Getting political, getting involved, taking responsibilityOctober 15 2015
Dan Lewis is a young CWU activist and member of the Bootle Financial Services. Dan recently attended at Q&A session with Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband. Here he shares his experience and what active steps he is taking to get involved, being active and staying active.
A couple of Sundays ago, I made the decision to become a member of theLabour party. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and learning about the policies of the Labour Party and what they stand for. In the last year I attended a CWUYouth Education Eventwhere I learned that the Labour Party was made by unions and how politics work from a local to national level. The event was short but crammed with information and opportunities to ask questions; I learned so much and now understand what it takes to become a local Councillor. Being a Councillor is something I would like to do at some point and now I know how.
So, since the event I have looked at my neighbourhood and thought about the changes I want to see. I also thought about the people that I cannot relate to, like the elderly, single mums, children and what changes they might want. For example, when it is icy out or has been snowing, I’m sure my friend on the corner would like for the pavements to be cleared because he can’t walk easily and can’t make it to the shop on ice or snow. I regularly will knock on his door on to see if he needs his papers or anything doing during these times, but I don’t know if anyone else does this when I may be away. Then I thought about more general issues, like the cost of living, crime, bin collections, public transport and similar issues. To tell the truth, there were a lot of things I had a problem with and thought others will as well. I feel that I have a lot to say on these issues and want to make a change; I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
My next step was to learn about the leader of the party and what he wants to do if Labour wins the election in 2015. Until the Labour Conference recently, there wasn’t much policy for the next election. But when the conference came, along came the policy. This excited me and I started to really question the policies and learn how they would work and benefit us, the working people. This is when I decided that I wanted to be a member of the Labour Party.
Within that week, I heard about Ed Miliband visiting Liverpool for a Q&A. I immediately spoke to my branch chair who, along with the NW Regional Secretary, helped me get my name on the list. Thanks John and Carl.
Similar to union reps, Ed was late, turned up talking before arriving and didn’t take a breath until his point was made, even talking over the few hecklers! He listened, empathised and then carried on his speech. To keep us from leaving for the bar while waiting for Ed, Luciana Berger (Wavertree, Liverpool MP) spoke to us about the failings of the Tory Government, her role in energy policies and views onOne Nation. Luciana took time to explain that there are 300+ energy tariffs in the UK and these need to be simplified for the consumer as comparison is currently impossible. One man spoke up during Luciana’s time on stage with the roaring questions I expected to hear, ‘When will Labour nationalise the railways? Banks? Save ourRoyal Mail?” to which the booklet we received on our seats made us believe may be the direction in which the night would go. The booklet talked about not losing the relationship with unions, mending what have become fragile links. But the questions later were not of this nature. Luciana welcomed the conversation but held the questions for Ed.
In Ed’s intro, he talked about his recently announced policies and how Labour, with the people will stand up to the Strong, he said Cameron is good at standing up to the weak, but we will not fall. We heard him talk about the working peoples’ voice being shut out and his pride in union links. Ed’s explanation of how the Labour Party needs to reach out to the individuals of the unions and parliament needs to represent the individuals of our nation, really reflect the people that make our nation the great place it is. In all, he built great momentum for his pride in Liverpool, the UK and The Labour Party. Ed believes the UK can be better; Labour can win the next election and made an effort to address the union relationship. I say he addressed it, because that he did.
The questions started with a wide range of subjects, Ed would take a handful and answer them with a small talk integrating the questions. In the first round he managed to answer the questions regarding the definition of working class with so many working class people not in work. How to build one Britain by building houses, affordable credit from credit unions, testing the value for money when looking at things like HS2. Key points for me were Ed’s agreement with the resident St Helen’s Councillor who compared the bedroom tax to the poll tax, this is something that brought some applause and gave Ed a perfect opportunity to talk about being the leader to oppose the bedroom tax. I didn’t have much knowledge on the poll tax but went straight to Google to learn of the excuse to line some already expensive pockets. The questions continued around the room. An amazing 16 year old who has dealt with Mental Heath through his teenage years stood in front of 400 people, spoke clearly and engaged us all to hear his story and asked Ed about what he will do to help other people who have walked in his shoes. Many different issues were raised and Ed took time to address each of them, agreed to read a report and give concern to the cases he learned of. Towards the end, Ed gave the questions to women, advising it’s in respect of their years of oppression, personally I think it was a cheap effort to avoid the many middle aged men who work for the Royal Mail with their hands raised. But I don’t like to be too negative and hope that his intentions were good.
It was great to see many different people attend, of different backgrounds and ages engaging in questions and there to hear Ed’s plan. After the event, looking back I found myself inspired by his words and wanting to do more for our country. While thinking about the evening, I remembered someone say to me, “Ask Ed when he will get his brother back and make him leader.” My reply was that as a union rep, if I was to attend a disciplinary hearing as a rep for a colleague who was not meetingtargets in their performance, I would not walk in agreeing with the management that the colleague’s brother who has now left the workplace should come back in replacement. I would look at the support, training, health, morale and so much more to empower the colleague and make sure management have fulfilled this and taken care of them before allowing the colleague to be disciplined without support. So this is our duty to Ed, he has reached his position, and we must support him and educate him on what we want our leader to do. The CWU have taught me that unions made the Labour party; in my mind this means that we must be a part of the breath of the Labour body, not a virus to its immune system.
CWU BFS Rep & Communications Officer