It’s been the privilege of my life to represent Blaydon Constituency, full of its rich history and heritage but I know we have so much more we want to achieve, that is why I will be campaigning to become the first Labour MP of Blaydon and Consett, pushing to better the lives of everyone in the new constituency.
We have had so many great moments since I was elected in 2017, and I want to continue working with you all to have the strongest representation for the Labour movement across all forms of Government.
Please sign up below to help with my campaigning as we ramp up to a General Election and lets win the new seat of Blaydon and Consett together.
We’ve hit the summer with ominous clouds having over the country, literally and figuratively, a month of almost non-stop rain while we’ve seen an increasingly desperate government.
By-elections don’t normally bode well for governments, in July the Conservatives lost two mammoth majorities and nearly lost in the ex-Prime Ministers old seat, leaving the current PM desperately looking for positives.
Cue the barrage of anti-climate initiatives, rolling back on endless Government plans to position himself as a ‘people’s champion’ when it comes to initiatives that improve our air quality and improve the green agenda.
As Europe has been literally burning, we have a Prime Minister throwing more fuel on the fire hoping for an upturn in the polls, aiming to write his own Cinderella story, from embarrassingly trying to pay for petrol a year ago, to claiming he is on the side of motorists this week (despite using a private jet to fly everywhere).
The Prime Ministers smoke and mirrors environmental policies are aimed at distraction us from the real failures of this Tory Government. In January, Rishi Sunak promised 5 pledges to the nation, to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce national debt, tackle NHS waiting lists and stop the boats.
With apparent failure on all these targets likely given that our economy has been stagnating for much of 2023 with national debt rising, given that NHS waiting lists have increased, given that our immigration policy has been failure after failure, it’s easy to see why Rishi Sunak is trying to talk about anything else other than meeting these targets.
Closer to home we can see the damage the Tory government has delivered to our region. In the North East, the Tory Government has overseen a situation in which we regularly top the regional charts for inequality and poverty, while coming bottom for things such as average income.
It is becoming clear what voters think as I hold conversations with on the doorstep with lifelong tory voters, all of whom are furious with this government and their lack of action to tackle the real issues facing the country, fixated on squeezing core voters in key areas to avoid a cliff edge result at the next General Election.
In contrast, there is a different feel altogether at the doorstep when discussing the Labour Party, having consolidated the lead in the polls over the Government, it is becoming ever more apparent to voters that there really is only one option offering hope as we look forward, Labour.
Local residents see the benefit of Labour at every level of Government. They see councillors fighting for services. They see the Labour candidate for North East Mayor Kim McGuinness launch her campaign which will put tackling child poverty at the heart of everything. They see Labour’s frontbench pushing on vital policies to improve services like the NHS or working to offer devolution that will benefit our region. They see hope at every level.
It is becoming very clear that residents in my constituency of Blaydon are ready for Labour in power, working hard to transform our region.
We are committed to a real plan on levelling up, delivering a landmark shift in skills and training to drive growth and equip our communities for the future. We would invest in our high streets by tackling the issues around business rates which hit local shop owners and not huge global digital corporations.
We would tackle vital issues around transport, bringing rail services back under public control and working with local leaders to implement a bus network that works for all out communities.
We are committed to tackling the energy crisis. We will work to ensure that our country is net-zero by 2030, protecting the futures of our children and the planet.
We would implement Great British Energy, a publicly owned energy company focusing on producing more energy at home and utilising renewables making energy bills cheaper.
We would undertake the biggest workforce expansion plan in NHS history, employing more doctors and nurses to tackle the backlogs caused by tory underfunding.
We don’t yet know when the next General Election will be, but it is clear that Labour is ready to give Britain its future back.
There are moments in the history of our country that stand alone as achievements unparalleled across the globe, and few more so than our National Health Service, standing for 75 years as the envy of the world.
