Sunday, 7 August 2016

End of an Era

A few weeks ago, both my parents died within ten days of each other. In time, I will probably write about the last few months of their lives, the issues of dealing with end of life care and the memories they left us with, right up to the end. For now, though, I am just posting the eulogy I wrote for their joint funeral, which my sister and I delivered together.

Freda was born in 1926 in Maidstone, to Albert (aka Gerry) and Frances Oliver. Her mother wanted to call her Geraldine, but the family advised that this would mean she would end up being called Gerry, a boy's name. It's ironic, then, that she was known universally as Fred or Freddie for most of her life. Albert was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and was absent for the first few years of her life – she remembered hiding under the kitchen table when this strange man came home – but was able as a 2 year old to answer a neighbour's “Where's your daddy, then?” with: “In the Mediterranean.”

Frank was born in Tonbridge four years later, the son of Henry, a police officer, and Rosa. Within the year they had re-located to Maidstone when Henry was promoted to Sergeant. The family – children Bill (Son), Robert, Frank and Brenda - lived at the Police Headquarters at Wren’s Cross. Sadly, Robert died at the age of 5.

Despite a profound dislike of school Fred was one of the first pupils to attend Maidstone Commercial School (later Maidstone School for Girls/Invicta). She often told the story of the wind carrying her much-hated school hat into the River Medway, only to have someone drag it out and return it to the school. To add insult to injury, she then had to write to thank the man who had rescued it. Much more important to her than school was her dancing, which she had been doing from a very young age.

Frank, meanwhile, gained a scholarship place at Maidstone Grammar School, the passing of which exam he put down to the intervention of WWII. Worried about air raids, his primary school teachers took the children out to the relative safety of the oast houses at East Farleigh, where they crammed past scholarship papers. Anyone who knew Frank and that fierce intelligence he still demonstrated even to his last few days, may suspect he was being (uncharacteristically) modest. It meant, though, that both of us were able to point to the scholarship board at All Saints Primary School and say “That's my dad!”

For Frank, the war years were something of a schoolboy adventure. He always claimed to be Maidstone's first war casualty, as he put it himself a few years ago:

On the morning of Sunday 3rd September 1939 Neville Chamberlain made a wireless broadcast stating that a state of war now existed. Within a matter of minutes the Air Raid sirens started to sound. At that time I was a rather cherubic choirboy and the strains of the siren came to us through the chords of the organ while I was at choir practice. We were hurried back to the vestry where the vicar dismissed us with the words "we are in a moment of very great danger - I want you to hurry to your homes". I did not need a second telling. I ripped off my surplice and cassock and leapt through the vestry door, tripped over a tombstone and fell headlong on the ground, taking off a large piece of skin from my knee. Because of this I claim to be the first civilian casualty of World War II.”

The family moved to the new Police HQ in Sutton Road in 1940, where the cells were used to house downed German pilots. As Frank's best friend's dad was the overnight jailer, this meant they were able to get autographs. The war was a formative experience, which he recorded in his (as yet) unpublished work “The Second Great War in Pictures by Frank J Hayward, aged 9 3/4” His best friend at this time was Michael Todd; together they got into all sorts of (almost lethal) scrapes, such as electrifying the whole street by putting crocodile clips on a chain-link fence to run electricity out to the garden shed and constructing a diving helmet out of a gas mask which Frank then tested in Loose stream by weighing his pockets down with rocks! Mike, though, was to have a much more important role in his life.

Fred had by this time left school and was working at Royal Insurance. With the war in full swing she found herself taking a more important role than she would have done in peace time, and was soon trusted to produce what her boss called the “Dear Sir, you're not covered” letters. She was also required to fire watch during air raids, although with her legendary ability to leave cigarettes burning in forgotten places, her colleagues often said the office records were more at risk from her than the Luftwaffe. It was at this time she gained the nickname “Incendiary Fred” and where she met a young co-worker called... Mike Todd.

As Frank told Jill (a few days before he died) “I first met Fred in Mote Park in 1946, at a bonfire to celebrate a year after the end of the war” - Mike was the connection and they all remained lifelong friends.

It wasn't all plain sailing, though. Fred was already seeing another young man at the time and in 1947, married Monty Temblett. She was also by this time growing bored with office life. With the war over, and men returning to their old jobs, she found her role diminished so she took the plunge, left a safe job and formed her own dancing school in 1948.

At the same time, Frank was called up for his National Service. Having been Lead Cadet in his ATC Squadron, he became one of the first five national servicemen to be trained as pilots. He trained initially on Tiger Moths, and always retained his love of flying, although he was less impressed with air travel as a passenger. On a work trip to Perth, he once remarked. “That's not flying, it's just like being on a bus.”

Back in civilian life, his career in insurance went hand in hand with his love of entertainment. He helped out with shows put on by the Freda Oliver School of Dancing throughout the 1950s. It was during this period that the infamous “Shooting of Dan McGrew” incident took place. One of the cast, Tony, was reciting this poem as a set piece and told Frank, who was operating the curtains, to listen for the cue to bring them down. It's quite a long poem, and Frank drifted off into a reverie; he was jolted back into action when he suddenly heard the cue. He quickly pulled on the ropes.....

….and Tony launched into the next verse! Not knowing quite what to do, Frank thought “do nothing and the audience won't notice”, so he hung on to the ropes until the end of the piece. It was only afterwards he was told that the curtains had descended just enough to obscure Tony's head, so the last few verses had been delivered by a disembodied voice. This has passed into family legend and makes events such as funerals quite awkward. At Tony's funeral, his brother came up to Fred after the body was committed, held her hand and whispered, “At least Frank wasn't on curtains this time.”

In 1959, Fred and Monty were divorced and in July of that year, she and Frank were married. Their 57th wedding anniversary would have been two days before this funeral, but as they frequently forgot to celebrate it it seems fitting that we were also two days late for it.

Fred and Frank began married life in Brewer Street, but moved shortly afterwards to an upstairs flat at 21 College Road. In December 1962 Jill arrived, in a blizzard, during the second coldest winter of the twentieth century! In 1963, their landlord decided to sell up and offered Frank the whole house. As this included a sizeable front room, which could accommodate a dance studio, they found the money to pay a mortgage, and the rest is history. 

The Hayward family was completed with the addition of Sally in 1965, and from this point on the school became a family affair. In 1966, Fred decided that her pupils had little real outlet for their dancing skills, so she and Frank decided to stage a pantomime, Cinderella, at the town's Municipal Theatre. This was successful and so the following year they formed the Freda Oliver Theatre Group, and provided Maidstone with its pantomime for the next ten years.

In addition to Theatre Group work, Frank also found time to sing with Maidstone Opera Group. He also played Mitch in a production of a Streetcar Named Desire, notable for a press photo which captioned all the cast members' names as John – even the woman in the photo!

Panto scripts were written by both of them (with a fair amount of 'homage' to the Basil Brush Show). Fred's typing – for in those days, multiple scripts meant several sheets of carbon paper and hitting the keys very hard – was legendary. On more than one occasion, Prince Charming declared “...and Cinderella shall be my bridge!”  

Panto took over the entire household from September, when rehearsals started. There was usually a mad dash on Christmas Eve to remove all the costumes from the Living Room so that the family could actually have Christmas. In addition, all four family birthdays fell between the end of December and mid-January – Jill's birthday parties occasionally took place on stage between matinee and evening performances.

When in 1976 Maidstone Borough Council finally woke up to the income-generating possibilities of having a professional panto, the group found itself without a home. Undeterred, Fred and Frank simply re-designed everything and took the show on the road. The Barnstorming Years meant transporting the whole production from one venue to another – village halls, care homes, Medway Little Theatre.

During the 1970s, the Group also put on a series of variety shows and a musical – Cloud 7 – which was conceived, written and performed in the space of 6 weeks when Fred realised she had forgotten to cancel a provisional booking of the Theatre in May 1979. So instead of O level revision, several of the cast were up to their eyes in costumes and rehearsals.

By this time, their children were growing up and doing more. Sally spent many years helping with the running of the school, taking classes, sorting costumes and performing, in addition to college and eventually starting her own school in Sittingbourne. Jill moved from stage to orchestra pit in later years before leaving Maidstone for university.

In 1992, with Frank's retirement from General Accident (something he had been counting down to for about 10 years!), they put on their final pantomime, closed the school after over 40 years and their thoughts turned to moving to Devon, site of our family holidays and somewhere they had always wanted to live. And so, in 1993, they cleared College Road of costumes, pantomime horses, cows, camels, and other assorted momentos of 30 years' residence, packed them up and (as we later discovered) transported much of it with them across country! The garden shed contains the entrance of an Eygyptian tomb painted on hardboard and a lion's head.

