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Signature

It’s no secret that as someone who is actively involved in politics and has been for over 30 years I have signed my share of petitions on a number of different issues. My signature has supported campaigns on everything from demanding the end of apartheid in South Africa to the right to equal marriage, and the end of period poverty. So when someone asked me if I thought signing petitions mattered and could be viewed as political activism I had no hesitation in saying that it could and I wrote this poem entitled Signature to illustrate the point. I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

Signature 

Someone once asked me

does signing a petition count as activism 

I told them it did 

they seemed happy with my answer

if slightly confused  

on realising this  I explained why our signature matters

I shared stories I had heard of injustice in South Africa 

when Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist 

by Margaret Thatcher

when all he wanted was  his people to have the right to rule their land 

I said that signing petitions was 

a way of raising awareness to make people understand

why things needed to change 

but would stay the same 

If we didn’t sign up to express our discontent .

I explained that this is direct democracy in action

and without this kind of participation 

it’s no exaggeration to  say 

Palestine would still be ignored

the lion rampant would never have roared for democracy 

governments could neglect child poverty 

and remain  inactive on tackling the gig economy.

equal marriage would have remained a distant dream 

and no it’s not the preserve of smaller parties like the greens 

It’s a valuable way of bringing issues from  the fringe to the mainstream 

of changing attitudes over time 

at street stalls or online 

authority knows

the power of your signature.

© Gayle Smith 2017 

All About The Cause

On day 28 of NaPoWriMo my poem  was inspired by SNP council candidate Katy Loudon after a Facebook chat in which she rightly complained about  sore feet and aching limbs after another night on the stump. Though primarily dedicated to Katy and the rest of our magnificent SNP council and General Election candidates, I think we should share it with all political activists in Scotland and the British Isles. In recognition of the work they  or should I say we, do, as I may have given away my own political affiliations in the introduction to this poem. So it is for Katie and everyone who has stuffed envelopes, put leaflets through letterboxes , went csnvassing , worked on street stalls, and  staffed campaign rooms that I dedicate this poem entitled All About The Cause, I hope you enjoy the read. 

 

All About The Cause 
It’s all about the cause 

the vision you believe in 

the values you hold in your heart

If only winning votes was as simple as that

but those involved no matter the party

 they are proud to represent 

know politics never was and never will be that easy 

this is not a game for the queasy 

it’s damn hard work 

there is no room for shirkers in campaigns 

You can’t have the day off just because it rains

that comes with the territory

yes your legs will be sore from climbing up and down stairs

for what seems like an enternity

and fluctuations in the opinion polls

will give us all cause for hope and concern in equal measure

on our bad days even an hour can feel like forever

especially when your doing an area you don’t know well 

but by the end of the election

you’ll know it like the back of your hand

You’ll understand the risk of cats and dogs waiting to maim you

from behind a strangers letterbox

when all you wanted to do 

was push a letter through

In the hope they would read it before binning

by reading your pledges and promises

on education, health, and transport policy

The things we do in the name of democracy 

It really is all about the cause 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Smelling The Roses

​On day 24 of NaPoWriMo I decided that political satire would be my poetic weapon of choice after seeing a UKIP candidate’s response as to why they are standing for election on social media. After laughing so much it nearly split my sides I remembered what I’ve always known namely politics is a serious business and though UKIP might like to portray themselves as lovable eccentric guardians of tradition they are in reality anything but. In fact truth be told these people are of the hard right conservative school of political thought and have some very  extreme and dangerous views. It is with in mind I decided to write this poem in the form of a UKIP candidate’s speech to highlight the type of country I don’t want to live in. The title for the poem was chosen for me by my Norwich based friend and fellow poet Andy Bennett  who selected the title Smelling The Roses. I hope you enjoy the read. 

Smelling The Roses (The Thoughts Of A UKIP Supporter) 
You ask me why I want to be elected 

well I’ll tell you 

it’s because I believe

  the British way of life is under threat 

and I want to put forward  solutions 

I couldn’t give a damn for devolution

the revolution has to be stopped.

