Comment: Why our next leader should be a woman called Yvette

By Sharon Hodgson MP

Inspiration. It's what everybody is looking for in our leadership contest. Somebody to inspire them or capture them and say the things they have just been dying to hear. Words and gestures are being poured over and analysed by everybody it seems, many of those being the same people who during the election maintained that it is actions and policies that matter, not warm rhetoric and vague promises. That was then I guess, this is now, and the rules have changed.

I am also a firm believer in inspiration, but for me, and for millions of ordinary people around the country, this comes in ways you may never even realise. It can touch and inspire you without you ever having to have heard a speech or attended a rally.

For the families all over the country who have used Sure Start children’s centres and have received help and support at a time when they desperately needed it, they have been inspired to develop and grow and reach their potential in ways that simply would not have been possible had these community hubs not existed and people had been left to fend for themselves. This is the real inspiration which changes lives, and it is the hard work and dedication that goes into projects like this that has the most profound affect upon our country.

Which is why I am eager to see one of the great architects of this project, Yvette Cooper, as the next leader of the Labour Party. Someone who acts and doesn’t just talk, and who sees a problem and gets on and does something about it.

I have known Yvette for many years now, and her work ethic is second to none. She has mountains of experience in so many areas of Government, and she has proven time and again that she has the ideas and the energy to transform parts of our society in ways that will benefit people every single day.

I don’t want a leader or a Prime Minister who is going to stand up, read their lines, and then go away not having a clue what they just said. We have David Cameron for that. I am proud to see the four candidates in this contest speaking from their hearts and standing up for their own beliefs, this should give us confidence for the future.

I want a leader with their feet firmly in the real world, who understands the details and complexities of policies and who can work with people all over our country to help implement the changes that we are crying out for. I want a leader who understands more than just press releases, or political philosophy, I want somebody who knows what it’s like on the ground and what actual people think and feel and want.

For me, the person best placed to achieve this is Yvette. I have never known anyone as capable and yet so grounded in the real world.

I need our next Labour prime minister to be somebody who won’t follow the same old conventions of the past, and isn’t scared to take a stand and be him or herself on the things which matter most to them. I deeply admire the fact Yvette was the first cabinet minister in history to go on maternity leave, providing a phenomenal example to mothers everywhere that having children doesn’t make you somehow expendable, it makes you far more valuable.

I also need a leader who I can trust, who I know will support me, and will never give up the fight when the going gets tough. Someone who has been there and done it, and has learned from our successes and failures. Someone who doesn’t just talk to the already converted, but reaches out and shows everyone a better way really is possible.

Also, I would like our next leader to be a woman. Not just because we haven’t had a full time female leader before, or because it would give David Cameron a real problem, but mostly because I think it would be good for the country. Fresh ideas, a new perspective and a generation of young girls inspired. Knowing what it is like to experience sexism, and knowing the pressures women are put under in the modern world. These are not secondary issues, and with Yvette at the helm, they will not be treated as such.

Yvette is an inspiration in all the ways that really matter. She has genuinely helped people, even if many of them will never even realise it or thank her for it. She has ideas that I think will help transform our society for the better, and best of all, she has it in her power to win the next general election and make sure we aren’t stuck with the Tories for a second longer than we have to be.

Things are not going to be easy, which is why we need hard graft and a return to the values that made our party so great. Let this work act as your inspiration, let the needs of the people be our guide, and let our leader reflect the best of our past and of our future. For that, our party needs somebody like Yvette, and I hope you can join me in supporting her in this contest.

Sharon Hodgson is the shadow minister for children and families and women and equalities

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