Labour's new Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan: '˜I will champion the people of this city'

HIS victory was seen not just as an unexpected surprise to the city, but to the man himself '“ and now Portsmouth South's first Labour MP has vowed to champion those '˜who have been left behind'.

Friday, 16th June 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 3:21 pm
Labour's Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan speaks in London. Picture: Loughlan Campbell

The 36-year-old has enjoyed a seismic rise in politics having only been elected as a city councillor last May.

He now rubs shoulders with Jeremy Corbyn as part of a rejuvenated Labour party which is keen to challenge the Conservatives with stronger party numbers.

For Mr Morgan, his marginal victory over one-time MP and Conservative candidate Flick Drummond last Thursday night took a while to sink in.

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He told The News: ‘I have barely slept. It has been a dream of mine to be an MP ever since I joined the party at the age of 16.

‘It all feels surreal at the moment.’

The fresh face at Westminster is not looking to rest on his laurels and is instead looking to swiftly tackle issues in the city, notably to ‘champion’ schools, address bed blocking at Cosham’s Queen Alexandra Hospital and cut down on the number of rough sleepers.

Outlining his vision for the city, Mr Morgan said: ‘My priority is to put the people of Portsmouth first as a strong and authentic voice.

‘I think people feel they have been let down by MPs in the past and I want to make sure that they always come first and champion them in parliament.

‘I want to be transparent and open with people as well as listening to those that have their concerns and inspiring them to achieve.

‘In regards to the NHS, it is time that we integrated health services with adult social care. It is also time that we reward our doctors and nurses by ending the pay freeze on our NHS staff.

‘I plan to visit units and health providers to listen to doctors and health professionals to find out what they need and provide them with support to help ensure a better future.’

He expressed hope for a coordinated approach to assist the city’s rough sleepers, admitting that the number of homeless people on Portsmouth’s streets had doubled in recent years.

Mr Morgan said: ‘It is a huge concern to me.

‘I believe the council can do more to help rough sleepers. These people have complex needs and more must be done to support them. But to eradicate homelessness we need a coordinated approach between councils and charities to tackle this issue.

‘We desperately need more council houses which I feel would make a big difference in terms of giving these people a place to stay.’

He also pointed to the city’s transport network, labelling it a ‘travesty’ that it can take as long as an hour and a half to get to London.

The newly-elected MP has commuted to London for nearly seven years while he worked in the city and says better transport links are ‘crucial’ to the city’s development.

Labour proposed to re-nationalise the railways in an attempt to bring forward improvements to the country’s rail network.

‘We need to be creative with how we boost transport links and I am keen to sit down with the new franchise owners as I cannot do it on my own,’ he said.

‘We need to think about the number of stops and carriages on the trains. By looking back at the drawing board, hopefully we can find a solution.’

Mr Morgan was picked as the Labour candidate for the seat two weeks after Mrs Drummond and fellow competitor Liberal Democrat candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson started campaigning.

His victory sparked scenes of euphoria from party supporters who felt particularly vindicated after Labour had been written off for the seat by his competitors, given its historical zigzagging between the Liberals and the Tories.

Labour boosted their 2015 total by 21.5 per cent, winning the seat by more than 1,500 votes and gaining more than 10,000 votes more than city council Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Vernon-Jackson.

Reflecting on his campaign and victory, Mr Morgan was quick to praise a team effort for securing the coveted seat.

He said: ‘Our campaign was all about bringing people together. It was about policy and not personality and it was really exciting hearing the responses we were getting on the doorstep.

‘It was also an entirely grass roots campaign as we did not receive any funding from the national party so my team was made up of friends, family and party members.

‘I am incredibly proud of the team and what we achieved. I got so sick of hearing the Lib Dems saying that we could never win here but the result showed just what you can do if you put your mind to it.’

The politician also expressed his support for Mr Corbyn after doubts had been expressed about whether Mr Morgan was behind the party leader, following the publication of his name on a list of over 600 councillors calling for Labour’s senior party figure to stand down last June.

He said: ‘Jeremy has got my full backing. He has really united the party and we have got some really good policies in our manifesto that we would look to bring forward if in government.

‘I have spoken to him over the last few days and I hope he will come down to Portsmouth and show his support in the future.’

In addition to his role as an MP, Mr Morgan also plans to continue to serve the people of Charles Dickens in his capacity as a city councillor.

He added: ‘I will stay on as a councillor as well as an MP. Charles Dickens is such a unique part of the city. Around 40 per cent of children in the ward live in poverty and I will continue in my role as councillor to look to help residents in any way I can.’

However, he handed in his immediate notice on Monday regarding his role as chief executive of Basingstoke Voluntary Action.

So, will he also look to support the proposed £900m Solent Combined Authority deal to bring further devolved powers to the city council?

‘I am supportive of this deal’, he says.

‘We need to make sure we get investment in Portsmouth and this deal is crucial to boosting the city’s economy and I want to work with others to secure the very best for the city.’

Despite being in parliament for less than a week, Mr Morgan is looking at bringing improvements to the city off the bat.

He pinpointed a policy in Portsmouth where adults with disabilities are unable to use their bus pass until 9.30am in the morning during the week.

Mr Morgan said: ‘I am looking into what I can do in order to resolve this. Other UK cities do not have this policy and by changing this, we can improve employment prospects for those with disabilities who are looking to find work.’

His father, Trevor Morgan, expressed his pride in his son’s election.

He said: ‘It has been so surreal for the last couple of days. Stephen was underestimated as a lot of people thought the Tories would get straight in but he has proved them wrong.

‘He was always interested in politics as a young boy and has been aware of issues in the city for the last 20 years.’

The MP’s parents helped run Fratton Community Centre when he was growing up, so as a teenager, local issues were on his doorstep.

His dad added: ‘Stephen has got Portsmouth running through his veins and I am sure he will fight hard for the city as its MP.

‘He fought a dedicated and positive campaign, always putting people at the centre of what he was talking to people about on the doorstop.

‘He also truly cares for people and I believe he will fight his corner when it comes to debates in order to help provide investment for the city.’

The MP’s dad was one of the first to know that his son had won the seat on that fateful night at the Guildhall when the council’s returning officer gathered the candidates around to tell them the result before the declaration.

He stood around the huddle with his son before wheeling around to punch the air in delight, sparking cheers and celebrations from the Labour supporters.

The proud parent added: ‘It was an emotional night for us and for Portsmouth Labour.

‘To us, it really marked a historic moment as we also did very well in the north of the city.

‘Only now is it truly beginning to settle in. For days afterwards, we kept pinching ourselves waiting to wake up, but it is real and we could not be more proud.’

Mr Morgan, who is already busily getting to grips with parliament, was born in Fratton in 1981.

He attended Priory School, in Southsea, and Portsmouth College, in Baffins, before going on to study politics and sociology at the University of Bristol.

Mr Morgan completed his master’s degree in politics at Goldsmiths in London.

After spending time working at various departments at Portsmouth City Council, he has for seven years commuted to London to work as the head of community engagement at Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council.

He worked at Basingstoke Voluntary Action in 2015, commuting from his Southsea home via the train.