Moyes is one of a handful of managers to be sacked by the Glazer family recently

David Moyes has joined a list of sports coaches to be sacked by the Glazer family in recent years.

The Scot, who lasted just 10 months in the Old Trafford hot seat, can take some comfort that Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano, have all suffered a similar fate to him – but as coaches of Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers, owned by the Glazers, play American Football in the NFL at their stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Three of the club’s coaches have been sacked in the last four years.

Jon Gruden won the historic Super Bowl during seven successful seasons at the helm but was axed when the Bucs, as they are known, failed to make the play-offs in 2009.

According to the American press, the breaking point in his reign came after four straight losses.

Defensive Bucs coach Raheem Morris took over from Gruden but only lasted two seasons – again because neither campaign resulted in the team making the play-offs.

The bullet was fired at him in January 2012 which led to the appointment of Greg Schiano.

The Glazer family needed Schiano - just like they needed Moyes to secure United’s passage into next season’s Champions League – to gain entry into the play-offs.

He failed amid speculation that he had lost the faith of his players during a two season spell in charge.

More telling though, was the fact Schiano spent $140 million to buy three new players, and things still didn’t work the way the Glazers expected.

It is hard to compare two different clubs playing two different sports.

But it is easier to compare them when both businesses have the same owners.

David Moyes’s first purchase as Manchester United manager was an 11th hour close to £30m deal for Marouane Fellaini.

It has been a seriously sub-standard buy and has coincided with a season were every target required of Moyes and his players have been missed.

So with money on the table to bolster United’s squad this summer, it is maybe Schiano’s recent failings coupled with a number of below par United performances, that has led to the Glazers not being able to trust Moyes with more of their hard earned millions.

A busy week in parliament before spending the Easter break in my constituency

We try to pack in as many meetings and visits as possible when I’m in the constituency. There are so many great organisations, groups and businesses to meet. I also have to fit in my regular surgeries, as well as attending a whole host of events from children’s concerts to fantastic sporting events, to which I’m delighted to be invited.

Last Friday was typical. I met representatives from the National Union of Teachers to discuss their concerns about education. The team from Trafford Welfare Rights came in – they’re full of information about how the benefits system is operating, so it is always good to meet them. I held two surgeries (and another on Saturday), and had a meeting with the new police commander for Trafford. I also managed to get out on the doorstep for an hour or so; the long evenings are a real boon for canvassers!

On Sunday, I went along to watch the Manchester Marathon, and arrived in time to see the runners set off. Later, we stood at the finishing line to see them coming back in. I am full of admiration for their stamina and determination. Many will have raised substantial sums for charity.

Monday started with a very early morning meeting in Westminster with the charity Scope. Then I was involved in a very interesting discussion about what could be done to help more people keep their jobs if they become ill for a time. In the afternoon, I went into the chamber for questions to Eric Pickles and his team. There is so much I want to question him on: planning, the fire service, self build, the bedroom tax, business rates…. In the end, I managed to raise my concerns about what will happen to Trafford Assist when funding from the government is scrapped next year. This service offers a real lifeline to people often in desperate need, and I was shocked at the dismissive answer I got from the Minister.

First thing Tuesday, I dropped into a debate about the rollout of superfast broadband in the North. I pointed out how important this is to local businesses, including on Trafford Park. Then I met Prospect union, which represents staff working at ATOS, the company that has been carrying out disability assessments for the DWP, but which has now been kicked out early from its contract. ATOS has performed appallingly poorly, but it’s a worrying time for the staff. I undertook to ask some Written Parliamentary Questions to find out what’s going on.

Later I went to a briefing about Labour’s campaign on women’s safety. I’ve been working on this subject since I was Shadow Minister for Equalities, and I was interested to hear the latest developments. Funding for rape crisis centres is being halved, and the proportion of cases of domestic violence being pursued in the courts is reducing. It all paints a very worrying picture, and I’ve launched an online survey to ask young women in Stretford and Urmston to feed back their experiences and concerns. If you’d like to complete the survey, or know someone who would, please go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1uZtU_6-3d3UarOdQ1UItZQ08msiZN1GK3A0uphIUDa0/viewform.

In the evening, after a couple of votes on the measures announced in the Budget last month, a cross-party group of North West MPs met TransPennine Express and Porterbrook, the company that leases the trains. We are all very angry that trains are to be transferred from the North West to run new services in the Chilterns. The franchising system is really chaotic, and the government’s mess-up of the franchising of the West Coast mainline has put everything out of order. We agreed we would ask as a group to meet the Secretary of State for Transport to voice our anger and ask what could be done to secure the trains we need in our region.

Finally, something a bit out of the ordinary: I went along to watch a one-woman play that was being staged in parliament about the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. The room was packed, the play was powerful and exhausting to watch, so I can’t imagine how tough it was for the actor, especially as she was to give a second performance straight after the one I saw.