I was born in 1956 and I am incredibly grateful that for my whole life, whenever I have needed it, the NHS has been there for me and for all my family and friends. It has been there to help me in tough moments and nurse people I care about back to health, it has meant the world to us all.
That is the truth for so many people across the country.
When Labour and Aneurin Bevan created the NHS on 5 July 1948, I think few would have predicted just how much it would impact the lives of everyone for an incredible 75 years, we’ve had tv shows based on the gritty drama that unfolds, books written full of personal accounts, and we’ve seen everyone in the country show gratitude by lining up on their doorstep to clap every Thursday night.
I know everyone will be full of thanks for every individual member of staff for the work they have done over the years, for being there for all of us.
When looking at an anniversary such as this, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we are now, and what the future holds. A future in which the Tories can’t be trusted.
Public faith has been diminishing as fewer doctors and nurses are trained, waiting lists grow and targets are missed.
We have a Prime Minister prepared to break his own defence on pay rises and offer one lower that what is recommended by the pay review bodies, we have a former health minister asking for a royal review into the sustainability of the health service, and we have a sway of the Tory right, hell bent on ideological opinions calling for further means of privatisation.
They also threaten our social care system. Calling to remove a vital workforce lifeline for our social care system, threatening to collapse the services even further after 13 years of neglect.
Low wages and an under supported cares services are creating a crisis right across our nation. Patients being stuck in hospitals as they await care packages, families having to take time off work or leave the education system to support loved ones. I hear stories of this on an all to regular basis and my heart goes out to everyone who is put in this position due to underfunding from our national Government
But the NHS still has a strong future ahead.
Everyone, wherever they live, whatever they earn, should get healthcare that is free at the point of use. That was the unique, founding promise of the NHS and much like that of 1948, the NHS needs a Labour Government now more than ever.
As an immediate priority, Labour will grip the biggest crisis in the history of the NHS. We will do this by getting the basics right and taking long-term, pragmatic, common sense steps.
The last Labour Government reduced waiting times and we will do the same again. We will give the NHS the staff it needs to treat patients on time, which is why we will undertake one of the biggest workforce expansions in history and deliver a long-term workforce plan that addresses retention issues.
We’ll reduce pressure on GPs and emergency care by recruiting thousands of mental health staff to give more people access to treatment before they reach crisis.
And we’ll free up beds, avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and tackle delayed discharges by doubling the number of district nurses and improving pay, terms and conditions for care workers.
Labour would create a National Care Service that fixes our long term problems around social care.
The future we all want for the NHS is embedded in our Labour priorities. 75 incredible years of support, and a future plan to deliver many more.
I am sure you will all join me in thanking every NHS worker for the role they have played in our lives in this week of celebration of 75 magical years.
Another month, another controversial story surrounding the Home Secretary in a month to forget for Suella Braverman, who has been accused of asking Government officials for preferential treatment over a driving ticket.
She still somehow clings onto her position despite this being yet another scandal to her name within the first year of being in post.
It is yet another reason to refer back to the words the Prime Minister spoke in his first speech as PM – “integrity and accountability”.
Those words are also questioned with the cabinet office’s insistence to not hand over Boris Johnson’s unredacted diaries and WhatsApp messages to the official Covid inquiry.
This is incredibly controversial as this has been specifically requested by Lady Hallett, who is chairing the inquiry. It seems surreal that the Government, who called an inquiry into how the Government acted, are now being selective in which Government documents they choose to hand over.
More so this is an insult to everyone who lost someone close during these tough times and victims who deserve transparency above all else.
Other than the above, truthfully the Tories have been quiet since their shattering local election results, meaning that this has been a month for prioritising what really matters, the feelings of constituents, and that is what I’ve been doing.
First and foremost, I’ve been pushing the Government on the need to secure long-term funding for local bus networks.
Anyone who relies on buses will know how desperate the state of our local transport is becoming.
The government have put sticking plasters on a breaking system and it has left bus operators in the dark about what they can offer its customers.
