Views and Values
I came into politics because I believe that everyone should have a fair
chance in life, irrespective of background or wealth. Each individual has their
own particular talents and skills; and everyone should be able to achieve their
Education is the key to a successful future which is why I am so passionate
about raising standards in local schools.
Growing up in post-war Manchester I was surrounded by people who worked hard to
bring up their families and make a contribution to the wider community. No-one
had much in the way of worldly possessions but we enjoyed the benefits of the
welfare state; people understood the importance of the work ethic and the
responsibility we carry for each other.
Whilst society today has become more fragmented, my daily contact with
constituents tells me that they still understand the strength and value of
community, and I remain convinced that a just and healthy society has to be
built from the ground up and not just from the top down.
Religion played an important part in my upbringing and even at an early age I
developed a strong sense of connection between faith and politics. And politics
for me has always been international – indeed the first political meeting I ever
attended (1968) was in Manchester’s Methodist Central Hall, in connection with
the war in Biafra – now Nigeria. I also protested about the 1969 South African
Rugby tour – a campaign led by Peter Hain who would later become a close friend
and colleague through our work as ministers in Northern Ireland.
After college I spent 15 years working face-to-face with young people in
trouble; and between 1989 – 1997 I was the National Director of Church Action on
Poverty – a Christian based campaigning organisation formed to combat the new
poverty that grew out of the economic crises and Government indifference of the
1980s. Both roles taught me that the right kind of intervention at the right
time can make all the difference; not taking over peoples’ lives but helping
them get back on track when things go wrong. I also witnessed the amazing
capacity of the human spirit to withstand and overcome the most challenging of
Politics is about leadership, but it is also about listening and trying to
create solutions that strengthen family and community life. The far reaching
decisions I make as a government minister can impact on the lives of millions –
but the help given to an individual constituent can also be invaluable.