An old Navy boss of mine used to bark at me when I dared offer an alternative view or queried the prevailing, asserted opinion: ‘When I want your opinion, Paddy, I’ll give it to you!’

That was 1979 when I was barely 18 years old.

I doubt it was something new then. Of course, as young boy growing up in sectarian-divided Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 70s, I’d already become very aware of this trait in our culture.

He was a Naval Officer, a born to rule, entitled Tory boy, after all. So he’d know how it works, wouldn’t he?

Another Chief Petty Officer manager I had at the same Naval establishment would get upset with me when he heard me discussing politicians and the media. One day he came into the galley where I was a young chef and demanded I shut up about it because ‘they all lie, all the time. About everything!’

I told him that he didn’t need to tell me that and asked him why he was so upset with me over it. He just said that the very mention of those two industries and those who operate in them gets his back up. I could relate to that. Except I didn’t want to stay muted in my expression as to why to whoever would listen and even those who would not.

My deep distrust and, mostly, utter contempt for most things and people in politics meant that I never even remotely felt I had any identity with or representation by any political party.  

To me they were all self-serving, careerist, gravy-train riders who cared nothing for the people they were supposedly serving and would quite easily see those people divided, suffer and die if it meant their own advancement in position, esteem, power and wealth. They made my stomach churn with nausea just thinking about how they operated.

They never carried my voice. All this despite my incredibly passionate feelings and beliefs about the human condition, justice, equality, conflict and the happiness and welfare of all people on this earth.

Crossed my radar

So, imagine my surprise when I first saw Jeremy Corbyn pop up on my local TV channel in Plymouth, giving a speech and a delivery which I only ever dreamed might happen in this country.

As a distruster of politicians all of my life, it was not even his fantastic politics which crossed my radar the most. It was his being, his manner, his passion, his honesty, his integrity. And the biggest factor to me was that he cared. And it was obvious. I remember thinking to myself ‘they’ll never allow this guy to be the leader of the Labour Party.’

I called my elder brother in Northern Ireland, who had been trying unsuccessfully since I was 16 year old to get me to join the Orange Lodge and told him that if this man, Jeremy Corbyn, becomes Labour leader then I would join the party. We both laughed. He knew I didn’t join anything political; I thought I knew that Jeremy Corbyn was never going to win that leadership ballot. So I could be as brazen as I liked about my intentions. It was never going to happen anyway.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A few weeks short of my 55th birthday, I joined the Labour Party. And the following year in 2016, I voted at the local city council elections, the first time I’d ever voted in my life.

On October 22nd 2015. I made my first entry in my notepad at my first ever Labour Party meeting:

‘There is a clear culture of “I’ll tell you why you’re wrong rather than ask you why you think you’re right” in this group.’

Nothing had changed in the past 50-odd years as far as I could make out when it came to politics and the charade that is authoritarianism dressed up and sold as leadership under the Divide and Rule strategy that governs virtually every aspect of our society. I thought that this event which changed my life would be an epic and turbulent journey. What else could it ever be?

With Jeremy Corbyn, the very bedrock of what had controlled our politics and cultural behaviour for centuries was under threat. The privileged beneficiaries of that were never likely to give that up without a fight. And their institutionalised structures that support and administer that were going to resist on their behalf with every sinew of their being.

Terry Deans during a rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn in 2016

It felt both petrifying and invigorating in equal measure to realise I was sat in the actual company of an environment and mentality which I had been sickened by all of my life. I was seeing the whites of its eyes and hearing the fear, hate and intimidation in the tones of the voices.

It wasn’t all bad, however. I was motivated for the battle ahead and I realised that there were also others just like me in that very room. I could see the glances and the warm smiles of reassurance and relief that we had come in from the dark to discover we were not the only one. That was a moment and an experience I will never forget.

Nor will I forget the many individuals who have been among the very best human beings I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside in my life.

As an ex-Falklands War veteran, I have been in the company of some extraordinary characters. You find out a lot about yourself and others around you when the stark reality of dying at any given moment now engulfs you, and them. And here I was, sitting with and collaborating with like-minded people who were all too aware that we were also operating among others who would like nothing more than to see the back of us, by whatever means, fair or foul.

Foul seemed the traditional, habitual choice, as far as I could make out.

But, to my mind, these people against us were even more the victims of a ruthless and unforgiving system of rulership than we were. You could see it in their desperation and fear. The insecurity and paranoia made them afraid of good people whose sole desire was to help them take our leader and party into government and rid us of the most abhorrant and psychotic political party this nation has ever experienced.

However, it would appear there were other items on the agenda before that.

I’ve always felt that politics in the UK was akin to being the victims of an abusive relationship. And these victims wanted more abuse. They also needed a dog to kick. I think that’s how it works.

And now? Nearly five years on and with Jeremy replaced as leader, I have gone from being among the 17 million eligible electorate to not vote to being elected Chair of my local Momentum group in November 2015, Vice Chair of my CLP for the last three years and Secretary of my branch.

Me, knocking on doors and making speeches on the streets to get a message to people about the hope and dreams of a new kind of politics. How things had turned around!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Corbyn on a handful of occasions and lately shared Zoom meetings with him!

Who’d ever have thought all of that would ever happen?

