Journal column - 18/12/18

What on earth is the Conservative Government doing by trying to abolish free TV licences for our over-75s through the backdoor, blaming the BBC when it is the Tories who are breaking a solemn manifesto promise?

And the Conservatives are doing this at Christmas when we all watch more TV, including our elderly pensioners that this government would charge £150.50 a year for what is currently free.


I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy your turkey or a nut cutlet before watching a Royle Family Christmas Special.


Jim Royle, Ricky Tomlinson, is appearing in my Jarrow constituency in March next year and the same weekend performs in Durham City to raise funds for the Pitman's Parliament but I digress and more about him in 2019.


What I can't believe is the Cons think they can get away with sub-contracting with charging senior citizens £150.50 for what's now free by turning the BBC into a branch office of the Department for Work and Pensions with instructions to claw back £750-million a year.


Free telly for 4m-plus over-75s, including tens of thousands in the North East, was a Labour policy I was thrilled to vote for in the House of Commons and I'll fight tooth and nail to pull the plug on the Tories plan.


Everywhere I look they're making life worse not better for honest, decent people.


On the streets we're seeing a shocking rise in begging and homelessness.


Foodbanks are struggling to feed the hungry, desperate families referred to them by social services, police and head teachers.


In my constituency alone I've seen a 300% rise in folk relying on Foodbank charity to eat since 2010 - a damning indictment of a Conservative regime taking us back to the Victorian era.


Families shouldn't be going hungry in this day and age and I was horrified when the author of the UN’s report on extreme poverty and human rights, who visited the North East, concluded Tory Ministers were in a “state of denial” about poverty in the UK.


The Government's ignorant rubbishing of Philip Alston's report, a study finding 1.5 million people were destitute at some point in 2017 and a fifth of the population, 14 million people, live in poverty was this government denying reality.


My mailbag's full of complaints about Universal Credit inflicting extreme misery with unbearable delays in payments, poor administration and cuts pushing men and women deeper into debt and rent arrears.


Poverty among disabled people has risen to 4.3 million and if you believe as I do that how a country treats its vulnerable is a measure of civilisation then this government are clearly failing.  


I still cannot believe that Theresa May’s Conservatives are taking us back to times we hoped were over when children went to bed hungry and the poor relied on charity.


This year we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Labour’s proudest creation and a beacon around the world for those still fighting for universal healthcare free at the point of need.


Yet this Conservative Government has pushed our health service into crisis with more people waiting longer in A & E, to see a GP and over four million people on hospital waiting lists.


Don't forget the North East's also lost 40% of our Sure Start Centres, developed under Labour to give kids from all backgrounds a better start in life.


So a Happy New Year to everybody with goodwill. Here’s to taking on the failings of this government in 2019 and replacing it with a Labour government for the many, not the few.

Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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