Labour changed my life
This week, Gordon Brown spoke and like all sensible people, I listened.
He spoke about his politics being driven by his inability to be comfortable when he knows other people are not. He said that it wasn’t possible for him to be content when other people spend their days worried. He was clear that his priority has always been and will always be social justice because too many people experience an unjust world.
And then I thought about something very personal that Labour, and Gordon Brown, did that made that a reality.
My mum worked in Dumbarton factories throughout my childhood. I remember loads of people in my community working a few months in the camera factory, getting paid off, working a few months at the bottling plant, getting paid off, going back to the camera factory…
Sometimes my mum (Moira to my pals) picked up shifts at the Little Chef, other times she cleaned lodges to make the money in the month last a bit longer. When she got home at night, she’d organise our uniforms and leave out a pound each for our playtime snacks. My brother and I would get ourselves up for school and out the door. Three hours before that, at 5.30am, just before my mum left to go to work, she would set out two bowls on the kitchen table, pour our Corn Flakes in and sprinkle sugar on top.
It’s really obvious now that she was doing every last thing she could before to make sure we were cared for before she took her place on the line, fitting lenses to cameras or labels to bottles. Right down to making sure I didn’t put too much sugar in my Corn Flakes.
Then someone told my mum about tax credits. And the next thing I knew, she was there in the morning telling me to get out of bed. She was leaving the house at the same time as me to go to her new job as a home help with the council. She got home before me and made sure the right channel was on so that I could watch Sister, Sister when I got in.
Gordon Brown and Labour’s priorities meant Moira had a job that she enjoyed and felt valued in. She was able to get a SVQ after leaving school at 14 with basic literacy and no qualification to her name. She didn’t need the coping mechanisms she had come up with for us all to get through the day.
“I just wish it happened sooner, imagine what I could have done then.” My mum said that when I asked her about tax credits. How can a sentence be so hopeful but at the same time so heartbreaking?
The Tories oversaw an economy and a society where women like my mum had no other choice but to pick up work wherever it was and to hope that it lasted. I don’t want any part of making that happen to other people. At a time when the rich are getting even richer, it’s cruel and unjust. I want to create a country that helps people make their ambitions reality.
That’s why collectivism and nationalism are not compatible. To be a member of Scottish Labour is to say that the fight for social justice is the only fight. As soon as we waver and concede, we lose sight of the goal. Raising the minimum wage, banning exploitative zero hours contracts, guaranteeing young people a job; these are the things that need our energy and only a Labour Government can and will deliver them.
So on Thursday, I will be voting Labour. I’m not telling people like my mum that they need to wait for the constitutional argument to be finished before life gets better.