Women’s Empowerment Month in Barking & Dagenham

Politically how are we as women faring?  We have 51 labour councillors and many of them are women. However – are we treated in the same way as male colleagues? I would argue no.

The elected Councillors can put key women in positions of power, but what is the day to day experience like?  Have any of us here been at a venue or council event, and male colleagues reach out to shake our male colleagues hands and then eventually get round to us, or even not at all.

I have been on site visits and this has happened many times, what do I do? I go over and shake the people’s hands and get them to acknowledge my presence.  I am not disputing that our husbands, partners, sons, uncles, cousins and male friends may be amongst our strongest advocates but we are a long way from equality. In some council departments the presence of women is very low.

Much has been achieved but it is still a work in progress.

Having a keen interest in politics, I watch most political TV programmes. How many times when Theresa May is on TV, does the camera shoot to her shoes? Ok they may be nicer than Andrew Marrs shoes, but it distracts from the political message that is sought to get over. How many column inches were given to her leather trousers or a secretary of state’s handbag?

Donald Trump is an interesting Subject. We may all groan, but here is a man who has been elected by the American people, to be the American President. Not all who voted for him were men, or he would not have got elected. We have to ask ourselves as women why would an American Woman vote for Trump?

We also have to ask, why did women hit the streets (rightly so) in the UK and worldwide to campaign against him? But haven’t done so in solidarity for the women of Saudi Arabia, or the young girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Or the young girls raped in India? Are we saying that as a Western Leader we hold Donald Trump to a greater accountability? Could it be we are saying western lives matter more than other countries?

Am I a Feminist? Yes I would say I am. But I would argue at this point Feminism has failed many women worldwide. We still hear of court cases where a serious rape has occurred and we are told the female had been drinking and hence a question mark over the innocence of the woman is put forward.

Women still earn much less than men, that is true across the world. In Western countries we will recount our historic victories but then choose not to look to other countries where the rights of women, are not unlike what women in this country suffered one hundred years ago and far worse.  If child is sick, or an elderly relative needs care, the emphasis is placed on women to find solutions, not men.

I have heard women say when a man forgets a Christmas or birthday present for a work colleague at work, “you would think his wife or partner would sort that out”. That’s a very high standard to place on women.

Women  bring a different skill set and perspective to politics, thank goodness! Many times what a woman can say in ten minutes, can be more effective than two hours of debating in a meeting with the same conclusion. I think many of the women here tonight have a lot to give, and I would urge them to think of a political career, and lend their voices to future Women’s Empowerment Month’s at Barking & Dagenham Council.

Councillor Margaret Mullane – Village Ward Councillor and Dagenham and Rainham CLP Secretary


CWU East London Postal Branch Political Report: Political Side of Life Still Relevant

The problems we face as a Union are affected by the political background as are the problems our members and their families face outside of our place of work.

The political situation affects our children’s future.  For example, will they be able to access good jobs and will they be able to secure decent housing at a reasonable rent.

The Labour Party is still the only party that has got any real intention or possibility of securing a better future for ourselves and our children.

We are facing the worst housing crisis for a century, we have a health service in meltdown, cuts to services, and reducing pensions along with an ever-rising retirement age all affecting everyone except the very privileged.

New Leadership Hope

Our Union has twice successfully given its support to Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, not just because he was always there for us, giving his support over the years in the various battles we went through, but because we found that when we supported a Labour government between 1997 and 2010, that Government did not support us very much in return.  In fact, we needed to fight against an initial privatisation attempt in 2009 and also faced many industrial disputes in which the Tory anti-union laws were either threatened or used against us.

Prior to our Union pushing back the privatisation attempts of the last Labour Government our Union came close to disaffiliating from the Labour Party.  While I fully understood the reasons for the Union considering disaffiliation, that was something I was opposed to because it would only have ever given us a bit of short-term satisfaction.

It was because of the failure of past Labour Governments to properly stand up for working people that meant when the Labour Party leadership election came, members of the Labour Party elected a leader who politically stands against the cuts to public services, really is in favour of truly affordable council housing, supports a well-funded NHS, and wants to stand up for workers’ rights.  As we know, this decision was not made just once, but twice and with an even bigger majority the second time.

