What the writer’s life used to look like. Photo: -/AFP/Getty Images
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My mum is the best worst colleague I’ve ever had

There’s nothing more tit-achingly generation Y than sharing an office space that’s actually a living room with your mum.

“So, we’ve been talking, and we think you’re creating a hostile work environment.”

My mum looks up from her laptop and over her glasses.

“What?” she says, “Who’s we?”

She doesn’t sound particularly interested.

“Hank and me,” I say.

“You and the cat have been discussing me?” she says, still typing.

“Yeah. We’ve kind of decided that you’re the office bitch.”

She stopped listening somewhere around “kind of”.

“Shh!” she says, thrusting an open palm in my direction, from the sofa across the room.

“See, this is what I mean, Mum. In most offices people don’t just work solidly throughout the day. They stop to talk about, I don’t know… Theresa May, the diminishing quality of supermarket fruit. Something. Anything. Come on, let’s have a conversation. I think I might have a urinary tract infection. You love all that. So le - ”

“SHH, later,” she says, now frantically waving one hand while she continues to type with the other.

“I can’t live like this,” I say, “I need to have a conversation. I have all these opinions that are just going to waste. Plus, since when do you pass up an opportunity to discuss my health? I’m handing it to you, Mum. I’m serving you my feminine issues on a plate. Tell me to drink cranberry juice or something. I need an exchange of ideas. I’m talking to the fucking cat – objectively the least articulate, interesting and medically savvy person in this house. I’m dying here. This environment is killing me.”

“Eleanor – will you please…”

Uh-oh, she can’t even.

“I’m trying to write a book,” she says, “if you need a break from whatever you’re pretending to be doing, why don’t you go and make me a cup of tea?”

My mum is the best worst colleague I’ve ever had. And I think she feels the same about me. Working from home is one thing; working from your parents’ home is quite another. Sure, I could just barricade myself in my room – sparing both me and my mum the hassle of, well, each other – but lately I’ve decided that I prefer to be around other people when I’m working. There’s just something motivating about the sound of someone else typing. My mum lounges on the sofa, tapping books into existence. I sit on the other sofa, feeding off that sound to write about whatever it is I write about.

It’s only just occurred to me that, outside the context of family run businesses, parent as co-worker is an entirely new phenomenon. There’s nothing more tit-achingly generation Y than sharing an office space that’s actually a living room with your mum. It would be tragic if it weren’t quite nice from time to time (sometimes she lets me speak to her).

Now she’s having lunch. A salad. She’s always had these salads, my mum. These passive aggressive, “well, I don’t know about you, but I’m being healthy” salads. They’re full of raw vegetables, which makes them especially loud. There’s this crunching sound that’s so specific to her and her salads that I couldn’t even begin to imitate it. It’s sort of, “Brrrrunch, brrrrrunch, brrrrunch.” It’s steady and percussive. My lunch rarely consists of anything so rich in timbre. I think I’m supposed to feel bad about this.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she says, interrupting a lengthy period soundtracked by nothing but typing, munching and tea sipping, “Knaidel…”

She looks at me. I’m “Knaidel” (matzo ball) now, not Eleanor. She wants something. She’s doing her pathetic, whiny, “little me” voice. There are only two things she ever needs when she does the voice: tea or tech support.  

“Knaidel,” she says in the voice, “I’ve done a bad thing.”

“Talk like a woman,” I say. This is a joke we have, when she does the voice.

She coughs and deepens her voice.

“Can you help me with something?”

“Oh how the tables have turned,” I say.

“Please, please, pleeeease,” she says, back to doing the voice, “I’ve accidentally deleted a paragraph. We can talk about your urethra if you help me get it back.”

“The moment has passed,” I say.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Labour's establishment suspects a Momentum conspiracy - they're right

Bernie Sanders-style organisers are determined to rewire the party's machine.  

If you wanted to understand the basic dynamics of this year’s Labour leadership contest, Brighton and Hove District Labour Party is a good microcosm. On Saturday 9 July, a day before Angela Eagle was to announce her leadership bid, hundreds of members flooded into its AGM. Despite the room having a capacity of over 250, the meeting had to be held in three batches, with members forming an orderly queue. The result of the massive turnout was clear in political terms – pro-Corbyn candidates won every position on the local executive committee. 

Many in the room hailed the turnout and the result. But others claimed that some in the crowd had engaged in abuse and harassment.The national party decided that, rather than first investigate individuals, it would suspend Brighton and Hove. Add this to the national ban on local meetings and events during the leadership election, and it is easy to see why Labour seems to have an uneasy relationship with mass politics. To put it a less neutral way, the party machine is in a state of open warfare against Corbyn and his supporters.

Brighton and Hove illustrates how local activists have continued to organise – in an even more innovative and effective way than before. On Thursday 21 July, the week following the CLP’s suspension, the local Momentum group organised a mass meeting. More than 200 people showed up, with the mood defiant and pumped up.  Rather than listen to speeches, the room then became a road test for a new "campaign meetup", a more modestly titled version of the "barnstorms" used by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Activists broke up into small groups to discuss the strategy of the campaign and then even smaller groups to organise action on a very local level. By the end of the night, 20 phonebanking sessions had been planned at a branch level over the following week. 

In the past, organising inside the Labour Party was seen as a slightly cloak and dagger affair. When the Labour Party bureaucracy expelled leftwing activists in past decades, many on went further underground, organising in semi-secrecy. Now, Momentum is doing the exact opposite. 

The emphasis of the Corbyn campaign is on making its strategy, volunteer hubs and events listings as open and accessible as possible. Interactive maps will allow local activists to advertise hundreds of events, and then contact people in their area. When they gather to phonebank in they will be using a custom-built web app which will enable tens of thousands of callers to ring hundreds of thousands of numbers, from wherever they are.

As Momentum has learned to its cost, there is a trade-off between a campaign’s openness and its ability to stage manage events. But in the new politics of the Labour party, in which both the numbers of interested people and the capacity to connect with them directly are increasing exponentially, there is simply no contest. In order to win the next general election, Labour will have to master these tactics on a much bigger scale. The leadership election is the road test. 

Even many moderates seem to accept that the days of simply triangulating towards the centre and getting cozy with the Murdoch press are over. Labour needs to reach people and communities directly with an ambitious digital strategy and an army of self-organising activists. It is this kind of mass politics that delivered a "no" vote in Greece’s referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bailout last summer – defying pretty much the whole of the media, business and political establishment. 

The problem for Corbyn's challenger, Owen Smith, is that many of his backers have an open problem with this type of mass politics. Rather than investigate allegations of abuse, they have supported the suspension of CLPs. Rather than seeing the heightened emotions that come with mass mobilisations as side-effects which needs to be controlled, they have sought to joins unconnected acts of harassment, in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn. The MP Ben Bradshaw has even seemed to accuse Momentum of organising a conspiracy to physically attack Labour MPs.

The real conspiracy is much bigger than that. Hundreds of thousands of people are arriving, enthusiastic and determined, into the Labour party. These people, and their ability to convince the communities of which they are a part, threaten Britain’s political equilibrium, both the Conservatives and the Labour establishment. When the greatest hope for Labour becomes your greatest nightmare, you have good call to feel alarmed.