My column published in the Ham & High this last week:
It’s been quite a year – both in government and in the constituency. And there is no real separation between those two. The constituency is where legislation and the economy hit the street. The people who come to my advice surgery and the letters, emails and phone calls that come in from local residents at the rate of between two and four hundred per day are my reliable barometer of local peoples’ lives.
Sadly, the stand out of the local year has to be the riots, which kicked off in Tottenham and then spread – not only to Wood Green in my constituency – but across the country. The images of peoples’ lives in flames and wanton looting seared into the nations psyche. I have written about the riots, cause and effect before, but in terms of my own actions at the time – I was duty Minister at the Home Office on the Sunday. With Boris, the PM, the DPM and the Home Sec out of the country – it was down to me to go out on the airwaves to speak to the nation. And of course – locally – going to visit the traders in Wood Green who had been left for hours the night the riot kicked off without police coming to their frantic calls and then visiting Tottenham High Road with Nick Clegg on the Monday to see the devastation for ourselves, meet some of those who had suffered the consequences of the riots and all of the local partners who needed to put things in place for recovery and help and support.
More generally, as a Liberal Democrat in a coalition government, it has meant making terribly hard decisions in order to do the right thing for the nation. I would have loved to come into government like Labour did in 1997 with a flourishing economy. But the economy not only is not flourishing – but takes all we can do not to go under. So I totally support and believe that the stringent measures we have taken as a government are what is protecting us from the hideous interest rates that we see hit other countries like Italy, Greece and Ireland. If we had those interest rates – the job losses and loss of homes would be massive compared to what we are suffering now.
The economy has dominated all – and will do for some time to come. So without rehearsing a full list of Liberal Democrat achievements in government I will mention a couple of key policies delivered – both which go to the heartbeat of Liberal Democrats – fairness.
Thanks to Liberal Democrats, the coalition has taken over a million of the lowest paid out of tax altogether and put £200 back in the pockets of 23 million low and middle income earners.
Our ‘pupil premium’ (which is money that the follows the child and is awarded on the basis of deprivation), has meant that even during these tough times in Haringey we received £5.3 million extra for our schools the first year of the pupil premium. This year it has gone up to £8.8 million and this will go on rising year on year of this government. Education is the key transformative for so many children.
More personally in my government portfolio (which is Equalities and Criminal Information) I have been very fortunate to be able to commence the Equality Act (nine tenths enacted); see civil partnerships in religious premises become law; announce that the government will consult on same sex marriage next March; produced action plans on: violence against women, equalities and transgender; introduce consultations: on stalking; on widening the definition of domestic violence; on the disclosure of information about previous convictions men have of harm to women (Clare’s Law); get rid of identity cards; reduce vetting and barring back to common sense levels; ban wheel clamping on private land; set up a Body Confidence campaign group (fighting the impossible pressure of the perfect image); find some funding for male domestic violence groups; play a part in the change of the laws of accession; ensure that government messages on women’s rights (a moment in history with the Arab Spring and Afghanistan), violence against women and LGB&T rights are taken across the world by travelling ministers; play a part in the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan post 2014; tackle Homophobia and Transphobia in sport with the Sports Charter; support and pursue more women on boards, equal pay; women entrepreneurs – and a lot more – which there just isn’t room to cover in this column.
But as ever – home is where the heart is – and here in Hornsey & Wood Green there have been many, many campaigns. Perhaps the biggest of which is fighting against plans which are supported by Labour Haringey for a massive waste plant at Pinkham Way . We have stopped them at the moment (thanks to lots of local people, Liberal Democrat Cllr Juliet Solomon and the Pinkham Way Alliance and the three local MPs) – but vigilance is key. As to Labour’s plans to make rubbish collections once every two weeks – judging from our survey – not wanted!
I have also – as always – been delighted to visit countless local people, schools, projects and events and you can always see what I am up to if you go to my website and look at the news section which covers what I do locally.
As ever, it has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve as your MP and I thank you all for your contribution in answering my emails and my surveys and for being the best constituents an MP could ever want.
Please just get in touch if ever I can be of help.
Wishing you all a very Happy 2012.