Yvette Cooper led an event in Reading town hall yesterday to listen to ideas that people in have for the future of our country. it's easy to be cynical about this exercise, and I hadn't really known what to expect. But yesterday I walked into a room full of people: a few councillors and Labour party members around the room but a real range of people, far more than I had expected turned up at late notice on a Thursday lunch time. Some of them were sympathetic to labour, and at least one person I spoke to was planning to join the party as a result of the meeting others were more guarded.
What everyone shared was a real enthusiasm to discuss the 'big picture'. Our table talked about issues that you just wouldn't normally even raise with strangers. We spent most time on education and the balance between fitting people for the jobs they will go into and at the same time give people a rounded education. We also raised the really important impact of early years, and how to give the best start. We had a dilemma about what the best way forward for sure start is given the reckless cuts. I had a good chat afterwards with James (sorry didn't catch your last name!) about how to ensure that it benefits the children who need it most, without excluding other parents, who will also benefit it. I think we synthesised our views that it should be open to all but that the outreach and focus should be to encourage disadvantaged families to take the benefit.
We also discussed immigration briefly and a really interesting point came out that it's not so much immigration that people are worried about but living standards and wages.
All in all it was a great exercise and more than just an opportunity to see Yvette Cooper, (although in my view she is one of the county's best politicians and a nice person too!). I'll certainly be taking away some ideas from it!
The Post showed this interview: