Red Pepper

A guest blog by Archivist Heather Roberts

red pepperHappy 20th birthday to Red PepperRed Pepper is a popular socialist magazine established in 1995. It followed after the demise of The Socialist, a newspaper printed by the Socialist Movement. Unlike its predecessor however, Red Pepper is without overt nods to one political party and has a strong and loyal following with a content focus on socialism, feminism and the green-left.  At the Labour History Archive & Study Centre we hold the archive of the newspaper. The collection mainly contains issues of Red Pepper and The Socialist; minutes and business plans of Red Pepper and spans the years 1991-2007.  The collection was donated in 2011 by Red Pepper’s editor Hilary Wainwright.

Find out more about how to visit the Archive to view Red Pepper and our other amazing collections

‘How Election! shaped my political views’

Election_Lock-UpSixteen year old work experience student Sylvie Copley provides her thoughts on the parties after spending two and half days working on Election! Britain Votes. 

When I started work experience at the museum I knew nothing about politics – apart from that the man in charge is a Conservative. Now after two days working on Election! Britain Votes I feel as though I can give a justifiable opinion on the current situation.

I got my first insight into the world of politics and how the voting system works from looking round the exhibition. From initial viewing I had made up my mind that I was a supporter of the Green Party – that didn’t last long. After spending a bit more time there, I overheard a TV interview of the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett and quickly changed my mind.

My next job was to sort out the voting slips for the public which had 6 questions for them to ‘vote’ with and I recorded the details here.

A lot of the responses had very extreme responses which aided my opinion on the questions. For example, the government are ‘trying to reduce population by poisoning us e.g. cancer.’ – Which I knew I didn’t agree with. Others however, I did agree with such as example ‘It’s patronising to suggest women can only win if male competition is removed.’

On my second day I looked more at each of the parties. I was asked to find and print off many of the election posters for each of the parties and so got a tiny insight into what each of them meant. From these, I had decided that one’s targeting other parties obviously didn’t have enough to say about themselves and I most definitely disagreed with the UKIP poster about paying for maths and science students to be educated for free – our future does not just revolve around numbers!

However some visitors of the museum disagree with me. As one of my final tasks I had to collect and record their responses to the four questions. A response I got – in favour of the party I so disagreed was ‘UKIP or in the absence a decent fascist party.’ a comment which I did not agree on. None-the-less each opinion which was written (even the quite aggressive ones!) moulded my opinion of answering these questions. The questions were:

  1. Will you be voting and why? – ‘Yes- There are too many people voting in pointless ‘games’ such as ‘I’m a celebrity’ and ‘Big Brother.’ – get off your arses Britain and vote for better terms and conditions’ and ‘Yes – People fought and died to let this woman have a vote!’.
  2. Why do you think voter turnout has been so low in recent years? – ‘A lack of connection between mainstream politics and real change in people’s lives’ and ‘People are fed up with sleaze, dishonesty, and control by corporate entities, bank scandals, promises unfulfilled’
  3. What is your prediction for this year’s general election? – ‘With a bit of luck this government will be out on its ear. HURRAH!’ and ‘Whoever wins, the government will remain in power.’
  4. What qualities do you want in an MP? – ‘Tall, dark and handsome.’ And ‘Don’t vote for a party. Vote for a person. Someone who will represent local interests.’

Many of the responses I picked were for their comedy, passion and simply because the argument was good. Through the visitors opinions at the exhibition I have been taught any different opinions and extreme ideas within politics. I have come to realise that many people get very aggressive in the way our countries ran – however I believe by sticking to voting we can continue to have our say and have no need for the aggression at all.

This led me on to researching each of the three main parties, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. Each of which I was not impressed! To sum it up, I found the Labour Party wanted to tax the rich, and Lib-Dems were stuck in between and Conservatives hadn’t really done much! As much as I agree that a lot of things politicians promise do not get done, surely we should carry on voting for the member of our constituency. In the long run politicians will carry on changing, but in the short run the people who make the biggest difference to our lives are our local representatives, our vote therefore will still count.

