This isn't a political blog, so I won't go on about my reaction here. But I was writing something tonight on the Poets on fire forum in defence of Labour and the many good things they have done for our country - as well as their appalling mistakes like the war in Iraq - and I found myself recounting an anecdote about my life in the 'blocked' gap between my first novel and poetry collection and the day I started writing again, some five years later.
It was a time in my life I had almost forgotten about, my quality of life having improved so much since those dreadful days, back in the early years of the noughties. But that experience came back to me forcibly as I wrote about it, so I'm going to share it here as well:
In 2002-03, we were living in a tiny two bedroom rented house in North Cornwall, with a living room barely larger than a bathroom. We shared that space with four children (including baby twins) and had another child on the way, while my partner worked from 6am till late at night in a truly grim job and was too exhausted at the end of each day to do much more than sleep, just so we could afford to keep that roof over our heads.
I had no one to help me out, no relatives in England, and when I went to try and get a night shift in a meat-packing factory - one of the few night jobs available - so I could help with the breadwinning side of things, I was turned away because I was 'over-qualified'. All I had was three A levels, and I was over-qualified for the kinds of jobs you can do at night in a rural community.
Around that time, I got really sick with flu. I remember one day feeling too sick and delirious to look after the twins, but knew I had to, since there was no one else to do it. My other kids were at school, my partner was at work, and the babies were crying. I lay down on the floor next to their bouncers and started to feed them - I was pregnant again at the time; a difficult pregnancy, for we had been warned the child could be Downs - and actually passed out. When I came round, I felt completely alone and in despair, not knowing how we were going to survive.
I'm not wringing my hands over that awful time. We climbed out of it. But guess how? Child and working tax credits were introduced that year, and they made the most incredible difference to our lives.
Thanks to tax credits, we were finally able to afford to move away from that rural area in search of better work for my partner. We got a bigger place, I had my last baby, who was not a Downs Syndrome child but perfectly healthy - thank goodness I never agreed to the abortion I was automatically offered after the test results! - and I started to earn money from writing again.
I cried the day we got our first tax credits payment. That was how bad it had been for us, and how relieved I was to have money in the bank again, to be able to breathe. And I shall never forget that a Labour government did that for us.