Why I’m hanging up the red rosette

A guest post by Lauren Gilmour

It is with a heavy heart that I have to write this article, but if this were six months ago, I imagine there would be a lot more love lost than now.  Fast forward to today, the 10th of August 2014 and things have radically changed for me, for the better.

Six months ago, I was a skint student flirting with the idea of voting yes because I was sick of the idea of neo-liberalism and how there was little desire to change that across the UK.  But I had a problem.  I was a stalwart Labour party member, my local constituency loved me and I could probably have got myself selected for the 2017 council elections.  But the Labour Party had taken a very clear and staunch ‘No’ stance.  I was living a double life where I would be with my university friends, voicing my true opinions, my reservations about the Labour Party and my distaste at voting no and being part of a party who was actively campaigning for a no vote.  Then I’d be with my ‘friends’ in the Labour party where I would be criticising the Yes campaign and laughing along with them.  I was between a rock and a hard place, all in the name of politics.

Now, I’ve finished university, I’ve got a job and I’m about to embark on what I think is going to be a great career in local government, where I actively get to work with people who are experiencing dire poverty.

People tried to win me over to the staunch no side, asking me questions about class solidarity and what about the poor across the rest of the UK?  How can we espouse ideas of class solidarity in one of the most unequal countries in the Western world?  How can we actually convince people that a no vote against independence will improve class relations in an independent Scotland when inequalities in Britain have risen consistently over the last forty years?

Being part of the United Kingdom has consistently shown that we are going to experience a rise in inequality, rather than a fall.  For poorer areas across the UK, it’s about getting organised and having enough people saying “We won’t put up with this bullshit much longer.”  I’m fairly certain that people in Newcastle are going to be more disproportionately affected by NHS privatisation than people in Kent.  But for people who are affected by poverty, they are largely apathetic, and that is due to the political elite.  “What difference will it make?” is genuinely the best question people can ask in the eyes of the political and economic because it shows disaffection and a lack of power.  Apathy means that the political elite will continue to do things and implement policies that only benefit their wealthy elite friends.

But in Scotland, we seem to be experiencing a new political dawn: where ordinary people are engaging in debates about independence; where you hear independence being discussed in taxi queues after a night out, and where you hear people on the bus, young and old, discussing independence.  It is a truly wonderful thing to see as a former politics student who has been constantly trying to get her peers to engage with politics.  Imagine my surprise when I went to one of my friend’s houses for a party to find that most of them would be voting yes.  There appears to be a new democratic thirst within groups of people who may not be typically ‘political’.  For example, young people and people who live in poverty.

I finally came out for a yes vote a few weeks ago and people’s silent reactions to this have been interesting to say the least.  My parents, completely taken in by unionist media (my Dad is a great supporter of Northern Irish loyalism, despite not actually living there) were shocked.  My local Labour party, and of course the wider party, don’t really want to know anymore.

Someone I considered a good friend has just deleted and unfollowed me on facebook (though admittedly he has a twisted sense of humour).  I’ve been told I talk a load of crap by men.  Today, I was shown the reaction on a secret Labour party forum, where I was called an opportunist, seeking my fifteen minutes of fame and had an inflated ego and sense of self importance.  If I was an opportunist, I’d still be in the Labour party looking for a job and kissing the behinds of anyone I could to get me ahead.  No one has any idea of how much it took to sit down and write this.

So, I had enough of the negativity from the Labour party and subsequently cancelled my direct debit.  It wasn’t before time.  There is no place for me within their ranks, my opinions are too dangerous and too radical to be taken seriously by the party faithful.  I’ve experienced things like misogyny and sexual harassment being unreported, and laughed off if it is reported because “Oh, that’s just….he doesn’t really mean it.”  This man has made inappropriate comments to just about every woman member, he has condescended and belittled women, yet nothing has been done about it.  Another male member actively makes women feel uncomfortable because of his behaviour towards women that aren’t necessarily party members.

