STEPHEN HEPBURN: New challenges ahead for a new year

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New Year is a moment to reflect on what’s happened and look forward to the 12 months ahead.

I hope you and yours had a great Christmas and enjoy the rest of what is a very special time.

Lots of people need a break, and I applaud everybody who’ll be working when others are on holiday, including our emergency services, NHS, armed forces, shop assistants, pub and restaurant staff, call centre operators, petrol station attendants and all the rest who put in the hours for rates of pay which frankly should and could be much better.

Without them, everybody else couldn’t have a good time.

And as I say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016, fresh challenges emerge on the horizon.

The General Election last May produced a pleasing increase in the Labour majority here in the Jarrow Parliamentary Constituency and I’m grateful to everybody in Hebburn, the Boldons, Cleadon, Fellgate, Hedworth, Wardley, Leam Lane, Pelaw, Heworth, and Jarrow itself who put their faith in me and the people’s party.

We won’t let you down, and on the same day Labour achieved an inspiring clean sweep in elections for South Tyneside Council and the parts of Gateshead Council I represent.

We won our local battles, but sadly, as you know, Labour lost the national war, with a small rise in the Tory vote enough to let David Cameron and a Conservative Government unleash a fatwa on working families and North East England.

If you’re poor or run your own business, disabled or fighting fit, you’ll be feeling the pinch or worried about friends and neighbours who are finding life is getting tougher.

There’s nothing fair about wicked Tory social security cuts, and my delight at Labour defeating bank account-emptying Conservative tax credit cuts is tempered by the knowledge the Cons still intend to short-change workers.

Our local Citizens Advice Bureau tells me the number of people in this area sent to a food bank by a doctor or advice worker is up 400% in the five years that Cameron’s lounged in Downing Street, rocketing faster than British astronaut Tim Peake.

Cameron’s Conservatives aren’t satisfied with turning the clock back to the grim 1980s when Maggie Thatcher unleashed Tory misery, her adult children incidentally well able to afford a hefty donation to charity after pocketing £1million-plus by selling their mother’s old clothes and possessions.

The £266,500 received alone for a model of an American bald eagle presented to Thatcher by US President Ronald Reagan could feed a destitute family of four for a decade or more.

Cameron’s Conservatives are taking us back on Tyneside to the Great Depression of the 1930s, when children went to bed hungry and the poor and workless relied on charity because the Tories refused to help.

It was heartbreaking to see the much-loved Jarrow NHS Walk In Centre shut despite our passionate campaign to save a medical unit that was appreciated by patients if alas not the bean counters doing Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s dirty work.

Never forget that I obtained a written promise to keep it open from Andy Burnham if Labour had won the General Election and he, not Tory Hunt, was the Health Secretary.

The mourned NHS centre is enduring proof that silly cynics who pretend all political parties are the same talk utter rubbish.

I’m up for the struggle ahead to increase incomes and improve services, and hope you’ll join me in 2016.

We know where the Tory cuts will hit. They’ll hit working people hardest, whether on low or reasonable incomes.

The Conservatives are a cold, callous Government driving a deeper wedge between the haves and the have-nots.

An ignorant Government undoing the good work by Labour in education.

A despotic Government stripping people of protection at work by shackling trade unions.

An uncaring Government not batting an eye lid when people struggle.

It’s an honour as the Labour MP to represent everybody in the Jarrow constituency, and I’ll continue to do serve you to the best of my ability.

I wish a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all.