I learned to speak up for myself at an early age. Being dyslexic and dyspraxic was a challenge that I had to overcome, but that experience has helped me appreciate that life can be tough and that everyone can need a hand from time to time. The process of overcoming my own challenges has helped me find my own voice and bolster my confidence in speaking up. In learning how practical change can be brought about for myself, it’s perhaps no surprise that I’ve become interested in helping others through my politics and through my activity in the Church.

It’s a privilege to live in Belper, Derbyshire. Sitting in the centre of a UNESCO World site, it’s a great place to live – but its potential has been suppressed by the Tories for too long. In 2019, Labour won the Town Council, and after 20 years of Tory inaction, began to deliver an ambitious manifesto. In just a few years, the Labour-run Town Council has declared a climate emergency, helped to begin the regeneration of much-loved tea rooms in our River Gardens, opened up parking in the centre of the town, and contributed to new play equipment in the town. It’s bread and butter politics: but while people know that Labour has delivered, elections remain hard-fought.

Belper itself is classic Tory-Labour swing territory. Like many other areas, we suffered knock-backs in May, but a town council by-election in July offered us an opportunity to bounce back. Having stood previously as Labour & Co-operative candidate in May, it was a natural decision to stand again as a co-operator, emphasising my commitment to working with the community to deliver change and provide a voice for young people in the town. Supported by many people from across the Labour and Co-operative movements in Derbyshire – both during the campaign and on election day – we retained the seat and beat the Tories in a seat which they won in May’s Borough elections.

Is there anything that we can learn from the Belper Central election? As I type, we face yet another by-election in Belper. We know we haven’t stumbled across a magic formula to winning elections – to a large extent it’s reinforced what I think we already knew. Door-knocking is important, and of course we were unable to do very much of that during much of the last 18 months. Put simply, door-knocking helps get our co-operative message across, and the more that we share those messages, the more effective it is. With people coming to help from as far away as High Peak and South Derbyshire, I was supported by many which undoubtedly made a difference (thank you to everyone!). Similarly, we’ve begun to appreciate the impact of Facebook; a very modest advertising spend helped raise my profile considerably. But perhaps most of all, it’s about having the courage to stand and use your voice, even in the face of difficult odds. I’m proud that I did, and stuck by how quickly things can change in politics for the better.