I’m a proud Scot but I know my place 

so here’s what I think we need to do 

to put some pride back in the red white and blue 

I’ll start with sports

 I am convinced every child  should learn to ride a horse 

but as for golf , those courses are environmental disaster 

and a threat to the safety of our people 

and that is something I cannot abide 

still on environmental matters 

I want plastic bags abolished 

they are a threat to animals especially whales and dolphins 

as for an independent Scotland forget it 

I’m a proud Scot but 

Westminster is our colonial master 

and we should be content to keep it that way 

Mrs Thatcher was wonderful back in the day 

I’m a plain speaker and say what’s on my mind 

which I think you’ll find enlightening 

some people find my views on capital punishment frightening 

I think the death penalty should be restored 

but I wouldn’t bring back hanging 

the guillotine would be better 

and I’ll tell you something else

we’re heading in to world war three 

due to China, India , and the SNP 

that lot are a public danger 

and it’s all to do with 

money, and greed  

we in Britain do a lot for charity 

comic relief is wonderful 

so is children in need 

talking of children 

I think poor people shouldn’t have them.

now this is only my view 

but in my united kingdom 

mother’s should stay at home

to look after their little darlings

there should be no support for nurseries 

but all schools need classes 

and education needs reforming 

 this is a warning we are heading for  world war three 

I blame it on the SNP 

it will have nothing to do with Tony Blair or Theresa May 

personally I think we should go to war with Spain over Gibraltar

after all we’ve beat them before

when we sunk their Armada

remember the Falklands it was great wasn’t it 

yes I know there were millions unemployed

and living in poverty 

but we had pride in the flag

we were respected then 

now it’s all this political correctness lunacy

there is no such thing as an LGBT community

that kind of thing should be kept private

behind closed doors

you get good and bad people of all types 

talking of rights

I believe Margo MacDonald’s right to die bill

should be put to referendum 

well old people are living too long 

though working them till there 70 

should tire some out 

well if there dead  we don’t need to  worry about their living expenses 

we really need to come to our senses

the free bus pass scheme has to stop 

these people should be encouraged to walk 

I know you’ll be shocked at some of my views 

but here’s the bit you didn’t hear on the news

I would reopen public loo’s 

and create community gardens

yes I know I maybe hard on some issues

but believe me we don’t have time for tissues 

 it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

On This Day 

On day 7 of NaPoWriMo I celebrate a birthday. Not my birthday you understand but the birthday of the Scottish National Party (SNP) of whom I am proud to be a member as it was on the 7th of April 1934 that the party was born, so I thought it only right to commemorate my party’s birthday by writing this poem for my SNP family and wishing our party many more years of success I’ve titled the poem On This Day , I hope you enjoy the read 
On This Day,

On this day we remember 

the cause we represent 

we must never be content 

with second best in any aspect of our lives 

we survived the hard times 

they moulded us in to fighters 

for a vision of a future free from fear

in which the obscenity of nuclear weapons 

are banished forever from the Clyde 

we will have a country

 in which we can have pride 

where people matter far more than image 

Britishness, will be consigned to history 

but until the day comes 

we must walk with dignity 

remembering both past and present 

 heroes and heroines of our movement 

yes there will always be room improvement 

but on this day remember 

Donald Stewart the man who was our first MP 

to gain a seat at a Westminster General Election 

Margo MacDonald, and Alison Hunter 

whose talents secured famous victories 

in Labour’s industrial heartlands 

community champions like Bashir Ahmed and Jim Mitchell 

Yes I know we wax lyrical on 

the political skills of Nicola 

and have been entertained and educated

by listening to the oratory  and intellect of Alex Salmond.

