Being an MP is a privileged position, but also a strange one in many ways. And for me, coming from a working class background outside politics, it can be overwhelming, emotional, frustrating and pretty exhausting even for someone with my energy.
I have said many times what a huge decision it was to put myself forward for election, but a year into the job I can honestly say I couldn’t have worked harder, and with the unshakeable support of my family, friends, dedicated staff team and the community of Batley and Spen I am very proud of the progress we have made and what we have achieved together.
It’s been a difficult year for many people. We have come out of the worst of the Covid pandemic – although the health issues it brought about and the inequalities it highlighted haven’t gone away – only to face war in Europe and here at home the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.
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Throughout it all the way people across the constituency have pulled together and supported one another has been heart-warming
So when I say I’ve worked hard, I know I’m not special. Wherever I go I meet people who put a shift in every day to do their very best for their loved ones and our community, often in very difficult circumstances.
My job is to do whatever I can to support them and to speak up on the issues they care about.
I have a brilliant team to help me, dealing with individual cases and helping to run community projects and events across the constituency.
At the last count, I have received nearly 11,000 emails since my election and taken on well over 5,000 cases. My team answer hundreds of phone calls every month and we always respond as quickly as possible.
While sadly we can’t solve every problem, we always do our best, and I’m extremely grateful for all the messages thanking us for our help. It really does mean a lot.
When Parliament is sitting I generally spend the first half of the week in London, but I always love coming home where I speak to as many people as I can and visit as many places as possible - schools, businesses, health and social care organisations, churches, mosques, voluntary groups and charities.
I’ve been to every town and village in the constituency, in most cases many times over.
Having lived here all my life I know the area pretty well, but representing around 120,000 people, all with their own concerns, is still challenging. But it’s a challenge I am embracing.
In one day I might meet residents worried about anti-social behaviour, visit one of the nearly sixty schools across the constituency, consult with the council and businesses on plans for high street regeneration, have discussions about child sexual exploitation or international issues like Ukraine, Palestine or Afghanistan.
No two days are the same and every conversation is important; although holding so much information in your head can be hard.
Locally, my road safety campaign goes on, battling to tackle reckless driving and dangerous parking so we have safer streets and pavements.
I continue to oppose the Amazon development in Scholes, which is too big and would massively impact the already over-stretched transport network.
I have held a Jobs Fair, met with parents and children with ADHD and special educational needs, organised a health and well-being event in Wilton Park and a Jubilee event in Heckmondwike, and will soon host a forum for local sports clubs to try to bring more funding into the area.
I am constantly looking at ways to get investment, jobs and better infrastructure across the constituency.
And, although I wasn’t the MP at the time, I have never wavered in my support for the Batley Grammar School teacher forced into hiding last year and regularly offer him and his family my support.
Many important issues keep me busy both locally and at Westminster. I campaign for better health and well-being provision, including for mental health, for stronger communities and more help with rising prices and household bills.
I want more police on our streets and proper resources to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. And I’m currently involved with the Online Safety Bill going through Parliament which aims to make the internet a safer, less toxic place to be.
My work can be incredibly fulfilling. In opposition it can also be frustrating, but it is still possible to make change happen.
Last week my pressure on Ministers to agree to “Zach’s Law”, protecting people with epilepsy from online harm, succeeded. It was lovely to be able to tell 11 year old Zach from Hartshead the good news.
And just this week I’ve been working cross-party to get a UK-led vaccine trail for neuroblastoma so that in future people like Beau’s mum, Shirley, from Roberttown, don’t have to raise thousands of pounds to take their kids to America for cancer treatment.
Let me end by saying a huge thank you to everybody who has worked so hard for our community over the last year. I am very proud to be working alongside you.
I can’t solve every problem across Batley and Spen, and no one knows better than me that there is much more to be done.
But despite the challenges we face I remain optimistic that, working together, we can make a real difference.