Friday 16 November 2018

'Obtuse? Me?' 'Yes you.' | just a few examples (with postscript)

Obtuse: ‘annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand’.

Remember that scene from The Shawshank Redemption:

Andy: 'How can you be so obtuse?'
Prison Governor: ‘What did you just call me?
Andy: ‘Obtuse, is it deliberate?’

Just a few examples of obtuseness (to say the least) in the UK from this week alone.

The Prime Minister

Earlier this week it was reported that the Spice Girls are urging us all to support the Prime Minister Theresa May thus: ‘We don’t have to agree on politics, it’s bigger than that. You can just support a woman doing the best she can and that’s it.' My response to this, as I noted on twitter, is at least threefold. 

Nothing is 'bigger' than politics. All life; our chances, choices and experiences are political as is family and work life, leisure, health, religion, education... what we wear and what we eat, who we date... etc. And so on... All is political.

But OK maybe they mean Party Politics. But still what can be 'bigger' than that when the Party in power makes an active choice to privilege the few and NOT the many #ConsciousCruelty #DestitutionByDesign

The idea that we should 'support a woman doing the best she can' is nothing but patronising and sexist. We should judge the PM as a politician not as a woman. #everdaysexism The PM's 'best' = #ToryBrexshit #HostileEnvironment and more...

It is beyond obvious that #AusterityDoesntWork, in fact #AusterityKills and that furthermore women as a group suffer greatly as a result of the #HostileEnvironment created and perpetuated by our current PM. So much for #girlpower

And third:
The politics of the Left is characterised by creativity - great music, literature, poetry, art - and people find creative ways to challenge and resist - one of my fave examples being the knitting of coded messages into hats for soldiers at the front in WW1 #RemembranceDay

There is power and camaraderie in creative endeavour - in reading and in listening, in group art work and community singing. The cynic in me can't help but think that this is one of the reasons there is less and less opportunity for creative learning in the curricula.

By contrast the creativity of the Right is, at least to me, a pale and sad alternative. Prove me wrong if you can.... If not enjoy the #spicegirls, Jim Davidson and similar others, I'm off to read my recently bought copy of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists


I write letter after letter to @BBC complaints and to newspapers (sometimes published, sometimes not). This week I have visited the BBC complaints page twice.

Complaint No 1: Newsnight (13th November 2018)

‘Please just answer one question. How is it acceptable for Emily Matlis on Newsnight to ask Conservative MPs, if they "will fail the country and let Jeremy Corbyn into number 10?" I am at a loss as to how you can possibly deny the bias here and await your response with interest.’

Complaint No 2: Question Time (15th November 2018)

‘That Claire Perry MPs slanderous comments about the Leader of the Opposition went unchallenged by the chair and/or was not cut out of a pre-recorded programme surely means that the BBC has broken its’ own editorial guidelines and is therefore complicit in said slander?

I have written to the BBC several times before and have always received replies including at least one of the following: 'we are not biased ' / 'we criticise the Tories too' / 'you don't understand' / 'you are wrong'. I've had them all. On the occasions I question their response they invariably say 'we have nothing to add'. They even did that when, expecting it, I explicitly asked them not to! 

Today I received a reply regarding complaint No 1 proving that I’ve clearly missed my vocation as a fore-teller of the future:

It’s clear you felt the interview with Dominic Grieve displayed a bias against the Labour Party and revealed a personal opinion on the part of the presenter.

A week earlier Mr Grieve had stated that the needs of the country came before any Party political interests. The question posed here by Emily Maitlis in no way suggested a personal opinion, rather it’s a standard technique to challenge someone with what their opponents and critics would say. The value of this is in teasing out a response to the counterpoint, leading the interview on through a dialogue which considers the wider political spectrum.

The presenter has to assume a Conservative MP would not want to see a Labour government elected and it would, therefore, be a failure on their behalf, and those who elected them, if that were to happen.

Please be assured your comments have been shared with the programme team and senior BBC staff.


Well that's OK then. Silly me. Wrong again.

Despite all this I honestly believed that the following tweet by Andrew Neil (who despite being heavily criticised for his recent offensive, sexist tweet about fellow journalist Carole Cadwalldr has not yet apologised) was from a parody account:

I hope we show it again so somebody can tell who the miserable Jock [Bobby Gillespie, Scottish musician and singer-songwriter] is and what he’s ever done. Other than scowl and spout Corbynista propaganda from his fancy Islington pad.

