Pat is a very near neighbour of mine. She has lived near me for years, and, until I met her daughter one New Year’s Eve several years ago, then subsequently met Pat, I had no idea we had so much in common.
Pat was born in 1930. She has been a committed socialist for the majority of her life. She was and still is a huge supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, even having a 12-inch cardboard cut-out of Jeremy on her fire place, much to the chagrin of some of her neighbours.
Pat’s place of birth was Eastbourne, in Sussex. Her parents were socialists, her father, a mechanical engineer, worked at Croydon airport. Her mother worked at home. Her mother’s dad was a conservative, whilst her father’s dad was a socialist.
Pat’s father was blind in one eye due to an accident he had as a fifteen-year-old. When war broke out, he wanted to join the Air Force, but, in order to pass the medical, he had to memorise the eye chart and also learn the sequencing in the colour perception test which was an essential requirement.
He passed the medical, then joined the Air Force as a mechanical engineer but later on he had to do a further medical, which he failed, so after two weeks he was discharged. Following his discharge from the RAF he worked in a factory making gun turrets. After the war he was employed as an engineer by Chiswick Buses to mend them. Pat’s dad was also a union convenor.
Pat heard a lot of discussions about politics at home and, as they listened to the radio, she was also aware of the situation in Europe and talk of war. She was interested in politics and discussing issues with her parents. At school Ann and her classmates used to go into the toilets and pray that there wouldn’t be a war but hoped they would be evacuated, as this sounded exciting. In 1939 when war was declared, Pat was evacuated to Warnham near Horsham West Sussex; her mother went with her as a helper with those children and stayed with them for 3 months.
Pat was evacuated from 9 years to 13 years. She passed a scholarship exam at 11 years and attended St Saviour’s and St Olave’s Grammar School, which was evacuated to Chertsey, Surrey. Because of the distance she stayed in a hostel for pupils. She returned to London aged 13 years, when the school re-opened in New Kent Road.
Flying bombs, a German invention, were one of the most fear-inducing terror weapons of the Second World War. They created so much devastation, and one of the most chilling factors was that you could hear them flying overhead, but before they landed they were silent, so people couldn’t get a sense of their trajectory. This caused a great deal of stress for the population, including Pat, who was extremely worried that they would land on her home.
Pat’s hobbies as a teenager were tennis, Chelsea Football Club, walking, cycling, theatre and books. When Pat was 15 years old she decided to join the Labour League of Youth. The League met every three weeks, and she enjoyed discussions about politics. Still aged 15, she canvassed for the General Election for the constituency of Norwood in 1945; at this point she had left school. This was a very exciting time for Pat, and she loved being part of the whole political process. Ronald Chamberlain, Labour, won from the Tories; he defeated the son-in-law of Winston Churchill, Lord Duncan Sandys. Pat was really pleased that they had supported and helped elect a Labour MP for Norwood; sadly the Tories regained the seat in 1950. The significant points of this election were the proposals for a Welfare State and the creation of a National Health Service, free at the point of delivery. This meant that no one would ever need to die because they couldn’t afford through lack of funds to seek medical help. Pat was jubilant that her party had won and that she had been part of that result; there was such optimism about the future. The country celebrated like it never had before; this was of course being part of history in the making.
Pat went out with a member of the Communist Party and toyed with the idea of joining the Communist Party herself, but one day he arrived on the doorstep with loads of books about communism. This was a step too far, so Pat decided to part company with him.
Pat did read the Daily Worker, now the Morning Star. At age 20 Pat became a trade union member and belonged to the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants (NATSOPA), which is now Unite.
After leaving school Pat entered the War Office in the registry department, where she trained as a typist; she enjoyed the work but when they put her in the typing pool she decided to leave. Being with a lot of people in one room and typing by rote wasn’t what she hoped for. She then went to work for the Hulton Press as secretary to the chief accountant. Hulton Press were publishers of periodicals such as Picture Post, Farmers Weekly, Leader, and children’s comics, Eagle, Girl, Robin and Swift.
Pat met and fell in love with the auditor for the company. In those times it wasn’t acceptable for people to marry colleagues. There was the assumption that secrets regarding the company would be shared in the bedroom; this used to be called ‘pillow talk’. Eventually Pat had to leave her position as she married the Auditor.
Her husband was a socialist but became a Blairite in latter years. She had two children, girls, who were taken to Aldermaston and attended CND marches. Pat and the children were also involved in supporting the miners’ strikes which were called because of Thatcher’s resolve to sell the mines and break the unions. This was a significant period of time in history; the strikes lasted a year and were bloody and brutal. This was described as the most bitter industrial dispute in history and was a decisive victory for Thatcher.
Pat becomes infuriated when people claim that after a certain age older people become Conservatives. At the age of 80, after ringing in, Pat spoke on Nicky Campbell’s programme on Radio 5 Live, she was arguing with an 80-year-old Conservative, disputing the claims that everyone over 65 becomes a Conservative supporter.
Pat is a lifelong socialist. She had always voted for the Labour Party and was energised, like so many other LP members, when Corbyn was elected leader of the party. Pat was committed and excited at the thought of a real socialist party coming to power. She, like so many of us, was enraged at the way Jeremy was vilified by the press and the treatment meted out to him by the right wing of the Labour Party.
Pat resigned her membership after Starmer was elected leader. Pat is disgusted with the Labour Party today. She feels Starmer is hopeless and the party has definitely moved to the right. She remains a committed socialist to this day.