Friday, August 03, 2007

My Labour Party milestone

Tuesday 31st July 2007 was a very special day for me, although ironically I only noticed it today.

It was the fifteenth anniversary of my joining the Labour Party.

How well I remember the occasion.

In March 1992 John Major went to Buckingham Palace to tell her Majesty the Queen that he intended to call a general election on April 9th.

I shouted at the TV, maybe even threw something at it, although it was probably only a slipper, I wouldnt actually want to buy a new TV just because his statement revulsed me....

I remember vividly thinking that if I was so exorcised about his announcement, if I truly thought the end of the world might be nigh if the Tories were re-elected then I ought to be doing something practical about it.

I had no idea at all about local organisation of politics although I had voted in every election that I could since I was old enough. But I was sure that there must be some small thing I could do. I knew I didnt have any Labour Councillors (we had two LibDem local councillors and a Tory county councillor I think in Grangefield ward, Stockton on Tees at that time). But I thought perhaps if I looked in the phone book for the nearest Labour politician I could call them. We had a Tory MP in Stockton South (Tim Devlin) but I found out that Frank Cook was the Labour MP for Stockton North so I called his office.

His staff suggested I call Eileen Johnson who was the Grangefield ward organiser for the Labour Party at the General Election. She asked me to come to her house and I took away a pile of leaflets to deliver and she even found me a new friend to help me. For the next four weeks I turned up every evening after work and did my bit and on polling day I took numbers at my local primary school. It was heady stuff and everyone I met was lovely and encouraging.

Sadly we lost in the constituency and in the country but I had got the bug. They asked me to come along to the party after the election, which I did although it was not a very happy event and then they asked me to come to the local Labour Party branch meeting in the pub just up the road from my house. I turned up to the meeting and by my second meeting was the Branch Secretary and elected on to the Constituency committees, the European committees, was the new Constituency Women's Officer and probably even more things that I have now forgotten.

But it was July before anyone got round to giving me an application form (in case any of you have been doing the maths!)

So, my fifteen years membership began on 31st July 1992.

Within a year or so we had become a key marginal parliamentary constituency with our own Labour Party organiser who was a professional member of the Labour Party staff in the region, one Bryan Thistlethwaite. Within three years my intensive local activity and campaigning working with him and with local members (three times a week every week, week in and week out) had lead to the securing of a full-time post in the then North and Yorkshire Regional Labour Party Office. Years later I managed the campaign when Sheffield Labour Party took the city back from the LibDems and I also had a year on the prestigious Labour Party National Executive Committee and National Policy Forum. The rest as they say is history...

Interestingly, I was a natural Labour supporter because I had been a good attender at Methodist Sunday school where they taught us of the importance of the story of the Good Samaritan who had stopped to help a fellow human being even though he was from a different and despised group. Ironically, Ann Widdecombe for whom I reserve the largest part of my scorn, once told the Today Programme that she became a Tory because of the story of the Good Samaritan because he couldnt have helped had he not been a man of personal wealth. Funny really, if it was not so chilling.

Anyway, I look back on those 15 years with intense pride. I organised in West Yorkshire where we won so many seats in 1997 and retained them in 2001 and in fact kept all of "mine" in 2005. I worked in numerous parliamentary by-elections, beginning in the snow in Hemsworth in 1996, and travelling all round the country with the legendary John Braggins.

And now I am an elected representative myself, staunchly working for local constituents and being as bolshy and interventionist where it is required as ever. I have been in all sorts of clubs and societies over the years, a member of the brownies and guides, the Boro supporters club, the National Trust, you name it, but the Labour Party has captured me totally. I could never be a blue (or a yellow), I will always be a red.

I am so proud to recognise this milestone as our new Prime Minister reinvigorates the party and the country and the red party's star ascends yet again.

No comments: