Hetty Bower still fighting against austerity at 107

VETERAN peace and welfare campaigner Hetty Bower, aged 107, addressed a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Brighton last week.

Sharing a platform with Len McCluskey, general secretary of the giant union Unite, she told the meeting: “I have lived for a very long time and I have a very good memory. I’ve lived through two world wars and I have spent most of my adult life working for peace on our planet.

“I don’t think human beings are civilised while we still waste time and money killing each other, when we should be sitting at a table discussing how to improve the lives of ordinary people.”

She said she did not need to tell the meeting “what poverty can do to people”.

“You have eyes and ears that can hear and see. Neither of mine function properly now but I remember sufficiently to know just what it was like to see poverty and deprivation and the word ‘welfare’ was totally unknown.

“So we have progressed, but I’m now wondering what’s going to happen to our welfare state and that is what I have to campaign about in the short time still left to me — peace on our planet and improvement of living conditions.”

She recalled families debating whether they could afford to call a doctor or needed the money to spend on food — and women singing in the street to earn a few pennies to feed their children.

A veteran of left-wing campaigns from the General Strike in the 1920s to the anti-Iraq war protests of 2003, Mrs Bower also shared her recollections of the battle of Cable Street, in the 1936, when fascists were prevented from marching through Jewish areas of East London.

“Hatred of other human beings will have to be totally eliminated throughout our land and that is what I, in the short time left to me, am still campaigning for — peace,” she said to a standing ovation from Labour delegates