SMR Column: Proud to be supporting the Mayo "Gathering"


Just under two weeks ago I was proud to be awarded Lib Dem MP of the Year for my work with ethnic and minority communities. I’m delighted to be able to carry on that work this week by taking in part in The Gathering.

Throughout 2013, Ireland is opening its arms to hundreds of thousands of friends and family from all over the world, calling them home to gatherings in villages, towns and cities.
There are clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events, music and concerts taking place all across the country, all year long. Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry.

The Gathering Ireland 2013 provides the perfect excuse to reach out to those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants, and invite them home.
Communities throughout Ireland are showcasing and sharing the very best of Irish culture, tradition, business, sport, fighting spirit and the uniquely Irish sense of fun.
Manchester and Ireland have always shared a special connection and the positive impact the Irish community have had on Manchester is unquestionable.

Manchester is the number one destination for people flying from the West of Ireland and thousands have travelled from the West to make Manchester their home over the years.
This year, The Gathering will make those links even stronger.

So I’m travelling over to Ireland to be a part of it. I’m launching the North Mayo Gathering which I understand is the biggest in the country, taking place from 1st to 9th August.

Flying into Knock on Thursday I’m delighted to have been invited to launch the Gathering, with over 120 events and an expected 100,000 people expected to attend it’s sure to be a big one! The North Mayo Gathering has been organised by Mancunians with over 150 performers flying in from Manchester to take part! Last week I met Boyzone and Corrie legend Keith Duffy at Manchester Airport to promote the Gathering.

The Festival is not just about welcoming back people of Irish descent back. Everyone is welcome (including me) to join in regardless of where they come from.

One thing I’m really looking forward to tipping off the Gaelic Football game between Manchester’s St Lawrence’s and Mayo’s Bonniconlon on Friday afternoon. I’ve been told it will be a tightly contested game which could go either way; I just hope my name doesn’t appear on the subs bench as I don’t fancy my chances in bringing home the glory for Manchester!


For more information check out:


Guest Blog: Why we still need Lord's Reform.

I am a student at Manchester Grammar school and I am doing work experience with John Leech.

One of my projects was to create a blog on a topic that I feel strongly about. I have written on Lord’s Reform, as I feel it is an issue which has been overlooked for too long, as parties continue to play politics with it and treat the issue opportunistically. I'm glad that in John Leech, I have an MP who agrees with me on the need for Lords reform.

Nothing has happened on Lord reform in the past 12 month, since this happened.

in the 21st century it is outrageous that unelected toffs continue to have a say in running the country. With the Tories continuing to drag their feet on the issue, and, understandably, many suggesting the priority at present is the economy, the tricky issue of Lord’s Reform has been swept under the carpet, or, more specifically, the antique Persian rug.

Despite 7 in 10 voters supporting reform – far more than it is possible to find united on almost all other issues – a tiny minority of people remain who were born into office, or achieved it as a result of the preferment of a party leader. Although it is certainly the case that the economy ought to take centre stage at present, we should not allow this to placate us, or stop us pressing for further democratisation of our political system.

Let us not forget that in this parliamentary term, we have not only have worked tirelessly on the economy, we have pushed through gay marriage and helped press for greater equality. Hence, I simply do not buy the line that we cannot find any time to look again at Lord’s reform.

The lack of progress, however, is far from simply a case of the Tories having other priorities. This is to be expected. In fact, the Labour Party has behaved childishly in this area – as John blogged last July. Perhaps that too should be expected. Despite claiming publicly to support reform, when push has come to shove the Labour Party has deliberately, and damagingly, blocked reforms – citing no reasonable excuse – and seeking merely to throw a spanner in the works of the coalition government.
No-one would seek to deny that the House of Lords has been of use in years gone by, in scrutinising government legislation and in amending these bills.  No one would seek to deny that there are members of the Lords well worthy of respect. What is clear however is that this is no substitute for a democratically elected representative. Rather, it is a hangover from a DowtonAbbeyesque age, which, though seeming quaint to some, cannot be said to be fit for purpose.

£250 million boost to Christie's "proton beam" cancer therapy

Today's press is full of the excellent news that the government is funding Christie's ground breaking "proton beam" therapy. £250 million of government money is to be spend at two Centres of Excellence, in London and at the Christie, so this is a well deserved local boost of over £100million.

I lobbied ministers and hosted visiting Lib Dem ministers Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb at the Christie, and first blogged about the bid in September 2010

The ‘proton beam’ therapy targets cancerous growths more effectively without damaging the healthy tissue surrounding the tumour.  Experts have commented that the new treatment is particularly effective at treating cancer in children as it is able to target smaller areas of tissue than previous therapies have been. Experts have also stated that in addition to resulting in better recovery rates, the new treatment will result in fewer side effects.

