Opinion: We are better than this

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Politics starts locally with communities and family, but it takes on a wider lens difficult times, writes Andrew Pakes, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough.

Last week, Peterborough’s Conservative MP wrote that the next election should be about local issues, not just national ones. I agree. I love living near Central Park. It was brilliant being cheered on by neighbours as a I jogged through the park last week as part of the Anna’s Hope fun run. Even better joining everyone to cheer on those competing in the Great Eastern Run.

Peterborough’s better days lie ahead, but the ambition of the city needs to be matched by its political leadership. The next election will be local. It will be about parents worried about why local school standards are not rising fast enough. Local shop keepers who rarely see the police even when they are robbed, and residents fed up that too little is being done about fly-tipping.

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The cost-of-living crisis isn’t just on TV. It’s affecting local families who rely on foodbanks and the generosity of those who donate to help make ends meet. I am bowled over by the foodbank volunteers, faith groups and charities who help feed people in this city. But as one said to me recently ‘it shouldn’t be this way; life has just got tougher for people in recent years.’

Andrew Pakes, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for PeterboroughAndrew Pakes, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough
Andrew Pakes, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Peterborough

Life shouldn’t be a constant worry about your financial future. It shouldn’t be about cutting back on the things that make life enjoyable. For too many it is.

The next election will also be about judgement, especially on the Conservatives disastrous mini-budget that crashed the economy leaving local families to pay the price. The people of Peterborough are still waiting for an apology from the current Conservative MP who was Liz Truss’ number one cheerleader.

I’ll tell you what else is local, the NHS. The GP is the first step to accessing vital care for ourselves, our children and those we care for. Yet the 8am scramble for an appointment is a local experience for people across the city. Over half of us have reported struggling to get a GP appointment in the last six months. Let’s not even start on finding an NHS dentist.

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Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, more than 80,000 people are waiting to start treatment at local hospitals.

International issues stepped closer to us all this week. Local people here are connected with many across the world through family faith and friendship. I am horrified by the violence in Israel and Palestine, and the suffering of ordinary people who have lost loved ones and who fear for their own lives. Like many of us, I struggle with the seeming hopelessness of the situation.

As I write, in the darkness of Gaza, a hospital has been attacked with a devastating loss of innocent life. There is no justification for this brutality. It must be condemned. Every life should be treated as equal. International law must be followed. There is no justification for the terrorist attacks by Hamas or the taking of hostages. There is no justification for the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

I know we can do better than this. Listening to businesses and community groups I meet, there is a drive to do better. From better jobs to a thriving city centre, from arts and culture to a desire for a cleaner, safer city, people want change. My job is to earn your trust to then work with you to deliver that change, locally, nationally, and internationally.

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