On Wednesday I was the frontbench opposition spokesperson in a debate about the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment in Wales. There are problems right across the country with this new benefit, and my Welsh colleagues had got themselves really well organised to grill the Minister. Then I had a quick meeting with a young man who is building an information system for travellers abroad – he’d been following my campaign for an improvement in safety standards on overseas adventure activities. After that it was time for Prime Minister’s Questions, an incredibly angry and depressing event as MPs queued up to express their anger at the behaviour of Maria Miller over her expenses, and the procrastinating of the Prime Minister. I can’t believe what a reluctant apology she made. She must have realised that the public feel – rightly – angry.

In the afternoon, I went into the chamber for a while to join in the debate on the government’s plans to give a tax break to married couples. This is a really unfair policy: most families with children will miss out, and lone parents who are left to bring up children alone won’t get a penny. Most of the benefit of the tax break will go to men, yet it’s women who are usually principally responsible for caring for children. It is such a waste of hundreds of millions of pounds. Labour would instead use the money to reduce the basic tax rate to 10 per cent, benefiting many more families – of all shapes and sizes.

I then went to a roundtable with the End Child Poverty coalition, to discuss what a Labour government would do to tackle child poverty. We made huge progress on this between 1997 and 2010, lifting more than a million children out of poverty. It is deeply depressing that the policies of the present government mean that all that gain will be wiped out, with a million more children back in poverty by 2020.

On Thursday, I set off to visit the Shaw Trust to look at their employment programmes for disabled people. Then I came back to parliament to a very welcome letter telling me the mesothelioma payments scheme has finally been launched, and the online application form has gone live. After all the work I was involved in on this, it is great to see the scheme finally available. It’s a terrible disease, very distressing, and always fatal, and while money can’t compensate for the anguish it causes, it is a comfort to sufferers to know there will be money available to support their family.

In the afternoon, I met disability campaigners, and finally went into a debate on cystic fibrosis, to remind the Minister of the importance of developing a national system for allocating lungs donated for transplant. This is another campaign I’ve been busy on in the past year, and I’m determined to get changes to a system that leaves patients in the North West waiting longer for a transplant and more likely to die while on the waiting list than elsewhere in the country.

That was the last thing I did in parliament before leaving for the Easter break. I’m back in the constituency for the next two weeks, and that means lots of time to meet local groups and communities.

It’s always rewarding to help make a difference

Hot on the heels of my last blog…..

It’s been a quieter week this week in parliament. I arrived in Westminster on Monday afternoon in time for the regular Work and Pensions question session, when Iain Duncan Smith and his team have to come to the chamber to answer MPs’ questions. It’s never an edifying experience, as IDS, and his sidekick Esther McVey, deny the facts in front of them.

Work and Pensions Questions were followed by an urgent question from Yvette Cooper on the shocking death of a detainee at Yarls Wood detention centre. This follows complaints last year of women being abused at the Centre. I’d been briefed about how bad things are for women at Yarls Wood by Women Asylum Seekers Together in Manchester. They’ve told me that in the past women who experienced or witnessed abuse had been deported before they could give evidence. I challenged the minister to guarantee that wouldn’t happen in relation to this case, but I was very disappointed he avoided the question.

I then went off to meet the CBI to discuss work they’re doing on how to ensure the economic recovery benefits everyone. That was followed by a fantastic event hosted by the Fabian Women’s Network and the Girls Network to give young women the chance to hold a debate in parliament. It was great to see so many confident, articulate women crowded into the room, and listen to a lively and well informed debate. I hope to see some of them back as MPs in the future!

First thing Tuesday I met the chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to discuss the system of allocation of lungs for transplant. I’ve been campaigning in parliament on the need for a fairer system (people wait longer in the North West for a transplant than anywhere else in England), and the Trust recently published an important report arguing for the national allocation system I’ve been calling for. So we wanted to compare notes on how we could keep up the pressure for reform to the system.

I went into the chamber for Health Questions, to ask about testing pregnant women for Group B streptococcus. I’d asked the minister about this before, and was told the test wasn’t being made available. But things have moved on in the past few weeks, and I was delighted that this time I got a far more encouraging answer from the minister. A number of MPs campaign on this issue, and it is always good when pressure from parliamentarians and outside bodies gets the government to shift its position. It takes time and persistence, but it’s what parliament is for, and it is always rewarding when you’ve helped make a difference.

In the afternoon, I attended a very interesting meeting with the chair of the government’s social mobility and child poverty commission, Alan Milburn. In the evening, a bit of a treat – my colleague Chris Bryant MP has just published a book on the history of parliament, and a reception to mark the publication was held in Speaker’s House. It was great fun, with MPs from all parties enjoying the evening – but I then had it go back to the office to finish off great piles of work, so was quite late home that evening!

I wasn’t in parliament much on Wednesday, as the Shadow Work and Pensions team went off on a planning away day. But I did manage to get back in time to meet a lecturer from Trafford College who’d come to parliament as part of a lobby organised by her trade union to talk to MPs about lack of funding for students at FE colleges, and to drop into a reception organised by Brake charity, who’ve helped me with my Safer Trafford Streets campaign.

