Oxford West and Abingdon: Sally Copley, Labour Party

Since her time spent as OUSU VP for women in the 1990s, Sally Copley has gone on to work for a number of charities and in a number of campaigns, before the tables turned this spring. “It’s interesting, being lobbied by the people. I’ve always been on the other side of it”. Why the change in place? “I’m running because I’m a normal working mum”, she says proudly, “I want to see more mums in Parliament.”

As a mother living and working in the city, Sally is aware of pressing issues that are affecting the quotidian lives of people here, such as traffic congestion and the current housing crisis. “We’re an incredibly unaffordable city – which every student knows. The average rent here has gone up by an extraordinary amount, and it affects people of all ages and groups. When I meet people canvassing, I hear the personal side of that – people who live in Oxford, whose adult children can’t live here now.”

She tells me that she’s most regularly emailed about two things in particular – tax dodging and the NHS. We don’t dwell long on the former, but Sally has very clear opinions on the health service. “It won’t survive another five years of a Conservative government,” she states in a matter-of-fact manner, before jokingly adding “That’s as far as I’ll go slagging off another party!” Following a serious chat about the issues faced by the service in regards to cuts, Sally sums up how she feels Labour fits into the discussion: “We created the NHS, and we’ll be the ones to save it.”

It’s obvious that Sally is drawing on her previous experience as a campaigner in her approach to politics, and her successes so far – including a minimum wage established for apprentices and a health and pregnancy grant for young mums. “Being an MP, I’d want to be someone who listens to things and takes them on board. I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done. I’d want to continue it, without a question.”

Aside from wider problems such as climate change, Sally is also keen to do more for the immediate, more notably the young people not just in her constituency, but also the country. “I’m really acutely aware that they will leave university with an extraordinary amount of debt.” Labour’s planned drop of tuition fees is no secret, but this doesn’t quite resonate with Sally’s own opinions. “Personally, I would like to see no tuition fees.”

Sally mentions that Labour plan to raise the quality of health and social care, aiming to find the best way to tackle the rise of mental health problems. She turns to her Big Red Binder, a couple hundred page book outlining all the party’s policies. “I remember the stress and the feeling when I was a student here, being anxious all the time. We still have too much stigma around mental health. We need to create a culture where people feel they can talk to each other.”

With the rise of the Milifandom, it’s clear that Labour are appealing to young people. “Ed Miliband gets a lot of flack, but what he’s saying is bang on the money. He’s standing up for the right people”, Sally argues. “I think we’ve got the right offer of everything. The manifesto is costed, so it’s realistic. We’ve got the message about inequality, climate change, living costs, etc.”

Sally is not convinced that tactical voting will work here. “I’ve heard say that a vote for Labour is a vote for Tories; I’ve also heard Tories saying that we’re pushing the Lib Dems into third place. It’s time for a Labour vote to come back here; it’s been leant to the Lib Dems for a while in this constituency, and they haven’t made the best use of it.”