Thangam Debbonaire became the Member of Parliament for the Bristol West constituency in May 2015, transforming a Lib-Dem majority of 11,366 into a Labour one of 5,673. In the June 2017 general election, she increased that majority substantially, to 37,336. Her vote tally of 47,213 was the second highest in the UK, and her increase in vote share of 30.3% was the biggest in the country.
Thangam has lived in the St Werburgh’s area of the constituency since 1991. She started out as a professional cellist, but for the 25 years before she became an MP her main focus was working locally, nationally and internationally to end domestic violence.
She moved to Bristol to be Women’s Aid’s first ever National Children’s Officer, setting up support projects in refuges across the UK for children. She helped to increase the quality and quantity of domestic violence interventions helping women, men and children; victims, perpetrators and witnesses.
After diagnosis in June 2015, Thangam received treatment for breast cancer over the rest of 2015. During this time she worked solely in the constituency, but she began a phased return to Westminster in March 2016.
She was Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport between January 2016 and June 2016; and in October 2016 she rejoined the shadow front bench when she was appointed a Labour Whip – a role she still holds.
In Parliament, Thangam chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees and in July 2016 initiated a cross-party inquiry into the experiences of new refugees in the UK. The report ‘Refugees Welcome?’ was published in April 2017. Not only has it already made an important contribution to public debate, it is also directly affecting on the lives of refugees. For example, in October 2017 Thangam successfully persuaded the government to instruct banks to accept refugees’ biometric residence permits as valid ID for opening bank accounts – one of the report’s key recommendations.
During the first half of 2017, Thangam took part in the groundbreaking and controversial BBC One documentary series Drugsland, filmed in Bristol. The documentary was finally broadcast – to excellent reviews – in November and December 2017. Thangam features in episode four which considers whether the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, largely unchanged in over three decades, remains fit for purpose.
In 22 November 2017 she kicked off Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons by challenging Theresa May to reform our ‘plainly failing’ drugs laws and urged her to watch the Drugsland series.
Thangam has a number of other areas of interest including women’s equality, arts and culture, the environment and climate change, autism, and Britain’s relationship with Europe. In July 2017, she became the species champion for the Shrill Carder Bee!
In Bristol, Thangam is working to tackle the effects of the housing crisis in the city, to preserve and strengthen its cultural scene, and to promote its environmental sustainability.
If you would like to contact Thangam, please see her ‘contact’ page.
You can find her monthly and annual reports to the Bristol West Labour Party here.