Okay it’s been slightly over a year but I’ve had to take a break from writing about the party, because if I’m honest the social media side of politics is really dragging me down. On a positive note I’ve actually been quite busy out and about campaigning for my incredible local party. So actually life isn’t all that bad AND I get to leave the house for freedom. Winner.
I think I lost my way a bit when joining the party. Went on a journey and came out at the end feeling like I’ve been a member for 400 years. So hats off to you members with all those years under your belt. If I’m exhausted by it all you must be positively comatosed. Some days I want to be Labours number one activist, others I want to cut my card up and just go back to life PPM (pre party member *looks back misty eyed*) Is there any better way to learn what you’re made of than a rollercoaster of polices, leadership elections, featuring in the Daily sodding Express, changing “sides”, being trolled and making a whole load of friends? No. Nope. Nada. There really isn’t. So here’s what I think.
I was incredibly naive when I first joined the party. In the fact that I had no real clue of the true spectrum of the Broadchurch it really is. Having always followed politics I felt like I had some kind of idea of what the Labour Party stood for. Upon joining I realised I didn’t have a clue. So here I am thinking I’m just joining the Labour Party, everybody has the same goals and ideas with no clue about the fact that, whilst yes people may have similar goals and clues, very many people have very different views on how they should be achieved. Quite literally polar opposite. From the off set it felt like I needed to pick a team. A choice I was quite literally unprepared for. Clueless me had never really heard of Momentum, or Progress, Fabians and Labour first. In the first week I had to google what exactly a Trot was 🙈Being a member of the Labour Party is an education on the different factions inside political parties whether you want it or not.
I make no bones of my journey in deciding what camp I belong to. Since I started writing this post (I’m an absolute queen of procrastination, I can start a blog then complete it 3 weeks later) a General Election has been called and I’ve made an important vow not to speak ill of our leader and try not to feed any of the internal warring that has been going on whilst we all have a much more important job to be doing. So for the sake of that I did join because of Jeremy but in the leadership election I joined the other team and I lost. Luckily as a Birmingham City fan I’m really used to being the losing team so I brushed myself off and carried on. My point here is that there often feels this need within the party to pigeon hole and stereotype people according to how they may view certain things. I found this really tricky because I can find myself agreeing with a few of the quite differing views. Resulting in everyone hating me. (Joke) This meant I really struggled with the narrative of you having to automatically dislike someone because they are on the different “team” because that’s a real tricky one for me. I have too many other measures when it comes to deciding how fond I am of some one. The measure of whether they are a Blairite, a Bennite, A Brownite, A momentum member and so on is really low down my list of priorities. Basically it can boil down to “is this person an arsehole to me or people I really like? Yes/No. ”
For the first part of my membership I got far too drawn in by what I call “social media a Labour” I allowed myself to get drawn into factional arguments. The negativity and the anger consumed me. It also made me completely forget what I actually joined for in the first place. At times it made me feel very unwelcome. When you’ve got people hounding you on social media, calling you a Tory and that you don’t care about people that need help. When in actual fact you’ve spent the majority of the day crying because you’re not quite sure how you’re family is going to make ends meet…yeah that makes you really question whether you’ve joined the right party. On the other side of things I couldn’t understand the sheer venom and accusations that centred around the new membership. Absolutely none of this is what I expected to be thrown into when I felt inspired to take the plunge and join the party last year. Thankfully I received a decent piece of advice from someone I now count as a great friend from my new found social media Labour network. Basically it was like get off here and speak to people in real life. I class this as a turning point.
Perhaps the biggest problem for me when I joined, was the timing. By the time I had mustered up the courage to leave my baby daughter and go meet new people, Labour Party meetings were suspended for the duration of leadership election. This cut off a bit of a source for me. I’m pretty certain had I joined at a different time when meetings were in full swing my first year would of been completely different and slightly less challenging. Meeting real life labour members and getting involved in real world Labour activities is really what a huge part of this is all about. I feel that I should take a moment to stress that not all parts of Labour Social media are awful. I’ve built up an incredible network of people from across the country who have shown me support and love and it’s about so much more than the party. We talk about our kids, our partners, families, work, hopes and fears. We talk about the best way to cook a roast chicken dinner. I count these people as real friends. I’m lucky enough to have met quite a few now and I look forward to meeting more as we campaign and socialise together in the future. So if I talk about the importantace of the world of the Labour Party offline, it’s really important to be clear that had it not be for the network and motivation of the people I met online I wouldn’t of had the bravery to venture off it.
