The General Election left the south-west of England with only four Labour MPs across its 55 seats; as Yvette Cooper told a packed hall in Bristol last week, the need for a “radical and credible” alternative to the Tories is desperately needed here.
The meeting not only drew members and supporters from Bristol, where we hold three seats, but from Keynsham, Chew Valley and South Gloucestershire, where Labour must take votes from the Conservatives and Lib Dems if it is to win in 2020.
Yvette passionately reinforced the importance of our choice of leader not only to the future of our party and region, but to the future of our country. She urged us to stop swallowing the Tory myths on the economy and the causes of the deficit and to be proud about our achievements in Government, and spoke with lucidity and logic about the need to broaden our party and its appeal, rather than narrow our focus and move left or right.
Yvette’s answers to a wide range of questions raised by the audience, covering education, the role of Trade Unions, housing, Trident, regional devolution, benefits, climate change and the alternative to the government’s ideological 40% cuts to public service were direct, clear and to the point. She consistently demonstrates a breadth and depth of political thinking that puts her clearly ahead of her opponents, and, what is more, she is prepared to say when she disagrees.
The contrast of her views on foreign policy to Jeremy Corbyn were clear, and the loudest applause of the evening came when she answered a question highlighting Bristol’s role as a City of Sanctuary and the challenge faced by asylum seekers and refugees; her call for the separation of treatment of asylum seekers and economic migrants and the intervention of the UN in Calais showed her compassion and commitment to change. Principles or power? For Yvette Cooper it is clearly both.
From my discussions with members I know that many were undecided before the meeting and it was a pleasure to hear so many afterwards saying that she had given them hope and optimism and won their backing to be Labour leader, and our future Prime Minister.
Karin Smyth is the Labour MP for Bristol South