Apologies that my blog has fallen a little off timetable this week. I’ve been having a rather remarkable few days, and I’m only just catching up with myself now parliament is on its half-term break.
So apologies to both St Antony’s College and St Mary’s Primary School for the delay in mentioning my very rewarding visits to your schools last Friday. Great politics questions from the St Antony’s students, and I am very much looking forward to working with the St Mary’s school council to tackle some of the parking and traffic issues you’re facing. I’ll be posting more about this on Facebook over the coming weeks, so everyone can follow what’s happening.
Thanks also to members of Darul Amaan mosque in Hulme for the invitation to your interfaith event last Sunday. This mosque is just outside my constituency, but many members both live and participate in volunteering and community activities in Stretford and Urmston. You are highly respected and valued neighbours.
I was also exceptionally lucky to join a group of MPs to visit the Large Hadron Collider in CERN in Switzerland last week. I had been invited to meet scientists from Manchester University, and indeed from right across the world, who are carrying out groundbreaking experiments to help us understand our universe. It is hard to describe the scale and importance of what they’re doing - and my MP colleagues and I were soon way out of our depth when it came to understanding the science. But what we did understand was the importance of this incredible international project that has already given us the World Wide Web, touch screen technology, MRI scanners, and many other amazing inventions - and these initiatives are just by-products of CERN’s central research programme. All I can say is that the work is right at the frontier of human intelligence, and I was so impressed to meet the scientists. You can find out, and maybe even understand (!) a bit more, as CERN has just been visited by the Blue Peter team, who will be broadcasting about their visit on 22 February. I will definitely be watching!
Meantime, being in Westminster last week was also very special. I was very moved, and very happy, to meet Bosnian friends, and colleagues from Remembering Srebrenica, at the parliamentary launch of this year’s ‘Acts of Courage’ commemoration. I am extremely proud to work with this amazing peacebuilding charity following my visit to Bosnia in 2016, and I was so glad to welcome them to parliament.
And that was followed by a wonderful celebration in Westminster Hall to mark the centenary of the first women getting the vote. Not all women, you had to own property and be over 30, but it was a breakthrough that suffragettes and campaigners had long fought for. As a woman MP, representing a seat in Manchester, the home of the Pankhursts, and as a lifelong feminist, I couldn’t help feeling proud and emotional in this landmark week, and privileged to be in parliament to mark it.
But in a distressing and deeply shaming contrast, this was also the week that parliament published the report of our working party on bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment. In recent weeks, politics and public life have been disgraced by the exposure of behaviours that should never be tolerated, excused or brushed over, but for too long have been. Parliament should display the highest standards of probity and respect, something we are only just properly acknowledging. The report is important, and I am glad parliament has taken it so seriously, but there can be no shying away from the work that now needs to be done to change behaviours - the credibility and reputation of political life demand wholesale change in culture and conduct.
It has been a remarkable few days, and I am powerfully conscious of the huge privilege of being a parliamentarian.