by Helen Jackson
This is the story of how class solidarity translated into creative and radical local initiative, with fairness at its core, during the 1970s and 1980s. Contributors took the experience into their later work, lives and careers. Helen Jackson was one of them.
The author’s historical and political narrative merges with her own reflections as a woman in politics, so that we see how political action delivers change and understanding at an individual as well as a societal level.
Focused on the local and regional, the memoir holds wider lessons for national and global politics. Valuing women’s contribution to work, welfare and care in the community delivers sound economic results, especially when it is linked with ready access to lifelong learning through adult education.
Solidarity crosses frontiers and includes diverse strands of inequality. People are looking for ways to devolve power, because they see solutions to global challenges such as climate and health can be best identified and delivered through communities.
Helen Jackson was elected to Sheffield City Council (1980-91) where, as Chair of Public Works and then Employment, she helped to bring about ground-breaking opportunities for women, unemployed people and poorer communities. Elected to Parliament in 1992, she served on the Environment Select Committee and helped win the argument for ‘quotas’ which led to the huge increase in women Labour MPs in 1997. She was Parliamentary Private Secretary to three successive Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and helped establish good liaison with women and community groups there to win support for the Good Friday Agreement and its implementation. She led cross-party work in Parliament on water, steel, South Africa and on the gender input into the Commission for Africa. After stepping down as MP in 2005, she worked with the Equal OpportunitiesCommission to form the Women and Pension network.