Simon in the news

Media Review – Tuesday 12th August 2014


Dewsbury Reporter

Tuesday 5th August 2014


15,000 North Kirklees patients waited more than seven days to see a GP


More than 15,000 patients in North Kirklees waited seven days or longer to see a GP the last time they tried, an official NHS survey has found.

Across the North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area, 15,592 people said they had faced a wait of a week or more when they phoned for an appointment in the last year.

The annual NHS England survey, released earlier this month, also revealed that four in 10 patients who have a preferred GP had to see another doctor when they last went to their surgery.

Paula Sherriff, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Dewsbury, has pinned the blame on the Conservative-led government. She said: “David Cameron has made it harder for people in Dewsbury and across Kirklees to get a GP appointment – proof he can’t be trusted with our local NHS, and one of the major reasons behind the huge demand that our under-threat A&E department is struggling with. Within days of the last election, he scrapped Labour’s appointments guarantee and now thousands of people here are waiting over a week. Labour will scrap David Cameron’s NHS market and invest the savings in helping people get a GP appointment within 48 hours or on the same day for those who need it.”

Dewsbury and Mirfield Conservative MP Simon Reevell responded: “It is hypocritical for someone who works for a private healthcare contractor (Virgin Care) to be pushing these kind of scare stories about the NHS and trying to pin them on the Prime Minister.”

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, said: “People want to be able to see the GP they trust, and who knows their family history, but are left phoning the surgery day after day only to be disappointed. Patients are waiting days or even weeks for appointments and that is forcing people to A&E in record numbers.”

Labour has pledged to invest £100 million in GP surgeries. They also say they will guarantee appointments within 48 hours or on the same day for those who need it if they win the next election.

A spokesperson for NHS England (West Yorkshire) said: “NHS England in West Yorkshire is committed to ensuring patients have access to high quality, timely patient care and GP practices in the region continue to work hard to ensure their patients are seen in appropriate timescales.

“In the latest GP Patient Survey results 83 per cent of patients in North Kirklees said their overall experience of GP services was good.”


Dewsbury Reporter

Wednesday 6th August 2014


North Kirklees MPs say there must be a way to save library services


MPs have said there must be another way to deal with a funding shortfall that could lead to the closure of all but two libraries in Kirklees.

Simon Reevell (Con, Dewsbury) blamed Kirklees Council for the threat to services, but Mike Wood (Lab, Batley and Spen) said government cuts were the root of the problem.

The first option outlined
by the council would slash libraries by 56 per cent and leave only Huddersfield and Dewsbury libraries open across the entire district.

The second option, which would require a grant, could leave North Kirklees with a number of town hub libraries with reduced staff and facilities, but the council could not yet confirm where the hubs would be.

Mr Reevell (Con, Dewsbury) said the situation was a result of under-performance by the council.

He said: “Any properly run organisation would not be talking about a nuclear option. Any properly run organisation would have planned, evaluated and prioritised. It is short-term thinking. Lots of local authorities are being asked to save a lot of money. I don’t accept those are the only options.”

But Kirklees Council leader David Sheard (Lab) hit back. “What is his suggestion?” he said. “We wouldn’t be talking about a nuclear option if we didn’t have £140m cut from our budget every year.” He said that cuts on a national level left councils with no choice but to slash services. “Even the second option for libraries is tough but we are at that stage,” he said. “The same thing will happen to parks. We can’t stop paying for people who need care in homes, we can’t stop paying for child protection. This is the situation we face. Local authorities have had to cut more and cut better than central government.”

Mr Reevell said Denby Dale Library, which had been transferred to the control of a community project, was an example of residents becoming tired of Kirklees Council. But Coun Sheard said the transfer happened because the council had worked alongside parish councillors to make it possible.

Mr Wood said: “I am very concerned that all four of the libraries in Batley and Spen are under threat. This is not something I want to see nor my constituents. I have no doubt this is something our councillors don’t want either. These are the sorts of cuts that will be impossible to reverse in the future. Councillors are in an impossible position trying to implement vicious Coalition cuts, while Conservative and Lib Dem councillors snipe from the side lines as though this has nothing to do with them and their colleagues in Westminster. But I hope that we can find alternatives and I will work with colleagues in the council and the community to avoid such a dire eventuality.”


Financial Times

Friday 8th August 2014


Lady Warsi’s exit reveals wider poll danger for Tories


The Conservative party has long been proud of its strong support for Israel.

But the shock resignation this week of Lady Warsi over the government’s refusal to condemn Israel’s military a_ction in the Gaza Strip has highlighted a growing concern among some Tory MPs that the stance may have become an electoral liability.

Lady Warsi, who quit as Foreign Office minister on Tuesday, told the prime minister in her resignation letter: “Our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible. . . [It] will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

She told the Financial Times on Friday of her concerns about the impact on her own party. “I am now going to do all I can, working alongside those Conservative candidates and MPs who feel the way I feel, to make sure in years to come that we build a more balanced view on issues like the Middle East peace process,” she said.

The Muslim peer and former Tory party chairman is not the only one worrying about the effect of David Cameron’s strongly pro-Israeli stance on the party’s support, especially in areas with large Muslim populations, such as Lady Warsi’s home town of Dewsbury.

Simon Reevell, who represents the Yorkshire town in the Commons and is a rare Tory MP in a semi-urban northern seat with a large Muslim population, said: “I have had a huge number of emails from people who are concerned about events [in Gaza]. People want to know, ‘Why isn’t it being condemned?’ ”

Mr Reevell, whose small electoral majority makes him vulnerable to a Labour poll challenge next year, said many of his fellow Tory MPs did not understand the depth of anger among Muslim voters.