further back in time we had   Jim Sillars, Winnie Ewing,  and Jimmy Reid ,

Now it’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik and  Mhairi Black 

who are the fresh voices the party need 

to deal with the challenges of our times 

the UK has reached the end of the line 

let us not mourn 

It is time for a better Scotland to be born 

let’s wave goodbye to the union jack 

by showing our people there is a better way to be 

Independent and free from the chains of colonial rule 

and the poverty it has brought to our nation 

my inspiration 

comes from members in every branch 

the foot soldiers  who climbed  stairs and filled envelopes 

before chapping doors and putting leaflets through letter boxes 

in the name of the cause 

we are proud to uphold 

no amount of silver and gold 

can buy our principled position 

of saying no to a country run by elites

we must explain to the voters 

why we will never be content 

to accept second best 

our history won’t let us 

as we remember them 

who fought the fight before us 

only to be faced with a chorus of apathy 

and the oft repeated line 

my father voted Labour 

and if was good for him 

then it’s good enough for me 

we as SNP supporters were dismissed without a hearing 

if it never deterred our predecessors 

it won’t stop us now 

in every city , town , and village 

we will campaign with honesty 

for the future we know is ours 

we have never wanted power

for the sake of having it 

we want to transform our country 

and the lives of those who live in it 

it is for this reason alone  we exist 

we must not ignore the fact 

we follow in the footsteps of giants 

and on this day and every day 

we will remember them 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Scotland Of The Heart

On day 6 of NaPoWriMo I remember that today is not only Tartan Day but also the anniversary of the Declaration Of Arbroath in which Scotland asserted our sovereign right to independence. Bearing this in mind, I decided that it may be a good day to assert my own personal politics and share my vision of the Scotland I want to see I’ve given it the title Scotland Of The Heart I hope you enjoy the read. 

Scotland Of The Heart 

It was on this day

 our nation  declared our right

 to full independence 

so being a socialist , and feminist 

I suggest it is a suitable day 

to say what I have to say 

 declare my personal political views 

I want a Scotland of all colours and hues 

where rights are protected not taken away 

and being lesbian , gay bisexual or transgender

does not mean you surrender to bullies 

who want you to cower in fear 

Let me make it clear 

Intolerance is not an option 

 being English, Irish , Indian or Lithuanian 

or indeed a child of any nation 

does not mean you should be excluded

or made to feel unwelcome 

in this country  I call mine

my Scotland of the heart 

so where do I start to build this land 

you must understand I can’t promise miracles 

or turn water to wine

I won’t claim that everything 

will always be fine 

but what I will say is this 

I want a Scotland which will be comfortable discovering itself 

a land which will tackle health based inequalities 

fight poverty and be a good international citizen 

I declare a personal interest in advancing the chances 

for women and girls both at home and elsewhere in the world 

I want an education system which works for all 

not just the better off 

middle Scotland is not my Scotland 

my Scotland is a Scotland of the schemes 

I had dreams back in the day 

I was always a gab with something to say 

and that’s not changed 

I don’t want our youth to be 

estranged from the country 

they grew up in because politicians 

lacked the vision to take big decisions 

on environmental matters

Scotland is not just for the chattering classes

the schemes need to be  free from pollution

for our children to breath cleaner air 

I despair when some think that short term solutions can be given 

as  answers to long term problems 

I want a Scotland which will hold our heads high 

where people have a sense of belonging

not because of where we’ve been 

but where we’re going to go 

and what we will achieve 

when we get to our destination 

I seek my inspiration from ordinary citizens

I want a country where ambition is normal 

and not the preserve of others 

I want a Scotland which will be comfortable discovering itself 

happy with what it finds

and determined to not to rest 

but be the best we can be 

I want a Scotland free from disappointments of yesterday

which doesn’t wallow in the past 

Or drown its sorrows 

I want a country where we plan for tomorrow 

by the actions we are already taking

I want a bolder brighter nation  

where nobody will be shaken by propaganda 

from outside sources 

who make the gullible panic 

when they talk of divorces 

and  implied costs 

I want a country which will not be bossed 

I want a Scotland which doesn’t know its place  

 declares that  it’s time to be  brave 

and despite all the obstacles we face

creates a country we can be proud to call home. 

