From the East Midlands to the crucial election of the Scottish Parliament. Unite’s Carol Mochan says she might not look like the usual politician-type – but the voice of the working class must be heard in the fight against austerity – and Carol is ready to take on the challenge. Hajera Blagg reports
Carol Mochan, who’s standing to be a Scottish Labour Party candidate in the Scottish Parliament, may not be your usual career politician – but she’s not going to let that stop her.
“I am the most unlikely person to be a candidate for Parliament in the world,” Carol tells UNITElive, laughing. “It makes my husband giggle all the time because I don’t like the limelight, I don’t wear power suits or any of the things you would typically associate with a politician.”
But Carol, who’s standing in both the South of Scotland regional list and the Cumnock, Carrick and Doon Valley constituency, says this is in fact precisely what motivates her to throw her hat in the ring.
“I spent my whole life saying we need to have more ordinary, working-class people in Parliament and if you say those things you need to put your hand up and at least try,” she said.
“I’ve been part of the labour movement my whole life. If we want things to change then we need people who have worked with the trade union membership, who have campaigned, who understand solidarity and the history of the movement. And so I see standing as a candidate as just another part of all the various facets of participating in this movement.”
A lifelong trade unionist, Carol initially trained to be a dietician and worked for the NHS for nearly two decades. Throughout her career, she was a workplace rep for the British Dietetic Association (BDA). But then when her daughter was born, Carol decided to take a break from traditional, full-time employment. Now, she runs a small dog kennels business.
And it was this change that ultimately led her to Unite.
“I’d been a workplace rep virtually my whole working life and I really missed being part of a trade union after I was no longer formally working,” Carol explained. “Then a friend told me about Unite Community just as it was coming to flourish. My friend informed me that Unite had established a part of the union for people like me who weren’t in formal employment.”
‘The best decision I ever made’
Joining Unite Community, Carol says, “was the best decision I ever made”. She praised in particular Jamie Max Caldwell, a Unite Community regional co-ordinator in Scotland.
“He’s extremely motivated and enjoys campaigning,” Carol noted. “It’s been very easy to stay involved in the trade union movement because Jamie makes it very easy to be involved in campaigns and to be active in your community.”
Carol highlighted several Unite Community projects that she’s worked with Jamie on, including a banner-making course for young people to educate them about the history of the trade union movement.
“We had an artist who came in and explained all the different materials used in the banners and why trade unions use them. One of the first questions she asked was how many people knew what a trade union was, and my daughter was the only person who put her hand up. I think this shows just how vital it is that we engage with our young people.”
Carol also noted a Unite Community writing project she was involved with.
“Jamie got together with a professional writer to help us write articles so we can engage with people about the trade union movement within the community,” Carol explained. “I’ve used those skills in some of the newsletters I’ve written and also in other projects with youth clubs, again trying to engage that generation and educate them about the trade union movement. All this work has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.”
For Carol, the most important issue for her in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections is austerity.
“There is absolutely no doubt that we need to stop austerity – both in London and Edinburgh,” Carol said. “We know that austerity simply doesn’t work, and let’s not kid ourselves that austerity is only happening in Westminster – they just pass on that austerity to us.
“In Scotland, the SNP just continually tell us that nothing can be done about austerity. The constitution is just used as this football that’s passed back and forth when in actual fact there are many things we can do. Our system isn’t perfect but we should be striving to do more to make a difference in people’s lives. I am absolutely committed to an anti-austerity platform.”
Shaping a post-Covid recovery that has working people at its heart is another issue that will be central to Carol’s work in Scottish Parliament if elected.
Jobs and investment
“We need have a post-Covid recovery where we fight for jobs and investment,” she said.” And this needs to include people working in industries that will help tackle climate change. As trade unionists we have workers in various industries who have these great skills and we should be talking to them about how we can transform industry in Scotland and the wider UK.”
Above all, Carol believes that real change comes from below – from the grassroots and from local communities.
“I am committed to giving Unite and other trade union members a strong voice in the Scottish Parliament. While Unite does a really good job in the workplace, and we have solid structures in terms of working together, what I think we need to do better is further develop that link between politicians and workplaces on a local level.”
“Nationally, we at Unite have really good links with the Labour party, but I think we need to build Labour party links locally so that Unite officers and workers should feel they have access to Labour MSPs and MPs,” Carol added. “They should feel that they can bring issues to us – and then we should be feeding back to them and asking them, for example, how we can get employment law right, what are the tweaks that are not working properly in the workplace, what do we need to know about the health service locally.”
Carol hopes to join a strong group of trade unionists standing as Scottish Labour candidates who, if elected, will fight absolutely tooth and nail for working people.
“Working together, we can look to get a strong commitment in Scottish Parliament for economic justice across Scotland – we can use the powers that are there to end austerity and successfully secure the investment that we need. My slogan has been ‘When I go to Holyrood we all go together’ – this is very much at the heart of who I am. The best way to change people’s everyday lives is to put as much power as we can in their own hands.”
If you live in Scotland and want to help Carol you can find out more about her campaign here. To help out generally in your region contact the Unite Scotland regional office and ask to speak to the regional political officer.
Wherever you live if would like to help Unite candidates in your area or to find out more see here
By Hajera Blagg
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