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Debbie Abrahams MP – GPSJ Interview

An interview with Debbie Abrahams MP – Oldham East & Saddleworth for GPSJ.

This interview took place in early Summer 2011 so some answers will be relevant to that particular period only.

Stuart Littleford: What do you think the labour party needs to do to secure a victory in the next general election and do you feel the state of the economy at the moment is the fault of the last Labour government?

Debbie Abrahams MP: I think we need to do what we are starting to do around the ‘Refounding Labour Initiative’ which is what we should be doing all the time, engaging with communities and identifying their needs and issues and responding to them in the policies we develop. There is a big push on this now and the shadow cabinet team are going around the country to feed in ideas from local people.

I don’t believe the recession is the Labour governments fault despite what the current government would like us to believe, if you look at President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago he made it very clear the recession started in the United States and was the fault of the banks, with it being a global recession we have suffered as well.

SL: What are the main concerns of your constituents in the Oldham East & Saddleworth area?

DA: A whole range of different issues are being raised by my constituents at the moment, I do have regular surgeries, and as an example the NHS and police cuts are a real concern and also issues around immigration.

SL: How would you address any concerns raised by business owners in Oldham?

DA: Business people have been in touch with me on a regular basis, one recent example is a local haulier who raised the problem of late payments, he waits in many cases up to 90 days to get paid which for a small company is a huge problem. We are launching our ‘Be Fair – Pay on Time’ campaign, you are now the first to find out actually, it is important that large business pay on time.

The ‘Federation of Small Businesses’ had one of their best feedbacks on this issue.

SL: How do you think the government should address the poor level of manufacturing output at the moment?

DA: We have not seen any growth over the last six months and one thing businesses needs to make them invest money is stability, so we need to make sure the growth we need is secured.

SL: The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have no plan B at the moment and plan A is simply not working anymore , what do you feel needs to be done to stimulate growth and recovery?

DA: We have mentioned cash flow and we also need to make sure that banks are lending and this is a major problem, we need people in jobs and the government is going to be borrowing £46 billion pounds over the next six years.

SL: Are the Bank of England doing the right thing by not raising interest rates and do you feel that would cause severe hardship to people who have recently taken out mortgages?

DA: I think it is right what the Bank of England is doing, we can remember when interest rates went up a few years ago, we nearly lost our house and we don’t want a repeat of that, so it is right that the interest rate has been cut to the level it now is.

SL: Do you feel there has been more support for labour with the coalitions cost savings starting to hit harder or do you think the public understands that these measures need to be taken?

DA: We have definitely benefited from the disappointing view people have had about the Liberal Democrats, the cuts to frontline services, like the police, that affect people’s everyday lives are having an effect, I have people in my surgery saying they are being affected by NHS cut backs and people feel very disappointed about these things.

SL: I recently produced a documentary on the ‘Oldham riots’, do you think much has changes since that dark time ten years ago and are the communities in Oldham more integrated?

DA: I recognise ten years on from the riots this is a subject of key interest and the review in your own media shows that there has been some moves forward but not always felt on the ground, I will listen to your news definitely for this, we have seen some moves around the ‘Waterhead Academy’ and we need to make sure we have a fully representative public service and also in business to focus on equality.

SL: 26 men have been arrested over a period of several months in relation to the sexual exploitation of teenage girls in neighbouring Rochdale since 2008 – this has been happening in Oldham with arrests and convictions in recent times do you think this is just the tip of the iceberg and is this a racial problem at all as some people suggest?

DA: Any exploitation of children is reprehensible and these crimes should have the full force of the law behind them to catch the perpetrators and I don’t think it is associated with any particular group of people and these people should be addressed through the law. We need to make sure we are addressing the problem and look at the underlying causes that makes people do this sort of thing.

SL: What is your prediction for the economic outlook for the rest of this year?

DA: I wish I could be more positive but the independent forecast is very poor and the OBR has downgraded its view of how we will grow this year but it has said there may be better growth next year. But we do need to be focusing on jobs and we are cutting too far too fast and the way we are going to recover from this recession and grow is about jobs and we should be investing in those.

Stuart Littleford MCIJ spoke with
Debbie Abrahams MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth.

Photographs courtesy of Stuart Coleman

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