Following the resignation of Harriet Harman in May, Labour are now looking for a new deputy leader. I was extremely grateful that one of the candidates, Ben Bradshaw, was able to take some time out of his very busy schedule to answer some questions for my blog. Ben has also been the MP for Exeter since 1997.
- How important is it that young people take an interest in politics?
“It is vitally important that young people take an interest in politics. If they don’t then politicians, like the current Government, think they can simply ignore young people. So, it’s about making sure young people’s voices are heard and politicians have to take them into account. It’s also about supporting young people in gaining an understanding of how our democracy works and how you can make a difference in our communities. It gives me a great kick to see the young people who’ve got involved in my campaigning in Exeter and for the Deputy Leadership grow in confidence, as well as having a lot of fun. Whatever anyone does later in life, a knowledge of politics and experience of campaigning will be hugely valuable.”
- Why should young people support The Labour Party?
“The Labour Party is, and has for most of our recent history, been the only practical vehicle for progressive change in Britain. All of the great social reforms have taken place under Labour Governments. Labour is also the Party through which people can channel their idealism in order to make a practical difference. At the moment, Labour is leading the opposition to this Government’s assault on young people.”
- Which of the leadership candidates would you most like to work alongside?
“I could work happily with any one of the leadership candidates, and I believe that loyalty to the Leader is a prerequisite for a Deputy. That doesn’t mean to say that a Deputy shouldn’t be able to have tough conversations behind closed doors; but being able to depend on a Deputy for sound advice, while being able to trust in them is key. I also don’t want to be leader myself, which I think is important, and I don’t bring my own agenda or subscribe to any “faction” within the party. I’m not coming out for one over the others as I’ll have to work with whichever one wins.”
- If elected as deputy leader, what would you like to achieve?
“Help us win the next election. As the only candidate on either ballot with a record of winning and building for Labour in a former safe Tory seat of the kind we have to win back in large numbers, I think I’m uniquely qualified to help us think through how we win again. I think I can appeal to all parts of our Party and all parts of the country and, also critically, out to the wider public and those voters we need to win back to get back into Government.”
- Do you have any funny stories from your time in politics?
“Canvassing in Exeter once I knocked on a door which was opened by two young Thai women with loud music in the background. They didn’t quite understand when I said I was from the Labour Party. “You want to party?”, one of them asked, as she reached for my tie to drag me inside. I eventually managed to explain I wasn’t talking about that kind of party. I think I got their votes.”