Politics is nothing without ambition and you’d be forgiven for forgetting that elected officials are public servants; they are supposed to carry out the will of the people primarily and nurse their personal leadership ambitions in their own time. A lot of conversation surrounding British politics is about an understanding of ‘the people’. Every party, whether they mean it or believe it, centres their manifesto in building ‘for the people’, creating jobs and homes ‘for the people’, protecting ‘the people’. The reality is that the British people continue to be frustrated by a multitude of issues, and the only one that is taking centre stage is Brexit.
Between the Grenfell tragedy, Windrush deportations and collective Brexit fatigue, politicians seem more out of touch than ever before. So, what does it look like when you put an average working-class person in power?
Eleanor Smith is that person. In 2017, she became the MP for Wolverhampton in a win that increased Labour’s majority in the area. Up until her win, she had a 40-year career as an NHS nurse and later, a union leader. There’s a sense of poetic justice in her win; raised in Birmingham by Bajan immigrant parents, Eleanor was only ten years old when Enoch Powell delivered his famous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in her home town. Fifty years on, she now occupies the seat he once held and infamously lost. Yet, it is important to not reduce Eleanor’s story to singular narrative of the black woman who took Enoch Powell’s seat.