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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