The night of Thursday, May 7, and the morning after, will live long in my memory. I was both delighted and humbled to be returned to Westminster to represent West Ham, increasing my vote and share of the vote, but I was absolutely devastated by the nationwide result.
For the Labour Party, the next weeks and months are a time of reflection. I am clear, though, that our utmost priority as a party should be to continue the fight for social justice.
We have an immediate responsibility, even before we elect a new leadership, to hold this government to account. The scale and cynical ambition of the ruthless changes disclosed in the Conservative manifesto are colossal.
In the short-term, the Tories plan on cutting £12billion more from the welfare budget. They would not say, during their election campaign, where these cuts would fall, but we’ll be told soon enough.
They are bound to impact negatively on our communities in Newham.
We already know they plan to freeze working-age benefits for two years, from next April, thus disqualifying most 18 to 21-year-olds from claiming housing benefit, and reducing the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per year. This will cause severe problems in Newham, where housing costs are so high and many are paid minimum wage on zero-hours contracts. These cuts will find the Tories only £1.5billion a year: just the tip of their iceberg.
What sharper evidence of the contempt in which Tories hold working Londoners than “Four-Jobs-Boris” joking that his Cabinet appointment was a ”zero-hours contract”? Disgraceful.
It demonstrates once again that they have no idea how hard it is for so many people to get by.
The next five years will be really tough but I promise I will fight for West Ham and fight this Tory government every step of the way.