Kim Johnson MP

Kim Johnson is the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside. We asked Kim about her work and role in tackling child poverty.

Tell us more about your role as an MP, particularly around your role in addressing child poverty.

Before becoming an MP, I previously worked as part of the programme to establish Sure Start centres in Greater Manchester. It was through this role that I learned the importance of early interventive measures and investing into the health and wellbeing of young people.

My Liverpool Riverside constituency is one of the most deprived areas in the country with significant levels of poverty. In Riverside 11 children in every class of 30 are growing up in poverty.  That is why I have campaigned alongside the National Education Union to press the Government to rollout Universal Free School Meals to ensure every child has access to a nutritious hot meal throughout the day. In constituencies like mine, this level of support is vital because children are not able to learn when they are hungry, and this is having a lasting impact on educational attainment. A report released by the Department for Education when piloting Free School Meals indicated how participating children were making 4-8 weeks more progress than their peers over a two year period. Not only would this measure ensure no child has an empty tummy at school it would boost educational attainment a fact which PwC indicates would have a core net benefit of £41.3 billion over a 20-year period.

I have also recently led a campaign to scrap the two-child benefit cap- which places restrictions on child tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in most households. This policy affects 1.5 children across the country resulting in families living in poverty losing financial support of up to £3,235 a year. There is not a single parliamentary constituency which doesn’t have a family affected by this cruel measure, including Liverpool Riverside which has the 13th highest number of families affected in the country. Key child poverty campaign groups such as the End Child Poverty Coalition have indicated that scrapping this measure would immediately lift 250,000 children out of poverty.

Children are incredibly aware of the stigma of poverty, and the pressure of this can have lifelong psychological effects on top of the material impact on educational attainment and life chances and associated health problems. As we head towards a general election, we need a Government to be bold in finding solutions to the spiralling poverty levels across the country. These are measures I truly believe will have the biggest impact and that is why I will continue to campaign on them in Parliament.


 What do you enjoy most about working in your sector?

The thing I enjoy most about working in Politics is meeting the people I represent- whether that be at my weekly advice surgery or when out and about in my constituency visiting local organisations and attending meetings. It is an honour for me to represent Liverpool Riverside and that is why I always want to ensure that I am acting as my constituent’s voice in Westminster raising the issues and concerns that matter to them most.

How important is innovation within your sector?

Innovation is the key to unlocking economic growth which is the driving factor underpinning Government policies. In the last 14 years we have seen economic growth stagnate which has resulted in less capacity to invest in our public services. The decision taken in 2010 to pursue austerity in response to the financial crisis has left our country lagging behind comparative countries. This chronic lack of investment has resulted in our public services now being at breaking point. Without thriving public services and strong infrastructure we will not create an environment for economic growth as the two go hand in hand.

It is vital that Government invest in research and development as there are so many opportunities for the UK to lead innovation and technology, creating high-skilled, well-paid jobs across the country, but at the moment what is lacking is Government ambition.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

The professional achievement I am most proud of is becoming the first Black MP in Liverpool. I am proud to represent Liverpool Riverside the most diverse constituency in the city and is the area in which I was born, grew up, raised my family and where I still live.

Being an MP was never in my career trajectory, my route into politics wasn’t the typical PPE at Oxford path but for me to be able to represent my family, friends and the community I grew up in is an honour. That is why I am passionate about more people from backgrounds like mine engaging in politics and being politically active. I think the make-up of our Parliament should be a microcosm of our society. Representation matters. If different communities or groups of people in society remain underrepresented in the demographic of MP’s it means their views and experiences, go unheard which in my opinion is not a true reflection of democracy.

 What, if any, are the challenges of being a woman working in your sector?

One of the main challenges for women in Politics is the significant level of misogyny we face. It is no secret that attitudes in Westminster can be quite antiquated, and other female colleagues have shared their experience of the toxic culture that remains embedded. What is important is for colleagues on all sides of the House to come together to call out and challenge unscrupulous behaviour when we see it.

Another challenge of this role can be the level of trolling and abuse directed at MPs on social media. This is not only a challenge for woman in Politics but stretches to every MP from all parties. Luckily, I do not manage my own social media accounts and I am thankful to my staff who unfortunately have to deal first hand with the abuse that is directed towards me. I know from having conversations with colleagues that this is the experience of most MPs although it has been evidenced that female colleagues receive almost double the abuse of male colleagues stemming from threats rooted in misogyny. Whilst measures are being put in place to provide a greater level of security for MPs, we still have a long way to go, and I feel that this is a particular barrier for a lot of women when thinking about entering into Politics.

What advice would you give to other women working in your sector?

The advice I would give to other women working in Politics is to be confident. Often, engaging in Politics can be intimidating. I definitely had that feeling when I was first elected as an MP in 2019. The first time I arrived at Westminster to be sworn in as an MP I had imposter syndrome- this experience was completely different to anything I had ever done before. It was very unusual to be stood in the House of Commons Chamber- a place that typically people only really experience from behind the screens of your TV.  Knowing that those where the benches I would sit and make representations for the people of Liverpool Riverside was overwhelming.

However, if you are passionate about your cause and have belief in what you’re doing those nerves quickly go away. When you return home to your constituency and meet with those you represent and understand that the actions you are taking is having a direct and lasting impact it removes any self-doubt.

Do you find any particular challenges as a woman working in the North of England?

It has been evidenced in recent years of the deep inequalities that are facing communities in the North- not only relating to levels of poverty and deprivation but health inequalities and systemic lack of investment in key infrastructure. All too often I speak with young people who tell me they feel they will have to move away from home and head towards London if they want to access high-skilled, well-paid jobs. If young people do not feel that opportunity to progress in their career can be provided when living where they grew up in the North- what message does that send.

The North has so much to offer but what our communities need is Government ambition and confidence to create jobs, opportunities and provide investment parallel to what we have seen in the South.


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