This money will allow 1,500 cancer suffers to be treated here in the UK, rather than having to go to the USA or Switzerland.

I am happy that my lobbying, and that of local people, has worked.

Macmillan delivering improved cancer care for Manchester


I recently met with Nicola Cook and Michelle O'Leary of the Macmillan Cancer Support Charity to talk about their work in Manchester.


The  Manchester Macmillan Cancer Improvement Programme is underway, and its aim is to raise the standard of cancer care for people affected by cancer at every stage of their journey.


It’s bringing together Macmillan Cancer Support, the city’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups, hospitals, people affected by cancer, the Council, GPs and St Ann’s Hospice to develop new ways of working together that will prevent people from slipping through the cracks in the cancer care system.


It’s an ambitious and wide-ranging programme where the institutions, in partnership with patients and carers, will define where services aren’t joining up and come up with an agreement about what new services and ways of communicating need putting in place.


Manchester’s been chosen as the UK’s pilot city for this re-design because of its high incidence of poverty and cancer, and because of the challenges in delivering a full range of services across such a diverse population.


Survival rates are 25% lower than the national average and lung cancer in particular is 33% higher. Late diagnosis means that many people first present at A&E with serious symptoms - and as a result are given a poor prognosis. 63% of cancer patients in Manchester die in hospital when most people choose to die at home.


Manchester’s culture of innovation and the fact that it has some of the best cancer practitioners and facilities in the world also make it the obvious place to trial this programme.  If it’s successful it will be rolled out across Greater Manchester and could form the basis of other system redesigns across the UK.


Manchester has some of the best cancer care in the UK, but this partnership programme wants the standard to be excellent every step of the way.


Take for example Susanne, a mother who was diagnosed with cancer two days before the birth of her second son. She had excellent oncologists and she had excellent midwives, but they failed to communicate and she was given conflicting advice on breast-feeding and felt that the care she needed didn’t respond to her situation.

As a result she had the discomfort, confusion and emotional strain of starting and then stopping breast-feeding – But she also felt panicky and isolated, and three years on as a cancer survivor she is still affected by that experience.

The MCIP wants to eradicate that lack of communication. It also wants to:

  • Introduce post-treatment follow-up appointments with GPs.

  • Improve end of life care for people with cancer across Manchester.

  • Train generalist community nurses to help cancer patients at home.


The work of this programme will become even more relevant to people in Manchester as latest figures show that by 2020 half of us will get cancer in our lifetime. However the good news is that thanks to research, more people are surviving cancer generally.


There are 2 million survivors now and by 2030 that will have doubled to 4 million. And while that’s a happy story, surviving cancer has its challenges. Many survivors suffer with depression, anxiety, financial difficulties and physical side-effects.


The MCIP is another first for Manchester and is a timely and much-needed programme to ensure people in the city get excellent cancer care.



Guest Blog: Cllr Simon Wheale: Labour need to get tough on Rogue Landlords.

I have written previously about how Labour in Manchester is making the wrong choices for Manchester.

Unlike nearby Labour Salford, they have turned down £1.5m in Government money to freeze the Council Tax, and raised it instead by an inflation busting  3,7%. Labour still keep reserves of £150million. They are saving just £1.8m trying to close front line services but can still afford to subsidise free drinks for  football stars at an Alicia Keys gig.

So once again it comes as no surprise to me that the Labour council is dragging its feet and letting the people of Manchester down

For years, the Liberal Democrats have been calling for  a city-wide licensing scheme to crack down on rogue landlords. A strong, robust and wide-reaching scheme would cut-down on noise, rubbish and poor housing standards as current rules are too easy to find ways around; yet the Labour controlled Manchester City Council is arguing that a scheme would be too expensive and wouldn’t yield any benefit.

I’d like those Councillors to come and walk around parts of my ward where many of the homes are in multiple occupancy. Particularly at this time of the year when many landlords choose to re-decorate homes, lining the streets with skips and other debris. I’d also challenge those same Town Hall bosses to live  a week in homes where tenants have had to deal with poor waste management and maintenance problems that they often can’t get landlords to resolve.

My view is that we need a proper, comprehensive, Landlord Licensing scheme. What do you think? Let me know your experiences and help me put pressure on the council top-brass to do something about this issue that so many of us face daily.

I would also like to ask people to contact my colleague, Levenshulme Councillor James Hennigan. In tandem with John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington, he’s looking to get a council scheme off the ground that will force landlords to display smaller, flush to the wall ‘To Let’ signs.

The Liberal Democrat council in Leeds was able to pass such a motion, that has now been adopted voluntarily outside of the original ward intended. Large ‘To Let’ signs act as both a magnet for burglars and make entire street look untidy and unkempt and I don’t see way we in Manchester shouldn’t be able to do the same as the Liberal Democrat council in Leeds.

