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My faith was born in the crucible of political turbulence. Mum was from the Fountain Estate in Loyalist West Londonderry – a community that endured decades of IRA siege during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Dad was from the West Cumberland Coalfield. My earliest political memory was the miners’ strike. When Mrs. Thatcher referred to the striking miners as the “enemy within” my seven year old self sincerely believed that included me. In the midst of this turbulence, my relatives lived quiet, dignified and respectable lives. But as a small child, I equated this respectability with the Christian faith.
Encountering Jesus in scripture’s pages turned this on its head. Here, I met a radical Jesus who taught that we should love our enemies. A Jesus who reached out to the people society rejected – like the Samaritan woman and the tax collector. Christians on the Left stands proudly in this tradition –and on the shoulders of the Levellers, Diggers, Chartists and Tolpuddle Martyrs. With the rise of the Populist Right, this tradition has never been more needed. Only a Politics of Love can defeat the Politics of Hatred. That is why I am standing for the Christians on the Left Executive.
I am Vice Chair of North East Herts CLP and Labour Business. I stood for parliament in Hitchin & Harpenden in 2015 and I have stood for local council several times. But above all, I am a campaigner and am happiest talking to voters on Labour Doorstep.
On the wall of the Market Hall, Market Place, Whitehaven, Cumbria is a blue plaque. It reads:
John Wesley (1701- 1791), founder of Methodism visited Whitehaven on 25 occasions between 1749 and 1788 preaching in numerous outdoor and indoor venues including the marketplace, the Ginns, and later the town’s first Methodist chapel in Michael Street. From Whitehaven Harbour he made several visits to his followers in Ireland and the Isle of Man.
When I lived in Whitehaven, I would often walk past the Market Hall and stop and reflect on the plaque. Why Whitehaven of all places? It’s hardly on the beaten track. It’s an hour west by car from Junction 40 of the M6 on single carriageways. By horseback, many times that. These days a speaker or performer will think they’ve “done” Cumbria if they do one engagement in Carlisle.
But he chose Whitehaven. And specifically, he chose the Ginns. And he could hardly have chosen a less salubrious place to preach in all of Cumbria. In the eighteenth century, Whitehaven was a major port that rivalled Liverpool, Bristol and Glasgow. For some years, it was a corner of the slave triangle. The Cumberland coast also had significant coal deposits with a coal seam that went out under the Irish Sea. The area of Whitehaven known as the Ginns was home to several coal mines – along with numerous factories and rows of workers cottages. The Ginns even had its own workhouse. In later centuries, the Ginns would become the subject of “slum clearances” and other social reform movements. (more…)