A happy new year to everyone in Oldham and Saddleworth!
I hope, like me, you were lucky enough to spend some time with family and friends over the Christmas holidays and had a chance to relax a little as we say goodbye to 2017.
And what a year 2017 was!
In political terms the highlight of the year was the snap election called by Theresa May in which she hoped to establish an unassailable power base, increase her majority in the Commons, and silence her critics within the Tory party.
But the Tory campaign soon became a national joke with the comical repetition of the slogan ‘strong and stable government’! And yet, just four days after the launch of their manifesto, the Prime Minister had to do a humiliating U-turn on the issue of social care costs for someone receiving support whilst living in their own home.
I believe this was the point at which the British public realised they were actually witnessing a weak and unstable government and that Labour was providing an alternative vision for the future of our nation based on serving the many, not the few.
The rest, as they say, is history – against all the pundits’ predictions Labour gained 30 seats and the Tories lost 13.
It’s incredible to consider that over this Christmas and new year period thousands of families will have gone without their Universal Credit payments and 128,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. Yet, somehow, the Government still managed to find an extra £1.6bn to seal a deal with the DUP and claw back the majority Theresa May lost!
But this is why I’m looking forward to 2018 with renewed vigour and hope. Because now it’s clear that the British people realise it doesn’t have to be this way and that, should Theresa May stumble again, Labour is ready for government.
Governing is about choices. Labour will make different choices, through a fair taxation system where those who can afford to pay their fair share; introducing a Real Living Wage of £10 per hour making sure work always pays; reviving our NHS and care system, and transforming our social security system, so that our NHS, care and social security support is there for any one of us in our time of need.
Much of the work I have done locally – from the Oldham Fairness Commission and developing a Dementia Friendly Oldham, and my annual summer school for young people – is about building strong integrated communities and tackling inequalities in the constituency. I want to ensure that everyone can thrive whatever their background.
Locally, I will be keeping a very close eye on the constituency boundary changes the Government is trying to force through. A proposed reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600 would inevitably make constituencies bigger making MPs stretched even thinner and more remote from voters.
I must also thank my wonderful team for all the care they show constituents who come to me for help – over the last year they have worked on over 4,000 cases.
Finally, I’d like to wish you all a very happy and peaceful new year.