Enjoy, but stay safe in the Sun.

I don't know if you have noticed, but it's hot out there! With the sunshine flooding the region with highs of around 82F (or 27.7oC), this July is set to be the hottest since 2006. In true British fashion, hundreds of thousands of us are regularly flocking to beaches, parks and, backyards across the nation.

Worryingly, however, hospitals have also seen a large increase of people in A&E with heat-related problems such as severe sunburn and dehydration. As of this morning, Manchester is now on Amber health alert over baking temperatures.

We’ve all heard the horrors of what too much sun exposure can do to our skin and health: the wrinkles, the sunspots, sunburn and three types of skin cancer...

It’s important, therefore, to remember that safety first when enjoying the sun is a must. Of course, your first line of defence is a sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor), if possible, try to use one that has ‘Broad Spectrum’ on the label, protecting you from both UVA and UVB. Not sure what to use? Take a look at a few of the best sun creams according to The Independent for inspiration.

The heat can affect everyone but some may be more vulnerable than others. The elderly, especially those over 75, and young children are most affected as their skin is fragile and more likely to burn. Be sure never to have a child under 6 months old in direct sunlight.

Hydration is also necessary in defence against the sun. During summer, you sweat more, and you have to replenish the water in your body. So drink a nice cold glass of water, and try to keep a bottle with you. Another easy way of staying hydrated in the sun is eating fruits. In fact, if it is not a dried piece of fruit, such as a date, a piece of fruit is usually made up, on average, of 80% water. Try to avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.

The sun’s rays are most powerful between 10am-4pm. Even if it’s cloudy,  harmful UV rays can still cause sunburn. Try to seek shade during these hours.

Finally, always check your local weather forecast to give yourself the opportunity to plan ahead to reduce the risk of ill health from the heat.

For further information, here’s an NHS Leaflet on other useful ways to stay safe in the sun.


SMR Column: Applauding our Faith Communities


Since I wrote this column last week, I have received an award from the Patchwork Foundation for my work with disadvantaged and faith communities. You can read about that here. It is always humbling when someone appreciates the work you do, especially when they are independent and experts in their field.

Best Wishes,



We are fortunate that south Manchester is a diverse place of many faiths, all working within our community, and it is great to be able to support all our different faiths, whether it is at a community day at a Buddhist temple, holding surgeries in the Didsbury and Burnage Mosques, taking part in a Hindu festival celebration at Ghandi Hall in Withington or supporting the charity work of the Jewish community providing food for those in need on Mitzvah Day.

Last week I attended the welcome and induction of the Rev Hayley Matthews as Rector of Holy Innocents church in Fallowfield. As someone who has been brought up in the church and is a weekly attendee at Chorlton Methodist Church,

I have always welcomed the opportunity to support these special services, or doing a reading at carol services in the Constituency. I also take part in a “prayer breakfast” a couple of times a year with churches from around the constituency to hear about their work in the local community and discuss my work in Parliament.

We live in a society where many politicians are people of faith, but equally, many are not.  Alastair Campbell, the spin doctor of Tony Blair (who was well-known for his Christian faith), famously said “We don’t do God”.

Whether politicians have faith or not, I would hope that all politicians recognise the massive contribution that the faith communities make to our community.

They are at the heart of the local community, and they reach out to everyone, not just those of their own faith, whether it be throwing open their doors for the Didsbury Arts festival, or in the case of St Clement’s church in Chorlton, welcoming thousands of real ale and cider drinkers into church for the Chorlton beer festival.







Guest Blog: Naomi Adedokun: Michael Gove needs to take Arts Education more seriously.


My name is Naomi Adedokun and I am doing work experience with Mr John Leech MP for this week. One of my projects was to create a blog on a topic that I care passionately about. I decided to choose Education, or more specifically the importance of the Arts and Humanities, because I have just finished my GCSE’s and my favourite subjects fall into these two categories.

Armed with his many revisions and baccalaureate, Michael Gove’s various “reforms” seem more like an attempt to undermine the Arts and Humanities. His English Baccalaureate even threatened to eradicate them from the curriculum by largely focusing on Maths, English and the Sciences.

As I said earlier, I  finished my exams an Manchester High School for Girls in early June, and with GCSE’s including History, Music and Graphics, the well-being of these subjects constantly worries me. In this innovated and technology-dominant world, imagination is a highly sought after commodity. It is these creative people who invent new things and start companies that would highly benefit the UK economy and open up new jobs and yet, British Education endangers this ingenuity by labelling subjects such as Drama and Art as “soft”.

