3 years new
Three years ago I was first elected to serve Bermondsey and Old Southwark. In that short period, a lot has changed, but also far too much remains the same.
My election helped end the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition Government run by Cameron and Clegg that had brought so much damage to the local community. My Lib Dem predecessor supported the tripling of tuition fees which affected thousands of local people, axed legal aid for families, voted eight times for the bedroom tax which hit over four thousand people in Southwark and never once apologised.
Voters put their trust in me in 2015 and my promise never to vote for anything that would harm our community. I've kept my promise.
It has been a rollercoaster three years in which we have seen the divisive Brexit referendum, the departure of Cameron and May's arrival as Prime Minister. I lost my friend and colleague Jo Cox, murdered by a rightwing coward. My daughter Esme arrived two years ago and continues to brighten any day. I helped change the law - from Opposition - to better help many disabled people. Last year we experienced the terror attack at London Bridge and Borough Market and the Government has now backed my campaign to better protect British employers in the event of any further attack in the UK. We have also already had a further general election, which saw May lose her majority and me returned in Bermondsey and Old Southwark with an amazing 13,000 majority.
I have helped thousands of local people, and remain grateful for all the support and trust this has helped build. I continue to work hard for anyone who seeks my help - as well as running my weekly surgery meetings, I organise extra 'reach out' sessions across the whole community I serve. Since last June's election, over three thousand people have sought my help with housing, visas, benefits and other issues.
Since that incredible election win in May 2015, too much continues to stay the same though.
Every week I help people hit by avoidable, unnecessary problems caused by callous, incompetent policies like the Coalition's Universal Credit which was rolled out in Southwark with devastating consequences for many local families. Local foodbanks are overwhelmed as a result of Universal Credit delays and other problems and in the last year there has been a tripling in the number of children reliant on foodbanks to survive. Debt, destitution and poverty continue to flourish under a Government neglecting the domestic UK agenda whilst pursuing a damaging Brexit agenda which I continue to oppose.
The Windrush scandal has rocked the nation, but is a direct result of policies pursued under May as Home Secretary for the Coalition since 2010 and as PM since 2016. The 'hostile environment' has had terrible ramifications for too many local people caught up in Home Office processes despite being legally entitled - or born - in the UK.
The housing crisis continues unaddressed, the NHS is struggling to run now in summer after the worst winter crisis since the Tories were thrown out in 1997, and the police now cannot investigate all crime. The shocking rise in violent, sex, knife and gun crime (including in Walworth last weekend), follows eight years of cuts to police numbers. Southwark lost over 200 police officers and PCSOs in budgets backed by Lib Dem and Tory MPs and Ministers and the impact is still being felt.
It is tough being in Opposition in the face of such an awful Government. But it is far tougher on the local community and all the people I serve who need action on housing, policing, the NHS and low pay. I will continue to fight for our community and to keep my promises. I hope the next three years sees a national change in direction and policies which benefit Bermondsey and Old Southwark.