I’m honoured to be re-elected as MP for Barnsley Central. I’d like to pay tribute to my brilliant team and all of those who knocked on doors in the cold and the seemingly never-ending rain. They looked at the challenges facing our community, rolled up their sleeves and got involved.
But above all, I’d like to thank my constituents for giving me the opportunity to serve them again.
There is no shying away from the fact this election has been catastrophic for the Labour Party. We are now further away from power than at any time in living memory. Moreover, this regression has occurred nine years in to one of the most incompetent and destructive governments in British political history.
As a party we need an honest and forensic look at why we’ve been decimated in seats with a historic Labour tradition.
Over the past five weeks I’ve had countless conversations with too many people who expressed concern – and in some cases anger – at a Labour party that they think no longer speaks for them.
I know that there are many who voted for us before, but did not this time. We must listen to those concerns, and work to regain trust where we have lost it.
For too long, national governments of all persuasions, have under prioritised the needs, desires and opinions of towns across the North of England. Places like Barnsley have been ignored, and the views of communities like ours have not just been disagreed with, but openly vilified. This must end.
My promise to the people of our town is that ending this neglect will be my number one priority. There is much work to be done. The massive potential of Barnsley and Yorkshire should be shouted from the rooftops. We all know the desperate need for investment in our people, our economy and our infrastructure if that potential is to be unlocked.
The lack of that investment reflects some fundamental injustices. The UK is still far too unequal, and far too centralised. Both as an MP and as a Mayor, I will fight for our town, our region and our country to get the fair deal we deserve.
But there is another battle before us: the one against the dark stain of division in our politics.
Our differences over Brexit especially, are being turned into a battering ram against the very foundations of our society and our country. I will never stop fighting for a more decent, more honest politics, one that reaffirms the bonds between us all.
Like my late friend Jo Cox, I will never concede to the poisonous notion that what divides us, is more important than what we have in common. All who serve in government have a duty to work for and with the whole United Kingdom, and to remember that its future is in their hands.
They bear the great responsibility of seeing that the forces dividing us are confronted, rather than fed – and that we work to bring people together, not force them apart.
The dangers we face are real. And the eyes of history, will be upon us all.
Serving my constituents has been an immense honour, one which I have never taken for granted. I am deeply grateful to the people of Barnsley Central for again putting their faith and trust in me to continue representing them. Thank you.