Eddie Izzard promises to bring ‘stronger, bolder and brighter attention to Sheffield’ as she contests Labour safe seat
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The beloved star – famous for comedy, acting and raising millions of pounds for charity around the world – is campaigning for the safe seat following Paul Blomfield’s announcement he was standing down at the next election after more than a decade.
Running 131 marathons, raising £4 million for charity and performing in four languages and in more than 45 countries are just some of her many accomplishments.
Her resume of record-breaking achievements was doubtless earned by what she calls her ‘tenacious bastard attitude’, ambition, creative talent and hard work. Now she is tackling this political challenge with the same determination and passion.
“I’m not going into politics to sit on my backside, I’m going to work so if you want this energy, you want this drive, you want this vision of the future that is positive and for everyone then vote for me,” she said.
Her sights have been set on political success since 2008 when she announced intentions to run. Since then, she campaigned for Labour in more than 125 constituencies and across local, general and European elections.
Tweets launching her campaign went viral and prompted endorsements from stars including Hollywood actor Russell Crowe and TV presenter Lorraine Kelly but winning Sheffield Central over will be no mean feat.
Being one of the safest Labour seats in the country, it is a hotly contested race. Eddie is up against local councillors Abtisam Mohamed and Jayne Dunn, well-known journalist Paul Mason, activist Mike Buckley and trade unionist Dr Rizwana Lala.
Party insiders called councillors Mohamed and Dunn favourites to win, telling The Guardian that Central had a history of selecting locals over ‘outsiders’ like Eddie.
Responding to this, Eddie said: “There are good councillors and activists who have done great things but I’ve been a national activist and an international activist…Now, I don’t think Sheffield should be saying, ‘well, that’s too big a stage. We don’t want to be that’. We have to be that big, Sheffield’s got to be on. We’ve got to be talking about it nationally and internationally and I can do that.”
Shouting for Sheffield
Eddie, 60, was born in Yemen and lived in several places growing up but Sheffield was the first city she chose to live in and return to all her life.
With straight A grades, she came to Sheffield University to study accounting and financial management and felt at home thanks to the generosity and warmth of Sheffielders. Then she dropped out to pursue her calling in the arts.
“It took some time for my career to take off but I will never forget Sheffield for being so helpful and I’ve always come back and always played here,” she said.
“I ran my marathons through Sheffield, I’ve come back and done political work here and I played almost every venue including the City Hall and the Arena.
“I have been in and around all my life coming back and going off. If I’m taking the message from Sheffield all around the world, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Eddie promised on her life that she would not “disappear to London” as some have suggested.
She said: “[I’m] helpful to anywhere I might be but I want to be in Sheffield, if Sheffield wants me. I have this energy, I have this drive, I have the vision that everyone in the world has a fair chance in life – that means everyone in Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, in the UK, Europe and the world. That’s a huge thing to ask for but if you don’t ask, you don’t get and I’m ambitious.
“I’m going to keep mentioning that because if we keep talking about it, maybe in this century – the coming of age of humanity – we can do it. We have to do it, otherwise I don’t know if humanity is going to make it.”
She aims to tackle inequality and bring investment into Sheffield Central.
Eddie’s vision is for everyone to have: a good school that inspires them to explore, where no child sits hungry through lessons; a decent job that pays them enough to not just cover the bills but a job that fulfills them; a well-funded National Health service that will take care of them whenever they need; and a focus on climate justice to create a fairer, more just and equal world for everyone.
Labour in her blood
Eddie’s political heroes are Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln.
She was raised in a Labour family and said her brother and her were the only Labour supporters in a school of Tories.
At age 35 she joined the party after focussing on her career because she wanted to decide for herself and be sure.
She said: “[I’m Labour] because it’s for the many, not the few. We want individuals to do well in the Labour Party but then everyone else too, we want to bring everyone up and the Tories are almost the inverse of us.”
Eddie believes her profile would help Labour win elections.
“You have to be a team player and you have to stay an individual. I have supported every leader as they have been leaders, I have never done this side by side fighting thing which we sometimes get into in the Labour Party and I will support Keir in getting in.
“I feel like I can help Keir not only in Sheffield Central but all the Sheffield constituencies and elsewhere because I have that profile and people know me for being straight talking, up front, fair, honest, and open.”
Joy and abuse on the campaign trail
Eddie has been around the constituency talking to as many members as possible, meeting people at spots such as the Endcliffe Park Run and the Frog and Parrot.
Almost everyone has been wonderful and positive – waving hello, giving thumbs up and shouting ‘go for it, Eddie’ – but a small number were abusive.
She said: “There is transphobic abuse and some people are a bit disgruntled on that but I am a trans person – I am here, I exist. Trans people have been existing for thousands upon thousands of years and have been abused and screamed at as I have been since I came out. So I am quite used to getting this abuse and it’s water off a duck’s back. I just want to live and exist and help everyone.”
In recent days, all six candidates joined together to condemn vitriolic abuse directed towards candidates, including Eddie.
She said: “All of us are standing together, fighting hard and training ourselves to be good Labour candidates. Obviously only one person can get in but hopefully everyone can get in in different places and we can all be MPs and learn from this contest here.”