I’ve had thousands of conversations with people right across the West of England and recognise from my own life, the fears and uncertainties they face over finding good quality, affordable housing and stable jobs. These worries have only grown worse from coronavirus and Brexit.
I grew up in emergency council housing in a poor mining village in South Wales, the son of a school dinner lady and of a council road worker who passed away when I was only thirteen. I was in receipt of free school meals and was one of only a few from my year group to make it to university.
My upbringing not only made me determined to improve my own life, but to help those also being held back by an unfair system that does not provide everyone with an equal opportunity to succeed.
After graduating from Bristol university, I decided to stay in the area and make it my home. Living and working in each part of the West of England gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of the differences between the lives of those in inner-city Bristol and those in the Somer Valley. But it also showed me what unites us and makes us unique. We are a region immensely proud of the world-leading innovative and creative industries in Bristol and Bath, and of the outstanding natural beauty and traditions of our rural villages in areas like the Chew Valley and the Cotswolds.
I’ve spent most of my adult life championing the West of England as a campaigner, local councillor and MP. I’m used to challenging the Tories on a daily basis and getting things done as a former housing minister. I have a clear vision of how to guide the West forwards as we seek to recover from Brexit, coronavirus and the climate crisis.