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Ordinary Working Men and Women Should Be Involved in Our Party

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I remember sitting in the Labour Party conference hall three years ago. Ed Miliband had just been elected leader and he was giving his first speech. My ears pricked up when he said the following words, and it's worth me quoting them in full:

"Let's be honest, politics isn't working. People have lost faith in politicians and politics. And trust is gone. Politics is broken."

"Its practice, its reputation and its institutions. I'm in it and even I sometimes find it depressing. This generation has a chance - and a huge responsibility - to change our politics. We must seize it and meet the challenge."

I remember thinking 'we've got a leader of the Labour Party who actually gets how bad things are.' But saying something is one thing, doing something to renew politics is quite another.

Three years on and I've just watched his speech to the TUC. It shows that Ed is determined to open up our politics and involve ordinary working men and women in our party.

Anyone who thinks that these people dominate the Labour Party - its selections, elections and decision-making - are not living in the real world. They are barely involved at all, and they certainly don't play a full and proper part of everything that we do.

We urgently have to change that because having a proper relationship with these members would give us access to the biggest and best focus group - one that rival political parties could only dream of.

Involving them more in our party and engaging them in our communities and neighbourhoods could transform our politics. We need to give these hard working people genuine opportunities to get involved in the way their neighbourhoods are run and their communities are represented.

That's why it amazes me that we have a prime minister who despises these people.

Ed Miliband's anger at this was plain for all to see. He said;

"How dare he? How dare he insult people, members of trade unions as he does? How dare he write off whole sections of our society? One Nation Conservatives would be turning in their graves if they could hear the nasty, divisive, small-minded rhetoric of the leader of their once great party."

Since becoming an MP I've worked hard to try and understand why people are so disconnected from politics by travelling the country and asking 'why do people hate me?' I concluded that we have to open up politics - make it look and sound more like the people we represent.

Some of my findings surprised me. Given that trust in politics and politicians is at an all-time low, what percentage of people would you expect to be interested in standing for parliament? - One in a hundred? One in 10? In fact, polling carried out for me earlier this year by YouGov (with a sample size of 1633) showed that the answer is nearly one in four. That is much higher than I would ever have imagined.

Just think about that: Nearly one in four people would be interested in standing for Parliament.

But I also heard another message when I talked to people about politics and about becoming a politician - hardly anyone knows how to go about doing it.

Ed said in his speech just before the summer;

"We need to do more, not less, to make individual trade union members part of our party: the three million shop workers, nurses, engineers, bus drivers and construction workers who are members of Labour affiliated trade unions - people from the public and private sector alike."

Their individual voices need to be heard louder and clearer than ever before.

He's right and the other thing that made my ears prick up today was when he said;

"We know from recent experience what happens to political leaders who write off whole sections of a country."

"That's what Mitt Romney did when he talked about the 47% of people who would never vote for him. And look what happened to him. Friends, my job is to make sure that's what happens to David Cameron as well."

Ed, the hard working people of this country will be with you helping you every step of the way.

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