Monday, 22 May 2017

Three tales

Photograph: Elliott Stallion

I'm not sure anyone would normally come to this blog for political posts, so I've written this from a personal perspective. Tales of childhood inspire most of my writing and this is no different. Three tales where the personal and the political collide.


Years back, my boyfriend arrived home from college late on polling day. The weather was horrible. His mum had cooked them a meal and they were about to sit down when there was a knock at the door.

It was the local Tory MP.

'Have you voted yet?' he said. They hadn't.

'We're offering voters a lift to the polling station.' They accepted.

At the station, both voted Labour.

The results? Labour won by one vote.

The moral of this tale: your vote matters. Register.


Easter 1992 and all the pre-election polls saw Labour ahead of the Conservatives. We were on holiday overseas with my dad staying home as he had to work. Neither of my parents went to university, my dad was a self-made man, running his own successful business. Both were Liberal Democrat supporters.

The majority of the media coverage in the lead up to the election focused on Labour's 'double whammy' of tax rises and inflation, which would've directly affected our family's income. I remember my dad calling my mum to tell her the news – John Major was Prime Minister. It was a relief.


1997. I was in my second year at university and still pretty clueless. It was my first vote in a general election and I stuck with what I knew and voted Lib Dem. When Labour won, and by such a huge majority, my housemates celebrated.

I didn't know what to think.

Fast forward ten years and I was working for an arts organisation and pregnant with my first child, both factors that put me on the receiving end of the massive investments made by the Labour government. We worked in one of the most deprived wards in the country alongside families in poverty. We supported school building projects. I experienced excellent pre-natal care from local midwives and hospital consultants. A change in legislation meant I was entitled to 13 more weeks' maternity pay – a massive improvement and life changing for our family.

I know what to think now.

When Gordon Brown left number 10 in 2010, I cried. It wasn't about him. I was heartbroken that the fairest, most strong and stable decade of my life was over and that my kids would be less well off as a result. Not materially, necessarily, but morally and philosophically. Whatever it was that ignited my political interest, it's about ideology over personality. Every time.

It'll come as no surprise that I'll be voting Labour on 8 June. I believe that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour manifesto are this country's best chance for survival in such a horrendously tumultuous time. Read on for some concrete evidence of the good that was achieved by the most recent Labour government.

Labour's legacy in 2010 

A rising National Minimum Wage, the shortest waiting times since NHS records began, 3 million more operations carried out each year than in 1997, with more than double the number of heart operations, over 44,000 more doctors, over 89,000 more nurses, over three quarters of GP practices now offer extended opening hours for at least one evening or weekend session a week, all prescriptions are now free for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer, and teenage girls are offered a vaccination against cervical cancer, that the NHS can now guarantee that you will see a cancer specialist within two weeks if your GP suspects you may have cancer, that whatever your condition, you will not have to wait more than 18 weeks from GP referral to the start of hospital treatment – and most waits are much shorter than this.

Over a 100 new hospital building schemes completed, 12 million pensioners benefiting from increased Winter Fuel Payments, 900,000 pensioners lifted out of poverty, 500,000 children lifted out of relative poverty and measures already being put in place will lift around a further 500,000 children out of poverty, Free TV licences for over-75s, The New Deal that has helped over 2.2 million people into work, Over 4.8 million Child Trust Funds have been started, 3,500 Sure Start Children’s Centres opened, reaching over 2.8 million children and their families.

Over 42,000 more teachers and 212,000 more support staff, including 123,000 more teaching assistants than in 1997 and there have been around 3,700 rebuilt and significantly refurbished schools; including new and improved classrooms, laboratories and kitchens. A free nursery place for every 3 and 4 year old - extended to 15 hours per week and 10 hours a week to the most deprived 2 year olds. The number of registered childcare places doubled to more than 1.3 million, one for every four children under eight years old, more young people attending university than ever before, more than double the number of apprenticeships starts, with figures for 2008/9 showing 240,000 started an apprenticeship compared to 75,000 in 1997, a year in which more than half of all schools saw less that 30 per cent of their pupils fail to get 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths.

Now only 247 schools – less than one in twelve – fail this benchmark and we are guaranteeing that no school should fail this mark after 2011. An increase in school funding to support the delivery of higher standards. Between 1997-98 and 2009-10, total funding per pupil has more than doubled from £3,030 in 1997-98 to £6,350 in 2009-10 in real terms, an increase of 110 per cent. The Northern Ireland peace process. The UK is now smokefree, with no smoking in most enclosed public places. The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are now 21 per cent below 1990 levels, beating our Kyoto target. Over £20 billion invested in bringing social housing to decent standards. Rough sleeping has dropped by two thirds and homelessness is at its lowest level since the early 1980s. Free off-peak travel on buses anywhere in England for over-60s and disabled people. Since 1997 overall crime is down 36 per cent; domestic burglary is down 54 per cent; vehicle related crime is down 57 per cent; and violent crime is down 41 per cent.

A new flexible Australian-style points-based system for immigration to ensure only those economic migrants who have the skills our economy needs can come to work in the UK. Police numbers are up by almost 17,000 since 1997, alongside more than 16,000 Police Community Support Officers. Every community now has its own dedicated neighbourhood police team, easily contactable by the people who live in that community and working with them to agree local priorities and deal with people’s concerns. We have Equalised the age of consent and repealed Section 28. Through the introduction of civil partnerships, Labour has for the first time given legal recognition to same-sex partners. Gay couples now have the same inheritance, pension and next-of-kin rights as married couples. Tripled Britain’s overseas aid budget. UK aid helps lift an estimated 3 million people out of poverty every year. Cancelled up to 100 per cent of debt for the world’s poorest countries. Britain now has more offshore wind capacity than any country in the world. Wind last year provided enough electricity to power 2 million homes. We have embarked on the biggest program of council house building for twenty years, launched the Swimming Challenge Fund to support free swimming for over 60s and under 16s, Banned fox hunting, Led the campaign to win the 2012 Olympics for London. Free admission to our national museums and galleries, Devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, an elected Mayor and Assembly for London and directly-elected mayors for those cities that want them. In Europe we signed the Social Chapter and introduced measures including: four weeks’ paid holiday; a right to parental leave; extended maternity leave; a new right to request flexible working; and the same protection for part-time workers as full-time workers. We have led efforts to agree a new international convention banning all cluster munitions and made Britain one of the first countries to ratify a convention to ban anti-personnel landmines and introduced the first ever British Armed Forces and Veterans Day to honour the achievements of our Armed Forces – both past and present.

Please vote.

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