I’ve always said that the Labour party is the only party on the left where women can feel safe, but this shit literally goes on and is unreported and women don’t feel brave enough to speak out.  In the youth and student wings, women are actively used in props in arguments from men against one member, one vote.

They get young people and young workers to do their dirty work.  During the Cowdenbeath by-election, they made a young parliamentary assistant trawl through ten thousand of Natalie McGarry’s tweets to find one about teachers that wasn’t particularly flattering but not the worst tweet anyone could ever have sent.  Basically, the Labour party orchestrated a social media attack against a young woman yet they are supposed to be the party that espouses beliefs of equality?  For who, exactly?

The bitterness and hatred that Labour have exhibited over the period of the independence referendum campaign have also made me hang up the red rosette for good.  They have personalised the independence referendum as a campaign against Alex Salmond and the SNP, despite nearly 200,000 Labour supporters who are reportedly voting yes.  They are striking fear into the people of Scotland with their assertions that we won’t be able to use the pound.  This is exactly the tactics that nationalisms of Christmas passed used to use.  They used to strike fear into people of change, and they tell us that they are not ‘narrow nationalists’.

The discourse from Labour is getting old and tired.  I cannot be a member of a party so reluctant to change and embrace a new constitutional settlement for Scotland.  I cannot be a member of a party where women are made to feel uncomfortable by men.

One day, I hope all this changes and I can rejoin the Labour party because I’ve had some great times as a member.  It’s taught me that no matter what, I should always stand up for what I believe in, it opened my eyes to socialism and the trade union movement and I’ve met people that have shaped the way I think and act.

In the words of Dougie MacLean:

So I have moved, and I’ve kept on moving

Proved the points that I need proving

Lost the friends that I needed losing

And found others on the way


This article was first published on Lauren’s blog, Like a Red Red Rose, and is republished here with kind permission.

22 comments on “Why I’m hanging up the red rosette

  1. Bamstick says:

    I’ve never been a Labour voter but I empathise with your reasons for leaving an organisation which treats it’s members, particularly women, in this way.
    I did leave a voluntary organisation due to this sort of treatment so I know how it feels to have belonged to one set and then to find that I have moved on whilst others have stood still.
    Only a YES vote will do.

  2. Mick Pork says:

    A personally painful but clearly heartfelt and moving piece. Thank you Lauren, No one should underestimate the pressures that can be brought to bear to those were trapped into conforming and were forced to try and make the best of an untenable situation. To finally come out of it with clarity and breathe the fresh free air is the reward. A reward which is well deserved after all the disillusionment and despair that usually forces radical change.

    “People tried to win me over to the staunch no side, asking me questions about class solidarity and what about the poor across the rest of the UK? How can we espouse ideas of class solidarity in one of the most unequal countries in the Western world?

    There is no doubt a great many Labour supporters are wrestling with that very question right now.

    I’m afraid any idea of class solidarity must be measured against the cold hard light of years of actual experience of what westmisnter politicians think of that idea.

    If class solidarity is the question Ed Miliband is most assuredly NOT the answer.

    Nor are any of those likely to follow in any of the three westminster parties going to be any less stuck in the mindset of triangulation and ever more shades of blue labour or yellow toryism. They can not and will not change now. The simply have nothing better to offer anymore and only the shock to their system of Scottish Independence might finally wake someone with genuine principles and beliefs in the Labour party to finally dispose of fifty shades of Blairism once and for all. That shock might even force change in the other two. However, without that shock of scottish independence to wake them up from their complacent comfortable slumber they have no reason to change and will never change.

    • bringiton says:

      Blairism was only required to win marginal seats in SE England.
      It has never had any relevance in Scotland (except among the Tories).

  3. macart763 says:

    A great post Lauren and believe me when I say I completely understand the feeling of being between a rock and a hard place.

