More than anyone my mum made me who I am.
I joined the Labour Party at 17 – never thinking I would be an MP.
17 years earlier I was born to my teenage lone parent mum. It was 1961 and the strength she showed in keeping me has always made me proud of mum and my grandparents who stood by her.
Life wasn’t easy and we never owned a home, but I had a happy childhood. But in my teens alcohol became a problem for mum. During my A levels I got a charity grant to live away from home to concentrate on my studies. Going to university was not my destiny – it was an escape.
I saw my mum die from alcoholism at the age of 45. I saw how little support there was for her to cope with her low self-esteem and sense of failure.
In my mid-twenties I found myself on my own with two children under two. I know what it is like to need a Labour Government. To be on benefits, to need a job and childcare and a secure roof over your head.
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.
I have always challenged sexism and all forms of discrimination. I was there at the start of the campaign to modernise the way we select candidates, from one member one vote to all-women shortlists.
As a young mum I joined the Workplace Nurseries Campaign, later becoming Chair, and we successfully persuaded the Tory Government to stop taxing workplace nurseries.
In local government I recruited women construction trainees, created a council’s first workplace nursery and ensured that suppliers and contractors followed good employment practices and equal opportunities.
When I was elected in 1997 I founded and chaired the first-ever All Party Childcare group, paving the way for Parliament’s first workplace nursery for all staff.
In 2010 I led the campaign to defeat the Coalition Government’s proposed anonymity for rape defendants. It secured David Cameron’s first climb down.
The best guarantor of progress for women's rights is having more women elected as councillors, MEPs and MPs and in leadership roles throughout our Party.
Would Sure Start, family-friendly rights or domestic violence courts have happened in that Labour Government without those 101 Labour women MPs? I don’t think so.
The minimum wage and part-time workers’ rights owe much to pressure from women trade unionists, exerting their growing numbers in our movement.
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 more elected BAME women, disabled women, LGBT women and working class women.
As Deputy Leader I'll level the playing field for candidates so that money and connections are no advantage in selections and champion community campaigning to attract a wider range of women to join us
I always tell it as it is. I never hold back when I believe women are not being treated fairly.
The Deputy Leadership has no job description. We need someone to lead our campaigns, deputise for the Leader and fight our corner on the media, especially on difficult days. But it is also an opportunity to elect someone who connects with a wider group of women for whom politics can seem irrelevant. I can be that Deputy Leader.
In 1997, I had to pinch myself that Wendy Flint’s daughter had made it into Parliament. My mum would have been so proud.
But I know I stand on the shoulders of the women who fought the fight.
They have shaped our party and our country.
Now let’s take the next step.
If elected Deputy Leader, when that ballot closes on 10 September, I promise I won’t let you down or those women I owe so much to. I’ll make you proud too.
Are you with me?