Jess Phillips: ‘I Want Everyone In The Country To Know They Have The Power To Change The Law’

Labour MP Jess Phillips, known for her tenacity and unflinching speeches, speaks to Grazia.

Jess Phillips

by As told to Zoe Beaty |
Updated on

We live in interesting times – difficult times, frightening times – but also in a time when people have far more power than they realise. What’s going on in Westminster right now is an attempt to shut down voices that aren’t considered important enough by the Government. As a result, there’s a considerable amount of inequality in politics; people feel disempowered to speak up when things are wrong.I want to change that.

A lot of politicians are using what they presume are the views of select groups for their own agenda, without even speaking to them. For instance, the white working class in the Midlands and North: as someone who gets into bed every night with a white working-class man from the Midlands, I can confirm that Boris Johnson isn’t speaking for him, Nigel Farage isn’t speaking for him, and yet ‘his’ voice is constantly being used as a tool for personal political gain. It’s wrong.

Then again it has been fascinating to watch Boris being challenged by the very people he claims to speak for. I know how it feels to stand up to him – I often have to. Don’t get me wrong, realistically I don’t think I’m going to change Boris’s mind, though it is often a terrible relief to deliver a furious speech. It feels liberating because I’m giving a voice to the experiences of the people I meet every single day. It makes people feel stronger to know they have been heard.

The Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party understand the specific challenges women MPs face, and how if misogyny is given a tool, it will be used. In some areas, deselection efforts have targeted only the female MPs. In my own seat I have never felt my sex was an issue, but for others it has been a long history of misogny. The party must aim to tackle this, by listening to us when we say we are suffering from sexism.

When a politician knocks on your door, tell them what you think. Explain your issue, ask them their opinion and ask them what they are going to do about it. They are there to work for you. Challenge them. MPs are very worried about what you think.

Now we’re finally back in Parliament, my priority is restarting and rebooting the Domestic Abuse Bill. We’ll be trying to change some of the laws about sexual harassment at work, too, and dealing with the fallout from the devastating education cuts.

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