Over the coming months we will be giving our members a stronger voice by asking them to write about their experiences as members of the Party. Here one of our newest members Ricky writes about why he joined the Labour Party and why you should get involved too.
There’s one word that explains why I joined Labour. ‘Hope’.
For many years after the financial crisis, me and the friends I went to school with – people my age, I mean – didn’t have much hope. We were told we’d be the lost generation, and quickly found that the jobs market was impossible. Most of the work going was casual, and it stayed that way.
We didn’t have much hope then.
Soon, austerity started to bite. Friends on housing benefit couldn’t find a landlord who’d accept them anywhere near where they’d grown up, and they had to move far out from where their families were. The downturn continued, earnings hardly rose but supermarket prices went up and so did rent.
Not much hope then, either.
The coalition government talked about protecting the NHS, but it turned out that the money they were spending, per person, was falling, and that they were slowly privatizing our health service, piece by piece. They talked about keeping debt down, but then it turned out that most of the debt was caused by bailing out the banks. And all the government seemed do was blame our problems on immigrants.
Still, not much hope.
You know how this story went next. We lost a decade. Riots, protests, xenophobia. Whatever the future held, it didn’t look good. Global warming, never-ending austerity, and vicious politicians searching for scapegoats wherever they could find them.
And then, finally, a little bit of hope appeared. And, yes, it was connected to Jeremy Corbyn.
This man, who so few of us had ever heard of, was running to lead the Labour party, and he was saying something completely different to what I’d ever heard senior MPs saying. They all told us the railways had to be privatized, that we couldn’t have more council houses, that corporate bosses knew better than NHS workers how to run healthcare. But Corbyn said differently.
In a weird way, though, it wasn’t about him. When he insisted that things could be different, that was exciting, definitely. But the thing that gave me hope was how, suddenly, there was a huge number of people who were out there, on the streets, all around the country, cheering him as he visited town after town, and they were all saying: you’re absolutely right, things can change. They were saying it loudly. And I could say it too.
That’s what gave me hope.
Being a Labour voter, then a supporter so I could help to choose the leader, then a member, and now, finally, a member who goes to the meetings and knocks on doors – that’s been such a great journey for me. It turns out that chatting to people on their doorstep about why they should vote Labour is actually quite a fun way to spend a few hours on the weekend!
You end the afternoon feeling so positive. The problems in our communities haven’t gone away, but some of the solutions seem in sight now.
Sometimes there are meetings too, but they matter too! Tonight's meeting, for instance, will elect the committee who'll shortlist candidates to be our parliamentary candidate, so it couldn't be more crucial. We need our candidate to be someone who represents our interests and knows our concerns.
There were hundreds of thousands of us, and now, since the election this year, we know that there are millions of us looking around at the appalling mismanagement of this country. And we’re all saying the same thing: we can do much better than this. That’s called hope.