It’s been months since I last wrote a post. Mostly because I’ve been sick, and mostly because PhD work, man. It’s never ending.
But the uncertainties that lie ahead for me, are bigger than ever for us as a country with the snap General Election in motion.
In 2015, you might remember me being super pro-Labour, super-dooper pro Ed Miliband for Labour Leader. I posted loads online, but I was deep in my radiotherapy & oncology studies. I was working every hour sent on clinical placement, and then on academic work & freelance stuff just to try and make ends meet because the NHS Bursary wasn’t ever enough to live-off anyways.
I didn’t go out and canvas or post leaflets, I didn’t have the time. But I didn’t even think we needed to do it anyways. So I just retweeted support. I had a proper echo chamber around me (though I learnt I had many Tory & UKIP voting friends… ), that I felt like the winds changed in our favour towards the end of the election campaign. I went to my polling station to vote – and saw people there voting for the first time in years. I assumed they’d all be for Labour – because, why not? It was an obvious choice. I felt like Ed could actually win this thing.
Then the results started to come in that night. I laid in bed, watching some sort of tragic accident, Snap-chatting friends – our sad faces, willing that it will change, it’s only 1am anyways? I went to sleep as I had an event to draw the next day wicked early.
I woke up at 6:30am to “sorry smizz” texts from friends who knew I was really passionate about it all, & saw on the TV the Tory Majority result. I just starred it out. My mom came upstairs and tried to take the mess out of me (we’re always winding each other up) by saying, “HA! Labour lost…”
And something came over me. I’ve never had this reaction to anything like this before. But I got chocked up. I stuttered that, “You don’t know what’s going to happen… PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE.”
We stared each other out, shocked at my uncharacteristic emotional outburst to – an election of all things. My mom immediately knew this was not something to laugh about. She tried to comfort me by saying it “probably won’t affect us…” But I knew it would, and that wasn’t the point. What about the people it would REALLY affect, badly?
But I was right. People have been, and ARE DYING because of this Tory government.
Our Death rates in 2015 reached their highest level for five years. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/17/health-cuts-most-likely-cause-major-rise-mortality-study-claims?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
Millions of more children are now living in poverty (despite David Cameron changing the definition of Poverty to hide the even more 1000’s of kids in poverty from statistics) https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/ifs-poverty-forecasts-budget-needs-support-families
Social Inequality is one of the biggest causes of disease and under-productivity. It poisons our communities and changes peoples lives, forever, mostly for the worst. Over the past 6 years, I’ve seen young peoples futures get smaller & smaller, a united kingdom now fighting within itself into a more divided nation. A rhetoric that is neither good for EU leavers or remain believers. I’ve felt the difference 6 years of Tory ideology has made on the NHS, from both a staff member and a patient, and I know that it’ll get worse if the Tories stay in power.
I’ve been burnt by too many election outcomes over the past few years: 2015 GE, EU Referendum & USA’s presidential election… but i decided that maybe it hurt so much, because I hadn’t done *anything* to help change these outcomes?
I realized that I couldn’t just sit and share and write think-pieces about these policies and about why voting Labour is important, again. So when Ed Miliband emailed all the Labour Party members in the area, I knew I wanted to help and I emailed back.
I originally just thought I’d hand out some leaflets. I could do it when it suited me, work it around work, and I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. Because if anyone who knows me, knows, I get proper socially inept asking strangers stuff & especially calling people up on the phone.
But Ed called up, and we chatted & he sort of encouraged me to come along to a canvassing event. And to be honest, I thought it was going to be wicked hard but the team was amazing and kind. They let me shadow them until I felt like I could do it alone.
The groups of people that come together to canvas cover all kinds of backgrounds and ages of people – from young to old! All super interesting, smart, funny and kind, with incredible stories of their own. I’ve met some great people on the trail, even catching a drink and becoming Facebook friends with them.
I’m still nervous every time I go out and do it, but it’s kind of exhilarating! And feels fun. Even when you do it in the rain. I’ve learnt about how we do canvasing, using data, and how we develop it forward. It’s fascinating stuff to see it play out on a local level, as well as national level. I feel like I’ve also gained and developed some skills, which I know I can take to different parts of the multiple jobs and roles I do in real life.
But the most rewarding part – is getting to know your own community. I’ve lived in Woodlands pretty much all of my life, and when I was handing out leaflets — I had to google map where some roads where!
It reminds me a bit of my clinical work, where you’d do a first day chat with a patient about their treatment. It’s these opportunities that allow my patients get to offload their concerns and worries, or ask questions. And it’s often the first time they feel like they can ask a HCP these things before, or that they’ll be listened too. And it helps enable them to have a better care experience.
Canvassing is a bit like this, sometimes you get someone who has just been waiting to tell someone who will listen their issues. And in listening, and being kind, some of the work is already done for you. Its therapeutic for them (after all, most people just want to be heard), and you can help to signpost them in the right way. That just feels really rewarding, but it’s also hard – just like clinical work – hearing people’s stories of suffering and wanting to do the very best for them – but they’ve got to be part of that equation/solution too.
It’s also how Obama was able to win vital seats in 2008, because of people knocking on other peoples doors. I don’t think we can underestimate the power of listening and hearing in real life.
I’ve now mailed, 100’s and 100’s of leaflets and letters. And whilst I do it, people washing their cars and walking dogs, and kids on bikes will ask questions, and everyone is really friendly. It feels good to be part of this community in a way I’ve never seen before.
Additionally, I’ve proper increased my steps – which is a pro for a job where I’m sat down reading, drawing, writing and interviewing mostly. So going canvassing is good for general health & fitness too! What a winner? 😉
Over all, nationally, it’s hard to work against our rabid right-wing mainstream media. Journalists are meant to function like fire alarms, as in, it’s better to go off even if it’s just a candle. Whereas a lot of our publications make millions every year, & often not pay tax, to tell people the smoke they’re smelling isn’t smoke.
If that transparency and accountability is lacking, it’s our role to help people get the right information. And I feel like, regardless of the outcome, we’ve been part of something special and urgent.
There’s still a few weeks left of the campaign trail – I would urge anyone who is thinking about it – to get in touch with their local Labour Party (or whatever party) & get involved. Even if it’s just 1 afternoon (I’ve only done 6 canvassing events & a bunch of leaflet dropping) but it feels good to be part of something bigger than myself.
As Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
And i think that sums it all up nicely.
Whatever happens after the GE, I feel even more encouraged to help more at local levels too. What an experience to have.
*Hope you guys will Vote Labour to save our NHS, schools, workers rights, the internet, democracy and even more that’s at stake in this election.*
Shout out to Ed Miliband and his team, and Doncaster councillors and other canvassers who are awesome.