Mary Foy makes maiden speech


On 4 March, City of Durham MP Mary Foy made her maiden speech in Parliament, basing it primarily on a topic close to heart: health inequalities.

Since being elected as a Labour MP in December’s General Election, Foy has been a busy bee, assuming the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary to Andrew Gwynne, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

And in her speech, Foy outlined the disturbing impact of austerity in the Durham area. “In my constituency, a child born on the Sherburn Road estate can expect to live 15 years fewer than a childborn in the most affluent parts of the city, just a couple of miles away.”

Foy highlighted a range of social issues including a worsening infant mortality rate compared to more affluent areas, a reliance of foodbanks, a “cruel benefits system” and the fact that the police have reported male suicide as the main issue in County Durham communities.

“Improving health in Britain is not just about refurbishing hospitals. It is about having a good education, a secure and loving home, and a regular source of income. Until we address these social issues, we won’t see any substantial changes in public health.”

Included in her speech were moving stories about personal issues that she has faced throughout her life which have motivated her socialist outlook.
“In 1987 I had just finished a youth training scheme. I was in insecure work and shortly after, I was made redundant. My dad too, thrown on the scrap heap after Swan Hunters Shipyard closed.

“A child born on the Sherburn Road estate can expect to live 15 years less than a child born in the most affluent parts of the city”

Mary Foy MP

“In 1989 my first daughter came into the world, born 10 weeks premature and needing a ventilator before she could breathe on her own. Unfortunately, this basic piece of equipment wasn’t available at the hospital, nor was it available in any of the surrounding hospitals – this was a direct result of deliberately running down the NHS.

“Eventually a ventilator was located 30 miles away and Maria was born 3 hours later by emergency C-section. She had suffered brain damage and lived her life with severe cerebral palsy.”

Influenced by both personal tragedy and a wider outlook on changes under the Conservative government, which she described as “heartless”, Foy offered a pledge to “fight for the residents” of the City of Durham constituency and the North East.

She did acknowledge the positive interplay between Durham’s rich history and the city’s importance in the modern world. “It’s fitting that the cathedral is now surrounded on all sides by the world- renowned Durham University, providing essential jobs and technology, linking Durham to all parts of the world, and giving our city a real vibrancy.”

She added that Durham’s mining heritage “is a tradition that prides itself on resilience”, and on that note, took the opportunity to remind Michael Gove that Durham Miners’ Gala will be held in a Labour seat held by her, and not by a Conservative politician as he mistakenly gloated in December.

But Foy recognised the importance of moving forward and focusing on the future, adopting the Durham Miners’ motto to end her speech: “The past we inherit- the future we build.”

Image: michaelday_bath via creativecommons

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