Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

We’re all better off when we’re all better off

Jess Phillips MP speaks to Progress west Midlands conference

As the west Midlands Labour gain on this panel, I feel some pressure to come up with the silver bullet of winning elections in the west Midlands.

Tristram Hunt sent us panel members his remarks last night so I considered copying his homework and just reading his speech out again. As we say in Birmingham … that will learn ya for being so well prepared. But I am not sure I can pull off all that history stuff and I think you might notice.

I suppose the best lesson I learnt from the general election was to stand against a Liberal Democrat. I am humble enough to know that truth is I probably would have won if I had done nothing, and that breaks my heart sat next to my colleagues who did not win and did so much.

I think though there are a couple of other reasons why I won that we can learn lessons from.

We lost nationally I think because people did not trust Labour with their money and they did not like Ed Miliband, but here in Yardley they did trust me.  My campaign was about them not us. For two years I told a constant story about how I was not other I was one of them. I asked them what they wanted and when they told me I listened. I had a message and it was not about energy prices it was about me and them trying to do something together.

I think that the Labour party sometimes behaves like a teenager who has just become a vegetarian as if it is a really original thing to do. We bang on about how great we are, and how we understand better than you what life is like. What we are saying might be right but in the end all we did was talk about ourselves. And boy oh boy are we doing a good job of that at the moment!

I suppose the second reason we won, stems from the first, because people trusted me and felt my campaign was about them, they bloody well joined in to win the fight. Throughout the two years of campaigning, some 500 new people in Yardley joined us in one way or another. Not Labour members, some not even Labour voters. We had Green party members tramping the streets for hours, we had hard left socialisit worker party stalwarts giving people lifts, we had ex–Tory voters and people who had never voted delivering leaflets to their whole estate. Just people who wanted to help. Hundreds showed up on polling day. It is easier to win when you are not on your own.

I am naturally a lefty, a proud socialist from a family who make Corbyn look like Blair. In my acceptance speech I said that, ‘we are all better off, when we are all better off’ and I suppose to many it sounds very socialist – like a rallying cry to bring the poor out of poverty and do not get me wrong it is. Angry feminist sticking up for the poor is kinda my schlep. But I also know that in that all we have to mean all. We have to mean we want people who live in a 1930s semis in the suburbs to be better off. We have to not be sniffy about the families who’s dream is to just have a house big enough so they can have a drive. We have to mean people who just want to earn enough to go on holiday once a year.

We need to learn a lesson from the Tories…

I think it is fair to say that going forward, we need to work on our message, and listen and include our electorate’s actual hopes and dreams even if they are not some noble cause.

I think in Yardley we did that, and in the general election Labour did not.


Jess Phillips is member of parliament for Birmingham Yardley


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Jess Phillips MP

is member of parliament for Birmingham Yardley


  • Not sure I really understood your points here Jess, i mean i get the one about how you won your seat because you were standing against a lib dem so couldn’t really lose and that at the same time you won because you really listened to your constituents (and those candidates that lost didn’t I guess?) but can you give us some examples of how the labour party sounded like they knew what peoples lives were like better than they did? And how you are able to ally your true ‘lefty’ ‘socialist’ beliefs (with a family significantly more left wing than Corbyn!) with pushing the Progress agenda?

  • Alex, do you always believe what you are told? I suggest watching the 26/07/2015 Jeremy Corbyn interview with Andrew Marr and then decide for yourself. I note that conservativehome have put the whole 13 minute 47 second video on their website.

    A few of the more intelligent comments, among the normal drivel, actually make for interesting reading, regarding how Jeremy Corbyn is viewed by some conservatives. He appears to be feared more than the other 3 candidates, particularly in the event of a downturn in the economy:

    “He is an old fashioned and unreconstructed socialist. I don’t think anyone with any real understanding of what genuine Marxism is would claim him as one of their own; indeed Marxists proper would probably regard him as a capitalist apologist.”

    “I watched the whole interview with a mixture of glee (Marr gave him enough rope to hang himself and he took it) but also admiration. He answered the questions he was asked, he didn’t seek to evade anything even though it might turn out to be terribly damaging in future. I find that admirable even if it was naïve.”

    “Cooper or Burnham are so discredited anyway, they would make much better leaders from our point of view.”

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  • The Telegraph’s analysis of the leadership election result is interesting, particularly the last paragraph, as follows:

    “No, history tells us that the Labour Party is experiencing a period when it needs to be revitalised, democratised and brought back into contact with its all-too-forgotten core beliefs. Like Lansbury over 70 years before him, Corbyn might well be the man for the job. If so, the really interesting question becomes not whether Corbyn can win in 2020, but who, out of the new MPs who were prominent in nominating and supporting him, will be the Bevans and Attlees of the future?”

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