Julie Cooper column: European election results, medicinal cannabis debate and Hollywood legend's visit to Burnley
Someone famously once said: “A week is a long time in politics.” And as this week has shown, they were not wrong.
Two years of Conservative Party ructions finally came to a head last Friday as Theresa May set the date for her departure.
Her legacy will be a divided country, record levels of child poverty, food banks and an NHS in crisis, so I won’t be sorry to see her go but I have to say that I am concerned that more time will be wasted as the Tory hopefuls battle it out to attain the top job. There is now a real worry that we will crash out of the EU with no deal and in my view that is to be avoided at all costs.
The European Union elections results were disappointing but not surprising. People right across the country are justifiably angry over the Brexit chaos and many used this election to protest against the Conservative Government and the official Opposition.
It is a shame that some really dedicated MEPs got caught in the crossfire and lost their seats. When the results are viewed altogether it is clear that nothing has really changed since the Referendum: half the population want to leave the EU and half want to remain. Until such time as we have a General Election the Tory Party will remain in the driving seat and the new Prime Minister, whoever it is, will have their work cut out.
In the meantime I have plenty of work to be getting on with. On Monday I responded on behalf of the Opposition to a debate about access to medicinal cannabis. I was pleased to speak up on behalf of the families of thousands of children suffering with severe forms of epilepsy whose only relief from up to 300 seizures per day, is cannabis oil.
After much delay medicinal cannabis was legalised in November 2018 in the UK but sadly access to this life saving medication is still virtually none existent on the NHS. The Government’s failure to act is causing needless suffering and what we are seeing is the development of a familiar two tier system where those who can afford pay around £2,000 per month to obtain private supplies whilst those who can’t afford go without. This is unacceptable and I will continue to press for Government action.
On Tuesday I met with representatives from the National Autism Association. I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism and I know from speaking to many teachers and constituents in Burnley and Padiham that whilst awareness of autism and the many challenges that autistic people is increasing the necessary support in education and the world of work is not keeping pace.
Funding for special educational needs and disability continues to fall and even as I speak Lancashire County Council is considering further cuts to these budgets. In the NHS in spite of the Government’s warm words of support funding for children’s mental health is woefully inadequate. These cuts are very shortsighted because they often lead to more serious conditions that require more expensive treatments.
On Wednesday I met with the Chief Executive Officer at Manchester Airport to discuss the passenger and business needs of East Lancashire. Manchester Airport is currently being refurbished and expanded. The new Pier terminal that is being built will be bigger than Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and will be equipped to provide a better passenger experience for the 30 million people who use the airport each year.
There will also be improved access for the new generation of aircraft designed to minimise environmental impact. After Heathrow and Gatwick, Manchester is the country’s only other full international airport. This is a huge benefit for businesses in the North West and also presents a wealth of employment opportunities for our region.
Back in Burnley I was delighted to visit Burnley’s fantastic Youth Theatre. The newly refurbished theatre was officially reopened by Sir Ian McKellen, star of stage and cinema.
Sir Ian was born in Burnley and now aged 80 is marking an illustrious acting career with 80 special live performances covering every corner of the UK. It was a real honour to have him in Burnley. His performance at the Youth Theatre was entertaining and inspiring and an all round treat.
I held advice surgeries on Friday and Saturday and I would like to thank the Jinnah Centre and Burnley Tesco for hosting.
My next MP’s Surgery will be on Saturday 8th June from 10am – noon at my office at 8 Keirby Walk Burnley.
No appointments are necessary as people will be seen on a first come first served basis.
Alternatively you can email me on [email protected] or phone my constituency office on 01282 425744.