

Seeing the treatment of female representatives in the media and via social media is likely to put a lot of women off standing.

The fact that females at every sphere of the political system receive so much more abuse and ridicule than their male colleagues says a lot about our society and the everyday sexism that continues to define it.

Then there is the way the political processes are set up.  Meetings are often at night, leaving anyone with caring responsibilities unable to attend as no provision is made for children.

Door knocking is not viewed as a suitable activity for children by many.  

My experience is that Labour meetings continue to be dominated by men.

I am sure there are some, but I have not personally come across, a Labour Party Chair who is not a man.

Even discussions on issues primarily affecting women such as domestic abuse and sexual harassment or childcare are quickly overtaken by men, often pointing out that men can be affected by these issues too, and shouting down women who were about to speak about actual experiences.

Within the meetings there seems to be an unwritten rule that women make the tea and take the minutes.  

Women are simply not seeing the representation of women or given the voice they should be.

When I speak to very capable women about standing many simply articulate that they think they lack the capabilities to be a good councillor and so self select themselves out of the process.

The result of this failure to have adequate representation of the lived experiences of women in our elected places means progress for women is slowed.

I attended an event with Tracy Brabin, Shadow Early Years Minister.  It was clear her understanding of childcare and early years provision (or lack there of) is a shaped by her experience as a working mum.  Too often we are reliant on people who have no idea of our needs to speak up for us.  This is not to say we don’t have some excellent male representatives who work really hard for all their constituents, but such continued dominance of males (mostly white males over 60) means that the political set up continues to be patriarchal and to continue to examine issues in a patriarchal context.

This does nothing to advance us as a society.

The truth, in my experience, is women seem to completely underestimate what they could bring to the role of representative.

Many women are already firmly established as active members of their communities, on groups like school Parent Teacher Associations or volunteering for charities.

Many have good understanding of local issues surrounding schools from experience as parents and similarly the NHS from their experiences in it as well as taking others as carers (and yes it is still usually mothers and daughters fulfilling this role).

As mums many women have fought to get their children access to services like speech therapy or dyslexia testing which have given them in depth understanding of the system and the obstacles it brings up and many women are consistently shown to have suffered disproportionately in the austerity ‘cutbacks.’

The vocalising of these experiences and the taking of the wisdom of the experiences to the community can made a real difference.

The only way our local parties are going to get better is if we, as women go and make them better.  

Women, reading this – please do stand.  

#AskHerToStand

Why Labour Must Prevent A Future ‘Hippo Out Of The Hat’ Situation By Ikechukwu Onyeadi

I have been a member of the Labour party for long enough. Even when the party was hit by a wave of mass-decampings, especially amongst the younger members, I stayed.

I stayed because I know I am a socialist through and through.

I stayed because I had faith that a true socialist would someday come along and present a platform radical enough to warrant a chance with the disenchanted electorate.

Over the years I have watched Labour slowly turn away from what it is; a movement for workers. It suddenly became so engrossed in infiltrating traditional Tory regions that it forgot to properly represent workers.

Of course, Education and wealth are universal aspirations, but when we have Labour politicians that come from Oxbridge-educated, very wealthy, ‘never-worked-ever’, Reese-Mogg type backgrounds; preaching socialism, then the white van, traditional working-class Labour voter cannot help but view them with suspicion.

When Ed Miliband came up with those brilliant, brilliant policies in the run up to the 2015 General Election, voters simply did not trust him in his £1000 suits. I remember one of the numerous polls held in 2014, summarised by Peter Kellner and published in the Guardian by Mathew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo on July 7, 2014, pointing out that although polls showed that The Labour Party was on course to win the 2015 General Election; the major obstacle to that happening was Ed Miliband himself. His image as a ‘posh boy’ just failed to convince anyone, including traditional Labour voters.

The subsequent wipe out of the Labour Party in Scotland and the Tory party’s 328-seat majority win, one that was brilliantly described by Boris Johnson as David Cameron “pulling the most colossal rabbit out of the hat” served to buttress the point made by the pollster.

For Tory Politicians, it seems that the ‘posher’ one is, the more likely they are to advance politically.

For Labour, the electorate seem as though they would like a ‘no-bullshitting’, regular but very ‘street saavy Joe’ that one is highly likely to run into at the local chippy in Swancombe every Friday evening.

That is why, for the Labour party, image should be everything.  

To digress a little from the central discussion here, in the past the Labour Party have used positive inclusion techniques to encourage people from underrepresented backgrounds such as women and ethnic minorities to stand as Labour candidates. Perhaps this approach could be used to encourage today’s disenchanted youth to run for office, thereby injecting more charisma and vigour into the whole electoral debate. If one looked around Labour CLPs in the Southeast these days, they are chuck-full of people who were teenagers when Elizabeth was crowned Queen and who-no matter how hard they try, simply do not understand the world as it is today.

