First week back in parliament after the summer, and the first week for many months that all MPs have been in the chamber for debates, and voting in person. There’s been a real sense of excitement at seeing everyone again, but while I’m very impressed with the covid safety measures parliament has kept in place, I’m furious at the selfish and irresponsible behaviour of most Conservative MPs, who are refusing to wear masks or make any attempt at social distancing. It’s simply disgraceful.
I’m also horrified at the education secretary, Gavin Williamson’s, casual confusion of Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje. This is insulting and hurtful on so many levels, and it’s frankly unbelievable that it even happened. Both sportsmen have of course been campaigning brilliantly for children and young people, but what is wrong with Williamson that he can’t even recall which of them he actually spoke to? Meantime, Marcus Rashford has asked all MPs to write to the prime minister demanding that no child go hungry because their parents can’t afford to provide for them. Labour would protect family incomes by keeping the extra £20 a week in universal credit in place, increasing the proportion of income people on UC are able to keep as they start earning, an increase in the national living wage, and school breakfast clubs for every child whose parents want them. My letter’s in the post to Boris Johnson to ask what it is the Conservatives will be doing to ensure no child goes hungry.
But what we do know is that this week, Conservative MPs voted through a swingeing tax increase that will hurt low paid working people hardest. Whatever they say, the Conservatives know that this won’t protect people from having to sell their home if they need long-term care, it won’t ensure low paid care workers get a decent wage, and it will get swallowed up dealing with NHS backlogs that Tory austerity created in the first place. We do need a comprehensive plan for funding social care, but it has to be paid for fairly, with those with the broadest shoulders bearing the biggest load, not those on the lowest wages. Labour voted against this tax increase, and so did a handful of Conservative MPs, rightly outraged at this blatant breaking of a Conservative election manifesto promise.
But while I guess Conservatives lacking integrity is just business as usual, there have been some happier signs of more normality returning to parliament. It was especially good to see cancer charity Macmillan in Westminster to hold their annual coffee morning.
And, back here in the constituency, it was an honour to be invited to Old Trafford to attend a ceremony arranged by Manchester United Disabled Supporters’ Association for the official opening of a dedicated area right at the top of the iconic Stretford End for disabled fans and their carers. I know how much effort and thought has gone into welcoming disabled supporters to the ground, and the new space looks stunning, with an amazing view of the pitch. Congratulations to everyone involved in this fabulous project!