The Prime Minister (again)

Following the presentation of a Brexit deal that has been roundly criticised by the Opposition and her own Party (although when it comes to the crunch it will be interesting to see if the term ‘Tory Rebels’ remains the misnomer it has up until now) the dominant narrative seems to be how 'brave', 'honorable', and 'resilient' Theresa May is. There is SO much I could write in response to this – not least with reference to the Windrush generation, justice for Grenfell, the cut in public sector workers (and their pay), 1950s women and their lack of pension, an NHS and education service in crisis, and more...  – but for now I’ll just provide a few quotes from Philip Alston, the UN Poverty Envoy (reporting today following a week in the UK):

‘Despite being the 5th largest economy in the world, there are 14 million people in poverty & 1.5 million are destitute. Frankly, the levels of child poverty here are staggering. MPs are in denial.’

‘Despite insisting austerity was necessary, the truth is that there haven't been many savings at all. . . . The motivation has not been to create a more caring system. The motivation is very clearly ideological.’

‘The actions of the DWP have been particularly damaging for women. Indeed there is a link to an increased risk of domestic violence. The ministers say well 'if the woman is struggling she should leave.' This process/attitude has to end.’

There is much more. See, for example, a twitter feed (to which I credit the quotes above) by @JackDunc1 and the following articles (so far): 

See also this by Steve Topple for some background to the visit:

Yet more evidence, of #DestitutionByDesign from a Prime Minister and a Party clearly #UnfitToGovern 

And yet how do the media respond?:
@JackDunc1 (Jack D):
Meanwhile...Sky News just now? "It's not all about #Brexit today" *holds breath* "It's also about the coveted Wildlife comedy photo awards"...

NB: I've already written this week of another example I could have included here: i.e. the focus on the LOTO's choice of clothes and his poppy rather than @UKLabour's pledge to veterans:

My response to all of this:

Me: ‘How can you be so obtuse?

The MSM, the Prime Minister, the Government, various celebrities and others: ‘What did you just call me?

Me: ‘Obtuse, is it deliberate?’ 


POSTSCRIPT (added 22nd November)

I, along with many others that I know of, received a reply from the BBC complaint No 2. It included:

Thank you for contacting us with your concerns about the edition of Question Time from Milford Haven.

We have received a range of feedback about this edition. To allow us to reply promptly to your concerns, and to ensure we use our Licence fee resources as efficiently as possible, we’re addressing here a range of issues which viewers have raised. Our complaints process allows us to offer a consolidated reply like this when necessary. We’re sorry that we can’t reply personally to you on each point which has been made. Please be assured that your reaction has been accurately shared with the programme makers, as well as senior staff.

The comments from Claire Perry MP regarding the Labour leader provoked a strong, mixed reaction from the studio audience. David Dimbleby controlled the situation by bringing her back to the point she was asked about, and asked her to make it in full. David then ensured that Barry Gardiner MP, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, was given an equally clear opportunity to challenge the comments. Mr Gardiner addressed the ‘very personal’ remarks about Jeremy Corbyn as he wished, and in full. ….

This reply, and the others I have previously received, make it clear I think that not only are there problems with the BBC in terms of their political ‘reporting’ but there is also a significant problem with their complaints procedure. There is never any admittance of a mistake being made, never an apology, never a ‘you said, we did/will do’ response. Never even an 'umm maybe we should think about this given the amount of response we have had.' The arrogance is nothing but staggering. I may have been ‘assured that your reaction has been accurately shared with the programme makers, as well as senior staff’ BUT I am not at all reassured. #BrokenMedia

[If you haven’t get please listen to Topple Uncaged for similar discussion on #Newsnight and other news last week]

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Cloaks, coats and other things that REALLY matter ...

