In his latest column in the Ipswich Star, Sandy Martin set out how he sees his role as our MP.
As MP for Ipswich I have two distinct roles – the first is to support Ipswich and Ipswich residents, and that is largely non-party-political; and the second is to support the Labour Party and fight alongside my Labour colleagues in Westminster to try to hold this Conservative-run government to account.
“MP for Ipswich” is actually a team. I will have three staff working in the Ipswich office, and I have one researcher working with me in Westminster, and that reflects the relative importance I am giving to the two venues. Already the team is helping residents in a far more effective way than any one person could ever do.
One of the most frequent and distressing types of case involves families who have been torn apart by the Home Office and their interpretation of the immigration rules. We need immigration rules, and I certainly don’t believe that everyone who wants to should be allowed to come to this country. But I do think it is just plain wrong – morally wrong, and completely unhelpful to society – for wives to be forced apart from their husbands, for frail elderly parents to be kept apart from their sons and daughters, and above all for children to be separated from their mothers and fathers. Most of us couldn’t imagine a situation where we were not allowed to see our nearest and dearest – it sounds like the worst excesses of the Berlin Wall – but a significant number of people here in Ipswich are put in precisely that position. My case workers here in Ipswich are doing whatever they can to help Ipswich families come back together again, working on a case by case basis. Meanwhile in Westminster, I will be joining with my Labour colleagues – and other MPs who share our concern – to try to make the rules more helpful to families.
And it’s not just individual case work where I need to work in Ipswich on a non-party-political basis. I have recently sent a joint letter with Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, to Jake Berry, one of the Local Government ministers, asking him to allow us to spend £750,000 of government money on repaving the bit of Princes Street which runs alongside the Town Hall and Corn Exchange. They want us to spend it on the bit of the Waterfront nearest to Stoke Bridge, but we believe that with the massive demolitions and building works that will be needed in that area, any work on the pavements in that area is in danger of being ruined again. This is an example of an issue where the Councils, the Business community, and the local MPs can all come together to push for something which we can all see makes sense. I already have a good working relationship with the Borough Council and the business community here in Ipswich, and now that I have left the County Council I am looking forward to forging a new MP’s relationship with the County.
But when it comes to Westminster, I can take the experience of people here in Ipswich and apply that to Labour’s push for a fairer society for our country. The best example is our campaign to lift the pay cap for public sector workers – doctors and nurses and teachers and firefighters and so on. We have a real struggle recruiting and then keeping good teachers and doctors and nurses in Ipswich, just as our schools and hospitals do right across the country. Each and every one of us wants our children to get the best possible education, and when we get sick we want the best possible healthcare. We’re not going to get that if we don’t pay people enough to make them want to stay. People working in the public sector have seen the value of their wages fall since 2010. Do not be taken in by those who say “we are putting record amounts of money into Health, or Education” – it is the actual purchasing power of that money which counts, and that has gone down.
I and my team will do whatever we can here in Ipswich, to help individuals and to be a champion for our town, but the political role for the MP is still hugely important – I was elected by people who wanted me to hold the Government to account, and I will make no apologies for fighting against the Tory Austerity agenda whenever and wherever I can.