The New Year is an opportunity for us all to take stock and to approach 2023 with optimism. Over the last few weeks I have been looking back at some highlights of a very challenging and interesting 2022.
In January I made an early morning visit to the RNLI station at Dover before taking to the water to see for myself the situation in the Channel. One year on, more than 45,000 people have come in through the small boats crossings.
As we recovered from the Covid pandemic, our return to normality was upended by Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine in February. I am proud of our local community for opening their arms and their homes to Ukrainians in need and showing that we stand with Ukraine. February also saw meetings with local farmers. Food and energy security have come to the fore in 2022.
February saw a key moment in our local fight for the return of blood tests at Deal Hospital, with a candlelight vigil taking place on Deal’s Pier. The cross-party and community-based work of the Deal Health Action Team has been a real highlight of 2022. I hope that as we go through 2023 we may see improvements in local blood services.
In March we welcomed the Bishop of Dover, Rose Hudson, to the annual remembrance of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. Only days later, our community was rocked by the disgraceful sacking of P&O workers. A national outcry followed which saw the directors of P&O publicly denounced. The repercussions continue, with ground-breaking Seafarers Wages legislation now making its way through Parliament to equalise certain employment rights on sea that apply on land.
In April, I went to Poland to see the frightening situation at the Polish-Russian border first-hand and to meet with Polish politicians and charity workers helping Ukrainians. I was joined by the world champion boxer, Amir Khan, to build a playground at an orphanage in Poland for Ukrainian children.
May included the unveiling of a new information stand about the Goodwin Sands on Walmer seafront. I was absolutely delighted we had such a great success on the Goodwin Sands before the end of the year – an agreement with the Port of Dover to withdraw their intention to dredge the Goodwin Sands for aggregate. This has been a hard-fought campaign, and one I have been pleased to support. It is the right result for our community as a whole.
May also saw a five-hour marathon session held on road improvements in Dover. I joined the national team looking at options to improve our road network, including the Whitfield roundabout and upgrade the A2.
It was a busy first half of the year with Ukraine, Small Boats, Roads, P&O as well as the Goodwin Sands and Deal Hospital Bloods campaigns.
In June I met with Paralympic swimmer Ellie Robinson MBE to promote a new water safety campaign. Water safety has been an important part of my work as an MP, inspired by Lucas Dobson’s family.
July saw the return of Summer fetes with panache, with the Duke of York School’s Trooping the colour attended by the Princess Royal and the return of the wonderful, and poignant, Deal Marines Memorial Concert.
As the Summer holiday season hit, so did the traffic jams. Shocking levels of traffic congestion that started with the French border officers not turning up for work, compounded by the sheer volume of get-away holiday traffic.
I also visited the new Buckland diagnostics centre. I was pleased to secure this important multi-million-pound facility. This was one of the first 40 in the whole country to be established to help with the Covid backlog in diagnosing serious conditions.
August was a glorious month. I enjoyed the return of Port of Dover’s Regatta, a firm favourite in the diary and the return of the fun Duck Race at Kearnsey Abbey.
In September, I welcomed the founder of the Dover and District Merchant Navy Memorial Fund, Donald Hunter, to mark Merchant Navy Day at one of the most lovely statues to grace our seafronts. Our area has played such an important role in history. Remembering binds us together – past, present and future. Remembrance of her glorious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, marked a sad period of national mourning in September.
I also attended the East Kent Ploughing Match at a time when farming is so important to our community and the nation.
October saw many meetings, from meeting with the Chancellor ahead of the budget to a Deal Water Taskforce community day held with Southern Water in furthering our campaign to tackle flooding and sea sewage overflows in Deal.
In November, I was pleased to visit Aycliffe primary school to discuss life in Parliament and as a MP with a great bunch of year 6 pupils. I visited the sixth form at the Dover Girls’ Grammar School the following month.
December was both a heartbreaking and heartwarming end to the year. Heartbreaking with the shocking news of deaths in the Channel. Heartwarming with meetings with our local charities, Guide Dogs in Parliament, Rotary’s Father Christmas in the Whitfield Tesco, and a visit to a very special centenarian, Ruby Chapman.
Community, family, country. It is such an honour to be your Member of Parliament.