I woke up this morning to the byelection results in Wakefield (where I spent all of yesterday) and Tiverton. No matter how he tries to brush them off, these results, and the resignation of Conservative party chair Oliver Dowden very early this morning, are another huge blow to Boris Johnson. I’m delighted we’ll be welcoming a new Labour MP for Wakefield to parliament next week – and it will be fascinating to observe the mood among Conservative MPs when I get back to Westminster on Monday.
Meantime, I’ve had some lovely events to attend here in Manchester. It was an honour to be asked to deliver the Margaret Ashton memorial lecture as part of Manchester Libraries’ and Manchester Literature Festival’s celebrations last weekend. I didn’t know much about Margaret Ashton until I began to read up on her in preparation for my speech – but she turns out to have been a very strong minded and impressive woman. She was a suffragist, a pacifist, a campaigner for improvements in the lives of women and children, and Manchester’s first ever woman councillor. Her achievements are remarkable – a big thank you to the organisers of the event for helping her to become better known.
It was also a pleasure to be invited to speak to members of Christians on the Left at their training event in Manchester. I do a lot of work with CotL as we share many policy interests, including on refugee and asylum issues and family poverty.
Best of all however was my visit to Our Lady of the Rosary primary school to meet Year 4 to hear about the Big Plastic Count that they’ve been involved in. The told me about their recent litter pick, and asked me some very interesting (and difficult!) questions about tackling the climate emergency, air pollution, how to stop the dumping of plastic waste in the sea and the harm it does, and what more we can do to reduce the use of plastics. I’m always struck by how serious and knowledgeable young people are about the future of our planet; it’s an issue they really care about. Next week, I’ll be questioning government officials about action to tackle poor air quality in my role as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and I’ll make sure to report back to Year 4 about the session!