Kwasi Kwarteng became the sacrificial lamb as Liz Truss clung on as Prime Minister. He was Chancellor for a mere 40 days and Jeremy Hunt is now the fourth Tory Chancellor we’ve had this year. International confidence in Britain is now in crisis. Kwasi Kwarteng was told to fly back from his visit to the International Monetary Fund to be sacked – what does that say to the rest of the world about the competence of this government? The Prime Minister ought to be taking responsibility, but clearly for her, her own survival is more important than anything else.
Following the introduction of the mini-budget, emergency action by the Bank of England along with the IMF’s stern warning showed how incompetent Prime Minister Truss’s government is proving to be. This isn’t party politics – it’s about how families can make it through the winter. People are seeing their mortgages shooting up, and many households are having to find hundreds of pounds extra every month to stay afloat.
Local businesses have told me how worried they are, some may close, others lay off staff. Our schools and hospitals will face the same enormous challenge at the end of this six month period. They are already underfunded but it’s pupils and patients who may end up as the losers. It’s not obvious to me that the national burden will fall fairly on those who can afford to pay the most.
The Tories have no mandate and no authority. But worse than that they really have no idea how to clear up this Downing St made mess. We don’t need Chancellor Hunt’s austerity. Our industry and public services have not recovered from the last one. We need to have a general election and give a new government the mandate to give our country the new start it now needs.
I wrote about the need for an election in the Rochdale Observer, which you can also read here.
“Insider trading” allegations
I joined fellow Labour backbench MPs in writing to the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee asking for an inquiry into the allegation of “insider trading” following Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini budget”. Financial traders are enriching their personal wealth by betting against Britain, and transparency is needed to ensure there is no political assistance with this. Read the letter here.
Labour Party Conference
Labour’s annual conference showed us a vision for what our country should be like, and what it can be like, with a Labour government. We heard about Labour’s plans to tackle the cost-of-living and climate crises head on, deliver better and more secure work, build high quality and accessible public services, reduce crime and the causes of crime, give every child the best start in life and restore Britain’s standing on the world stage. After 12 years of sleaze, scandal and incompetence, the Tories are out of ideas. Only Labour will unite the country.
Flooding in Pakistan
I visited the Golden Mosque in Rochdale to speak about the devastation caused by flooding in Pakistan and to support local fundraising. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that these floods, unprecedented in history, are a result of climate change and must make us all think about how we prevent these tragedies in the future. 33 million people have been impacted and thousands killed. I have written to the government to demand that the UK plays its part in helping with this crisis.
The government laid out plans to lift the ban on fracking for shale gas. This is an astonishing decision. It’s a bad signal about how this government views our climate commitments and breaks promises Tory MPs made to protect local communities. But it will take years to develop and is too small to make a difference. It’s hard to tell if this is stupidity, or blind ideology.
Let’s end fossil fuel reliance
I’m calling on the government to speed up the transition to a fossil fuel-free future by ending further fossil fuel extraction and exploration. Liz Truss seems hellbent on putting the profits of a very few large companies before putting the cost of human life on earth first. If her government focused on home-grown renewables and a locally managed home upgrade programme, this would both achieve low energy bills and begin the process of preserving a habitable planet. The UK is the holder of the COP Presidency until November this year and we should be sending a clear message to the world’s governments about the importance of ending further fossil fuel exploration. Read more.
By attempting to annex Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, President Putin tries to grab territories he can’t physically control on the ground. Our thoughts and solidarity are with the people of Ukraine as they fight to keep their independence, and we look forward on this day to a future of a free and independent Ukraine.
I attended the flag raising event at Riverside on Ukrainian Independence Day and listened to some powerful and emotional speeches from members of Rochdale’s Ukrainian community.
Suicide-awareness in schools will save lives
More than 200 school-aged children are taking their own lives each year. That is a shocking figure, and we should all be shocked that suicide is a major killer of young people. That’s why I am calling on the government to embed age-appropriate suicide awareness and prevention in the school curriculum to engage with schools to allow this to happen, and to expand mental health first aid training for staff in educational settings. Research shows that, with appropriate early intervention and support, suicide can be prevented. Read more.
West Coast Rail
Blaming train drivers for Avanti’s failure to meet its commitment in running services is outrageous. The responsibility lies with Avanti who have failed to honour their contractual obligation to train new drivers. Despite this, the government has handed out tens of millions of pounds to Avanti for performance and management fees – including a £4million bonus for ‘customer performance.’
Astonishingly, the company’s franchise has been renewed for a further six months which is simply a reward for failure and that’s why I’m calling on the government to take the franchise out of private hands and bring it under public ownership and control. Read more.
No time to waste on toxic air pollution
Everyone should have the right to breathe clean air, but air pollution is one of the largest environmental risks to public health. Between 28,000 to 36,000 deaths can be attributed to air pollution in the UK every year. That should worry us all. There are things the government could be doing to tackle this, such as utilising the potential of remote sensing satellites to pinpoint the causes of air pollution. This identifies sources of pollution and provides the opportunity to place a control on those who pollute. Read more.
