Last Sunday was sobering. On the same day that the Friends of Up Hatherley Park put on a wonderful ‘Great Get Together’ event to celebrate the memory of murdered MP Jo Cox, the country faced yet another home-grown terrorist attack. This time the target was a mosque in Finsbury Park. The victims were innocent worshippers.
This is exactly what the extremists want – tit-for-tat violence between communities which escalates. We cannot allow this to happen. I am grateful to the Muslim community here in Cheltenham who welcomed me so warmly to their places of worship when I contacted them to offer reassurance. I have also been speaking to local police about security implications, and I commend their clear concern.
The language of anger is now being spread in the mainstream political sphere too. Certain politicians’ support for a ‘Day of Rage’ in London is unwise in my view, and commending rioters as “the best of our movement” is dangerous. All political leaders need to be mindful of the impact of language. That is particularly important in an era where false and misleading information can balloon on-line in moments, gaining a spurious validity in the process. And at the same time organised online packs increasingly howl down and intimidate those with alternative views.
That matters particularly where it affects young people. So as Parliament returns, I’m re-starting my Parliamentary inquiry into what social media companies can do to protect young people when using their sites, particularly from the scourge of bullying. They’re simply not doing enough. Let’s act now to keep our children safe and preserve true freedom of speech.
Meanwhile, here in Cheltenham, I am passionate about pressing for the best possible health services in our town. That’s why this week I met with the Chief Executive of Gloucestershire NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust to press the case for my four-point plan – including for a 24/7 doctor-led Urgent Care Centre at CGH to support our excellent night-time emergency nursing team. I will campaign for this to be a stepping-stone to restoration of full A&E cover, which was lost in 2013.
At a time when the country seems tense and divided following terrorist atrocities and the awful Grenfell Tower fire, I am determined keep focused on improving the day-to-day lives of people in our special town.
And finally, there are still a few places left for the next Parliamentary tour on 14 July. If you’d like to come, please contact my constituency office, 210473, or email Hannah.email@example.com.