New MP Ruth’s nostalgic visit to Downend School

December 03 2015

AS a young teenager at Downend School, Ruth Smeeth took part in Roger Berry’s successful 1992 campaign to become Labour MP for Kingswood.

AS a young teenager at Downend School, Ruth Smeeth took part in Roger Berry’s successful 1992 campaign to become Labour MP for Kingswood.
And earlier this year, Ruth followed in his footsteps when she was elected to represent the Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove constituency in Parliament.
She is the second former Downend student in the House of Commons; Business Secretary Sajid Javid was at the school a decade before her.
Ruth, who was there from 1990-1995,  returned to the school last month to meet some of her former teachers and talk to current students about her life in politics.
Retired teachers Angela Long, Pete Chard and Graham Brewster were among those who joined history and politics teacher Jane Bolam and sixth formers Priya Kaur and Rebecca Konteh for the occasion.
“I have very fond memories of growing up here,” said Ruth “I was part of a very good group of people who were very supportive of one another.”
She recalled her excitement during the school’s regular American exchange visit when they visited Washington DC and heard Senator Edward Kennedy give a speech.
Another memory was of Jane Bolam inviting a friend who had been at the Tiananmen Square massacre to talk to students during a free lesson.
Ruth, whose mother was a trade union official, was interested in politics from childhood.
“I started volunteering for the Labour Party when I was eight,” she said.
She was also one of only two Jewish students at Downend in the early Nineties and was exceptionally tall for her age. But she said the school had given her space to be different.
“They allowed me to graft without letting me become a total geek. They made sure I got the grades but also allowed me to explore the things that mattered to me.”
After Downend, Ruth did A-levels at Filton College, followed by a degree in politics and international relations at Birmingham University. She went on to become a trade union official and led the Hope not Hate anti-fascism campaign.
Her first six months in Parliament have been both thrilling and daunting.
“It is amazing to go into the House and think of all the people who have sat on those Labour benches before me,” she said.
“I remember that it is less than 100 years since women got the vote and it is a privilege to be there as a Jewish woman. It is a very special thing.”
Ruth, 37, who lives in her Potteries constituency with her husband Michael,  is a member of the Defence Select Committee and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Scotland and Northern Ireland Secretaries.