Once in Sidmouth, they again threw themselves into local life. Fred joined her local WI branch, serving a term as President; Frank stood for election to public office and served a term as an independent councillor on Sidmouth Town Council. They also enjoyed many a summer evening in Connaught Gardens listening to the town band, as well as seeking out the best local pubs. They were also active members of East Devon Conservative Association, canvassing and advertising cream teas.

In 1998, they became grandparents. Frank threw himself wholeheartedly into this new role, pulling faces and generally being silly. He was also M's greatest defender, always righteously indignant on her behalf and scathing in his opinion of the educational establishment's inability to deal with her autism. 

Fred and Frank also joined the Sidmouth Songsters, Frank singing and Fred turning pages for the accompanist. They also assisted in putting programmes of songs together and Frank spent many a happy hour printing out sheets of music. One of the grandchildren's fondest memories is of when Grandpa (then approaching 80) jumped off the stage during a rendition of Flanders and Swann's “The Hippopotamus Song”, although others questioned the wisdom of this!

The Songsters raised thousands of pounds for local charities and it was only in 2012, when they and other members felt they were getting a bit too old for it, did they finally retire from entertainment. As Frank said to Jill a few days before he died, “All my life, from the time I was a choirboy, I have been entertaining people.” This is so true of both of them.

Frank was diagnosed with cancer in February of this year. He accepted it with equanimity and, true to form, set to organising his affairs. I made as many trips as possible down from Manchester and Frank was delighted that he was able to buy M her first pint at the Conservative Club (and even more delighted when she bought him one in return!). Happily, the family were able to get Fred and Frank down to the Club one last time in April.

In mid-June, quite unexpectedly, Fred was admitted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital with a chest infection and sadly died the following day. Frank was, by this time at Sidmouth Community Hospital, where he died 10 days later, with us by his side.

Reading the tributes of old pupils and friends on social media and compiling this eulogy has made us all appreciate quite how significant an influence they were on a generation of young people in Maidstone. Some have themselves pursued careers in entertainment as a result. Fred was a major figure in the town and Frank was a loyal consort, never complaining when he was mistakenly called Mr Oliver. How fitting it is that these two great entertainers, who had known each other for 70 years, should be leaving us in the way they would have wanted – as a double act.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

"Stick It Where the Sun Don't Shine" (Misogyny in the Labour Party, that is)

There are copies of candidate statements available. Can you return them at the end of the meeting, to save on copying for other meetings?” said the officiating party representative. There was no need – the pile remained untouched and un-read at the end of the meeting.

It was no surprise that others had ambitions for our ward – that became clear when the recently-victorious candidate failed to thank any of her campaign team but managed to name-check a couple of people from outside the ward at her victory party.

One of the criticisms our opponents threw at us for years was that our candidates weren't local – that they didn't live in the ward and until selection had little or nothing to do with it. For the 2015 campaign, the branch had two strong potential candidates from within the ward. Both with experience in campaigning and local activism, who were (or had been) union reps, school governors, local authority workers; who knew the area, whose children were educated in the local state schools, who had demonstrated commitment to the branch and to the campaigns of previous candidates. The branch was newly-energised, with a core group of dedicated members who regularly attended branch meetings, strong distribution networks for leafleting and a mission to engage with all sections of the local community, in one of the most diverse wards in the city.

Selection is a two stage process: shortlisting enables branch members to decide who to invite for interview (based on their candidate statements), and the selection meeting interviews all those shortlisted before voting for a candidate.

The shortlisting meeting had been booked at a local community centre, and all branch members were invited to attend. They were reminded that membership cards would be required on the night, to establish eligibility to vote. The shortlisting meeting is often the first opportunity ordinary members get to assess the capabilities of prospective councillors.

When the regular members arrived, they found that the meeting had been moved to a larger room than the normal one used for branch meetings and the AGM, and a sea of unfamiliar faces were already seated some 20 minutes before the meeting was due to start. There were two party officials present as observers but it was felt, as the Chair and Secretary were both potential candidates, that one of those observers should chair the meeting instead.

The procedure for the meeting was explained, membership cards checked (although some people were 'vouched for', having not brought their membership cards, despite this being clearly requested in advance) and it was agreed that the two potential in-ward candidates present would leave the room once the nomination process was due to start.

At this point, someone from the floor asked that any shortlist be restricted to just two names. The chair explained that the size of any shortlist was something that could determined once all nominations had been received. The two local potential candidates then left the meeting.