    As for your colleagues and their attitudes toward you I can only say the same thing I say to my kids when it comes to a choice between peer pressure and what they actually think.

    You can only be you.

  4. I read Lauren’s piece on her blog, and was fascinated by the below the line comments — all supportive and understanding of her action. Some even appeared to know who was the perpetrator of the misogyny and sexual harassment she was subjected to. This should never be acceptable, but all too often is brushed under the carpet as being merely a joke. Political parties in particular should not stand for this type of unacceptable behaviour.

    Well done, Lauren for taking a stance, and for making up your own mind about your own future. I’m certain you have come to the correct decision. We need more young women like you.

  5. Devereux says:

    Lauren, what a wonderful representative of our future. You don’t need a party card for that. All the best.

  6. Rookiescot says:

    Its reached a stage where I am now ashamed of the fact I have voted Labour all my adult life.

    If the Scottish independence debate has taught me anything it is that I will never again give my vote to the Westminster Labour party.

  7. Capella says:

    Good post Lauren. I regard myself as a socialist and always voted Labour until the 2005 election when the penny finally dropped. Sitting in the car listening to a phone in, I heard a woman ask Tony Blair about renationalising the railways. His convoluted but plausible sounding reply was that the tax payer was better served if the private sector paid for the upgrading of rail services. Alistair Darling was Minister of Transport at the time. As I recall it, the franchises were about to expire and we could easily have reclaimed the service without compensation. What did Alistair do? He announced a lengthy “review” of rail which kicked it into the long grass till after the election.
    I was never taken in by New Labour and its so called “third way”. But I hadn’t realised how neo-liberal they actually were.
    So well done Lauren for seeing through the spin.

  8. steve allan says:

    Fantastic post Lauren, the political future of Scotland will be in good hands with people of integrity,like you, inolved

  9. yerkitbreeks says:

    I voted labour until Tony Blair & Co got established and realised they had morphed.

    Lauren, in the event of Inde do consider that those currently in Labour for Independence will have lots new to bring to the table, including forming a political party which is likely to be more aligned with your aspirations.

    Out of interest, as an ex senior health professional in Kent I was surprised that, as many down there had private health insurance and therefore took themselves out of the NHS queue, the waits for treatment seemed just as long as in less privileged areas – surprising and suggestive that demand was supply driven.

  10. JimnArlene says:

    Lauren, welcome to the yes side and congratulations, for escaping the dark side.

  11. Jan Cowan says:

    Brave woman. Your strength will be greatly appreciated in the new Scotland. All power to you!

  12. Keith Montgomery says:

    Well done Lauren. Every Labour MP we send south makes no difference – never has. Only by forming a new political landscape in Scotland can we show the way. The tired and broken Scottish Labour party will perish on this rock. They have attached to the establishment and have nothing to offer.

  13. edulis says:

    If Labour in Scotland had been more politically aware rather than tribal with their hate meters at full pitch against Alex Salmond, they could have taken a stance on the independence debate the same as happened over the referendum on Europe in the seventies. They could have said it is up to the people of Scotland and all Labour Party members could have had a free vote. That way, whatever the result, they would have come up smelling of roses.

    As it is, if the vote is ‘No’, Labour will have pariah status in Scotland for much of their previously loyal vote. They will almost certainly get a drubbing at the 2016 election and I would say they will lose a fair proportion of their MPs in the 2015 election. Squeaky bum time for Jimmy Hood and Willy Bain whatever happens.

  14. hektorsmum says:

    Thanks Lauren you cleared up the mystery which was Natalie McGarry’s tweet about someone going through her tweets.
    I cannot tell you how disgusted I am by the Labour Party and believe me as a member of their hated foe the SNP, I have a lot to be disgusted by. Unlike many of you on here, I came across the workings of this party many years ago whilst working in Inverkeithing for Alice McGarry. They could not even behave in the Community Council far less in power. Their behaviour scunnered me quite frankly and nothing they have done since has changed my mind.
    Harriet Harmon makes a great play about women in your former Party Lauren but somehow when Ian Davidson offered a doing to Eilidh Whiteford and not one word was said I lost any patience with them so I am not surprised to hear your experiences. Welcome to the right side Lauren, perhaps with people like you and those like you we can start afresh.