Thursday began with a meeting with the Football Association about their programme to support disability football. I also had a meeting with Living Wage campaigners, and a long session in the afternoon with the taskforce that has been set up to advise Labour on disability and poverty.

Then on the train back to Manchester for a curry evening to raise funds for campaigning in the forthcoming local and Euro elections. I’m looking forward to that!

A very varied week in Westminster and in my constituency

Some weeks my blog gets a bit delayed, as I don’t manage to write it on time. This is one of those weeks. I’m writing this on Saturday, on my way back from a conference on the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which disabled people who are claiming benefit undergo, and about which there is loads of controversy.

The discussion was, as expected, lively, and people also wanted to ask about the two big events that affected disabled people in parliament last week: the government’s announcement that it was replacing ATOS, the company that carries out the WCA, with another company, because ATOS’ performance has been so poor; and the vote in parliament last Wednesday on an overall cap on social security spending.

People aren’t sorry to see the back of ATOS, but the problems with the WCA go much deeper, and won’t be solved simply by changing the company name on the door. There were plenty of ideas at the conference about what else needs to change, and I took careful note of what was said.

As for the benefit cap, for which I voted, this is actually very popular with most of the public. However, I understand why disabled people are worried what it will mean for them, and so I was pleased to be able to discuss their concerns. Of course, the lack of a cap hasn’t stopped George Osborne from already making savage cuts to social security, with working people bearing by far the largest share of his austerity measures, yet he still hasn’t met his own targets, and we mustn’t lose sight of that fact.

The level of the cap has to be set at the start of each parliament, and Labour would take a different approach. We would bear down on the drivers of the rise in social security spending – high rents going into the pockets of landlords, forcing up housing benefit; low pay that has to be subsidised by tax credits; the shocking level of youth unemployment. That’s how we’d manage social security spend.

Last week in parliament also saw me in committees debating two more sets of regulations in my role as shadow minister. One debate was on a further set of regulations in relation to mesothelioma. The more work I do on this subject, the more I realise how much injustice remains to be put right.

The second debate was on government plans to stop reimbursement to employers of a proportion of the statutory sick pay that they can currently reclaim, and use the money to set up a new service to help to get people back to work more quickly if they fall ill instead.

I’m all in favour of enabling people to return to work more quickly after recovery, but small businesses are worried that they’ll lose out. I was interested that the Tories on the committee didn’t raise these concerns, and I was the one looking for reassurances on small businesses’ behalf. The Tories say they’re the party of business, but it seems its only big business they’re interested in.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the past week visiting local schools. It was great to visit Acre Hall School to hear about their rebuilding plans, and I was glad to get the chance to ask the Minister to speed up the decision about funding for the rebuild in Education Questions in parliament on Monday afternoon. I’ve also made visits to St Hilda’s school, to join their first walk-to-school road safety breakfast, as part of my Safer Trafford Streets campaign, and to Forest Gate to participate in a Q&A session with the pupils there. I’m very grateful for the warm welcome I received at all three schools.

I was also very pleased to attend a presentation for the Rhodes Foundation, which funds probation workers from Greater Manchester to visit other countries to learn how they supervise offenders, and bring back lessons we can apply here. The staff who presented at the event had been to Canada and the USA, and they came back with some great ideas. I was really inspired by their professionalism, and enthusiasm for putting what they’d learned into practice back home.

I’ve also attended a dinner in parliament hosted by Intu, who own the Trafford Centre, attended the Sindhi community cultural evening in Hulme, gone along to a reception in Westminster Abbey organised by Signhealth, to hear about a new report into the problems deaf people have in accessing decent health services, met campaigners from Action Cerebral Palsy and from Group B Strep Support (I have been working with constituents affected by each of these conditions) in parliament, attended a lunch with the Association of Colleges to discuss adult learning and spoken at two conferences on employment, one on getting more women into engineering and science and one on fairness at work. Back in my constituency I caught up with Manchester United Foundation, met the Greater Manchester Living Wage campaign, met Smaller Earth, who are helping with my campaign on safety on adventure activity holidays, hosted a community conference in Old Trafford to discuss race equality, and – something completely different – visited farmers in Partington to hear about their concerns. My constituency is very varied indeed!

Now I’m looking forward to the local Labour Party wine and cheese fundraising evening, hosted by Shirley and Cllr Kevin Procter. Shirley does the catering for all my social and fundraising events in the constituency, and she’s fabulous. After my long and busy week in Westminster and in the constituency, I’m really looking forward to a relaxing time!

I’m pleased there’s been lots of overlap between my work in parliament what I do in my constituency

I always really enjoy getting back to the constituency on a Friday, back to normality after a week in the Westminster “village”. Last Friday was particularly special because I went to visit some fabulous disabled residents of Eden Square in Urmston who are living independently in their own homes, supported by the Leonard Cheshire charity.

I was given such a warm welcome, invited into people’s flats, and heard about their lives. Everyone I met was just delighted to have their own home, some had previously been in residential homes or sharing flats, and now they felt they’d got the independence we all take for granted. It was a lovely visit.

