I’m a lifelong socialist, feminist and Labour and Trade Union activist from a working class background. I know first hand what it is to struggle, to be homeless and to have to choose whether to eat or heat. I know what it is to live on next to nothing and to strive to provide a decent life for your children.
That’s why I believe in Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of a Britain for the many, not the few. That’s why I know Labour can make the difference.
As the Labour County Councillor for Ramsgate and a District Councillor in Newington, I work to make a real difference – to stand up for the people of Thanet.
My ambition is to create a level playing field for everyone in our part of Kent. For far too long Thanet has been left behind, forgotten by decision makers and ignored by politicians. The time is right to make big changes that benefit the majority of us, not a select few.
Thanet needs urgent action on housing, decent jobs, better wages, education and health. It needs youth facilities, decent town centres, more public sector employment and a larger share of the wealth of the South East. It desperately needs an anti-austerity agenda and increased investment. Our glorious isle of Thanet also needs to be cleaner and make better use of its natural charms such as our stunning coastline. We need to see a brighter fairer future.
Solidarity has always been important to me
I’m the daughter of a Stoke on Trent factory worker and a district nurse. Bought up on Bentilee, then the third largest housing estate in Europe, I was a single mum of two boys by the time I was 17 years old. I fought hard to create a better life for my children.
Since the age of 19 I have been an active Labour and Trade Union member. I was Labour’s Stoke North Labour Party Young Socialists Secretary. During that time I was a highly active campaigner, supporting striking miners and their families. I collected food every week in my local community. I also stood shoulder to shoulder with the miners on the picket line at Trentham deep pit. My grandfather Paddy McNally was a miner and sadly died of pneumoconiosis – black lung disease – a horrible industrial death which claimed many from the pits.
I ran my first political campaign before I turned 20. Working at the TUC Unemployed Workers Centre in Stoke on Trent, I started a city-wide benefits ‘take-up’ campaign to encourage pregnant and nursing mothers to claim everything they were entitled to. I also a campaigned for an additional heating allowance for people living in post-war pre-fab houses.
Committed to providing genuine opportunities for our youth
Because I was a ‘gym slip’ mum, I was asked to work with other young people in a local youth club. I became an early pioneer of peer to peer youth work. I developed a real passion for the work and went on to qualify as a Youth and Community worker, when such services were a statutory function of local authorities.
I really enjoyed my first career in youth work. I ran youth centres in Leicester, Wolverhampton, a detached youth project in Telford plus youth services in Newark and Nottingham. I specialised in working in highly deprived areas, multi-cultural work, sex education and ‘hard to reach’ groups, such as travellers and gypsies, offenders and substance misusers, and, of course, with young women and young parents. I was passionate about outdoor education and taught kayaking, led young parents and children on hill walks and holidays on barges.
I was an active union member and workplace representative throughout.
It’s my belief that youth services now need expansion and that support, advocacy, cultural and sporting opportunities, and ‘informal social education’ are vital for all our young people.
As Ramsgate’s elected County Councillor, I recently called for services to promote mental health and wellbeing for our young people and voted against raising the cost of the young person’s bus pass.
Fighting for equality
In the 1990s I was employed by the TUC, building the early skills agenda for trade unions. I was working to promote workers’ rights to training and education across the East and West Midlands with unions and trades councils, to promote and ensure workplace access to skills and training.
I was then offered a role with the GMB trade union as a Regional Organiser in the East Midlands. I represented GMB members in every kind of workplace, from boiler makers to ‘bin men’. I led a strike at Mansfield brewery to ensure pay equality between blue and white collar workers and secured parity and a decent wage rise after a 9 month battle.
I worked in Parliament to raise the issue of sexism in the workplace, working with Tessa Jowell and others to expose shocking treatment of pregnant women and intolerable sexism. I supported the GMB against the closure of Remploy sheltered work for disabled people. I worked at a regional and national level when gas and electricity were becoming privatised, fighting to secure the best deal and transition for thousands of GMB members.
My role took me to hospitals, schools and care homes as cleaning and catering was outsourced and hardworking people were transferred out to the private sector. I warned it would be a disaster. My position that the ‘private sector will never deliver the public good’ has never wavered. The recent collapse of Carillion shows this.
I became GMB National Equality officer, leading on equality training, internal policies and pushing equality as a ‘bargaining’ issue across every sector.
Working with progressive employers, parliaments (devolved, EU and our own) and the TUC, I was at the forefront creating workplace change and pressing for new laws and policy. I was responsible for calling for the equal pay audits that are now mandatory. I undertook national campaigns to ensure all women knew about their entitlement to equal pay, and how to get it! I spoke at venues across the country and I think on almost every local radio station!
I also played a leading part in ensuring employers and unions took domestic violence more seriously, working across Parliament to update policy. This policy is now standard in most companies.
However, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. I continue to fight to ensure jobs are fit for workers, for a living wage and an end to discrimination. I campaign against zero hour contracts and other forms of exploitation on a day to day basis.
Campaigning for the people of South Thanet
Having moved here from Faversham, I rekindled my love of ground-level campaigning, taking my socialist beliefs from trade union workplaces to the doorstep once again. Will Scobie was our PPC and I found myself within his campaign team. I worked hard to support him, campaigning two or three times a week door-knocking. I organised a large trade union rally, the first in Thanet for many years, and several fund raising events.
I fought for a seat on Thanet District Council in 2015, but lost in the UKIP landslide. However, as their collective crumbled I was able to stand again and win just months later with an 8% swing to Labour.
Then I won a Kent County Councillor’s seat in April 2017, coming first and winning the only Labour gain in the country, at a time when Labour was 20 points behind in the polls.
With my fellow Labour councillors I’ve been working tirelessly to ensure South Thanet residents get the best representation, to ensure that Thanet District Council and Kent County Council decisions are scrutinised, as well as driving through change. I run regular surgeries and am contactable 24/7. I have assisted hundreds of private individuals and local businesses with matters ranging from nuisance neighbours and refuse collection to employment rights and rehousing.
- I speak up at both Councils regularly.
- I’ve pushed for and obtained £2.6m to be found to switch on all Thanet’s street lights.
- I’ve worked hard to stop locals losing vital bus services.
- I’ve fought successfully to get families rehoused.
- I’ve fought for families to get disability facilities grants so that they can live in dignity.
- I’ve fought for school places.
- I’ve fought alongside WASPI women to get their full pension.
- I run ’employment surgeries’ and regularly help people with work related problems.
- I’ve been campaigning against closure of our stroke services and against downgrading of our local medical services, forcing those making the decisions to listen to local opinions.
- I’m against night flights and a cargo hub at Manston. I’ve pursued Stone Hill Park to include much needed social housing in their plans.
As a life long Labour member, I believe it is imperative to get a Labour Government to make the changes that are needed now more than ever.
Our local Labour Party and a future Labour Government will:
- Fight tirelessly for South Thanet
- Ensure coastal communities are at the heart of decision making
- Roll back poverty – child and elder poverty in particular
- Build great social housing
- Keep Labour in the headlines
- Improve our local economy, improve pay, terms and conditions, access to training and education
Last but not least, we will keep the NHS high on the agenda to guarantee it receives investment nationally and locally and is protected from the ravages of privatisation.
Please contact me …. Karen@karen4labour.uk