An Open Letter to Ed Miliband

On the 9th December 2014 I sent an email, titled “A Personal Plea for Labour” to Ed Miliband


On the 17th December 2014, not having had so much as an acknowledgement email, I sent the text of the email to a national newspaper.

Here, on the 30th December 2014, I am now posting (a slightly edited – some job details removed) version of the original letter as an open letter.

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Dear Ed Miliband

I know you probably won’t read this, but I hope whoever filters your mail for you will bring it to your attention.

Please come out in support of the working-classes and stop listening to your so-called advisors who are getting it all wrong.

This country needs a strong Labour movement like never before.  I will speak of what I know: I was born in 1960 in Padiham in Lancashire (now within the borough of Burnley) under the McMillan government to a soon to be single parent. We grew up in abject poverty. The Welfare System at the time demanded that my mum (who was never a car owner) go and wait in the Welfare Office in Nelson (check the distances on a map) to see if our father had paid maintenance before they would give her a payment. He never ever paid.

I picked up old, mouldy bread put out for birds to eat as we had so little. I was always hungry, and Christmas might mean that we had a new pair of socks and a colouring book, a tangerine and some peanuts.

My mum died two years ago, feeling rich beyond her wildest dreams. You know why? Because the Disability Living Allowance gave her what she considered a decent standard of living. It meant that she could afford to buy milk and a newspaper every day. Of such small things …

I’m now 54, I work in the NHS supporting victims of sexual violence with severe and enduring mental health problems. I’ve come a long way from my roots and I got here the hard way (I would be happy to go into further detail, but want to keep this as concise as possible). My partner by comparison grew up in a privileged family with all that entails (I tell you this so you know that I can see all the way round the circle). She is a civil servant. We are both union members.

I don’t pay the Labour union subsidy, and won’t until Labour stops shirking it’s historical support of the working classes and those most in need in our society.

The iniquities I see under this current government are huge, but come as a direct line from Margaret Thatcher’s government via Tony Blair’s (who was nothing but a closet Tory). The social engineering of our society has reached critical state.

We – the poor, the disabled, the aging, the despairing, the ill, the workers – of this country really need you to get in touch with our fears and to talk to US. Not pandering to UKIP fears – yes they are 21st century proto-fascists and the “friendly” face of NF/BNP/EDL and for those reasons we should be terrified of them gaining any power; however, pandering to them only weakens your position and makes it more likely.

White Van man being a case in point. What a dreadful misstep you made there. Who the hell advised that? Any working-class person worth their salt hates that image as much as anyone!  We are NOT a bunch of bacon buttie eating (though I like a bacon buttie as much as the next northerner), Sun reading (yeah, ok, all Sun readers should rot in hell), beer swilling (Have you ever tried Thwaites? It’s beer of the gods, honestly), bingo playing (I used to work in a bingo hall, it wasn’t a bad job, and the punters were lovely – and one of my best ever nights out was playing bingo with a bunch of other LGBT people in a community centre in Dublin one night back in the 90s!), X Factor watching (my daughter watches this with her husband after the kids are in bed, when I’m staying with them I watch it too. It’s not something I’d do all the time, but it reminds me of watching Top of The Pops when I was a kid with my mum commenting on the dancers – Pan’s People – it’s harmless entertainment and keeps parents at home with their kids having affordable entertainment) plebs with the intellect of gnats. We are way more rounded than that.

You need to meet us, to discuss our concerns. To have us advising you. To have US representing YOU for godssakes. What the hell has gone wrong here?

If I’m wasting my time, and actually you are far more son of Tony Blair, than son of socialist ideals, tear up this letter and consign us to the right-wing mayhem that surely ensues. But know that you played your part in letting that happen.

If instead you are the man who a >80 year old Labour woman told me about as we stood waiting for a bus together after we had stood outside to pay our respects at Tony Benn’s funeral (she in her red coat, I in my red tights): the intelligent, compassionate, forward thinking, socialist, radical, son of the Labour Movement, please show it. Stand by your principles, be prepared to throw it all over. Stop playing the Westminster games of bickering at PMQ’s, show that you have backbone, passion, commitment and a radical and realistic view for our country that calls upon your forbears in Labour to make us truly strong. See us support you – and ignore the media, use social media not print and television.

I don’t want to not vote Labour. I want to vote for a strong Labour, not a New Labour, or a One Nation Labour, but a passionate egalitarian old Labour that protects the vulnerable and isn’t scared to stand up to the corrupt and malign influences of those who are only out for personal glory. Being leader of a party is, I’m sure, no easy ride, but you aren’t there just as leader of the Labour party, as labour leader you are leading all the disadvantaged, the poor, the not pretty; educating and leading us into a more egalitarian, productive, self-respectful, population right now.

Do you know how angry the poor, disenfranchised, working classes are right now? We are so angry that we are in deep despair. For many people that means sunk into such a slough of despond that we have no will to vote, to be a part of democracy, because we see it reflected everywhere – democracy doesn’t include us. We need galvanising. We need encouraging, we need promise of healing. And that’s going to cost money, real money, in terms of welfare benefits to support those who are currently unable to become able, and benefits for those who cannot become able to be given dignity of life. It requires money into the NHS (not just to ensure that services like mine don’t get sold off to G4S which is a real fear of mine) to support the increased health and welfare of a population which has ever increasing rates of mental illness and the problems associated with poverty, neglect, and self-hatred. It requires money into education so that children can receive the same sort of state education that I received in my Secondary Modern in the 70s – education which enables me to write a reasonably cogent email to you in a hurry on a rare day off work (as TOIL as I attended a conference on psychosis at the weekend).

The working-classes have been so very let down, and yet, when respected, we have the very best to offer. Please don’t consign us to an “underclass”.

Dear Ed, I really hope you hear my plea. Get yourself some advisors – you can’t be expected to know everything without advisors – who understand economics from the bottom up (some of us were predicting the crash back in 2004 you know – we get that you can’t lend money to those without the means to repay it and it not all go wrong!) Get advisors with lived experience of poverty, with lived experience of mental health problems, with lived experience of living in social housing.

And please. Get back on track for true Labour.

Yours sincerely

Liz Willows