Following the tragic passing of Michael, all of us in the Labour Party mourn a friend who has been in Parliament longer than I've been alive. He leaves big shoes to fill and an immense legacy to defend in Oldham.
After his death, I was encouraged by friends and members from across the party across the country to stand for the selection. Yesterday I confirmed on Twitter that I am indeed placing my name before the National Executive Committee for Oldham West and Royton. Regardless of the result and whoever stands I shall campaign for them. I shall accept the democratic will of the members to choose.
From the off I seek to unify everyone and run a straight, untainted down the middle campaign.
Now more than ever, Oldham and the wider country needs a Labour Government. This by-election is the first of this Parliament and the first under Jeremy Corbyn. The eyes of the political world and every commentator from Lands End to Scotland will be watching how we perform. As we seek to defend the seat from the likes of UKIP and the Conservatives.
I make no misunderstanding, UKIP will throw everything they have at Michaels seat. Yet we can and will defend it, because our age old values to change society will see us through. Behind us in Oldham every Labour member carries the legacies of Keir Hardie, Clement Attlee, Anurin Bevan and so many others who have come before us. We are the party of the NHS, the living wage, devolution and other social reforms that have changed forever our society works together. Michael was a firm believer in these achievements and the works of the party in government. I believe in them too.
My politics has been shaped by my experiences in my family and personal life. For over ten years, my mum suffered the trauma of Breast Cancer and blood clots. While I was at school and later college, I had to care for her alone at home while my dad had to work to feed us. We very nearly lost her and I can tell you that my teen years were not happy. When others would've been out enjoying life at Football, I was at home. I know personally how much we need the NHS and will defend it to my last dying days.
My family has always been poor and there have been times when we've had no money. Not something a young child in our modern society should suffer. I've seen my father break down and his health decline because the strain of life is too much for him. He'd done everything asked of him and then some. For myself in my later life I have been unemployed on various occasions and have been on benefits more time than I care to remember. I don't want to see others suffer and it hurts me when I see families suffering.
Yet despite all of this, I am stronger for it. I know and understand how families aspire to more, but are held back due to restraints of life in Tory Britain. I have lived them and I know their pain. As a result I cannot in due conscience accept the full salary of a Member of Parliament if selected to stand; I cannot accept as long as people do not enjoy the same financial rewards as MPs. I challenge other candidates in all parties in this election to do the same? I hope they will and I will respect them for it. Such a saving should be put into the local community. Just imagine what can be achieved by this extra cash? The possibilites are endless.
Why do I do this? Well I've learnt that the virtues of true public service means not enriching yourself. You enrich your community and wider society. I believe that is the true mark for a successful Member of Parliament.
Oldham needs not just another Labour Member of Parliament, or someone who stands up laying out what they've achieved in whatever office and on what committee. Oldham needs a peoples champion. Someone who can and will be their champion in Parliament, just as Michael was during his time. Someone who is not a critic or advocate of others! Someone who is just Labour! Afterall aren't we all Labour?
Some in the party have jokingly called me a 'UKIP buster'. I don't claim such a title, but I understand that I am only as good as our shared values and the strength of our campaign on the ground. In me you find an honest hardworking Labour campaigner. A safe pair of hands, but a pair of hands willing to muck in and win with every bit of strength I have in my body.