Following on from the musings by Carl Walker, my good friend, comrade and chair, about Labour Party meetings, my mind wandered back to my first branch meeting.
Full of political enthusiasm and fully certain the revolution was finally upon us, I entered the hallowed ground – the Labour Hall. For those who haven’t been there, it is a unremarkable little building, straight out of one of those gentle English comedies set in rural towns. There was JT, the EW stalwart of many years, and 3 others in a little circle. It was quickly obvious that the revolution was starting with something called a street stall but there was a problem, as we had no fold up table. Little did I know my life was about to change forever. Within weeks I was knocking on doors and discussing dog s**t, lorries parking on the pavement outside Tesco and the real vote winner – would we get a Nandos in East Worthing ? My husband told me to say yes as if it did happen we would sweep to victory.
Who knew that envelope stuffing and addressing, seemingly endless boxes of leaflets, out-cards, tidying the cupboard in the hall, raffles of totally useless tat (we still haven’t decided which prize was the low point – the Leona Lewis DVD or the large courgette) would be part of the plan for victory? But by now our meetings were full and, although there were naysayers, it was obvious that finally Labour was back, with a socialist leader inspiring different people to become active; old members, new members and, importantly, young people.
Then, one bright morning, Mrs. May stood outside No 10 and called a general election. EWAS having been blue for a thousand years this didn’t dismay the troops. Our merry band knocked on what seemed like every door, rain or shine. The manifesto came out and we could finally persuade voters that we would bring change (except possibly for the woman who insisted she was voting Plaid Cymru). During that campaign solid friendships were made and the die was cast for what East Worthing Labour would become.
The rest of that story is history and, although it’s so painful to know how close we came to a Labour government, it was just the beginning. We have gone from strength to strength with electing our Labour councillors, borough and county, and establishing community networks supporting local acitivites. Our success is built on love, laughter and friendship; someone once described East Worthing Branch as “hippy-happy-clappy” and we’ll take that!
One of the greatest strengths in our branch is the ability to disagree politically but always agree on our core aims, to help those in need , support the vulnerable and call the Conservatives to account. For far too long there has been a total lack of understanding of the needs of our community and the focus is finally shifting away from fancy apartments and vanity projects to looking at what can be done to improve our town for the many not the few.
With our Adur comrades, we have changed the local political landscape for ever. There have been some of the faithful not feeling able to carry on, some obvious bumps in the road and those niggling doubts, but we are now so close to the final victory. Now we can meet again and those evenings of zoom bingo are over. Who will fall asleep? Who will say “I can’t hear you” or “can you hear me? “ How many times will Carl say “you’re on mute buddy? Instead, have to turn out on cold nights. But close your eyes and think about next May and the rage of certain people when we take over the council. Then onto the battle of getting a Labour MP and the look on you know who’s face …..
Always in solidarity and fun,
Pat Schan, Women’s Officer EWAS , Chief cook and bottle washer