Just received an Ipswich Labour “leaflet” through my door.
Very surprising to see that there is no mention at all of the £25 million Ipswich will be getting from the Government as part of the Stronger Town’s Fund. I guess even they found it too hard to try to claim credit for something they strongly dismissed as an “election bribe” and something that would never happen.
However, they did find space in their leaflet to launch a full-frontal attack on me and my record as the Town’s MP. I thought it was only fair for me to respond to their charges one by one.
ORWELL BRIDGE: “Broken his promise”. I think out of all the charges thrown at me this is probably the most comical. Since my election I’ve even been nicknamed by some of my colleagues as “Mr Orwell Bridge” for the amount I’ve gone on about it. I’ve been incredibly robust with Highways England in calling for a solution to the bridge closures. Fortunately, we are now at a point where a new speed limit is being introduced during periods of high wind that should eliminate the need for frequent closures of the bridge.
Some of you may remember that I even held a special debate purely about the Orwell Bridge in Parliament on the matter. Is this something the former Labour MP even contemplated?
After years of chaos associated with Orwell Bridge closures we are about to turn a corner and after years of inaction by Ipswich Labour and their former MP, instead of putting politics aside and acknowledging the work I’ve done, all they can do is pour scorn on me.
Last month I was up on the bridge in the early hours monitoring the works and hope to be up there again in the next few days to see the finished work.
ORTHOPAEDIC SERVICES: “FAILED”. Again, after the Orwell Bridge probably the local issue I’ve been most active on. Like with the Bridge I held a special debate in Parliament to raise my concerns and to oppose the relocation of elective orthopaedic services from Ipswich to Colchester Hospital. I’m disappointed with the outcome and I continue to raise concerns about the merger between Ipswich and Colchester Hospital. When it comes to who fought harder for Ipswich on this issue? Me, my Labour predecessor or the Labour council, I think its pretty clear what the answer is.
The reality is I came to this late in the day after inaction by my Labour predecessor and to a certain extent the decision had already been made. I did what I could, but we got the outcome we got and I’m determined to make the best of it.
I was also very much involved in Ipswich Hospital securing over £5 million in funding from the Government for a new Molecular Laboratory which has helped the Hospital dramatically increase its testing capacity and it will also provide long term benefits such as improved cancer diagnosis.
NORTHERN BYPASS: “QUICKLY GAVE UP”. This is a lie. I haven’t given up. In the short-term my focus has been getting the Orwell Bridge resolved but my long-term focus remains the Northern Bypass. A decision was made not to progress plans due to neighbouring local authorities not being prepared to take on all the additional housing necessary to help fund the project. I’ve challenged this and with the new Freeport in Felixstowe the case for the bypass has only got stronger.
NHS heroes: “REFUSED”. Lies again. I didn’t attend a meeting organised by the local branch of the Trades Union Congress TUC (a Labour Party affiliated organisation) for all key workers due to the abuse and threats I’ve received from some of its members/supporters in the past. The idea that I’ve point blank refused to meet with NHS workers who are constituents is a 100% lie. Throughout the pandemic I’ve written many letters on behalf of constituents who work in the NHS about their pay and conditions. Of course, my door is always open to them.
A-LEVEL RESULTS: “FAILED TO SPEAK OUT”. The truth is that I was on the Education Select Committee which produced a report ahead of last summers exam series warning OFQUAL about the effect that having an algorithm might have on that year’s results. I was outspoken in my views. Another lie.
Interesting that the Labour Party had nothing to say on this whole issue of awarding exam results when you’ve had no exams, until it all went wrong and then “Captain Hindsight” Starmer came to the rescue!
CLOSURE of SCHOOLS IN JANUARY: “HID AWAY”. I have no idea what Ipswich Labour actually mean by this. Other than the fact that I was literally locked away for a week during this time due to having to self-isolate because I’d tested positive for COVID-19.
