My mum was a lone parent at 17; I never knew my real dad. We never owned a home. Twice in my teens I had to live away from home; the second time because of my mum’s alcoholism – an illness that would kill her. Going to university was not my destiny, it was an escape. By my mid-20s I was a single mum with two children under two and on benefits. I know what it’s like to need a Labour government.
My mum inspired me to join the Labour party. I wanted to do something to help women like her and others who, for whatever reason, are made to feel they aren’t good enough. Or for children whose hopes and dreams are limited by who their parents are or their postcode.
But if we are going to help the people that most need a Labour government, if we are going to abolish the bedroom tax or establish a real living wage, we need the support and wealth that’s created by others – the consent of those whose taxes pay for policies we seek to implement.
The challenge is not just about the centre ground, it’s about the ground to the south, to the north. We have to better understand what life is like for people living in our small towns, seaside resorts and suburbs, outside of our big cities. We have to show that wanting to get on in life, to work hard, to make something of yourself, and to hope for a better future for your family, have always been an essential part of Labour’s reason for being and always will be.
It will take both heart and head to get Labour back, winning the big arguments. I want a party organisation that puts us in better shape to win. We must rediscover Labour’s voice, especially in communities where we do not have, and may never have, a Labour MP. We must be a grassroots movement, not a Westminster elite, using the skills, experiences and contacts our members and supporters can share.
Who I am, driven by a passion for equality and social mobility, makes me determined that Labour looks and sounds like the country we aspire to govern. We need a deputy leader to lead our campaigns, deputise for the leader and fight our corner in the media, especially on difficult days. But it is also an opportunity to elect someone who connects with a wider group of people for whom politics can seem irrelevant. I can be that deputy leader.