While reflecting on the return to Parliament after what has been a bruising few months in politics, I must express that I am longing for a change, not just in politics but in the Labour Party.
In the early hours of Friday 13th December, I was delighted to win Gower with a majority of just over 1,800 as a Labour Party candidate. A marginal seat since 2015, I was not going to let Gower go without a fight. My work always is and always has been a team effort. We’re not perfect, I’m not perfect but I pride myself on my desire and that of the team around me, to make people’s lives better. We’ve done that thanks to the belief and support of the local Welsh Labour members and the many volunteers who supported me to keep Gower red.
Politics is tough, but it shouldn’t be so brutal. At every level, the correct team balance is the fundamental component to achieving success. Over the festive period there has been a fair amount of discussion regarding why Labour lost the General Election, and not all that I’ve read has been a fair reflection or interpretation of the events of December 12th. We need to be honest with ourselves as we analyse where we went wrong. The Labour Party needs to rebuild its broken connection with voters, creating an authentic vision for the future of our UK nations.
I believe that everyone should have the potential to live happy, healthy and prosperous lives. Quite simply that’s because as a teacher for over 20 years, it was my raison d’être and it continues to be as a Parliamentarian. I will not stop putting the well-being of the people I represent above all else.
We’ve had nearly 10 years of Conservative government and I’ve seen first-hand the damage inflicted by the Tories on the most vulnerable in society. Winning the argument without winning Government will be stark consolation to families who find themselves using foodbanks for the first time, and there will be more of them, if the trend set by the Tories over the last 10 years is anything to go by.
We’ve lost four general elections in a row, and as a Party we are at a critical juncture. If we want to win again, we need to look outwards, not inwards, forwards not backwards. The sole reason to look back is to ask ourselves “what can we do to win back the voters who left us in 2017, 2015, and 2010, not just those who left us in December?”.
As for our next Labour Leader, it must be someone people can connect to, someone who can rebuild the bonds within our party and extend those bonds outward to the general public. I expect our next leader to give the membership a voice, connect with representatives in our devolved institutions and understand leadership is not a process of command and control, but one of empowerment. We are the party of devolution and our party needs to evolve to better reflect the needs of our local communities.
It might not come as a surprise to many of you that in my working life I have not always been the most passive member of staff. I’ve always challenged and critiqued those above and around me because I believed there is always the potential to improve, move forward and deliver better outcomes for those that we taught. However, I have found that being critical of leadership in the Labour Party is often met with disdain and comments such as “don’t forget you only got in on a Labour ticket”, as if I had joined some kind of playground faction who had to play by the rules or be brandished a traitor and called names. Well that isn’t how I work, it isn’t how I’ve worked before I became and MP, and it will never be me.
I am going to nominate someone who I believe will allow me to be a voice of challenge on behalf of my constituents, who will listen and respond, agree to disagree and look beyond any argument to create hope for the future. Now is the time to rebuild our relationship with the electorate across the whole of the UK, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.
We need a leader who is authentic, transparent, strong and approachable. An engaging, no nonsense communicator who will not be intimidated by the bullish blustering behaviour of Boris Johnson and his privileged ilk.
Let’s not make this an unpleasant back stabbing in-fight. Let’s make this about giving hope for the future, I for one will not participate in any mudslinging, it’s destructive to the Labour Party. “If you don’t like who I like then I don’t like you...” this is not progressive politics and I won’t play any part in it.
All candidates deserve due consideration, and I am proud to be nominating Jess Phillips as I wholeheartedly believe she is the right person for the job right now. If you don’t like that, then let’s agree to disagree and remember why many of us are in the Labour Party, because nobody is better than us and everyone matters. We must without fear nor favour speak truth to win power.