Wintergeddon hits Beestonia, yet at a ridiculously hour of the morning I’m stood outside Castle College stamping my feet to get blood to my frozen toes and wondering why I have lost all feeling in my nose. What madness is this? One benefit of being on the dole is that days like this can be spent within a womb-like duvet cave, with the occasional sortie out for tea / toilet the only break in comfortville. What could be drawing me from this 12-tog utopia?
I meet with Si and Kathy, a very fine Beestonian couple who, like me, are languishing on JSA. We’re here with a purpose though, and that purpose comes marching down the road a few minutes later, and props itself against the wall of Barton House, where our ever-popular MP has her office:
…along with 600 letters from workers at Nottingham APC (The Beeston Ryland based sorting office) stating very clearly that they opposed Soubry’s support for the privatisation of the Royal Mail. This rather makes her claim in the House of Commons that (quoting Hansard)
“In my constituency there are 700 postal workers at the Beeston Sorting Office. To my knowledge, not one of them has written to urge me not to support the Bill. Two of them came to the Commons today to ask me not to support it-two in 700.”
look rather misleading. In fact, it seems she misled the House, as she was lobbied by the CWU a full month before this statement. Of course, as I’ve shown before, Soubry saw this lobby as the CWU ‘misrepresenting’ its members. I asked a couple of the postal workers gathered if they felt misrepresented ‘Yeah’ said one ‘by her’. He pointed at Anna’s office window.
This is a very serious issue. In today’s (Friday 26th) Beeston Express she once again tries to wriggle out of it by claiming a minority of letters lobbying her were from people outside the constituency, thus the whole process is flawed, she can ignore the vast majority/ the meeting with the CWU/ the 200+ letters sent to her office. Anna used to be a barrister. I am so happy I didn’t have her representing me back then. I’d probably be doing a life sentence for dropping a crisp packet in the street.
Photographs are taken, and the postalworkers get some quizzical looks from students at Castle College, probably wondering if somethings going to kick off and searching for fire extinguishers if it does. But its all very cordial, no chanting, just chat and complaints about the iciness of the weather while they wait for the photographer for the Beeston Express to show.
Then, the door opens, and…
Anna emerges at around eleven am, and looks slightly shocked at the gathering on her doorstep. She quickly tries to take control of the situation and tries to bundle the workers inside.But Darren, the CWU rep she has an 11.15am appointment with, doesn’t want to come in, pointing out that its too early. Plus, the Beeston Express hasn’t shown yet.
This seems to rile her. ‘I wasn’t told they’d be a protest’ she sputters. ‘We’re just standing here holding a giant postcard’ points out a female postal worker next to her. ‘Well, you’re causing an obstruction to the building’ Soubry counters, so those who are directly in front of the door sidestep, elegantly allowing access to any comers / goers. She concedes this small defeat, closes the door and goes back in.
Sheila from the Beeston Express turns up, and the postman once again gather round the postcard for pictures. Soubry pops out again, and starts asking who we all are. ‘Photographers’ I say, and this is true, as I’m taking a photo of her right then ‘huh, no you’re not’ she harrumphs at myself and Si (who I must credit massively for coming down with his stupidly high mega-pixel camera today, and snapping away despite suspected frostbite).
She gamely agrees to be photographed with the giant postcard, but not-so-gamely grimaces throughout.
The Beeston Express starts snapping, and politely ask her to move around so they can get a good shot: Anna looks so uncomfortable I half expect her to stamp her foot, run back inside slamming the door behind her shouting ‘God, you’re all so unfair’. But instead she just refuses to move, and seethes. It’s almost fascinating.
The CWU eventually decide its time for talks, and go to troop in. I decide not to bother sitting in: I doubt I’d be welcome, or indeed invited. One person who does try and go in however is Cllr. Steve Barber, who, as the representative of the Rylands, has the Sorting Office very much in his interests. He walks up, asks to enter and Soubry swiftly snaps ‘ CWU only’ and slams the door in his rather shocked face. ‘So much for the open invite’ Steve says, and we reflect on what Soubry’s predecessor, the sadly erstwhile Nick Palmer would have done.
Dr Palmer always had an ear for his constituents, and even if he was diametrically opposed to what they believed, would always listen, take on the issue, then try and explain his position. Politely, positively, and fairly. I myself am not a member of any political party, but supported Nick in the General Election as he was a great constituency MP. If Soubry had began as Nick finished, I would have willingly been cheering her along. But she has clearly only got into politics for her own ends, and only to provide vote-fodder. She is not interested in representation, not interested in her constituency (she would have loved Gedling a lot more, and must be hoping that Clarke resigns at the next election and leaves Rushcliffe open to her), and is not a benign presence in Broxtowe.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe today she’ll listen to the desperate pleas of her constituents who see themselves soon to join me at the dole office every fortnight, despite working their arses off for years providing this country with a sometimes flawed, but still marvellous and cheap postal service. Maybe she’ll see every other privatised area, and see how crap they’ve come (have a ride on East Midlands Trains sometime. Veal travel better). Maybe she’ll see trying to sell what belongs to the public to business people only interested in the bottom line, and sod the rights, the pensions, the jobs of those who ensure their swimming pools are kept topped up with Evian. Maybe she will, and then maybe I can write something positive.
As I turn to leave and find coffee the temperature of molten lava, a DHL parcel delivery van pulls up outside Barton House. It reminds me of a crow circling a dying animal, and with that happy thought I head back up Chilwell Road and home.
big props to the postal workers who turned up, the ever wonderful Simon and Kathy and apologies to Phil Tooze of the very good Riot Photography for forgetting to get him down to do the pics. If you were at the meeting earlier, I’d be delighted if you get in touch to let me know how it went. Cheers.