A total of 5 nominations were made; the two local candidates and three from outside the ward. At this point the size of the shortlist would normally be determined before discussing the merits of the nominated candidates and voting to determine which should go forward to selection. The proposal for a two person shortlist was voted on and accepted (without, apparently, any discussion of the rationale behind it) and the meeting then proceeded to a secret ballot; no discussion of the candidates' merits, just the vote.

A few minutes later, the meeting broke up. Two out-of-area candidates had been selected for interview; one of them, the person who'd been “thanked” by our new councillor....

Regular, active members, those who had been out knocking on doors and delivering leaflets in all weathers, were visibly upset at the outcome. That with two good local candidates to choose from, they had again been landed with an outsider. The one big campaign issue that could have been neutralised immediately (“You don't live here!”) would now once again be a fight campaigners would have to have before even starting on policy differences.

And this had been done on the basis of the votes of people who had never involved themselves with the branch, had never joined in campaigns, but had simply turned up to vote one one occasion, without any discussion of alternative candidates and seemingly no wish to hear what the other 3 nominees might have to say to them at the selection meeting. Notably, few of them have been seen since.

For a branch without a sitting councillor (which was in itself contentious, as the incumbent was not included on the panel of candidates, effectively de-selected by the party without reference to the branch who originally selected him, and whose appeal to the NEC was still pending on the night of the meeting), it would not have been unreasonable to have interviewed all five nominated candidates. While no rules had actually been broken, the selection was conducted in an unethical (and yet clumsily obvious) way. Active members had been left in no doubt that their hard work and commitment counted for nothing, and they would simply be given a favoured candidate for whom they were expected to campaign.

Nor was this the first year in which this had happened. When selection took place for 2014 candidates, the branch again had two candidates from within the ward (both male), but it was declared an all women shortlist (not that there is anything wrong with those). The branch was also the very last to hold its selection meeting, so the shortlist voted on by the branch diminished as other candidates got selected until on the night, there was only one remaining candidate to be interviewed. When this was questioned from the floor, the response was that if the branch did not make a 'selection', a candidate would be imposed.

The two local candidates in this case (the branch Chair and Secretary, don't forget) were not, and have never been, formally notified of the outcome of the meeting. Not that they had failed to be shortlisted, nor the names of those who had. As branch members, they should have been invited back into the meeting to discuss the final agenda points (timing of speeches, questions to be asked of candidates, etc for the selection meeting next week) but they were not, and were left outside until the meeting broke up. No commiserations from the two councillors present, both of whose election campaigns had been reliant on these people's hard work and enthusiasm. A very shabby way to treat good people. And if they treat their own activists with such contempt, one has to query what they think of the local electorate?

The party 'machine' had been used before the shortlisting to try and preclude one of the in-ward candidates from standing, on the grounds that he had a substantive job within the local authority. It had to be pointed out to them that under the rules a) local authority employees were entitled to stand as long as they resigned at the point of nomination (this has also, on occasion, been extended to resigning if elected) and that b) the person in question had disclosed his employment status at the initial panel interview without it being questioned. The machine then cranked up a gear, with a story being circulated that the other in-ward candidate had stood down from the process prior to shortlisting, an (incorrect) fact that was happily passed around the party.

After the selection, relations between the elected councillors and the branch executive worsened considerably. Laughable appeals for 'unity' which appeared to mean the branch supporting councillors' actions without question, failure to respond to reasonable requests for information, while accusing branch officers of inaction (when the officer in question was on holiday) regarding councillor actions/activities, discussing a significant issue about a branch officer privately with another officer on a matter which affected the branch more widely, seemingly appointing a campaign manager without reference to the Executive Committee and arranging a campaign meeting at 24 hours' notice during August, when most of the EC were unable to attend. There was also a (hastily withdrawn) threat from the CLP to suspend the branch for questioning councillors' actions, with the accusation that the branch was “trying to impose its will” on the councillors. A formal complaint to the party about the conduct of one of those involved has not given any response some sixteen months after it was made.

The smears continued. The first branch meeting of the autumn was held at a new venue, but some people turning up at the old one were told that it had been cancelled as 'trouble' was expected. Only mischief-making possibly, but deeply unprofessional. The next leaflet omitted the sitting-but-deselected councillor (whose term of office did not run out until May 2015) from the 'team' contact list, effectively air-brushing him from the branch.

