Tina McKay

Welfare rights for soldiers

Tina McKay
Welfare rights for soldiers

POLITICS ALWAYS SEEMED off limits to working class people like me. Leave aside the Tory Party, even the Labour Party under the New Labour years seemed to sideline candidates from ordinary, working class backgrounds. It wasn’t that a Labour government or that the Labour Party wasn’t important to me; it just didn’t seem people like me were important to the party.

Like many in those years, I felt that politics and politicians didn’t speak to me or for me. I have, however, always been passionate about social justice. I suppose my life experience has led me down that path. I was born in London, and at around two years of age I was put in a children’s home. My mum, who has a serious mental illness, was unable to care for me. Just before my sixth birthday my dad got custody of me and I moved over to live with him and my granny in Northern Ireland.

Growing up in the ’90s, politics there was very different from the rest of the UK. I loved political history, but the politics of my time and many politicians didn’t speak to me. They all sounded the same – no one seemed to understand what ordinary people were going through.

Fast forward to the 2015 election night. Like many others I watched the horror unfold. I felt like my heart and soul had been ripped out of me. In those small hours of Friday 7th May it became clear that the Tories had a majority. I actually began to panic. Things had been bad under the Coalition, but this would be so much worse.

I had a choice: I was either all in or all out. I went all in, and that morning I joined the Labour Party. Working class people were going to have to fight back and I was going to be involved. Little did I know how involved I was going to be.

My husband is a current serving member of the army and in 2016 he got a posting to Colchester. I loved the town from the moment I arrived and very quickly I felt at home. Being in the Labour Party ensures that you are going to meet likeminded people wherever you live, so I became involved locally as soon as I could. I found the CLP to be an exciting mix of people. As the membership had quadrupled due to Corbyn’s leadership, there was much vibrancy and enthusiasm on the left.

After the 2017 General Election, Colchester was selected as a target seat. We were given the opportunity to have a women-only shortlist for the selection of the next parliamentary candidate.

I believed that the people of Colchester deserved to have someone really committed to the excellent manifesto that had captured the minds of so many voters. We had an opportunity to radically change society, to invest in people and our communities and really improve the lives of the many. I had to stand. I was passionate about the vision and policies that Jeremy talked about. To me it seemed that someone had to fly the flag for this, so I put my name in the hat. I’ve not had the traditional experience of being a local councillor or working for politicians, but what I have is life experience, experience of struggle and overcoming challenges.

One of the great things about the Labour Party is that there are few rules about who can stand for election, whether for local party positions or as council or parliamentary candidates. I believed we needed more ordinary people in politics, so why shouldn’t it be me?

I want our town to have the investment it needs. We are the oldest recorded town in Britain, but it doesn’t have to look like it. A Labour government will make a huge difference to our town and our communities. As a Labour MP for Colchester, I will not vote for anything that leaves us and our communities worse off.

Colchester has a long military history. The Tories have the advantage that they are promoted by pretty much every media outlet as the party of the forces. I disagree: I believe it is the Labour Party that champions this area.

Take, for example, the issues of welfare and rights for soldiers. Armed forces personnel need good conditions, decent pay, decent housing and workers’ rights just like every other public servant, just like every other worker. Even in the armed forces there is a vast amount of privatisation of housing, support services and so on. And let’s never forget that armed forces personnel have families and friends, and are themselves part of a wider community which has been blighted by austerity and falling living standards. We want military personnel integrated into the community, not shut off from it.

Together with the local Labour Party members we can unite the communities in Colchester and help rebuild our town for the many.

is prospective parliamentary candidate for Colchester