Michael Dugher MP

Working hard for Barnsley East

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The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 22 July:

When Tates Travel collapsed with just 24 hours’ notice earlier this year, my postbag was rightly full of bus passengers complaining they had potentially been left high and dry.

People were understandably frustrated and angry. But there might be more bad news to come for all those people who rely on our local bus services.

Because the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) is now consulting on major changes to Barnsley’s buses.

This would see the 8 and 8a service through Worsbrough scrapped, with only a partial replacement. Another proposal is the cancellation of the 37 bus through Cudworth, Shafton and Grimethorpe on Saturdays.

And in other parts of the Borough, the 23a, 24, 25 and 300 buses serving Penistone could face the axe.

Cutting bus routes is something that’s happening across the country. Under this Government, over 2,400 bus routes have been reduced or withdrawn altogether. And as well as routes being cut, fares went up by 61 per cent on average in the last ten years.

That’s why I led a campaign last year as Shadow Transport Secretary for what we called ‘Passenger Power’. This was about giving local residents and passengers more power over routes and fares, and for local authorities to be able to negotiate comprehensive contracts with bus companies.

We don’t have that at the moment. That’s why it’s so important for local residents and passengers here in Barnsley to have their say on the bus services that matter to them.

The SYPTE consultation is open until 31 July and I strongly urge people in Barnsley to submit their views online at www.travelsouthyorkshire.com/bbp. You can also find details online about drop in sessions if you want to have your say in person.

Bus users deserve a better deal. I still believe in ‘passenger power’. That’s how it works in London. And if it’s good enough for Londoners, it should be good enough for folk here in Barnsley.

People left ‘high and dry’ by Tates Travel

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 22 July: When Tates Travel collapsed with just 24 hours’ notice earlier this year, my postbag was rightly full of bus...

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 8 July:

Last week I took my wife and children to Serre in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and to pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the Barnsley Pals.

The memorial to the Barnsley Pals at Serre now includes a special new plinth which was unveiled last week and will provide an improved and fitting monument to those who fought and died.

The sheer scale of what happened is still shocking: there were 57,000 British casualties on the first day – more than 19,000 of whom were killed.  The battles raged for four and a half months in which more than a million men would be wounded and killed.

But what struck me last week was all those personal stories and connections behind the statistics. Many present last week talked about their own relatives who had also fought on the Western Front.

I laid a wreath to the Barnsley Pals, but so too did the Barnsley Chronicle chairman, Sir Nicholas Hewitt, who is the grandson of the first Commanding Officer of the Barnsley Pals, Joseph Hewitt.

In the service we held at Serre, the Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, talked about how a member of his family survived the Somme, but how he had fought and lay wounded for three days in the Battle.

Graham Walker, a journalist in Sheffield, tweeted that amongst the 297 Barnsley Pals who were killed on the first day was his great grandfather, Fred, who died on 1 July 1916, as did Fred’s brothers Charles and Ernest.

Alongside the new memorial at Serre last week, some people from Barnsley who had made the journey to France had pinned poppies to a tree by the old frontline.  Each poppy had the hand written name of one of the Barnsley Pals that had been killed.

I thought it was a wonderful tribute – and it was as powerful and as moving as any large memorial or TV documentary.

‘Serre service was wonderful’

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 8 July: Last week I took my wife and children to Serre in France to mark the centenary of the Battle of...

In his regular column for the Barnsley Chronicle, Michael has written about the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Awareness Week and the important work Barnsley Hospital does for local people affected by this tremendously difficult disease. A

As a proud patron of the Barnsley Independent Alzheimer and Dementia Society (BIADS) and a long-time supporter of Alzheimer’s Society UK, Michael is delighted that Barnsley Hospital will participate in Dementia Awareness Week next week. Dementia Awareness Week is an important initiative that draws attention to a tremendously difficult disease.

 

‘800 of my constituents live with Dementia’

In his regular column for the Barnsley Chronicle, Michael has written about the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Awareness Week and the important work Barnsley Hospital does for local people affected by... Read more

Later this month, Michael will be joining Pharmacy Voice to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street against government plans to cut £170 million from the community pharmacy budget in England. Michael has written a blog for Chemist + Druggist on why the government must pay attention when it receives the funding petition. You can read Michael’s blog here.

 

We must fight the Government’s £170 million community pharmacy cut

Later this month, Michael will be joining Pharmacy Voice to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street against government plans to cut £170 million from the community pharmacy budget in...