In February 2017 I wrote a short story: The Minister’s New Clothes | A completely unbelievable short story. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both feature in the tale. The uproar on Sunday (11th November 2018) over Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of outerwear, the colour of his tie and his chosen poppy for Remembrance 2018 led me to reread it. Last year when I posted the story to various pro-Corbyn Facebook pages some responses focused solely on the Prime Minister’s clothes and appearance. For me the story was about a government that values the few at the detriment to the many; the ‘pantomime’ that parliament often descends into; and the demonisation of those who are defined as ‘other’, as less deserving, and of a man who is working to challenge this injustice and inequality. Given the title of my piece I guess it’s clear that my aim was to adapt the original The Emperor’s New Clothes to highlight these issues and Theresa May’s love of clothes and accessories helped me in building the ‘story’. So, in my tale clothes, and specifically the ‘cloak of lies’ the PM is given to wear by those who will do anything to retain their control, their privilege, at the expense of the many, was for me a metaphor for political power in Britain. I appreciate that stories can be read at many levels but regret that my story led to (further) critique of the PM’s appearance and I received some criticism for this. To clarify my position I am not, and I don’t think any of us should be, overly concerned with what our politicians wear. Although, and I appreciate the contradiction here, I do find obvious displays of wealth and privilege distasteful to say the least. But, what distresses me more, so much more is the explicit #ConsciousCruelty and #HostileEnvironment embedded within Conservative policy and practice AND the ways in which they are still able to convince so many people that this is not the case.

Before going any further here is the story I wrote last year. I hope you’ll be as struck as I am by its significance to what happened on the 11th of September 2018.

The Minister’s New Clothes | A completely unbelievable short story
There is a woman, a minister, the head of a government, well known to all of us who is extremely fond of new and expensive clothes. So much so that a considerable amount of the money she earns is spent on dresses, trouser suits, shirts and jumpers, not to mention very large necklaces and fancy shoes. Now, any woman, every woman, should be allowed to wear whatever she likes, without censure or comment, and as the men the woman works with are also well-dressed it is something of a sexist double-standard to single her out. But, given the woman’s powerful role, and the fact that many of those she supposedly represents are doing less than just about managing, that she is rarely seen in the same over-priced outfit twice seems more than a little tasteless. And yet, the woman seems oblivious to the impression she is giving, even agreeing to be featured in various publications to showcase her style and fashion sense.

Although everyone, including the woman and the ministers who work with her, pretend that the members of the government are the ones running the country in reality they and their actions are manipulated by a small number of rich and powerful others; the big business owners, the media barons and others generally referred to as the 1%. These people, many of them white, able-bodied men, have greater access to and control of, both the capitalist means of production and the ring wing ideological apparatus that is the mainstream media. They are therefore, responsible not only for the continued exploitation of the many, but also the ongoing skewed political socialisation of the masses. Such is their hunger for power and money this small, unrepresentative group will do anything they can to maintain their position and influence. The women's love of garments and accessories is valuable to them, in their plan to retain their status as the privileged few, willing as she is to wear their gift of a cloak woven together with threads made up of whopping great rancid lies.   

Her responsibility for the policies of the land means that the woman has to justify her decisions to her government, the ministers that challenge and oppose her, and more generally to us, the everyday folk in society. In a time honoured tradition, one afternoon each week the woman is posed a series of questions by the opposition ministers. Serious issues are raised and flaws in her plans and practices often highlighted and as such the event should, one would think, be conducted with solemnity and judged in terms of the substance of the points that are aired and the answers that are given (or not). Sadly though over the years this encounter has become more like a pantomime than a parliamentary debate with the jeerers and smearers, jesters and charlatans attempting to drown out the sincere interrogation. 'Oh Yes It Is', and 'Oh No It Isn't', are common taunts and given that some on the opposite benches seem unclear to whom their loyalty should lie, 'S/He's Behind You', is increasingly shouted in warning to the man who asks the lion's share of the questions. The woman herself, has little respect for the questions or for those that ask them and leads her ministers in insulting and abusing the opposition. The harshest and most vitriolic comments are reserved for the key questioner, a man who cares little about his own presentation of self, little about the clothes he wears, except that is for his collection of ties in deepest red. So warped has the system become that the nastier, more aggressive, more personal, more insulting the attack, and the thicker the woman's cloak of lies becomes, the more support she is given from those that control her, reflected in the representation of her by the 1% funded media. Thus, despite the woman's obvious lack of compassion for the many, coupled with much evidence of her bad judgements in terms of present national crises and future local and global concerns, her own particular toxic charisma becomes stronger and more positive in mainstream narratives.

