My dad (Big Bob), like many dads, loves a good inspirational quote. ‘The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary’ is one of his classics. He’d roll this out time and again and my teenage self would roll my eyes back at him. He gave my brother a good quote session recently (he’s just had a baby so deserved it) and it struck me how much Russell Brand would benefit from a few hours with Big Bob. ‘Revolution!’ Russell cries. ‘Roll your sleeves up and get on with it then’ Big Bob would reply, ‘my lad is 10 steps ahead of you.’
I’m currently the campaign manager for Amina Lone, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale. Amina is a smart, articulate, principled single mum of four, currently living in a housing association property and leading a charity that does social research into the causes of poverty. Like Amina, my parents worked hard to give my brother and me a great start in life, but there wasn’t always enough to make ends meet. I lived in a static home, taking free school meals and playing ‘stuff the envelope’ with my mum to bring in some extra cash each evening. I’d like to think that we’re not your typical team and that we get the issues because we’ve lived them.
In Morecambe doing what Russell advocates and refusing to engage with the current political system will do nothing for those here who so desperately need a government to level the playing field and help them to get on. As a Les Mis fan nothing would please me more to see a colourful barricade erected at the doors of Morecambe Arndale Centre with Jean from Heysham stood proudly at the top waving a Shrimps flag. This however is a fairy-tale; the reality is very different – no glamour, no glitz, just hard graft is going to work.
Activists across the country will recognise the list below – it’s fair to say that it’s only a snapshot of what goes on. We work, unpaid, week in week out as we know that, in the end, this is the only way to move into the positions that allow us to make the changes our communities so desperately need.
1) Talking to people door by door – This means spending Saturday and Sunday walking the streets, knocking on doors, talking to people about their concerns, telling them of our plans and giving them an opportunity to ask us questions. It also involves the odd bit of fence jumping when a particularly territorial dog tries to take your leg off.
2) Fixing the little things – we can’t change the way wealth is distributed just yet but we can get the dog waste bin emptied, get a crew out to fill a pot hole or repair some guttering.
3) Delivering Leaflets – we have 45,000 to do, by hand, 4 times a year.
4) Writing to the papers – the Visitor doesn’t have celebrity guest editors. If we write something good they’ll publish our letter. We have a go every week.
5) Fundraising – To fight the Tories and win we need to bring in £20,000. We do raffles, and quiz nights and concerts, film screenings and meals – really we do anything that we raise a few quid for a leaflet. Val does a mean pie and peas supper (always a favourite) which brings in a few hundred quid.
If Russell is serious about change I’d therefore urge him to do three things:
1) Use his influence to raise the profile of Amina and the candidates like her – champion them and set out to the world why they are different and why we should support them. The Visitor will definitely publish a letter if he sends one in.
2) Use his money to support their campaigns – those hanging on to power will maintain their firm grip as long as money continues to pour into their coffers from private health care companies and those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo – we get ours from people willing to pay £10 for raffle tickets to win a bad bottle of wine from Aldi. We cannot win without the cash to fight and so we’ll happily take cheque.
3) Finally donate his time – we’re out knocking tomorrow next week in Millhead, 11am – 1pm, meeting at Carnforth Station. He should bring a coat and his best running shoes.