Journal column - 26/2/19

If you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you is, as those of you of a certain age will know, the opening lines of a Kipling poem.

He's probably best known these days for The Jungle Book or, and I jest, the exceedingly good cakes of a distant relative but it's also true old Rudyard's fallen out of fashion over Victorian views we in the 21st century would consider distinctly dodgy.

Keeping your head in “If” was all about stoicism and I won't pretend I could recite it all or even the whole of the first verse but I think of it when people refuse to take responsibility for their actions.


Like standing on a party's ticket and being elected an MP then leaving that party and treating constituents with disrespect by not asking them in the by-election if they want you and the new party or somebody representing the party they voted for in the first place.


Can you think of anyone who is doing that?! I can too and demanding a second Brexit referendum while resisting your own by-election doesn't sound very consistent or democratic.


I'm against anything that deflects from the fight to win the Jarrow constituency and the North East a better deal when for too long the Tories have treated us as a forgotten province.


We've a much thriving industry and a vibrant service sector but the legacy of deindustrialisation continues to scar communities and we need a Government prepared to invest in regions to unleash economic potential instead of concentrating resources in an overheated London and the South East England.


We've so much to offer up here I sometimes wonder if the Conservatives are worried about what we could achieve if given the tools to finish the job.


Why else would the Tories slash spending in Northern England by £6.3 billion while raising it in the South East and South West by £3.2 billion since they stumbled back into Government.


Or look at the figures since 2014 and spending per head in London rose twice as much as spending in the North – £326 in the Big Smoke and just £146 up here.


Progressive think tank IPPR North's coming up with evidence and practical plans to transform corners of Britain such as the North East but we all know radical change for the better won't happen until Jeremy Corbyn's in Downing Street and Labour returns to office.


It sickens me as many as two million adults and one million children live in poverty in the North.


Or weekly pay's fallen in value £21 since 2008, according to a ground-breaking IPPR North report, which is worse than the national average.


The Tories must be sadists to torture a North they've forever resented for our independence and defiance, our refusal to doff the cap and bend the knee to Conservativism.


Why else would they cut £168m from South Tyneside Council since 2010, an almost 40% drop in real spending power over the last nine years with Gateshead, the other local authority home of my Jarrow parliamentary constituency, losing £157m.


Everywhere we look, whether Northumberland to the North of the Tyne or Durham to the South, we see councillors of all political colours all trying to cope with senseless Conservative cuts that are rooted in a failed, self-defeating austerity ideology.


Slashing and starving services is foolish whether it's children's centres and schools taking a hit or clean streets and safe parks.


Let's keep our heads and do something about it, making the arguments and winning at the ballot box to show Labour's a better way.


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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