After 15 months of incredibly hard work on the general election campaign, ending in a 26 hour day that started at 6.30 on Thursday and ended at 8.30am on Friday, I became the Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen.
It was the realisation of a lifelong ambition to be the MP for my home town. It was by no means the end of a journey, but rather the beginning of a new chapter both for me and for the people of Batley and Spen.
My campaign volunteers spoke to more than 15,000 people, and I personally met and spoke to thousands of those. This was a Labour campaign on an unprecedented scale, and in so many ways an example of a campaign at its best. It was positive, inclusive and broad-based. We engaged with issues big and small all across the constituency and managed to make progress with many and lay the foundations for challenging some of the most important issues we face locally. I am very proud of the campaign my team of local volunteers ran.
As I left the stage in Huddersfield moments after hearing I’d won I was handed an envelope bearing the House of Commons portcullis and which contained a series of instructions and helpful guides for new MPs. Within hours I’d been contacted by the whips’ office to tell me I was needed in Parliament on the coming Monday! Four hours later, after a short nap and spending some time playing with my two children, I was dealing with my first casework as MP. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.
On Monday night I attended my first meeting of the parliamentary Labour party. Naturally Labour’s poor performance in the election and our need to find a new leader dominated the discussions. Notwithstanding some great results locally, Labour must now reflect upon what happened last Thursday, understand it and respond to the public’s damning verdict. We must understand what we got so very wrong and how we can restore people’s trust in us.
But I am determined not to lose the positive momentum we generated during my campaign. There is so much work to do. I am in the process of putting together my staff team and opening up my constituency office, which I am determined will be in the centre of Batley. I will also publish a schedule of advice surgeries very soon, which will be held all across the constituency. I want to make sure that I continue to be as accessible and responsive as possible and that I have a team up and running and working to help local people as soon as possible.
We now face five years of an unbridled Conservative government that is intent on swingeing cuts, further attacks on society’s most vulnerable and on our NHS. This will severely limit what can be achieved but I am determined to work tirelessly to do what I can to make sure local people are heard in Parliament and protected from the worst of what is to come.
This article was written at the request of the Batley News and Spenborough Guardian and appeared in their 14/15 May editions