As covid relaxations are beginning to be relaxed, my diary has been getting busier. It was just fantastic last Friday to see Trafford Music Service restart live rehearsals. Cllr Tom Ross and I popped in to hear the young players practising, and we both got quite emotional! They have so much talent, and it was exciting and moving to hear them playing together.
I was also delighted to present a Downing Street Points of Light award to our very own local celebrity, Wayne Devlin, for his amazing singathon in aid of the Alzheimers Society, and in honour of his musical hero, the great Tony Bennett. We’re all very proud of you, Wayne - congratulations!
On Wednesday, I headed off to the West Midlands to attend the World Skills UK summit at Dudley College. I met some brilliant students studying IT, design and media subjects. Their creativity and digital skills were very impressive. I always love visiting colleges, and World Skills UK’s work is very special, offering students the chance to showcase their work in international competitions. I first met them at Trafford College a few years ago. I could not be prouder to see our students compete and succeed on the world stage.
While I’ve enjoyed being able to meet more people face to face, for our local businesses, the relaxation of restrictions is even more significant. The past year has put huge pressure on them, causing great anxiety, and forcing some out of business. I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to reopen safely. But although the NHS has done an excellent job in getting people vaccinated, the rapid spread of the Indian variant is worrying. If you’re going out to mix with others, please be careful, test yourself regularly, and please, please go for your vaccine when you’re offered it.
Finally, I have been contacted by many constituents, appalled and upset at the horrific violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. A foreign office minister made a statement about it to parliament this week. Labour is absolutely clear that the violence must be de-escalated on both sides, so that the underlying injustices - including ending the eviction of Palestinians from their homes, and ensuring respect for religious sites - can be addressed. We are pressing the UK government to recognise Palestine as a state, something other countries have done, to do everything it can to support and preserve a ceasefire. But it is awful to hear of civilians, including children, injured or killed, and the first priority must be to end the violence.