This was the biggest focus in pushing for a debate in Parliament, to hold the Government to account for the precarious state of our buses. Thankfully they have announced some further funding and a fixed fare of £2.50 as a maximum until November 2024, but I have large doubts about the amount and whilst capping fares is all well and good, no one can get on a bus that is no longer in service.
I’ve also been working hard to shine a light on one of the biggest issues plaguing our healthcare system, mental health.
In my maiden speech in Parliament I vowed to doing what I could to end the mental health crisis that runs through every part of our country.
The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board recently announced that as many as 31,000 children and 70,000 adults are on waiting lists for mental health treatment and, with Mental Health Awareness Week happening within the last month, I felt the need to remind the Government of this and push for more work to be done to tackle this appalling backlog. It is pleasing to see that Labour, nationally, also carries this message.
Keir Starmer recently announced plans to tackle the mental health crisis by recruiting more staff, paid for by closing tax loopholes, by committing to putting a mental hub in every community and taken the pressure of GPs and A&E as a result.
We have also seen 61% of people across the region show their support for a North East Mayor, with it being likely that an election will take place in May 2024.
The new mayoral role will have £4.2million to spend on local transport, bringing in new jobs and initiatives that benefit the whole region and tackling the huge levels of child poverty seen in the region.
These are all things that have been mentioned in detail by Kim McGuinness, and it fills me with great confidence that we have such an incredible politician readying themselves for this challenge.
Despite this being a quiet month in the House of Commons, it has been full of Labour promise, which will go far to solving the issues felt by many across the country.
Yes, far from the pillars of Westminster, where all that seems to be on display is Tory scandal, where seeing real ideas, focused on the needs of people and it is becoming ever clearer that Labour is winning on the war of ideas that transform our nation for the better.
Back in 2017, I was gifted the opportunity of a lifetime to enter Parliament as an MP and represent the people of Blaydon. I knew what I was going down to fight for. In the North East, we often see common issues arise that must be addressed if we are to better the lives of all.
However, my work in parliament so far has allowed me to engage with a much broader and more complex range of issues than I could have imagined.
One such issue is rare diseases. Today, we acknowledge Rare Disease Day, a unique opportunity to highlight the impact that rare diseases have on so many.
In truth, rare diseases are not so rare. Collectively, there are 6,000 rare conditions affecting over 3.5 million people in the UK – that’s 1 in 17 people. What’s more, these communities face a range of common yet complex issues in managing their conditions. This includes waiting many years for a proper diagnosis and once diagnosed, difficulties in accessing treatment and support. I am currently working with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Muscular Dystrophy to make progress on newborn screening and faster diagnoses.
I was first introduced to the rare disease community when my constituent, Barbara, got in touch to discuss the difficulties she was having in accessing treatment for her son, who has Phenylketonuria (PKU).
People with PKU cannot break down the amino acid phenylanine, which is found in proteins. They must live on strict low-protein diets in order to avoid brain damage.
A drug, then known as Kuvan, was licensed to treat PKU. However, when Barbara came to me, it was not yet available on the NHS.
We set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on PKU to press the Government to make the drug available. It is one of my proudest achievements as an MP that, in 2021, people with PKU were finally given access to this drug on the NHS. I have heard from many affected families about the lifechanging effects that this has had on them.
Still, this drug is not a silver bullet. Kuvan does not work for all people with PKU. This is why research into treatments for rare diseases is so important, to allow everyone affected to pursue healthier and more fulfilling lives. I now chair the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rare Diseases, who work together tackle the collective issues faced by the whole rare disease community.
Of course, the issue is quite often funding.
In November last year I visited the Welcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research based in Newcastle University. I was blown away by the incredible and inspiring work they are doing.
Mitochondrial disease, or ‘mito’,’ is the term for a group of medical disorders caused by ‘faulty’ mitochondria, which generate about 90% of the energy that we need to live. These disorders can be very serious or even fatal. Furthermore, faults in mitochondria are the root cause of hundreds of other conditions including cancer, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, dementia and strokes.