I also met the amazing organisation Forever Manchester last Friday. This gives small grants (£50-£250) to community groups who’ve got original and amazing ideas. They supported the breakfast club that ran over Christmas in Victoria Park, and an amazing craft and activity club for parents and children at Barton Clough school last summer. They’re always on the lookout for good ideas. I asked them how they find them, and they said they just hang out where people are, and listen to what’s going on in the community.

I attended the first meeting of the Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group, and on Friday evening I was in Manchester to join campaigners calling for dignity and care for asylum seekers, many of whom live in near destitution. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to flee your home because you fear violence and persecution, give up your family, friends and personal history. Yet we offer such a poor welcome to asylum seekers, many living precarious lives, when what they most need is security after the appalling treatment they’ve suffered in their own country. I came away from the event determined to speak up more for these people.

On Monday, I was back in London to attend a conference of gap year providers. I take a real interest in safety issues for overseas adventure activities, following the tragic death of Luke Molnar from Stretford, who died on an expedition to Fiji in 2006. I’ve been campaigning with his parents, Steve and Gill, to improve safety standards in the companies who arrange these trips. It was very interesting to meet companies from other countries, and hear about their different systems. I came away with some good ideas to think about for companies who are based in the UK.

Then it was on to Westminster to take part as the lead opposition spokesperson in a debate on mesothelioma – something else I do a lot of work on, partly as the shadow minister responsible, and partly because it’s an issue that directly affects my constituents: many victims of this disease contracted it in industries based in the North West. On Monday, we were debating regulations to implement some of the operational details of the scheme we’ve recently passed through parliament to compensate people who contracted this terrible, fatal disease as a result of exposure to asbestos at work, but who can’t trace their former employer.

Normally, we would debate regulations (so called secondary legislation, to differentiate it from bills which become acts of parliament) in a smaller committee room, with just a few MPs attending. But there isn’t much business going on in parliament at the moment (the government is running out of steam), so we held the debate in the main chamber instead. But that was good, because it gave more profile to the issue, and some of the continuing concerns.

Tuesday I was in the chamber to ask a question of Justice Ministers about support and supervision of women prisoners on release, another of my interests. I’ve visited Styal Prison a couple of times since I became an MP, and I know how complicated the lives of these women can be, and how important it is for the probation service to maintain contact with them once they’re released back home to prevent further reoffending. I’m very worried that the government’s privatisation of the probation service will fragment this support.

Then I met representatives of the Big Lottery to hear about the grants programmes they have available to support charities in Stretford and Urmston, met up with the director of the Webb Memorial Trust, of which I’m a trustee, to discuss our work on poverty and deprivation, and then went along to a discussion of Labour policy on immigration and asylum (I took the opportunity to raise some of the concerns I’d heard about on Friday night). In the evening I hosted a reception for new members of the Fabian Society, the country’s oldest think tank (we are 130 this year), of which I’m a Vice Chair.

Wednesday was a big day in parliament: Budget day. The chamber is always packed. I listened with interest to George Osborne’s announcements. Sure, they were great for people who have £15,000 a year to save, or large personal pension funds. But there wasn’t much for ordinary households in Stretford and Urmston, especially families with children on low incomes. Later that afternoon, I made a speech in the chamber in the debate on the Budget to highlight the lack of measures to help these families, many in low paid, insecure jobs.

That evening, I was hugely privileged to host a reception in parliament for Marie Curie Care. The charity was launching an important and very poignant report produced as a result of talking to people about the end of life care they want. The room was packed full of carers, volunteers, families of people who’d supported their relatives through terminal illness, and Jon Culshaw, who is one of the charity’s ambassadors. One lady, Carol, who’d cared for her partner at the end of her life, gave a moving and forceful speech. I was very glad to have been part of the event, and met representatives of the charity the next day to discuss how I can continue to support their work.

Thursday also saw me meet the head of corporate responsibility for the company that owns the Trafford Centre, to discuss how they can help charities who support local people, including, I hope, some of the Eden Square residents, supported by Leonard Cheshire who I met in Urmston last Friday. Plus a meeting with a charity that provides parents of disabled children with special equipment and aids, and finally back into the chamber for the second day of the Budget debate.

Looking back, there have been lots of examples this week of how much overlap there is between what I see and hear in the constituency and the work I do in parliament. And that’s exactly how it should be. MPs’ work in parliament needs to be grounded in what we see in the real world back home.

A very busy weekend in Stretford and Urmston, but a quieter week in Westminster

It was a busy weekend in the constituency, yet not so busy in Westminster this week. I spent last Friday rushing around with Mehreen, who’d joined us for the day to shadow me.

We’re always pleased to welcome young people in the office to shadow me or gain work experience, so if you know a young person in Stretford and Urmston who’d like the chance to do so, just get in touch with my office.

I started last Friday at the fabulous Trafford College, to officially open the new STEM centre. I was very impressed at the facilities for students, and it was great to meet and chat to some of those undertaking courses.

