Continuing our conversations with UNISON members standing for Parliament, we spoke to Thangam Debbonaire, campaigning for re-election in Bristol West.
Facing a potential four-way fight, Bristol West is hotly contested at this election. Covering some of Bristol’s most beautiful terraces and parks, the constituency is also famous for its counter-cultural Stokes Croft area. However, some neighbourhoods are among the city’s poorest with cuts to public services creating real social problems.
Why are you running for Parliament?
Because I want to continue the work I have started, to help, champion, stand up for, serve and represent the people of Bristol West nationally and locally. It’s a huge honour to represent a constituency with such progressive values, widespread beliefs in the value of sharing resources and knowledge for the benefit of people and planet, and one with such diversity, which champions hope over hate. These progressive values, the values I hear from people in Bristol West all the time, are Labour values, they are my values, and I believe that Bristol West is well-represented by a progressive Member of Parliament.
What did I learn from being in UNISON?
I have learnt that trade unions can help give women’s experiences in the workplace visibility and that our trade union values women’s representation at every level of Unison. I have valued the friendship and support I have within Unison.
What would you say to public sector workers voting in this election?
I say that voting Labour is voting for the party which helped to create public services and which always values the service public sector workers give. A Labour government would end the public sector pay freeze which has been hurting women in particular and public sector workers in general for years now. Labour would reverse the damaging cuts to funding for our schools, prisons, local government, health and other public services.
What do you think the key public service issues are in your constituency?
I know from my contact with them as Bristol West MP that our schools, prison, hospitals, mental health services and local government have all been systematically stretched and stretched with funding cuts, increases in costs and reorganisations. Nobody voted for us to have queues of trolleys in corridors, people unable to be discharged from hospital because of lack of social care at home, children in classes of over 30, prisons struggling to manage. Pay freezes have caused real hardship amongst public sector workers in Bristol West. I believe our public sector workers and the public deserve better.
What issues do you particularly care about in politics/your constituency?
Bristol West priorities are housing/homelessness, the UK’s future relationship with the EU, climate change and support for public services and these are my priorities. I have a background in the arts and also in gender equality work and have continued to prioritise these in my work as an MP. Two other priorities are changing the public understanding of and political treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and making Bristol an autism-friendly city.