As 2023 draws to a close I wanted to reflect on both the successes and challenging moments from the last twelve months, and I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude, acknowledge the difficulties we've faced, and share my optimism for the future.
This year I have been confronted with personal challenges like no other since getting elected to Parliament. As you may know, this year I stepped back from my role as the chair of the APPG on Cancer. I've had the privilege of engaging with patients and their families, both through virtual connections and face-to-face encounters. Cancer is a battle that knows no boundaries. It touches not only the individuals facing it but also their families and friends. The significance of cancer hit even closer to home this year with my mum’s diagnosis and the unfortunate loss of a beloved and highly respected member of the Labour Party, our dear friend Jean Williams from Mumbles. My last encounter with Jean, during our Macmillan Coffee Morning last year, was a heartfelt conversation about politics and the incredible care and support we both had the privilege of witnessing through Macmillan and Maggie's. This inspired my decision to take on the Mighty Hike Around Gower and the Admiral Swansea Bay 10K raising over £1000 for Maggie’s Cancer Centre and over £1100 for Macmillan.
While I was running the Swansea Bay 10K, I saw someone waving a Norwegian flag in the pouring rain, and it was Jean’s wife. I was running in memory of Jean, and I was so touched that in that terrible Welsh weather, so many turned out to support the runners, especially Lillebeth. It means a lot to me, not just as a Parliamentarian but as a friend, daughter, sister, and mother, to be able to give something back.
Last year I was fortunate to the Northern Ireland team as a Shadow Minister. Throughout the course of my tenure, I had the privilege to work with women who successfully campaigned for directly commissioned abortion services in Northern Ireland. This was a step forward for women and girls in Northern Ireland to be able to access the same medical services as their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.
I was also added to the whips team which is providing me with a new set of challenges. Following Keir Starmer’s latest reshuffle I am no longer the Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland. It has been an honour to represent Labour in Northern Ireland but I took the decision to step back as I did not feel like I could dedicate the time that this role deserves. I wish to extend my thanks to everyone I have met during my time in this role, be it online, in London or in Northern Ireland.
Summer saw the revival of our summer stationery campaign with Rebecca Evans MS, addressing the impact of rising school supply costs which have compounded the harshness of the cost-of-living crisis. Donation bins were stationed in Libraries across the constituency, and I’m pleased to say we were well supported again by residents, so I want to thank everyone who donated and helped publicise the campaign yet again.
Throughout the year I have collaborated with Andrew Copson and the Sharing Table. Andrew first approached me in 2019 for support for his Christmas Hamper initiative and since then I have been proud to support the Sharing Table each year because of the fantastic work they do for people in Gower.
It was fabulous to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for Penclawdd Primary School’s new community kitchen which was delivered through the hard work of The Sharing Table in partnership with the local authority, the village school and local volunteers. This facility will give pupils and the public an opportunity to learn about cooking and the importance of good nutrition at home!
Over the festive period we have been busy with the Christmas Hamper Campaign which has returned to Gower for a fourth year in a row. In their first year they supplied 60 hampers to families who were identified by food-banks, head-teachers, councillors and community activists as needing a helping hand at Christmas. Amazingly this year they raised enough money to deliver over 150 hampers. The hampers were compiled of locally sourced with meat from Hugh Phillips Butcher, and fruit and vegetables from Shepherds of Gorseinon. I extend my gratitude to local businesses and everyone who has donated, volunteered, and supported the Sharing Table.
Mark Drakeford announced that his tenure as the First Minister of Wales will come to an end in 2024. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to him for his commitment to improving the lives of the Welsh public. Quietly and patiently, Mark has been a titan of Labour and Welsh politics, and I wish him all the best for the future.
As we welcome in 2024, I want to applaud the strength and resilience the residents if our city has shown facing down a cost-of-living crisis that’s impacting every aspect of day-to-day life. Your household bills and weekly shopping are all more expensive than they were last year, and to make things harder, Jeremy Hunt is putting our taxes up. It wasn’t working people that crashed the economy and sent mortgage costs spiralling but they are ones having to pay the price. Instead of making fair choices to protect the elderly, working people and the vulnerable, they’ve turned inwards and protected their own interests. The Conservative Party, presiding over the biggest fall in living standards on record, is at war with itself, and Rishi Sunak has completely lost control. We desperately need a general election to sweep away this failing Tory Government and replace it with a revitalised Labour party who will put the interests of working people first but I am optimistic we will collectively seize the moment when it arrives.
Finally, I extend my heartfelt thanks to each one of you for your support and hard work as local ambassadors for social justice and equality. It has been another busy year, and your dedication has not gone unnoticed. Looking ahead, we will need that dedication again as we fight the upcoming General election in 2024 in the hope the country gets the result it desperately needs.
I wish you a joyous happy Christmas and a New Year filled with hope and positive momentum.
Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda.