“I really do believe in fairness and equality but you don’t get that by wishing for it,” says Jim Sheridan, who was first elected in 2001 and has lived locally for 35 years.
“The closer the polls get the more motivated I become”, he says of this election. Motivated, that is, to continue the fight against low pay and what he calls the “dilution of workers’ rights.”
Sheridan thinks Ed Miliband has led on such issues. Irresponsible capitalism has to be held in check, as he puts it.
“We have multi-billion pound industries in this country making a lot of money and yet still pay people a minimum wage and are therefore being subsidised by the tax payer. That has to stop.”
He’s not the kind of politician to simply talk about reforms, as his record in Parliament shows. Sheridan’s “proudest moment” was introducing the Gangmasters’ Licensing Bill – designed to protect migrant workers from exploitative employers.
Asked what motivates him he shoots quickly back – “the Tories! I just think of the Tories on the government green benches. That is my main motivation. Their attacks on my constituency, some of the most vulnerable people there – that drives me on.”
Out on the streets around Paisley and Renfrewshire North – a mix of former industrial towns and rural villages which stretches to Glasgow Airport – there is “fear about the future of the NHS, worries about the economy, and jobs. People are really worried about jobs.”
That’s a point about job creation of course, but also preserving the posts that already exist. It’s something Sheridan is all too aware of through his long links to the trade union movement and his work as chair of the Unite Parliamentary Group.
“We need to make sure that people are properly represented at their work, get a fair deal at their work, are covered by health and safety at their work”, he says.
“Most importantly of all workers need to be in a position of influence to say to the employer ‘you are making a good profit, let’s share some of that profit with the workers’. That won’t happen unless and until we get decent employment legislation that allows us to do that.”
That, he says, will come about through the work of the trade unions in speaking up for working people but also through what Sheridan calls “a progressive Labour Party.”
On the coming election he is happy with Labour’s promises to abolish zero hours contracts, increase the minimum wage, and get young people into education and training.
“I think Labour’s programme for government – things like the mansion tax – is progressive”, he says. “I think Ed Miliband knows the public want change and change that benefits working people.”