The future of the left since 1884

For The Many?: Yasmin

For The Many? takes an in-depth look at Labour's changing electorates based on 6 case studies. Yasmin is 54 and works as a special educational needs teacher in Manchester.

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Interview

A large poster of Iggy Pop confronts me as I enter Yasmin’s home in an upmarket suburb of Manchester. She used to be a punk and music has been a lifelong passion. She named her first born after David Bowie, and tells me about how she once climbed the fence to get into Glastonbury. She used to want to be a fashion designer, but turned to a career in education as the financial demands of parenthood hit home.

Her career has been punctuated by insecurity. She has a permanent job now, as a special needs teacher at a local school, but has lost numerous jobs due to cuts in local authority funding. She’s taught in prison, run a youth centre and run singing classes in a care home. Redundancy nearly led to her house being repossessed, and this has left a deep scar: “As a single, home-owning parent who is out there doing what you are supposed to do…buy a house, look after your children, go to work… to find yourself where it could be taken away from you is awful, it’s absolutely soul destroying, it’s frightening.”

Yasmin describes a happy childhood, with Chopper bikes, the Bay City Rollers and a ‘nice three-bedroomed, brand new, semi-detached house’. Family has clearly remained important to Yasmin. Her mother lived next door until she passed away suddenly. She makes packed lunches for her 30-year-old son to take to his job at a local garage. She bursts with pride as she tells me about how her 13-year-old wants to become a singer. Our day is dotted with different family members calling her to ask for lifts or to ask advice, and I’m amazed she finds time to hold down her job. She’s clearly the glue that holds her family together.

The conversation turns to values. She tells me the most important thing to have is respect, and worries that her son has been starting to swear. She values honesty and integrity, and places importance on being compassionate and ‘treating people as you’d want to be treated yourself’. She also has a strong sense of fairness: “I hate injustice… I’m all for fighting for the underdog.” Her local community is important to her, but is something ‘that you take for granted up North’.

I join Yasmin on a trip to Aldi. On the drive there we talk about the 2017 election. She remembers the queue outside the polling station when she went to vote after work, and remembers feeling thrilled when the result became clear. She’s always voted Labour, apart from a brief dalliance with the Green party, and had a Labour poster up in the porch in the 2017 election. She was briefly a Labour member in 1997, and is considering joining again now. She watched Jeremy Corbyn’s recent party conference speech online and wrote a status on Facebook that it was ‘uplifting’.

Yasmin tells me she votes Labour because her background is working-class and Labour has ‘working-class values’. She’s conscious that she may not be seen as working-class now, ‘working in a job that isn’t seen as working-class’ and ‘living in an area that isn’t seen as working-class.’ But that is where her roots are, she says. She values Labour policies and tells me: “Education, health… it’s everything I stand for as a person.” She feels her values developed hand in hand with her Labour identity and feels a strong loyalty to the party: “I just never would dream of not voting Labour.”

After a quick nip around Aldi, where Yasmin stocks up on some basics, we settle in a trendy café with a large pot of strong tea. It becomes clear that Yasmin’s Labour identity is rooted in her experiences. Her career in education has confirmed her political instincts. She’s angry with the Conservatives for recent education policy, and tells me that her school has ‘never got a full cupboard of stationery’ because ‘the budget has run out’. Her experience as a single mum has also reinforced her support for Labour. “As a working woman, you need every bit of help you can get,” She tells me. Working tax credits and free nursery provision helped Yasmin get through difficult times.

Yasmin also places importance on the personality of politicians, and she seems to look for emotional cues that relate to her own life. One of the first things she tells me she likes about Jeremy Corbyn is that he went to Glastonbury to talk to young people, the site of her fondest memories of youth. When she resigned her membership of the Labour party during the Blair years it was because Labour were portraying themselves as ‘champagne socialists’. She felt that Blair’s ‘holiday to Tuscany every year’ and friendships with celebrities were a betrayal of Labour’s, and her, working-class values. She sees the Conservative party through a similar prism. Theresa May, isn’t ‘approachable’ and lacks ‘character’. She would go as far as saying she ‘pretty much despises’ the Conservatives.

Yasmin is busy, bubbly, and full of contradiction. By most objective standards, she isn’t working-class. She had a relatively privileged childhood, she owns her own home, and she works in a skilled profession. She told me she loves to go to posh restaurants when she visits her sister and one of her favourite things to do is to drink pink champagne. But her support for the Labour party is tied up in a deeply emotional identification with being working-class, and the sense of right and wrong that she believes flows from that. Despite her economic transition into the middle class, she still sees Labour as on her side.

This interview is taken from For The Many? You can read the report here.

To read the interview with Devon, click here.

To read the interview with George, click here.

To read the interview with Mary, click here.

To read the interview with Michael, click here.

To read the interview with David, click here.

Olivia Bailey

Olivia Bailey is deputy general secretary of the Fabian Society. She was previously political advisor to a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet.

@livbailey

Lewis Baston

Lewis Baston is a psephologist and writer on politics, elections, history and corruption.

@lewis_baston

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