“When the Gaza aid convoy crisis was happening [in 2010], a colleague came to me and commented on how quiet a week it had been,” he said. “Meanwhile, I was getting bombarded with emails about it.”

On the streets of Savile Town, the largely Muslim area of Dewsbury where Lady Warsi grew up, the anger is palpable. “These are our Muslim brothers getting killed over there,” said Mohammed Khalil, who works at a halal chicken shop.

Several local houses fly Palestinian flags, while many shops are collecting for charities in Gaza. The Islamic Libaas clothing shop was given a batch of Palestinian scarves during Ramadan to sell for charity – they sold out within days.

Residents are well aware of this week’s ructions in Westminster: several mentioned Lady Warsi’s resignation with pride, and many are angry at the government’s refusal to condemn Israel.

“If this was anywhere else in the world, the government would take a_ction,” said Mr Khalil. “Look at what’s happening in Iraq – the US has launched air strikes.”

Mr Reevell said: “People are being forced to choose between their identity as Muslims and their identity as Brits.”

For those who pay attention to party politics, the electoral consequence is clear.

Mohammed Razaq was a Labour councillor in the 1970s but now has no party affiliation and works at the Salfia Islamic Centre near Savile Town. He said: “People are very, very angry at what the government is saying and doing. I know many people here who are Tories who say they made a mistake in joining the party.”

He shows a text message from a friend, a Conservative councillor. It reads: “This is not a party for Muslims.”

Information on the Election Data website this week shows how few Tory seats there are in areas with large Muslim populations. But in what looks set to be one of the closest general elections for decades, a small number of key seats could make a big difference in 2015.

One Conservative Muslim pointed out that there were more than 100 seats in the UK where the local population who identify as Muslim were greater in number than the sitting MP’s majority.

Meanwhile, between 2001 and 2011, the number of people in England and Wales describing themselves as Muslim grew from 3 per cent of the population to 4.8 per cent.

While not all will share the same view on Gaza, the evidence from Dewsbury suggests there could be enough who do so to give the Tories an electoral headache next year and beyond.


The Independent

Friday 8th August 2014


Praise for Baroness Warsi: 'Her a_ction reflects the mood of Dewsbury – and of Britain’


It is standing room only at the Al-Hikmah Centre in Batley, West Yorkshire. Steadily, through the course of the evening, the long lines of chairs have been filling up. Screened behind a line of upturned tables, watching separately, a number of them wearing the full veil, several dozen women have also come. The subject under discussion: the unfolding tragedy in Gaza.

Among those who were asked to address the meeting, organised by the Dewsbury and Batley branch of the Friends of al-Aqsa organisation, was Baroness Warsi. If she had been able to attend, she would have found herself cheered to the rafters.

The decision of the daughter of a local Pakistani mill worker, who attended a comprehensive school just a few hundred yards from here, to reject the trappings of power over her Government’s “morally indefensible position” on the Middle East, has turned her into a heroine in her home town.

An impassioned Dr Dawood Abdullah tells the audience that what is happening in Gaza is a “systematic, orchestrated project of genocide”, before heaping praise on the outgoing Foreign Office minister.

“People are now reviewing their positions and are disassociating themselves. We give them credit for it. We believe there are many others like Baroness Warsi within the Government who share her views but do not have the courage or the moral strength to stand up to say, ‘I disassociate myself from the Government policies in Palestine’,” he said.

Sharing a panel with Dr Abdullah are a number of Islamic scholars, a peace activist, an Orthodox Rabbi and a Church of England Bishop – all of whom denounce the a_ctions of the Israelis. Gaza, explains Ismail Patel, chairman of the FOA, is a humanitarian, not an Islamic-only, issue. “The reason Israel is getting away with what it is doing is not because of its superpower status. It is because it has friends. Its greatest friends today are not just in Washington and London – they are in Riyadh or Cairo,” he says to applause.

Usman Akram, a pharmacist from Dewsbury, says hundreds of people attended demonstrations over Gaza in the town last month. “Baroness Warsi’s a_ction has reflected the mood of the people of Dewsbury as well as the whole of Britain,” he says. “The number of people who have died is estimated at 1,800 but they haven’t done the full count yet. Buildings have been totally destroyed and there could be people still under them. The majority are civilians. There are Christians on the ground there as well as Muslims.”

In the audience is Ahmed Lunat, a community leader for 50 years. He used to work with Baroness Warsi at Kirklees Racial Equality Council and compares her resignation to those of Robin Cook and Clare Short over Iraq. “For someone from a minority to achieve that position and then to give it up is very important, and that is why I call her very brave,” he says.

The rea_ction in Batley and Dewsbury, both with large Muslim populations, has been more considered than in 2008, when meetings spilled over into anger. “People are outraged but not radicalised by this,” Mr Lunat adds. “They find it difficult to express themselves because they don’t have the access to media. Being radical is not helpful to anyone whichever community they belong to. We should have a moderate view and we can solve it.”

The far-right English Defence League is holding a rally in Batley today, seeking to exploit recent concern over Muslim education and on-street grooming. Its literature makes no reference to Gaza.

But Simon Reevell, who won the neighbouring Dewsbury seat for the Tories in 2010 (something the then Sayeeda Warsi had been unable to do five years earlier), said the situation in the Middle East had not undermined community relations. “But it does make it much more difficult for the moderate and sensible leaders in the community if a government can be portrayed as not making its position clear enough or that it understands the concerns,” he said.


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