Interview with Jo Stevens: Labour candidate for Cardiff Central

Jo Stevens (Source: Twitter)

By Hannah Woodward

Why do you think you best represent Cardiff Central?

I’m appealing to voters in Cardiff Central. I’ve been very proud to represent a University constituency, we’ve got three Universities in Cardiff Central, and I’ve made putting students first my top priority. Speaking out on student’s behalf in relation to tuition fees, maintenance grants, student loans, I’ve amerced myself in student causes. I’m Vice Chair of the ‘ All Party Parliamentary Group’ on students, where I spend a lot of my time making sure students are effectively represented and have a strong voice in parliament. For me it will be a real privilege to be re-elected to be able to continue that work for the student population in Cardiff Central.

Why do you think non-students should vote for you?

When I stood in 2015 I promised to be a strong voice for the constituency. I promised to be independently minded and to work hard on behalf of my constituency by making myself accessible and effective. Over the past two years I have helped nearly 6,000 constituents with issues and concerns and by holding 250 surgeries I have made it my mission to make sure if people need help and a solution. I’ve stood up for voters here, listened to what they are concerned about and acted accordingly. The vote for air strikes in Syria, where I consulted the residents here on what they thought. I didn’t want to back air strikes, and neither did they overwhelmingly and that’s how I voted. On the Brexit matter, I resigned from the Shadow Cabinet, in order to be able to speak out against the triggering of Article 50 and I voted against the triggering of Article 50 because I felt that the case hadn’t properly been made by the Prime Minister, about being ready to trigger Article 50, as Cardiff Central is a constituency that voted by 70% to remain in the EU.

With Jeremy Corbyn being extremely popular with students, and with your resignation from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. How do you best represent those who are voting for Corbyn?

I didn’t resign from the Shadow Cabinet as an anti Jeremy Corbyn thing, I resigned on principle. This was about a collective decision that was made by the Shadow Cabinet that they would whip Labour MP’s to vote to trigger Article 50. My own view was that we should have a free vote on that, but as part of a collective body once we had the discussion and, as I was unsuccessful in my argument to try and persuade all my colleagues that we should have a free vote, then I couldn’t in all honesty stay in a Shadow Cabinet if I was not going to do what that Shadow Cabinet had collectively decided. It served as Jeremy’s Shadow Justice Minister and Shadow Solicitor General all through the period where there were resignations from the front bench because I feel I’ve got a duty to both my constituents and to the Labour party, whoever is leading it.

How do you envisage Wales outside the EU?

I worry about it. Out of all the home nations we have the most to lose. Nearly 70% of our exports in Wales go to the EU, if we end up with a bad deal on Brexit or no deal at all which would be even worse then we will suffer. Students will suffer, industry will suffer, jobs will go, there are large sectors of our economy like agriculture and the manufacturing base that we have left, if we don’t have tariff free access to the single market, then those jobs are at risk.

The Liberal Democrats are offering up a second referendum to ensure that the public vote on the best Brexit deal, how can the Labour party best serve the public in terms of Brexit?

Our position in the Labour party is that we have six tests that have to be satisfied before Labour will consider supporting any leaving deal. Included amongst those are things that should have already been done by the Government, so things like giving EU nationals immediate legal right to stay, tariff free access. Ensuring that the ERASMUS scheme continues, and in my work as a Vice Chair of the Student All Party Group in parliament, I listened to students about how it will affect them. I spoke to a young girl from Holland studying Medicine at Cardiff University, she doesn’t know if at the end of her degree if she will be able to stay in the UK, and all our workforce planning for the NHS is predicated on existing medical student numbers – so we have already taken them into account in terms of how we are going to staff the NHS in the future. Yet we have no idea under the current government whether or not those students will be allowed to stay.