CHILDREN’S CENTRES: “STAYED SILENT”. Another lie. I issued a statement. The statement largely welcomed the new family hubs and addressed many of the mistruths and scare stories put out by the local Labour Party. I do however continue to monitor developments closely. I must add though, that this year I haven’t, from what I recall, received a single piece of correspondence from a constituent complaining about how the new system is working.
FREE SCHOOL MEALS: “VOTED AGAINST”. I voted against a non-binding motion in Parliament. Eligible children in Ipswich and Suffolk continue to receive free school meals during the holidays. This has been funded by the unprecedented COVID WINTER GRANT SCHEME (£2 million was given to Suffolk).
ALLOCATION of POLICE OFFICERS: “SAID NOTHING”. Ipswich and Suffolk have had increased numbers of police officers benefitting from the Prime Minister’s plan to introduce 25,000 new police officers. I have been a keen advocate calling for the national funding formula to change so that Ipswich gets a much better deal.
EASING LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS: “CALLED FOR”. I signed letter calling for lockdown restrictions to be lifted at the end of May. By the rate of progress we are making at the moment, and bearing in mind that at the end of March every over fifty has already been vaccinated, what is problem with that? Think about where we will be in the next two months. Would Ipswich Labour rather us be locked down throughout the summer?
If this diatribe of lies is the best that Ipswich labour can do, then my only conclusion can be that Ipswich deserves better, and quite frankly, bring it on.
A lot of people have written into me about pubs and their concerns that the current tax regime doesn’t allow our local pubs to thrive. I’ve had some of my best moments in Ipswich at our pubs and I share their concerns that high beer duty and business rates are causing pubs to struggle and in some cases even shut down.
I recently represented this view in Parliament including the comment of one landlord I spoke to who said he felt more like a tax collector than a small business owner.
I’ve called on the Government to get behind landlords and pubs in the next budget as the current system does not work.
Pubs employ around 1,500 people in Ipswich and are great venues for the community to come together over a drink – jobs, landlords and community must be at the heart of reform.
It’s been a very long journey but in 4 hours we will leave the EU, finally, after 3 and a half years. Look how I’ve aged, picture of me as a fresh faced 27 year old, and now as a result of the crazy series of events that unfolded afterwards I won the immense honour of becoming the Member of Parliament for Ipswich. I will never ever forget that my first vote in Parliament was to vote to deliver Brexit and ensure that we can move on as a country.
Yesterday I was pleased to be able to raise my concerns about social media use in prisons directly with Ministers in the House of Commons Chamber. I must say I was pleased with the response I received. It definitely seems like the Government are listening and that things will be tightened up. I am very glad that automatic early release for serious offenders is coming to an end. About time!
I’m shocked by Network Rail’s announcement that there will be such a major level of disruption over the next few months for those who need to use rail services at the weekend. The fact that passengers have been given less than 24 hours notice is completely unacceptable.
It’s been a busy third week on the job in Westminster but a very productive one. On Tuesday, I rose for the first time in the House of Commons to give my maiden speech. There were some nerves waiting to be called but I was anxious to do justice to our town and its people.
During the election campaign I knocked on thousands of doors across Ipswich and by far crime and anti-social behaviour was the number one issue people raised with me. All too often, residents tell me they are scared of going into their own town centre.
I was glad to be able to get the opportunity today to have a sit down discussion in Parliament with the Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris. I was challenging and made clear to him how unhappy many of my constituents are with the issues there have been with the Rail services they rely on over the past month.
I remember last October when it was announced that Highways England had commissioned an aerodynamics study looking at the ways in which closures of the Orwell Bridge could be minimized and what measures could be introduced to prevent closures of the bridge at times of high winds.
It has been the greatest honour of my life to have been elected as the Member of Parliament for Ipswich in the early hours of Friday morning. The the result here in Ipswich and across the country is a clear indication that the majority of people would like the referendum result to be respected and Brexit to be delivered. There is a huge desire for us to turn a chapter and move on as a country. Once we have left the EU the focus then needs to be on bringing people together and healing the divisions in our country, however difficult this may be.