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John Healey's Diary

The former Labour Treasury minister and Shadow Health Secretary mulls over the A&E crisis, flooding, and the UKIP threat to his party

 

Wednesday 8 January

It must be more than 13 years since I last wrote The House magazine diary. It’s taken at least three editors to get over my earlier efforts and ask me again. My first job in London was writing and editing The House magazine, before hand-delivering copies round the Palace, so felt I couldn’t say ‘no’.

An early morning round of radio interviews are also a blast from the past. The widespread floods have prompted interest in my role as floods minister in 2007. People whose homes and businesses have been devastated want immediate help. But when media interest disappears with the flood waters, their problems don’t.

Later I chair a packed meeting of the new EU-US trade negotiations APPG we’ve set up. It’s a global economic game-changer but it must bring benefits to British consumers and workers, as well as business. All the speakers on our panel –  chief executives of the CBI, TUC and Which? – are behind a deal, though all have concerns.

Thursday 9 January

BBC Look North call. Nick Clegg’s going to be live in their Yorkshire studio tonight pushing ‘good news’ from new regional growth fund awards. But from day one he’s failed to stand up for our region in government, and Yorkshire’s had only a small fraction of these funds. They want a critical voice to challenge the Deputy Prime Minister. What a gift. 

Then a mad dash to get my wife Jackie a birthday present for Saturday. Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, a merino wool poncho and smelly soaps from the Body Shop. Done and dusted and back at my desk in an hour. Rather proud of my retail efficiency.

Friday 10 January

In the constituency office for a long advice surgery, followed by meetings. Press photographers turn up – not for me but for Irene. She’s worked with me since I was elected in 1997, and for 24 years for my predecessor. She’s done 40 years’ service in the constituency, and not a single day off sick. I’m delighted the Speaker has agreed to host a reception in the spring for constituency staff like Irene who’ve served the public for 25 years or longer. 

Weekend 11/12 January

Jackie’s uncertain about the soaps, the book seems heavy after her Kindle, and the poncho – which was worn with such style by the young woman in Covent Garden market – now seems a bit shapeless. Clearly I should have taken longer over my shopping... 

Monday 13 January

It’s yet another one-line Monday but I’m pleased to see plenty in the Chamber for DWP questions. I challenge IDS over the bedroom tax and a new survey of frontline housing workers which shows nearly half have dealt with tenants threatening suicide in the last six months.

A national journalist calls. He’s heard I’m talking to constituencies and MPs about UKIP’s threat to Labour. I fear UKIP will be the story of this May’s local elections, like they were last May. The 2014 elections are largely in city and urban areas, with Labour defending many more seats.

If UKIP top the Euro poll and take another 150 council seats, we could see a confidence crisis in Labour about the risk to our vote as well as the Tories’. Unlike the Lib Dems, who built up their challenge to Labour by hard local work over years, UKIP can bring in votes overnight with no track record. 

Tuesday 14 January

Early morning at Millbank for BBC Radio Sheffield on the country-wide crisis in A&E and the soaring cost of locum staff. Andy Burnham follows up hard at Health questions, while I and other Labour MPs wade in as well. 

Brain-ache after our mid-afternoon meeting with ONS about the classification of local housing debt, though I’m more certain than before about the case for reform. It could help build thousands of new council homes so this will be one of my 2014 campaigns, aimed at ministers and my own party.

As my 5pm copy deadline for the diary looms, I kick myself for not leaving the day clearer. There’s one consolation. At least I’ve got 13 years until I have to do the next one.  

 

John Healey is Labour MP for Wentworth & Dearne

 


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