Never be satisfied

The Labour candidate in Sedgefield stresses his local credentials and says despite what he feels are

It’s been a privilege to stand for Parliament in my home area. I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me they remember me from school, or knew my dad from the mines, or who have a shared friend.

The mining tradition is still strong here, and gives us a real sense of community. My father was a miner at Fishburn colliery, and speaking at the unfurling of the new banner for the next door Deaf Hill pit, and marching into the Durham Miner’s Gala alongside miners from nearby Trimdon Grange are memories that will stay with me forever

People who don’t know the area might still associate us only with coal mining, but Sedgefield constituency is a diverse collection of former pit villages, market towns, and the new town, Newton Aycliffe.

I’m proud of what Labour’s achieved here over the last ten years, with new hospitals ringing the constituency, rebuilt schools and a thousand more businesses, but being a reformer and progressive means never, ever, being satisfied with what you’ve got. So I’ve been campaigning on the future- a regenerated town centre for Newton Aycliffe, more opportunities for our young people, and dealing with crime and the fear of crime that haunt so many of our communities.

The campaign itself has been hard fought but generally good natured. The Tory candidate told the local paper that Margaret Thatcher was his inspiration. I’m not sure that’s the right strategy to win votes in Sedgefield!

I’ve been unimpressed by the Lib Dems. Their “local” candidate actually lives, works and votes in Newcastle, and they’ve run the kind of campaign that’s designed to hide what they really stand for, with scare story after scare story. It’s pretty desperate stuff, and not convincing many voters.

I’m looking forward to the election night, and if the people of Sedgefield put their trust in me, I’ll start work right away to deliver investment, jobs and the strong public services our community needs.

Photo by Lisa Knight

Phil Wilson is the Labour MP for Sedgefield.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496