As Sadiq Khan said in his acceptance speech in the early hours of Saturday morning,voters in London chose “hope over fear” by voting for a Labour mayor and for the capital’s first Muslim mayor.  But his triumph also provides a glimmer of hope amid a deeply depressing set of election results for Labour.

It’s the first time that an Opposition has failed to increase the number of councillors for over 30 years (that was in 1985 – we’d just lost two general elections and Labour went on to lose two more).  This was also the first time in modern history that any leader of the Opposition has lost seats in their first year. No leader of the Opposition has gone on to win a general election without winning seats in local elections in their first year. Average council gains for a party of opposition in non-general election years are 434. And if you’re an Opposition leader destined to win a future general election, it’s 526.

Last Thursday, Labour suffered losses in the local elections in England. We went backwards in Wales and we saw an electoral catastrophe in Scotland as we were beaten into third place by the Tories.  Jeremy Corbyn celebrated by saying we’d “hung on”, but in crucial bellweather seats like Nuneaton where we did hold onto the council Labour suffered an 11 per cent swing to the Tories.

And let’s not forget the context. The Conservatives are undoubtedly in a worse state than at any point since the years of John Major and ‘Tory sleaze’ in the mid-nineties.  Rising jobless figures, a junior doctor’s strike, a crisis in the steel industry, a Cabinet resignation, bitter splits over Europe and a series of shambolic U-turns over tax credits, disability payments, child refugees and academies.

Facing the political equivalent of an open goal, Labour should have scored a hatful of goals and won hundreds of seats, putting us on a clear trajectory to win the 2020 general election.

But thankfully it was a very different story in London.  Sadiq Khan fought an energetic, principled and dignified campaign that secured him a huge victory.  He took on a nasty, divisive and well-funded Tory election machine and a largely hostile right-wing media and won handsomely.

He did this by showing that Labour was in touch with Londoners by focusing on the issues that matter to them like housing and transport. He knew that it wasn’t enough for Labour just to mobilise its base. That’s why he reached out to people who were not natural Labour supporters with a positive, popular and inclusive campaign that resonated with Londoners and, crucially,  chimed with their sense of aspiration.

And Sadiq knew the fundamental importance the voters attach to leadership. He was able to articulate his vision to Londoners based on his own personal story of the bus driver’s son who’d done well in the face of adversity. He also demonstrated strong leadership. When it came to the row over anti-Semitism, Sadiq dealt with the issue swiftly and decisively by condemning offenders unequivocally and calling for action.

Like the more resilient and successful candidates in last week’s elections, additionally he moved to mitigate against – how can I put it? – less popular elements of the Labour Party nationally by running on key local issues like his fares freeze (as opposed to banging on about Trident or the Falkland Islands).

This is an emerging truth from other places where Labour did well.  So many successful local campaigns threw overboard the dead weight of the national party and ran ultra-local campaigns that tried to command broad based appeal – like the one Ben Bradshaw has talked about that saw the biggest ever majority in the Exeter city council elections.

Sadiq’s success in London, firmly rooted in the centre ground, is in stark contrast to Labour’s approach in Scotland. Jeremy Corbyn was convinced that his anti-austerity, left wing, anti-Trident ticket was the key to transforming Labour’s fortunes North of the border. We tried to outflank the Scottish Nationalists from the left, but our policies were rejected overwhelmingly in what turned out to be a hideous disaster.

Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray, who knows a thing or two about winning a difficult fight after holding a marginal seat in the face of last year’s parliamentary wipe-out in Scotland, summed it up by saying that the public simply didn’t view Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour as “a credible party of future government”.

As a South Yorkshire MP, I often complain about the disproportionate amount of attention that London gets.  But there are huge lessons for Labour to learn from Sadiq’s victory in London.

If Labour is to win back the millions of votes we need, we need to stop talking to ourselves and preaching to the converted – and we need to reach out beyond our core vote and our comfort zone.  We need to dump the obsession with fringe issues by showing that we understand and share the concerns and aspirations of ordinary voters.

Understandably Jeremy likes to talk about the mandate he received from 250,000 party supporters.  But fundamentally it was a mandate to win power.  Just because someone passes their test and is given a driving licence, it doesn’t entitle them to drive the car into the nearest brick wall.

