When I remember my childhood I remember the laughter coming from the Labour party meetings held at our house. We were tucked up in bed when they met and I don’t know what kept them laughing because if we tiptoed downstairs and listened it all seemed terribly boring. The meetings could be held in our house because I was born and bred in Alderley Edge – so famous for its affluence that even back then my mother joked about the local Labour party membership being “all two of us”. In fact, it was a surprisingly active group. More surprising were the levels of poverty and disadvantage that were visible to those who chose to look.
My dad was a gardener and felt keenly the disrespect afforded him in various spheres. Despite being written off by the selective education system (I failed my 11+) I seem to have done all right, helped by my parents fighting to have me admitted to the nearest comprehensive school – thank you Labour government.
Later my dad was a youth leader in a club to which hundreds of young people flocked from far and wide. It was not only those from ‘outside’ (mainly Manchester) who experienced difficulties – poverty, prejudice, lack of education and aspiration – but also the local youngsters. Many lived with family breakdown, illness, drug problems, stress and anxiety. My dad once had to climb the steeple of the church where the club was held to coach down a suicidal young man.
My dad was a religious man and he later trained as a church minister. Having left school at 14 with no qualifications he was making his way. He learnt along the way – and taught us kids – that all people are equal and equally valuable. He wrote in his book of memoirs: “I am angered by the human world that produces not tragedy – which no-one can avoid – but injustice, differences between rich and poor, opportunity and hopelessness”. He spoke as a man who had himself lost two children – my sisters – one in childhood and one in her 40s – so he had faced tragedy.
When the Coalition came to power my dad was distraught by the idea that there would not be another Labour government before he died. He was right; he died two and a half years ago horrified by what this government was doing. I dug out my Labour party membership and my determination – both buried under the debris of busy life – and determined to play my part in doing right by my dad. As part of this I set up a Fund to support good causes and people campaigning for justice.
Not all the issues are easy but I want a party in power that puts people first, that’s about fairness and acceptance, hope and understanding. I want the NHS made stronger and schools made fairer. I want people supported not dismissed when they struggle and I want decisions based on what’s best for all, not just the privileged few.
I’ll be voting Labour on May 7th because I want to do right by my dad and others not born with status or social advantage – and I want to hear that laughter again