Life in Politics column by Richard Burgon MP: Rio’s positive campaign was truly inspiring

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A little while back, in my constituency office in Seacroft I met nine-year Rio, who goes to Grange Farm School, and his mum and dad.

Rio had come to see me to tell me all about his campaign to be elected as Leeds Children’s Mayor. His campaign was based upon an anti-racism message, with the slogan “Stop. Think. Racism Stinks”.

Meeting Rio made a big impression on me. His ideas and his positive campaign were truly inspiring. Given this, I was absolutely delighted that when all the votes of young people in Leeds were counted, Rio topped the poll! He was sworn in as Leeds Children’s Mayor at a ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall the other week. Rio is a credit to himself, his family, his school and our community. I’m sure he’ll do great things in his new role.

Rio’s campaign is an inspiring example of how much courage and energy there is amongst young people in our community to take on important and often difficult issues.

As someone who believes in ‘life-long learning’ I think that just as the younger generations can learn important lessons from those of us who are a bit older, we can also learn important lessons from them in our ever-changing world!

As I write this, Parliament is about to return after conference season. The last few weeks have been busy and eventful. I was away from Leeds for the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool and I’ve never been to a bigger and busier Labour Party Conference. I had to give some 20 speeches at Labour Party Conference and whilst people think that all politicians like the sound of their own voice, even I was a bit sick of hearing myself speak after all that!

But it was good to talk about serious issues in my role as Shadow Secretary of State for Justice – for example, the need to ensure we have a probation service which isn’t about profits but is about keeping communities safe and turning lives around, my arguments for expanding legal aid so that people can defend their hard won legal rights and my case for supporting Law Centres as a force for good on behalf of working class communities in all their diversity.

I also put forward a five point plan that the Government should adopt if they want to end the chaos they’ve caused in our prison system, where prison officers are in fear of their lives. Back home in east Leeds after the conference, I’ve been holding my ever busy advice sessions for local residents and have been out and about across east Leeds delivering copies of my latest newsletter. And the other day it was great to introduce Jeremy Corbyn at an ‘In Conversation’ event he did for politics students at Leeds University.

The life of a Shadow Cabinet member is always varied and never dull.

But, as I set off to go down to Parliament, as ever, I can’t wait to get back home to Leeds!

Richard Burgon is the Labour MP for Leeds East.