Five Minutes With… Jess Phillips MP

Resource type: Podcast

In this episode of Five Minutes With…, we speak to Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, to find out what she thinks are the most important conversations we should be having in society today, and how we can involve young people in those conversations.

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Episode transcript

00:00 – 00:37

Jack Verduyn (JV)

What are the most important conversations we need to be having today? And how can young people contribute to those conversations? These are the questions we ask our guests to answer in Five Minutes With… Following our recent Dialogue & Debate webinar on Civility in Politics, we sat down with Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, to capture her thoughts.

Jess Phillips (JP)

So the most important conversation we should be having today is what we expect from our politics. Our expectations, in my view, are both too high.

00:37 – 01:08


We think that politicians can do everything and we get cross when they don’t do it, and it’s just not true. And also, expectations, I think, in over the last decade have become remarkably low as well in what we should expect of our public services, what we should expect in the way that we all live our lives. We seem to tolerate a huge amount of degradation, the kind of which that, you know, like people like my nan went out on the streets to campaign to put stuff in place.

01:08 – 01:30


And a lot of it, whether it’s health services, whether it’s education, whether it’s opportunity. A lot of it a lot of the the sort of infrastructure that is needed to make that work has been degraded. And so I think that we need to have a real deep conversation about what can be delivered, what should be delivered and how we’re all going to do it together.

01:30 – 01:55


I was really struck during the pandemic about how our expectations were managed exceptionally well. People cut politicians loads of slack during the COVID pandemic. Like, you know, it was annoying for me in lots of cases as an opposition politician, but people understood that there would have to be money spent, there would have to be changes made, and that people were just trying to do their best.

01:55 – 02:15


The idea that people were just trying to do their best, the good faith that came. And it wasn’t a good just that we had good faith in our politicians, we had good faith in each other. And we all expected to do something to be part of it. We all expected to play our part, even if it was just being thankful. People started to check their privilege in a way that I’ve never seen before.

02:15 – 02:30


And they didn’t. They didn’t do it in that manner in which you might like, you know, the way that people performatively do it and by people I mean middle class people performatively check their privilege. People said things like, well, you know, it’s horrible and I wish I could say me mum, but at least I’ve got a garden.

02:30 – 02:53


Or, you know, it would be worse if I was living with an abuser. And we sort of started to have this understanding of other people’s lives and other people’s existence. And I’m afraid to say the political situation squandered that quite badly. That good faith in the aftermath and the close down of the pandemic. And I don’t think that we sweated enough the sort of expectations that we all had of our politics and of each other.

02:53 – 03:16


We expected our jobs to be protected. We expected our health to be protected. We expected people to be looked after. But we also expected that it was going to be a bit rough at times. And we expected more from each other. And I think that we need to get back to that manner of operating in order for our society to do well to for politics to offer really any of the solutions that it claims to want to.

03:16 – 03:47

Melissa Butcher (MB)

And so how do you think you get young people involved or engaged in that conversation around expectations?


I think young people’s expectations have been so woefully dashed. Like I bought my first house when I was 21-years-old, un imaginable to anyone but the very and I’m not even talking top 5% here, I’m talking top 1% of people of young people today could imagine buying a house.

03:47 – 04:13


Young people have no expectation of a job for life anymore. When I was a kid, careers was an actual thing that you would have a career from when you left university or school till you retired. The world is a completely and utterly different place for young people, and they’ve already been forced essentially to lower their expectations and their behaviours have have manifested in those lower expectations.

04:13 – 04:36


So lots of older people moan about young people like, oh they’re spending all their money on avocado on toast, and by lots of older people I just mean the Daily Mail don’t really know who they’re representing. But people moan that young people don’t have these because they spend money on frippery and going on holidays and and we’ve made out like young people are all really airheads and actually that response of living their life for the now is because their future was taken away from the idea of building towards a solid future.

04:36 – 04:56


The expectations are so low, so young people are really like, I can’t think of any greater inspiration for them to get involved than the fact that politics just simply doesn’t serve them. It doesn’t care to serve them, it doesn’t care what they think about.

04:56 – 05:16


And so in this instance, I think anger and a sort of revolutionary spirit needs to be born. Because I watched since I’ve been in politics. I’ve watched the law change about how much young people get paid compared to older people. So literally there is a different wage rate, minimum wage rate if you are under the age of 25.

05:16 – 05:44


I mean, I had two kids when I was 25. The idea that I could you know, I got a special price when I was buying bread for them. The idea that I could be being paid less than somebody a year older than me, that’s absolutely phenomenal that that was allowed to go without basic revolution. I mean, unbelievable. You can’t get any access to any welfare benefits like housing benefit if you’re under the age of 21. The cost of your education has been wildly ramped up.

05:44 – 06:13


The level of legislation that has damned young people in the last 15 years should be a wake up call that it’s because older people vote. You’re never, ever going to be served unless you take part because you need people like me to be scared of you as a block vote, like it works. If all young people, if every single person aged 18 to 25 went out and voted in the next general election, you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll be some policy for you.

06:13 – 06:35


You’ll have your equivalent of the triple lock on pensions that no one would ever dare touch because people are frightened of pensioners. How you do that, it’s not really for me to say how they’re going to organise that because I don’t know. But you are going to have to find a means of organising together to make young people as a political force.

06:35 – 07:00


I think because older people have done it, they’re a political force. Other groups do it like, you know, you get block votes across all different sectors and in all different areas it will be different. Sweat your asset.


If you would like to hear more from Jess, our recent Civility in Politics webinar is available on our podcast feed and the video is available on the resources page of our website.

07:00 – 07:15


You can keep up to date with all of the work of Cumberland Lodge on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook @CumberlandLodge or on our website Thank you again to Jess for joining us and thanks for listening.