For me, life will never be the same, no matter what the latest sly trick that is thrown into the circus ring. If I survive the disgraceful witchhunt that saw me hounded out of the shortlist hustings for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate at GE2019 less than 24 hours before the event, I’ll work tirelessly to build on the platform created by Jeremy Corbyn and supported so valiantly by the members of the Labour Party, despite the undermining and sabotages that we all knew about and felt from within the party – as the leaked report has confirmed for us all.

I’d love to do that within the Labour Party, but if that is not to be I will do it outside of it.

Never has the true socialist left of the Labour Party been so strong numerically and ideologically. And it would be a travesty if we were to let that opportunity go to waste.

The Jeremy Corbyn legacy must live on and evolve. We are the ones who can exhibit our gratitude to this great man by following his example in how to speak to power, oppose inequality, injustice and all forms of oppression, bigotry, prejudice, hate and racism.

For the many, not the few.

Terry Deans, Plymouth Moor View CLP

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6 Comments

  1. Having known Terry many years he has to me been an inspiration. His kindness and thoughtfulness shine. He’s focused and driven and in my hometown plymouth the left of the party all know terry. He’s feared by those whom want no change and reveered by those who yearn for change.

    1. Thanks Jeff.

      Coming from a man such as yourself with your proud record of trade unionism and long experience and dedication to socialism and just simple justice and equality for your fellow man, I am very humbled by your kind words here.

      It’s a pleasure and honour for me to have met you and to stand alongside you I’m our shared values and aims.

      Best wishes and good luck to you and your family. See you very soon

  2. I’m moved to read your story. And I agree with your analysis. But I want Labour to win &
    if we have to sacrifice some principles on the way, I’ll do it. I’m sick of being in Opposition. I want to see Labour run this country again.

    1. Terry’s piece really resonates – I’ve been a Party member since I was in my twenties and I’m now nearly eighty, so I’ve seen, and campaigned under Leaders across the spectrum of left politics, but never felt more inspired than by Jeremy Corbyn. But Miriam we don’t need to sacrifice principles to win. We just need to recognise the cautious nature of much of the electorate and remember that most voters have only a passing interest in politics, so will be swayed by the media onslaught at election times, unless we can win them over by presenting a more mainstream image. We shouldn’t forget that the Leader who is almost certainly the least popular of all time among members, Tony Blair, did introduce the National Minimum Wage; did gear up the NHS in general and cancer treatment in general, and all but eradicated child poverty. Of course we don’t want to stifle healthy debate within the Party, but we have to present a united front to the electorate, and can best do that by getting involved at the grassroots. Broxtowe LP have provide one example of how we can do this. I honestly believe that the period between now and the next GE could be the best period for the LP ever if we all pull together.

    2. Thank you, Miriam.

      I, too, am prepared to and am ready, willing and able to make compromises to get the Tories out and a Labour government in. I feel it is the only way.

      I reference the phrase I made in my notepad about ‘ I’ll tell you why you’re wrong instead of asking you why you think you’re right’ when describing the culture I encountered at my first ever Labour meeting in 2015. And, in my opinion, it is that very culture which serves to disable and weaken that willingness for many to compromise. I saw it in meetings, I saw it on the doors and I see it in the media commentary by our own politicians and activists. It causes entrenchment.

      I maybe open or willing to consider compromise, but when someone is unprepared to consider your view and your rationale for it, it often makes you resent that reaction and then actually harden your position. So, even if I’m wrong about something, which I’m bound to be on occasion, I’ll dig my heels in even deeper if I’m just ignored or, worse still, humiliated, berated and even demonized and punished for it.

      We *must* compromise to achieve any change or progress, mustn’t we? Its normal.

      Otherwise we risk an all or nothing situation, frighten the horses too much and end up shooting ourselves in the foot and getting nothing. Even if that ‘all’ is actually quite sensible and not as pie-in-the-sky as some would like you to believe.

      So, to me, that whole building trust and relationships issue is the main obstacle to our success in the Labour Party. And as a newish member who joined late in life after the life I’ve led thus far, it was as plain as day that our own methods, attitudes and approach was the biggest single element which was working against us.

      In the Royal Navy that was referred to as ‘ self-inflicted wounds’ and was punishable by court martial.

      I think it’s a glaring and corrosive blindspot in the Labour Party and my attempts to reveal this to the various hierarchies in my area are met with – unsurprisingly – being told why I’m wrong rather than why I think im right. And I get targeted and attacked because of it.

      I joined the party because of Corbyn. But not just for his political policies and vision – which I love – but for his manner and style.

      That gave me inspiration and hope that political representatives could base their activism on a genuine, sincere motive of being the voice for so many without one or without the time and space to do it themselves, because they really cared. Not based on personal position, career, kudos and image which abuses those features – and by association the very people they claim to want to to represent and serve – as a marketing gimmick to achieve those personal goals.

      I’d like to send you my best wishes and good luck, Miriam. And I’ll be doing my best, like your good self and so many others, within the limitations of my own intelligence and capability to help us all through this epic journey to a better place.

  3. Clement Attlee fan. Labour needs everyone’s support to get elected and continue Clems’ legacy. Friends are more valuable than enemies always.

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