But for this, the Labour Party may as well not bother to exist.  If it is to be another version of the Tory and Liberal Parties, what point does it have?

Workers Battle in Labour Party Not Yet Won

However, despite having a Labour leader who is a great friend of the CWU and working people generally on every front, there is a lack of willingness from the majority of current Labour MPs to support this turn to support working people.  The leopards are not changing their spots, as the old saying goes.

As well as the MPs, a powerful right wing and anti-working class group still controls the Labour Party machine, its structures in other words.  In many respects this group is stronger today than ever before, and seem dedicated to making it almost impossible for good working class socialists to get onto Labour’s approved panel as prospective councillors and MPs.

In the past local parties could decide such things without outside interference and it means that many skilled, talented people with both work place and life experience are excluded while the ‘professionals’ from the right wing Liberal elite get through.  Our Union now needs to be part of changing that.

Get Involved

Financial support from Unions, and a general, but largely passive support for the Labour Party, is great, but membership and activity is absolutely crucial if we are to bother with the Labour Party at all.

Affiliated Unions can have their own delegates to Constituency Labour Parties as well as give extra support through the political fund if that party selects CWU members as prospective Councillors and MPs.

At present the party has a mountain to climb if it is to become anywhere near to forming a Labour Government.  To do this it must have good quality representatives – the days of so called safe seats, where you could stand anybody, are gone.

The Labour Party’s position on the EU debate exposed how completely out of touch the right wing of the party are in not recognising the reality of how the EU has been used as a vehicle to drive down workers terms and conditions with big business using a flood of cheap labour and allowing companies to outsource work to low paid workers on temporary contracts or on pretend self-employed tickets.

It was also bizarre that our own union leadership supported Labour’s right wing in supporting the EU when it was in EU law that a country, no matter what government they had, are not able to keep services in public ownership or retake them back into public ownership.  The EU forced countries such as Romania to privatise their whole public sector, leaving them along with many other European countries, economically devastated.  They were sold a lie!

No trade unionist or socialist could ever support such an outfit in my view.

The only trade union pro-leave argument given in the media was on Radio 4 by an RMT representative.  With the Blairite section of the Labour Party supporting the EU still firmly in control of the party organisation and not wanting to move on or make the party a genuine broad Church as it was to some extent in the past, we have many battles and problems to confront in the futureBut more importantly we do have many good members who could become active and the Labour Party is now already the biggest political party in Western Europe.

There is no short cut on this, so I would urge everyone to get active and join the Labour Party as a union representative.

Councillor Lee Waker – Political Officer East London Postal Branch CWU

Healthy, Interactive Political Debate

As a student majoring in Political Science at a university in the small town of Waco, Texas, I am often immediately stereo-typed by my peers as being “too political” or “too opinionated,” just because of what I study. At my university, as is common with many young people throughout the United States, politics is often seen as a taboo topic of conversation, and one that should be avoided so as to prevent any potential conflict that could arise from it. It appears that students either feel as if they personally do not know enough about current political affairs, or they feel that the other student has an opposing or contradicting opinion. Regardless of what the reason is, avoiding political debate in a discussion seems to have become an unspoken rule that, as a Political Science major, I tend to break all too often.

With that being said, upon arriving in the United Kingdom for a semester abroad, I was pleasantly surprised to find that young people are not only open to political debate, but actively seek to engage in it with one another. I can name countless occasions – whether that be on the tube, at a coffee shop, or even at a lively pub on a Friday night – where I have encountered students discussing their opinions on Brexit, the new Prime Minister, etc. They seem to be unapologetic about their views and opinions, and have strong arguments to support why they believe what they do. Furthermore, whether one student agrees or disagrees with the other, they are still willing and able to listen to what their peer has to say (contrary to many American students). After each side has expressed their views, they then either continue their debate, or take the discussion with them to ponder on later.

