I have been asked by local Labour Party members to put my name forward to be selected as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for the new constituency of Elmet and Rothwell.The constituency contains most of the old constituency of Elmet (currently represented by Colin Burgon MP), as well as all of the Rothwell ward from the old Morley and Rothwell constituency (Colin Challen MP) and parts of Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton MP).
I’m humbled and honoured by the support and encouragement that I’ve received from members right across the constituency from Wetherby in the north, through to Garforth, Swillington and Methley, and of course my own ward of Rothwell. I’ve lived in the constituency and have been an active Labour Party campaigner here for most of my adult life. I’ve lived in Methley and Swillington and now live in Carlton, Rothwell with my husband Stuart and little girl Esme (who we’ve just signed up to attend our local school).
Elmet and Rothwell has a proud Labour history, rich in industry, culture and tradition. It is a constituency that Labour must win if we are to protect all that we have achieved since 1997 – and if we are to achieve even more in the future.
Finally I’d again like to thank Colin Burgon MP for all his dedicated service to the the local Labour Party and our local communities. For 26 years – through good times and bad – he has dedicated his life to working for us. I bring enthusiasm, passion, experience, commitment and bags of energy to continue to unite the local Labour Party and ensure we keep campaigning to win Elmet and Rothwell.
Last October I went on holiday to Philadelphia, which is in Pennsylvania and was one of the key states that Barack Obama needed to win. We ended up as a bit of a busman’s holiday as we spent a good bit of time campaigning for Obama. For the holiday we did a house swap with a couple in Philadelphia so we ended up volunteering in the local Fishtown office of the Democrats. What was most amazing is how similar it was canvassing the streets of Philadelphia to doing the same in places like Garforth, Methley, Swillington, Rothwell and Wetherby.The picture is me and Esme preparing to set out to do some good old-fashioned door knocking.
You hear some amazing and moving stories on the doorstep. In one house we visited the mother and grandmother were adamant they weren’t going to bother voting because “all politicians are the same”. After I’d spoken to them for a while we discovered that the grandfather was plagued with health problems and couldn’t afford the treatment he really needed. I explained that all politicians weren’t the same and that one of Obama’s main commitments was healthcare reform to give families like theirs a fair opportunity to receive the same healthcare that in the USA only the privileged can afford. I was so excited when I realised that my arguments had succeeded and that the whole family had pledged to support Obama!
President Obama (I still get goose bumps when I say it) is now fighting right-wing Republicans to get his healthcare reform plans enacted. The Republicans are resorting to every dirty trick in the book and are launching vicious attacks on our NHS, claiming that it’s “socialist” healthcare and it doesn’t give people the care they’d get under America’s private system. The Republicans are running nasty TV ads full of lies attacking the NHS.
Yesterday an amazing thing happened and a guy called Graham Lineham decided to use the internet and people power to fight back. Graham is better known as the award winning comedy writer behind Father Ted and The IT Crowd. He started a hash tag on Twitter called #welovetheNHS, within hours it was the most talked about topic on Twitter as thousands and thousands of people starting sharing their stories of how the NHS had helped them. The Labour Party has now put together a fantastic little widget that means you can display these moving stories on your website or Facebook. As well as showing it below I’ve created a special page for it here.
A wonderful night was had by all at this year’s Opera in the Park which as always was set in the glorious surroundings of Temple Newsam on one of the most beautiful warm evenings we’ve had this year! I’ve always thought that this free event provided by Leeds City Council was a real bonus for Leeds folk to be able to enjoy the delights of popular classics made accessible to all. It’s now an unmissable tradition for many local people and we had a great evening having a picnic with good friends. Esme, who is two, was still talking about her magical night this morning and I know that our friends’ children enjoyed it just as much as she did. Amongst the many thousands of people there, we usually bump into some familiar faces and it was nice to see Cllr Andrea McKenna (my former ward colleague in Garforth and Swillington) and Cllr Jim McKenna (an Armley councillor). It was also a coincidence that Cllr Stuart Golton, one of the Rothwell Lib Dem councillors, set up his picnic right near where we set up ours with friends. Congratulations to Alfie Boe and Natasha Marsh together with the Halle Symphony Orchestra and the Leeds Festival chorus on their splendid and enjoyable performances.
Leeds City Council reports that an Asbo has been given to a 14 year old girl in Wetherby to try to curb her drunken, threatening and violent behaviour. Earlier interventions had failed to control Catherine Emery’s behaviour. The Asbo will put strict controls on her for a two year period.
Asbos are an effective tool to use in the fight against anti social behaviour and have been one of the Labour government’s success stories, though there can always be further improvements. Asbos can be a necessary measure to protect others in the community from the individual’s behaviour and to highlight the seriousness of the situation. I have spoken at Labour Party conference on the issue of anti-social behaviour and know from my casework on behalf of others as a councillor in Garforth and Swillington and candidate in Rothwell just what a nightmare anti social behaviour can be and how it makes peoples lives a misery. The Garforth skate park, a project initiated after I met with local young people has been having problems with vandalism. Swillington residents have seen some hairy scenes recently as the Tesco Express has been targeted by vandals throwing objects at the windows which had to be boarded up. I know as a former resident and councillor that Swillington residents take great pride in their village, and many are tireless in their efforts to keep Swillington an attractive village community.
For the very real problems that anti social behaviour creates for our communities and the suffering to our people, the process of obtaining Asbos can be long – in some cases it can take two years.
I know from talking to Home Secretary Alan Johnson that anti social behaviour is an issue close to his heart also, and that’s why he recently called for a reinvigoration of Asbos as a weapon in the fight against extreme cases of intimidation and harassment. He said courts must be able to issue Asbos quicker to make it easier for problems to be reported and to provide more counselling for victims.
Although we are still tackling anti social behaviour in our communities, it’s comforting to know that since 1997 overall crime is down 39 per cent (over 5 million fewer crimes); domestic burglary is down 55 per cent; vehicle related crime is down 57 per cent and violent crime is down 40 per cent.
It’s good to remember the numerous achievements of the Labour government in the last twelve years of which these figures are just one example.
In the Elmet and Rothwell constituency we’ve often had issues with unauthorised traveller sites causing problems for local people. However, even the people who’ve suffered from these problems would be shocked by the online poll that the Daily Mail is running. It asks “Should the NHS allow gypsies to jump the queue?”
At the time of me writing this blog post the poll is still live so you’ve got time to register your displeasure by voting YES (so far 93% have, which given the leading question isn’t the hate filled answer the Daily Mail was looking for.)
Please vote and make sure you ask your friends to do so as well.