I can tell Christmas is coming when my constituency diary starts to fill up! Last weekend I was delighted to attend two really lovely Christmas events that I look forward to every year. The Victoria Park Christmas Fair is always brilliantly well attended, and even the shocking weather this year didn’t put off local families. And it is always a special treat to attend Trafford Music Service’s concerts, and this year, I very much enjoyed the talented performances by the talented young musicians attending Rock School.
Christmas isn’t fun for everyone of course, and especially for families struggling with the bills, it can be a real worry. So I was glad to join my colleagues Cllrs Sophie Taylor, Waseem Hassan and Akilah Akinola at White City, where we invited shoppers to leave a donation for Stretford Foodbank. As usual, we filled several trolleys. Thank you to everyone for your generosity.
I know many of us will also be feeling anxious about the spread of Covid and the new Omicron variant as we approach Christmas. On Wednesday evening, the Secretary of State announced some tightening of restrictions to try to slow down the spread of the virus. There is of course huge anger at the news of Christmas parties in 10 Downing Street and government departments last year when we were in lockdown, but no matter how angry my constituents feel, I know you will agree that mustn’t stop us doing all we can now to halt the virus. Please once again work at home if you can, wear a facemask in public places, and please, please make sure to have your vaccinations and booster when you’re eligible. None of us wants a repeat of last Christmas when we couldn’t be with friends and family.
In parliament this week, we spent two days debating the Nationality and Borders bill, and I have been contacted by many constituents about this disgraceful legislation. Labour has opposed this bill at every stage, it is inhumane, will place lives at risk, denies human rights, and will do nothing to fix the broken asylum system. From stripping citizenship from naturalised citizens without notice, to failing to introduce safe routes to prevent asylum seekers attempting hazardous journeys, including across the Channel, to shortening the period of support available to victims of modern slavery, this really is one of the most shameful pieces of legislation I have seen in my 11 years in parliament. The bill now moves to the House of Lords, where my Labour colleagues will do all they can to minimise its cruel provisions.
I’ve also been taking advantage of my return to the backbenches to pick up on my longstanding interest in criminal justice policy. It’s been a busy week, with statements from ministers on prisons, substance misuse and protection for victims, all important issues, but where years of Conservative neglect have done so much damage. I went into the chamber twice this week to repeat my longstanding call for shifting investment from creating more prison places to measures to prevent offending taking place in the first place, in particular female offending. Most women in prison present little threat to society, many of them have been abused and victims of crime themselves, and it is especially disastrous for children to have a mum in prison. I hope to be doing a lot more work on this in the coming year. It may not be a popular cause, but it is one I feel very strongly about.