Why I am backing Yvette Cooper to be the next leader of the Labour party
Throughout our history the party has represented millions of people, all united through a common cause to support the best interests of every person in our country; fighting inequality, helping the vulnerable, supporting the hard-working, inspiring future generations and standing up for our hard-earned rights.
During my years in the party I have spoken to people from all backgrounds, from all parts of the country, who each came with their own experiences, opinions and beliefs, but were all totally committed to the fact that what brings us together is much greater than what divides us.
This has never needed to be re-emphasised and re-energised as much as it does today, at a time of great soul searching for the party.
It is with this firmly in mind that I am backing Yvette Cooper as the next Labour leader and the next Labour prime minister.
I have known Yvette for many years and have continually been amazed by the work she has done. She is level-headed, yet incredibly passionate about the things she believes in and as an MP she has been a dedicated and dogged campaigner who has fought injustice, but has also been willing to listen to the views of others and work with everybody in order to make progress.
Yvette has experience running a £100 billion department. She helped roll out Sure Start and brought in the Future Jobs Fund – jobs for young people unable to find work.
As shadow home secretary she has shown her ability to lead, to handle pressure and to push the government every step of the way, and I believe she is more than a match for David Cameron and any future Tory leader.
The fallout from the 2015 General Election has presented unique challenges to our party and, whoever takes over, the size of the job on offer to the potential candidates cannot be overstated. This will take incredible leadership, it will need deep and varied experience and it will require intelligence and understanding to bring the party forward.
We know the Conservatives are planning deeper and harsher cuts and a series of damaging policies that are going to make the lives of ordinary people that much harder, and this will be far worse for the most vulnerable in our society.
Labour must stand as a champion for everyone, and provide the staunch opposition they deserve. Yvette has proven over the years that she is more than capable of holding the government to account, as anyone who has ever seen her take apart Theresa May over recent years can testify, and she has never shied away from tackling the big issues.
I was incredibly proud to see all she has done to fight against domestic violence in Parliament, and we need that zeal and that firm dedication to never accept second best in all areas of our policy.
Of course, the job of Labour leader is to do more than just oppose the government. We also need new ideas and new hope for the future but Yvette has rightly been very clear that defeat doesn’t mean a total rejection of our Labour values. Knee-jerk reactions to pull us in a totally different direction are as counter-productive as they are misguided. Our manifesto contained much to be proud of, and indeed much that millions voted for, but our approach was too narrow and didn’t appeal to people all across the country.
This doesn’t mean we water down our values – it means we must listen to wider concerns and make sure we present a better and stronger case that every single person in our country can relate to and can vote for.
I know Yvette has the ability to reach parts of the country that we have been slowly drifting away from over the last few years, and as a warm and approachable person who is incredibly down-to-earth, there will be nobody who cannot relate to her.
As the first leadership candidate to visit Scotland in her campaign, she has also shown clearly that she is not going to shy away from the biggest challenges we face and has underlined her commitment to work across all parts of our country to listen to people and make sure they are represented in our policies.
Equally, she has championed issues that every community care about. From her strong backing of our UK businesses as engines for growth, to standing up for the rights of our workers. From getting wages up for families who have been hit hard in recent years, to placing a sorely needed emphasis on quality childcare – introducing genuinely radical new ideas that will transform the system we have today to something that really can give every child in the country the best possible start in life.
We have five years to listen, learn and build, and I don’t think there is anyone who can match Yvette in doing just that. I am genuinely excited to think of what we will be able to offer in 2020 with her at the helm.
Also, as a woman, she knows first-hand the many distinct challenges women face every single day of their lives, and I would love nothing more than to see the Labour Party have that final glass ceiling broken in our politics, with our first elected female leader. It is time for this to happen, and in Yvette we have never had a better candidate for the top job.
Since May 8th many people have talked about which direction the party needs to go in, be it to the left or to the right. For me, the only direction we need to go in is forwards, and there is not a doubt in my mind that Yvette Cooper can do just that.
I am well aware that the next five years will be tough, and that it is likely to be a bumpy road ahead, but I am positive about our future, and our ability to put an end to Tory rule in 2020.
As a party we have the very proudest record of achievement, and a history that inspires me every single day. I want a leader who understands our history, knows where we are now and has the vision to lead us into the future.
For me that is Yvette, and I know that given the job she will convince our party and our country that there is a better way, and that Labour can deliver it.
Sharon Hodgson is Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West. Follow her on Twitter