Six years today. Six whole years since you first put your trust in me to serve in Parliament. That is where our journey began. Both humbling and an honour, I have not taken that faith lightly, but used it to reach deep into the heart of Government to advocate for the things that matter to you.
Bootham Park Hospital closed, floods destroyed, Brexit divided, and Covid stole both lives and jobs. It has been a tough path we have had to tread. Along the road I have met so many of you hurt by poor housing, insecure work, rationing healthcare, and an endless list of challenges reflected in the thousands of cases my office has addressed; all a product of the political choices both this Council and this Government have determined.
I didn’t stand to preside over a country which took your liberties, stole your rights and ignored your needs. I have never gone to Westminster to let inequality grow and poverty entrench. Nor to see our climate disintegrate nor global stability regress. And now, both nationally and locally, we have ruling politicians putting their own personal interests ahead of the needs of the people, when people are in such need.
This is not my politics, and I do not believe it is yours.
Out on the doorstep this week, and it was a real pleasure to meet so many people, I listened once more to your frustrations and real urgent need and I will do all I can to seek a just outcome on each, but also still sensed that spark of hope you had for a different kind of politics.
That is why Labour in York is laser focused on bringing about that change. Politics cannot be about tribal warfare nor about holding office when disgraced. When the institutions of politics fail us, then we have to find our power from within us and demand an alternative. That is why Labour will work with every community in York to build a new politics, not one that you have to live under, but one you are part of, where your voice is heard and your beliefs matter.
Of course, we all have different insights and views; this is not our weakness, but our strength. As we work through the right resolves it is important to invite challenge, to stress test plans and ensure that they achieve the best solutions.
However politics goes far, far deeper than transactional debate. I believe politics is about both head and heart. If the things we see and hear do not move us, break our hearts, and cause us to act, then we are no more than a machine trying to inflict our world view on others. Politics must be about relationship, each other, how we do that messy thing called ‘life’ together where everyone has equal opportunity, is of equal worth and has an equal say in the destiny they aspire to. Politicians have the responsibility of going on that journey too, knitting together the solutions that are needed and then using every moment to fight for that future.
On any journey, you need a map and compass to guide you on your way. These are the values that point us in the right direction. But a journey is futile, unless we know the destiny that we are seeking to reach.
Over these last few months, I have been saying that “if we are going to see that destiny, we have to first climb the mountain”. I have climbed many a mountain in my time, and it is hard graft but the view from the top draws your breath away and enables you to see things from a totally different perspective and a fresh insight as to what can be achieved.
If we do not get up that mountain, we will never see those opportunities before us, the changes we long to make and never reach the destiny we long for. Politics is in a desperate place. It has neither map nor compass, and certainly no destiny; yet we here in York Labour do.
I and my team will continue to serve you and do all we can, but recognise we have been given a responsibility by you to also reset the landscape of politics. In many ways, we are at the foothills of that mountain. We want to climb it with you. It has been both humbling and an honour these last six years, but, if you are willing, let’s start the climb and let’s dream of that destiny we long to see when we reach the top.