On Tuesday it took me over five hours to get to London because of an ‘incident’ on the line just outside Peterborough.

The so-called ‘incident’ was actually a suicide, and the same thing happened on Monday near Norton.

‘Sadly it’s that time of year’, somebody remarked on the Grand Central, and they were right.

Sadly, it is exactly that time of year when, after the pressures of Christmas and strain on families, when the debts stare people starkly in the face and when the days are still long and dark, the desperation kicks in and the pressure becomes too much.

It truly is a tragic state of affairs and a real sign of the times.

As a trade union official of more than 20 years, I have learnt that you cannot walk in people’s shoes all of the time and look after them 24/7.

Their lives are their own and whatever happens, if you do your best to stand by them whatever their circumstances then ultimately, as is the case of people I have known to take their own life, you despair and inwardly cry, but you build upon that experience to hopefully benefit others.

There are now good people, good workers, who are still out there and who I still worry about. In their name, I promise to make a difference as MP.

Dispatches this week came up with one of their familiar undercover reporting stings, aimed this time at exposing American involvement in mental health provision in this country.

The programme was an exposé of the Priory Health Group, run by an American Consortium called ‘Partnerships in Care’.

As the largest private provider which leases mental health beds to the NHS, the Priory Group receives 90% of its income from public funds – more than £540million.

It’s simply not acceptable, and given the focus of trade talks between the USA and the UK in the aftermath of Brexit, it doesn’t sit well with me.

The one thing I do know about the EU is that for years good UK-focused MEPs like Jude Kirton-Darling have been fighting tooth and nail to stop the NHS from being open to exposure of the US market under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and now that work looks to be ruined under the Tories who want to see the likes of PIC take over.

Political opportunism also showed its ugly face this week when the Tory Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen intervened in a planning application for housing on the Oaksway Business Park.

I have personally visited businesses there previously, and am due to visit the TMD Friction factory soon, where no doubt I will get to know what I already know from brilliant business leaders like Bryn Flicker of Helios Precision Engineering, also based there, about the conflict between business needs and demand for local affordable housing.

Of course, as MP I would never jeopardise jobs, but equally I would hope that the Mayor recognised that and ceased playing on the minds of real workers over unquantifiable job risks without consulting me.

Lastly, on a note of celebration, the BAFTA speech by Sir Ridley Scott on Monday made me and everyone else I’ve spoken to feel so proud. Winning a lifetime award from the film industry, he could have easily chosen some cheesy line, but instead he spoke about Hartlepool and the College of Art and Design. What a truly magnificent thing to do. He clearly has never forgotten his roots and is a true ambassador for the town. What a true and important advocate for Hartlepool, like Jeff Stelling. It would be great to see him given the Freedom of the Borough.


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