It’s been a whirlwind few days, following Helen Jones’ announcement that she would be retiring after 22 years as MP for Warrington North. My decision, therefore, to put my name forward was by definition a last minute one – but I am delighted to say that it is the best I have ever made, having been selected as Labour’s new Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Warrington North.
I will be spending the coming weeks and months meeting as many residents, local members, unions and community groups as I can, to build relationships and hear about your priorities and concerns for Warrington.
As with Faisal Rashid’s selection in Warrington South, it’s unfortunate that the circumstances and tight timescale ahead of the election meant that there was not a full hustings process, but I’ve been heartened by the support I’ve had from comrades across the party welcoming my candidacy. It’s safe to say relationships in Warrington Labour haven’t always been the most harmonious, and I am hoping to make a fresh start.
I expect much will be made of my accent and the fact I’ve lived in London for the last year. But, while my opponents in this election, yellow and blue, have stood for public office in various seats around the region – I’m not some carpetbagger. I have never been a candidate elsewhere, and wouldn’t want to.
So, for those who don’t know me, here’s an introduction. I come from a big family – I’ve got three sisters and three step siblings, with three mums and two dads between us. My dad is the youngest of seven children from Kirkby in Liverpool, and my mum is one of six from Canning Town in East London. They met through their trade union. Among the myriad of hard-won social and employment rights we all benefit from, I can quite literally say I owe my life to the movement.
I was born in Romford, brought up in Reading, but have spent my entire adult life, barring the last year, in the North West – in Liverpool for university, but primarily in Salford which is the neighbouring borough to Warrington. I’ve been coming to Warrington since I was a kid to spend time with family friends in Culcheth, and as an adult both personally and professionally.
I spent five years working for the trade union Usdaw, whose divisional office is in Warrington, and have been directly involved in negotiations on the pay and conditions of workers in Warrington at the Hermes, Yodel and XPO Logistics depots.
As a GMB officer, I’ve been involved in campaigning for better treatment for Amazon workers, against the imposition of ‘Contract Six’ in ASDA, making the case to government for investment in low carbon nuclear technology which will help secure the future of quality jobs in places like Sellafield and Wood Nuclear in Birchwood. I was also on the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Social Care.
Warrington needs an MP who will support local businesses and good employers, but isn’t afraid to stand up to the giants and bullies – luckily, that’s what I do day in, day out.
The Tories don’t care about Warrington. Since 2010, a quarter of public sector jobs have been lost in Warrington due to cuts and privatisation. Average real wages in the constituency have dropped by 10%, or around £3,000 per worker.
They’ve slashed local authority funding to Warrington by £19.4 million since 2010 – that’s £305 for every household in the borough. Money that could have paid for 37 children’s centres or 1,148 care workers. These aren’t just cuts that are making Warrington poorer, they’re cuts that are making Warrington less safe, including cuts to the police and fire service.
One of the biggest issues at this election will be Brexit and Warrington is a town that voted to leave, slightly ahead of the national figure. A Tory Brexit puts workers’ rights and the NHS up for sale, however, something I don’t believe anyone in Warrington wants. The Lib Dems are in denial that the vote ever took place, and want to revoke Article 50. Labour are clear that we will negotiate a better deal and put it back to the public in a confirmatory vote – leaving with a sensible deal, or remaining – all within six months.
Parliament and the pollsters have tied themselves in knots trying to say the public believe this or that about what kind of Brexit we should be pursuing or if we should be pursuing one at all. It’s time to resolve the issue once and for all. I think that’s something that everyone in Warrington, however they voted in the referendum, can get behind.
The current political climate is incredibly febrile. Divisions have been sown between young and old, leavers and remainers, migrants and locals. I know the scale of the challenge ahead of us, but I believe I’ve got the energy and experience to build a people-powered campaign here in Warrington to help heal those divides and bring Labour’s transformative agenda for the country into our community. See you on the doorstep!