One in 200 people in the UK carry a faulty mitochondrial gene. Currently, there is no cure.
Newcastle’s Mito Research team are internationally recognised, world leaders in their fields. They are also fully committed to patient care, with strong links to clinical practice. Through these researchers, our region is leading the fight against mitochondrial disease and dysfunction across the globe.
But investing in the research is critical to the success of the whole operation. Researchers like the Mito team in Newcastle often rely on short-term grants, making it difficult to build the long term projects that would deliver the seismic change needed.
I urge the Government to extend their role within this field and work to place funding for rare disease research on a secure footing.
This research is not only vital for the 1 in 17 people affected by a rare disease in the UK, but for the millions of others dealing with conditions as common as cancer who stand to benefit from medical advances. That’s why this Rare Disease Day, I am working to shed light on this important issue.
The International Monetary Fund has ended January with a stark warning on the economy, predicting the UK economy will suffer worse than that of a sanction-imposed Russia over the next year – and so far we have heard nothing from the Tories other than an outright denial of the forecast.
We’ve entered February off the back of an already disastrous introduction to 2023 by our government. In only 32 days we’ve seen our first ministerial sacking of the year, a tax dispute involving the Prime Ministers father-in-law and more levelling-up money being spent in London and the South East than here across the North (although I have to admit I am at least happy they agreed to fund a bid which I led to invest in electric buses and EV charge points).
All of this chaos is the tip of the iceberg, lest we forget to mention Sajid Javid’s call to have people pay for NHS services, the former PM Boris Johnson’s apparent dishonesty over the BBC recommendation and receiving an £800,000 loan or the Prime Minister himself being fined for not wearing a seat belt while on a recent visit to Blackpool. The fact of the matter is in only one month we have seen so many traits of Tory toxicity more so than in ‘levelling up’,’ where they promised it all and deliver next to nothing (except £19 million for the Prime Minister’s own constituency).
Similarly, with the ongoing strike action, the Tories have the same touch. This month alone they’ve stated they ‘respect’ key workers while bringing through laws to sack them if they speak out against pay and working conditions.
Following most other key workers, teachers have now joined the rising number of workplaces taking industrial action.
After years of underfunding within our state schools, they have been handing out tax breaks to private schools. Yes, the Tories are now threatening the future of children across the country.
The whole result of this chaos is further impacting the cost of living crisis we are all suffering from. Failing on the economy and punishing those on strike is not the solution to getting Britain back on track.
Are you and your family better off than 13 years ago? Do our hospitals, our schools and our police work better than they did 13 years ago? Frankly, does anything work better than when the Conservatives came into office?
If the answers to these questions are no then you know it is time for a change.
Labour has a clear plan which brings hope and vision back to the foreground of politics, one which will enable families and communities to thrive.
We will be a green government, investing in our energy security at home and our target is to become net zero by 2030. Ed Miliband has set out a vast plan which creates jobs and looks to stop the irrevocable damage of climate change.
Under Labour, levelling up won’t just be an empty slogan where communities are pitted against one another and ministers sit in Whitehall picking winners and losers.
Labour will scrap this broken system.
We believe in devolution, we will give local, regional and national leaders the powers they need to support thriving local economies.
We will end the tax break which exempts private schools from paying VAT and business rates.
We will put that money where it belongs – into all our children’s futures, into our state schools.
We will work to not just protect in our public services but invest in them. We will invest in the largest workforce expansions in the history of our NHS.
More doctors, more nurses, more midwives, more health workers and a National Care Service to solve the long-term issues within our social care system.
Only a month has passed in 2023 and it very much feels like we are in the same place as we were in for much of 2022. The Conservatives have presided over 13 years of failure, they’ve failed our public services, failed our communities and now failed the economy.
Only a Labour Government can deliver for families in the North East.