Coming home to Liverpool captures again the emotions of why I am Labour to the core. Joining Ellesmere Port CLP Just across the river some 35 years ago, my branch chair was the very same shop steward who had collected on the picket line of Vauxhall Motors, to enable me at aged 10 to travel for expert medical advice to try saving my remaining sight. That solidarity at a time of regular strike action and family hardship left a lasting impression.
Despite valiant efforts from my consultant and nurses at Liverpool’s Alder Hey hospital, the fight to save my sight was lost. Yet the experience left me with a legacy, including a Braille machine bought by the striking trade unionists, enduring through my fight for mainstream education, aspiring in work and being politically active.
I met with similar fraternity when ‘coming out’ many years later as a woman with transsexual experience and gay woman. I did so a year after being selected, becoming Labour’s first parliamentary candidate with trans experience. Party and wider public support was overwhelming; except for ridicule and mockery from a newspaper you will not be able to buy in Liverpool. Pursuing a complaint was not because I was upset, but that so many people were offended – especially those struggling with their gender identity, families and friends who were affected. That the kind of spirit and resilience shown by the Hillsborough families, but with different meaning and profound feeling.
Resilience and endeavour are central to Liverpool’s identity, often applied with a sharp wit. With a likely disappointing outcome from the leadership election, those of us on the ‘soft left’ or ‘the moderates’ will need much of that resilience and endeavour in the coming years.
I’ve now lived for many years in Sutton, South London. With the longest serving Liberal Democrat council and no Labour councillors elected in over a decade, some might suggest it would be personally expedient for me to leave Labour to gain office locally. As I regularly lambast Sutton’s Lib Dem administration, it would sure be uncomfortable to join their ranks. As a woman with trans-experience suspicion and hostility is not unfamiliar, but putting aside my Labour values for short term gain is incomprehensible.
I campaigned for improved disability benefits and rights for years. The disability movement had a sense of purpose and applied itself for the long haul. Yes, protests helped generate the mood music to our campaigns, but alongside the marches we developed policy and engaged with government, business and media. Labour needs that kind of breadth and commitment to stay with progressive politics if Labour is to win again.
Whenever I am at Anfield the emotions of working class solidarity swirl around, making us feel good about ourselves. Even with increased capacity, titles like elections are won by the manager leading, players performing and backroom staff facilitating. Disagreement in the dressing room means we now have a relegation fight, so team building around our core principles, substance behind tactics and a little flare are needed to get us out of our own penalty area and turning around results.
Coming from ‘the gritty city’ I do not want ‘pity’ because of disability or gender identity, but greater diversity so that we can together make a difference for our wider communities. Any emerging synthesis of voices needs to include people like me to help shape Labour, as I am for sure not leaving it behind. For me as an original scouser growing up in a working class household, Liverpool will always be home and Labour will be home; it is like a current running through the Mersey – compelling and authentic.
Emily Brothers was parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam in 2015 and London assembly candidate in 2016. She was Labour’s first transgender candidate for Westminster or devolved assembly. She tweets at@EBrothersLabour
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