Not wanting to spoil the family’s or anybody else’s Christmas, I was privately counting over the festive season the number of national breaking news stories which I knew would invariably take up Parliamentary time and deflect things away from Brexit.
So, we had the drone incidents at Gatwick Airport, the apparent U-turn on the roll out of Universal Credit, the Government’s awarding of a £14million contract to Seaborne Freight for the provision of ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit despite them owning no ships, the increase in rail fares and the Governments five-year funding plan for the NHS.
Oh, and let’s not forget the much overplayed ‘national crisis’ of a couple of hundred desperate people trying to cross the English Channel in inflatable boats to seek asylum here.
Sure enough my instincts were right. We’ve been back in the Westminster bubble for four days and the agenda has been dominated by urgent questions and ministerial statements on all of the above which, important though they are, have, as I say, deflected things away from Brexit. No wonder people are getting frustrated.
The contrary argument, of course, is that some of these things are examples of exactly what we should be debating; normal everyday issues in the case of Universal Credit, rail fare increases and NHS funding which directly impact on the lives ordinary folk.
Truth be told it has allowed me to put on record the appalling impact of Universal Credit on the people of Hartlepool, including one in five people losing their disability benefits, the fact that the loss of A&E to the town was a retrograde step that has never been forgiven or forgotten, and our rail commuters are seeing nothing tangible for the 3.1% increase hike in ticket prices. I was grateful for the opportunity to do so.
On my return to Parliament on Monday it really did feel like Groundhog Day.
Here we were again back at the coal face with Mrs May’s Brexit deal still disappearing down the plug hole in ever decreasing circles, tensions outside the Estate heating up with MPs and journalists – women in particular – getting harassed by both leave and remain protesters and on Tuesday another attempted security breach at the Palace gates. We really do need to get a grip.
On the home front it was nice to see a positive story in the national press about Hartlepool.
Former residents and EuroMillions jackpot winners, Patrick and Frances Connolly, pledged to give some of their £115million winnings to local community football club St Francis FC; a completely unexpected out of the blue gesture.
Turns out that Mrs Connolly used to be the treasurer and the reaction of club members on the news was a real treat.
They were totally gobsmacked, not only by the gesture but also by suddenly being thrust unexpectedly onto the national news stage.
What a wonderful upbeat story and well done to the Connolly’s for remembering their roots.
This year also marks the 40th birthday of missing Katrice Lee, daughter of my constituent Richard Lee. With renewed publicity and renowned Barrister John Cooper QC on board, I sincerely hope 2019 finally brings closure to what is now a 38-year-old case. Richie and the family deserve it.