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Highlights of 2018

As you are inclined to do on Hogmanay, I was looking back at the year. 2018 was far from a great year but there were some fantastic moments. Here, in no particular order, are six of mine.

Gabriel in the Commons

 

One of my favourite moments was seeing young Gabriel Hames in the chamber of the House of Commons. Earlier, his mum, Jo Swinson, had taken part in the debate on proxy voting. A few weeks’ earlier, Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis reneged on a pairing arrangement with her on a key Brexit vote that the Government won by a handful of votes.

Jo’s speech was very candid about the realities of working with a young baby:

She also spoke about some of the appalling comments she got on Twitter after that, including the criticism that she had gone to the Trump demo for 45 minutes but couldn’t manage to vote in Parliament, something which would have meant hanging around for 5 hours.

Jo talked about the intricacies of establishing breastfeeding and how you need to concentrate on it during the early days. Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked about the difficulties she had establishing breastfeeding with her first son. I actually cried too as I remembered what it was like to be syringing expressed milk into my baby, 19 years on. She got there, though, with all the support that she needed.

She was also open about the realities of expressing milk several times a day. I think it’s fantastic that she posted a picture of her breast pump on Instagram the other day.

She talked about the need to have proper breastfeeding and expressing facilities for all nursing babies who work on the Parliamentary estate, recognising it was easier for her as she had her own office and control over her diary.

The People’s Vote March

It doesn’t get much better than being amongst 700,000 like minds on a beautiful hot Autumn day. As someone said at the time, marches like this are rarely on the wrong side of history.

It was an amazing atmosphere. Not far off three quarters of a million people peacefully and with great humour, coming together to make their point.

And there’s young Gabriel again.

Radical Kindness

Another highlight was the fringe meeting we held at Conference, trying to inject some kindness and warmth into a horrible atmosphere which developed in the media surrounding  rights of transgender people.

Barely a week goes by without some ill-informed attack on trans people or the charities supporting them. However, in an hour in Brighton, Emma Ritch from the Scottish feminist organisation Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance talked about how the atmosphere was so much better in Scotland and how feminist and LGBT organisations worked together in an inclusive way. The meeting loved the concept of “radical kindness” which underpinned their dialogue. You can read all about the meeting here

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“Uncontrolled mass immigration”, Nigel? You must be joking.

I guess I was lucky to survive my breakfast today. First of all, I almost choked on my Corn Flakes reading some of the tales on the “What’s your funniest canvassing experience?” post. Mark Smulian has a lot to answer for. And if your sides aren’t sore enough, Alex Wilcock has done a whole post recounting his tales from the doorstep. I might disagree with him on the worst by-election candidate ever, though.

Things got more serious, though. Hilarity turned to annoyance and shame when I saw Nigel Farage on BBC Breakfast going on about immigration. “Uncontrolled mass immigration” he kept saying. Now there’s a phrase redolent with demonising people, fear and stoking up resentment against people who come to this country to work. You know, those people without whom we wouldn’t have a National Health Service. Those people who make a significant net contribution to the wealth of this nation by paying their taxes. The way UKIP and Farage have both Cameron and Miliband dancing to their fraudulent tune is sickening and is not backed up by evidence. Just the other day, a study reported in the Independent showed that, contrary to the nonsense spread by UKIP, immigrants are not coming over here and taking our jobs.

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