Why I Am Supporting Jamie Driscoll for North of Tyne Mayor

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Why I Am Supporting JD4Mayor

I am not going to get into the whys and wherefores of whether the North of Tyne should be devolving – we are where we are.

I am not going to get into the whys and wherefores of whether the nominations process for the mayoral election should have been allowed to begin and then be restarted – we are where we are.

Labour, thanks to Harriet Harman and women who have gone before, has a clear policy of promoting and including women.

North of Tyne now has a woman candidate for mayor and what a fantastic platform to be able to step out on – “I am a woman and this is what I bring and this is my plan to improve the lives of women in the region …

Women network – it’s what we are good at.  We network, we make contacts and connections.  It’s why women recover from strokes better than men – we are better at making neural connections and we are better, generally, at making connections in our lives.

As a woman, I know, that the best resource available to me, is other women.  Knowing that, my starting point to improve opportunities for women in my region would be the women in networks available to me.

Women are everywhere, we’re global and so our issues are global issues.  To understand those, I would start with my trade union and I would start by connecting with my general secretary who happens to be the TUC’s international spokesperson; she would be able to put women’s issues into an international context for me.

I would then look locally.  Councillor Ann Schofield works with international women in a local context and she could help me understand those international issues in a local and regional setting.

I would then look to the local TUC, to Beth Farhat Northern Region Secretary and to Jessie Jacobs.  Jessie is no longer with the TUC and that is their loss, but she is still active in our region. Women in leadership and managerial roles often think they need to lose their femininity, to be more like men in the workplace – well Beth and Jessie are the antithesis of that and haven’t lost their feminine edge: they are beautiful, gentle, kind, empathetic, caring, clever and tough.  I’ve seen Beth in action with the police and she is strong. And Jessie – the work she has done to support the most marginalised, the most deprived women against a backdrop of absolute poverty – if compassion is empathy in action, then Jessie, crikey, is something else.

I would then look to local, political leadership and to those women MPs I know, having worked with them; Catherine McKinnell and Chi Onwurah.  Catherine – and all the work she has done on challenging Universal Credits, with families, with children, with sick children, with carers – and these are women’s issues, because women shoulder the brunt of these responsibilities.  Then Chi with her work with multi-faith, minority groups in an area of high social deprivation. But with her background in engineering and technology, think of the knowledge she brings, the contacts and what she could bring in terms of industrial development to the region alongside the work she does in encouraging girls into traditionally, non-female careers.

And then there’s Clare Williams, Unison’s Northern Region Secretary.  Clare was introduced at Durham Women’s Gala last year as “the formidable Clare Williams” and with good reason.  I hosted an event on sexual violence at Newcastle College last year, Clare came to speak and she was superb – she talked about a woman’s right to make choices, about women being safe to walk the streets and then, like a piston, she picked up speed and was firing off legislation and workplace policies that disproportionately disadvantage women, that are themselves acts of violence – and she was going like a train (like a nationalised train!).

The French have a word – engrenages – cogs within cogs, wheels within wheels.  Well Clare is at the centre of those cogs of women and wheels of networks that she can tap into.  She would be my starting point for understanding what issues there are for women in our region, but she also has an idea of how to start to make things better and has connections available to her, to start to  put them right.

We are resource-rich in women in the North East.

Supporting a mayoral candidate (or two, as we can, so long as one is a woman) cannot be about personality and must be a decision based on policy; because it is policy that is implemented and it is policy that affects, makes and breaks our lives.

As a woman, I was disappointed that Karen Lee, who has been given such a fantastic opportunity to step out on a women’s ticket, made no mention of women or women’s issues in her election statement.  As a trade unionist I was disappointed she made no mention of her trade union membership. As an educator I was disappointed that she made no mention of the importance of adult education for women, who benefit the most from community education provision, which can lift their lives.

Paul Brannen MEP’s plan for sustainable housing is interesting and to work it must fit within a co-operative and in a patchwork of regional projects.  Is he driven by a motivation towards sustainable forestry or timely redeployment with Brexit leading to a redundant position in Brussels?

With Nick Forbes CBE, we know already what we would be getting – North of Tyne won’t “go to Hell in a handcart” and “he is a ‘’safe pair of hands” and his policies on inclusion are evidenced clearly by the number of women in Newcastle City Council Cabinet positions and his appointment of Newcastle’s first non-white Cabinet member.  Nick is a trade union member. He values the arts and education.  So he ticks all my boxes.

With Jamie Driscoll we know what we are being offered: socialist principles effected through co-operative action which will benefit women and minority groups through access to engagement.  With commitment to equality, involving trade unions and on clear policy platforms Jamie is offering fundamental change and change can be good. And change can be exciting. But the biggest change is in gifting hope. And we all need hope in our lives.

To win the election for mayor against other parties,  Labour needs someone who understands the changes of the past few years and who connects with the grassroots.  Community Wealth Building is core to Jamie’s strategic vision and keeping money generated in the North East, in our region, will make such a difference and is the only defence we have left against austerity.  It offers people the chance to take destiny into their own hands, giving them trust whilst simultaneously laying the foundations for a Labour Government; democratising ownership whilst reversing spending cuts.

The real draw with Jamie is his engagement: his ability to draw people in, to recognise their gifts, talents, individualities and encourage growth by valuing those attributes and knowing how to apply them advantageously.  And we all need to be valued.

When I stood in the council elections last year, Jamie was the first person to offer me support, to offer coaching in campaigning and interviews, to give practical support and to lift with laughter when lifting was needed.  Being an engineer, too, he’s canny handy to have around when the boiler goes, and he will explain to you the principles of thermodynamics (although I realise that that’s not quite a selling point).

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