Blog

My article for the Ham and High on Labour Party Conference 2014

September 29, 2014 at 12:53 pm / by

Tulip Siddiq speaking at Labour Party Conference 2014

I recently wrote an article for the Ham and High, which was published on the day after Labour Party Conference. You can read it here, or via their website at www.hamhigh.co.uk.

As my train pulled into Manchester Piccadilly, I started thinking about Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the Suffragette movement who was born in Moss Side. Without women like her, I wouldn’t even have the right to vote, let alone stand as an MP.

It’s been over a year since I was selected as the Labour candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, which is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.

The referendum in Scotland has been hailed by the broadsheets for rejuvenating a nation’s interest in politics; yet in the thousands of conversations I have had with local residents, I do not hear a lack of interest. I hear very real concerns. I also hear criticism of politicians and the desire for a new political culture– for fewer academic theories and more personal engagement.

People want politicians to tackle the issues that matter in their everyday lives: from the lack of affordable housing to securing the right school for their child, the escalating cost of renting, to balanced economic growth for the many, not just the few, and fears about our national treasure – the NHS.

How to best represent the interests of 90,000 diverse people in Parliament is what keeps me up at night; it is also what gets me up in the morning. This year’s Labour Conference gave me an opportunity to represent some of their key concerns.

I met Shadow Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham MP, who reiterated Labour’s commitment to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and to rebuild the NHS as a true public service. I met Cancer Research UK to discuss what support can be given to local people who have suffered from cancer at some point in their lives.

Thousands of people are still on the housing waiting list in my constituency. This is not good enough. Ed Miliband spoke about building 200,000 more homes every year by 2020 and said that tackling the cost of the private rented sector was a key priority. These policies move us in the right direction.

During a visit to the People’s Centre for Change in Kilburn this year I became acutely aware of the lack of access to transport for disabled people across London. It may not be headline grabbing but it’s what matters to those whose voices often get lost. There are 16, 000 people with disability issues in the constituency and they must have accessible transport. That’s why I addressed the conference about my personal commitment to tackling this issue. I’ve also written to Boris Johnson about needing lifts in tube stations including my nearest tube, West Hampstead. If you’re reading this Mr Johnson, I’m still waiting for an answer!

As I left Pankhurst’s hometown, I thought about my meeting next week with Ernestine LaSelle from the Abbey Road Estate in my constituency. Ernestine’s mother, Mary Pollock, was also a suffragette. To be precise, Mary was part of the Scottish suffragette movement.

As Scotland’s referendum unfolded, I thought of the many ways people from England, Scotland, and the rest of the UK have come together to become more than the sum of their parts. The suffragette movement is one of many such examples.

At 100 years old, Ernestine is not at Labour Conference but she still wants a full debrief of the last conference before the election. She wants to understand that issues that matter locally are also priorities for the next Labour government, to understand that Labour has a vision for keeping our union together, for making a new politics that is genuinely representative, from Hampstead up to the Highlands and beyond.

Tags