Then it was a dash over to Partington for the ground cutting ceremony at the site of the new shopping centre. Local people have waited literally years for this, and it was great to finally see progress. The new shopping centre should be open in time for Christmas, if all goes to plan.

On to the Trafford Centre, to meet Dawn, mum of Super Josh, a disabled young man who is campaigning for accessible toilets. There’s one at the Trafford Centre (and one in parliament, I’m glad to say), but many more are needed. It’s a really important and much needed campaign, and we discussed how I can support it in parliament.

After this I visited a mosque in Old Trafford to talk about a Private Member’s Bill that’s been introduced in parliament to ban women wearing the veil. I’m totally opposed to this bill, we shouldn’t be legislating to tell women how to dress, or interfering with their religious freedom. I was glad I could reassure people at the mosque that the bill has no chance of becoming law.

A surgery, a visit to North West Ambulance service, then our monthly local Labour Party meeting, which I left early to go to a fantastic dinner at Manchester Town Hall to celebrate International Women’s Day. I was delighted to launch a campaign for a portrait of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst by Manchester artist Charlotte Newson to be displayed in parliament. She’s such an important figure in the history of universal suffrage, and the portrait, Women Like You, is a great tribute to her. If you’d like to know more about the campaign, visit www.charlottenewson.com

I spent Saturday in Liverpool with Labour colleagues at a conference to mark international women’s day. We had some really interesting discussions, about policing, care and the NHS, the cost of living, and how to “dress for success”.

Sunday on the doorstep talking to residents near Kings Road, St Hilda’s and St Theresa’s schools, about traffic and parking problems. It can be really jam packed outside our schools when parents are dropping off or picking up children, it causes huge inconvenience to other road users, and it really isn’t safe for the kids. It’s been a big part of my Safer Trafford Streets campaign to get better controls and restrictions on parking outside school gates, but I wanted to hear the views of local residents. I was joined by local councillors Anne Duffield, Dave Jarman and Judith Lloyd, and we had a very enjoyable hour or so talking to people in the beautiful sunshine.

After such a crazy weekend, I was glad it was a quieter week in parliament. On Monday, I went to lunch at BP’s head office – they have an oil terminal in the constituency. We had a very interesting discussion about the UK’s energy policy, and security of supply. That was a theme I returned to on Wednesday when I hosted a St Patrick’s Day lunch (yes, I know it’s still another week away, but they have a lot of celebrating to fit in) with ESB, who are building the new gas fired power station at Carrington.

Monday and Tuesday also saw debates on the Care Bill, and I tried to be in the chamber as much as I could. One of the most important votes was to stop the Secretary of State taking powers to close hospitals without consulting local people. I had received loads of letters and emails from constituents worried about this, asking me to support a Lib Dem amendment to stop it becoming law. Imagine our surprise and anger when the Lib Dem MP who’d proposed it decided he wouldn’t call a vote. He totally sold out to the government, but luckily Labour had tabled an amendment too, and we were able to vote for that, though sadly we couldn’t get enough support to defeat the government.

I was involved in a couple of other debates this week. One concerned proposals to take trains from TransPennine routes and transfer them to run on lines in the south. This is really outrageous, the trains in our area are already old, overcrowded and unreliable, and by 2018, services that run through Urmston won’t even comply with disability discrimination legislation. I joined colleagues from across the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland to complain vociferously about these plans.

I had an early start on Tuesday as the opposition spokesperson in the debate on regulations to introduce a modest maternity allowance for women working in their partner’s business. This (very limited) proposal will help around 1,300 women, and is being introduced as a result of a European directive.

It’s one of the things we don’t say enough about Europe: that it is an important source of many of our employment rights. I strongly agree with Ed Miliband that our future is stronger if we remain in Europe, and that was also very much the view of the businesses I talked to this week. Given how much of our trade is with Europe, and how many companies locally depend on that for their growth and to create jobs, I’m glad he made a strong statement of support for the EU this week.

I managed to raise another issue important to businesses in the chamber this week, during questions on Culture, Media and Sport. Trafford Park is due to be connected to super fast broadband in the next couple of years, and I asked ministers to ensure that progress remains on track.

Then finally into the chamber on Thursday night to vote against the government’s badger cull. I’ve had lots of correspondence from constituents about this too, as have many of my colleagues. The cull was opposed 219 votes to 1, and I hope the government takes notice.

A lot of cross party cooperation this week

I spent last weekend in London, attending Labour’s special conference discussing new rules governing the relationship between the party and trade unions. The changes we voted on will really enable us to strengthen our link with individual trade union members at local level. Our Labour movement brings together hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people around shared political goals. It’s exciting to me that we could massively boost our activist and supporter base, but it will take work to make it a success. People won’t be getting involved in Labour campaigns if we’re not working on what matters to them: decent jobs, housing and public services.

I’ve spent most of the week in parliament in meetings around subjects I campaign on. That’s meant lots of meeting with disability charities, and also with the Young Explorers Trust to talk about my efforts to improve information to consumers about safety on overseas adventure activity holidays. So I’ve had very little time to go into the chamber, except for the important debate on Wednesday on the report by Robert Francis, following the shocking events at Mid Staffordshire hospital. This was a really thoughtful, serious debate about how to protect the highest standards of care in the NHS.

