Yesterday saw the opening of the County Durham Socialist Clothing Bank. The inaugural session In Brandon was a huge success and generated much interest from the local media
It was the idea of Dawn Willson (pictured below) and Cath Ainsley who realised that some people cannot even afford to buy clothes from charity shops. With help and support from Unite, Durham Miners Association, GMB, RMT, Brandon Welfare and all those who donated clothes and/or time their idea became a reality and yesterday showed that there is an absolute need for such a scheme in County Durham.
You can read some of the press coverage by following the links below. ITV’s coverage is particularly interesting due to the comments made by James Wharton Conservative MP for Stockton South.
Following the MPs comments, Unite In The Community released this statement:
Durham Unite Community Support Centre
Miners Hall, Redhill
Durham, DH1 4BD
Tel. 0191 372 7137
James Wharton shames himself with comments on launch of Durham Socialist Clothing bank
Durham Unite Community were most disappointed to see the response of James Wharton MP when asked for comment on the launch of the County Durham Socialist Clothes Bank by the local ITV news.
“We have to recognise this is six months before an election. This is the Socialist Clothes Bank. It’s been set up, backed by a number of trade unions, and there is more than a hint of party politics about what’s going on. This is as much about making statements about politics as it is about doing good things. I welcome one; I’m not convinced about the other.”
– James Wharton MP, Stockton South, Conservative
To seek to undermine the huge amount of voluntary effort spent by our members getting the clothes bank up and running in order to score cheap political points is unacceptable. The fact that he was 100% wrong in his analysis is almost beside the point – the only person playing party politics here is Mr Wharton himself.
It is unclear as to why James Wharton MP would be approached for comment on an initiative covering County Durham when he is elected to represent a constituency some distance away, and it was clear from his comments that he was completely uninformed as to the nature of the clothing bank and the support it has received from trade unions in the Durham Area. In fact, quite why he chose to comment on a subject he obviously knew nothing about is a mystery which only he himself will be able to answer.
The co-ordinators of the Socialist Clothing Bank are both members of Unite Community, which is a non-industrial section of the union created to empower people outside the labour market to use the trade union values of solidarity and collective action to improve their own and others’ situations. As well as the clothing bank, Unite Community has opened a community support centre at the Durham Miner’s hall providing welfare advice and training courses. We have been grateful for the material support received from the Durham Miners’ Association, GMB and other unions, which has included providing accommodation for these services and donations of time and clothing from their own members. None of this was done on the basis of being for or against any political parties – it has all been done out of a desire to help local people in dire need of help.
To even imply any of these are party political actions displays mindset sorely lacking in empathy for other people – helping out fellow human beings in times of need, as our members are doing through the clothes bank, is something that politicians of all parties should be applauding rather than cynically trying to denigrate their efforts in the way James Wharton MP has done.
Unite Community will continue to encourage our members to find new and innovative ways to help out in their local communities, and encourage more people to do the same. Instead of playing politics with our efforts, we would be grateful if in the future Mr Wharton would let us get on with it and stick to his role as a politician which should be trying to tackle the reasons behind their being a need to set up food banks and clothing banks in the first place
Unite Community is a section of the Unite trade union for those not in work. It is dedicated to helping give voice to the most vulnerable in society and seeking to empower people to improve their own local communities.
For further information about the Clothing Bank or the wider work of Unite Community in the County Durham area, please contact the Durham Community Support Centre (details at top of page)