Redbridge MPs' review of the year 2018
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:30 01 January 2019
What year in the world of politics it has been, both on a national level and locally across Redbridge, and the Recorder has asked all of Redbridge's MPs to give their personal highlights of 2018 - with everything from learning Spanish and finding out Saddam Hussein's links to Wanstead, to Brexit and the celebration of 100 years of Armistice.
Ilford North MP Wes Streeting said: “This year has been dominated by Brexit and a political crisis that I’ve never known in my lifetime and can find no meaningful comparison for in the history books.
“So when the Recorder asked my three highlights of the year, it was a welcome relief from all that.
“Firstly, making a difference. I managed to amend the budget to make new electric cabs more affordable.
“Amending a budget from the opposition isn’t easy - it rarely happens.
“There are other areas where I feel I’ve made a difference: from step-free access coming in at Newbury Park tube, to new police officers being recruited to Redbridge, to a new definition on Islamophobia, which attracted widespread support, to proposing major reforms to taxi and private hire licensing that the Government look set to take up.
“Although it was a painful process,I didn’t flinch in challenging my own Party’s failure to tackle antisemitism and they finally adopted the IHRA definition.
“Success has many masters and one of the joys of this difficult year has been working as part of teams that made these successes possible - particularly my own staff team who work tirelessly to help local residents.
“Secondly, I’ve kept up my record as one of Parliament’s most active MPs - challenging ministers week-in and week-out on behalf of our community, particularly on cuts to policing that have led to rising violent crime in our community.
“Finally, I want to pay tribute to the schools, community groups, residents’ associations, public services and businesses that are the beating heart of our local community. As we approach Christmas, I particularly want to single out Redbridge Together - the partnership between the Council, the Salvation Army, local charities and businesses - who are tackling rough sleeping and have opened a new cold weather shelter.”
Ilford South MP Mike Gapes said: “It is hard to look back and think of 2018 in positive terms.
“Parliament is in deadlock. Almost all energy and legislative time is being sucked out by the interminable Brexit process.
“Our stubborn Prime Minister and her zombie minority government, and an incompetent opposition leadership are combining to create mutually assured destruction of the influence and prosperity of our country.
“So my first highlight of the year is the narrow majority vote for the amendment proposed by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve to ensure that Parliament will have a Meaningful Vote on the Brexit Deal.
“Theresa May ran away from that vote this month when it was clear that she would lose. But we are now promised it in January.
“Parliament must take back control and stop our country crashing out of the EU.
My second highlight is a personal one. In January I started, as a total novice, to learn Spanish. I have found it really enjoyable. I had a great holiday in Madrid in October where I was able to hold basic conversations and enjoy the culture, food, history and football of that great European city.
“My third highlight was getting on one of the long new air conditioned trains from Ilford into Liverpool Street in May.
“We had all been looking forward to the full opening of the Elizabeth Line in December, but delays to the Crossrail project mainly caused by software and signalling problems have unfortunately put it back by at least a year.
“I am looking forward to being able to take journeys across London to Paddington and Heathrow and beyond once the Elizabeth Line is fully operational.”
“I would like to wish everyone a peaceful and prosperous and Brexit free New Year”
Wanstead MP John Cryer told the Recorder: “2018 was a tumultuous year in national politics and at its close we cannot be sure how long the current government will cling onto power, or what will happen with Brexit.
“But I have written about these issues elsewhere and I won’t fill precious column inches by repeating a commentary I bet many readers have had their year’s worth of already.
November saw the centenary of the Armistice. WW1 was a nadir in human history.
“It was an industrial war fought according to a pre-industrial strategy. We have not seen servicemen die in such numbers in any subsequent conflict. Remembrance will remain an important date in the calendar, a time for us all to reflect on the terrible toll of war and remember the fallen.
“My oddest moment of the year was learning that Saddam Hussein has at least one local fan. Some expressed offence when a plaque dedicated “in loving memory” to the Iraqi despot appeared on a Wanstead bench.
“Whilst I can understand that reaction I think it was just a misguided prank. I hope so, at least, although a Ba’athist challenge at the next election would be interesting.
“Looking ahead to 2019, I have a few suggestions for New Year’s resolutions for the government.
“First, listen to the voices calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped. Your lack of investment has made the rollout unworkable and it is causing devastating hardship.
“Second, invest in the police! Wanstead residents know only too well what happens when you cut back on police numbers and close police stations.
“Third, if you can’t make Brexit work, let us have a General Election and a national debate on where we go from here.
“I could go on but I have run out of space. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
Chingford and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan Smith said: “My main highlight this year was leading a group of cross-party MPs (more than 70) in tabling an amendment to the Finance Bill that forced the government to bring forward reforms to Fixed Odds Betting Stakes (FOBTs), effectively bringing the maximum stake down from £100 to £2.
“This is a serious issue, beyond party lines, which I have campaigned on since 2005 with Labour MP Carolyn Harris and we are delighted government common sense has prevailed to cut the minimum stake and bring forward the reforms to April 2019.
“We will see a reduction in the levels of debt gambling addicts can get themselves into, particularly on these fast paced, high stakes slot machines.”
“Following many private meetings with officials and ministers at the Treasury, I was extremely pleased The Chancellor used his Budget to make a very welcome announcement: further investment of £1.7 billion into Universal Credit (UC).
“Work remains the best route out of poverty and, as Philip Hammond made clear, the extensive welfare reforms since 2010, of which UC is a vital part, have been the key drivers of the UK’s jobs miracle, resulting in 4 million more people in employment.
“This welfare reform has broad political support and it would have been a great shame and a missed opportunity if it had proven unsuccessful in practice as a result of underfunding.
“Parliament has hosted a number of debates this year on Brexit and I have consistently spoken in support of a settlement where Britain genuinely takes back control of its laws, money and borders. The government now recognises that the current Withdrawal Agreement is a non-starter and I am encouraged by recent announcements that preparations and necessary steps are being taken for us to leave the EU at the end of March with a World Trade deal.”