They say you should never meet your heroes. But I’m honoured to have met mine, and it is an experience I will never forget.
I shared a panel with Hetty Bower at Labour Party conference this year, and came away from the weekend feeling deeply moved and challenged, as a woman, as a campaigner, as a Labour member, as an activist.
Hetty spoke movingly of post-war poverty, of life before the welfare state; a life that, at 107, she remembered very well.
She spoke of days where women had to choose between paying for food, or seeing the doctor. She feared that as a country, we were heading back into those dark and unimaginable times.
From the battle of Cable Street in 1936, to reminding Ed Miliband what his party stood for, Hetty was so sure and steadfast in her passion for what is right and just and fair. A Labour member since the age of 17, she told Ed to his face, to remember the principles that the Labour Party was founded upon, the principles that she campaigned for for over 90 years.
Hetty marched against the First World War, against the invasion of Iraq, against the closure of Whittingham hospital. She marched in the wind and the rain, for everything that she believed in. She is a reminder to me, that no protest is ever wasted. That we must raise our voices wherever and whenever we can.
In her own words:
“We may not win by protesting.
But if we don’t protest, we will lose.
If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.”
Rest in peace Hetty, you live on in all who knew you. I told you at Labour Party conference that I wanted to be you when I grow up. You laughed and laughed, and told me to keep fighting for what I believe in. And I will. I may not make it to 108, but I will protest until I die.
The world is a slightly less just place, with the loss of such a remarkable woman and campaigner.