Socialist Worker

Labour members target domestic violence worker Louise Harrison in Doncaster

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2585

Campaigning to save womens aid in Doncaster last year

Campaigning to save women's aid in Doncaster last year (Pic: Neil Terry)


Louise Harrison, a domestic violence worker and campaigner in South Yorkshire, could be dismissed from her job because Labour members want to protect their party.

Louise works at South Yorkshire Women’s Aid in Doncaster, which faces closure because the Labour council has refused to continue funding it.

She led a successful campaign to defend the service when it was previously under threat. And this year she has been key to raising thousands of pounds from trade unionists and others to try and keep the service going.

Pressure from the campaign even led to shadow chancellor John McDonnell pledging to intervene to save the service. He called the campaign “an inspiration”.

Yet Louise received a letter from the service’s trustees, who are Labour Party members, just days before Christmas informing her that her contract may not be renewed. She was off work with exhaustion, stress and a family bereavement at the time.

Campaigners and women who have used the service are furious. A statement from the Women’s Lives Matter group said, “The letter insinuates that some of the trustees are unhappy with the service she has been providing women.

“Louise is on a fixed term contract which would need to be renewed at the end of the year. The trustees make allegations which put Louise’s renewal at risk.

“However, we are not surprised that this has come at a key point in the campaign to save the service.”

It said the trustees have tried to “water down” the campaign to save the service and put pressure on campaigners to “stay positive about the council”.

“The trustees have clearly been put under pressure from the council and have bought the right wing Labour line of the council – that Louise and other campaigners are scuppering the chances of SYWA funding.”

Militantly

The statement refers to a meeting involving Rosie Winterton MP. Winterton allegedly alluded to “volunteers and staff militantly leading a campaign to save the service and that this could make the service unattractive for funders and clients”.

Jane is one of many women who was able to escape a violent relationship because of the service. She told Socialist Worker, “It frightens me that people who are supposed to be acting in our best interests are being so vicious towards someone who has been instrumental in saving this service.

“They are putting their personal gain over the lives of women and girls in the constituency. It’s evident that certain individuals in Doncaster want control of all matters locally and will stop at nothing to keep that control.”

Louise said, “I am deeply shocked about the inference in the letter that I have let women down. For the past seven months I have worked largely unpaid to try to secure funding for our service with little or no support from some of the trustees.

“It is deeply upsetting to read that I would do anything that would harm the women who desperately need our services.”

A Stand Up For Louise Harrison Campaign Group has been set up and is mobilising to build support. Doncaster’s Labour MPs and the council should support the women’s aid service and defend Louise.

Jane said, “These councillors don’t act in a way that echoes the views of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They aren’t acting in the best interests of those of us who live here.

“Attacking this woman is an attack on all women. I really feel that it is an extension of the abuse that we are trying to escape from.”

Jane’s name has been changed. For more details of the campaign contact Amy Cousens on amycousens123@gmail.com or 07517 207 061. Sign the petition to defend Louise at you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stand-up-for-louise-harrison-south-yorkshire-women-s-aid

Is poetry a political crime?

Supporters of the poet Kevin Higgins are stepping up the campaign to have him reinstated to the Labour Party.

He has been suspended from the party for 18 months for the supposed crime of writing satirical poems.

His targets included several of Jeremy Corbyn’s critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party, and Tony Blair.

Kevin Higgins has been a member of the party since the age of 15 and was active in the anti-poll tax movement.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinHIpoet1967


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