On Tuesday the Parliamentary session ended and MPs returned to their constituencies. On Wednesday I was back in action in Ipswich, meeting the Rivers Action Group and looking around the Cliff Lane community which local residents believe will be damaged by the extra traffic from a new bridge over the Orwell. In the coming weeks I look forward to dealing with more Ipswich issues which, with the best will in the world, I haven’t been able to give the attention they deserved while I was in Westminster.
That doesn’t mean I’ve been absent from Ipswich issues for the past few months – far from it – and if you have been reading this column you will know I have focussed in particular on drugs, violent crime and policing, which are so important to Ipswich right now. As your representative, one of my key roles is to raise Ipswich issues in Parliament or with ministers. If you look at my website you will see that I try to make my contributions relevant to the needs of Ipswich residents. I also hold weekly casework surgeries (you can book an appointment thorough my Ipswich Office). Almost a thousand individual pieces of case work have been dealt with by my team since my election. We haven’t succeeded every time, but we will always try to resolve your problems. And I can use examples of injustice here in Ipswich to try to change attitudes in Westminster. My other key role is to vote for policies which I believe are in the best interests of Ipswich people. Those are Labour policies, and I know that the majority of Ipswich residents agree with me that they support Labour policies, because that is why they voted for me.
The main business this session was once again Brexit, and Labour, usually supported by all the other opposition parties, put all sorts of amendments to secure our trade with Europe, to defend our rights, to protect our environment, and to give our Parliament the right to make the final decision, rather than just Government ministers.
The highlight of last autumn’s session was winning a final vote in Parliament on the Brexit agreement – a right which Theresa May fought hard to try to deny us. The low-light of this session was losing the ability to make that final vote truly meaningful by letting Parliament amend the Brexit agreement. This was all the more infuriating because disaffected Tory MPs including Dominic Grieve voted against the very amendment he had himself proposed, bought off with a vague promise from the Prime Minister who had already done everything in her power to try to stop Parliament from having a vote on the issue at all.
That was followed by the farce of a weekend at Chequers where May got her Cabinet to sign up to a White Paper on Brexit – the sort of thing we should have had within weeks of the whole process starting back in 2016 – which then led to the resignation of several Cabinet ministers who had signed up to it, and was finally ditched in all but name when May caved in to the “let’s leave without a deal” brigade led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Only a few MPs get to speak in these important debates, but it is vital that we are all there to vote. Those who were absent for the “meaningful vote” amendment, such as Vince Cable and Tim Farron, will not live that down in a hurry.
Other things I have been involved in during this session include:
- Making the Felixstowe-Midlands freight line a key priority for transport in our region
- Discussing the Cliff Quay sewage works with Anglian Water
- Ensuring the Care Quality Commission can raise standards in care homes
- Getting better policies for Council Houses and for housing in general
- Visiting the 2 Sisters plant in Birmingham to check that the nation’s number one chicken processor is now operating safely
- Proposing ways to help protect Postal Workers who are bitten by dogs
- Supporting prevention of cruelty to animals
- Demanding greater resources for our schools
- Calling for a firmer response to the crisis for the Rohingya people in Bangladesh who have fled from persecution in Burma
I set out to achieve various things for Ipswich. I haven’t managed to do all of them yet. But this summer I will look again at my priorities, and I look forward to getting stuck in to more of the things that matter most to you all this autumn.