Amina Lone is one of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) profiled in the new Young Fabians pamphlet 'Fifteen for 2015'. You can read the pamphlet here.
Many politicians fret over how to engage with voters. They spend hours of time and thousands of pounds learning how to connect and appear genuine in the public eye. To shape a perception that ‘they’ are in fact ‘us’. Amina Lone is not one of them. She is the voter.
Her story echoes that of thousands of working people across the country and in her home constituency of Morecambe and Lunesdale. Born into a hardworking family that struggled to make ends meet, Amina left school at the age of 16 and to this day holds no formal qualifications beyond her GSCEs. She’s spent the last 20 years working in the third sector for disadvantaged and underserved communities throughout England while raising four children as a single parent.
“I come from a family where we fought against injustice and poverty and I’ve lived the whole cost-of-living crisis, so it’s very real to me. No other party besides Labour could attract me as a candidate,” she says.
Amina also happens to be dyslexic, something that makes the extensive reading and writing required of her as both director of her CIC (Community Interest Company)- the Social Action and Research Foundation- and as a candidate a “daily challenge”.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that, though, and not let it be a stigma that stops me from doing things,” she says. Amen to that.
Morecambe and Lunesdale is a marginal on a knife-edge. A Tory bastion for decades, it was stormed by New Labour in 1997 and only narrowly recaptured in 2010. Less than a thousand votes separate the two parties going into May 7.
How will Labour win here? By “reconnecting with people,” says Amina. “To do that we need to be honest and transparent about what politicians should be doing and what is expected of them. We need to talk to people about what they care about and listen. There’s no point being in politics if you don’t care about the people in your area. That’s the job- it’s an absolute requirement.”
Honesty is a virtue too rarely seen in politicians, but it’s one Amina sees as absolutely crucial to winning a campaign: “It’s a massive privilege for me to be a candidate. I want to be open with people and make them understand the Labour party’s decisions, and explain why we will sometimes take decisions they do not like”.
“It’s also about saying we got it wrong sometimes in the past,” she adds. The Iraq War is an issue that still resonates on the doorstep, she admits, and one that has been given renewed relevance in light of the violent upheavals taking place across the Middle East right now.
Another challenge is tackling the perception that Labour let working people down in the Blair and Brown years. “When we were in government we did some phenomenally good stuff, but poor working class communities felt they were being left behind while we engaged with more affluent middle class people,” says Amina.
Take the example of immigration. For too long it seemed that Labour did not care about the social impact it was having on predominantly white, working class communities. Amina is tackling this perception by speaking less and listening more. “Working class people don’t want to shut our borders, but they are nervous about their communities changing, and changing at too fast a pace. What we need to do is reassure people, let them know it’s alright to be worried about these things and work through their concerns together.”
This is an approach she hopes can reset peoples’ relationship with politics and reverse the decline of local democracy. “It’s a travesty we have such a low turnout in local elections. A passion of mine is addressing this and finding out why people have never voted. It’s not healthy when so many are disengaged. That means they don’t feel a sense of belonging and that is harmful,” she says.
Louie Woodall is a member of the Young Fabians Executive