By Gurpreet Brar - 16th October 2009
Emma Reynolds, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Wolverhampton North East, is replacing the retiring veteran MP Ken Purchase.
She told ePolitix.com about the economic and social challenges facing her hometown, the need to restore faith in parliament and her passion for Wolverhampton Wanderers and the Wire.
You were born and raised in Wolverhampton. What are your personal memories of the area?
Wolverhampton is my home. I spent my formative years here – I went to local state schools. I lived away for a few years, worked in Brussels for six years and in London for a couple of years.
I moved back home last year and live in the constituency which I hope to represent.
It is a great privilege to stand for parliament in my hometown and it is an extremely personal objective to represent the area and play my role in tackling some of the real problems, especially in the most deprived communities.
In recent years Wolverhampton and the Black Country have been undergoing a slow but significant transformation. What do you think is the single most important social or economical issue affecting the constituency of Wolverhampton North East, and the wider Black Country region?
If I had to narrow it down to one issue, it would have to be jobs, but schools, the NHS, housing and anti-social behaviour are also major issues for the constituency.
Many thousands of people used to work in manufacturing in the area.
My family and friends worked in big local companies, such as Lucas, British Steel and Goodyear.
These were not only workplaces but whole communities grew up around these companies.
Some of these manufacturing jobs remain, but it is a fraction of the number of people employed during the booming manufacturing years. Jobs have generally gone east, attracted by low wage economies.
I want to make sure that we retain the remaining jobs and bring in more manufacturing jobs to the region.
We also need to look at ways of bringing new employers to the region and to Wolverhampton specifically.
The i54 site (which is literally just down the road from where I live in Pendeford) is currently being developed as a high-tech business park and it will bring thousands of jobs to the area.
To take full advantage of these opportunities, there needs to be training schemes to ensure local people have the skills to take up these new jobs.
Has the recent expenses scandal affected your thinking on the way our system operates?
I want a transparent system that is fair and easily understood. I am standing for Parliament to improve people’s lives in Wolverhampton North East.
The expenses scandal has been very frustrating, especially when people accuse me of wanting to make money because I am a candidate.
Door-knocking during the week of the European elections was particularly difficult. However, it's all the more important to knock doors at a time like this and talk to people face-to-face.
If I am elected as the MP for Wolverhampton North East, I have promised to publish my expenses transparently and regularly.
I hope that we can draw a line under the whole thing and start afresh. We will need time and commitment to rebuild the public’s trust in politicians.
What are the issues that we will see you speak out on if you were to become the MP for Wolverhampton North East?
One of my major priorities is education. The main reason that I am a social democrat and a member of the Labour Party is that I believe that every child regardless of their background should have the very best opportunities at school.
Some schools in the constituency have been vastly improved and others still need work.
Heath Park Business and Enterprise College in our area was the most improved school in the country on the basis of its GCSE results.
The NHS and tackling health inequalities is another issue which is very close to my heart.
There has been massive investment in New Cross Hospital which is in the constituency, including a state-of-the-art Heart and Lung Centre.
A new walk-in GP centre has recently been opened in one of the most deprived areas of the constituency.
I am proud of the Labour Government's achievement in the NHS. I can't believe that David Cameron dares to claim that the Tories are the party of the NHS, they neglected it terribly when they were last in power.
Finally, I think policing has improved markedly under this Labour Government, but there is still a lot to do. We need to maintain the levels of neighbourhood policing while looking at new ways to make areas safe and feel safe for residents and communities.
My final question is about you - tell us a little more about Emma Reynolds.
I am an extremely sporty person. I recently ran the Wolverhampton half marathon to raise money for a local charity, The Haven (a domestic violence refuge in Wolverhampton).
I used to play football for a local team and I was captain of my college team at university. I am a big Wolves fan and am hopeful that we will stay up this season.
I am a keen linguist. I speak French, Spanish and Italian. I love going to the cinema and I am massively addicted to The Wire at the moment.
I also love pubs and I genuinely believe that they have a social value to their communities which goes beyond their economic value.