©Gayle Smith 2017

Nightmare On Brexit Street. (The Story Of A Very British Horror)

​As Brexit begins with the triggering of Article 50, I genuinely fear for the country we’ll become if Scotland doesn’t leave the UK at the earliest available opportunity. Since the vote to leave the European Union the UK which had always been or so I was told by its supporters a green and pleasant land where people were in the main treated with fairness has become a very nasty place. It is no longer this inclusive union of nations which was I was told was  tolerant of strangers and valued individuals for who they were and the skills they could bring to the table.  

Of course growing up in the West of Scotland rather than Suffolk, Somerset, or West Sussex it is fair to say that I never bought in to this narrative and regarded it as a carefully  constructed myth. After all with a background of Highland and Irish ancestors I knew about both the clearances and the famine and other atrocities carried out in the name of the crown. When certain people tried to remind me that these events were in the distant past and that people had changed and the UK had evolved  since those times. I could at least listen to them without throwing up. 

This was especially true when these people usually nice well meaning  family friends mentioned standing together to fight and ultimately defeat fascism and of course the National Health Service After all as someone who a couple of impairments I value the NHS more than most and I wouldn’t be here  today were it not for NHS staff who saved my life as a child and have fought fascism and other forms of far right politics since my mid teens in the mid 1970’s. 

So why does the UK taking back control of our country as the leave voters so eloquently put it frighten me more than any other development in my entire political life ? Why does it concern me even more than the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States? Why do I think that Brexit represents the biggest threat to our human right since the end of the Second World War?  

I have these concerns because the in the months since Brexit vote, there is very clear evidence that there has been a sharp increase in rascist and homophobic attacks throughout the UK and though those in unionist politicial classes who promote Brand Britain as a accepting  friendly, and inclusive multi cultured country may be upset by this I am even more proud of my yes vote in Scotland’s independence referendum with every day that passes.

You see as a trans woman and a disabled person I saw the future of the UK when I cast that yes vote in 2014 and yes I will get smug about it because this nightmare on Brexit street is exactly what I said was going to happen when I campaigned for independence. I told voters about the dangers of voting no and that it would almost certainly result in us being dragged out of the European  Union as the Conservative Party had promised to hold  a referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU if they won the 2015 election which of course they went on to do and I had no doubt whatsoever that should we hold such a vote the majority would vote to leave. 

To be fair, some listened to my advice and maybe even acted on it. More often than not however I was greeted and how do you know , or but Labour will win the election , or my favourite of union jackanory brigade, namely that, we’re  too wee or too poor to be independent.  

The fact that none of this is even remotely true seems to wash over these people who are so often categorised as small minded simpletons but instead of mocking them we need to be educating them that being afraid of change won’t stop it from happening. 

It is this resistance even hostility to change which made these people vote for Brexit and vote to remain in the united kingdom when I voted for a more inclusive Scotland at the heart of a progressive Europe. The Brexiteer, like the unionist is a reactionary creature who like shouting people down and afraid even terrified, of those who challenge their beliefs. They struggle to cope with the modern world even when in reality they have known no other as I found out when I campaigned for a yes vote in 2014. 

These people need our help, they often live in the past and cannot accept  any alternative version of society which contrasts with their Westminster worldview. To way of thinking the queen and her heirs and  will always reign over us and Westminster will keep us safe from the big bad world outside. To suggest there may be another way of doing things is in their world a dangerous and  treacherous act even when they are presented with evidence of our abundance of natural resources and informed that countries, such Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Slovakia all with similar populations to Scotland are successful self governing nations. 

This seems to frighten them and desperate to cling on to what they see as certainties in an ever changing world they cling on to a fragile British identity based on a deeply reactionary conservative sense of nationalism.This explains the growth of  Conservative support amongst the more entrenched unionist communities in Scotland and  UKIP in England and Wales. 

This support has its roots in what its supporters would call traditional values.I  however have another name for their beliefs and that name is plain old fashioned prejudice. The attitudes shown towards people from other nations shown since the Brexit vote has been nothing short of frightening and makes a total mockery of those oft repeated claim about British fair play, and Britain being an inclusive country which accepts anyone regardless of colour, creed, or religion.  

