Let me begin my first Morpeth Herald column after the General Election by saying how proud and honoured I am to have once again been chosen by the people of Wansbeck to represent you all at Westminster.
This was the third election I have contested and I feel humbled that more than half the people in our constituency put their faith in me. Thank you.
Everyone in the constituency can rest assured that I will do everything in my power to faithfully represent all your interests, both in and outside the House of Commons.
I have been promoted to Chairman of the Labour Party — a job I am looking forward to immensely to support our Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who confounded his critics by conducting such an excellent campaign. I will have new responsibilities, but let me state that they will not interfere for one moment with me continuing to be as active as your MP as I have tried to be since I first took my seat.
As a Labour Party we have much work to do to prepare for Government, which I believe is a real possibility now, but there is also much to do here in Wansbeck.
The election outcome confounded both opponents of the Labour Party and the media pundits, who were expecting that we would take a drubbing. However, the result came as no surprise to those of us campaigning on the ground to get across our policies and the views of Jeremy Corbyn.
As our election campaign co-ordinator I knew from travelling the country that people were getting behind us because of their disillusionment with the Conservative Party, as well as their acceptance that our manifesto offered a radical alternative.
While the Prime Minister was seen as putting her own position and that of her party above the national interest, Jeremy’s performance altered so many people’s view of him, and the gap in the polls, which at one point had been more than 20 points, narrowed to the point where the election resulted in a hung Parliament.
However, instead of resigning and giving the Labour Party the chance to form a Government, which we were ready and willing to do, Mrs May chose to cling to power on the back of support from the Democratic Unionist Party.
The result is that at a time when as a country we need, in her own words, “strong and stable” leadership, we are left with a Government that has gone into crucial Brexit talks as little more than a laughing stock.
The Tories’ manifesto has virtually been torn up. In the Queen’s Speech there was no reference to key planks, such as changes to the way older people would pay for home care, the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, the loss of free school meals and the expansion of grammar schools.
Closer to home, there have been administration changes at Northumberland County Council so I will be seeking answers to questions I have put to Conservative Leader Peter Jackson about investment.
I will be wanting to know what his plans are for the site in Ashington, now that he has said County Hall will no longer be moving there. We also need answers on the role of Arch, what is happening to plans for a new Goosehill school, leisure centre and multi-storey car park in Morpeth, investment in Bedlington town centre, and what his administration’s plans are for re-opening the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line, as well as what support will be forthcoming for the Energy Central Project at Blyth.
Challenging times lie ahead, but they are challenges the Labour Party and myself are prepared for, nationally and locally.