Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: Theresa May had no answer to my question
As I write this the whole country is reeling following the Prime Minister's shock decision not to go through with the vote on the Brexit deal, despite repeated assurances from her and her Ministers right up to the last minute that the vote would go ahead.
This further delay seems to be a desperate move to thwart the democratic process and to avoid being defeated at the vote. Beyond buying herself some more time, it is not clear what she hopes to achieve or when.
The clock though is ticking and the vast majority of people right across the country do not want the UK to crash out of the EU with no deal. This latest course of action is clearly not in the national interest.
It ought never to have come to this. In two years Theresa May has been unable to get beyond Conservative Party squabbles and has lurched from one crisis to another: first she said ‘no deal’ was better than a bad deal and then she asked MPs to vote for her deal claiming that ‘no deal’ must be avoided at all costs and now at the eleventh hour she has taken the deal off the table altogether.
Theresa May is, for the time being still in the driving seat, as she has been for the last two years but we are presently on the road to nowhere with a serious car crash imminent while she remains behind the wheel.
This should never have been a party political issue; it is far too important and from the outset she ought to have worked for a cross party approach around shared objectives putting the national interest first. It is now vital that Parliament steps in to avert a crisis of potentially epic proportions. We in the Parliamentary Labour Party have repeatedly made it clear that we will work with all parties in Parliament in an attempt to salvage an acceptable deal from this car crash situation. .
Let’s face facts; it’s not just the dark winter days and Brexit that’s dampening the spirits, a report published last week showed us the reality we all suspected, namely that the North of England is getting a raw deal under the Tories.
It highlighted that since 2010, Government funding to the South East of England rose by £3.2 billion whilst funding to the North of England fell by £6.3 billion.
This is not right or fair and it really is no wonder that life expectancy is as much as nine years less for those of us who are born and live in the North.
The Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative was on paper a very good idea but it has to be more than warm words. The Minister for the Northern Powerhouse was in Burnley on Friday which is all well and good but the stark fact is that the Northern Powerhouse Project was started in 2014 and still funding differentials between the North and the South are very much in evidence with no plans to change this.
The Government spends £146 per person in Lancashire and £326 per person in Surrey; I think that this tells us all we need to know about their values and priorities.
On Wednesday I raised another funding scandal with the Prime Minister: the absence of provision for children with special needs. Theresa May has spoken a lot about good schools and higher standards.
What she doesn’t speak about are the record numbers of children with special educational needs and disabilities who are excluded from school because the provision to support their needs is not funded. There are many families in Burnley and Padiham who are being left with no option but to home educate their children. Targeting the most vulnerable children and depriving them of the chance to fulfil their potential, is no way to run an education service. Teachers at every stage tell me they are not getting the resources they need to do their job.
The Prime Minister had no answer to my question on Wednesday and the situation is likely to get even worse as Lancashire County Council tell me they are considering taking a further million from the special needs budget in the next financial year.
I’m reminded of the words of Aneurin Bevan: “The Tories are not terrible people, they just do terrible things.”
On a more cheerful note, as we approach the festive season I want to thank all the children who took part in my Christmas card competition.
Over 1400 children from primary schools across Burnley and Padiham entered this year. The standard was as ever, exceptionally high and I am very grateful to this year’s judges: Lorna Tatchell (the Mayoress of Padiham), Paul France (Deputy CEO from Burnley Football Club in the Community), Simon Figg (Burnley Royal Mail Sorting Office Manager) and Mick Cartledge (the CEO of Burnley Council) This year’s winner is 9 year old, Seth Davey from Padiham Primary School. On Friday I was delighted to go along to the school assembly to congratulate Seth in person.
I would like to thank all the staff and children at Padiham Primary for the warmth of their welcome. The winning design will be displayed in my office window and the finished cards sent out far and wide.
If you need my assistance with any matter please email [email protected] or call the constituency office on 01282 425744.
To speak to me in person, come along to my next MP’s surgery on 15th December from 10am-12pm at my constituency office at 8 Keirby Walk, Burnley. My office is open to the public from 10am-4pm weekdays (half days on Tuesday) where my staff will do their very best to help you and pass on to me the issues which you raise.