Parliament is now in recess until the 5th of September, which means neither the House of Commons or the House of Lords meets to conduct business. I will continue to be working and available for any issues you have. You can get in touch with me here.
Boris Johnson is hanging on in there as Prime Minister until the Tories, all 150,000 of them, decide whether Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak should be our new Prime Minister. It’s not a great way to choose a nation’s leader and neither candidate looks ready for this crucial office.
Yet astonishingly there are some in the Conservative Party who want Mr Johnson to stay. During his last Prime Minister’s Questions, I asked him about his levelling up agenda because so few people in the North believe it is happening (watch here). I did tell him specifically that the promise around upgrading TransPennine rail services should have seen it finished by 2019. In practice it will not be with us until 2030 at the earliest. He gave me no answer.
There were other things I could have asked him, such as what is his government doing to stop energy companies making record and eye-watering profits as they benefit from the global energy crisis by ripping off their customers. If the government had acted it could have saved us all money and in the middle of a cost of living crisis would have been the right thing to do.
I could have asked him why his government failed to invest in home energy insulation measures before the energy crisis began which would have saved household budgets and been good for Global Warming.
I could have asked him why our NHS has 50,000 nurse and midwife and 12,000 doctor positions unfilled, why our Ambulance service is in crisis. I could have asked him about the chaos in our passport office and families not getting their passports in time for holidays when any fool would have known that a lot of people would apply for new passports after Covid.
And I could have asked him why he did not get Brexit done as he promised pointing out that problems in Northern Ireland could spin over into a massively damaging trade war with our biggest trading partner in the EU. Or years after the Brexit referendum, why we still have ridiculous queues at our southern ports blocking people going on holiday and blocking our vital trade.
Whatever I’d have asked him, I would never have got a straight answer. The truth is Mr Johnson was never up to the job of being Prime Minister. He liked the showman’s role but he didn’t like the work.
And as for Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, it doesn’t matter which one of them wins. Both stood with Boris Johnson’s corrupt government through the law-breaking and lies. We need a Labour government and a fresh start, and that must be in the form of a general election. I spoke to That’s TV news about this, which you can watch here.
Combat toxic air and save lives
I’m calling on the government to take decisive action to reduce levels of toxic air pollution whilst making lung health a priority in public health and NHS plans. There are an estimated 3.4million people with lung conditions who could find their symptoms are being triggered by toxic air. This puts them at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks and flare ups. Given that a higher than average number of people are diagnosed with asthma in Rochdale compared to the rest of England, this should worry us all.
The average level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the Rochdale Borough is 25.6µg/m3. That is an astonishing figure given that the World Health Organisation recommends that no country should have levels of NO2 above 10µg/m3 to protect public health. There are things the government could be doing to tackle this, such as making lung health a priority in public health plans and in the NHS. They could also improve public transport and cycling provision to encourage less car use, and look at introducing smart traffic reduction measures that will take the most polluting vehicles off the road.
Shocking NHS waiting time is still growing
Recent NHS figures show that 139,852 people locally are waiting for NHS treatment, and 9,826 of those people have been waiting for more than a year. Local health care staff worked heroically throughout the pandemic but they have been stretched like never before. As ‘leading Conservative Cabinet Minister’ Nadine Dorries admitted, a decade of Conservative mismanagement left the NHS “wanting and inadequate” when Covid struck, and patients are now left to wait too long as a result. Our NHS is crying out for a Labour government to rebuild our NHS with the staff, equipment and modern technology needed to treat patients on time again. Read more about this here.
Labour’s plan to restore neighbourhood policing
Far too often I have met with constituents who tell me of their experiences of anti-social behaviour. I have seen the devastating impact it has on them, some accept it as a way of life, and some are too afraid to leave their homes because they feel they have nowhere to turn. Whilst the Conservatives are busy with infighting, Labour has serious plans to prevent crime and catch more criminals. Putting police out on the beat and being visible in local neighbourhoods is vital for stopping crime and for keeping people safe.
Yet under the Conservatives, neighbourhood policing has been decimated. The total number of neighbourhood police across the North West has fallen by over 41% over recent years, from 5,659 in 2015 to 3,312 in 2022.
The last Labour government brought in neighbourhood policing and it will be the next Labour government which restores it, starting with community police hubs and local prevention teams to tackle crime at its source.
