Let’s Get Behind Jeremy

I have supported Labour all my life and in every election. I have not done this because I believe the party always mirrored exactly my own thoughts and beliefs but because it most closely matched my concerns. I am essentially a socialist but accept there is a place for capitalism, but it is not in education, health, social housing utilities, buses and trains. I believe these are basic for a decent life and that these things should not be subject to markets or shareholders. I also believe that a humane, decent society should look after the weakest through support and challenge to enable them to look after themselves.

I have seen at first hand through members of my family the quiet despair of living in poverty and with little hope as the lifelines they need are slowly wrenched away. They are lucky that I have been able to fill the temporary gap but that is not how society should work. I have seen their quiet resignation at never being able to improve themselves or their situation because it takes all their resources to simply exist from day to day.

I have listened with increasing frustration to the mealy-mouthed pronouncements of politicians of all hues failing to understand the lives and experiences of many of our citizens because they are more interested in maintaining their own position or looking after their mates or getting re-elected or not upsetting the right wing press that holds such sway in this country. I listened with anger as the Tories trashed the last Labour Government and blamed them for the economic crisis engulfing the western world without response from Labour.

I have listened to what goes on in Parliament and PMQs and am revolted by what I hear. It’s the sound of point scoring, sneering, slick, glib word play, arrogant bully boy drollery, personal attacks and nastiness and little, very little, to do with the lives of ordinary people striving to raise their families and do their best every day.

Make no mistake, every day we have a Tory government that is what we will be treated to. It was the same in the 80/90s – that’s where it started – with malice and sneering nastiness such as Peter Lilley and his “little list”. I was a single mother back then – a form of feckless scrounger as far as the Tories were concerned despite the fact I was working and paying my taxes. I was also a teacher, reviled on a daily basis. It was wearing and debilitating.

So, I have become increasingly world weary with politics and politicians but now, I am awake.

This August I joined the Labour Party so that I could vote in the Leadership election. I have been electrified by the Jeremy Corbyn factor. I started listening to someone who spoke calmly and plainly without dissembling. Someone who declared that he would not be making personal attacks on rivals or others and urged his supporters to follow his lead. Not only that, he stuck to it despite immense provocation. How very refreshing.

Reader, I voted for Jeremy Corbyn not because I agree with everything he says or believe that he will be able to achieve all he aspires to – could I or you or anyone say this of any potential or actual leader? I think not. I did it because he has made politics interesting again, because PMQs will, hopefully, never be the same again. It’s hard to maintain a posture of sneering and vilification in the face of someone who won’t rise to the bait. I did it because I generally like his direction of travel. He has injected some humanity into politics and I can stop feeling ashamed of the way we are behaving toward s the poor, the dispossessed and the desperate.

I thought I might be able to relax and bask in these new possibilities. But no.

I am horrified to hear of talk of splits in the party – haven’t we learnt anything? Of course there are different views and beliefs in the party – that should make for lively discussion and the development of policies that are carefully arrived at having considered all views. Of course some will be disappointed that their view doesn’t prevail. But isn’t that democracy? Have we forgotten that the minute there’s a split there’s a point of exploitation for the enemy.

I am outraged to hear that moderate Labour MPs are planning informal talks about a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn. How dare they? Since when did the Labour Party belong to the MPs? Jeremy Corbyn won across all sections of the electorate. All of them. I’m a paid up member and part of the more than a quarter of a million who voted for Jeremy Corbyn – are our views worth nothing? Worth less than MPs’ views? They should remember they are our elected representatives not our superiors.

I am exasperated that Labour MPs are publically declaring that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will be a disaster before we are at the end of day one. It might be, it might be brilliant. I wouldn’t presume to say and I certainly wouldn’t be saying it in the public domain if I were an MP. In my profession, if I had done that it would be a disciplinary issue and I would have been lucky to stay in my job.

Let’s not help the right wing media and the Tories. Let’s get behind the leadership and the party and do all we can to show the Tories up for what they are.

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I won’t be there…

They caught me unawares: large soft, silent tears – the sort that soon turn to great gulping, gasping sobs – sliding quietly down my cheeks. I blame @HeyMissSmith for it was she who posted the Des Moines back to work staff meeting with the Les Mis Flash mob. It was wonderful: funny, clever, heart-warming. What larks! What clever, creative people who had taken the time and trouble to come up with this bit of whimsy to ease the back to work trauma.

I’ve sat through countless back to work, state of the nation type days and none of them have been as much fun as the Des Moines one. And that’s what provoked the tears. I won’t be sitting through one this year. Tomorrow when my colleagues gather on the bleachers to hear the new Head talk about her plans and the deputy outlining the school’s performance in the summer series. I won’t be there.

I’ve been reading lots of blogs about back to school: advice for new teachers, new senior leaders, ideas about what to do on the first day, sharing ideas and resources for new curricula, encouraging, exhorting and soothing. I’ve seen the start of worry Tweets: back to work tomorrow, the summer has gone fast, the days spent planning and it can’t be long before the poor sleep and bad dreams Tweets follow tomorrow. And I’m not part of it.

Soon the kids will start trundling through the doors: wild-eyed, excited Year 7s in their too-big blazers, their ties tied by their mum and their shiny new shoes, Year 8s thinking they’ve made it now they’re not the bottom of the pile, Years 9 and 10 cynical and wary and Year 11 world-weary and braced for the exhortations to work harder, the assessing and weighing and worrying and fretting as their teachers labour to hit targets. And I won’t be greeting them.

While all these things are going on I will be hiding in the Spanish sunshine having what we always want at the end of the summer holiday – more time not working. Well, I will have that now as I retired this summer and I am living the dream. Only it looks a bit scary from here. It’s like a precipice into nothing with me teetering on the edge. My working life has been structured and controlled with something different happening every hour or so, people always around, noise, laughter, fun and sometimes tears, triumph and tragedy. Now, I am in control of my days: there are no fixed events, no obligations and no calls on my time or expertise.

I feel sad and a little lost but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit relieved as well. Teaching is a tough gig these days and getting tougher. I’ve already managed to carry on for longer than the norm – 42 years (gulp)- and it’s time to move on and do new things. I need to use this quiet time to think about what I want to do and then, when I stop hiding, to get out and get on with it.

I miss my lovely colleagues and I will miss the kids – the best part of it all – and that pain is physical and visceral but it will mend eventually. Now I have time to concentrate on my other people – the ones we see too little of when we are in the full throttle of hectic working days: my husband, sons, step-sons and grandchildren.

What’s not to like about that?

What’s not to like about that?