It would perhaps be wiser that those who will decide our future have sound knowledge on Technology in this country and the role of Artificial Intelligence in the future of our species. An idea of who Bixby is would be a great start!

What Jeremy Corbyn brought to The Labour party is nothing short of the breath of fresh air that this country has so badly yearned for since the heartless conservative Government took an axe to social service funds and benefits.

His policies so far seem to be coming straight from the mouths of regular people who go to work every day and go through all the challenges of living in today’s cash-strapped Britain. His policy on nationalising the rail network is direly needed to control the unreliability we have come to expect from the rail network.

His insistence that austerity is just a fiscal choice and not necessity is very economically sound.

A perfect scenario would be to imagine that banks imposed daily withdrawal caps of £200 on its customers because it simply refuses to borrow money to do business, although that option is readily available to it.

Mr Corbyn thus presents as the perfect candidate, with the perfect credentials and the perfect image. The young love him, the old women think he is adorable and his policies agree with any true socialist that believes in a more even system of wealth “redistribution”. His policies also agree with most people in this country who have seen their quality of life deteriorate steeply since the conservatives came into power in 2010 and desperately want something different.

However, we risk another ‘Tory Rabbit’, nay, a ‘Hippo’ this time because Theresa May does not enjoy even half the support that David Cameron did during his premiership, being pulled out of the next General Election Hat!

The reason for my prediction is The Labour Party’s stance, or lack of, on door-step issues. On Brexit. We know we will vote with The Government to make Brexit a reality, according to the wishes of the majority of The British Electorate during the referendum, but we have no clear red lines.

In the negotiations following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, British politicians should band together and present one front, just like the EU 27 is doing. The different opinions and the UK politicians who preach even greater doom than Michel Barnier, create the cracks that The EU is now exploiting.

It is right for Jeremy to whip the Parliamentary Labour Party into supporting The Government on Brexit.

Perhaps this delay on defining a stance on the single market has helped The EU with establishing both the ammunition and the high ground. It is however encouraging that Jeremy seems now to be clear on his stance with leaving the Single Market, despite criticism from Pro- European Labour MPs.

On Immigration, Labour has no clear policies either. The concerns on the doorstep that uncontrolled Immigration suppresses wages, is changing the dynamics in many cities and is pushing the NHS to breaking point, are all very valid and very evidence-based.

The fact that a European National living in Britain can bring their non-EU family members to join them in Britain with no requirements other than exercising treaty rights but British citizens looking to bring their family members to join them in Britain are subjected to requirements on earnings is simply ridiculous, no matter what one’s political affiliations are.

In addition to Jeremy Corbyn, what the Labour Party needs is re-orientation for its Politicians. We desperately need to move with the times. No matter what one’s principles are, we need to become a winning party again.

Jeremy can have all the best policies but if the Tories are willing to get their hands ‘dirty’ by discussing and addressing the real issues on the doorsteps, whilst Labour continues to abstain from these discussions; they will pull every animal species in London Zoo out of all foreseeable General Election Hats.

I suggest that the re-orientation start from ward level.

Let us try something radical.

Let us-only for one season try to use positive inclusion techniques to council seats to encourage under 40s, especially women under 25.

In doing so we would invariably draw a lot of young people into politics and they will supply fresh ideas to deal with the issues facing us right now.

My young neighbours in my street worry about the fact that the last time anyone saw a street cleaner around our street was 9 months ago! They are grateful for the playground that Tan Dhesi fought for many years ago but are now particularly worried for their children’s safety since some juvenile delinquents have decided to use the playground as a racetrack for their noisy Motorbikes.

They wonder if our Labour Councillors even care as no one ever sees them at the doorstep. They never write their constituents to update them on what they are fighting for and usually make important decisions without consulting everyone in their wards. If we want to win, we must change.

National Labour has labelled Gravesham an “unwinnable” seat or something along those lines but I see this borough as very winnable.

We are not able to win because the reality is that outside London, when people are given the opportunity to choose between a Labour party that is stuck on principles that do not reflect the challenges faced by ordinary citizens in today’s Britain, they will vote a Tory. That is because the Tories have managed to stick The Labour party with several tags including that of “The Borrowing” party and so far, we have had the weakest comebacks.

I am no stranger to criticising our policies within The Labour Party and those of the Government for that matter but the essence of criticism is to point out that improvements are required and not a demonstration of disloyalty.

Above all, I want The Labour party to get back to its winning ways with Gravesham as its Crown Jewel.

To do that we must support Jeremy Corbyn.

We must change our strategies.

We must become more radical.

We must represent workers and

We must encourage Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers from a wider range of candidates with young and vibrant British workers who live in today’s reality and not an elite within the party who all own their own homes and have sizable savings which their children will inherit.

By Ikechukwu Onyeadi

** All views are the writer’s own and do not represent the views of The Avenger