On a recent campaigning trip, the Prime Minister could not name his own West of England Conservative Metro Mayor. That’s worrying. We all knew he was invisible in the West of England but now we know he has completely failed to make an impact on the national scale too. I think it’s time for new leadership.
I love the West of England. I grew up here and went to school here. I have worked across the area as an NSPCC trained child protection officer and local MP as well as running my own businesses.
The pandemic has been one of the strangest times of my life. We now face a trio of emergencies: health, economic and climate.
The pandemic has been very challenging. Every life lost was a tragedy and some were avoidable but our NHS staff were heroic and their vaccine roll out has been tremendous, showing the NHS’s importance. So I’m unimpressed with the real terms pay cut our NHS staff are being offered after their brilliant efforts. Many people are also struggling with their mental health after the lockdowns.
The economic fallout from the crisis deeply concerns me and I am dismayed by the lack of action from the Conservative Metro Mayor. Metro Mayors elsewhere in the country like Andy Burnham have made a real difference. He is King of the North, not like the invisible chap here!
The West of England Metro Mayor has a sizeable budget and if elected, jobs are top of my to do list. The pandemic has caused huge blows, especially to tourism, retail and hospitality. I am also passionate about rejuvenating our high streets. It is not just about shops, it is about communities. I am wholly unimpressed with the current Tory Metro Mayor’s failure to spend half his High Street fund at a time when local businesses are crying out for support.
As a lifelong environmentalist, and an Environment Minister in the last Labour Government, I know that we need to build back greener. In the last decade the need for action has got stronger but the response weaker. That is why I have a Green Recovery Plan at the heart of my economic programme and plans for 23,000 new green jobs. I plan a Eat Local campaign celebrating local farmers and producers and another reason for people to make a bee-line to the polls is to back my plan to make our region the Bee and Pollinator Capital of the UK.
I think the coronavirus pandemic has taught us to value what really matters. Together we can build a society where we keep looking out for each other and value what’s truly important.