Saturday 28 February 2015

Saturday Interview: Zaeba Hanif

Zaeba Hanif is a Labour activist from Stoke-on-Trent who stood last year in the contest to replace Joan Walley as the party's parliamentary candidate in the Stoke North constituency, where she made it through to the shortlist. An inveterate crisp muncher, you can peruse her website here and follow her on Twitter here.

Have you ever thought about giving blogging a go?

Yes! For a long, long time. had been in the pipeline for a few years with a view to blogging, but I launched it last year for a completely different purpose. I really need to get onto my tech savvy friends and family members to redevelop my site with a blogging function.

Are there any blogs or other politics/comments websites you regularly follow?

Yours of course! (*smiles and winks*)

Well, the usual stuff people in our circuit read, my social media feeds include The Guardian, The Independent, The Huffington Post. Occasionally, I take time out to read LabourList. I like it because it gives people from across the labour movement a platform to write independently and it tends to draw more constructive writers. It also allows us in the movement to appreciate our diversity and different points of view.

There is another blogger who I have been following more recently, party member and a strong trade unionist. I’m interested, because he is local, similar politically, works in the same sector as me and travels around the world. He also writes about the spiritual shrines, which is another interest that strikes a chord with me.

Do you also find social media useful for activist-y things?

Yep, networking and all, also it reminds you of upcoming events. Good way of sharing progress of campaigns and other projects.

Are you reading anything at the moment?

Yes, but pretty dull to mention here - I’m reading. Organisational Behaviour by Huczynski & Buchanan.

Do you have a favourite novel?

To Kill a Mocking Bird

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major influence on how you think about the world?

Well, there are a few. You know what!? I’m going to approach this differently. I think sometimes we don’t appreciate the influences that are physically around us enough.

My family are a massive influence, I could go on forever, so keeping it to politics. My first influence is my former secondary school English Teacher. I will tell you all about that another time. But it’s almost like she had me prepared for another one of my real life influences, our retiring MP Joan Walley.

I first came across Joan when I was still at school and saw her more and more of her when I became for involved in various kinds of activism. Throughout the noughties I had pretty deep discussions with her, in passing, at gathering or at meetings. Most of the time, not always but mostly she agreed with what I had to say. Back then I got super excited when Joan used to argue her part of the debate. I mean credit to her I was an intensely passionate young teenager.

Back in 2002 she told me to continue my good work and that I should strongly consider getting involved in the labour movement. Joan kept a healthy dialogue with me into my adult life which has been inspiring and influenced me a great deal.

Eventually after many years I emailed Joan expressing interest in joining the Labour Party and becoming politically active. Joan arranged to get a later train to Westminster that Monday and came to visit me at home. I’ll never forget the big hug she met me with!

What was the last film you saw?

At the cinema, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.

How many political organisations have you been a member of?

Transport and General Workers Union for a short while before it rebranded as UNITE.

Still a member of the Cooperative Party (whoop whoop), The Labour Party (of course), The Fabian Society and Unison.

I am also a member of NorSCARF, our local anti-fascist campaign group.

Is there anything you particularly enjoy about political activity?

Meeting people?? Sounds clich├ęd, I know! But listening to people’s point of view and learning from them is valuable. I hope people learn from my activism too in terms of awareness raising, the arguments around certain issues, and so on. Empowerment all round, best way forward I believe.

You also put yourself forward for the Labour PPC selection in Stoke North. How was that experience?

My only regret was submitting my application too late. I handed my papers in a day before the deadline when most, if not all of the other candidates had begun their campaign. Saying that my campaign wasn't disadvantaged a great deal by this. I thought I did well, I got a lot of support and I’m pleased to have made it to through to the final part of the process.

Can you name an idea or an issue on which you've changed your mind?

Social media. I really used to be annoyed with hearing Facebook this, and Facebook that! I then joined Facebook in 2010 to support the ‘Save Stoke Children Centres' campaign. Back then I said that I will only be actively for the duration of the campaign! Am I still on Facebook? Yes I am, actually too much at times. Not only useful politically, but I benefit from it personally by keeping in touch with people.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to disseminate?

Don’t always follow popular beliefs. Seek out information from other groups, other sources and check out other media outlets and campaign groups you’re not used to. Often our favourite news channels and broadcasters may not share all or even accurate information. At times news that sells is the news that is shown.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to combat?

Always, always discrimination toward any group or persons. More recently the ongoing demonisation of Muslims is a concern. Extremists from all over the place hijacking the faith is not helping.

I’ve heard about the Muslims forming a ring around a synagogue in Oslo tonight to offer their symbolic protection to the Jewish community. It's those kinds of actions that need reporting more.

Who are your political heroes?

These questions are difficult, quickly I’ll go with Clement Attlee, Tony Benn, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

How about political villains?

Hitler….. I’ll chuck in all the other Nazis. I’d like to add George W Bush. Let's stick Thatcher in there too, my family will be pleased!

What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?

Getting people to vote in May.

If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?

Better maternity rights and free sanitary care for women with average to low incomes.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?

Lack of empathy and care towards those you feel are different to you, follow a different religious belief to yours or have a different ethnicity to you.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Be careful when you trust, because when it’s broken, it’s broken!

What is your favourite song?
This is so, so, so tough. I don’t have one, I have many! Sonnet, by The Verve (played it twice on shuffle today, one of my favourites). But! I will go with Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.

Do you have a favourite video game?

Again many ... I’m stuck. I’ll go with Streets of Rage.

What do you consider the most important personal quality in others?

Loyalty and selflessness

What personal fault in others do you most dislike?

Disloyalty and selfishness.

What, if anything, do you worry about?

War, any wars ...

And any pet peeves?

People not cleaning the toilet seat after use ... Errrr, yuck!

What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

Don’t rush into anything, take your time and better opportunities will come your way.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Socialising with my family and friends.

What is your most treasured possession?

My prayer beads from Jerusalem.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Crisps mmmmm X

What talent would you most like to have?

To write perfectly in all writing styles.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true - apart from getting loads of money - what would you wish for?

World peace? Or is that already over used?

I will go with something a little practical. I’d wish for authorities in each country/state to assist people in meeting their basic needs including access to education. The rest would hopefully follow.

Speaking of cash, how, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money?

Unlikely, that should happen, but since you’re asking ... after making sure people close to me are secure I would then probably set up a charity to support women during pregnancies.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?

Diane Abbots, Russel Brand and Sir Stanley Mathews

And lastly ... Why are you Labour?

Because I want power and wealth spread throughout society fairly not just concentrated in the hands of a few. I believe the labour movement can be inclusive of all people regardless of their background. I am Labour because I want a society that is just and takes equality seriously.

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