As Lib Dem spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, I know that John understands the importance of these subjects and the creative arts to the UK economy. As do actors like Kevin Spacey.

Outside of Politics, John is an amateur dramatics enthusiast as a  member of the Manchester Road players, and a 29 year season ticket holder at Manchester City supporter, John is part of the Manchester Road Players and an animated member of the Parliamentary Football Team. Inside, he has actively opposed the English Baccalaureate, stating that “it threatened a broad and balanced education” as Arts subjects were being “downgraded”.

This downgrading will only cater to the needs of a very small proportion of the student population in the UK, denying the rest the opportunity to explore their diverse abilities. If this is allowed to happen then the government would have failed to provide the proper Education that every British child is entitled to.

It is a relief that MP’S like John Leech exist, who will be able to stick up for the Arts and Humanities whenever they are unfairly attacked. After all, American author, Garrison Keillor once said: “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”

FA starting to take Homophobic Chants more seriously.

This week, I  hosted a meeting in Parliament between MPs and the FA on the topic of homophobia in football.

As a 30 year Manchester City fan, the nature of support at games has changed fundamentally over that time. Society has become more diverse and tolerant. There has clearly been much progress against racism in football. But can we say the same for Homophobia?

There are no out gay footballers in the UK, although, according to the Guardian, there are 8 who are Gay but haven't, and they say crowd reaction is the reason.

As the Gay Football Supporters’ Network and the Brighton and Hove Albion Supporters’ Club recently demonstrated, homophobic chanting is still seen by some as ‘banter’: 72% of Brighton’s opponents last season subjected Brighton fans to homophobic abuse.  Just a ball game? research also backs up the scale of the problem.

Banter  is a lazy argument used to justify unacceptable behavior by fans. Replace the homophobic slur with the racial slur, and you can see how the "banter" argument fails to hold up.

I tabled a parliamentary motion in consultation with the GFSN and BHASC,   EDM 1265 calling on the relevant bodies, led by the FA, to work together to give Homophobia as high a priority as racism, This was picked up by the press.

The FA responded, and I set up this meeting with MP's.

I was joined by Funke Awoderu and Chris Inglewood from the FA, as well as Louise Englefield from ‘Football vs Homophobia’, along with a rep from the Football League.

I challenged the FA on what actions they were taking in order to ensure that homophobia is being tackled as seriously, and is deemed as offensive and unacceptable as racism.

They presented their educational programme to me in response, which detailed their efforts in conjunction with Football vs Homophobia, and their training plan to ensure that players, coaches, spectators and officials alike are aware of the impacts of homophobic abuse on individuals. The FA’s  also stressed to me their work on the inclusion of members of the LGBT community in football at grassroots level and beyond.

Whilst I was pleased to see the FA starting to take homophobia more seriously, and beginning to recognise the scale of the problem, it still has a long way to go to tackle the problem of homophobia in football.



Lend your support to the dangerous dogs campaign


This month MPs from around the UK will be presenting petitions to Parliament with the aim to change the law on dangerous dogs in order to prevent future attacks. The petition calls for a number of actions, from amending the law on dangerous dogs to include both private and public property, to promoting better dog training and more responsible ownership, to introducing Control Notices which will allow the authorities to intervene in cases where dogs may pose a risk to other people or animals.

I have long called for greater control of dangerous dogs and dealing with the irresponsible dog owners themselves.  Compulsory microchipping for dogs is something I have campaigned on for years.

The Manchester community has seen far too many news stories about the impact of dangerous dogs and their attacks on individuals, families and the community at large. The story of Karen Greaves, who suffered injuries whilst attempting to prevent a Bull Mastiff from attacking her two small children after the dog had already killed her small King Charles Spaniel puppy was just one of a great number of recent attacks which have shown the need for action on this issue.

The petition is already being supported by many other MPs including Julie Hilling, whose constituent Jade Anderson died after being attacked by vicious dogs earlier this year. In order to ensure that tragedies such as that of Jade do not happen again, your support for the petition is essential. Please sign up and support our petition below.

To the House of Commons,

Petition from the residents of Manchester Withington

Declares that seven children and two adults have been killed by dogs since 2006, and that 6,000 admissions to hospital are caused by dog attacks each year leaving many victims scarred for life; notes that the introduction of Dog Control Notices is supported by many organisations including the Kennel Club, the Dogs Trust, RSPCA, Royal College of Nursing, British Veterinary Association and the Communications Workers Union; and believes that the Government’s current proposals on dangerous dogs do not go far enough.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to amend the law to cover attacks on people and animals on both private and public property, to enforce Dog Control Orders, to introduce Dog Control Notices giving the authorities the power to intervene, to introduce the compulsory micro-chipping of all dogs and to promote responsible dog ownership, including training owners and dogs.

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