‘It’s time to be bold’

It takes courage, compassion and conviction to stand for office – and Unite’s Jessie Joe Jacobs, standing for Tees Valley Mayor, has all three

Reading time: 7 min

On May 6 – just two weeks from today, Unite members throughout the UK will be voting in local and regional elections. Not only will members be voting – but Unite members will also be standing for public office, as a local councillor, police and crime commissioner, Assembly, Senedd, Scottish Parliament members – even as a Mayor – Unite members are standing and bringing Unite’s ethos of fairness and workers’ rights to the table.

We will be speaking to members across Britain – and today we kick off with the Labour Party candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, Unite member Jessie Joe Jacobs.

Jessie is the former Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of A Way Out Charity, an award-winning organisation known for making a difference in thousands of lives across the Tees Valley.

Below she explains in her own words why she is standing, what she hopes to achieve and why Unite means so much to her.

She writes: I am a fighter and I am standing for our people. I was born and raised in the Tees Valley, worked as a retail worker, youth worker and went on to start a charity here. It is the place that I love and I am proud to call my home.

I have seen the devastating impact of poverty, visiting families with no food in their fridges, carpets on their floors or beds in their bedrooms and I have spent years working within, investigating and understanding how places and people thrive.

I was in the youth work and not for profit sector. I have been a member of Unite for nine years. I strongly believe the country needs more people in politics with lived experience to represent the everyday hopes and concerns of ordinary working people. The youth work sector has been hit particularly hard over the last 10 years and I will be keen to look at how we bring jobs back into this vital sector.

Courage, compassion and conviction

It’s time to be bold, we need a mayor with the courage, compassion and conviction to turn things around and get this place thriving again. There are so many brilliant things to build upon. But we don’t need any more saviours, we need instead to back our own, our own businesses, our own people and our own communities.

And by doing so I will restore hope and pride again for our community.

I am proud to call the Tees Valley my home. We have incredible people, communities that have each other’s back, a proud history of industry that has transformed the world and a creative brilliance that is known throughout the UK, from music to media, technology to art. We have so much potential and opportunity, but now it’s time to move boldly into the future, with the backing, vision and courage we need to get there.

I will restore hope and pride again for our community.

For too long we have been trapped in the past, left behind from underinvestment in public transport, public service cuts and a rolling back of people’s rights and powers. This has caused wide-scale poverty, lack of opportunity and deep-rooted inequalities which means your future is too often decided by the postcode you live in or the street you grew up in. We must tackle this head on, if we are to secure the future we need.

The possibilities for this region have never been so clear. The opportunities are many and the responsibility for so many future generations now rests on our shoulders. The opportunity to bring about real, transformative change is too great, timing too crucial, possibilities too important and the need too great, to get this wrong.

To miss the moment would be unforgivable. The future of this region could be so different but it will take a real visionary and courageous leader to do that and to take us there. To try things that have never been done before.


Having spent years delivering change at a local and national level, I know change is possible.

Being a Unite member has shown me that change can only happen when you work together – and that’s why I’m standing for Labour.

The Labour Party, at its heart, is the people’s party. We were born out the recognition that the workers of Britain needed a voice to champion their concerns in government.

The Tories can pretend they are for the ordinary man and woman but just look at where they put their money. In their mate’s pockets and mate’s businesses. They are funded by the biggest businesses and the wealthiest people on the planet. When it comes down to it, this is always who they will serve – so we need our own voice and our own party.

Over the years I’ve campaigned on many crucial issues for workers – I know what it means to work in a unionised workplace and what can happen in workplaces that are not organised.

Among the pledges I am making to the community will be to back a ‘Good Business Charter’. The aim is to improve standards, pay and conditions in the workplace through a good business charter, encouraging businesses to adopt good work practices, championing the living wage and tackling unequal pay.

If elected I will ensure that this region is the best place to grow up, get on and grow old in. A place where all our young people have the opportunities to live a good life and where no one in our communities is left behind. I will bring the leadership we need to ensure a better future for all.

This will take courage to change course, to make the best of all our strengths and seize opportunities for everyone. This will mean taking on the same people in positions of power who stand in the way of change.

But I believe that with what I’ve learned in Unite, with Unite and Labour behind me, these positive changes to the lives of our members are indeed possible.


Jessie’s campaign video

Jessie speaking for Unite at Labour Party Conference


If you live in the Tees Valley area and want to help contact Jessie here or see her Facebook page

Wherever you live if would like to help Unite candidates in your area or to find out more see here

By Jessie Joe Jacobs and the UNITElive team

Stayed tuned to UNITElive for the latest on our Unite candidates

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