Like millions of people across Britain, I am still in shock at the tragic events of the London Tower block fire last week.
I have a sense of total bewilderment over how such a tragedy could happen in 21st century Britain. I know that many people I have spoken to in Hartlepool and in London feel the same.
What I am also bewildered over are claims made on social media and in the press that people are trying to make political capital out of this devastating loss of life.
I was very careful in my choice of words in the media last week when I called for those responsible for fire safety in Hartlepool to examine local issues and address my concerns.
I make no apologies for those comments and they certainly weren’t made for any political expediency.
My duty as an MP is to represent my constituents and address any issues that may affect them.
I will always do that without fear or favour.
People think there are few similarities between London and Hartlepool, but there are many.
The report this week by the Resolution Foundation (RF) shows that the widening gap between the rich and poor is affecting different regions of the county disproportionately.
Most people think of London as a very wealthy city, and this is true for some areas, but there is also frightening poverty, as Grenfell Tower has shown.
According to the RF report, there is only one region where the average family net wealth per adult is lower than London. That region is the North East.
Years of austerity and lack of investment has made the North East’s poverty figures worse.
That is why the Labour manifesto will help places like Hartlepool more than anything the Tories will ever be able to offer.
There is no reason why there should be any poverty in any region of the UK. We are one of the richest countries on the planet.
We must work to make sure that those who are struggling at the bottom get all the opportunities we can give them to prosper.
I will make it my business to do everything I can to help.
What an absolute joy it was to pop into the Jo Cox Great Get Together on the Greenbank at Stranton on Saturday.
Jo’s words that ‘we are far more united than the things that divide us’ was first and foremost in my mind as families, friends, neighbours and total strangers mixed and mingled as they enjoyed one of the hottest days of the year.
It was a great opportunity to meet many of the people that make Hartlepool such a great town. I think everybody enjoyed themselves and the scorching weather certainly helped.
Maybe next time, Hartlepoool gets such freak weather, I’ll ditch the suit and tie.