“The biggest assault on workers’ rights for a generation” is how Katy Clark characterises the past five years of Tory-led government.
“Measures such as tribunal fees and cuts to health and safety protections represent a huge shift in power away from workers and towards unscrupulous employers”, she says.
“We not only need to reverse these cuts to workers’ rights but introduce new powers to enable everyone in the UK to have secure and well-paid employment.”
Unemployment is a major issues for Clark, who was born and raised in Ayrshire and comes from a family which has strong ties to the area – and the Labour movement – going back several generations.
“This part of the world has a very proud industrial tradition, but over many decades we have seen large employer after large employer, and indeed small employer, go.
“In its place very little has come in the way of well-paid skilled employment. The jobs that come tend to be part-time, they tend to be low paid and very insecure”, she says.
This leads to what she calls “the lack of hope” which affects successive generations in the constituency she has represented since 2005.
It’s a diverse seat with a few seaside towns such as Largs to the north, and working class heartlands of Ardrossan and Clark’s birthplace – Kilwinning – further south. Across the Firth of Clyde the Isle of Arran and Great Cumbrae are also part of the constituency.
Despite geographical and economic differences Clark believes people there face “a wide range of challenges brought about by an economic system does not work for communities in North Ayrshire and Arran.”
What does she mean by that? “We have an economic system that is driven by the City – that is driven by markets, that is driven by neo-liberal principles which do not deliver for the vast majority of the people here.”
Expanding that view to take in the wider UK picture Clark thinks the prediction of a close general election means “it’s more important than ever that we return a Labour government that is willing to change the direction of this country and improve the lives of workers.”
For her this is a clear choice between two futures, life under the Tories or a Labour government which will, as Clark points out, “raise the minimum wage, expand the living wage and end the use of exploitative zero-hour contracts.”
Recently elected secretary of the trade union group of MPs she has repeatedly campaigned for stronger trade union rights. Clark is also a noted human rights campaigner, is opposed to the replacement of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system, and wants to bring the railways back into public hands.
Locally she has fought against the contracting out of lifeline ferry services in her constituency by the Scottish government and retraining for workers at the Simclar electronics factory after it closed.
Looking back at the past 10 years in Parliament Clark feels that’s she’s learned much about how best to fight “vested interests and the establishment.
“I see the role of Labour as being a voice for ordinary working people in Parliament”, she says, adding “I’m a socialist, I believe that another world is possible.”
As to the future, Clark wants to continue to return to Westminster to “fight for the values and the kind of politics that are needed in this country. That is what I have always tried to do as a Labour MP, and that’s what I would do again.”