Belief in our country and our people
My politics are rooted in a simple belief in Britain and the huge potential in front of our country and its people.
I believe that we can be a prosperous, innovative, successful, fair-minded and tolerant society – the sort of place where we all want to live, work and bring up our children; a country respected around the world with as bright a future as it has a proud past.
At the moment we are fulfilling only a fraction of our full potential. We have the chance to be so much better. Creating Britain as it could be – as it should be – isn’t going to happen overnight. We need a 100% focus on the future and a long-term vision that will ensure our future success.
- Economically it means prioritising long-term investment in education, in skills, in support for entrepreneurs and in infrastructure.
- Politically it means a change to the way we make decisions, an end to the quick-fix, top-down, ‘initiative’-driven politics and a willingness to engage the public in an honest debate about the future.
- Socially it means real, long-term action to tackle social ills like poor health, obesity, and mental illness, at the same time as creating the dynamic, innovative and connected communities we need for the future.
A society that works for the many, not just the few
What this means in practice is creating a country which makes the most of all of our talents. We need everyone to be able to play a part. Britain needs to move away from its unfair past, where the system was weighted towards the top 1%, and where the majority were left to struggle to get the education, life chances and opportunities to fulfil their potential. Where you grow up should not determine where you end up.
I want to see greater investment and greater expectations for everyone in education, more help for the critical early years of a child’s life, better opportunities for young people to get their first job, more intervention to tackle health inequalities and fairer investment across the regions. Britain will be more successful if we make the most of all of our talents, in a society where the majority have the chance to succeed, not just the few.
What this also means is that, while we need to extend individual opportunity to all, we also need to ask for greater responsibility from all. People who can work, should work. Companies who benefit from doing business in Britain, should pay British taxes. Politicians elected to promote the public interest should do just that. Government can and should work better to help extend opportunities to all, but it is down to individuals to make the most of them.
Rekindling the spirit of public service
We also need to restore our national sense of community and public service. I believe we are stronger together than we are apart. That’s something I learnt in my life before entering politics. I learnt from a young age most people in Britain are willing to help out a stranger in need, and to play their part in making their community a better place. This is the sort of spirit we need to rekindle and promote.
I have tried to play my part. My parents were both public servants: my dad was a college lecturer, my mum was a probation officer. I served my country as a soldier and entered politics inspired by the late John Smith’s impassioned appeal, the night before he died, for “the chance to serve”. After his untimely death, I was moved to join the Labour Party and I have always seen him as a guide for us all in the way we approach our politics. As an MP I now seek to serve my country and community and the people of Barnsley to help create the prosperous and successful community I know Britain can become.
Although this shared sense of public service has been eroded over the decades, it hasn’t disappeared and there are plenty of examples where communities are thriving because of the willingness of individuals to play their part: the charity fun-runner who raises £500 for their local hospice – vital funds that help provide extra help for those needing end-of-life care; the thoughtful neighbour who checks on the elderly couple next door throughout the cold winter; the junior football team coach who gives up his time to encourage young people to see the virtues of competitive sport, exercise and teamwork. There is more we can do to nurture and support this spirit of public service which is so vital to the future strength of our communities.
Labour as champions of the British people
My politics have been shaped by my upbringing, my family, my experiences in public life and also by listening to people. I have very clear beliefs and one of them is that if Labour is to be electable again we need to truly listen to the British people, take on their struggles and become true servants of the communities we represent in Parliament. Labour will only win a majority in Parliament if we once again become true champions of the concerns felt by the majority of the British people.