on France, fairgrounds and that mouse

On Sunday I am setting off for a short break in Paris with my lovely daughter, her best friend and my best friend. The weather is set to be hot and sunny and we are very excited. Montmatre, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee will be just on our doorstep, we however will be spending time in another world and probably won’t see any of them.

It is fair to say I have never got along with Paris. On my first visit we found ourselves penniless with no ticket home, the next time it was a train catastrophe, tickets sold for the wrong day and almost didn’t make it to the South and our lovely holiday. On another visit I broke my ankle in a hotel in the Left Bank and hobbled all the way home. But, as I am not one to give up, this time it will be fun.

I first visited Euro Disney 20 years ago, then travelling on my own with my three boys we had the longest journey by coach, boat and coach before arriving at our hotel. I can still remember the excitement of the children and the exhaustion of me, the mother, as we headed into the park. Highlights included the Peter Pan ride, I am so looking forward to revisiting that this time, and the magical qualities of Space Mountain which actually did more for my pre-teen son’s acne than all the spot creams in the chemist.

There is a reason it has taken me 20 years to return. If I am honest France is not my favourite country, I really do not like fairgrounds and I have a passionate hatred of the Disney dreamworld where everything is wonderful all the time.

Why am I going? I am going because sometimes you have to challenge yourself and your attitude, sometimes it is good to do things other people will enjoy. I am going because I can. This time we are flying, no 18 hour journey to get there. This time we are traveling with adults, no fighting, tearful, tired children. This time we are staying in a swish and swanky hotel, with a swimming pool, did I mention it is going to be hot and sunny? This trip is about cocktails, nice food, friendship and fun. Fingers crossed we will get to meet Winnie the Pooh, and crossed further that I will be able to stop myself muttering about AA Milne versus Walt Disney. I may even be polite to the Mouse, should we come across him. I am actually excited and so looking forward to doing things I don’t do, roller-coasters, Disney etc, etc, in a place I don’t like. I am especially looking forward to watching people I love have the time of their lives. I just know it will be fantastic.

How Ed Milliband and a photo have ended my lifetime support for the Labour Party

I come from a strong socialist background.  Dad was a shop steward, his Dad before him too.  Granddad was secretary of our local Labour Party Branch in the 1950’s, a post I have also held locally.  Campaigning, leafleting, talking up the Party, explaining the fairness of Labour values, helping people to understand how the whole political system works is something I have done since the age of 15.  I once met Tony Benn, who inspired and encouraged me and others from our local party.  I struggled in the Blair years, the ending of Clause 4, seeking out the middle classes and embracing their values, and then there was the war.  I sent my card back, could no longer align myself with this party, however, I still worked every election, canvassing, because Labour were always the best alternative to the Tories.

I was so happy watching Conference in 2010 to see that the electorate had rejected the Blair lookalike of David Milliband and instead chosen his brother Ed.  I listened to his speech, and believed I had heard someone who could make the difference, someone who would bring Labour values back and who would stand up for fairness and justice.  I rejoined the Party that day.  I have worked since then supporting our local Councillors and our General Election candidate.  I have leafleted, I have canvassed, door knocked and telephoned, all the time believing that under Ed the Party would make good choices and create a fair society.

Imagine my horror to see on social media a photograph of Ed Milliband holding the Sun newspaper.  At first I thought it was an internet joke, photo-shopped for shock value, then I read more.  He actually thought this was good publicity for the England World Cup squad. This newspaper, which in my opinion is the lowest of the low, has caused untold suffering for many people.  From the headlines at Hillsborough to the phone tapping of dead children’s phones all for a story, this scum has no morals, no conscience and no place in the hands of the leader of my Party.  Yes I am from Merseyside, I have friends who were at Hlllsbourgh, I went to a funeral of a 20 year old boy who didn’t come back from the match.  I was in a city in grief. I saw the media add to that grief and through greed and manipulation by the then government I saw the Sun newspaper blame innocent Liverpool fans for the deaths of their friends and fellow supporters.  This was not just an editorial decision, it was a clever plan to take the heat of the real culprits of the disaster the South Yorkshire Police force.

Scousers never buy the Sun, this is true to this day.  I wlll not tolerate it in my house and I would not be able to be friends with anyone who read or bought the paper.  Yes, all these years on, I still feel this strongly.  And now the Leader of the Party I wanted to govern my country has betrayed me for a sound bite photograph.  It hurts even more that the stunt was football related.

I have tried to work out what happened.  I don’t know, and probably never will.  Having read his half baked apology, I am left with the knowledge that the man is a fool.  He has no sense of what is right and wrong, and no idea just what his actions will have done to the electorate.  Imagine if he had been the only Leader not to take part, imagine how he could have used that to comment on the fairness and justice that I believe is at the core of Labour values.  He didn’t, and neither did any of the high paid people advising him there is no apology possible and for me no hope left in the Party.