The cloak, unlike the woman's other clothes, is not made of luxurious cloth in vibrant colours. Rather it is a dark despicable thing, dripping in filthy falsehood, greasy from backroom bargaining and grimy deals. Yet, the cloak remains invisible to many people who are unable to see it and the woman who wears it in all their true horror. Terrifyingly this means that the woman is trusted with what she ought not to be and believed even when it should be obvious that her words are nothing but hollow spin. On the few occasions when the cloak slips and the woman and her ministers are exposed for what they truly are the woman, aided again by the forces that protect her, creates a diversion, a moral panic, in order to deflect attention away from both her words and her actions. Once again the focus is often the man who leads the opposition; his arguments for peace claimed as both unsafe and unpatriotic, his efforts for those most vulnerable and alienated defined as old fashioned and unworkable. Additionally, (and yet more evidence that the woman's claim that she is working for a shared society for all is just another meaningless sound bite) attention is also diverted towards those whose identities, experiences, life-chances and choices do not fit that of the so-called, narrowly defined ideal type. Through the use of simplistic stereotypes just about everyone is labelled as other, stigmatised as abnormal and or dangerous, defined as undeserving. Those affected include (not least): the employed who fight for their rights, the unemployed for their drain on the system, the homeless for littering the streets; the old for their outdated views and lack of sympathy for the young, the young for their weakness and lack of resilience, those at midlife for their lack of care and attention for both the old and the young; the experts for their pomposity; anyone from man or woman in the street (or online) to celebrity who dares to offer a critique. But perhaps the greatest identification and demonisation of otherhood is directed at those defined as unworthy stranger; the immigrant and the refugee. We are told again and again that these people are simultaneously taking all our jobs and using up all our resources when in actuality considerations of a day without them clearly shows their invaluable input into the healthy, safe, effective daily lives of all.  So neighbour is pitted against neighbour and the tension and fear that this encourages successfully shifts the responsibility away from those who most deserve it. It is not the woman, the government, or the 1%, who take the blame for the inequalities and injustices in society but rather similar others who are equally, if not more, oppressed, powerless and vulnerable.

There are some, thankfully, who are able to see the cloak, the woman, and her supporters, for what they are. There are some, to whom we should all be grateful, who are working hard to ensure that more of us can see this too. There are some, despite continued misrepresentation and abuse, who continue to challenge fear and hate and insist on the need for hope and love.

There are some . . . 

Back to Remembrance 2018. Of course Sunday was not by any means the first time that the Leader of the Opposition has been criticised either for his appearance or his supposed lack of patriotism. I’m sure there is no need to go into detail although it is interesting to reflect on how, and possibly why, these issues collided (yet again) last weekend. It is well known, by those who look at little further than the mainstream media outlets that Jeremy Corbyn practices ‘Lest we forget’ differently to many other politicians. Just a little research uncovers pictures and stories of him meeting with veterans after the main event (rather than attending lunch with dignitaries) and attending and speaking at a Remembrance events in his own Islington constituency as he has done for many years. And yet year after year the focus is on his appearance – from his ‘poorly knotted tie’ to his ‘scruffy coat’ – and his so-called lack of respect – ‘he did a jig on the way to the Cenotaph’ (no he did not and the papers that reported this had to retract) to ‘he’s wearing such a tiny poppy’.

On Sunday, the Labour Party, and Mr Corbyn himself, made it clear that remembering is not enough:

Our veterans deserve security when their time in service ends:

Here’s our pledge to veterans:
Proper mental health services to treat PTSD
And end to rough sleeping
Free education, retraining, and more apprenticeships


As we remember the fallen, let's truly honour the words 'never again'.

On Remembrance Sunday, we commemorate all those killed in war as we strive for a world of peace. We must honour our commitments to those who served in our armed forces.

There is an estimated 13,000 homeless veterans (see @TheProleStar for an article and twitter thread focusing on ‘The Known Soldier’ (i.e. just some of veterans that have died whilst sleeping rough)). There are also obvious deficiencies in the health, work, educational and financial support (for this group and many others). Given this it is clear that the ‘cloak woven together with threads made up of whopping great rancid lies’ is still protecting the Prime Minister and her government if the focus on the day (from much of the MSM, from some politicians, and others active on social media) is not #LaboursVisionForBritain but Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes and his poppy. I must admit there are times when I wish that Mr Corbyn had a different, a slightly sharper, awareness of what the sociologist Erving Goffman (1959) called ‘presentation of self’ for it might make things easier for him. But, would I trade this imperfect (for aren’t we all), occasionally socially gauche, but brave and incredibly resourceful and resilient man, who is full to the brim of empathy for others and whose job is clearly a vocation with the at best plastic careerist, at worst disconnected, self-serving and cruel alternatives on both sides of the House? Absolutely, definitely not. 

