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She was fiercely independent and tough, a trait of Gorton women. She had brought her four children up on her own with the help of her mother. My grandad spent most of his time looking for work or in the pub. They had lived through some very difficult times; the depression of the 1930's and the Second World War.
The matriarchs wanted better for me. My mum didn't pass the 11+ as she was ill on the day of the test. That has stayed with her all of her life. She wanted to go to commercial college to do shorthand and typing, but instead had to go to work at 15 years old. She wanted me to be a secretary, a good job for a girl she said.
I went to Abbey Hey Primary School and then Wright Robinson High School. I took shorthand and typing as my mum wanted and left school at 16 to start a job at Post Office Telephones. In the summer that preceded this I worked locally at Belle Vue in Gorton, performing various roles including being a cashier and dressing up as Rupert the Bear. Me and my friend used to leave Wright Robinson on Thursdays and get the orange Selnec bus down to Belle Vue to pick up our wages. We would then get another bus into town and go straight to Chelsea Girl to buy our new outfits for the weekend. Once I started my proper job at Post Office Telephones (later to become British Telecom) I would soon get involved in the union the CPSA (now PCS). Having felt exploited working at Belle Vue, sometimes working a 60 hour week in the summer, but not being able to do anything about it, the union was my route of having a voice and being heard.
By the age of 21 I was a union convenor and I joined the Labour Party, being involved in the first fight against privatisation under the Thatcher government. I spoke in the Central Hall on Oldham Street and informed the huge audience that we had been sold down the river by government. By the age of 25 I was married and had my first child, my second by 28. Having two children under the age of three and no right to job share or to work part time, I gave up work to look after my children and to study part time, picking up any casual work I could to try to make ends meet. I delivered directories, worked behind a bar in a local Gorton pub and did market and social research. I did an Access course at MANCAT and was encouraged to go to university. (I went on to complete my degree and teacher training). During this time of juggling a family, working and studying I also became actively involved in politics in Gorton.
This was when I first came into contact with Sir Gerald Kaufman. He helped me and other mothers get a new nursery built at my children's primary school, Abbey Hey where I had attended myself. I realised that politics could make a real difference. This was reinforced when my son's operation for a double hernia was cancelled three times and again the intervention of the MP speeded up the process. I went on to get involved in school politics as a governor and then sat on the Scrutiny committee for children and young people (which I now chair).
This led me to stand as a Councillor firstly in Gorton North and then Gorton South, where I was elected in 2010. Since then I have fought every day for the people of my home town. From school places to rent arrears to immigration issues to DWP sanctions, with the help and mentoring of the MP Sir Gerald, we fought for and defended the good people of Gorton.
When I learned of Sir Gerald's passing on Sunday night I was heartbroken. We had worked together for the people of Gorton for many years and now he has gone. He was a good friend and a colleague. I want to carry on his good work. His memory must not be tainted. Gorton needs someone to carry on his work who cares about the area. I am a nana myself now, I have two small grandsons who I adore. I want to fight for them and their future like Sir Gerald fought for my children and more widely the children and families of Gortonians. I am a feisty Gorton woman, I have that fight in my belly. I can carry on Sir Gerald's good work.
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