  15. J Galt says:

    As for Working Class Solidarity across the British Isles for instance in the North of England, our cry should be “JOIN US!” in putting the TWO FINGERS up to the London Establishment – which cares as little for them as it does for us.

    The North of England may not become a seperate country but the people have the “People Power” to force strong regional government if they wish it.

    When it suits the aforesaid establishment they have no objections to strong regional power – London Region is now virtually a self-governing polity within the “UK”.

    We have the power to let the Genie out the Bottle for all our brothers and sisters in these Isles.

  16. JaceF says:

    Off Topic (Couldn’t find the agony aunt column)
    Dear Dug.
    Every Month my salary is paid into my neighbor Mr Jack’s bank account. Every Month he transfers up to 90% of this back to me, for which I am grateful.
    The extra 10% has allowed Mr Jack to upgrade his semi-detached home substantially as a result. He tells me this arrangement is fair and correct as his social standing due to his increased wealth has the knock on effect of raising my profile by living next door.
    In addition the two large slavering Rottweiler’s he keeps in my garden give me unrivaled levels of home security, I just have to put up with them fouling my gardens now and again and pay for their upkeep.
    Recently though I have been toying with the idea of moving and having all my wages paid into my own account, this has sent Mr Jack into a strange rage. He claims I wouldn’t be able to protect myself, he claims the dog poo is good for me and I should be grateful to have it; he says without his social standing at the golf club I would be a nobody without a reputation.
    I’m so torn what do you advise?
    Yours Hopefully
    Undecided from Carntyne

    • Bamstick says:

      Dear JaceF
      I’m having similar problems with my husband.
      We’ve been together now for 30 years, although it feels like over 300!!
      We both have worked all this time and my salary has been paid into his account and he gives me pocket money each month, but also tells me how and where to spend it.
      Now he has this big fancy Rolls Royce and I have my wee old Clio but he says that he needs this to keep up appearances.
      I’ve asked him for a divorce but he says I’m too stupid to go it alone, I’ll never cope with money management and that a wee things like me needs to be protected from the big bad world.
      Maybe I live next door to you?

    • weegingerdug says:

      Dear JaceF

      You don’t need to move, but you must cancel that standing order immediately and take control of your own income. In this household we’ve discovered that home security can equally well be provided by a smallish mongrel rescue dug – personally we prefer ginger coloured ones – which are a perfect deterrence against grasping neighbours, large Rottweilers and dinosaurs. In fact since acquiring a wee ginger dug our garden and living quarters have been dinosaur free. They are loving companions and their affections can easily be bought with the leftovers from a Chinese takeaway, which is considerably less expenditure on the household budget than a nuclear powered Rottweiler from an American supplier. Their specialised diet of uranium enriched bonio is extremely expensive. Additionally the mess from a wee ginger dug doesn’t create a wasteland which is uninhabitable for a thousand years and can be cleaned up with small plastic bags, which are much cheaper than radioactive protection suits and the underground storage bunker lined with lead plate which looked most unsightly in the petunia bed.

      Golf is an extremely expensive sport, especially when a birdie entails sending a drone to the Middle East and bombing Baghdad into submission. You must ask yourself whether the middle class snobs of the golf course are really the people you are interested in impressing. You might find it’s far more pleasurable to devote your sporting activities to poorly played football, and instead of getting hung up on winning, just have a party with the other international fans. You make far more friends that way. Even your neighbour will come round eventually.


      Aunty Ginger Dug

  17. Thank you Lauren. A tragic story with a good ending. I hope that other Labour members see this.

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