Mr Corbyn righly yawning at yet another inaccurate attack

As I have written previously:

…. I don't consider myself to be part of a cult. Neither do I think that I am deluded or stupid or any of the other things I and similar others have been called in recent months. What I do passionately believe, with reference to my own life experience to date -  as a sometime carer and as someone who has needed professional (as patient) and personal (as daughter, wife, friend) care from others, as a student, a teacher, a researcher, a volunteer, a women and a citizen  - is that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour is our best hope, our only hope of a decent future for all.

There was, happily, much support for Mr Corbyn, and for Labour this last Sunday. Some folk challenged and corrected the fabrications and/or commented on the irrelevance of the LOTO's clothes:  

@silverrich39 (Richard O’Neill):
I’m a 79 year old ex army ‘war pensioner’. And I don’t give a flying toss what he wore. He’s the only politician I know who would actually protect ex-service personnel, unlike the Torries who create their problems.

Others focussed attention on @UKLabour’s pledge for veterans and many pointed out yet another irony within the outrage. Harry Lesley Smith, an activist and 95 year old World War II veteran tweeted:

Make no mistake the greatest disrespect to our veterans doesn’t come from the size of the poppy warn (sic) on the lapel but by those who enable arms to be sold into war zones not for our protection but for the greed of the 1% #JeremyCorbyn #RemembranceDay2018

Michael Rosen (@MichaelRosenYes) wrote a poem which included the following:

It’s not the coat they hate.
That’s not really their cause
What gets up all their noses?
He opposes all the wars.

See here for the rest: 

(I’d recommend everyone also read Jon Wight’s piece on some of the contradictions (to say the least) of Remembrance Day:

Sunday’s response (from all sides) to Mr Corbyn’s appearance at the Cenotaph and his, and his Party’s, ‘Lest we forget’ focus encapsulates, I think, the relevance of The Minister’s New Clothes to political understanding in Britain (and elsewhere) in 2018. We are told again and again and again that the Conservative government is dedicated to correct the ‘burning injustices’ of society and that a Corbyn-led government would be a threat to us all both in terms of domestic policy and international affairs. And sadly, just like those that lined the streets that the Emperor in the original ‘New Clothes’ tale paraded along, there are many who, despite what they see before them, believe this twisted, manufactured ‘truth’. But, there are others – politicians, activists (both on the streets and online), some journalists – who like the boy in the tale who spoke up about the nakedness of the Emperor, call this lie out for what it is. 

A few weekends ago there was another media outrage. This time about an anonymous Conservative MP who drew on violent language to describe Theresa May’s precarious hold on her position as PM and leader of the Conservative Party. The Labour MP Angela Rayner tweeted:

Tories told to report 'vile' MPs to POLICE after they boast of knifing&hanging Theresa May. I am genuinely shocked MPs would say such things given the toxic atmosphere on social media, how can we as MPs ask for acceptable behaviour&standards from others?

I agreed with Ms Rayner and with many others who made similar points. Indeed, I tweeted @brandonlewis (chairman of the Conservative Party responsible for the Party’s ‘Respect Pledge’) three times to ask for his response. Unsurprisingly I received no reply. (There are many more examples to show that this pledge is less than worthless. Maybe I’ll write of those another day.)

And yet:  

Double Standards:
• One MP who threatened to "knife" Corbyn has condemned the use of that language against Theresa May.
• One Journalist who instructed us to "kill Jezza" has condemned the use of that language against Theresa May.

Yes indeed which perhaps explains why one twitter user felt it acceptable to write of Mr Corbyn; ‘he should be in a concrete overcoat’ on Sunday 11th November.  

Once final example to demonstrate the ways in which the MSM acts as a cloak to manipulate our perception of what is and what is not (as reported by @skwarkbox). Following the recent Pittsburgh synagogue attack various news stations and papers made ‘connections’ between the atrocity and concerns of antisemitism in the Labour Party. See this from Harriet Sherwood in The Guardian:    

Theresa May, the UK prime minister, tweeted her deep shock at “this sickening and cowardly act”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Leader, who has been accused of allowing antisemitism to take root in the party, tweeted: “My thoughts are with those killed or injured in this horrific act of antisemitic violence, and with their loved ones. We must stand together against hate and terror,”

As Skwarkbox noted there was: ‘[n]o mention of the Tories’ proven and recorded mass support in the European Parliament for racist, antisemitic Hungarian premier . . . but, as ever Corbyn is fair game for criticism and attack 
One of the first pieces I wrote when my writing turned more (Party) political in the summer of 2016 was another short story entitled Sticks and Stones It ends:

The end of this story is yet to be told. The man and the people who accept and help to promote what he stands for remain under attack. The often confused and confusing negative stories continue to fester. But the resistance of many continues also. Although the kingdom is in many ways rotten, and there is a real danger that things could get even worse, there is also much hope for a better world. Many more people believe in fighting for a more positive future. Many more people believe in the power of community and the value of people powered politics. What is clear is that whatever happens next things will never be the same again. 


Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Anchor books

Thursday 1 November 2018

Monsters, Myths, Mothers and Others | on being sometimes misunderstood ....

Earlier this year The Sun (read this for some reasons why I'm not going to provide a link: ) published a piece lambasting snowflakes (an 'insult' sometimes aimed at younger people, sometimes at Left-leaning folk, often at individuals who are both) for sympathising with 'the creature' created by Mary Shelley's Dr Frankenstein thus: 
FRANKENSTEINS: Snowflake students claim Frankenstein's monster was 'misunderstood' - and is in fact a VICTIM. One professor even claimed that the murdering monster could be protected by human rights laws today. 
This despite the fact, experts and readers agree, that this was one of the main points of Shelley’s (1797-1851) 1818 novel:

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley took pains that readers’ sympathies would like not only with Frankenstein, whose suffering is dreadful, but also with the creature, whose suffering is worse. The art of the book lies in the way Shelley nudges readers’ sympathy, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, even line by line, from Frankenstein to the creature, even when it comes to the creature’s vicious murders … (Jill Lepore (February 12th and 19th 2018) ‘The Strange and Twisted Life of ‘Frankenstein’’ The New Yorker)

Jill Lepore reminds us that ‘the creature’ (often referred to as ‘the monster’) develops as a child does as the book progresses. She also writes that Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was 18 years old, two years after she’d become pregnant with her first child. Eleven days after her baby’s birth she wrote in her diary:

I awoke in the night to give it suck, it appeared to be sleeping so quietly that I would not awake it …. [and later] Find my baby dead.… Dream that my baby came to life again; that it had only been cold, and that we had rubbed it before the fire, and it lived…. Awake and find no baby.

The child, like ‘the creature’ is not given a name.  


I have written previously (many times in fact) about the importance of writing in my life. Writing helps me to reflect on my place and position, my responsibilities and my rights, in the politically complicated world in which we all live. Writing has helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life: I was reading (and writing) for my sociology degree finals when I split with my first husband; I wrote and wrote and wrote (mostly academic pieces) whilst supporting my second husband John through many years of mental ill-health; following the death of my mum, just two years after John’s death, I began to also write fiction and memoir and in the summer of 2016 I added political opinion pieces to my writing workload. This short story written in August 2016 demonstrates my motivation for the latter

One of the things I write about – in academic work, memoir and fiction pieces and others that reflect more specifically on Political decision making and policies – is non/motherhood and non/mothering.

Here is an extract from a piece I wrote a few months ago: 

In the run up to a BIG birthday in January next year I find myself spending a deal of time in reflection. Always a cup-half-full kind of woman I’m looking forward too; thinking about what I might achieve, the events and experiences that I think could make me happy and the battles I still want to fight. . . .

Not surprisingly my significant others appear often in my writings, not least my mother and father and my husband John (all deceased). My baby, the child who died months before her or his expected birth date, also appears with regularity. This child who I never held or watched grow has nevertheless been present in my life since their conception. My shadowlands baby and I; a not (quite) mother and her spirit child. 

Having worked as a nursery nurse prior to my miscarriage  – I trained, not least, in the expectation that this would help prepare me for the care of my own children – I listlessly, sometimes desperately, wandered through my own life feeling that I had no purpose until I returned to education to study sociology. The discipline (and especially its political potential) and the hard work of studying it helped me find myself again. Since graduation the significance of mother or not has always been part of my academic labour and I have undertaken research and written much on those who do and those who do not mother (and father) and the implications of this. If my baby had lived this career would likely not have happened. . . . In my personal life too my child is always here, in shade at times, in the forefront at others. His/her bittersweet presence a part of my encounters with young friends and the children and grandchildren of others. Their absence (still) huge in conversations with those who don’t know, but ask about, my maternal status.

