Why I Joined the Labour Party – Doreen Illingworth

Why I joined the Labour Party:

A war hero was crying on the phone to me.  This elderly gentleman was wondering how he would manage in the future with the housing benefit cuts that were being implemented.

It was the early 80’s and Mrs. Thatcher’s awful Tory government was just getting into its stride.  My husband was a newly elected councillor for Kirkstall & was a full-time lecturer.  I was a Mum at home with young children, so I took many of the phone calls.

I felt sickened by the indignity that this gentleman was suffering, desperately seeking help, crying on the phone to a young stranger.  The gentleman, now a widower, had been in the RAF & after injury worked as a draughtsman up at Leeds & Bradford airport during the war.  He could have been one of my uncles, a draughtsman for deHaviland in Hampshire.

From this time distance I can’t remember more details; John would have done his best to help him as well as Leeds Labour Council, not as hamstrung as the current Council by a far crueller Tory government of the 21st Century.  The sickening turned to anger.  How could we treat people who had risked their lives us like this?  I wasn’t really interested in politics , but the unfairness really rankled.  Add that to the personal pschycology, albeit a tad illogical, of a young child of 1950’s rationing & shortages for whom the coal-merchant, butcher & grocer were the epitome of sharp unfair practices, fanning the flames, and the resultant anger against the grocer’s daughter, Margaret Thatcher got the Labour Party a new member.

On occasion since I have wondered why I still stay in the Labour Party, when the behaviour of some notables & holders of public office is shameful: but, but, but More than 30 years on we are fighting, I fear, a far cleverer, nastier Tory government.  Housing shortages following Tory legislation resulted in an ex-soldier (Iraq & Afghanistan) living in a tent for some months in a Kirkstall relative’s back garden.  All of us doorstep campaigners from the last election have our collection of suffering tales, resulting from Tory government unfairness.

The ruthless Tory campaign of inspiring fear & “me first” succeeded & we have to counter with the Labour passion for fairness and social justice so ably put by the MP’s at our leadership hustings meeting, particularly Richard Burgon, the new MP for Leeds East.  When the younger generation passionately support the ideals, that’s why I stay in the Labour Party, & war heroes should never have to cry on the phone.

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