Election! Britain Votes: Results round one

Work experience student Sylvie Copley has analysed the first wave of responses to questions asked in our current changing exhibition Election! Britain Votes. 

Election_Lock-UpElection! Britain Votes opened on Saturday. As well finding out more about how elections work, visitors can share their opinion on our electoral system. We’ve already had 116 responses to our ballot paper questions.

  1. Would having an elected House of Lords make our democracy more representative, and therefore fairer?
  2. – 84% Yes and 16% No.
  3. In order to increase the number of female MPs should parties have to meet quotas for female candidates?
  4. – 52% Yes and 48% No.
  5. Should we lower the voting age to 16 years old?
  6. – 48% Yes and 52% No.
  7. Should we allow prisoners to vote?
  8. – 32% Yes, 30% Yes, but only some, dependent on their crime and 38% No.
  9. Should the UK adopt a different voting system?
  10. – 50% Yes, proportional representation, 23% Yes, alternative voting and 27% No, keep first past the post.
  11. Should the queen still play a part in the political process?
  12. – 39% Yes and 61% No.

ImageSome visitors gave a dissenting opinion on the ballot papers such as ‘This is a protest vote, it’s all a load of rubbish’. One conspiracy theorist even went as far as saying the government are ‘trying to reduce population by poisoning us e.g. cancer.’

Others gave responses for their votes. ‘It’s patronising’ one respondent said, ‘to suggest women can only win if male competition is removed.’ Although as shown above, the rest of the voters did not see this as clear cut. The most surprising response was the majority vote opting for proportional representation instead of our current system – even though in 2010 when a referendum was held, the nation declined the change.

Come and have your say. Election! Britain Votes is on display until the 28 June 2015.

We want your election photographs!

A guest post by volunteer Helen Antrobus

The People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy, holds the largest collection of political material in the country. On Saturday 14 February, Election! Britain Votes will open at the People’s History Museum. The exhibition combines past and present, giving visitors a chance to explore the history and process of general elections whilst also following the unfolding events of the 2015 general election…which is where you come in.

1924 election photograph. Election! changing exhibition at People's History MuseumWe are looking for the photographs and stories of people who are actively engaging in the 2015 general election campaign, to include in the exhibition, so that it can be continuously updated with new leaflets, photographs, and election material! We would like photographs from anybody who has been actively involved in the general election so far, from canvassing and campaigning, from any party and any constituency.

You can tweet us, facebook us, or send them via e-mail to: exhibitions@phm.org.uk

On this day: Mandela is freed

A guest post by archive volunteer Fran Devine

Labour Research Department - apartheid pamphletOn 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released after spending 27 years in South African prisons, most of them on Robben Island, where he and other African National Congress members were sentenced to hard labour. It would be another 4 years until a democratic election, open to all South African adults for the first time, resulted in him becoming president.

The Labour History Archive & Study Centre at the People’s History Museum houses many photos of the anti-apartheid movement in Britain, as well as a wide range of pamphlets from South Africa, Britain, and elsewhere, including a few in support of Britain’s economic links with apartheid South Africa. Anyone is welcome to come and look at them and much more. See our website for visiting information.

The Weekend in Wales

A guest blog by Archivist Heather Roberts

LGSM members in WalesSince the Pride film was released in summer last year, the Labour History Archive & Study Centre at the PHM has seen a wonderful increase in interest in our Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and LGBT collections.  We’ve even had more material donated!  Please join us in welcoming the contribution to the LGSM holdings by Bruce Currie, former LGSM member.

Bruce Currie testimonial partThe collection consists mainly of facsimile material of LGSM members at the weekend in Wales, including photographs of the community dance made famous in the Pride film, a beautifully written testimony by Bruce of the weekend and pamphlets and information from the LGSM in general.

LGSM and miners danceThe collection has not been catalogued online yet but is nevertheless available for research.  To see this wonderful material, please use our enquiry form here, referencing “Bruce Currie LGSM Papers, ref ACC.1442”.

If you’re interested in LGBT history, please swing by the People’s History Museum for the first ever LGBT History Festival this Valentine’s Sunday.