YP Letters: Firefighter's journey back to Labour thanks to Jeremy Corbyn's stance on austerity

From: Bryan Barrett, Norton.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a recent visit to Leeds where he met flooding victims. Is he the right man to lead Britain?
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a recent visit to Leeds where he met flooding victims. Is he the right man to lead Britain?

I AM a serving firefighter. I live in Norton (near Malton), North Yorkshire, with my wife and two children, not far from where I was brought up on the Tang Hall council estate in York.

When I left school, I joined the Green Howards infantry regiment based at Catterick Garrison and Osnabruck, Germany. I took part in a number of operational tours of Northern Ireland and Bosnia.

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I left the Army in 2000 and moved to Malton to join the Fire Service. My early years as a firefighter saw me at odds with the Blair government.

Strikes over fair pay and my disagreement over the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan made me a natural Conservative voter.

My disagreement with Labour became altogether more hostile as a number of my friends, who were still serving, lost their lives in Afghanistan. The lives of these young men, who knew little about politics, were cut short by a war that they were ill-prepared for. That experience had a profound effect on me.

But old allegiances run deep, and it wasn’t until after the 2015 general election that I began to realise that it was the policies of the then coalition that had led to austerity and the increasing poverty around me.

Public service workers like me had been taken for granted. The cost of living was increasing, yet our wages had totally stagnated and my annual salary was virtually the same in 2015 as it was in 2010.

Bitterly disappointed with politics in general, I was intrigued when Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader. He stated his intention to stand on an anti-austerity platform and seemed to be able to relate to fellow human beings in a way that other politicians simply couldn’t.

Labour party membership doubled in his first six months as leader. However, I remained deeply suspicious of politicians in general and it wasn’t until I read the manifesto in 2017 that I nailed my colours firmly to the mast and became a Labour member myself.

Now, in 2018, I am appalled at our divided country where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.Homelessness is rising sharply, health inequalities are widening and a record number of people are having to rely on foodbanks. We face the unprecedented situation of this generation being worse off than the last, with the worst wage growth for 200 years.

We all need to do something about this, and now, as an elected Labour representative, I want to lead the local fight for a fair society where everyone has opportunities, and no one needs to visit a foodbank.