Why I am backing Yvette Cooper

The next Leader of the Labour Party does not have an easy job, the challenges they will face will be daunting to say the least. There has been a lot of talk in the papers, in boardrooms, living rooms and in Labour Party meetings across the country as to what went wrong and why on May 7th. For me, the signs that Labour had lost its way with the people came a year before that, at the European Elections – where the popularity of UKIP sent worrying signals about people’s attitudes towards the EU. At this election, one of the most concerning issues for me was the shift in voting patterns from the BAME community – where Labour used to get 80% of the vote from this community – it went down to 52% at the last election

Our relationship with Europe and greater equality are two of my biggest concerns; and have been a key factor in shaping who I back for the next Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. We need a leader who really understands people’s concerns over the EU, not one who is looking for point scoring and sound bites. We need a leader with a proven track record on equality, fighting for ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and those from underprivileged backgrounds. We need a leader with principles and the convictions to stand by them. What the Labour Party needs, is Yvette Cooper.

Over the last five years, our standing and influence within Europe has waned, thanks to David Cameron’s weak leadership. It’s in Britain’s interest to be an outward-facing country that demonstrates leadership in the EU, instead of shying away from it. At the same time, it is right that Britain pushes for substantial reform, including stronger rules to prevent undercutting and greater financial support for countries that experience high migration from the EU – Yvette has argued that such countries should be compensated through the EU budget due to added pressures on their public services. A clearly articulated stance that recognises the importance of international co-operation to combat international challenges such as climate change while at the same time securing real reform is why Yvette Cooper deserves your vote. Europe will be the defining issue of the first half of this Parliament. The Labour leadership simply cannot afford to show any equivocation, dithering or confusion over such a nation defining moment.  We need a leader who can clearly engage with people and address their concerns; seeing Yvette at the Hustings in Brussels and in Birmingham I saw her really engage with people and actually answer their questions – not just nodding and agreeing before veering back onto a scripted answer.

Let’s also remember that Yvette has a solid record on fighting for equality. If we’re going to successfully tackle inequality, we’re going to have to look at the institution which has the biggest effect on the life chances of millions of children – families. After all, a child’s life chances are shaped in their first few years. When we list our proudest achievements as a party in government, you can bet that Sure Start features prominently on Labour’s greatest hits. It transformed the educational and health outcomes for disadvantaged children across the country and Yvette was instrumental in its creation. I have been working hard in the European Parliament on trying to improve childcare for parents who have children with disabilities – so I believe Yvette’s absolutely right to now champion universal childcare and put families at the heart of her campaign.

To get greater equality in society, we need greater representation in Parliament; whilst it is unfortunate that there are no BME candidates contesting the leadership or deputy leadership, Yvette’s plan to set a target to double the number of its MPs from minority ethnic backgrounds is commendable and will undoubtedly help to make our party more representative of the country that we seek to serve. A country – that is increasingly supporting women in top positions and yet in the Labour Party we have still failed to elect a female party leady – it’s about time this changes. The party has made significant progress in improving maternity leave, tackling domestic violence and opening up more opportunities for women – it’s about time young women and girls were given a female leader they could look up to.  I believe that Yvette will be well placed to lead the debate on re-engaging with different communities and shaping a Labour that is inclusive of all.

Yvette Cooper has attracted an impressive list of supporters from MPs across the West Midlands, and it’s clear why that’s been the case. She is best placed to convince the public that Labour can be trusted with the economy; offering a compelling vision for a British economy powered by a new technological revolution and she has the experience and judgment to immediately start taking the Tories to task.

As the leadership ballots start to arrive in people’s homes in a few weeks’ time, we have two stark choices ahead of us. We can choose to shout from the side-lines under Tory rule or we can elect Yvette and be in a position to offer bold leadership in Europe, equality and everything our movement cares deeply about.