Cautiously pessimistic

What are words worth? Laura Pidcock, cheap talk and pay cuts

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If you follow lefty internet commentary at all, there’s a reasonable chance you will’ve seen Laura Pidcock’s first speech in Parliament at some point over the last few days. If not, here it is:

Credit where it’s due, it’s a pretty good speech. But, if you know anything at all about events in Durham in recent years, you might notice an odd omission: she talks about “the teacher in [her] constituency who was recently made redundant”, but for some reason doesn’t have anything at all to say about the 2700 County Durham teaching assistants who were told they were being sacked and rehired on new contracts that meant a pay cut of up to 23%. How is it that someone so passionate about defending education and opposing austerity could forget such a glaring example of how austerity’s hurting people in her constituency? Could it have anything to do with the fact that it was her Labour Party mates on Durham council who pushed the pay cuts through?

So, I was curious about what this eloquent champion of working people in North-West Durham had to say about this massive struggle happening in her constituency. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot. Google’s cache has an archived FB post which is supportive of the TAs, but the post itself seems to have been deleted. And then there’s the reports that she attended the big teaching assistants’ rally back into March, but stormed out of the room when teaching assistants said that the councillors who cut their pay should be held to account and voted out of office. Beyond that, it’s hard to find anything to suggest that she’s had any engagement at all with the amazing, inspirational campaign run by the Durham TAs.

So yeah, I get the excitement about Pidcock’s speech. It’s still far too rare to hear a woman with a noticeable regional aspect given a platform to talk about serious issues. But if you want to hear women with north-eastern accents giving good speeches, there are plenty of good speeches from women who aren’t professional politicians, who will never get the access to the media that the Honourable Member for North West Durham now enjoys. Megan Charlton, for instance.

All that talk, about how “the obsession with hierarchies, control and domination are symbolic of the system at large”, and wanting to see “a place that elevates equality [and] facilitates the power of the people”, they’re fine words, no doubt. But if those words are to mean anything, anything at all, then when something like the Durham TAs campaign erupts in your own back yard, then you support them, you stand by them, you do everything you can to amplify their voices, and you don’t walk out on them when they have a go at your mates on the council.

If you can make it to Durham on Saturday the 8th, I would strongly recommend heading over there so you can march alongside the TAs at the miners’ gala. It’ll be an inspiration.

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