In the next few months, both the branch chair and secretary resigned; a branch fundraiser attracted only about 15 people; activists stopped going out on the doorstep. By the time of the AGM, it was felt necessary to put forward a motion declaring that the branch had “complete confidence in its councillors and candidate” which, in itself suggested there might be a problem.

This is not an isolated case. There are reports of similar things happening all over the country. The Labour Party has many fine, committed activists, but increasingly, they were not being given the chance to serve their communities. It is a profoundly worrying trend and will ultimately do harm to a party already accused of ignoring its core vote and parachuting candidates into seats with which they have no connection.

In the last 24 hours, there have been news stories about muslim women being prevented from standing as candidates. Sadly, this is all too credible, despite the party's reassurances as to the robustness of the selection system. This system can be, and is, played to the advantage of the party machine. And it's not just muslim women, but all women (and some men) whose faces don't fit, for whatever reason.

Of course, there's a right of appeal. But when no actual rules are broken (just twisted to within an inch of snapping), what would be the point? As many of us have discovered, complaints disappear into a black hole. And, as we're always being told, party unity is important, so why would 'ordinary' members want to cause embarrassment?

Suggesting that other political parties don't have ways of influencing candidate selection would be naive. Other parties may  be "worse". But I expect better of the Labour Party. Women members have had enough of 'keeping quiet' for the good of the party. This is wrong, and we shouldn't have been putting up with it. As one comrade puts it:

"We, us, the gobby, loud, opinionated bintz in the Labour Party are ready, willing and prepared to shout from the roof tops; shove your misogyny where the sun don't shine."

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sometimes it's Hard to be a Woman...

Well, it is in the Labour Party, at any rate.

I warn you not to be vocal

I warn you not to be working class

I warn you not to rock the boat

I'm beginning to think the Labour Party (and wider movement) really isn't a good place for women. For all its window dressing about equality, it's sadly lacking in a lot of respects. From the low-grade stuff (referring to two middle-aged women Vice Chairs of a branch as "the Vice Girls"; the routine lack of eye contact and engagement from some groups) to outright rudeness and intimidation. And then there's the tolerance of sexual impropriety (see previous blog) which, in the light of serious CSE cases, is very worrying indeed. 

From the young turks who think they know it all to the "creepy*" older hands, there's always an opportunity to be looked down on, marginalised and (in extreme cases) smeared. Challenge this, though, and you are labelled a troublemaker.

Of course, there are the proper channels to go through if you are in dispute. You can put in a formal complaint. You can wait a year and have no response. Your enquiries can go unanswered. Democracy in (in)Action.

And then there's the Women's Groups. Eternal forums for discussion but essentially just divisive and separatist.

Loyalty, it seems, is only a one way street, with members (especially women members) expected to shut up and do as they're told. 

It seems to me that "inclusion" in the Labour Party is about as meaningless as it is in education - in reality, it is integration - you do it our way or not at all - rather than true inclusion.

The fact that your least worst option in British politics is this sorry state of affairs is profoundly depressing.

*not my description, but it says a lot about perceptions of new members

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A Menopausal Malcontent Sounds Off.

This may turn out to be several posts in one. I think I've just had enough.

For the Good of the Party 

All those years the Left kept quiet in the name of party unity. How rash of us to believe that the same would apply now that the Right (sorry, "Moderate") wing of the party is no longer in the ascendant. 

It was fine during the leadership campaign - voice whatever opinion you like in support of your candidate (up to and including "That Corbyn bloke will be a disaster" and so on) but we have a result now - a decisive one, with the biggest democratic mandate in the history of the party - and the fact that you don't like the result does not give you the right to spout off about the leader and brand those of us who supported/voted for him as "a rabble", Trots, and a whole lot worse. 

And yet we have MPs and front benchers who spend their days slagging off the leadership, and are then astonished to get the sack. Rentaquote "feisty" types who "won't shut up" or others who whinge incessantly and then flounce out of the party. Yesterday's men (the same ones who drove so many from the party over the last 25 years) pontificating ad nauseam in the press to any journalist who'll listen (and that's most of them - easier than seeking out alternative narratives beyond London and the South East).

And then there are local councillors who see their assured future careers as MPs (via the Progress finishing school) suddenly receding into the distance, and have spent the last few months snarking about the leadership like the group of self-declared "cool kids" in the playground, and who then suddenly turn up with their own pressure group, Open Labour, which arrived in a blaze of glory a few weeks ago and then....... 

