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EMILY SPEAKS TO LONDON YOUNG LABOUR
SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 2014

My political journey to London starts on a picket line on Merseyside when I was 10. My dad worked at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port and was on strike – that happened a lot in the 70’s. The family had been told that I needed to go to Moorfields hospital in London to see if anything could be done to save my failing sight. They couldn’t afford to pay for the trip – but the shop steward organised a collection on the picket line and I was able to go. Doctors decided that there was nothing we could do so we returned with some of the cash unspent. My dad tried to give it back but was told to hang on to it as I would need additional support. We bought the Perkins Braille machine that is still on my desk at home, often used to prepare an attack on the coalition.
It was, for me, a practical expression of the solidarity of working people that is at the heart of the Labour movement.
As you might imagine I spent a lot of time in hospitals as my sight worsened in my early childhood. That’s why I am so passionate about the NHS and why I spoke out very strongly at the Labour party conference this year in Manchester. It why I attacked my Lib Dem opponent Paul Burstow MP, the former healthcare minister. He was involved in piloting the discredited Health and Social Care Act 2012 that brought in competition. Andy Burnham has made it clear that the Labour government will repeal the internal market. We need to take out competition from the health system, replacing it with collaboration. We need to get back to raising clinical standards.
I experienced again this week the Labour Movement’s core principles for solidarity and equality in practice as I dealt with the reaction to my decision to come out about my gender transition. I have had amazing support from thousands of people including from Ed Miliband and Gloria De Piero, the party's women and equalities spokeswoman.
As Gloria said there are too few trans, disabled and women voices in politics. I’m out to change that. In Sutton and Cheam it will mean beating the Coalition’s “brothers in arms”, Paul Burstow and Paul Scully. That said I want to thank them for their supportive words and willingness to acknowledge my step to be open.
I’ve been able to transition in Sutton successfully, with local people affording me respect and dignity. Sutton is a brilliant place to live because our community is forward-thinking, with so many lovely people.
I’d like to pay tribute to other people with a trangender history who seek to represent their communities across all parties, whether they be open or not – they all deserve our respect and understanding.
I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the feedback. It is very humbling to hear that my personal story is inspiring people. Hopefully, others find my experience helpful as they navigate their personal journey to be happy.
That journey is both a medical one and a legal one – and the last Labour Government’s extension of Sex Discrimination legislation, bringing to fruition the Gender Recognition Act (2004). This meant that aligning physical characteristics to one’s sense of identity enabled many of us to be affirmed in the right gender. Gender reassignment enables ends our sense of incongruence, bringing inner contentment and happiness.
Let’s be frank there’s still a lot of fear. There are people out there who are very negative -- People who like to judge people with different background. There have been plenty of examples where people have suffered because negative stories, to the extent where some people have taken their own lives.
Of course there are disabled people who experience hate crime, particularly people with learning disabilities, and there are many people with a transgender experience who experience hate crime, bullying and harassment.
In an ideal world I wouldn’t be speaking out about my past because it’s very private. But in this less than ideal world the possibility of “an exposure” as they would describe it, by the Sun or the Mail was a constant threat.
I also recognise that as a politician the key thing is trust. If I’m not honest about my life experience people may be critical of me being secretive. So I decided to come out and the tabloid reaction was a whimper not a bang.
One Rod Liddle used his column in the Sun to ask how being blind, how I know I was the wrong sex? Surely he could have done better than that. I responded by asking: when he turns the lights out, how does he know he is a man.
I don’t want to be somebody who has notoriety as having a transgender background, but I also believe it’s an experience that has value to it, that I can be a positive role model.
I’ve always been passionate about politics about making a difference, being an equality campaigner and more broadly in terms of fairness and justice. If I’m going to be doing that with credibility it is important for me to be open.
