South Yorkshire is my home. My political journey started here when I was six years old, delivering leaflets for Labour Party and NALGO campaigns with my dad. I know the people, the communities and the history of our region.
We powered this country and developed technologies and ideas that changed the world. We built industries that didn’t just offer people jobs and a path to a better future, but created a sense of pride, purpose and solidarity across our region, too.
But as our industries left or died, the social bonds that kept people together often went with them. As our communities became more mobile, both through necessity and choice, all too many of the networks that held in place our responsibilities to each other, also fell apart.
Our movement is rooted in the idea of those shared responsibilities to each other. That idea is the foundation of my politics. But for a lot of people in South Yorkshire, that article of faith – that we only succeed together – feels like an increasingly broken promise.
A baby born in Doncaster tomorrow is expected to live a shorter life than someone born in Surrey or Sussex. One in three children here are growing up in poverty. Working people earn around £250 less here every month than they would down South.
For all too many people who live here, as their confidence in our ability to make their lives better has fallen away, so has their support for our party. We now have three Tory MPs. So-called safe seats are now marginals. We have a Green Party winning ward after ward in Sheffield, and dozens of Tory councillors across our region, too.
So if we’re going to win back the communities we have lost and are losing, and rebuild the pride, purpose and prosperity of our communities, we need a different type of politics and a different approach in South Yorkshire. This mayoral election gives us a chance to make that change.
I’m not proposing the same approach we’ve seen before, because this election is too important to get wrong. As we’ve seen in Scotland, the Tyne Tees, and across swathes of the North, doing the same things and hoping for different results is the biggest risk of all.
The good news is that devolution offers new ways for our communities to shape our future. As mayor of South Yorkshire, that’s what I would do; empower communities, rebuild faith in our movement, and develop new approaches founded on the best ideals of the Labour Party, so we can share wealth, power and opportunity.
That’s why I’ve said I’ll put in place citizens’ assemblies to shape our plan for getting to net zero, and lead a community wealth building strategy across the whole region. Plant 1.4 million trees. Bring public transport back under public control, where it belongs. And I’ll work to put South Yorkshire at the forefront of the next industrial revolution with a world-leading innovation corridor that brings skilled jobs and purpose back to our communities.
I’ve also said I’ll be the most transparent and accountable mayor in the country, with a public-led scrutiny panel, no second jobs, and Mayor’s Question Times across our region, because we can’t rebuild our region without first rebuilding trust.
South Yorkshire is my home. I want it to be the place I know it once was and can be again – a community with fairness, solidarity and equality at its heart. I’m suggesting a new and better way forward. I can’t do it alone, but with a new generation of leadership and a different type of politics, together we can build an even better South Yorkshire.