As I write this at the start of the week, few things are certain. One thing that is certain is that we will have a new Prime Minister before the end of the week, beyond that I will not guess. A change of Prime Minister is significant, as so much of the policy direction, Ministerial and other appointments in and around government are at the behest and direction of No 10. The gravity of this change of administration is not quite as dramatic as a general election but hugely significant none the less. As I wrote in my last article, despite an inordinate amount of hours being spent in and around the Westminster estate, very little of any great note is currently happening in Parliament; time I’d rather be spending in the Constituency. Those opposed to Brexit continue to do their best to attach baubles to the Christmas tree of any legislation that comes along. The Labour Party has come out clearly as a party of ‘Remain’. The usually innocuous, but now annual Northern Ireland Bill, needed to maintain the normal functioning of government in Ulster whilst the arguing factions find it impossible to re-assemble the devolved assembly at Stormont, has been hijacked as a vehicle to try to derail Brexit. Additionally, with no debate, other clauses added to the Bill were abortion on demand (with seemingly no upper time limit), same sex marriage for Ulster, and the potential for pension payouts for terrorists. The proceedings were too odd for words and I did not support these amendments as they were bizarrely grouped together as one vote. Not because I don’t agree with the sentiments, it is obviously ridiculous that choice and equality is not the same throughout the UK, but adding these matters of conscience, without debate, and with no consultation of the Ulster electorate who should be at the heart of this, when these are clearly devolved matters, was just wrong.
Health matters have occupied me greatly over the past weeks. I was pleased to contribute to the Thanet Mental Health forum, held in Ramsgate last Friday. We have a growing demand for mental health support across East Kent. Difficult to summarise easily what is wrong with the system, but clearly communication within the various NHS bodies responsible is a major issue as patients move from one service to another. Local staff shortages through recruitment problems, not money, another issue. The individual harrowing stories of personal experiences, family suicides and of the system simply failing were poignant and saddening. We need to help those with problems today, but what we need to do longer term is get underneath the societal issues that are driving many into mental health difficulties. I would advance social media as a negative influence on the young with bullying and isolation at its core. I continue my fight against the normalisation of cannabis: legalisation by the back-door. The permanent psychotic effects of skunk use across all ages but particularly on developing brains is now clearly made through scientific research. Have we created a world of bureaucracy that gets people down, whether it is the struggle to access the benefits that we are entitled to, or dealing with government agencies and local authorities that are remote and unresponsive?
Lots there to think about, and I haven’t even started on my campaign to see the BCG – TB vaccination rolled out universally once more, or of the various sites across the area that I’ve visited that need business plans and vision to get them back into community use. Lots to do over the recess period so looking forward to a chat and a cool drink with many of you over the rest of the summer.