I don’t want it to define my future, but I want it to be something which is part of my identity. I need to be honest about my background and embrace it.
I’m deeply committed to campaigning right across the equality spectrum. I think that stems both from my gender identity experience and my experience as a disabled woman.
My background is what drives me to fight for fairness for me and other people. In terms of my working class background, I was very much deeply rooted in Labour values.
The comment from Rod Liddle was no joke. It wasn’t even clever – just simple and cheap. As a Liverpudlian, I expect nothing else from The Sun.
Yet, I do not wish to detract from Labour’s election campaign in Sutton and Cheam by rowing with The Sun. That isn’t my style.
Yes, I get upset and frustrated at times, but essentially I’m resilient and battle hardened.
What I want from this incident is a constructive solution that will benefit other transgender and disabled people. Through my leadership role in the Labour movement, I want to act as an agent of change for the many, not the select few. That’s why I’m Labour, not a Tory.
I have asked TMW to negotiate a resolution with my oversight, so we can collectively secure change to practices and attidues. If The Sun do not co-operate, I may reluctantly need to make a Press Standards complaint.
There is a clear breach of clause 12 (i) (Discrimination) on the grounds of both disability and gender identity.
This comes after PCC guidance on trans issues from November 2013 after the death of Lucy Meadows and press promises during the Leveson process.
The Sun has denied any responsibility, stating it's just Rod Liddle's opinion, despite there being an editorial process managed by the Sun in order to publish it.
A clear apology from Rod Liddle in his Sun column.
An apology by the Sun for denying it was their issue and not apologising immediately they recognised the problem.
The editorial team and Rod Liddle undertake training on trans issues and the application of clause 12 obligations.
There's a lot of support for trans people that's slowly emerging. The situation has improved markedly in recent years, but there is still a long way to go. As a voice for change, I’m want to add value to the excellent work of trans and disability groups. Yet, mainstream issues remain central to my quest to bring about change in Britain.
The state of our economy is central to the outcome of this General Election. That’s why I will work tirelessly over the next five months to articulate Labour’s core belief that Britain should work for the many, not just a privileged few. We have a vision to change our country, so it prospers and is fairer.
The Conservatives cannot bring the change people need because their core belief only offers more of the same failed ideas that have caused deep-rooted problems in Britain.
The Liberal Democrats can’t be trusted to deliver change, as they break promise after promise.
In Sutton and Cheam I’m fighting against Lib Dem £40M cuts, leading a campaign to rescue The Secombe Theatre from their proposed closure, defending local businesses like pubs under threat by even more supermarkets, pressing for a new secondary school and improved transport connectivity.
Austerity is leading to deep division in our communities. I want that change for the common good. It can only be delivered by Labour.
• Freeze gas and electricity prices to 2017, so we can change the market to fair regulation.
• Build 200,000 new homes per year, so we can change living conditions for a million household by 2020s.
• Bring in long term tenancies, so we can change instability in the private rented sector for families.
• Cut income tax with a lower rate, starting at 10p and having 50p top rate for highest earners –so we can change the prospects of the many not the few.
• Ban exploitive zero hour contracts, so we can change the balance between corporate interests and the rights of hardworking people.
• Make work pay by strengthening the minimum wage and tax breaks for firms paying the living wage, so we can change a low-wage low contributing economy, to secure a recovery driven by improved productivity, built on new infrastructure and centred on fairness.
• Cutting business rates and reforming the banks to improve lending, so we can change the scope of Britain’s enterpreurs to seize new opportunities.
• Provide working parents with 25 hours a week of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, so we can change current family pressures for a effective support.
• Establish a Job Guarantee and Apprenticeships for young people, so we can change the aspiratios and life chances of the next generation.
Labour’s plan will be delivered through big reform to create wealth, devolve power and improve services - not big spending. We will be:
• The wealth creators, not just the wealth distributors;
• The devolvers of power, not the centralisers;
• The reformers of the state, not the defenders of it;
• The agent of change on the side of fairness and dignity, not the abdicators of responsibility – like The Sun

 

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