Labour activist highlights from over 35 years

Great news. Local Labour activist, Fiona Crawford has asked me to share how I became active in the Labour movement. She’s speaking with the fabulous Rosie Duffield on the theme of #campaigningwomen at an event in support of International Women’s Day.

I’m afraid it’s a long story, which I will keep short.
But here are some highlights.

  1. Going on my first demo way back in the early eighties. I made my first union banner. ASTMS 978 branch. I stencilled that onto a white sheet on the street in front of my house. The red paint went through onto the pavement. It took many years for the paint to fade. I wasn’t deterred I went on many more marches and made many more banners.
  2. A phone call from my boys’ school during the miners strike. Daniel and Aaron had been playing Scabs and Pickets in the playground. A rough game – apparently.
  3. The CND marches I went on when I became scared witless about MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). Truly mad. Time to stop war, scrap Trident and invest in people not arms.
  4. Speaking at my first huge workplace meeting as a GMB officer in the 90’s. I was shaking as I spoke – but I did it. I got to my car to find a note on my windscreen, congratulating me on my speech, and asking me out on a date! Made me laugh so much. No, I didn’t go.
  5. Meeting a fantasticly brave women who had fled from domestic abuse. Listening to her talk about her fear of being stalked by a very abusive ex-partner. Getting a phone call to say she’d died very suddenly and unexpectedly. I promised I would do all I could to create awareness of domestic violence and I do that to this day. I went on to create the first domestic violence policy for workplaces. The personal is political.
  6. Campaigning for equal pay in the early 2000’s, travelling the country speaking at packed meetings, speaking on the radio and the TV, forcing the Government to listen and take action, giving evidence to select committees. Putting equal pay on the negotiating agenda.
    I’d go further now and make not paying equal pay a criminal act.
    I enjoyed meeting and listening to Julie Hayward. She won the first equal pay claim. She came to the National Equal Rights conferences that I organised.
    Role models are always vital.
  7. Fighting UKIP from 2014 in South Thanet. Supporting our Parliamentary candidate Will Scobie. Setting up amazing the TUC rally as the local TULO officer. Have a look at one of the clips from the day, below.
  8. Beating UKIP with an 8% swing in Jan 2016. A first. Beating UKIP and the Tories in May 2017 to win Ramsgate division for Labour. The only Labour gain in the country.
  9. Backing Jeremy Corbyn from the ‘get go’. Speaking with him in Margate and later, atop a fire engine in Ramsgate.

    Karen Constantine speaking in Margate at a Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader rally.
    Karen Constantine speaking in Margate at a Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader rally.
  10. Putting on the ‘organising academy‘ in April 2017. With many local labour activists sharing their knowledge. Building the skills and confidence to win elections. Door Knocking, GOTV, strategy, shoe leather, true team spirit, collaboration, snacks! More snacks! We posted 48,000 leaflets across 7 Wards over 4 months. Intense work.