Last November I took the decision to stand down from Labour’s frontbench and my role as Shadow Minister for Green Transport.
This decision was, at least in part, prompted by the suicide of a very close friend. Stepping aside from frontbench responsibilities gave me the chance to pursue issues in a way I probably wouldn’t have had time for before. In particular, I’ve been able to focus on mental health: asking a series of questions in the Chamber, speaking in debates on SEND and children’s mental health, and holding my own Westminster Hall debate on “Government Action on Suicide Prevention”. I also hosted a very well-received event in Parliament with the band New Order and the suicide prevention charity, CALM, as well as writing about the topic and meeting with campaigners. The draft Mental Health Bill has just been published and I asked the below question in yesterday’s statement, once again raising concerns about how many people with severe mental health problems are in prison when they should be in hospital.
I will continue to prioritise these issues whenever I can. Not just because of my own personal experience but because I know so many people have failed to get the help they need, when they need it and far too many lives have been lost as a result.
I have, however, now agreed to rejoin Labour’s frontbench, as Shadow Minister for Climate Change. I’m really looking forward to working with Ed Miliband as part of his Net Zero team and I will no doubt have a lot more to say about my new brief in the coming days – especially as the Committee on Climate Change’s annual Progress Report to Parliament is out tomorrow.