Who is Jess Phillips?
Jess Phillips is a Labour Party politician, currently representing Birmingham Yardley in the British Parliament. Brought up in the left-wing belief system, her early ambition was to become a Prime Minister. At the age of fourteen, she received her Labour Party membership card and at sixteen started taking part in election campaign, marching beside her parents in different rallies. However, she was never a blind follower and gave up her party membership at the age of twenty-four in protest against war in Iraq. Five year later, she rejoined the party, concurrently working with Women's Aid Federation of England, offering support to victims of domestic and sexual violence, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. At the age of thirty-four, she entered the House of Commons on Labor Party ticket, serving as a Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley since then.
Childhood & Early Life
Jess Phillips was born on 9 October 1981, in Birmingham, the second largest city in England, as Jessica Rose Trainor. Her father, Stewart Trainor, was an English teacher. Her mother, Jean Trainor née Mackay, was deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chair of South Birmingham Mental Health.
Born youngest of her parents’ four children, she has three elder brothers, one of whom is Luke Trainor. As a child, she hardly had any girlie clothes, being raised mostly in her brothers’ hand-downs that had lost shape due to decades of wear. Most of her friends were also boys.
As a child, she learned to stand up to “people in power”, especially when she thought that she was being scolded unjustly and therefore got into trouble quite often.
On her fourteenth birthday, while she was studying at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls, she received her Labour Party membership card as birthday present from her parents.
At the age of fourteen, she was arrested for attending a protest against the Criminal Justice Bill. However, she was not charged.
In 1997, when she was sixteen years old, Tony Blair’s Labour government came into power. Although young, she took part in the campaign, printing posters and placards in the family garage, enjoying “street party vibes for weeks” and as the results came pouring in she sat glued to the television.
From the age of sixteen, along with carrying on her political activities, she also started partying with great enthusiasm. However, she was also good student, entering University of Leeds with economic and social history and social policy, possibly in 2000, graduating from there in 2003.
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Jess Phillips remained politically active all through her student years, marching for women’s rights and equality, and other relevant issues including the Iraq War. However, activities had to take a back seat, when at the age of twenty-two she gave birth to her elderst son.
In 2005, her parents left the Labour Party as a protest against the war in Iraq and so did she. In 2006, she joined Healthlinks Event Management Services Ltd, where her parents were co-directors. In 2008, she became Healthlinks’ project and event manager, serving in that capacity till 2010.
In 2010, she joined Women's Aid Federation of England at Sandwell, West Midlands, serving the institution as a business development manager, offering support to victims of domestic and sexual violence, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. In the same year, she rejoined the Labor Party.
In 2011, concurrently with working for Women’s Aid, she enrolled at the University of Birmingham, where she undertook a postgraduate diploma course in Public Sector Management, eventually graduating from there on 2013. Sometime in between, she also served under Jack Dromey, Member of Parliament.
Entering Electoral Politics
In the May 2012 local election, Jess Phillips was elected Labour councillor for Birmingham’s Longbridge Ward. In this election, she won 46.9 % votes, beating Ken Wood of Conservative Party.
In June 2012, she was appointed as the Victims' Champion at Birmingham City Council, in which position her job was to negotiate with the police and criminal justice organizations on behalf of the victims. She also served on the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel.
Member of Parliament
In 2013, Jess Phillips was selected from an all-women shortlist to contest from Birmingham Yardley in the 2015 United Kingdom General Election. In the election, held on 7 May, she won the seat with 41.6 per cent of the vote, beating John Hemming of the Liberal Democrats by 6595 votes.
In her maiden speech, given on 28 May, 2015, she spoke about her family connection to Birmingham Yardley. She also reiterated her commitment to improve her “country’s response to victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse in all its forms”.
In September 2015, she was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lucy Powell, then Shadow Secretary of State for Education. In October, she got into media scrutiny, when she mocked Philip Davies for trying to get a debate about International Men's Day, also receiving rape threat for her stand.
Very soon, she started having trouble with Labour leaders, especially those close to Jeremy Corbyn, whom she accused of failing to appoint women to important positions. When in June 2016, Powel resigned from her position in protest against Corbyn’s leadership, Phillips also left her job.
When Helen Cox, her fellow MP, was murdered in the board daylight in June 2016, Philips declared that such incidents strengthened her resolve, making her determined to fight harder. In September, she was elected chair of the Women's Parliamentary Labour Party, defeating Dawn Butler, considered a Corbyn supporter.
In the 2017 snap general election, Jess Phillips gained 25,398 votes (57.1%), increasing her majority to 16,574 votes (37.2%) over her nearest rival. In July, she called for a review into elections for chairs of House of Commons select committees as only 23% of candidates running for chairmanship roles are women.
In 2018, she once again threatened to surrender her Labour membership because she was unhappy with the party’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Kelvin Hopkins. She also supported Andrew Moffat's "No Outsiders" program even when some parents in her constituency objected to lessons aimed at accepting the LGBT community.
In the 2019 General Election, Jess Phillips was once again elected from Birmingham Yardley, winning 23,379 votes, securing a vote share of 54.8%. However, her party failed to gain majority as a result of which Corbyn stepped down.
Although initially Jess Phillips announced her bid for Labour leadership in January 2020, she later withdrew her candidacy. On 9 April, she was appointed Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, a position she continues to hold.
Personal Life & Legacy
Jess Phillips is married to her childhood friend Tom Phillips. Previously a lift engineer, he served as her constituency support manager until February 2019. They have two sons, Harry and Danny.