Remove barriers to electric vehicle uptake
Increased use of electric vehicles (EVs) will reduce the dependency we have on expensive and polluting oil. We need to increase the supply of electric vehicles in the UK and help make them more affordable, yet there are barriers in the way to making EVs affordable. Current proposals only require 22% of new car sales to be Zero Emission Vehicles by 2024, however the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts predict that demand is likely to rise to nearly 40% by 2024. By setting ambitious targets for sales, this will ensure enough vehicles are produced to meet expected demand and help us to reach purchase price parity between petrol, diesel and electric vehicles.
Furthermore, a vast number of households in Rochdale and other towns and cities across the UK do not have access to off-street parking and are likely to pay a higher rate of VAT on EV charging. I’m calling on the government to scrap this discrepancy as soon as possible and reduce VAT on public charging to 5%. Read more here.
Recent figures from the House of Commons Library have shown less than half of people in Rochdale have seen an NHS dentist in the last two years. People in Rochdale are being badly let down and the most recent figures show that Rochdale is harder hit than most. Too many constituents have told me that they cannot afford private dental care and this problem will only get worse as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. Some will go without treatment and endure terrible pain, others will resort to DIY dentistry which is bound to put further pressure on other parts of the NHS, including our GPs and A&Es which are not properly equipped to help.
Dentists across the country are increasingly reducing their NHS commitments or quitting the service altogether because of the failed, target-based contracts imposed upon them. Reform is needed as soon as possible and that’s why I have written to the Prime Minister to act with urgency and ambition to bring forward the change we desperately need. Read more here.
The Tories are writing off a generation
In Rochdale, there are well over a thousand people who are over 50 on unemployment benefits looking for a job, an increase of 59.%. Those who lose their job in their 50s fear they will never work again. Instead of offering real help, the Conservatives are turning their backs and writing off this generation. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Labour in government would provide specialist help for over 50s to return to work. Unemployment can never be a price worth paying and we need action now to help people with training and specialist support to move into employment and raise living standards. That’s why I’m calling for specialist help for over 50s to return to work. Read more here.
Working people paying the price for Tory mortgage hike
7,490 households in Rochdale will face an eyewatering jump in mortgage repayments next year. This isn’t some kind of ‘unfortunate mistake’, it’s an unforgivable act of national self-harm that has crashed the economy. A Tory crisis, created in Downing Street, paid for by working people.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A Labour government will target 70% homeownership, including giving first-time buyers first chance on new developments and a state-backed mortgage insurance scheme. Read more here.
The new premises of Rochdale Foodbank are needed more than ever. The cost of living is much higher than it was 12 months ago but many people haven’t been able to manage for years. I was pleased to celebrate the commitment of those who make Rochdale’s foodbank work. I deplore a society where the massively rich are doing too, too well whilst others are finding it impossible. We shouldn’t need foodbanks but we do, and Rochdale Foodbank is on the side of people in need.
High Commissioner of Bangladesh
I was pleased to welcome the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Rochdale, the first visit for many a year. The ties between Rochdale and Bangladesh are very strong and that’s why the High Commissioner is doubly welcome.
Royal Mail strike
Postal workers have been told there’s no money for a proper pay rise despite profits going up and shareholders and bosses getting richer. I took time out to stand in solidarity with CWU members on strike at Rochdale’s delivery office and across the country.
This government is once again bringing out some whacky ideas on controlling industrial action. These have been rejected in the past, even by Margaret Thatcher’s government, but it is not the way a modern economy should be run.
Unionised workplaces are more likely to provide decent pay, good training, and benefits. That’s why Labour will strengthen trade unions by repealing anti-union laws, including the 2016 Trade Union Act, and introducing new rights to help unions recruit and organise.
Labour will also end fire and rehire so workers can be safe in the knowledge that terms negotiated in good faith can’t be ripped up under threat of dismissal. We will ban zero-hours contracts so workers will have the right to a regular contract and predictable hours, reasonable notice of changes in shifts and wages for cancelled shifts paid in full.
And we’ll extend statutory maternity and paternity leave, and review and improve shared parental leave. We’ll make flexible working a day one right, and we’ll bring in a new ‘right to switch off’.
Nigerian flag raising
I was pleased to attend a very happy gathering for the flag raising at Number 1 Riverside in recognition of the Nigerian Independence Day.
Talking about dying
I attended a discussion about dying at St Aidan’s Church Hall, organised by the Rochdale Parish Churches. We often avoid talking about death or dying but these discussion sessions were an opportunity to think about the issues involved.
Young lungs exposed to cold and damp housing are more likely to fall seriously ill and possibly die. With child poverty continuing to rise, I asked the Prime Minister to pledge that no child will be left behind to go to bed in cold, damp housing this winter. Watch.
Urgent and Emergency Care
I spoke to the Health Secretary about the crisis in the ambulance service and the need for Rochdale to get back its A&E service. The closure of the A&E service means people are dependent on an ambulance service that has been in crisis for some considerable time. The Health Secretary must act now on this. Watch.
I asked the Defence Secretary if we are able to do more to make sure that real information is getting through to the Russian population, particularly older people who are dependent on state-controlled media, about what exactly is happening to their sons in Ukraine. Watch.
Given the credible evidence of the use of violence and torture by the Rwandan security authorities, I asked the outgoing Home Secretary, Priti Patel, if this gave her any pause for thought in terms of the UK and Rwanda migration and economic development partnership. Watch.