Since my last report it has been very busy in Westminster within the Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Team, as Shadow Minister for Steel, Postal Services and Consumer Protection.
As Minister for Steel I joined Steelwork Trade Unions, and workers from across Europe in a march in Brussels this week. I was able to meet representatives from some of the main steel work sites in the UK including Port Talbot and Shotton in Wales.
I took part in the Westminster Hall debate on the Future of the Steel Industry on 3rd November that was opened by two of my Labour colleagues Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, and Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. It is important to keep pushing the debate on this home grown industry with the Government, at a time where other countries are undercutting the cost of our industry but providing materials of lower quality, that are being used to construct our infrastructure.
I will be meeting with local steel representatives and also with local Postal Worker representatives as I also have Shadow Ministerial responsibility for Postal Services. I am keen to ensure I keep in touch with the grass roots of all these industries, the people who do the day to day graft, and use their unique skills to keep these industries alive.
I will be opening a debate in Westminster next week specifically around the Post Office.
If you are interested in seeing any of these debates you can view this on line, at Parliament TV.
On Friday the 18th October I was in Parliament to take part in the debate on the Homelessness Reduction Bill. The bill went through with cross party support. I also had the opportunity before the debate to meet with Crisis, who introduced me to a young man who had been through a terrible ordeal of being without a home, job, or family. Hearing this first hand really makes you appreciate why Bills like this are so important to try and improve the lives of people facing life without a stable home.
Next Friday in the Commons I will be taking part in the debate on the Boundary Review. The debate will focus on the proposals to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons. The main argument that will be had is that the review is based on the registered voters as of December 2015. As we are all well aware the European Referendum encouraged many more people to register to vote, so the figures that the review is currently based on are out of date. The ‘missing millions’ who are registered but have not been taken into account in redrawing constituency boundaries, put poorer seats at a disadvantage, as these are the areas where people are traditionally less likely to be registered.
The Tories claim that by reducing the number of MPs in the Commons by 50, they are reducing the cost of politics. But at the same time they have created large numbers of new Peers in the House of Lords and are appointing more and more SPADs (Special Political Advisers) for Ministers, paid by central Government as temporary civil servants but with a party political agenda. If this were really about reducing the cost of politics they should start closer to home, but the reality is that this is all about giving the Tory Party an electoral advantage.
I have also been out and about in the constituency, where I have visited the new offices of the Alzheimer’s Society based in Hillsborough – I met the staff, volunteers and people who use the service and am proud to be a Dementia Friend. If the CLP are interested in training for becoming Dementia Friends please let me know.
I have visited a number of Secondary Schools, and plan to visit as many schools as possible to encourage engagement from the children and young people – some have already visited Westminster and are taking an interest.
As an Ambassador for Hallam FM’s Charity Cash For Kids, I have been able to launch a new series of books with the Author Andrea Chatten. The charity provided copies of these books for free to Primary Schools in this constituency. The series is called ‘The Blinks’ and helps children understand emotional development.
I will also be opening up my office to be used as a Gift Drop for Hallam FM’s Cash for Kids annual ‘Mission Christmas’ Campaign where local disadvantaged children who would not otherwise be getting a gift on Christmas Day can. I will be holding a mince pie afternoon, at my Constituency Office on 2nd December for the specific purpose of people calling in with an unwrapped gift for a child aged up to 16. I will put more about this on my social media feeds closer to the time.
The constituency will be holding a campaigning day on 26th November, I will be working with the CLP to ensure that we hit the right topics and get as many Labour supporters out to make this a really well-run and worthwhile to all members of our constituency.
In terms of the wider political developments on the last few weeks, a lot has been said about the recent High Court judgement that Parliament must vote to approve our withdrawal from the EU. The amount of vitriol that certain sections of the press whipped up against the judges, who were simply doing their jobs by coming to an independent legal judgement on the case that had been brought to them, was troubling. Labour will not frustrate the process of invoking Article 50, but it is right that there is the opportunity for the public and Parliament to scrutinise and debate the terms of Brexit. The most important test of the government’s strategy is the impact on jobs, economy and living standards, and we will oppose any attempt by the Tories to water down people’s rights at work or regulations that protect our environment.
Brexit is the most important political issue that has faced the UK for a generation. The people of Britain and our economy cannot afford a shambolic Tory Brexit, and we cannot claim to be taking back control from Brussels, simply to hand it to a handful of Tory Cabinet Ministers cobbling together a plan behind closed doors.
Finally, I can’t end my report without mentioning the new President-Elect of the USA, Donald Trump who will take office as the 45th President in the New Year. I think we were all shocked on Wednesday morning waking up to the news that the man who offended almost every demographic in his campaign is soon to be the most powerful man in the world. It is a worrying time, and none of us know what type of President he will be or what relationships our country will have with the USA in the future. What I believe his election does show is that the politics of fear and hatred find an all-too-ready audience when people feel that they are being ignored or forgotten about by politicians. If we want to avoid the same type of rhetoric gaining ground here, we have to be bold in our vision for our most deprived communities, and vocal in our belief that a better society can only be built through cooperation, not division.