All over Britain on Friday 7th March Labour was holding special events to honour International Women’s Day on 8th March. We were talking to women across the country about what really matters to them.
Here in Stockton South we had a stall on Stockton Market for 4 hours, encouraging women to stop for ten minutes, put their shopping down and talk about their lives and aspirations. (We spoke to lots of men too who stopped to see what was happening and wanted to give voice to the key issues for them.)
We asked them how they felt life was for women at the moment, whether they felt politics was relevant to them, how having children had affected them, whether they thought there was more pressure on girls today growing up and what they felt that might consist of, we asked them about their ambitions for themselves and their families and finally what they would say to the Prime Minister if he was here with us today (we held our breath for that one!).
There was a wide range of responses including:
‘When you haven’t got a big family or grandparents are working, childcare is prohibitive. People work longer so they can’t care for grandchildren. I can’t get back to work’ – Charlotte
‘I have to work 32 hours per week on the minimum wage, plus overtime to make ends meet. On weekends I work a 14 hour shift’ – Glynis
'My niece is anorexic having worried so much about being 'fat'' - Alison
‘My daughter is a single parent and has little to live on, very little hope for the future’ - Jane
‘I lost my house through the bedroom tax, I had to move’ - Lorraine
‘Get the country back to normal – get Labour in!’ - Mrs S
And special messages to the Prime Minister were...
‘You've screwed the country up’ - Rebecca
‘Provide jobs and opportunities that are sustainable and fair’ - Molly
It was great to be out on the street engaging with people who we might not ordinarily meet; if it was possible I would like to see us on a stall every day on every High Street, just to give residents the opportunity to come over and talk about what was on their mind, to ask questions or say their piece. We did have some wide-ranging discussions and met some young women in particular with real passion and drive to develop fulfilling careers.
I was especially pleased to talk to a couple of students from Stockton Sixth Form who are studying media courses at Billingham campus but who live in Oxbridge; a young mum from Kurdistan who is passionate about extra-curricular education; 8 week old baby Olly (who slept throughout), his mum and gran who were anxious about housing; several pensioners who were worried about their standard of living and a very politically minded woman from Eaglescliffe who took away a Labour Party membership form.
Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour’s hugely impressive number 1 candidate for the European Parliament joined us – as she does every Friday – and wowed everyone she spoke to with her knowledge and empathy.
The Labour team was out in force, a dozen women and men gave at least an hour each and other members stopped to say hello on their travels.
Alex Cunningham MP came by with two students he is currently mentoring, one of whom is standing for office in his home town soon.
It is extremely important that people have the opportunity to talk to those who would represent them about what really matters to them and this event - just like the thousands of doors we knock on every month - was exactly the kind of thing we should be doing as often as we can.
I thoroughly enjoyed it.