In her monthly column for The Dispatch, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves talks about holding a local inter-faith event following the Westminster attack, working with local headteachers, public transport, and combatting loneliness …
‘Westminster attack will not divide us’
More than a week on from the appalling attack on Westminster, my thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their families.
It was an evil act intended to strike a blow at the heart of our democracy. But it brought out the very best in people and showed how much we all rely on the dedicated members of our emergency services.
The tragic death of PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the line of duty as he tried to protect those who work in Westminster, is a terrible reminder of the risks they face.
At the time of the attack, I had just been through the voting lobby outside the House of Commons chamber. Along with other MPs, staff and visitors, I was ushered to safety as the police responded to the incident.
Whether in Leeds or Parliament, we rely on them every day to keep us safe and I’m incredibly grateful for all they do.
The attack was a cowardly attempt to undermine our democracy and our values for freedom and tolerance. But it will not succeed.
It is difficult times like this that remind me of what Jo Cox would say: we have far more in common than that which divides us.
Inter-faith event in West Leeds
Following the attack on Westminster, I spoke in the House of Commons about how important it is for different communities and religions to come together, especially at difficult times.
I also hope to be able to host an inter-faith event in West Leeds with the aim of improving communication and links between communities in the area.
By encouraging our diverse faith communities to meet and talk about local issues, I hope we can build stronger bonds between them.
I’m continuing my work on the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
Loneliness is something that can affect people of any age. But the spotlight this week has been on older people. A survey published by Gransnet revealed that the majority of those asked said their close friends and family would be “astonished” to hear they feel lonely.
And, over 90 per cent said it was still possible to feel lonely even when you have a partner or a family. The results show the scale of the challenge we face in helping people.
I am the co-chair of the Commission which published a report that showed factors such as disability, poor health, lack of contact with friends and death of a loved one can contribute to a feeling of loneliness.
The Gransnet survey showed that over half of their users have never spoken to anyone about their loneliness.
I’ve written to Age UK about what we can do to improve things and I will be doing my best in the months ahead to help tackle this issue which affects so many people.
Improving public transport
Over the last few weeks, I’ve circulated a survey with the aim of helping improve public transport in Leeds.
I’m hoping to find out what changes bus and train passengers would like to see to make their journeys easier.
The plan is to use the results to press for improvements so everyone gets the public transport we need and expect in a major city like Leeds.
Working with local headteachers
Earlier this month, I joined head teachers at their roundtable event at Leeds West Academy.
It brought together primary and secondary school head teachers from across Leeds West to talk about a wide variety of issues and work towards possible solutions.
The points discussed included the intense pressure on school budgets as a result of Government cuts, testing, child poverty, citizenship, politics and loneliness.
It was good to hear their concerns and their plans to deal with the challenges they face in the months ahead.