Thursday, 26 April 2018

Chris Williamson MP comes to Reading University

Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North
On 26 April 2018, delegates from the Reading Trades Union Council joined the Reading University Labour and Cooperative Society to welcome Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, to an evening of conversation at the University of Reading. Organised by the RUL&CS and ably chaired by its President, Serhan Wade, the evening commenced at 19:30 and splendidly overran, closing at 22:15 (when Serhan secreted Chris away for a recorded interview).

Chris gave a potted history of his political life, growing up in a working class Labour household in Derby and becoming a bricklayer before studying to become a social worker. Inspired by the likes of Nye Bevan, Michael Foot and especially Tony Benn, Chris joined the Labour Party in 1976 and was elected to Derby City Council in 1991, eventually rising to be council leader. He was MP for Derby North from 2010 to 2015, losing his seat by 41 votes before winning it back in 2017. He was dubbed the "most pro-Jeremy Corbyn candidate in England’s most marginal constituency" by the New Statesman. Chris has been a consistent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader since his first campaign in 2015 and remains solidly behind Corbyn's socialist vision for Britain.

During a closing Q&A session, John Partington (TSSA & RTUC) asked Chris why Labour has not been so vocal in opposing the Conservative government's destructive Integrated Care Systems - an opaque initiative very difficult to get an understanding of. Chris urged local activists to keep asking questions and also follow the announcements of the Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth.

Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU & RTUC) followed by asking Chris what the national party is doing to encourage working class people to join and become active in local Labour Parties. Chris reminded the gathering that the national party is currently going through constitutional change aimed at giving more influence to grassroots members. But locally, he said Political Education Officers need to gain training and support from the Regional Office, empowering them to reach out to the inactive members and underrepresented groups in the local party.  He said Jenny Formby's recent election as Labour Party General Secretary will made an important difference in this area. Nada also expressed the view that Labour is not doing enough for disabled access and Chris did not disagree and said he would take these views away with him and raise them with appropriate colleagues in Westminster. Other questions followed from Labour Students then Chris posed for photos.

Serhan Wade (RULCS), Chris Williamson MP, John Partington
(TSSA & RTUC) and Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU & RTUC)
The evening was a great success, inspirational and informative, and RUL&CS are to be congratulated for arranging it. John encouraged Labour Students to attend the RTUC meetings, which are open to all sympathetic persons and organisations.