I’ve also been meeting think tanks. One researcher came to talk to me about her work on ethnicity and another on social security and equality, both topics of interest to me. Think tanks are a really important resource for new ideas, and they can do the in depth research about the costs and implications of possible new policies. So for an opposition MP, with no civil service to help us, they’re really useful, and it is always good to hear what they’re working on.

The government made a couple of surprise announcements this week, one good, one very worrying. The good news was announced on Thursday. Ministers have decided to increase the level of compensation to mesothelioma sufferers who can’t trace their former employer or employer’s insurer. I was really delighted to hear this, and pleased that the campaign fought by MPs of all political parties to achieve more generous compensation had finally borne fruit. Sometimes the combined efforts of MPs really can make a difference for good.

But I was shocked that ministers also announced on Thursday that the independent living fund, which supports some of the most disabled people to live independently at home, will be totally scrapped in 2015. The government has been trying to do this for some time, but was stopped in its tracks when it lost a court case which meant it wasn’t allowed to proceed. It looks to me as if ministers have done the absolute minimum to address the court ruling, and gone right back to what they planned all along. Disabled people will be angry and frightened about that.

I was also very pleased this week to attend the inaugural meeting of a new All Party Group which has been formed in parliament to promote and debate issues relating to the magistracy. As a former magistrate myself, this is something in which I take a lot of interest, and I’m especially pleased that the new chair of the Magistrates Association, Richard Monkhouse, is a member of the Trafford bench. The meeting was a bit out of the ordinary: we watched a mock trial and debated the sentence imposed, and it provoked a lot of discussion among the MPs in the room. A great way to hook people’s interest, and I very much look forward to working with the new group. Well over 90 per cent of criminal cases are resolved in the magistrates court, and changes to the criminal law, sentencing, fixed penalties, and so on have a direct impact on what magistrates do. It is really good to have a group of MPs who can keep up to date with the changes, and raise concerns and issues with ministers.

Overall, then, my week’s seen a lot of cross party cooperation, not perhaps what people expect of MPs. Even Prime Minister’s questions wasn’t the usual shouting match, as questions were asked about the very serious situation in Ukraine. People complained it was boring, but I’d rather be doing serious work that can make a difference to people’s lives. I’m glad to have been doing that this week.

The Lego Movie: Review

WARNING: SPOILERS

IF someone would have said to me six months ago that the Lego movie would be one of the best films of 2014, I would have said that’s as likely as a Johnny Knoxville film getting an Oscar nomination.

I would have been wrong on both counts and two months into the year, I am boring everyone I know about how good it is, while Everything is Awesome plays in a perpetual loop in my head.

The film centres around everyLegoman Emmet (Parks and Recs star Chris Pratt), a very average but lonely Joe in a world of clones who enjoy the same TV shows (the quite brilliantly titled Where is My Pants?), the same song and avoids anything out of the ordinary in a world run by the aptly named Lord President / Business – who is obviously the root of all evil.

But a chance meeting with a mysterious brunette catapults him into a crazy world of adventure in which he is the apparent ‘chosen one’ to save the world, with the help of a group of master builders banned from Lord Business’ world for refusing to follow instructions.

What I enjoyed about the film is that it could have easily been used simply as a marketing tool for Lego products which parents would have been nagged into taking their children to see.

But it’s message isn’t really about buying a load of stuff but in fact is pretty anti-corporate – don’t just follow the crowd, use your imagination.

And while the story is pretty formulaic – ordinary boy meets girl, saves the world etc – it’s told with the childlike imagination of people you can tell really, really loved playing with Lego as kids.

From the way the people move just like you imagine Lego men and women do to the 1980s spaceman with the helmet that broke underneath the jaw – just like the one you had as a child –  every detail has been carefully considered.

And it’s genuinely funny and not in an annoyingly knowing way that many a Dreamworks film opts, with a sense of anarchy that reminds me of an even sillier film,  A Town Called Panic.

Here’s a world where, for example, Batman is actually a bit of a tosser who bores his mates with his own emo music and will abandon them for a better offer when the latest Star Wars ship comes along.

Funny, original and a bit off the wall, The Lego Movie has a surprisingly all-round appeal.

I still can’t quite believe I just wrote that…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a very busy week for the Shadow Work and Pensions team

I’m on the train to London on Monday morning when I receive a message that the High Court has ruled that the proposed biomass incinerator at Davyhulme can go ahead. It’s a bad start to the week, and I know local people will be disappointed and angry. I talk to Catrin in my office about sending out a comment to the press.

I arrive in London in time for our regular DWP questions slot, when we quiz Iain Duncan Smith and his team on work and pensions issues. In my capacity as shadow minister, I’m automatically able to come in on a question relevant to disabled people, and this time there’s a wide selection on the order paper to choose from. In the end, I decide to ask about delays to DWP’s latest project, the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). We’ve heard there are capacity problems at ATOS, the company that assesses people for the benefit, but of course I don’t get much of an answer from the minister.