I have written too about how I think my biological childlessness is relevant to my political self and how I think that the status of non/motherhood (non/parenthood) and the experience of mothering/parenting (which includes social, as well as biological, relationships) are sometimes, actually often, essentialised, over-simplified, denied, even demonised by many, including politicians and activists on both the Right and the Left. See for example:

The Personal is Political and the Political is Personal | Mother or Not, Sister or What?


The 'Undeserving' Part 2 | #VoteLabour3rdMay

Reading these blog posts you will see there are times, yet again, when I have felt excluded and/or less legitimate as a woman with ‘no’ (see below) children to care for or to fight for. 

More recently, following the Liberal Democrat Leader's speech at the Party's Annual Conference I tweeted the following thread:  

@gletherby (18th September 2018): A #4TheMany thread. On top of everything else I'm now apparently a 'hard left boot girl'. (Vince Cable) Actually: I'm a 59 year old white woman of working-class origin. First in my family to go on to higher education (a polytechnic and proud of it) aged 28. 1/8

I worked for 8 years as a nursery nurse (including in the NHS) and after undergraduate and postgraduate study as a lecturer/researcher/manager/ mentor in the academy, full-time for 21 years. 2/8

I now combine paid (and unpaid) freelance academic work with voluntary work (9 1/2 hrs in last 30) and activism (face-to-face on occasion and much online i.e. Twitter and blogging). 3/8

I care passionately about fighting inequality, prejudice and oppression in whatever form. My paid and unpaid labour and my heart and soul has always been, and continues to be, devoted to social justice for all. 4/8

Sadly I have no biological children of my own but have always been lucky - in my work and personal life - to be much in contact with children and young adults. I am myself SO energised by the political passion of young people today. Thank You. 5/8.

Much of my political concerns and activities are undertaken with all of our 'children' in mind. Contrary to stereotypes I join similar others (e.g.@corbyn50plus) in this and in working for all age groups, including that of my parents (deceased but a continued influence on me) 6/8

Like many others - from all groups, across all walks of life - I meet (virtually and in person) and debate with I want, and I am prepared to work as hard as I can for, a safer, more secure future in a fairer and happier world #StrongerTogether 7/8

#LaboursVisionForBritain offers, I truly believe, a #PoliticsOfHope and is an antidote to a society where clearly #AusterityDoesntWork. So to anyone, anyone, who continues to deny or denounce the real change offered by the social movement that is @UKLabour I say SHAME. 8/8

I shared this thread on my personal Facebook page and on a number of group pages, supportive of the current Labour leadership. I was more than disappointed to receive a significant number of responses doing nothing more than attacking Cable, not just for his political opinions and pronouncements (fair enough) but also for his age, appearance and other personal characteristics. This was not, naively maybe, what I expected. I edited my posts stating that what I had envisaged, hoped, was that others would similarly share their own reasons for political engagement and perhaps comment (I do have an ego) on my choices and activities. It made no difference, the personal insults against Cable continued.
I know that for many motherhood (parenthood) acts as a call to action and that those who care for children and grandchildren (due to biological and social connections) on a daily basis likely have a political motivation (to be active in whatever way) that I do not have. I have also long accepted that not having the same daily responsibilities (although I have had others) as some of my sisters and brothers (as an only child I love writing that phrase) I have more time to write. Despite this I know that my own political motivations come not least from the need to feel that that I am doing something, whatever I can, for the generations that follow, in memory of those (including my child) that I have loved who are no longer with me. So, despite, no probably because, of the misunderstandings and the sometimes trivialisation of my own (and others) status and experience I will carry on. Carry on writing about (amongst other things) #Homelessness, #Poverty, the #HostileEnvironment - created and perpetuated by Theresa May - Philip Hammond's #LittleExtras for schools in dire need. Carry on writing about #LaboursVisionForBritain and a #PoliticsOfHope. Carry on writing as a small part of the struggle to #SaveOurNHS, #ScrapUniversalCredit, get #Justice4Grenfell and the #WindrushGeneration. Etc. and so on.... 

I can't do otherwise. 

A few days ago I tweeted the following which summaries my feelings rather more succinctly:
#SocialistSunday [a weekly twitter event encouraging connections between Left leaning folk] inspires us to connect as comrades, as sisters and brothers, and gives us some of the strength we need for what feels to me, at least, like the fight of my life. Thank You Everyone. #StrongerTogether 

Thanks for reading this. More soon ...