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Overcoming Disability

My name is Jean Withers and I am the Disability Officer for Morecambe and Lunesdale CLP.  A task I have taken on only recently and therefore, am still finding my feet.

I first joined the Labour Party in 1966, yes I did say 1966, I was just sixteen years old. My father, who had died four years earlier, had been an active member and I used to enjoy going to all the children’s activities provided at our local Labour Hall in Walkden near Manchester.  The Christmas Parties were wonderful,  I remember.

My paternal grandmother was also a very enthusiastic supporter; in fact, I think my first task for the party was to help her stuff envelopes, during the 1959 General Election, at her home in Birkenhead.  She would tell me all about the ‘bad old days’ the grudging handouts paid to the poor, the soup kitchens, and the casual labour system, very prevalent in the docks on both sides of the River Mersey.  We were so thankful that such times were past, gone for good. How wrong we were.

So this is how I first came to be a member of the Labour Party. It all seemed to make sense. The remarkable work of the 1945 Government in setting up a Nation Health Service and a Welfare State seemed something to be proud of; something I never thought could be in any danger.

I remained a member, sometimes active, sometimes not, for the next three decades or so, till the Blair years. Then like so many others I left, disillusioned by the direction the party was taking. Why was a Labour government, with a large majority not repairing the damage done by the pernicious Tory’s?  It seemed that there was little to choose between them.

I came back after the election of 2015, appalled at what the Tory and Lib Dem co-elation had done to the country. We might not have soup kitchens but we do have food banks, what is the difference? And zero hours contracts, are they not just another form of the casual labour system my grandmother had told me about? Something we thought had gone forever.   Even our wonderful NHS, without which, I would not be here, is in danger. The Tories would like to privatise it.    I cannot stand back and do nothing; I have children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren to think of. So I have re-joined.  I attend meetings, both at branch and constituency. This year I did what I could to help in both the Local and General Elections. Because I my disability, I have arthritis and can’t walk very far, I could not go door knocking, like I used to do. However I sat at the polling station taking numbers for most of the day at the local election and ran a committee room at the general. Both tasks were very interesting and I really enjoyed being back in the swing of things, after so many wilderness years. Only going to vote. I never stopped voting Labour, by the way.

One group that has been especially harshly treated since 2010 is the disabled.  The policy of austerity, which is a policy not an economic necessity, has had a disproportionate impact on disabled people, especially those of working age. In August 2015 the government, reluctantly released data that showed that around 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work by the iniquitous Work Capability Assessment. I personally know individuals who live in fear of the ‘brown envelope’ requesting their attendance at one of these assessments. I know, as I former volunteer with Samaritans, that many suicides are directly linked to W.C.A.  The closure of The Independent Living Fund deprived 20.000 people of the help they need. These are sick people and we are one of the richest nations on the planet.

Disabled people continue to face barriers in their daily lives.  However, I believe that it is society at large that places those barriers. I see it as my job to make the local party as barrier free as possible. I am not just referring to physical and sensory disability. Often those with ‘hidden problems’ are forgotten. I am thinking of the difficulties caused by poor mental health, such as depression,  anxiety and other problems.  Long term health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or epilepsy for example. And problems caused by  specific learning difficulties, I have dyslexia and dyspraxia, without a computer I would not have been able to write this, even with one it has taken me twice as long as someone without such conditions. Other SLD would include autism and ADHD among many others.  We must remember, not all disabilities can be seen. 

Those of us who face the daily challenges of disability, I also have arthritis, whatever the cause are equal citizens deserving equality. We are not a problem that needs fixing, it is society that needs fixing and public opinion that needs changing. Hate crime, against the disable has increased and, I am sad to say, become commonplace for many disabled people. It needs to be recognised and treated for what it is, hate crime.  It would help if the media, especially the tabloid press would stop demonising disabled claimants and labelling them as scroungers.   

Jeremy Corbyn has been proud to support the actions of Disabled People Against Cuts. This excellent organisation has managed to force the government to backtrack on making further cuts to Personal Independence Payments.    Further cuts on cuts, voted for by MPs who can claim more in expenses per year than some people have to live on.

The Labour Party is committed to building a society where everyone can achieve their full potential and disabled people can participate equally as citizens.  I am proud to be a member of The Labour Party, and I want to do what I can to ensure that disabled members, like myself, are able to use their individual, unique, talents, skills and experience to bring about what we all want so much. A Labour Government, with a working majority for Britain and a Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you have found it interesting.

Photo Credit

Maryland Gov

Overcoming Disability

My name is Jean Withers and I am the Disability Officer for Morecambe and Lunesdale CLP.  A task I have taken on only recently and therefore, am still finding my...


