Growing up in Nottingham, as a daughter of working-class immigrants, I never thought about politics as a career option. My involvement was a result of lived experience, raised by a fearless single mother and living in an area ravaged by austerity. Politics for me was not about parliamentary procedures and pomp – it was the reason that my brother earned only the minimum wage for exhausting work, it was my peers being driven to attempt to take their lives before they got a CAMHS appointment, and it was the daily normality of institutionalised racism.
I was a teenager when the Tories got into power and experienced first-hand their efforts to tear apart our community. That’s what made me a socialist, and that’s how I became active in the Labour Party. I helped organise an anti-austerity rally against the Bedroom Tax with Tony Benn, attended by hundreds of people; I campaigned for better sexual violence services, and in solidarity with refugees facing attack.
In 2015, I was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s vision from the moment he announced his leadership bid. I attended his campaign launch in a small room in Nottingham. Weeks later, alongside Corbyn, I addressed a rally of about 1,000 supporters, with hundreds gathered outside.
That movement was and is not just about an individual but a transformative vision for society, with wealth and power in the hands of the majority. I believe that there is no socialism without radical grassroots democracy. At this year’s Labour conference, I was delighted to see groundbreaking policy pass: to decarbonise the economy by 2030, shorten the working week to four days, decriminalise homelessness, defend freedom of movement, close detention centres, and give migrants voting rights. As one of the organisers of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and a founder of our local Labour for a Green New Deal group, I’m excited to bring our people-powered manifesto to the doorstep and into parliament.
These are the kind of ideas and approach to politics that, as our MP, I’ll implement on a local level, too. That’s why, together with constituents, trade unionists, activists, councillors, and community organisations, I have created a People’s Plan for Nottingham East. I will fight for a mass building of green, well-insulated council houses to end the scandal of rough sleeping and never-ending waiting lists. I will tackle knife crime not by the aggressive policing of BME communities but by pushing for proper investment in youth services. I will continue supporting workers’ struggles in our constituency, from Deliveroo couriers to our taxi drivers and, on a national level, campaign for a genuine Living Wage for all and the abolition of anti-union laws.
However, to deliver on our promises, we must defeat Boris Johnson’s dangerous Brexit plans. Brexit is a threat to the jobs and livelihoods of people in Nottingham, to migrants, to our rights, the NHS, and our planet. As a hate crime worker, I see first-hand the rise of the far right, which feeds itself off deprivation, disenfranchisement, and a sense of abandonment by the political establishment. I support a fresh referendum and I will campaign to stay in Europe – at the same time bringing the country together by tackling poverty and inequality, and giving people control over their lives.
Labour needs a new generation of young, diverse, socialist MPs who will reconnect our movement with our left-behind communities and win those critical marginal seats of the East Midlands. I have the experience, ideas, and energy.
But as an MP, I will always remember that I’m merely a representative of a movement that is much bigger than me. That’s why I have pledged to take a worker’s wage and donate the rest to local social causes; to undergo an open selection every time, to hold frequent surgeries, and consult the CLP on contentious votes.
I learned my politics from grassroots struggles, from trade unions, and our community history. These are the movements that made me who I am, and they’re coming with me to parliament.
Nadia Whittome is standing for selection in Nottingham East. LabourList encourages other shortlisted applicants to pitch their own pieces.