Most people want a fair crack of the whip and opportunities to succeed

09 Jul 2019

I was born to a Labour family in 1961. My father was a printer by trade and my mother started work when I was a teenager, eventually moving on to a job as a receptionist in the NHS.

For my parents, working class pride was not about enjoying poverty and wearing it as badge of honour. It was about self-respect and believing that we could do better, that there was nothing wrong in getting on in life.

In 1966, when many other five year olds rooted for England in the World Cup, I had my first experience of political identity, when my mother told me there was a different competition going on and that we supported a man called Harold Wilson. My family believed Labour represented their interests and their values at Westminster. Underpinning that belief was a sense that Labour would help those who faced discrimination and barriers when it came to bringing out the best in themselves.

Let me tell a brief personal story to illustrate the point. I went to a village primary and was recommended by my teachers for the top stream at our newly formed local comp. It was 1972.

Imagine, then, my parents’ dismay when I was placed in the secondary stream. My mother was encouraged to complain to the headteacher, who could not deny that decisions on the limited places available in the top tier had been based partly on where we came from. We lived in a council house.

After one term at my new school I was advanced to the A stream, but unfortunately the damage was done. I doubted my academic ability and it hindered progress. It was only when I became an adult that I started to believe in myself and at 29, graduated from Nottingham University with a good first degree.

“Nobody should be judged by where they come from”

That process was long and difficult and entrenched my belief that nobody, nobody should be judged by where they come from. Nobody should have to work two, three, four times as hard to develop his or her talents and abilities.

We all have something to offer, whoever we are.

We all have something to offer, whoever we are”

Most people are like my family. They do not want to be patronised by left wing intellectuals who think that being poor and working class constitutes a state of grace. What they do want is a fair crack of the whip and opportunities to succeed.

They also believe that everyone in our country bears a responsibility to make a contribution towards keeping our society safe and prosperous.

But these values are no longer valid in today’s Labour Party and that’s why I have made the very painful decision to resign my membership and become an independent MP.

This is an excerpt from Angela Smith’s speech on becoming an independent, 18 February 2019.