Tuesday, 24 September 2013

On a platform which included Len McCluskey, GS of Unite and Chaired by Kevin McGuire three women, Jackie Monroe, Mary Laver and Hetty Bower each brought a powerful message to a fringe meeting organised by the Daily Mirror at this week's Labour Party Conference.

Hetty Blower an 107 year-old Labour supporter with a simple message to Ed Miliband: "Stick to the principles of social justice".
Jackie Monroe is unemployed. Though striving to find employment she has yet to succeed despite applying for three hundred jobs. Things are so bad that she often goes without food to ensure her two year old son is fed. According to a leading charity Jackie is among half-a-million people who now depend on food banks; largely as a result of delays and cuts in benefits.

Yet, if you thought food banks were the preserve of the feckless few; those who'd rather shirk than strive, then think on. Increasingly more and more people in low-waged work, many of whom have not seen a pay rise in four or more years are reliant on food banks.

Mary Laver a severely disabled woman who uses a power chair to mobilise also relies on a social care package to support her with day-to-day living. The package affords her the basics of life such as washing, dressing, toileting and eating. Her concerns are how the cuts are eroding that care package.

Mary fears that things will get so bad that she will have to choose between eating and keeping clean; maybe having to sit in her own mess for hours on end. That social services cuts will turn her home into her prison.

Mary speaks for scores of thousands of disabled people many of whom depend on the Independent Living Fund to get out and about in their communities. By April 2015 ILF will finish. Those of us that rely on this service to pay PAs to assist us will find themselves, as Mary fears, in the grips of social isolation.

Hetty Bower is 107 and has been a Labour Party member for 90 years. Hetty has taken part in many Left-wing campaigns from the General Strike in the 1920s, through Cable Street in the 1930s onto the anti-war marches of the 2000s.

Hetty recalls "I can remember hearing a mother discuss whether she could pay for the visit of a doctor or whether it's got to go on food for the family. I can remember women singing in the street for pennies generous people threw at their feet. Those days must never return."

When Ed Miliband asked Hetty what advice he should take as leader of the Labour Party, she told him to: "Stick to the principles that started the labour movement, which was social justice".

Social justice. Two little words, Ed. Yet two words with the power to get us back into government.

So, get rid of your spin doctors, Ed. Dispense with those weavers of empty rhetoric; throw out your kitchen cabinet full of blunt knives and twisted forks and look to people with progressive ideas; people who put social justice ahead of the propping up profligate bankers and the worn-out policies of failed neo-liberalism.

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