My new parliamentary next door neighbour, Mike Kane MP, makes his debut in parliament – I’m very pleased to be in the chamber to welcome him. Then a debate starts on the Crime and Courts bill, and I stay in the chamber to participate, and to ask questions about the government’s plan to build a massive secure youth detention facility, something I’m really worried about.

I duck out of the debate for an hour to go along to a fabulous reception organised by Stonewall and hosted by the Speaker to celebrate the introduction of equal marriage. Then back to the chamber for the end of the debate which finishes around 10pm.

Late Monday, my colleague Sheila Gilmore tells me of more rumours of chaos at ATOS, and that the government has suspended reassessments of those on Employment and Support Allowance, because the company can’t cope with the volumes.

This is pretty significant, so first thing on Tuesday I talk to colleagues about applying to ask an urgent question on the matter. We agree to do so, and I draft an application to put in to the Speaker. Sadly, our application is refused, but my colleague Stephen Timms is able to raise the issue when we debate benefits rates in the chamber later that day.

In the meantime, during Health Questions, I ask Ministers about testing for a condition called Group B streptococcus, which can have devastating effects on women in labour, putting unborn children at great risk. The government had promised to introduce the test, but now it seems to have changed its mind. I’m surprised and worried about this development, and return to my office to report back to the campaigners who raised the issue with me.

We’re trying again for our urgent question on Wednesday, as the situation is going from bad to worse. But it is a very busy day in parliament, so again we’re unsuccessful. Instead, I go off to meet the chair of Motability, the charity that supplies specially adapted cars, scooters and wheelchairs to disabled people. The government’s cuts to mobility benefits mean many people are at risk of losing these vehicles, essential to enabling them to get around and about. I’m very impressed at the work Motability are doing to try to offer affordable deals to enable people to keep their cars wherever possible.

I’m in the chamber in the afternoon for yet another debate on the Bedroom Tax. The government left open a loophole that means thousands of people have been charged the tax illegally, and now it wants to amend the legislation. Ministers say only around 5,000 people are affected, but our team has been asking local authorities for numbers, using the Freedom of Information Act to get the information, and we think there are thousands more. So it’s a lively exchange in the chamber, with Iain Duncan Smith on the back foot.

Thursday sees the long awaited debate in parliament on the War on Welfare petition, calling for a cumulative impact assessment of the effect of the government’s policies on disabled people. This online petition gathered over 100,000 signatures, testament to the depth of public concern about the effect of the cuts. I start the day by meeting some of the campaigners, then go into the chamber for the debate. As shadow minster, I respond for Labour, and I’m pleased the Commons agrees that there should be a cumulative assessment – though sadly, we know ministers will take no notice.

That debate is followed by a second debate, on trying to increase the diversity of backgrounds of MPs. We are slowly doing better at getting more women, BAME, LGBT and disabled MPs (and Labour are doing better than the other parties) but there is still a long way to go. It really matters to have a diverse parliament that properly reflects the society we represent. Everyone agrees on the need for more action, and it’s a thoughtful, friendly debate.

After the debate, I nip across to the BBC studios opposite Parliament to record an interview about the biomass decision for the Sunday Politics programme. Then I head to Euston, but when I get there, all trains have been cancelled, so I decide to stay in London for the night.

I’m writing this on Friday morning on the train back to Manchester for what will be a busy day. I’m really looking forward to my Fairtrade coffee morning, then it will be off to Manor High School to see the work the students have been doing to improve their money management skills. After that, I’m joining Andy Burnham at the fantastic Macmillan centre on Moorside Road.

But it’s been a very early start….!

A very busy week in Westminster, Wythenshawe and in Stretford & Urmston

Once again, my blog has been delayed because I’ve been busy with a by-election, this time in Wythenshawe and Sale East. That took place on Thursday, and I was delighted to see Labour’s majority increase. I’m very much looking forward to welcoming my new colleague, Mike Kane MP, to parliament.

Although I’ve been spending quite a lot of time in Wythenshawe and Sale in the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to fit in some great meetings and visits in Stretford and Urmston, and get down to parliament for one day last week too.

So, last Thursday night, I had the great pleasure of attending Greater Manchester police HQ to see young Trafford cadets at the passing out ceremony to mark the end of their training. I was so impressed with these young people. Many hope for a career in the police. They really deserve to do well; they are a great asset to our communities.

On Friday, I joined Age UK at Sainsburys in Urmston to support their campaign to encourage older people to stay warm in winter, and to promote the help and advice that Age UK can offer. I then held a couple of surgeries, and had a catch up meeting with managers at Trafford General. We discussed the impact of the changes to services at the hospital, which have put pressure on neighbouring hospitals, particularly Wythenshawe. I will be meeting the Chief Executive there next week.

On Saturday, I was very pleased to attend a meeting of the support group for families and sufferers of the brain disease PSP. This little known disease is often confused with Parkinson’s, and we discussed what could be done to increase awareness among health professionals, and the support that families need. I hope to be able to raise these issues in parliament in the coming months.

