I’m very excited to be welcoming my new colleague Kim Leadbetter, elected MP for Batley and Spen on Thursday, to parliament today. After one of the nastiest election campaigns I can ever remember, it was great to see decency and unity win out over intimidation and division. Kim will be a superb MP for the people of Batley and Spen, and having been over to campaign for her several times, I can vouch for how well-known and well-respected she is for her work in the local community. She will be a great asset to parliament.
MP life is slowly returning to more normal as pandemic restrictions gradually ease. That means I’ve been able to get out and about more in Stretford and Urmston too, and last week it was great to visit Gorse Hill Studios to hear about the activities they’ve kept running for young people right through the pandemic. The Studios have fabulous facilities for music, the arts and creative activity. I was shown round by Adam, a young service user, dropped in on Keiran who’s a keen drummer, heard about plans for a music video warning young people about county lines, and met young care-experienced people who are hoping to become peer mentors. Caroline and her team do great work – we’re really lucky to have this amazing facility in Stretford.
Gorse Hill Studios are also home to a team from Trafford Domestic Abuse Services (TDAS), and I dropped in to see them while I was there. The staff told me that their service is expanding to meet a scary rise in demand, with double the number of cases seen in the last quarter compared to the same period last year. TDAS’s work is so important, supporting victims of abuse and violence, including young people, and they’re about to recruit a new male worker, as they’re receiving increasing numbers of calls from men experiencing abuse. I’m very proud to support this brilliant organisation – I just wish their work wasn’t needed.
Every year, on the first Friday in July, I join members of Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group to stand in solidarity with families who have lost loved ones to the terrible lung cancer mesothelioma, and this year we met on zoom. Mesothelioma is invariably fatal, and is contracted through contact with even the smallest amount of asbestos. Because of Greater Manchester’s industrial history, we have always had a high incidence of the disease here, but although the use of dangerous asbestos was finally outlawed in the UK some decades ago, mesothelioma takes many years to develop, so people continue to suffer and die. And of course, asbestos continues to lurk in many public and private buildings, and if it’s disturbed, it continues to put people at risk.
The campaigners have great dignity and determination, and it was really good to hear from specialist nurse Mairead Dixon, who’s based at Wythenshawe, about an important new treatment that is proving quite effective – the first good news we’ve had in a long time. But I’ll always fight for funding for further funding for research into this horrible disease, and I pay tribute to the scientists, the NHS and care staff, and all the families who will never give up until it’s conquered.
And that’s the best lead-in for me to close in wishing the NHS a very happy 73rd birthday. Everyone in Trafford shares our pride in being the birthplace of the NHS, when 73 years ago today, Nye Bevan came to what’s now Trafford General Hospital. An enormous thanks to all our fabulous NHS and care staff!