As I write this, protests are taking place across the country to ‘welcome’ Boris Johnson–the serial liar, racist and all-around charlatan–into Number Ten.
Not satisfied with stoking their own internal divisions, or divisions in our country, with their approach to Brexit, the Tories have now set their sights on our constitution. The new Prime Minister is even toying with the idea of proroguing parliament.
The crisis in the Tory government and the potential for an autumn general election has been watched closely by Labour members in Stockport, who have been left without a Labour MP since the defection of Ann Coffey to the ‘Independent Group’ in February.
Stockport has been severely impacted by the austerity policies supported by the Tories and Lib Dems since 2010. In those nine years, our local council has lost over £32 million in funding. School cuts have been swingeing. Social care services are at breaking point. All this amid a backdrop of increased casual employment and zero-hours contracts. These contribute to deep social problems. In Brinnington, the ward in which I live, almost 24% of people are clinically depressed. The national average is 9.8%.
Although the collective spirit and sense of solidarity is obvious to anyone who has spent time with the community in Brinnington, it is no mystery why so many people feel low. It is poverty. It is the fear of being denied the benefits that you need to keep a roof over your head. It is the lack of available mental health services that can help you when you need support. These absences fuel isolation and misery. And they are the result of political choices.
Stockport has never lacked people who will go out of their way to aid others–but the system is working against them. We need a government that will change that. We need determined political action to stop the privatisation of our NHS, and to kick out the companies who seek to profit from the sick. We also need to go a step further and make thoughtful changes in our NHS, such as legislation ensuring a parity of esteem between mental and physical health services. This new approach, coupled with a major increase in spending, is only possible under a Labour government.
We need to provide people with a narrative of hope and development. Stockport has a proud history, and its townspeople have always played their role in historic movements to improve society. My heroes include people like former Stockport Labour councillor Morris Mendleson who, as a young Jewish market trader in our town, took up arms to fight the fascists with the International Brigades in Spain. I am also inspired by the steadfastness of Stockport’s workers when they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the 145 workers at Roberts-Arundel in Chestergate who were sacked for refusing to accept anti-trade union activity from their company.
Throughout a strike which lasted for much of the end of the sixties, the owner of Roberts-Arundel make clear it would rather close the factory than concede defeat to the boycotts and mass demonstrations outside the works. But the journalist Jim Arnison rightly pointed out at the time that this “awkward little strike” of Stockport’s residents had “made it very clear” that the town would never allow a company to “get away with undercutting the unions.”
Not even the onslaught of Thatcherism could deprive our town of its spirit. But it did lead to a decline in decent, skilled jobs in the area, which has only been compounded by years of Tory underinvestment and austerity. Our young people have been left behind and denied a real future. Young workers’ wages are kept artificially low, while inflated rents eat away at our ability to live. Is it any wonder that the dreams and ambitions that have fuelled previous generations feel out of reach to many today?
As a trade union organiser, I have consistently campaigned for a more equitable minimum wage for Britain’s youth. I have stood on picket lines with bus drivers from my union, Unite, and would be a staunch advocate for bringing all privatised bus services in Manchester back into public ownership.
But I also believe that we need a plan for Stockport’s industrial revival, so that our new generations can benefit from well-paid, highly-skilled work. These are hopes that can be achieved through Labour’s Green New Deal that seeks to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in green industries. Not only would this secure decent and dignified work in our town, but it would also mean that our town would be at the forefront of tackling the ecological crisis.
To solve challenges like that we need the international cooperation that the Tories seem intent on disrupting as they pursue a No Deal Brexit. That approach will lead to further poverty and deprivation in Stockport and the many towns and cities in the UK in the same situation as us. It looks increasingly as if a second referendum is the only way to break the harmful deadlock that is taking focus away from the historic failings of this government. While Brexit occupies the parliamentary agenda and soaks up media attention, serious problems such as climate change, the housing crisis and the cuts in health and care services fall by the wayside.
But Labour can change that. We are on the cusp of power, with a transformative programme for the positive regeneration our economy and society needs. To achieve it, we need a grassroots movement that fights to eradicate injustice and inequality. Our party activists in Stockport are an ever-present force in the community, committed to social justice and improving the lives of their neighbours. They deserve an MP who fights alongside them, not stands above them–an MP who feels comfortable both on the picket line and at the ward meeting.
Should I be fortunate enough to be selected as Stockport’s parliamentary candidate, you can place your confidence in me to fight without apology for the policies I believe in. I would be a strong socialist voice for Stockport in parliament, helping to build on the movement Jeremy Corbyn has led and committed to changing our politics so that it can meet the needs of the people we’re meant to represent.
Just as we must build a movement to kick Boris out, we need to build an enthusiastic movement to elect Jeremy Corbyn as our next Prime Minister. We can create a Britain fit for its people, where the pains of the past decade can be reversed and everyone enjoys the right to live with dignity in their lives. I hope that I can be the choice of Stockport members as our local representative to play this role for our community and our country.