Sunday was spent helping the by-election campaign, and then first thing Monday I went into my office in Urmston to meet the chair of the Football Supporters Federation, who, handily, lives in Trafford. As the MP for Manchester United, I take a close interest in issues affecting football, and we discussed the governance of the sport and football clubs, supporter representation and ownership models, and standing in football stadiums. These are all issues which have been discussed in parliament, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee reported on changes needed to governance some time ago, and I was glad to be brought up to speed on these subjects, so that I can continue to question ministers.

I then went down to London to meet Vince Cable, who is the government minister responsible for some of the issues I have been campaigning on regarding safety on overseas adventure trips. I asked him what help the government could give to bring about better information and protection for parents. He promised to consider the matter, and I expect to hear further from him next month (and I will be chasing him up if I don’t).

I attended a very interesting briefing on local government finance, which had been arranged by the local government association, and which revealed an alarming picture about future funding for local authorities. The services provided by local government, from street cleaning and bin collection to care of the elderly and child protection, are vital to the quality of our lives. We simply can’t continue down a path that will effectively leave many unable even to fund basic services.

I was pleased I reached Westminster on Monday in time to vote to ban smoking in cars in which children are travelling, and for cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging. The government had originally resisted these measures, but they were strongly supported by MPs from all parties, and were carried by a large majority on Monday night.

Then I stayed in parliament to have dinner with some colleagues and catch up on the political gossip. I don’t do that very often, but it made a very enjoyable end to the day.

I had a couple of meetings first thing on Tuesday to discuss disabled people and employment. Then I went into the chamber to ask Nick Clegg about the arrangements for new voter registration. In future, each person in a household will have to register individually, rather than having one form per household. There are concerns that some groups will simply fail to get on the register, including young people, and those from black and minority families – I pointed out to Clegg they’re already less likely to be on the register, though just as likely to vote if they are registered.

Labour women MPs then had an interesting briefing on media strategy, I attended a meeting of the Shadow Work and Pensions team to discuss the bill to abolish the Bedroom Tax that was to be presented in parliament the next day. I then went along to a reception organised by Ambitious about Autism, who are launching an important campaign to highlight how many children with autism miss out on school because they’re excluded, or don’t fit in and stay away. This is an issue I know affects families in my constituency. It simply isn’t acceptable that children should be out of school, so I was keen to support the campaign.

Later, I attended a meeting for North West MPs to discuss the very controversial subject of immigration. I’m proud to represent a constituency that has welcomed many new communities over the years, and I’m very concerned at the tone of the debate. Of course, it’s not acceptable that poverty wages should be paid to migrant workers to undercut local wages, and we need to crack down on employers who don’t pay minimum wages. And of course there have to be controls on who can come to the UK to live and work. But the government’s proposals are very flawed, and playing into the hands of extremists who ignore that many people also migrate from the UK to other countries, and the contribution that migrants make to our community. We need a balanced, respectful policy approach, and to properly protect people who live here or come here.

I then went along to the all party children’s question time, which was attended by Afraa, a student at Stretford High. It was great to see her in parliament. She asked some good questions of the panel, which included the Children’s Commissioner, MPs and members of the House of Lords.

Finally on Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Webb Memorial Trust, of which I’m a trustee, to discuss our funding programme for work on tackling poverty. Then I went out for dinner with one of my fellow trustees – a Tory MP – MPs do have friendly relationships across the political divide!

Wednesday and Thursday back in Manchester for the by-election campaign. I went to the count afterwards to see Mike Kane elected, getting to bed just before 3am. I still had a very busy Friday, starting with a visit to a bakery in Old Trafford, which is threatened with closure, and the loss of 57 jobs. I’m trying to find a solution, working with the union, management and Trafford Council. It will be very sad to see a long established business close.

I then headed over to Partington to co-host an event with Your Housing group to discuss how we could help to increase people’s ability to use IT – increasingly necessary for shopping, banking, benefits claims, and a host of other day to day transactions, but many people in Partington don’t have Internet access at home, or lack confidence in using IT. I visited the Job Club to see local people developing new computer skills, and came away with lots of questions I will be raising in parliament with ministers.

In the afternoon, I went to visit two businesses on Trafford Park. The first wanted to know how to access more help from the government to increase its export business. The second was experiencing high levels of theft of its products, and wanted more action from the police. I will be following up on both these matters in the office this week.

Finally, I joined young Asian women in Old Trafford at the fabulous Pulling Together group to see their puppet presentation on forced marriage. They had made the most impressive puppets and the story they told was very powerful. It was very timely, since Friday marked One Billion Rise, when women all around the world speak out against violence and abuse.

Saturday: a surgery, a (very wet) street stall to campaign on high energy bills, and our fabulous Labour fundraiser with political commentator Owen Jones in the evening.

Now its half term recess and I will be spending the week in Manchester. I’m looking forward to having a few days when things are a bit less hectic!