In the past few weeks in parliament, my days have been pretty well taken up with wall-to-wall Brexit matters. But there has been some variety this week. It was great to welcome Stretford High teacher Philippa Latham to Westminster on Monday. Philippa is participating in parliament’s Teacher Ambassador Programme, and I was very pleased to be able to take her into the public gallery to watch the Prime Minister making a statement (admittedly, that was about Brexit).
On Tuesday I participated in a very interesting meeting of the Home Affairs select committee, in which we heard from charities working with asylum seekers in northern France about conditions there, and the reasons some have been trying to cross the Channel in small boats to come to the UK. While it’s clear, whatever the Home Secretary claims, that these crossings don’t amount to anything like a national crisis (only a few dozen made the crossing each month, compared to thousands who made crossings into Greece or Italy), for the individuals making this dangerous journey, the situation is desperate. We heard about the poor conditions they experience in France, hassled by the police, and without access to services. Many want to come to the UK to join family members here, or because they speak English, or think there is less racism in Britain. We have an obligation to offer them dignity, care and a fair assessment of their claim for asylum.
And if we wanted a reminder of why people can be forced to flee their home and seek refuge in a safe country far away, this week, parliament has been marking Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on Sunday 27 January. I was glad to spend some time in the chamber on Thursday to listen to a debate on this year’s theme, Torn from Home, and to sign the Book of Remembrance. It’s so hard to take in the sheer horror of what happened, but so important that we remember, and remain vigilant against antisemitism. I’m appalled by some of the comments I read on social media, horrified by what is going on in a number of European countries now, and ashamed of the examples of antisemitism in the Labour party.
Back in the constituency, there has been variety too. I was delighted to join the Mayor of Trafford, Cllr Tom Ross, council leader Cllr Andy Western, and other Trafford councillor colleagues, to celebrate the fabulous campaign by the Trafford Action Group to obtain a fair state pension for women born in the 1950s who’ve lost out from government rule changes. The amazing Wendy Eachus is stepping down from running the campaign, but first she helped to plant a tree outside the town hall to mark the struggle, and a time capsule with mementos of the campaign was placed in the town hall vault, to be reopened in ten years. It will be fascinating to look back to now, and I am already looking forward to the reopening!
I also had a very informative meeting with local farmers, covering a wide range of subjects, including fly tipping onto their land, rural crime, and (apologies for mentioning it again) Brexit. And I very much enjoyed a discussion meeting with Christians on the Left’s north west group to look at how we can tackle food poverty.
So, although it’s felt like my life is mostly Brexit, there have been some different things to get my teeth into this week. Normal service resumes next week, with a complicated set of votes on Tuesday on the Brexit deal and how parliament can have a greater say in what happens next if the Prime Minister can’t get her deal through. If you’d like to sign up to my Brexit mailing list for more news, please just email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to add you.
PS Stop press – on Thursday the government announced an overhaul of the housing market, including a new complaints service for homebuyers. Following the very poor experiences of my constituents in Woodsend and elsewhere, who found numerous defects in their new-build homes, and poor customer service when they tried to have them rectified, I’ve been campaigning for better protections for homebuyers, so I will be looking at the government’s proposals very carefully.