At 16 I was a raver, a party animal to say the least. Weekends would start early on a Friday night, round at my friend’s house where we’d get ready. Then we’d be out, maybe to a local party at someone’s house. Then on Saturday it was an all-night rave until the wee small hours of Sunday. School was okay. I didn’t get into fights but I stood up to people in power, often. So I did get into trouble. If I was being scolded for something I hadn’t done, I wouldn’t let up defending myself. Once a teacher threw a chair at me.
I started going out with a boy right after my 16th birthday. I went out with him for five years. It was horrendous at many points throughout. We split up and got back together lots of times. It took me a long time not to feel I’d wasted the formative years of my life with him. I went on holiday with my friend Marcella after we broke up and she made me say a nice thing about him every day so I didn’t feel I’d wasted five years of my life. Five years, all through university, as I was becoming an adult – I couldn’t stop thinking about all the other things I could have done.
It was horrendous at many points throughout. We split up lots of times
I turned 16 in 1997, when Tony Blair’s Labour government got in. My parents were very left-wing and I’d been heavily involved in the campaign. My house was one of the places it was run from. Even my frail old grandad was out canvassing. So we had a real street party vibe for the weeks running up to the election. I remember vividly us all sitting down to watch the results coming in – me and my three brothers and our friends upstairs – the adults getting gradually drunk downstairs. When Portillo lost his seat you could hear my dad cheering all through the house. The next night my parents had a house party which went on all weekend. We revelled in it for hours and hours. I was born under Thatcher, I’d only known a Tory government. It felt genuinely life-changing.
If I was to tell my 16-year-old self about how the Labour Party has developed since… how would she feel? I think she would be depressed about some of the things which have happened but also really proud. The things I cared about were women’s rights and equality and I think the Labour government did loads to push women forward. Things got better for women under Labour. But in 2005 my parents left the Labour Party due to the war in Iraq. They’d been paying my annual fees so when they left, I ended up leaving up too. And I didn’t seek to rejoin for a long time.
My mum died in 2011. I actually rejoined the party in 2010 during the leadership election, when Ed Miliband was elected. My mum regretted voting for Tony Blair as leader, rather than someone more left-wing. She knew she was dying so she didn’t think it was worth re-joining so I re-joined and voted for Ed Miliband on her behalf. My dad re-joined too. He’s painfully proud of me when he’s talking to other people – he must be a real pain in the neck actually – but with me he’ll just say, you did well. We come from a very working-class background where there’s this almost superstitious feeling that if you put someone on a pedestal you’ll lose them.
When Jo Cox was murdered [in June 2016, by a far-right extremist], my family really struggled. Especially my three brothers. When I get abuse on social media or anywhere they can get very… ‘I’m coming down to have a fucking word if you ever talk to my sister like that again’. One of my brothers was particularly upset. He rang me up and said, I thought it was you, I really thought it was you.