Over the past few months in the UK, my admiration for British students being unafraid to “talk politics” has only increased, and since dwelling on the subject for quite some time, I have established numerous benefits to young people engaging in political discussion:

  • The possibility of participating in a political debate creates the incentive to actually make oneself aware of what is going on around them, whether that be in the affairs of their local government, or matters involving the state and federal governments
  • Political debate increases ones argumentative skills and public speaking skills, which are invaluable skills to have when entering the job world
  • Opposing opinions on political matters allows both parties to consider their peers’ arguments and evaluate whether they were convinced by any specific points made

While there are many additional reasons to engage in such discussion, it is so important for young people to hear from various different perspectives on politics, instead of shying away from these opinions. Because we are young and impressionable, we are in the unique position to take all that we learn from class, from the media, and from the perspectives of our peers, to then form our own, unique political opinions.

Upon completing my semester abroad, I will be eager to return to the States and encourage a more positive connotation in regards to political debate, instead of the negative connotation that currently exists. Thank you, the young of Britain, for showing me the benefits of engaging in healthy, interactive political debate, and that by doing so, we are bettering ourselves and the society around us.

Isabella Haelen – B.A. International Studies, Baylor University 2018, FIE Intern at Office of Jon Cruddas MP

How Labour can connect with the young working class?

I describe myself as Working Class. Why? Well, I live in rented accommodation, I attended my local Comprehensive school, I’ve grown up watching my mum and dad work extremely hard to put food on the table, as an adult I live on the breadline and commonly use the phrase ‘I rob Peter to pay Paul’ in order to settle bills. I live by the government guidelines of what they deem to be the lower class because unfortunately I don’t have the money to branch out, I don’t have any rich family to inherit from.

I don’t allow this to define me. I am different from many women you may meet in the political world. I went to University, and I graduated with first class honours, but I didn’t study Politics, I studied Music Performance and Technology. I owned my own Dance School for 5 years here in Dagenham, which saw over 220 students pass through my doors overall. I’m a massive sports fan following Chelsea Football Club and my beloved basketball team The New York Knicks. I wear head scarf’s and gold hooped earing’s. I come from a musical family and have everything on my iPod from Etta James and Joni Mitchell, to Biggie Smalls and Jay Z. I speak fast, I’m opinionated and sometimes I like to be just as surprised of what comes out of my mouth as others do.

Yet amongst all of this, I am the Youth Officer for Dagenham and Rainham Labour Party, I am the Havering Coordinator for Jon Cruddas MP, I am the Women’s Officer for Havering Young Labour, and I am a proud parent campaigner and activist. Why am I telling this to you all? Because it’s real. Just as I am sure all your life stories are. We are real people. We have faced struggle, we have faced deprivation, we have grown with strength and we have welcomed happiness. I am an example of realism. Something the current Government lacks.

So this leads me to speak about how Labour can engage with young Working Class People. I personally feel it is all down to real life issues. High Uni Fees – the fear they feel of enrolling at Uni because they are not sure if they’ll ever be able to afford the cost. Education and the threat of privatisation – young people don’t want to feel segregated. They don’t want to feel that the standard of their education all comes down to what mum or dad can afford. The NHS, many young people study years upon years to become our next generation of Doctors and Nurses. Many are currently Junior Doctors suffering at the hands of Jeremy Hunt and his Tory Army, whilst also being scrutinised for the busyness of hospitals as Theresa May continues to ignore the fact that The NHS is now described as ‘a humanitarian crisis’. Tap into the issues that matter to these young people the most, find out how it affects them locally, campaign alongside them, show them what Labour can do for them, how it can support them and gain the backing of MPs in Parliament. Give them that sense of pride that their fitting for something they believe in, and that their fight can make a difference.

Young people are hungry to make a difference. Whether that be a small issue or a nationwide issue. The youth are the future of our Country. They will decide the rules and regulations for my son’s generation. Treat them well. This world is a dog eat dog world and over many years it’s become cold and disheartened. I’m one person, yet I feel I can make a difference, and that’s all thanks to the belief my local Labour Party has put into me. Imagine if we did that for so many others?

I am going to finish this speech with one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite politicians, the great Jo Cox..

‘We have more in common with each other, then things that divide us.’

Fay Hough – Havering Coordinator, Dagenham and Rainham CLP Youth Officer, Havering Young Labour Women’s Officer