It is hard to believe that the Beeston Festival has just celebrated its 25th year. Always a highlight of the summer, I swear it’s getting bigger every year. Once again, the weather was kind and the crowds flocked into Cross Flatts Park to enjoy the music, delicious food and the many stalls representing an astonishingly diverse range of organisations from the Beeston Local History Society to local churches and from Beeston in Bloom to the Asha Neighbourhood Project. By the time I got to the Health for All stand they had run out of their ever-popular fruit cups, so I went off to pedal myself a delicious smoothie. It was the least I could do in the interests of a balanced diet having succumbed earlier to the lure of a very large and very tasty double 99.

I first came to the Beeston Festival 20 years ago this year as a newly elected MP and I’ve only missed it twice since; once because I had to be abroad on ministerial business and the other time when I managed to break four of my ribs, which I really do not recommend. And my memories of it are of countless summer days when the sun shone apart from the one year when it rained so hard that I had to seek shelter in the Leeds City Council library bus where I slowly dripped water onto the carpet from my sodden clothes.

So as we make a date for next year, I know that we would all like to express our grateful thanks to all the many people whose hard work and determination behind the scenes made it such a wonderful occasion once again.

As Members of Parliament we are pretty used to being asked probing questions, but I have to say that the Year 3 and Year 4 classes at Lane End Primary School really put me through my paces recently. They’d clearly done their homework and the questions were many and varied. One of the more unexpected ones came from a boy who asked me what was in my pocket. So out came my red handkerchief and we then had a discussion about the various uses to which a hankie can be put which ended up with me knotting the four corners of it to show how you can wear it as a sun hat. I think there may be photographs! I really enjoyed my visit.

I had promised myself that I wouldn’t refer to the dreaded B(rexit) word in this column, but It’s hard to avoid as it continues to dominate politics. There isn’t a single Member of Parliament who doesn’t know how this issue has divided the nation, just as it has Parliament which is deadlocked. We’re now in a state of suspended animation as the Conservative party leadership contest takes place which will decide the new Prime Minister.

All I will say is that whoever wins will find the same House of Commons with the same views as was the case when Theresa May announced her resignation. I have finally come to the view that the only way forward is to ask the people to confirm that they want to leave with the deal that actually has been negotiated – Mrs May’s deal has divided opinion and there is no mandate from 2016 for no deal – or whether they want to change their mind and remain. I know there will be many people who fundamentally disagree with this way out of the current mess, but we really can’t carry on like this.

First published in the July 2019 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here


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