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Bridget_Phillipson_supporting_Owen_Smith_in_Labour_leadership_contest.JPGThe Labour leadership contest is underway. This is a critical moment for the Labour Party, our region and our country. It is more important than ever that we have a strong, unified and credible Labour Party to oppose and fight the Conservatives. And I believe Owen Smith can lead us to achieve that.

Owen is principled, passionate and credible, and he will unite Labour once again. During the last year, he has secured major victories over the Conservative government's regressive cuts to disability benefits and over cuts to support for low-paid workers.

It is clear we must oppose failed Conservative economic policy, but it is not enough to be only anti-austerity - we need a concrete plan for prosperity. 

Owen has set out a bold and ambitious programme for Labour's future and the future of our country. Owen's plan for a British New Deal will deliver £200bn of investment to left-behind areas like ours. 

Reducing inequality and spreading opportunity will be the central mission of Labour under Owen's leadership. Owen will offer a strong voice during our negotiations with the European Union and he will trust the British people to sign off that deal either through a general election or a second referendum. 

I know some Labour Party members and supporters will disagree with my support for Owen: I expect and respect that. 

When I decided to support the vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn tabled at the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on 27 June, it was not a decision I took lightly. I have always respected Jeremy's mandate since he was elected. However, his lacklustre approach during the EU referendum campaign and recent testimonials from my Labour colleagues who have worked closely with him during the referendum and in the Shadow Cabinet have proven to me that he cannot provide the leadership we need. 

It is no secret that I did not vote for Jeremy last summer, but I had always hoped he would make a success of it. I have not been publicly critical of Jeremy - that is not my politics. Instead, I addressed my concerns directly to him at the PLP meeting.

We need a leader and an opposition capable of standing up to the government and providing a radical alternative.

As your elected representative, I have a responsibility to balance different opinions among members and all constituents, and to set out my views clearly. I appreciate that some constituents may disagree with me, but at times the language used towards parliamentary colleagues and others has been far beyond what can ever be acceptable. None of us should be describing fellow Labour people as traitors, scum or scabs. Not ever. 

One thing on which I agree completely with Jeremy is that people are turned off of politics by the politics of abuse. All of us who want politics to matter, who want to see a Labour government elected to transform people's lives for the better, need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of civility, courtesy and decency. I hope the leadership contest this summer will be conducted in the spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect. 

And I would urge Labour members and supporters in Houghton and Sunderland South to vote for Owen.

Why I'm backing Owen Smith to be the next Labour leader

The Labour leadership contest is underway. This is a critical moment for the Labour Party, our region and our country. It is more important than ever that we have a...

Bridget_s_business_breakfast.jpgI just held the first in my series of business breakfasts on 15 July 2016 at the Evolve Business Centre at Rainton Bridge.

I’d like to thank Iain Wright MP, Chair of Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee for attending as guest speaker, and everyone who came along and contributed to the discussions.

The goal of my business breakfast series is to listen to local businesses about their concerns - what they think are the most important issues for boosting local economic growth and promoting our region’s competitive advantage. If you missed this one but would like to receive the invite to my next event, please drop me an email at bridget.phillipson.mp@parliament.uk with your full name, position, business name, business address, email, and your phone number.

In my constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South, over 99% of all enterprises are small and medium sized businesses. They truly are the backbone of our local economy.

The issue that we returned to throughout the event was skills. I hope to focus more on this at the next event - particularly on the skills gap, apprenticeships and investment in education.

Our area has so much talent and potential, with so many inspiring business owners who work really hard, take tremendous risks, and make a big contribution to our local economy. However, the support from central government does not match up with what they deserve.

 Bridget_s_business_breakfast_group_photo.jpg

Iain Wright MP, the Chair of Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, raised some important points on the so-called Northern Powerhouse – how some big urban areas that are already doing well have been receiving additional funding, whereas areas such as our region that desperately need more investment in infrastructure are being left behind. 

Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary to the TUC Northern, pointed out the importance of improving skills and protecting workers’ rights, particularly in light of our country’s decision to withdraw from the European Union.

Ted Salmon, Regional Chairman of the FSB North East, shared with us his experience of how impressed overseas investors are when they visit and see for themselves what our region has to offer. He emphasised the importance of transport infrastructure and connectivity, a lack of which currently puts our region at a disadvantage compared to cities with easy access to airports and rail lines. 

Education, workers’ rights, and transport infrastructure are important issues I have consistently campaigned for in parliament. With a new Prime Minister and new government formed, it is more important than ever to stand up for our region’s best interests. I'm keen to meet more local businesses at my next event and to hear your concerns and ideas. 

Insights from my first business breakfast - skills, investment and infrastructure

I just held the first in my series of business breakfasts on 15 July 2016 at the Evolve Business Centre at Rainton Bridge. I’d like to thank Iain Wright MP,...

Last month our country voted to leave the European Union. This was not the result I wanted, but one which I respect. The big question is what comes next.

The referendum result revealed a profound division in our city and our country. It also showed the very real sense of anger that many people feel.

I know that many people voted Leave because of concerns around immigration and pressures on local services. I also know that many people who voted to leave want more highly skilled jobs, decent working conditions and greater funding for the NHS. I want those things too.

We need orderly negotiations over our future relationship with the EU, not a hasty rush to the exit door. The government must secure a deal that protects our economy and doesn’t put thousands of local people out of work. There must not be a race to the bottom on workers’ rights.

Trade and exports to the EU are vital to local businesses. Those who promised we would maintain access to the single market need to make it happen.

Our region receives considerable European funding and Government ministers must guarantee continued investment to replace this lost funding. The so-called Northern Powerhouse has been little more than hot air. Time and again our region has been forgotten, and we simply cannot afford for this to get any worse.

Local NHS services are under massive strain and we were told during the campaign that there would be more money for the NHS if we left the European Union. This pledge must also be honoured.

Above all, we need to come together during this time of political and economic crisis to heal the divisions that have been laid bare during the campaign and fight for our region’s future.

 

This article was originally published by the Sunderland Echo on 14th July 2016. You can read the online version here.

Bridget Phillipson: north east must unite and fight for best Brexit deal

Last month our country voted to leave the European Union. This was not the result I wanted, but one which I respect. The big question is what comes next.


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