Meeting Labour people makes me feel so happy. I soak up their stories and experiences like a sponge. It makes you realise why people feel so passionate about the party and gives me an understanding of why there is a sense of tribilism. For many the party is their life. I was lucky when I spent the day in Mosborough to give a hand in the by election and I got to speak to people who had over 30/40 years to the party. It’s not a hobby it’s a complete lifestyle. You really can’t help but understand why they might be a little weary of someone like me who has been around all of five minutes. This alongside the day I spent campaigning for the NHS started to reenergise me.
A huge thing I have learnt about Labour is the focus on earning your campaigning stripes. I reckon that’s pretty fair too. I understand for some people that knocking doors just isn’t physically possible but you soon find out there is a whole selection of things you can do to support the party. Unlike other parties Labour can’t rely on huge donations from indivuals and businesses. A lot of the hard work comes from party members giving up their pennies and giving up their time. You honestly will never realise how hard this work is till you get involved yourself. It can be back breaking! I remember really losing my temper when some dared to tag me in a post they had written stating that the “keyboard warriors would take Labour to victory” personally I think that completely disrespects the hard work of those on the ground. Trust me, when it comes to trying to get the vote out in a local ward election no amount of hashtagging is going to match the forces of physically knocking on the door and getting that person down the polling station. I’m embarrassed that before I became so involved I stupidly thought that social media was the winner. I’m big enough to say I was wrong. I understand it’s not easy either and it’s often not thankful work but there is no real comparison of sitting behind a screen with your cuppa writing a blog on a campaign, to trying to leaflet in the freezing cold, bribing the one year old you’ve brought with you with chocolate buttons whilst trying not to have your fingers removed by a dog who sees anything that appears at the letter box as fair game. No it is not much harder to start a Twitter storm than it is knocking on the door of a complete strangers house not knowing how you will be received, what you will be called or how many times you’ll be mistaken for a door to door sales person. So yes of course in this modern era social media is an important campaign tool but no, it is not in any way shape or form a replacement for the good old fashioned canvass.
In complete honesty there have been so many times in my very short tenure as a member that I’ve felt like jacking it in. Some of the social media arguments and the infighting, coupled with some nasty abuse I personally received made me miserable. When your mum is meant to be having a proud moment of watching you deliver a speech via Facebook live and she sees each and everyone of the venmous comments, it gets to you. Yet everytime I have this wobble over my membership I can guarantee one thing. The fantastic group of people I’ve come to love, always pick me back up again. When you get to meet and see the dedication from Labour Party members it’s impossible not to be enthused. When you meet Labour MPs in real life you feel proud, not to mention how incredible some of the hugs from them are (😂) and just how normal they end up being. Don’t know what I was expecting really but any question of not feeling like there are any MPs you feel represented with as a person can in my case be completely erased with 10 minutes in the company of Jess Phillips MP. Then you start campaigning for the local county elections and become completely inspired by the candidates your working for. They give you an education. Watching them work so hard for the area you live in and seeing the record of what they’ve achieved is a powerful motivator. I’m proud to play my part in helping them with reelection. I can talk passionately about them to the residents because I believe in them. Cllr Rosie Kirkand, Cllr Geoff Ellis and every single member working with them, they have sparked the drive up in me again and reminded me why I joined in the first place. To make a difference in the community. There are no better people to look up to than them when it comes to that. The last month helping out on both their campaigns has had an incredible impact on me. I’m much happier in my self. My anxiety is having less of an impact. There is no better medicine than going out with the team and just laughing my head off with them. I finally feel included. I belong. Too finish this on something I tweeted the other day but something that summarises this year in the end for me. Being a new mum, having moved to a new city can be quite isolating. I can honestly say the Labour Party has made me feel so included ❤ I know people have this poor view of politics but since I’ve been involved with the Labour Party I’ve felt a lot less lonely ❤#LabourFamily
Thank you all for having me.