Derby is the city of my birth. It's where I trained as a bricklayer, passing up my Dad's advice not to enter the trade. It's where I led Derby Council and persistently fought for the rights of the weak against the strong. It's also where, in 2010, I was elected as the MP for Derby North.
In 2015 I lost my seat by a margin of just 41 votes to a frankly mediocre Tory candidate, making Derby North the most marginal seat in England. Despite increasing our vote share, Labour lost this seat due to a combined UKIP and Green Party surge. Then as now, when I speak to some of my former constituents I'm often painted a picture of Westminster politicians as a cosy cabal of careerists, bankers and bureaucrats.
Despite all the commentary on our so called "post-truth" era, the voters who tell me this are right. Politics changed fundamentally in the wake of the economic crisis, and despite all the pollsters and think tanks in the world, Labour was simply too slow to keep up. As I said shortly after the 2015 result, Labour's policies had failed to speak to this insurgent common sense.
As the candidate for Derby North for this election it comes as a great gift to be able to pin my colours to Corbyn's leadership. I might well be the most Corbyn friendly candidate in the country but I firmly believe that Corbyn is someone who has clawed back Labour's true values, reclaiming the Party's fighting spirit that for over a hundred years has pitted ordinary people against elites.
The job to be done in order to win in Derby North is threefold. First, my track record on environmental issues and animal rights will speak to those in Derby who voted Green in 2015. Second, Corbyn's platform will help put red water between UKIP voters and the Tories.
My message to those who voted UKIP two years ago is this: Labour is a democratic party and we accept the outcome of the referendum. Britain is certainly leaving the EU. But tell me, as we rebuild an independent society, how can the Tories' vision of Britain as a corporate tax haven amount to taking back control?
Ordinary people had control in this country when we had strong trade unions tied to dignified jobs, public services that could shield us from the storm of the free market and cohesive and democratic communities. It was Labour who after the War founded a society with these securities at its core. Labour have always been the party of the people and I welcome UKIP voters back to us this June.
Third and finally, to win Derby North Labour has to increase voter turnout, especially among 18 to 25 year olds with whom our support is more than double that of the Conservatives. The campaign group Momentum may have become stuck in the mud of late but it still has the power to reignite the passions we saw in Jeremy's leadership campaign where thousands turned out to hear the Labour leader speak in cities and towns across the country. As with the Stoke-on-Trent by-election, I'll be counting on Momentum to bolster our ground troops in Derby on polling day.
This is a high stakes campaign, it is literally life or death. Not in terms of the careers of politicians but in terms of our country's public services, our most vulnerable citizens and in terms of Britain's foreign policy and our shameful legacy of vain and dubious wars.
Some pundits have claimed that Labour's policies today show little movement since 2015, yet this is far from true. Labour is today the only party that will significantly invest in our economy, rather than bleed it dry through austerity. It is the only party that will expand our tax base through the creation of new, highly skilled jobs setting the minimum wage at £10 per hour. Labour today will increase the criminally low rate of corporation tax and clamp down on the industrial scale of tax evasion by companies, shareholders and CEOs. Labour's plans today have the potential to renew our housing stock, bring our train network back in house and reverse deadly Tory cuts to our police force, our hospitals and social security. No party has had such a comprehensive programme since the days of Clement Attlee.
In a word, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is the party that offers the majority of this country real control over our future, bringing power back to the people and away from the hands of a Conservative led elite. This is a platform on which I am proud to stand and a platform that I believe can win.