The nature of my job means that I often find myself on trains. Some travelling to home to Manchester, others to London, and the rest to various media, campaigning and constituency events.
I’ve been doing this since 2005, so have seen an awful lot of the rail network. What always strikes me, however, is how rapidly the service for passengers has declined over the last 13 years.
Not only are fares more expensive, but cancellations are more frequent. On Monday I had to get over to Selby for by-election campaigning. My transpennine direct train was cancelled, meaning I had to get on a train to Huddersfield, then York, then Selby.
I don’t tell this story for sympathy, but instead to paint a picture of what many millions of commuters have to go through in one form or another every week in Britain. In 2023, it is frankly staggering that travelling from one part of the country to another is still fraught with pitfalls, cancellations and poor service.
Sadly, our railways are not the only public service that has suffered from mismanagement and neglect. We’ve all seen the stories of sewage being pumped routinely into our waterways, of the Government sitting on its hands and refusing to clamp down on this practice.
So too has our NHS suffered. Despite the efforts of heroic NHS staff, 13 years of neglect and mismanagement have left us with a burned-out workforce and the highest waiting times and the lowest patient satisfaction ratings on record.
Given these problems, and combined with soaring inflation and rising mortgage costs, it’s no surprise that constituents regularly ask me “Why does nothing work in Britain?”.
It’s important, however, that we don’t get despondent. Things can and will get better, but it requires political will.
That’s why I’ve been so pleased to hear Labour’s plans to tackle these issues in the round. To sort our railways, to tackle failing water companies and to give our NHS the staff, technology and reform it needs to thrive.
That these pledges sound ambitious is an indication of just how far things have fallen over the last 13 years.
But I’m certain that with a fresh start under Keir Starmer, we can get to work in improving the lives of the people I represent across Tameside.
That’s why I got into politics, and in 5 years’ time I hope to be able to look back on this article with bemusement, from a Britain where things actually work for ordinary people.