The Vocal Local: The right politics can help improve lives

After his historic win in the 2 May by-election, Chris Webb reflects on his first week as MP for Blackpool South

Westminster feels a long way from Blackpool South, where voters overwhelmingly supported my bid to become their next MP on 2 May. As a new dad I’ve been no stranger to unsociable hours in recent months, but it was a truly surreal moment when, at 5.30am last Friday, I realised the extent to which Blackpool South constituents had put their faith in me. The fact that every single polling district came out in support of me still feels like a dream and I am beyond grateful to have been given this opportunity to create real change in the town.

Later that day, in between giving interviews and welcoming Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner to Blackpool South for the first time as MP, I set to work on the logistics of setting up my Blackpool office so I can hit the ground running in serving my constituents. Then it was time to start making arrangements to travel to London with my family where I would officially take my seat in Parliament.

The irony wasn’t lost on me that my first official appointment in the capital came on the same day that three days of rolling train strikes began. Train drivers, who my new job will heavily depend on, are rightly fighting for a fair pay offer. Many have gone up to five years without a pay rise during some of the most challenging years working people in our country have faced.

Labour’s vision to bring passenger rail services back into public ownership within the next five years is one that is entirely necessary – and not just for me! It is vital that Blackpool has a reliable rail service – it is the gateway to tourism, to jobs and to travel. Without it our town risks being forgotten about at the end of the line.

I am acutely aware of how far removed the Westminster bubble is from our lives as Blackpool residents.

Westminster is not just far from Blackpool in practical terms either. Culturally it is a million miles away. It was an extremely proud moment for me – one of a few this year along with the birth of my son and the election win – when I was sworn into the House of Commons on Tuesday with my family in the gallery watching. But I am acutely aware of how far removed the Westminster bubble is from our lives as Blackpool residents.

I have big ambitions for my first 100 days in office, during which I am setting out to effect real change in my three priority areas of crime and policing, job opportunities and the cost of living.

While places like Surrey have over 400 additional police officers than in 2010, in Lancashire we have 100 fewer than we did before the Conservatives took office, as well a 43% reduction in neighbourhood police, and Blackpool has the highest levels of crime in Lancashire. Well-paid jobs are few and far between in our coastal town and I am already working on my plan to host a local jobs fair to connect employers with residents looking for work. I will also continue my work with volunteers and community groups, using their skills and knowledge to help tackle the devastating impact of the Conservatives’ cost of living crisis on Blackpool residents. And I will do all this while holding Rishi Sunak’s government to account.

People in Blackpool South sent a clear message to the government on 2 May. We want change. Now it is time for the prime minister to call a general election and give the rest of the country the same opportunity Blackpool South had to choose Labour – the only party that offers real hope for towns like ours.

For as long as the people of Blackpool South continue to put their trust in me to represent them – and I hope it’s for many years to come – I will continue to travel between Blackpool and Westminster, carrying with me the real and important concerns of my constituents (as well as the baby equipment – who know a tiny person would require so much stuff?) and attempting to bridge the gap between these two worlds.

I am determined that by the time a general election is called I can convince those people who didn’t vote that the right politics can help improve their lives.

I am aware that there are still people in Blackpool South whose trust I need to earn. While the by-election result was historic in terms of the swing to Labour and the clear mandate I was handed from all polling districts, voter turnout was low. While this is normal to some extent in a by-election, and in Blackpool due to our transient population, a combination of factors including new rules on needing voter ID and an overall disaffection with politics also impacted numbers at the polls.

I am determined that by the time a general election is called I can convince those people who didn’t vote that the right politics can help improve their lives. I will work hard for them and listen to all their concerns. I will do this with gratitude for the opportunity I’ve been given and with the integrity that politics in Blackpool has so sorely been lacking in recent years.

My campaign to become MP was tough at times and I am aware that my critics have accused me of being a career politician due to my previous work in political roles. Others suggested my campaign was about little more than the fact I am born and bred in Blackpool. But behind these two points is the key to why I believe I am the best person for this job. I have had the vital experience needed to prepare me for political office and I have a genuine understanding of the town I now, in part, represent. Now, with the campaign behind me, the real challenge begins and I have never felt more ready to make a real difference in the place I am proud to call home.

I’m back home in Blackpool now – ready to hear from you on my new parliamentary email address. A week after the by-election, on Friday I held my first surgery. I will be announcing details of future surgeries on my social media. Please follow me for updates on where I will be and when over the coming weeks as I look forward to meeting and speaking to as many of you as possible.

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