I first got involved in politics, when still at school, campaigning against apartheid in South Africa – and challenging inequality has been at the heart of my priorities ever since. A person’s circumstances at birth shouldn’t determine their life chances, yet sadly in Britain this is still the case. Many of the challenges I make to the Government in Parliament are to press for everyone to have a fair chance and to make our country more equal.
Wealth inequality is not only bad for those with less, it’s bad for everyone - stifling social mobility and undermining community cohesion. Over a generation, an increasing share of the national income has shifted from wages to profits, and from profits to shareholders’ dividends. I have consistently raised the threat inequality poses to our society as you can see here. You can also read more about my work challenging income inequality here.
Women are still not valued equally in our society, and many of the issues I take up in Parliament are on policies that hit women disproportionately. From challenging the undervalued status of the work women do, to urging the Government to reverse welfare changes that hit women hardest, and participating in an inquiry into Women in the Workplace as a member of the BIS Select Committee, I use every opportunity to press gender equality.
I’ve worked with local women’s groups since my election in 2010 and hold an annual consultation with women, as part of my Big Conversation. I’ve pressed the issues raised with me in Parliament – for example on women’s refuges and urging the Government to do more to improve the representation of women in the media. In 2011, I launched an annual event to mark International Women’s Day, with Unite the Union and the University of Sheffield Student's Union Women’s Committee, and together we’ve raised thousands of pounds for women’s charities.
I’m pleased to represent an ethnically diverse constituency, and support the work of One Sheffield Many Cultures to promote our multi-cultural city and challenge those who promote division. I’ve spoken out in Parliament against growing hostility to the Muslim community and challenged legislation that may lead to discrimination – for example for tenants or by extending stop and search powers. I’ve also challenged decisions that will undermine effective integration, like the withdrawal of funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Throughout the last Parliament I led action against Government policies on international students and, as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, have taken up other issues affecting our BME communities - like the limits on spousal visas.
We have seen great progress on LGBT rights in recent years, though there is still a way to go. I was delighted to attend one of the first same sex weddings in the country, which took place in Sheffield Town Hall, after voting for equal marriage. I have spoken out in Parliament against the appalling harassment and abuse experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in indefinite immigration detention and have asked the Government if it plans to acknowledge and compensate individuals harmed by the former ban on gay people serving in the armed forces. I have also pushed Education Ministers to include LGBT issues in sex and relationship education in schools.
The Government should be helping people with disabilities to play the fullest part in society they can. But too often, it is putting barriers in their way. I have previously challenged the Government about unacceptable cuts to the Disabled Student’s Allowance, questioned Ministers on the devastating effects of the Bedroom Tax and have urged David Cameron not to make further cuts to benefits for the sick and disabled people. You can read an article I wrote on why the Government is letting down disabled people here.
The Government has made it increasingly hard for people to enforce their right to be treated equally and I have challenged them on this in Parliament. Proposals to scrap our human rights laws, the introduction of employment tribunal fees before people can enforce non-discrimination protection, and the decimation of legal aid all mean we risk not practising what we preach on equality. I will continue to press the Government to ensure we do not.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.