Joanne Writes

I’m a Watermelon voter, Green on the outside and bright Red inside, and it feels like I’ve always been politically motivated and had opinions about politics all my life but that statement simply isn’t true.


It’s taken me a long time to feel that joining any political party was for me. For the first half of my life, politics didn’t really have a prominent role or at least I didn’t think it did.


I didn’t grow up in a politically charged household however it was always implicit that you used your vote, especially as a woman because women had had to fight for the right to vote but beyond that, it was never a dinnertime topic. You didn’t talk about politics or religion at the table.

My feminist beliefs however were firmly rooted in my family. I grew up with the belief I could do anything and it didn’t matter that I was female. My Mother was delighted that I wouldn’t have to go through the same things she did. That I wouldn’t have to give up a career I loved if I had a family in the future.

Having said that, for the 1970’s in the North West of England, our primary school was pretty diverse. In my class alone, we had a girl who had been born with Spina Bifida and was in a wheelchair, a boy who must have had what we now call Cerebral Palsy and a girl who had been through Polio and had muscle weakness on one side.

We had the black kid whose Dad was a lecturer at the University and for a time we had a Romany traveller boy.

These were my friends and school colleagues, the colour of someone’s skin didn’t matter, I was more concerned that he’d beaten me at Maths! The fact that there was a wheelchair to deal with didn’t matter either. We used to still play together.

The Miners strikes of the early 80’s were good for my family. My Dad was a Police Officer and although he was never on the front line because of a neck injury, he got lots and lots of overtime to cover for those that were. I didn’t understand why the Miners were striking and quite frankly Arthur Scargill and Neil Kinnock frightened me.

I didn’t know, or at least didn’t think I knew anyone LGBT+, turns out I did and he was my Mother’s beloved cousin. However, he was ‘allowed’ to be different because he lived in London and made amazing home furnishings for posh people in Chelsea. I had no opinion on Section 28, I didn’t really understand it.


I voted Conservative the first time I ever voted. It was also the last time I ever voted blue. I had no idea what I was really doing. I just did what I thought my parents would want me to. I find it astonishing, knowing how politically aware both my own kids are, that I was that naïve.


By the time of the 1997 General Election, I was a Mother with a baby and a toddler. I wanted their lives to be different. I remember crying tears of joy at the scenes of Tony and Cherie Blair walking into Downing Street. It had finally happened, we had a Labour government! Obviously, that didn’t turn out quite as well as we all hoped but it still did get a lot of things right and made a huge difference to the lives of many people.

Towards the end of New Labour, I’d become an environmentalist. Disillusioned with New Labour, I was drawn towards the Greens and I went onto become a member of the Greens, briefly serving on the North Lancashire Green Party executive and standing as a paper candidate for them in Harbour Ward in the 2015 Council Elections.

So, after all that waffling, why have I joined Labour? Well I’m not into cults of personality but one of the answers is Jeremy Corbyn. The way he’s brought Centre Left / Left politics back into the political conversation in this country. Ideas and attitudes, I thought had long left the political arena are back and being discussed.

I want a country that treats everyone as an equal. I want people who are disabled to be given the opportunity to life fulfilling lives and not have to jump through ridiculous hoops to get a pittance to simply survive on. I want decent, well-funded, health and social care systems that supports people properly from cradle to grave and the care of the elderly to be dignified and respectful. I want the under-25’s to have opportunities and not be treated as the easy target to be made a scapegoat and left with massive debts at the start of their lives. I want LGBT+ people to be treated equally. I want people to be properly paid for the jobs that they do.

A government that will use their influence on the International stage to bring those same rights to the rest of the world without compromising with undemocratic regimes.

I want a forward looking environmentally conscious Government that will not pander to the energy lobby, will invest in Green technologies, reduce pollution and have a mature and informed discussion about Climate Change and the challenges and opportunities that it brings. That won’t be afraid to stop the use of pesticides so that we can protect our native pollinators.


Other reasons include my desire to see the constituency I was born in and grew up in thrive. I love this part of the world and I’ve seen it go from a thriving resort, through years and years of bad decisions, under-investment and decay and now despite Austerity, the green shoots of recovery. It deserves to be represented by someone who cares about the area and not just how far up the greasy pole of power they can climb. Someone who won’t treat people with genuine concerns with derision and contempt and positively encourages debate rather than trying to stifle it because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

The only way that can happen is if we fight for a Labour MP. 

Voices of Labour III

Joanne Writes I’m a Watermelon voter, Green on the outside and bright Red inside, and it feels like I’ve always been politically motivated and had opinions about politics all my...

Corbyn in Morecambe

 What a week this has been!


 As many of you may know...... none other that Jeremy Corbyn visited Morecambe this week.  From start to finish, this event was a whirlwind of nerves, excitement, and in my case a little bit of fangirling, with a palpable buzz in the air.


