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Spirit of Clem Attlee

Rachael Maskell – York
Shaun Noble, Thursday, April 30th, 2015

The shining example of Clem Attlee in rebuilding a battered Britain after the Second World War and her belief in Christian Socialism inspire Rachael Maskell (pictured left) in her bid to become the Labour MP in York Central – with an increased majority.


What also underpins Rachael’s desire to improve on the 6,451 majority of the retiring Labour MP, Sir Hugh Bayley, is her family background steeped in socialism and public service.


As a young girl, her uncle Terence Morris, a leading penal reformer who campaigned against the death penalty and wrote the still influential book Pentonville, a sociological study of an English prison, made an indelible impression on her.


Rachael describes Terence as ‘my political mentor’. Her uncle lived as a prisoner with Home Office permission at Pentonville to write his book and worked in a prison laundry with a young man controversially hanged for his part in a murder.


If this were not enough of a socialist lodestar for Rachael, her father Rob, an electrical engineer, was a union rep on ships; her mother Ann was a physiotherapist in the NHS and sister Sarah is a teacher.


It was at school in Dorset that the young Rachael first cut her political teeth, as she spoke out against teachers who were allegedly bullying fellow pupils.


Her campaigning zeal was further honed in student politics at the University of East Anglia where she studied to become a physiotherapist and then when she became a convenor at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital.



So there is certain symmetry to her career path which saw her become head of health at Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, where her NHS background and political activism could have free rein.


Her Christian faith comes from the teachings that highlight injustice and avarice – and she cites Jesus overturning the counting tables of the greedy money changers in the Temple as an example of the righting of a deep wrong. Any connection with today’s ‘fat cat’ bankers is purely coincidental!


Her political hero is Clement Attlee – ‘the best prime minister ever’ –  who at a time of austerity when the country was in dire financial straits – helped start build the Socialist Jerusalem with the creation of the welfare state, the founding of the NHS and the nationalisation of key industries, such as coal, steel and the railways, for the public good.


She said that she wanted to translate the spirit of 1945 to the politics of 2015 for the benefit of all the residents of York.


Rachael said: “My family and my life-long trade unionism have contributed in their different ways as to why I am socialist and to my belief that people can improve society and their personal circumstances by becoming involved in progressive politics.


“I have been a trade union activist and official with Unite and its predecessor unions Amicus and MSF for over 20 years. I believe trade unions provide a blueprint for bringing people together to have greater influence than if they were fighting injustice on their own.


“Voting on May 7 as an individual may seem like you are not making much of a difference, but if enough individuals of the same persuasion make that short trip to the ballot box, you can contribute to the creation of a socialist agenda and a fairer society.


“That’s why I am urging Unite members, whether in York or across the rest of the UK, to vote for Labour candidates – the spirit of Clement Attlee will be expecting no less!”


Photo by Mark Harvey

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