Saturday 10 September 2016

Saturday Interview: Chelley Ryan

Chelley Ryan is a Labour activist, writer, and blogger from Sussex who's supported Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he launched his challenge last Summer. She blogs at Turning the Tide and is a contributor to the Morning Star. You can also follow Chelley on Twitter here.

You've made your mind up about the Labour leadership and are backing Jeremy Corbyn. Was this an easy decision to make?

Yes and yes.

Why do you think Jeremy still attracts a huge following in the party, despite the well publicised negative polling and constant barrage of negative press?

Since the first moment it looked like Jeremy would win last year he's been on the receiving end of a hostile press, and an equally hostile pro establishment PLP. But the more they attack Jeremy and us for supporting him, the clearer it is we have the right leader. They feel threatened by the real change Jeremy and his grassroots support represents. Besides, polling is viewed with great scepticism by most people since the General Election. Prior to the local elections, polling was predicting a 200 to 300 seat loss for Labour. In the end we lost 11 seats. We have also won every by-election and all four mayoralties up for grabs, so that gives us a better indication of whether we are making headway than unreliable polls. We also don't believe any other leader would make our party more attractive to the wider electorate.

Looking at the two present leadership campaigns, do you think either have made any egregious missteps or have played a blinder?

Let's just say Owen has had more gaffes in this election than you'd expect from the 'competent' candidate.

Assuming Jeremy wins, what next?

A wise soul once said to me, "take the first right step, and the next right step will become clear". That's how I'm looking at this. It was right for Jeremy not to bow to the immense pressure many in the PLP put on him to resign, and it was right he was allowed to stand in the leadership contest. It will be right if he wins. I hope the PLP unites to support the leadership after this but I wouldn't be surprised if some don't. We will just have to respond as best we can to whatever happens next.

And if Owen does?

If Owen won, a lot of members would leave. Especially if they felt he was helped to win by the vote freeze and an over zealous purge. That's what the right of the party want. To them we are the wrong type of member and they want us gone. That's why I'd stay and hope others would too. We would be demoralised and distraught and angry but we should channel that anger into getting involved in our local parties and changing the party from the bottom up.

Moving on, are there any blogs or other politics/comments websites you regularly follow?

Ramblings of an Ordinary Man, Mark Catlin's blog, and Newtekjournalism.

Are you reading anything at the moment?

The Grey by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers.

Do you have a favourite novel?

Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Are there any works of non-fiction that has had a major influence on how you think about the world?

Think Your Way to Happiness by Windy Dryden and Jack Gordon.

And has there ever been an event/moment that has had a similar effect?

Jeremy's leadership win.

How many political organisations have you been a member of?

Just the Labour Party.

Is there anything you particularly enjoy about political activity?

Most of my campaigning takes place online, which suits me being quite shy and introverted, but I still feel I've connected with some people. We share our joys, our stress and our hopes and I draw a lot of strength from them.

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

I guess New Labour. I was 27 when we won the 97 election. After 18 Years of the Tories, I bought into the idea we had to steer to the right to win elections. I believe now we should have remained politically well to the left of the Tories and we still would have won in 97, maybe even before. And then we wouldn't have gone on to haemorrhage the support of 5 million voters, which lost us Scotland and left a big vacuum for parties like UKIP to fill.

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

The idea the mainstream media is the propaganda arm of the wealthy establishment. If we can raise awareness of media bias and the motives behind it, people might stop voting in ways that harm them, their children's future, society, and the planet.

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

Racism, sexism, homophobia.

Do you have any political heroes?

Loads but my number one hero right now is Jeremy Corbyn. He stood for leader, not to further his own career, but to give us a voice when we were crying out to be heard. He has handled the pressure of leadership, made much worse by the hostility from many of his own colleagues, with dignity, integrity and fortitude. He didn't resign when the pressure on him to do so was horrendous. He stood strong for us and I am immensely grateful to him for it. My other heroes are all the ordinary men and women who are fighting so hard to defend Corbyn's leadership from those who want the party to go back to business as usual, despite all the vilification they get for doing so.

How about political villains?

Too many to mention. I'd like to say they're all Tories, or from other parties and most are, but unfortunately some are in the same party as me.

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

To build a huge grassroots movement to support the direction Jeremy Corbyn wants to take our party, with an immense social media presence to counteract mainstream media bias.

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

What it's always been: grotesque greed and a lust for power in a few people who benefit from war, inequality, and political instability, and the scapegoating of certain groups to serve as a distraction from their own self-serving agendas.

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

Don't sweat the small stuff.

What is your favourite song?

Do You Hear the People Sing from Les Miserables.

Do you have a favourite video game?

Super Mario 64

And what was the last film you saw?

The Visit

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


What fault in others do you most dislike?

Lack of empathy.

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

Go easier on yourself.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Writing, spending time with my family, picnics on the Downs, gardening, watching movies and TV series.

What is your most treasured possession?

My Nan's engagement ring.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Kenny Rogers and breaking into the cheddar after I've had a few glasses of red wine.

What talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could sing well.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for?

Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

If you could go for a drink with three people, past or present, who would they be?

My dad died of cancer when I was 23. There are so many things I didn't ask him that I'd love to ask him now. And because I'd want the time just with him I would forsake the other two invites.

And lastly ... Why are you Labour?

The Labour Party represents ordinary people's best hope of getting their voices heard and needs met through our political system.