Thank you, comrades and friends, brothers and sisters, and welcome.
Firstly, I want to thank you for the warm welcome you’ve extended to me since I was selected as the Labour candidate just a few days ago. It really shows that Labour is a family, that we extend the hand of friendship and solidarity.
And I want to thank Tom Watson for all the help and advice he’s already given me.
Tom is a genuine hero of the Labour movement, brave, fearless and principled, and believe me, I know I have big shoes to fill.
And I know from talking to local residents that although I am a new face on the scene, my values are the same as the people in West Bromwich.
I care about the same things as people round here
– jobs, schools, crime and antisocial behaviour, housing, opportunities for young people, social care, and of course the NHS.
My values are your values.
But there are some here who I haven’t had the chance to meet yet.
So let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I came to the UK as a 14 year old Kurdish refugee from Turkey.
I escaped persecution and violence.
Kurdish people have no national home, we come from Turkey, from Iraq, from Iran and from Syria.
There are Kurdish people in every major UK city.
It is the Kurds who fought ISIS, and who Trump recently threw to the wolves.
If elected, I will be the first-ever Labour MP with a Kurdish heritage.
But I am proud to be British.
Proud of our values, our institutions, our democracy.
When I came to the UK, I joined a trade union.
I joined the Labour Party.
I became a local Labour councillor.
I started a charity to help homeless people.
I believe in the power of public service, that our job is to help each other, that the greatest strength is shown by lifting up the weak.
This is a country where anything can happen.
Where someone who started out waiting on tables and washing dishes, serving food to the rich folk in Mayfair, can even become a Member of Parliament.
I stood as a Labour candidate at the last election – pounding the streets and knocking on doors.
Listening to people, hearing the real concerns and anxieties.
We got a huge swing to Labour, by the way.
That brings me to the election battle ahead.
I know this country is great, but it could be so much greater.
Never has so much been at stake – another five years of Boris Johnson and the Tories,
Or a fresh start with Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour Government.
A Labour government committed to:
– Putting more bobbies on the beat, and investing in policing in every community
– Repairing local schools, hiring more teachers, investing in new books and equipment and computers
– Putting local busses under community control, running the busses for people not for profit
– More opportunities for young people – more youth clubs, sports clubs, apprenticeships and tough action to tackle gangs, anti social behaviour and knife crime,
– A decent system of social care for the growing number of old people, so people are treated with compassion and dignity as they grow older,
– A green new deal, using the engineering skills of the West Midlands to create the next generation of sustainable technology.
– More help for engineering companies, more skilled jobs and apprenticeships, more exports,
– And let’s get the councils building council housing – it creates jobs in construction, it gives people a decent roof over their head, it creates stable, safe communities.
And the NHS – let me say something about the NHS.
As a community leader, I stood up to local drugs gangs.
To silence me, they shot me in the stomach.
It was terrifying.
But what saved my life and got me fighting fit again was the NHS – doctors, nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and yes porters, cleaners, caterers and everyone who makes the NHS the pride of Britain and the marvel of the world.
The NHS saved me, and now I want to save the NHS.
I don’t believe the NHS can survive another five years of the Tories.
The Tories voted against it.
They don’t use it.
They don’t like it.
And they want to sell it off.
And so, friends, let’s unite to save the NHS, and get that radical, reforming Labour Government elected on 12 December.
We can’t do it alone.
We need a people-powered campaign, reaching every part of the constituency, recruiting new members, raising funds, winning the argument, getting out the vote.
I know I’m a new face.
I know I have a name that’s a bit hard to pronounce.
I can’t pretend to have local roots stretching back to the reign of Queen Victoria.
I never saw Laurie Cunningham or Brendan Batson or Cyrille Regis score a goal.
I never saw Jeff Astle score the winning goal in the 1968 FA cup final, although I bet it was quite a moment!
I wasn’t here when you fought off the fascist National Front.
Or when you went out with Tom Watson, in wind, rain or sun, to win election after election.
But know this – I am with you now.
I am on your side.
Fighting for local communities in West Brom.
Speaking up for working people.
Defending trade unionism.
And winning for Labour.