SHADOW Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry visited Dursley at the weekend, to support local Labour councillors and help out in the Berkeley Vale by-election.

The Labour frontbencher canvassed alongside council candidate Liz Ashton on Saturday afternoon, having first addressed a conference in the Chantry Centre, at which party members put forward ideas to include in next year’s district council election.

The MP told the Gazette: "I’ve been wanting to come down to the Stroud District for some time, but it’s just a question of when I could get it into my diary.

"But at the moment they’ve got a local conference happening, where we’re talking about what should be in the manifesto for the council elections that are happening next year. And there’s also a very important by-election going on.

"So it’s an opportunity for me to come down and listen to local activists, and also, afterwards, to go out on the doorstep and listen to the public.

"It’s my firm belief that it doesn’t matter how senior you are as a politician, you really don’t have all the answers, and only if you listen to the public can you begin to understand properly what it is the public needs.

"We need to keep being educated by the public, and this visit is part of my ongoing education."

Last Friday (February 15), hundreds of children in the Stroud District, joined thousands across the UK, who left school to protest about climate change.

When asked what she thought about that, Mrs Thornberry said she backed the pupils' actions.

“I have to say, I’m with them," she said.

“I’m not suggesting that kids bunk off school on a regular basis.

“However, I think this is such an important issue. We are a generation, it seems to me, that are just not thinking about the future properly.

"Every other generation has passed on the world in a better state than the way in which they inherited it and yet we are the ones that have eaten all the fish, have killed most of the tigers, we’ve taken all the homes, we’ve got the pension policies.

"What are we handing on? And we’re warming up the planet in a way that will be irreversible and is such a threat. And we just don’t seem to care.

"We seem to be really just short termist in what we’re doing, and just looking after ourselves.

"We should have at the forefront of our mind, our children and our grandchildren and be thinking about ‘how are we going to ensure that their future is a bright one?’

"And if we’re not listening, then it’s right for the younger generation to step up and say ‘Hello! We’re here, this is our planet, do not do this’.

"And for them to be involved in political activity is absolutely right. Youngsters have to be involved in politics and they have to be making sure that they have their voices heard."

Emily Thornberry's background is an interesting mix: her father, a law professor, was in the United Nations, yet she was brought up on a council estate by a single parent on benefits.

She spoke to the Gazette about how this motivated her in her career.

“It’s right to say that I was born into a middle class, privileged household," she said.

“We were comfortably well off, and then disaster struck our family.

“My parents split up, my father disappeared, and suddenly my mother had nothing.

“She had no income, we had the bailiffs come round.

“I remember in the sixties that when the bailiffs came round, they used to wear bowler hats.

“We were chucked out and we just didn’t know what was going to happen.

“There was talk of us going into a children’s home, it was awful.

“But, there was a safety net and we were able to be rehoused in a council house and we got benefits, and that kept my mother going, until the children were old enough for her to be able to work.

“It breaks my heart that people come to me at my surgery now, in similar circumstances to my mother, and we don’t have the answers that were there for her in the 1960s.

“We are a rich country and we should be looking after one another.

“People should know that if they fall on hard times, we will look after them."