Though most of this  anger has been directed at people from Islamic countries it is  also fair to say that Europeans have also taken their share of xenophobic abuse from those who believe the headlines in the right wing press that ‘Johnny Foreigner’  has taken over a land which far from being green and plrasent is in reality  grey and unpleasant and getting steadily less accepting with every passing day. 

It is I think worth pointing out that this new intolerance is not just restricted to those from other nations but at anyone the Conservative establishment deems to be different. Target groups include disabled people,  and the LGBTIQ communities who these people see as a threat to their values.As a trans woman I have experienced more hate crime and transphobic abuse than at any time since beginning my transition in December 2008. 

Make no mistake I fear for my hard won rights in a post Brexit UK in which I want no part. I frar that as Theresa May brings forward her Great Repeal Bill which will give her the powers of a monarch she will go on a wrecking spree which will leave no corner of what we call British life untouched with workers rights , the Human Rights Act , and the devolved parliaments right at the top of her hit list as she aims to centralise all power at Westminster and subject us all to her Anglo Centric view of democracy. It is my belief that we are living in very dangerous times and that voted for Brexit based on a new golden age are going to get a very rude awakening. The fantasy of taking Britain out of Europe will have repercussions way beyond the limited imaginations of the Brexiters and I personally , see no way the UK will be able to survive the coming storm. 

When historians come to write the history of these tumultuous years they will I am certain write of a period when Scotland gained her independence Ireland was united and brand Britain was reduced to shadow of its former  self. When as, is their duty they have to look for explanations as to why this happened they will look at the day the United Kingdom ran away from reality and conclude that the nightmare on Brexit street was a very British horror and horror stories never end well.

 Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

Breaking Point 

Hey Readers My latest post is a poem on  mental health issues which just happens to be the topic for the March edition of Extra Second at which I’m one of the billed readers. The poem is on the subject of public attitudes to depression and I’ve given it the title Breaking Point  I hope you enjoy the read. 
Breaking Point 
Every day 

I hear folk make 

thoughtless remarks 

to people I know 

like come on 

cheer up 

your lucky 

what about the poor Afician children ? 

at least you live in Britain 

what have you got to be moaning about 

what have you not got

that you can’t live without 

you’ve got a job, a house,  a man 

you’ve got everything planned

what right have you to be depressed ?

you can’t explain why 

you feel like this 

as they say 

in my mother’s day 

nobody got depressed 

we didn’t have the time 

are you sure your not just bored 

you should take up a hobby 

like jogging or baking 

mental health issues 

you must be mistaken

you not a wierdo or some kind of nutter 

as they  mutter under their breath 

about locking up loonies 

but the people they moan about 

are not in the moonies 

or some bizarre cult 

why can’t some people 

act  like adults 

and realise depression is real 

the black dog 

nobody wants as a pet 

never forget 

careless talk cost lives 

as knives are used 

to self harm 

by those who feel the pain 

and are never allowed to explain

 what’s hurting them or why 

fearing that no-one will listen 

knowing, someone will say 

at least you live in Britain 

yes they live in Britain 

a country conditioned in to thinking 

that crying is a sign of weakness 

so they hide their tears 

and the fears which make the rivers run 

as the silver stream of the night 

flood pillows and bring hearts to breaking point 

and yet my friends are supposed 

to get over a condition 

the powers that be  refuse to believe exists 

given pills instead of treatment

generation  lost are counting the cost

of penny punching profiteers 

who fear invisible demons  

stalking the communities 

around which they have carefully errected fences 

to keep others from entering 

yet if any of them had issues 

we would be told of benefits of therapies 

people like us could never afford

It’s  ordinary people who are ignored 

tossed aside not allowed to be depressed 

 and when they protest 

about needing support

to remain  in the  community  

they are told it’s lunacy

to make such unreasonable demands 

as chinless wonders order them 

 to get over themselves 

and the tragedy is that mental health 

is still viewed as something that happens to others 

it will never come to your door 

but it will for one in four of the population 

and when you are approaching breaking point 

 I hope you won’t be told 

to get over it
@ Gayle Smith 2017