Sadiq Khan has just won a historic mandate from the public, not just from the party faithful, of more than 1.3 million votes.  Labour has an opportunity to show that his victory in London was not something that bucked the trend, but something that started a trend. If we do that, there will indeed be hope.

Michael Dugher is Labour MP for Barnsley East and a former member of the shadow cabinet

Lessons from London - Sadiq's triumph should give Labour hope

As Sadiq Khan said in his acceptance speech in the early hours of Saturday morning,voters in London chose “hope over fear” by voting for a Labour mayor and for the capital’s first Muslim...

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 29 April:

This weekend I’m stepping up my campaign to save our community pharmacies in Barnsley.  The Government wants to cut funding by £170 million over the next year, which Ministers themselves admit could force up to 3,000 chemists – or around a third of all chemists – to close.

This is not just bad news for our local communities, it’s bad news for our NHS too.  These cuts will be a false economy as they could end up costing the NHS more.

That’s because community pharmacies are an increasingly vital part of our healthcare system. Whether it is picking up a prescription, providing free advice on minor ailments or getting your flu jab, local pharmacies prevent as well as treat illnesses.

False economy of pharmacy cutbacks...

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 29 April: This weekend I’m stepping up my campaign to save our community pharmacies in Barnsley.  The Government wants to cut... Read more

On 5th May there are important elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across the country – including here in South Yorkshire.

Labour in government had a proud record of investing in neighbourhood policing. We set up 3,600 Neighbourhood Policing teams – one for every area of England – achieving a record number of police officers.

Decisions on policing that Labour took in government helped to bring the crime rate down by 42 per cent between 1997 and 2010. It’s vital that we continue this work by making sure the police have the resources they need to fight crime and protect communities.

But since 2010, things have gone backwards with the Tories cutting police budgets and taking police officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) off the streets.

Across the country, 18,000 police officers and 5,000 PCSOs have already been lost since 2010 because of the cuts. South Yorkshire Police alone has lost 415 police officers and 58 PCSOs in the same period.

Labour’s Police and Crime action day

On 5th May there are important elections for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across the country – including here in South Yorkshire. Labour in government had a proud record of... Read more

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle on Friday 18 March.

Last week I was at Barnsley College when former Education Secretary (now Lord) David Blunkett officially opened ‘The Cube’, a fantastic new construction centre where many of their students are on apprenticeships.

Barnsley College is officially an ‘outstanding’ college, but did you know that it is rated as highest in the UK for apprentice success rate?

In fact, last year in Barnsley, over 3,000 young people started an apprenticeship – working in everything from manufacturing and engineering, to business administration and IT.  Recent figures show that Barnsley has the second highest number of apprenticeship starts in the country per head of working age population.

Other local organisations like the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT), based in Wombwell, also do great work to promote quality apprenticeships. I recently hosted a big event in Parliament to celebrate the work of the CRT where their private sector partner, Ladbrokes, announced at least 300 new apprenticeships throughout the country for this year.

It’s quality – not quantity – that matters

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle on Friday 18 March. Last week I was at Barnsley College when former Education Secretary (now Lord) David Blunkett officially opened ‘The... Read more

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 4 March:

 

According to the 2011 census, just over 13,000 people in Barnsley over the age of 65 live alone.

Shockingly, a recent report by Age UK, the national charity for older people, revealed that over one million older people haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbour or family member for at least a month.

And nearly half of older people say that the television or their pets are their main form of company.

Loneliness not only makes life miserable, it can have a serious impact on physical and mental health too. That means more pressure on the NHS and social care services that are already overstretched and suffering due to Central Government cuts.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

No one should have noboby to turn to

The following column appeared in the Barnsley Chronicle published 4 March:   According to the 2011 census, just over 13,000 people in Barnsley over the age of 65 live alone.... Read more

 

Michael has written a joint piece in the Jewish News with Rachel Reeves about the importance of tackling anti-Semitism after allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford University Labour Club.

Michael and Rachel use the piece to call for the full publication of a Labour Students report into the allegations in the interests of transparency and to demonstrate how seriously the Labour Party takes these allegations.

This is particularly important because research has shown that some young Jews are staying away from leading universities because of a hostile atmosphere.

You can read the piece in full here.

Michael writes for Jewish News about importance of tackling anti-Semitism

  Michael has written a joint piece in the Jewish News with Rachel Reeves about the importance of tackling anti-Semitism after allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford University Labour Club. Michael...

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