As social media groups like 50+Corbyn Supporters show, "Corbynistas" aren't all young, naive or SWP entryists; they are ordinary folk who are old enough to remember what life was like in the 80s/90s under the last lot of Tories and, more importantly, what life was like before that - when we had the Britain of Compassion and Public Ownership. You remember? The one where we weren't "intensely relaxed" about inequality, and where we didn't believe that outsourcing public services to large private BPO companies was the answer to everything. These are the people who are flocking back to Labour, along with the young who have never had the fortune to experience life without triangulating consensus of Thatcherism and New Labour.

And yet some of the PLP and some councillors, far from being chastened by the rejection of their uniformly lacklustre leadership candidates, have seen fit to try and trash both the leader and the 59.5% of party members who voted for him. Not for them acceptance of a democratic mandate. Not for them keeping their opinions to themselves for the good of the party.No. They are Important People and their opinions MUST BE HEARD. In public. All the time.

For years it was those of us on the Left who were urged to keep our misgivings to ourselves, to "not wash our dirty linen in public", etc, etc. We did. And do you know what? It allowed all kinds of unacceptable behaviour to continue which should have been challenged openly. 

The manipulation of candidate selection to ensure preferred candidates were selected over the wishes of local members, branches and CLPs, resulting in candidates being foisted on members and activists, and whispering campaigns to undermine those who had the temerity to object. The disdain with which the party hierarchy treats its members is quite staggering in some places. 

The reluctance to challenge wrongdoing for fear of causing cultural offence has led to powerful blocs within the Labour Party whose values run counter to those the majority of members hold.

Silencing voice of the membership within the party in the name of electability (which continued long after that electability faded) resulted in focus-group/ opinion poll/core vote strategies which took no notice of what was happening in real life (and which activists could have told them if they'd bothered to ask). For a Democratic Socialist party, we became pretty undemocratic and not the least bit socialist, defending policies of which we should have been ashamed.

My Enemy's Enemy (isn't Necessarily my Friend)

Sadly, bad behaviour is endemic. It's not just the so-called Moderates, either, although their sense of entitlement is almost as breathtaking as the Tories. To be honest, though, elements of the Left are just as bad. The upsurge of support, activism and enthusiasm which made Corbyn's election campaign so exciting has rapidly descended into nasty little power games. Just as much of the PLP sees members and activists as unimportant foot soldiers, so a few self-appointed "leaders" of Corbyn-supporting groups are busy carving out niches for themselves, ignoring the voices of the thousands who signed up in the summer. And the dirty tricks have started; goading (I won't call it bullying - yet), undermining other groups, tampering with social media accounts. More like the SWP than the Labour Party. Some of the comrades are being decidedly un-comradely at the moment.

Which brings me on to....

Rum, Misogyny and the Lash

Labour has a woman problem. Not just whether or not they hold the highest "offices of state" or whether they make up 50% of the shadow cabinet (which they now do), but the way in which the party treats women. Yes, we have All-Women Shortlists, but these can also be used to manipulate candidate selection to exclude good local male candidates when it suits. Low level misogyny is never very far from the surface, and attitudes among some male members of the party are pretty neanderthal. When a number of women members go through the correct procedure (independently) to complain about the same party official, their case drags on for over a year and their polite enquiries as to progress are not even acknowledged. Similarly, there were a distressing number of male party members who were unconcerned about Simon Danczuk's actions simply because the girl concerned was over the age of consent. Again, more like the SWP than the Labour Party.

This is not to say that all the men in the Labour Party behave poorly; there are some fine, honourable comrades with whom I'm proud to be associated. There are also, however, a sizeable number who appear to think that women's voices don't count for much ("who are these people?") and they certainly don't like women who stand up to them! I thought we'd moved on from Stokely Carmichael's view about the place of women in political movements, but there you go. 

I've stayed very quiet about a number of things which make me unhappy about the Labour Party at the moment. Yes, the right of the party and their reluctance to accept that life and the British people have moved on from the heady days of New Labour is infuriating, but I had so much hope that things would be different under Corbyn. He still has the right message, but he needs to stop listening to the siren call of those who see his leadership as their shortcut to greatness. As with Ed, when Corbyn is being his own man he is engaging, intelligent and with all the right messages. He just has to put the party in order. Sadly, though, there is a group of men/boys lurking in the shadows of the broad church, playing silly games while Britons suffer.