Stepping Towards Equality: From the Workhouse to the Chambers?

Today the UK marked 100 years since some women—specifically those aged over 30 with property—won the right to vote, a vital leap towards universal suffrage which would come a decade later.

The significance of this anniversary should not be lost on any woman or feminist for it was the first tender step towards a level of equality between all people, regardless of their birth, station, gender, sexuality, religion, wealth or other, that we still strive to achieve today across all aspects of society.

However, for me, this auspicious anniversary reminds me of my own female family history though I cannot claim kinship with those titans of the suffragette movement; instead I am reminded of my maternal grandmother, Gladys.

Gladys was born in a workhouse in Gravesend in 1904, rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of the dock worker William Mackie who subsequently died on the Titanic in 1912. Born in poverty, as was still commonplace in those times, Gladys was just another child put in service to those rich folk with nice big houses. Though an unpalatable thought to us now I am certain Gladys would have been thrilled to be out of the workhouse with a roof over her head and fed for her toils. In the era before the welfare state I guess Gladys, in some respect, would have been considered fortunate.

Like thousands of working-class women with barely any education and trapped with a single option for her future, Gladys took up the only choice she had: marriage. With marriage came children; 8 of them with the youngest, my mother, arriving in 1948. Gladys became the matriarch, keeping house and home while her husband, Charles, cycled from Southend to the Shell refinery in Grays and back every day.

By all accounts Gladys was a fierce woman not to be messed with. Charles wouldn’t win an argument with her – I’m sure he knew better than to try. Her life was not an easy one but she lived through tremendous change. She witnessed the creation of the NHS and welfare state – two things which would have immensely improved her life chances and those of the thousands of people who fell fatally prey to destitution and disease.

She would have seen and heard of the suffragettes and their hard-fought victories. Of course, aged just fourteen, she could not vote in 1918 but she could in 1929. I wonder if she used her vote. I wonder what she thought of the suffragettes. I wonder what she thought the world would be like in 2018.

In her lifetime the world changed so much but I wonder if she—in the workhouse, living in servitude, and then whilst raising her own family—ever thought that the world would change so much in just two generations of her family. That a girl from the workhouse, born with no title and no birth-right to vote would have a granddaughter who is proudly standing as a candidate in the 2018 local elections.

Samantha Reed

On the Benefits of a Universal Basic Income

By Chris Fielding.

I have always been slightly curious about the concept of a Universal Basic Income, and if it would be a beneficial amendment to our welfare. After some considering, I think it might be, for both economic and social reasons. As I am not too sure that everyone is familiar with the concept of a Universal Basic Income, let me explain it. The basic core of the idea of the idea is that the Government would issue a check to everyone that would cover the basic costs of living. This would be issued irrespective of the person’s income and social position. Continue reading

Our Opportunity

By Roger Neville.

The Labour Government under Tony Blair started so well with the reforms and policies highlighted in earlier blogs. However New Labour, and especially Blair morphed into a Thatcherite view of the world and I believe felt that that view was the only way to cling on to power. Power as a goal in itself is unworthy and I believe that the contrary view is what has appealed to the many new members of the Labour party since Jeremy Corbyn’s involvement in the leadership hustings a year ago and since. Blair’s policies became increasingly Thatcherite or Torylite. His policies on housing, tax and trade unions did nothing to overturn the inexorable drift towards the unequal society we have today where the rich, including him, get richer and the poor, particularly the very poor, get less and are blamed for their own predicament. And of course the worst legacy he left the Labour party was his support for the “neocon” Iraq war; a legacy not only for Labour but for the whole world which will last for many more years. Continue reading

Corbyn set to lose Labour its status as official opposition

By Dave Bodimeade.

Many Labour members may think Parliament doesn’t matter but, under Corbyn, Labour has ceased to be a functioning opposition party. No amount of new members can make up for the lack of people on Corbyn’s front bench. Around half, yes half, of 100 front bench posts remain unfilled. These aren’t non jobs like Shadow Minister for Paper Clips. Instead they relate to many of the crucial issues that the party holds dear – Europe, Children, Schools, Pensions, Older People, Mental Health, Disabled People, Climate Change, Women & Equalities. On all these issues Labour lacks a shadow minister to hold the Tories to account. So the Tories can do and say what they like because no Labour shadow can respond to them. Other shadow ministers try to cover the vacancies but are continually stretched in every direction. For example, Paul Flynn has been elevated to the front bench at age of 81 and, for his pains, is shadowing both the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Wales. It’s rumored that, should another reshuffle be needed, Beryl, the Labour Party tea lady and Tiddles, the Labour Party cat, are in line for new and interesting roles. Continue reading

Ex Corbyn supports embarrassed they voted for him

By Dave Bodimeade.

I am losing count of the number of Labour members who have deserted Corbyn, having voted from him last year. Aubrey Allegretti of The Huffington Post interviewed four members who’ve come to their senses. One even says ‘I’m ashamed I played my part in electing someone who may well be the man to destroy the Labour Party.’ Here are Aubrey’s revealing interviews from 23 July 2016. Continue reading

Change is coming, and it’ll be glorious!

By Neil Martin.

…but you wouldn’t believe it if you read the papers or watched TV. According to research done by The Independant, 75% of our press coverage on Jeremy Corbyn; Labour’s democratically elected leader (need I remind you, elected with one of the hugest mandates in history), misrepresents him. I like stats, so here’s another – between 15% and 20% of articles about Jeremy Corbyn, published in the Sun, Telegraph and Express constantly associate him with terrorist groups. Don’t forget anti-Semitism either – not a day goes by when there isn’t someone coming out of the woodwork to bang that drum. Now, as a non-practicing Jew, I find the way in which my race is being used as a political football to score goals against a man and more importantly a political movement I wholeheartedly support, to be deeply offensive. And so do these Jews. Continue reading