This column was first published in Bradford's Telegraph & Argus on Weds 14 December 2022
As the year draws to a close, this is the first festive season in three years where families and friends can truly come together and celebrate. It is our first restriction-free Christmas since 2019. For that reason alone, it should be a time of joy for people in Bradford of all faiths and none.
Yet, none of us is under any illusion that this will be an easy Christmas. Families in my constituency and across the country are struggling to keep their heads above the water with the runaway cost of living, soaring prices of essential food and unmanageable winter energy prices.
It is shocking that, according to a recent survey, almost half of families in Bradford are worried about affording gifts this Christmas, and over a quarter say they cannot afford to celebrate Christmas this year at all.
In autumn, the Government’s disastrous mini-budget blew a £30 billion hole in the economy that crashed the pound, weakened pensions and added hundreds of pounds a month to mortgage bills that will burden many families for years to come. But that is just one example of the last twelve years of Conservative mismanagement of our economy that means people are working harder and earning less. The Government has shown time and again that it is not looking out for working families. Just look at our NHS.
I constantly hear from residents who struggle to get a GP appointment and, even when they do, it is often a telephone consultation. At many practices, face-to-face appointments are still not back to the levels they were before the pandemic. Irregular phone check-ups are no replacement for examining someone in person and leaves patients at risk of misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis.
I have repeatedly raised in Parliament the shortage of GPs and the problems people have getting face-to-face appointments. But on top of over a decade of underinvestment in the NHS, rising demand and declining GP numbers mean that the NHS is struggling to cope.
The Government has also shown that it hasn’t much interest in looking out for the North either.
Time and again we were promised new, high speed, electrified rail infrastructure through Northern Powerhouse Rail with a stop in Bradford. I challenged the Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor directly on their commitment to this and neither would offer me the guarantee the North needs. Lack of investment is holding back our region and the ‘make do’ revamp of existing lines just doesn’t cut it.
Meanwhile, Labour has a long-term plan to get our economy growing again, powered by the talent and effort of working people and business, creating good jobs, insulating homes and helping high streets thrive again by fixing unfair business rates.
And as we go into the New Year, there is cause for optimism in Bradford:
It was a proud moment in May when Bradford was announced to be the UK City of Culture 2025 and work is well underway to build up to our year in the limelight. I am also eagerly supporting news of the once-in-a-generation levelling up bid centred on Odsal that will spur on investment in Bradford - bringing hundreds of jobs and over a billion pounds of social value to the city. If successful, these will boost regeneration in Bradford for decades to come. I am hosting a Ministerial visit to Odsal in the New Year precisely to showcase what Bradford South and the city has to offer. When given the opportunity it deserves, Bradford is ready to seize it.
Finally, in sport, the FIFA World Cup is well underway, and I commiserate with the England team on their knockout last Saturday against France. Let’s hope for success in the 2024 European Championship. The football world cup follows hot on the heels of the Rugby League World Cup that was hosted right here across the north of England, and saw our fantastic wheelchair team crowned world champions.
However you choose to celebrate the festive season, I wish you and your families a safe and merry Christmas, and a happy and peaceful New Year.