‘We’ll thrive whatever is thrown at us in 2019’
THE new year is an opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the last 12 months and to refocus on the challenges and opportunities facing all of us.
But when it comes to politics, how do you begin to explain a year like 2018W when there were too many stories for each news programme and the world seemed to have been turned upside down?
It’s fair to say it’s been a year of ups and downs, for our country and our city. Locally, we played host to the magnificent Weeping Window Poppy Display, welcoming thousands of tourists to our city in the process.
The ‘ay up duck holiday programme engaged thousands of families across the city over the school holidays.
And our children had the unique opportunity to learn about science and engineering at our three-day science fair to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF.
But the year was not without its challenges for too many in our community. We lost family and friends, some in tragic circumstances including Ryan Evans, who remains constantly in our thoughts.
The growing monkey dust epidemic, of which our city has been the epicentre, is blighting too many lives and needs renewed focus. And for too many people, genuine poverty and even homelessness are on the rise, exacerbated by this Conservative Government’s social security policies.
We had Royal births and Royal Weddings. We welcomed home World Cup and Invictus heroes and heroines, and marked the centenary of the Armistice.
We’ve had drones over Gatwick, and no end of droning on in Parliament. And through all of this, we have Brexit.
The issue that no one can ignore, which will come to a head this week and which this Government is proving incapable of properly delivering.
So 2018 has given us plenty to sift through, and no limit of lessons to be learned. Personally, 2018 had some challenges, but I’m proud of the work my team and I have done to deliver for my constituents and for the Potteries.
It is often said that statistics don’t tell a full story, and it’s true. You can’t reduce peoples lives to percentages.
But numbers don’t always have to hide the truth, they can illuminate it too. So in that spirit, I’d like to take this opportunity to share my year with you in numbers.
My team and I have now dealt with 13,134 individual cases and issues for local residents since my election.
Problems ranged from headaches with our councils (one in seven of every issue raised with me), to struggling with housing quality (one in every eight) to people who need help with their benefits and support, including the roll-out of the awful Universal Credit (one in 12).
But it wasn’t just casework that occupied my time. I think it’s the duty of a local MP to get out there and discover what’s bothering people first hand.
That’s why I knocked on over 5,000 doors last year to hear what matters to people in Stoke-on-trent North and Kidsgrove.
As well as my constituency surgeries every month, I’ve also held monthly coffee meetings throughout the year, talking national and local issues with you.
The favourite part of my job though is talking to young people, so I’ve visited 11 primary and secondary schools in the last year across Stoke-on-trent North and Kidsgrove speaking to hundreds of kids (and answering some rather interesting questions!).
But my job is to fight for you in Westminster, and in the last year I’ve spoken 49 times in the House of Commons on everything from shoddy house building to national security and child food poverty.
I’ve been fighting your corner every single day, battling for more investment in our schools and hospitals and standing up for our public services.
I’ve introduced a Bill in Parliament to support our local ceramics industry, to make sure the tableware sold here in the UK has a back stamp to let people know it’s made it England.
And I’m trying desperately to hold this Government to account and to help secure a Brexit which works for local people.
So as we begin 2019, I don’t want to make any predictions about what’s going to happen in the months ahead.
But the one thing I am confident about is that whatever is thrown at us this year, we will tackle it with gusto and thrive together as a community.
Because in uncertain times, the one thing we can be certain about is the potential of the Potteries.
HIGHS AND LOWS: The Weeping Window poppy installation at Middleport Pottery, and inset, the rise of homelessness and England’s World Cup success.