Thursday, 11 September 2014

A new era for Labour requires a new kind of Politician

Many of you who regularly read my articles in the Morning Star, will know just how deeply concerned I am about the lack of working class candidates and MPs in the Labour Party. So as well as writing and campaigning on the issue I am putting my (lack of money) where my mouth is, and throwing my hat into the Westminster ring as a potential candidate. Albeit I am a little too late for 2015, but will use the time until 2020 to keep campaigning and standing up for the working class people of this country.

You see it is time for a different politician and a different way of 'doing politics'. For every phone conversation at our local CLP, for every door knocked upon you hear time and time again. 'They're all the same. They are all in it for themselves and haven't got a clue about the lives of ordinary people' And apart from good solid working class MPS like Ian Lavery, Dennis Skinner, Ian Mearns, Grahame Morris, Katy Clarke and co I have to agree.

If ever there was a time for compassionate politics it is now! If ever there was a time to stand on the door step or at the Labour local office and say to worried anxious people "Why don't we have a cuppa and talk about the problems you are facing a bit more." Ordinary people want MPs and candidates and door knocking volunteers like me, to shut up for a minute and listen. Listening skills are missing from many MPs. They stare dreamily over your shoulder, check their watch and start walking away, because the bedroom tax does not affect them, the fact you can't afford petrol for the car for the entire month for work and the worry that causes you, is a million miles away from anything they have encountered, caring for a disabled child or elderly relative is an experience alien to them.

It's not 'weak' to be compassionate. Neither is it weak to listen and show empathy. Ordinary people want their MPs to understand how bad things are in their day to day lives thanks to Cameron and particularly Iain Duncan-Smith. But before all Labour MPS grab their tissues and run to their constituents, I have to point out, its something you either have in you or not. Compassion and empathy cannot be learned or you will end up looking a fraud either on the doorstep or on TV, as working class people are too canny to fall for 'pretended compassion' (I refer you to Cameron and the Hug a Hoodie campaign he ran.)

Dennis Skinner is a genuine compassionate politician who 'won't take the MPs payrise until all working class people have had a payrise.' He refuses to drink in Westminsters subsidised bars as he feels deeply just how wrong this is, while many are suffering the welfare cuts. Ian Lavery when speaking about the bedroom tax said 'We should never forget that these properties are not just statistics these are people’s homes'. He understands because he listens.

I chat to people all the time as a member of Unite Community; a proud arm of Unite the union no longer confined to workplace members but people from all walks of life in our communities. All I hear is the plea ''We need MPs who have done a factory job, worked in a supermarket, cared for a disabled relative, shop in our shops, don't just try to look like us but ARE one of us.' Indeed recently an elderly lady complemented me on my dress as she had her eye on the same £14 dress in Matalan but felt it was a bit too young for her!

Compassionate MPs are needed urgently in our communities. Our working class people have born the brunt of this austerity going into a fifth year in 2015. We are austerity-battered, weary, frightened and trying to hang on in there as best we can often living from week to week on zero hours contracts and a pay day away from losing our homes. I know this because its happening to me too. Last week as my third son started 6th form, HMRC already cut to the bone with staff shortages, cut all tax credits from every family in the UK with a child starting 6th form or college or a training course. It meant a £50 immediate cut in income that week; a week when every penny counts as you kit your child out and spend money on bus fares, lunches for their first week on a new part of their lives. HMRC acknowledged the huge error which they are putting right 'shortly'. That error made me panic over what to cut down on that week, alongside all the thousands of other families affected too. These 'errors' can tip us over the edge into financial peril, such is our grip on the cliff edge of austerity.

Alongside compassion and empathy for our fellow man/woman people are fed up to the back teeth of corrupt politics, corrupt politicians and morally bereft government. Its time for honest politics. You may laugh and think me naive but I believe there is an honest way to do politics and an honest way to be an MP. If you make an error of judgement for example, if you make a big cock-up, tell people. 'I'm sorry but I got it wrong'. Again don't say it  if you don't mean it as the people will see through you. Don't say things that sound insincere or out of the normal kind of way you say things or it all sounds false and forced. Take Dave over Scotland saying 'its not about giving the effing Tories a kicking.' False written all over it. Likewise if I was ever to say Nigel Far-raj talking about Nigel Far-idge leader of Ukip then give me a kicking too! If as a Labour MP cuts have to be made, be honest, tell people why and explain the situation. Don't ignore people on twitter or facebook asking you polite pertinent questions that mean a lot to them, unless they abuse you. Our concerns MUST be the Labour MPs concerns too, or why are you in politics at all?

Whilst I have decided it is right for me personally to enter the political ring, I understand how daunting that could be for others. It's the reason the working class is so under represented in Westminster. We are too busy battling to survive to devote time to campaign or try to change things. This is what Cameron and the Establishment rely on.

Labour have shown the way on All Women Shortlists, perhaps it will be time to go further after 2015 and develop a few working class shortlists, disability shortlists etc.Although there is a small financial pot to help future candidates this needs to be taken to the next level, as finance and giving up work to campaign to become a candidate is probably the prime reason working class candidates are woefully under represented in Parliament. If you are a Carer for a disabled child as I am, arranging appropriate childcare may be a struggle. Other candidates I know are struggling with sleepless nights caused by gangs on their estate, one is constantly back and forth to school as their child is being bullied, another can't afford the transport costs of campaigning in their rural  constituency. Let's act as a party and support candidates who are struggling. The Labour Party needs the drive, will and sheer determination of candidates who are working class themselves. It's a much higher cliff for us to climb into the political arena than for others.

I believe in this toxic sea of  austerity when people are crying out for change, the Labour party must use that vital sense; listening. Its not enough to say 'We hear you'. Now is time to say 'We hear you, we will listen to you further, we understand you entirely and we will act.''

I hope ordinary people will one day have enough faith in me to vote, and send me to Westminster. It's a priveledge to represent people. It's vital that their views, their lives, their struggles are represented by a politician who cares deeply for them. Time for the compassionate politician.