getting to know Richard Burgon - unionstogether

getting to know Richard Burgon

unionstogether are getting to know some of our new 2015 Labour MPs with a series of quick fire interview.

Richard Burgon is MP for Leeds East and Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury (City Minister)


Role in Parliament: Member of Parliament of Leeds East & Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury (City Minister).

How would you summarise your role in one sentence or less: To speak up, fight for and stand alongside the most important people in our society: the vast majority whose interests are held back and harmed, economically and politically, by the current way of doing things. 

Who is your favourite MP in Parliament (now or throughout history): Dennis Skinner.

What did you do before becoming an MP: I was a trade union lawyer for 10 years back home in Leeds, working in the Employment Rights Unit at Thompsons Solicitors. I represented members from a wide range of trade unions in Employment Tribunal cases relating to - for example - unfair dismissal, detriment on trade union grounds, disability discrimination, sex discrimination, discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, unlawful deduction of wages and TUPE.  

After a long day in Parliament what is the first thing you like to do when you get home: When I get in on a night in London the first thing I like to do is listen to music - usually metal - but late night voting in Parliament means by the time I get in I can’t blast it out as I’d like!

What’s your most and least favourite part of being out on the #labourdoorstep: I enjoy being out and about with volunteers and talking with - and listening to - people, who often seem surprised that an MP is knocking on the door. My least favourite part is hearing people tell me they don't vote, when I know that will be music to the ears of Conservative politicians who are hurting them and our communities.

When you heard that you had won in May what was your first thought: People in my area have yet again done themselves proud - they've still never ever fallen for Conservative or UKIP lies! I also was acutely conscious of the fact that I'd been on my feet for 24 hours! 

 Who was the first person you wanted to tell: To be honest, everyone who wanted to know the result had found out for themselves or would do shortly after waking up! It was about 6.30am and light outside by the time the result was announced.

Have you ever held a position in a union: I was an active union member and very vocal in my union meetings in my workplace, but didn't have a post.

What was the most rewarding part:  Seeing other people speak up who I didn't expect to. The role trade unions play in empowering people and giving people the confidence to speak up is life-changing for so many and truly inspirational.

What is your favourite TV show: The X-Files. And my favourite character is The Cigarette Smoking Man! The new series this year was a disappointment though. It revealed too much. I also love Peep Show for its cringe-factor! 

What is your favourite Colour: Politically? Red. Otherwise, black - it's the colour of metal, the music I love most!

What is your favourite Food: Fish jalfrezi at my local curry house in Leeds. Or fish and chips anywhere in the north. I don't know why fish and chips tastes so much better in the north - but it seems to!

What’s your next campaign going to be about: Right now in Leeds I'm currently campaigning to save a council-run dementia care home in my constituency. In Westminster, in my Treasury role, I’m particularly concerned about financial inclusion and the continued problems people face accessing fair finance.

What was the main reason you wanted to become a Labour MP: I wanted to contribute 24/7 to the fight for a better society.

What has been the strangest thing to get used to since you were elected: Having to split my life between home and Westminster.

Have you come across any weird parliamentary rules that you didn’t know before and if so what were they: Yes! The fact that even on a blazing hot day, in Committee you need to formally ask the Chair for permission to take off your jacket. And I've seen a Chair refuse this request! On the subject of Parliamentary protocols and traditions,  I do think we should move Parliament into a modern building. I think the grandiose surroundings contribute to some MPs having an unhealthily high self-regard and thinking that 'politics' is a rarefied pursuit that's for them rather than for the public as a whole. The Palace of Westminster would make a fabulous museum of our journey towards a form of democracy.

What would you say to TU activists who were thinking about joining the Labour Party: Do it! Don't leave it to others. Your Labour Party needs you!

If you were PM for the day what law would you introduce: I would end the privatisation of our public services. 

Who or what is your main political inspiration: The people I represent. And the fighting spirit shown by working-class people in struggles such as the 1984/5 miners' strike, the 2009 Leeds bin strike and the spirit of internationalist campaigns which show that a better world truly is possible.  

Anything else you'd like our readers to know: 'Politics' isn't something you should leave to other people. The real change we need won't be delivered by the famous or the 'great and the good'. We can't let deference hold us back. It's up to all of us to get stuck in.

Twitter: @RichardBurgon



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