This article was amended on 27 Jan 2017
I was born in NW London in 1956. My dad was in the Young Communist League (YCL) and Communist Party (CP) in the 1930s and 1940s and was an obvious influence in my formative years. My mother’s parents lived with us in a semi-detached house in Harrow. My mum’s grandfather was Scottish, and had three brothers. His eldest brother stayed on the family farm, my grandfather and his other two brothers set off for World War 1. My grandfather was the lucky one, he was gassed on the Somme and discharged in October 1916…his brothers did not come home. My mum was born 2 weeks before the end of the war – her unique name reflects both being a winsome lass and my grandad’s survival – she was christened Winnsom. Although my dad was a communist, I think my grandfather was the real rebel. He was a chauffeur, working for a variety of rich masters, but refused to let his wife or daughter (my mother) be employed in service as chamber maids or similar. This led to frequently falling out with butlers and housekeepers. As a result, my grandfather walked out of numerous jobs and my mother went to over a dozen schools.
I went to a top grammar school in Harrow, although didn’t really apply myself. When I was about 15 I became involved in the school council, and through that, Harrow Youth Council. I rapidly became exposed to broader political issues including CND and Anti-Apartheid.