As an MP, here’s why my last question to Theresa May had nothing to do with Brexit

She will leave office after my question with little worry about her future, while millions across our country are suffering and dying because of cruel indifference in the government

Paul Sweeney
Wednesday 24 July 2019 12:32
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David Mundell MP ignored as Theresa May cheered upon entering the Commons for her last PMQ's as Prime Minister

Today I had the dubious honour of being drawn for Theresa May's last ever prime minister's questions, exactly two years after I asked her my first one after delivering my maiden speech as a new MP.

A lot has happened in politics over that time, but each time I have been lucky in the draw to ask a question in my two years as an MP, I have used the opportunity to highlight a failure of this government which has directly impacted one of my constituents in Glasgow north east. Remote as No 10 Downing Street can appear to most people, the decisions made in that touch lives the length and breadth of the UK and today's question shows the people of Glasgow north east caught between a rock and a hard place.

The St Rollox “Caley” railway works is the last surviving part of an industry which has been the lifeblood of the district of Springburn in Glasgow for over 160 years, since the dawn of the railway age. Like May, 200 skilled workers will find themselves out of a job when it closes for the final time on Friday. Unlike May, those workers face an uncertain future and the loss of their vital skills to the railway industry in Scotland. The anguish it is causing is terrible, one of the workers there has already taken their own life.

Those constituents of mine are caught between a laissez-faire Tory dogma at Westminster – without any long-term economic plan or a coherent industrial strategy – and an infuriating "can't do" attitude from a decidedly hands-off SNP Scottish government. Despite a clear majority of the British people favouring public ownership of the railways, both May and Nicola Sturgeon have refused to support renationalising a railway works that is vital to maintaining our railway in Scotland and will now mean that work must be sent out of Scotland.

Instead of action in the national interest, we have seen a pathetic blame game that is set to destroy the dignity, skills and pride that my community have in their railway works.

The damning failure of both governments in Edinburgh and London to act on this and many other issues that matter in our everyday lives has been hidden by our preoccupation with a constitutional Punch and Judy show over both Brexit, and breaking up the UK itself, that has dominated my short time in parliament, while the country outside suffers from neglect and declining living standards. It is time for the false prophets of both Brexit and Scottish separation to wake up to the damage that is being caused by stoking up such division and realise that changing a flag or border simply isn’t going to help improve lives.

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It also doesn’t help the hundreds of asylum seekers who face eviction in my city of Glasgow due to May’s “hostile environment” policies, that were introduced when she was home secretary and have continued under her tenure as prime minister. I previously raised a particularly harrowing case at PMQs last year, that of Giorgi Kakava, a 10-year-old boy who had lived in Glasgow since he was three but had tragically lost his mother suddenly to a terrible illness the month before. Instead of the government trying to support and care for a child who had suffered this trauma, they instead took steps to try to deport him. It was only after my intervention directly to May that the government backed down and gave him a reprieve to at least allow him to finish his schooling with his friends in Glasgow.

Every day in my office I see the victims of callous and incompetent policies that May and her successor Boris Johnson have presided over and voted for. The damage caused to the British people is incalculable. May will leave office after my question with little worry about her future, but millions across our country are suffering and dying because of her cruel indifference. They are not fit to govern. It is time for them to make way for a transformative Labour government that will set about rebuilding the lives they have damaged.

Paul Sweeney is Labour and Co-operative Party MP for Glasgow north east and shadow Scotland office minister

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