NHS Staffing Crisis
I’m calling on the government to allow a decent pay rise to stop workers leaving the NHS. There has been a staffing crisis in the NHS long before the very first case of Covid. Healthcare staff are feeling intense pressures, having worked incredibly hard during the pandemic they now face the vast challenge of clearing the backlog of care caused by it. But after years of pay freezes and below-inflation pay rises – not to mention the spread of in-work poverty during the cost of living crisis – is it little wonder that many are now leaving NHS employment? We must act sooner rather than later. Read more about this here.
Mental health early intervention
I called on the government to amend sections of the proposed Mental Health Bill to ensure children and young people receive early intervention and preventive strategies within schools and in the community. Despite some good things in the proposed Bill, measures for children and young people who are in desperate need of essential preventative and early intervention care is not just there. For example, there are no current plans to bring about require early intervention and preventative measures to help address children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing issues at the first possible opportunity. This should be a top priority for a new Prime Minister and government. That’s why I’m calling on the government to amend the Draft Mental Health Bill and give a commitment to provide a framework for the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. This must include fully-funded early intervention and preventive strategies within schools and in the community. Read more here.
Energy and water companies
Privatisation of both water and energy was one of the key projects of the Thatcher government. We’ve recently seen with energy companies their total disregard for public wellbeing as their prices go up and the profits go into the pockets of their shareholders and into the giant salaries of their top officers. The water companies have a disastrous record of investment which is why our rivers and shoreline have not been protected, and as much as one in five of every gallon of water is leaked away through under invested water infrastructure. Labour does need to look into much tighter controls and possibly ownership. We cannot see a public ripped off in this way into the indefinite future.
North West Ambulance Service
I have been raising my concerns about the ambulance service over the years. Rochdale is especially vulnerable because people have to travel to A&E services elsewhere. I am due to meet the Chair of the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to discuss this but he told me recently that “it is no secret that UK ambulance services remain under intense pressure, with demand at its highest ever level and showing no sign of abating. NWAS is no exception to this.” Hot weather has given a new peak to the ambulance crisis but the government has got to act, and frankly we’re not seeing that action. You can watch me raising this in the Commons before recess, and read more about this in the Rochdale Observer.
New Pioneer Ward at Rochdale Infirmary
I attended the formal opening of the new Pioneer Ward at Rochdale Infirmary. The 14-bed ward has been set up to help patients recover from short and overnight surgery, including cancer. It is a good development for Rochdale, and I was pleased to meet the ward’s dedicated and hardworking team.
BT Openreach strike
I recently joined the CWU picket line, pictured here with John Marsh, Chair of the Manchester CWU branch. BT workers, like so many others, have been forced into industrial action to protect pay and working conditions. BT executives are not struggling against cost of living increases.
Train drivers’ strike
I joined the ASLEF train drivers’ picket line at Manchester Piccadilly. Train drivers have had no pay increase for the last two years and exercised restraint because of Covid, yet rail companies paid £500 million to shareholders.
Pakistan’s National Day
In a town like Rochdale there are many people who came from Pakistan or who have strong family ties with Pakistan. I joined the celebrations for Pakistan’s National Day with Rochdale Mayor, Ali Ahmed, and Council leader, Neil Emmott and local residents. We recognise the importance of these ties that are more real today than when Pakistan was formed given the large number of Kashmiris and Pakistanis who have made their homes and made their contribution to Rochdale.
Syke Community Base
I was pleased to attend the Syke Methodist Church and Syke Community Base as part of their re-opening celebrations following refurbishment and building works. This venue and the help they give are a great asset to the local community.
This weekend saw a comfortable win for the Rochdale Hornets over Cornwall. 34-14 saw Hornets well in front at the end although there were some tricky moments in the game. Very hot for Rugby League.
‘Talk to someone’ – my message to those struggling with suicidal thoughts
Many people’s lives have been touched by suicide, and we should be shocked that suicide is a major killer of young people. But research shows that, with appropriate early intervention and support, suicide can be prevented. My message to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts is to share those thought and talk this through with someone you can trust. The charity PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide Suicide) has a dedicated suicide prevention service called HOPELINEUK. It is staffed by professional advisers who work with young people and anybody concerned for a young person who may be having thoughts of suicide. Talking can really help.
HOPELINEUK can be reached on 0800 068 4141, or 07860 039 967, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org