In the council chamber, at rallies and in the local, regional and national press, I have consistently spoken up for local people and challenged the Tories on cuts to public services, privatisation, cronyism, and their stirring up of hatred and intolerance. I have never been afraid to speak out and to stand up for what is right in our constituency, even when I have taken personal criticism for it from our opponents.
I have never been afraid to speak out and to stand up for what is right in our constituency.
Calling out our Tory MP
Since becoming leader, as a regular contributor to BBC Sunday Politics West, I have spoken out for Labour policies and against Conservative failures, especially the personal record of Siobhan Baillie.
September 2021. ‘Universal Credit claimants doubled in the district over the last year… we should work out who has the broadest shoulders and can best carry the burden’.
On the Black Boy clock, ‘we need to listen to black people, not tell them what to do’. Following on from Siobhan Baillie’s criticism of Stroud Against Racism.
And on winning elections, ‘we held our own in Stroud by standing on our track record, with brilliant candidates and a positive campaign’.
March 2022. I called Siobhan Baillie out for her hypocrisy in voting for the anti-refugee Nationality and Borders Bill which would prevent mothers and children be reunited with their families. “Hostility to refugees is baked into the system”.
May 2022. Putting the spotlight on the Conservatives’ losses in the local elections, their controversy and scandals cutting through to voters, “why hasn’t Boris Johnson resigned yet?”
During the pandemic
I wrote open letters which other councillors joined me in supporting, challenging the government’s failure from the very start of the pandemic to trust local systems to help keep people safe, as well as calling out Siobhan Baillie for failing to speak out against the profiteering of Steve Dechan and PPE cronyism. Again, in 2021 when the PPE was revealed to be faulty I called for an urgent investigation. I have continued to express concerns that there has not been enough consideration given to those suffering from long covid and the ongoing pressure on the NHS.
I responded to community concerns and publicly called for an investigation into the failure of the Immensa covid testing laboratory which resulted in higher cases in the southwest and Stroud District in particular, as reported in The Guardian and on BBC Points West.
Always campaigning on the local issues that matter
Ever since I was elected as a district councillor I have spoken out on the local issues that cause local people the most concern, and I have used my platform as council leader to amplify this. I have campaigned on cuts to public transport, and for positive campaigns such as encouraging more local employers to pay the living wage. I called out Tory failure to do enough on climate change.
I’ve joined local trade unions in calling for an end to the immoral practice of Fire and Rehire and organised an event for Barry Gardiner MP to speak to local Labour members and raise awareness of the Stop Fire and Rehire campaign.
I have consistently campaigned against racism and discrimination and spoken out on the Tories anti-immigration stance damaging our country’s economy.
I have always opposed forcing schools to become academies, which we protested at in 2017 when Michael Gove visited Stroud, proposals which fortunately were abandoned, but I will resist again as the government floats similar proposals once again in 2022.
I have proven election experience, winning my seat three times against Tory, Lib Dem and Green candidates. I have door knocked and delivered in every local and national election since 2010. I was the EU referendum champion for Stroud CLP and led the campaign for Stroud district to remain in the EU, coordinating with other local campaigns including those run by trade unions such as UNITE and USDAW. I led our local team of activists and candidates in the postponed 2021 local election, running a positive campaign and bucking the national trend to hold our own against our opponents, and allowing us to remain in our Cooperative Alliance running the council. Throughout the pandemic I arranged regular online check-ins to keep the team involved and up to date, and invited Shadow Cabinet members Jo Stevens, Rachel Maskell and Sam Tarry to come and speak to members and candidates. The collaborative process I organised of taking local party members’ views into account to shape our Labour and Cooperative manifesto, kicking off with a 2019 conference with Emily Thornberry, has now been translated into a progressive five year council plan. Our Labour district group was invited to be a founding member of the Local Labour Government Campaigns Cooperative and as a Labour member peer I have helped Labour groups across the country learn how to campaign more effectively.