Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol East
Kerry McCarthy MP Column for Bristol Post, January 6 2023
It’s difficult not to look back at 2022 through the lens of despair. War returned to Europe and the cost-of-living crisis really began to bite, whilst Queen Elizabeth’s passing in September represented a sad, but unifying moment for the country. There were glimmers of light in the darkness as football finally came home for the lionesses, and festivals returned after two summers of coronavirus restrictions. But there’s no getting away from the fact that for many it was a difficult year.
Against this backdrop we found ourselves in dire need of stability and leadership – yet got neither, with three Prime Ministers and four Chancellors in a matter of months. The constant chaos at the heart of Government undermined trust in politics, and from a personal perspective, my ability to represent the people of Bristol. It’s incredibly difficult to lobby Government, for example on an issue like the labour shortages that have led to First Bus cancellations, an NHS in crisis and food prices going through the roof, when the Ministers in charge are changing every week.
As ever, both the Council and voluntary sector have been incredible at rallying to support Bristol residents this past year. Whether that’s providing welcoming “warm spaces” for people struggling with their heating costs, or providing housing to Ukrainian refugees displaced by Putin’s illegal war. The generosity of the people of this city cannot be overstated. Indeed, Bristol topped the list as the most generous area when it comes to fundraising in 2022, according to the latest figures from JustGiving.
However, the Government must play its part too. Ministers continue to show little interest in negotiating with nurses who have been forced to take strike action for the first time ever. I’ve been in touch with key workers using foodbanks, and teachers who are unable to turn their classrooms heating on in the depths of winter. It’s easy to look ahead to 2023 and see a bleak continuation of last year’s problems, but I believe this can be a year of change.
To do this we must stabilise and then focus on growing our economy, so that both workers and businesses see the rewards. Wealth in this country is concentrated in the hands of too few; this can be the year in which wage stagnation stops holding people back. Real wages across Great Britain are lower by 5% on average since 2010. We need to see wages reflect the cost-of-living, measures to tackle rising inflation, and improved support for energy bills with a proper Windfall Tax.
The Prime Minister should adopt Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan to tackle climate change and deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs and opportunities in every region of the UK. This can be the year in which public services receive the funding and attention they need, and healthcare workers are finally treated to the respect and compensation they deserve. ‘More of the same’ just won’t cut it in 2023. It’s time for change, and it’s time for people to be hopeful again.
Of course, throwing in victories in The Ashes, Eurovision, and the Women’s World Cup, perhaps a promotion for each of the Bristol football clubs, a long warm summer, and a white Christmas… certainly wouldn’t hurt the forecast for 2023. But a country that works for working people must be the minimum we all demand.