My values and politics have always been about speaking truth to power, protecting the most vulnerable and delivering a society fit for all. Still, getting deeply embroiled in Labour Party politics – let alone running for the NEC – was never my plan.
I’d believed I’d found my calling 14 years ago as a young foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency. It was an enormous privilege in every meaning of the word, allowing me to travel where others rarely got the chance and draw attention to stories I believed the world was missing.
Then, in September 2006, I broke my neck in a minibus smash covering the Sri Lankan civil war. It left me paralysed from the shoulders down. I knew immediately that I was incredibly lucky – Britain had a welfare state that would look after me. Still, battling for the care and support I needed to live independently and return to work was hugely challenging – and that was before austerity began to bite.
I have voted Labour throughout my adult life, and joined the party in 2016 when my employer made me a columnist and allowed me outside interests. Since then, I’ve done everything I can to support the party: doorknocking in a wheelchair from the 2017 election onward, serving as fundraising officer in my CLP in Vauxhall and supporting the Labour Friends of the Forces movement.
Within our movement I’m not a particularly factional creature but would describe myself as to the left of the party’s centre ground. I don’t pretend to be as radical as many of those who joined in the recent era, but I believe the return of unambiguously values driven politics and new ideas is good. I believe Tony Blair’s New Labour missed opportunities by not listening to the left, not just on Iraq but privatisation, tax, regulating financial services and investing in housing and infrastructure for the future.
But I believe we need to win elections, and there was plenty in the recent era that made that more difficult. As I wrote in December, I believe moving forward as a party requires us to look seriously at our internal challenges and processes. Those frustrations led to me putting my name forward for the NEC at my own constituency and others, and the unexpected degree of support I have received demonstrates how widely they are shared. As the only truly incredible progressive force for change in this country, we cannot be a party of undemocratic stitch ups dominated by a few powerful forces and individuals.
I’ve been a member of the National Union of Journalists my entire working life, with the privilege of working in a heavily unionised newsroom – and have seen the difference that can make. Without my union solicitor, I would not have won compensation from my employer allowing me to pay many of my own care and disability-related costs. Without that, I might well have been institutionalised by now. So I believe in our trade union movement, and would like to see it – and its own processes for democracy and accountability within it – also strengthened.
When it comes to policy, I believe our focus should be on building a credible, radical manifesto for 2024 round a Green New Deal that addresses climate and our other pressing crises. The world is getting more dangerous in multiple directions, and I believe we need to make the case for international law and compassionate approaches on migration, development and disaster relief. That means continuing to believe a better world is possible, and fighting to make that happen.
For the last four years, I’ve been hugely honoured to once again serve as an army reservist, providing advice and training on information operations and emerging forms of warfare. In a world often becoming crueller and more dangerous, I believe we need strong defences including the Trident nuclear deterrent. As a rule, I’m cautious on military interventions of choice through long and hard experience, but we should not pretend that force is not sometimes necessary.
Going forward, I hope the party will unite behind our new elected leader, fix its internal problem and become more accountable and effective. That’s what this country needs, and I’m running for the NEC because I believe I can play a small part in delivering that.