Becoming a Dame!

Archive for December, 2015

Becoming a Dame!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

At the end of this year, I was very excited to be invited to Buckingham Palace to receive my Damehood! I have been in public life for over twenty years and never dreamed that this would happen. I want to thank all of the people in the Borough who have worked with me and supported me for all of these years.


Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

I want to wish all my constituents a very happy Christmas! 2015 has been a busy year, and I will not be taking my foot of the pedal in 2016. I will be pushing for better local health care services and continue my fight to get the number 5 bus diverted to Queen’s Hospital. I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and a restful holiday.

Overall Winner

My year was once again finished off with my annual Christmas Card Competition. The prize-giving is always a highlight of my year, and 2015 was no exception. I was so pleased to receive over 4000 entries from schools across the borough, and I was touched to see the effort and talent that all the children put into their cards. I am delighted to be able to send such a lovely card to all my colleagues and friends thanks to the hard work of the children. The competition could not happen without the kind support of local businesses and I am very grateful to Agilisys, the Barking and Dagenham Chamber of Commerce, C2C, The Daggers, E&A, Greggs, Kip McGrath, London City Airport, Neilcott, Nicholls and Clarke, Cllr Ade and Selfridges for their generous donations. I would also like to thank all the councillors and community leaders who took time out of their busy days to help me judge and shortlist the thousands of entries I received.

Christmas card winner

James Durkin of Roding Primary School who designed the winning card receiving his prize at the Ripple Centre.

Visiting the new Goresbrook School

Friday, December 18th, 2015

I was so pleased to recently have the chance to visit the new Goresbrook School. We are in desperate need of more school places in Barking and Dagenham, so it was brilliant to see new buildings under construction and speak to the headteacher, Clare Darley, about the school’s plans for the future. I was pleased to hear some very promising ideas about the school’s plans for the curriculum and engaging with the local community. I was very happy to have a chance to meet the children over lunch and sample the school dinners too!

Goresbrook lunch

Air Strikes in Syria

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Over the last few weeks I have been inundated with emails and calls from local residents about the vote to launch air strikes in Syria against Daesh. This  has been one of the most challenging decisions I have had to make as an MP. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have spent the last few months listening to compelling arguments on both sides of the debate, I have sought out extra briefings from experts and listened to the many representations I have received from residents across the Borough. In the end I decided to support the Government’s motion.

Despite the coverage in the media there is a lot of common ground between all of us. We all agree that Daesh is an evil phenomenon which promotes hatred and preaches intolerance of diversity.

It is not just the bombing in Paris and Tunisia and the downing of the Russian plane that is so horrific. It is what Daesh are doing in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere in pursuit of an ideology which has nothing to do with the Muslim religion, but everything to do with intolerance and hatred; the killing of people who do not share their ideology and the public beheading of innocent victims; the destruction of villages and families; forcing people to leave their homes; the raping of women and children; the destruction of historic sites. I could go on. We all agree that Daesh must be stopped and beaten.

Furthermore, the threat is very much a threat to Britain and the first duty of any MP is to work to defend the citizens in the United Kingdom against terrorism and other threats.

We all agree that the only way to overcome Daesh is through a political settlement in Syria; that is why the negotiations that have started in Vienna are so important. This conflict will only end when a political settlement is agreed.

We also all agree that we have to have a strong and well-funded humanitarian strategy which supports those who are forced to flee their country and which supports the reconstruction of Syria once the conflict draws to an end.

We agree that we have to act to stop the funding on which Daesh depends reaching them.

We agree that we have to take steps within the UK to bring to an end the radicalization of young people here in Britain by giving people positive reasons for wanting to support the community here.

So we all share many of the same objectives. The argument is about how best we move forward from where we are. I completely understand the sceptism about the effectiveness of air attacks, especially after the experiences of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I do not think the Government is arguing that they can be certain that the airstrikes will definitely work. What they hope is that by helping to degrade Daesh for a short period, they will create a window of opportunity for all the parties to reach a political settlement.  There is a chance that disabling Daesh will create the opportunity for peace. Doing nothing means the killing, the civil war and the terrorism will go on. I cannot endorse doing nothing.

Furthermore, the UK is already involved in airstrikes in Iraq. Daesh does not recognise the territorial boundary between Iraq and Syria. So it seems inexplicable that we should make this distinction.

Finally, the strongest argument for me has been the request from the left of centre Government in France and from Jordan for the UK to play a full part in the coalition. I have always been an internationalist and I find it hard to ignore the pleas of our international friends. I have always believed in strong international solidarity.

Those who argue that they know what the impact of action or no action are in my view naive. None of us know for certain what will happen next. I have come to the view that we need to be part of the coalition that is fighting to bring to an end this threat against our own security. Taking this further step of permitting airstrikes beyond Iraq and into Syria, where Daesh have established their headquarters and from where they plan their terrorist atrocities, seems the best of a very difficult range of options.