Kate Osamor is a new name on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance NEC candidates’ slate. She tells Briefing about herself, her political activity and why she is standing for Labour’s top body.
I am a Party member in Tottenham, CLP Women’s Officer and Chair of Governors of my local primary school – and I am standing for the National Executive Committee. For more than 20 years I have also been involved in a wide range of local community campaigns, such as defending social care provision and opposing NHS closures. I work to link up the local communities with the Party.
Unemployment is rising in Tottenham, with 6,607 people or 8.5% of the population claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. With only 252 registered jobs on offer, it means there are 26 people chasing every position. More than a fifth of claimants are aged between 18 and 24, and more than half have been out of work for over six months.
The claimant count in Tottenham reached a peak last August, in the same month that riots left businesses torched along the High Road. Cameron’s response to the national figures is disappointing and the Government has done little of use to get people back to work as they claim. Six months on from the summer disorder, 30% of Tottenham businesses are still waiting for insurance payouts. Small business owners in Tottenham are being treated as second class citizens.
Despite this massive setback, traders are desperate to see construction work start on the £400m Northumberland Development Project. However, Tottenham Hotspur have abandoned their commitments to build 100 affordable homes and spend £1.2million on school improvements. Bearing in mind Northumberland Park Ward is one of the poorest wards in the UK, Tottenham residents were desperate to see the Spurs project move forward in order to ignite regeneration of the area. The whole face of Tottenham could change and bring in other investment, because people will see the stadium and look at Tottenham with fresh eyes.
Most recently I have been taking steps to encourage women in the borough to stand for political office and I am working with our GLA representative and local councillors to establish a councillor mentoring scheme for prospective women candidates.
On a local and national level, the main task confronting the Labour Party now is to put forward policies that can solve the economic problems created by the Government. The Tory view that wealth can be created by reducing peoples’ standards of living is plainly false. The result of their austerity programme has been deterioration in the economy. It is clear that the Government’s deficit reduction strategy is unfair and will disproportionately disadvantage women and families, particularly those on low incomes.
Many women choose to work in the public sector because it offers a pension and secure, flexible work which allows them to combine work with their caring responsibilities. In Haringey over 1,000 council employees lost their jobs last year. Over 75% of Haringey council workforce are female, meaning a disproportionate number of women have lost their jobs.
As the full impact of public sector job losses becomes clear, many women could find themselves having to take lower skilled work and a significant pay cut, or struggle to find work at all. This would be a shocking waste of talent and have a devastating impact on family incomes. Public sector job losses and welfare cuts will disproportionately hit women’s income and set progress on closing the gender pay gap back years.
Alongside the attacks on public sector jobs and pensions, women are more likely to depend on the welfare system and will be hit hardest by cuts to benefits. These include the three year freeze in the value of Child Benefit, in addition to the withdrawal of Child Benefit from women living in a household where one adult is a higher rate taxpayer. Also, the abolition of the Baby Element of Tax Credits (worth a maximum of £545 to eligible families) and a reversal of Labour’s commitment to introduce a Toddler Tax Credit (worth a maximum of £208 for eligible families) will hit women hard. The abolition of the Women’s National Commission, cutbacks and a review of the functions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and cuts to legal aid are further examples of recent government announcements which will have a direct, negative effect on women. To that end I ask that you all support the needs of women and families during this time of austerity.
The Tories are creating a society that is less safe. They are offering no way forward: they resort to fostering division and whipping up prejudice. However, there is already significant opposition to the Government’s austerity programme. In March 2011, the TUC demonstration saw around half a million people march through London in protest against cuts in the public sector.
On 30th November last year, public sector workers joined in a mass walkout to protest against government pension reforms. Around 750,000 public sector workers voted for strike action across four sectors – health, education, civil service and local government. The Labour Party must provide a lead to this opposition and, since the Coalition attacks on the public sector will hit women hardest, women must be central to this opposition.
With Ed Miliband as leader we have come some way in rebuilding our lost support. Now the NEC needs to focus on developing policies and campaigns that pin responsibility for the current situation on the Government and indicate the difference Labour will make. Our message has to be one of decisive action to help people through these tough times. Labour should be investing in key sectors of the economy, including public services, to create jobs that will provide real help and support to families.
The party needs a range of people with different experiences at the NEC, to help ensure our campaigns are relevant across the electorate. With the involvement of a black woman, the NEC would better reflect the diversity of voters we seek to represent. We also need to reconnect with younger people who worry their future is being sold off to pay for the mistakes of the “buy-now, pay-later” generation.
I support core Labour values of social justice, peace and public ownership, particularly of the public services. I encourage party members to become more involved including getting more women to stand for office. The NEC’s focus must be on winning the next General Election and if elected I could use my breadth of experience to assist that work. I would take account of the views of party members and be accountable.
Nominations for candidates for the NEC have to be returned by 30th March. Make sure your CLP has this on the agenda in March, if it hasn’t nominated already. Check that literature from candidates supported by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) is available at meetings.
The is supporting three woman candidates: Ann Black, Kate Osamor and Christine Shawcroft. There are four excellent male candidates seeking nomination: Gary Heather, Ken Livingstone, Darren Williams and Pete Willsman. When nominations close, the CLGA will support the three who get the most nominations.
If your CLP secretary is geared up to using the CLP page on Membersnet, make sure they send in your nominations in good time and get an acknowledgement. If not (or just to be doubly sure – it’s surprising how things can get lost at party HQ), make sure your secretary sends the form in – by recorded delivery!