 My admiration for JC has been ever growing since the run up to the general election, not only does he genuinely care about the issues that face the people of this nation, he is an approachable guy, and who doesn't love a guy who makes his own jam from his allotment.

 In light of this, when I was asked to make a speech about Young Labour in our area, I may have been slightly terrified to speak before him, being my first time standing on a stage to speak since I was 16 in Out of Hours Drama.

In the time leading to his visit.... I wrote a speech, questioned everything I wrote, reread.... and stressed some more. Finally, in between stressing and helping with the set up to the visit, the day finally arrived. I picked out my dress, did my hair and perfected my make up. I even wore my 'girl shoes' (not a typical occurrence) and set off, speech in hand.


 Whilst waiting for the man himself to show up, we manned a Young Labour information table, signed in members, and waited.....


 When the time came to give our speeches the questioning returned. After having to follow two other members of the executive and their immense speeches, the time came for me, and fellow YL Officer Tom, to deliver our speech.

 The lights were bright, the microphone was on, I was up to speak, and speak I did. After my 5 minutes of fame was up, I felt the nervousness leave, and the excitement take full control.

 Coming off of the stage I received words of encouragement and positivity, with which I was filled with a new found confidence. Not only had I made my speech, but soon I was going to be within arms length of Jeremy Corbyn!


I then had the opportunity to have a fascinating conversation with some young people, in which I shared my genuine interest in what we do as Young Labour and shared some ideas.


 All too quickly, we were back to the stage and in walks Jezza! If I wasn't sat in front of hundreds of people on a stage, I would never have believed he was there.

He gave a passionate speech, in which he touched on many of the issues we face in our modern society, and offered us hope of what could be achieved under a Labour government.    He received much applause and support, but unfortunately, had to be whisked away to keep his other engagements.


 Although I was still in awe that I had been in such a close proximity of a man whose ideas and drive are admirable, I was rather gutted that I never got the coveted 'Jezza Selfie'.

 This was about to be remedied in such a far greater manner than I had anticipated.


JC had shown interest in going to the Eric Morecambe statue to get a snap in the iconic pose. Myself, Kay, our Chair, and Claire, our Women's Officer had managed to get to the statue, in time for Corbyn to arrive. As he took his pictures, he asked if we wanted to get in on the jollity too. Who can refuse an offer like that from Jeremy Corbyn?


 Not only did we get the picture everyone sought after, but we managed brief introductions. Although thrilled to be meeting him, I froze on the spot and blurted out the first thing that came into my mind when introduced.

'I only went round to Claire's for a brew one day, and now I'm here.'

At which he quipped back 'The question is, what did she put in the tea?'


 I did a mental face palm as I realised how silly I must have sounded to the Leader of the Labour Party, but all he did was crack a joke and shake my hand. That's an awful long way to come from a cup of coffee from a new neighbour a year ago.


 As we left and returned to the Carleton, I let my excitement overcome me and had a little happy dance as we walked away, just to realise that JC was right behind me, and instantly returned to my more, (but not completely) calmer self. (Fangirling about meeting JC in front of JC, check)


 On my return to help in the clean up of the event, Tom offered me a chance to go to Southport to see Jeremy speak again. Did I take the offer? Of course I did!

So while practically beaming, we finished up and made a quick dash home to change before going to see JC a second time. Heels on a beach did not seem like an appealing idea.


 After a long analysis of our morning on the way to Southport, we made it to the beach and were overwhelmed by the hype that Jeremy Corbyn produced. After the shared responsibility for the running of the Morecambe visit, it was time to enjoy it from the other side.


 After hearing other speakers, including John Prescott, we got to see Jeremy on stage again. The enthusiasm from the crowd was just as present as it had been in Morecambe. Although severely windswept (thankfully the rain held off) Jeremy gave his speech with determination.


 Morecambe received an honourable mention as he spoke about his tour, myself and Tom certainly made ourself heard and represented our town! A wave of giggles followed as we ensured the people around us that we were from the Morecambe & Lunesdale CLP, and not just two strange people randomly cheering. It was certainly worth the looks and laughs.


 As the sun began to set, the event drew to a close, and another of my personal goals was fulfilled as we finally managed to join in with a round or three of 'Oh Jeremy Corbyn!'.

 Which in my eyes was the perfect way to end a day of nerves, excitement and things I never would have believed would happen to a 24 year old girl from a small, northern, coastal, town. 


I wonder what she did put in that tea???


Photo Credit

Photo by Alan Gregson of Alan Gregson photography

When Corbyn came to town

 What a week this has been!    As many of you may know...... none other that Jeremy Corbyn visited Morecambe this week.  From start to finish, this event was a...

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