Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Why I will be voting Labour on 7th May 2015

Mum is the girl on  the right.
 My Mum, Maggie, is the one on the right of the picture - it was taken probably just post-war. She passed away in 2008 and I still miss her - I'm just so pleased that I was able to spend my own lifetime up to that point, absorbing the wealth of her wisdom.  Maggie had a tough upbringing.  She never really knew her father who died prematurely when she was just 3 years-old.  Born in the heart of Irish immigrant Liverpool, she and her four siblings were brought up by our Nin, Mary Ellen.  Mary Ellen lost 2 other children before they reached the age of 11 and worked in a rag shop to keep the family going.  Mary Ellen was 'lame' - and always walked with a limp but she worked hard to keep the family going.  As her boys got older, they queued up at the dock gates to get whatever pickings in the way of work that there may have been but were frequently turned away due to the force of numbers.  Such was the cruelty of system prior to the welfare state.  They would pray for snow, for then there would be work shovelling the snow to clear the roads.  It was against this backdrop of poverty that Maggie McCarthy started to develop a political understanding of her world.

Nin - Mary Ellen

I remember Mum telling me the story of why she would never vote Tory - well, she never would anyway, as it was ingrained in every self-respecting working class person that the Tories were for the rich and Labour was for the poor, like us.  Nin was finding it really hard to keep the family going.  A proud woman, it took an awful lot for her to ask for help.  However, out of sheer desperation, she took herself along to 'the parish' to ask for some help in feeding her family.  The two youngest children, Maggie and her younger brother John, accompanied her.  Mum told me, with great bitterness how the children had to watch as Mary Ellen was reduced to tears by a panel of well-to-do Conservatives.  When she explained that she was disabled, she received the retort, "By going out to work, you have made yourself able-bodied."  And with this, she was turned away with no help.  One of the panel was clearly uncomfortable about the situation and offered to buy Mary Ellen and the children a meal but she told him where to go, in no uncertain terms. The Labour Party put an end to this type of degradation with the introduction of the welfare state.  With the exponential growth of dependence on food banks and the erosion of benefits, David Cameron is ensuring a dismantling of the welfare state.

After the war, my Dad, Tommy was demobbed from the RAF where he had served his country in
Libya.  For me, his political views are particularly memorable for the fact that he didn't think much to Winston Churchill.  I've never really heard anyone say anything bad about Churchill - he is sacrosanct - but Dad didn't think much of him so that is OK by me.  Maggie and Tommy were soon married and family life started not long after.  In Maggie's own words, people 'lived in rooms' and the young family rented lodgings in various private houses before securing a tenement home in the city centre.  Extensive post-war slum clearance programmes in Liverpool led to the family moving out to a council house in Huyton on the outskirts of Liverpool in 1961- a brand new 'sunshine home' with gardens back and front.  People took a real pride in their new homes so much so that many of the neighbours took advantage of the Tory Government 'right to buy' scheme in the 1970s.  These houses went for a pittance.  Although they could have taken advantage of it, Maggie and Tommy were adamant that these were built as social housing and should remain social housing. Maggie's mantra became, "People will end up living in rooms again!"  How prophetic!

My Dad.
Dad was a lifelong trade unionist working mainly in the construction industry.  He worked for the one company for over 30 years as a Steel Fixer - like Maggie, Tommy was, as we Scousers say, a grafter.  I know lots of people say that they 'never missed a day's work' but in all honesty, I can never remember my Dad take a day off sick, even though he constantly suffered from painful stomach ulcers.  There were many occasions when he was 'rained off' and had to come home early - you pray for good weather in the building trade because that is when you earn.  He got a gold watch from his employer when he'd put in 25 years but it didn't stop them repaying his loyalty with redundancy in his late 50s when Thatcher declared war on the trade unions and the great job loss train came to town.  His wasn't a docker's pay-off - frankly it was an insult.

I know some people pour scorn on people like me, those who vote Labour because their parents did.  That paints me as some kind of mindless individual who can't think for herself.  I don't vote Labour because my parents did but rather because my parents taught me, through family stories and memories, exactly why a vote for the Tories is in direct opposition to everything that I stand for.  I used to think, foolishly, that we had pretty much made our way to a classless society in the UK.  I no longer think that.  Since 2010, I have seen this CON-DEM coalition ride roughshod over our NHS and  the welfare safety net with a callousness that I didn't think was possible outside of the world of fiction. I now feel like a serf in a 21st century feudal system.   I own the mortgage on a modest but pleasant semi-detached house but I am not fooled.  I survive at the whim of the moneyed classes and, at any time, I am only ever two or three wage packets away from destitution.  The Tory party are too hand in glove with the obscenely rich and that is where their loyalty lies, not with ordinary people in ordinary jobs who have their own modest house and car.  Anybody who thinks otherwise is sadly deluded. The modern Labour Party is not perfect - there have been mistakes in recent years - but I do believe that it still has a social conscience.

Actually, this post has not even skimmed the surface of why I will be voting Labour on 7th May but I hope it gives something of the flavour. Use your vote wisely and use it with a conscience.

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