Alex Sobel: My first 14 days as Leeds’s newest MP

TOWER CONCERNS: Alex Sobel meets and hears from tower block residents in his constituency following the Grenfell tragedy in London.
TOWER CONCERNS: Alex Sobel meets and hears from tower block residents in his constituency following the Grenfell tragedy in London.
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As I write this, it’s just 14 days since I stood at the declaration in Leeds Town Hall, and realized I was the new MP representing Leeds North West.

Those 14 days have sometimes felt like hitting the ground running, sometimes like being whirled off my feet!

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Being an MP is going to be a tale of two cities, shuttling between Westminster and Leeds.

The first twenty four hours were busy in the constituency – with the Headingley Councillors at their street stall, visiting the Headingley Farmers Market and attending the Headingley Youth Music and the Headingley Choral Festival.

I’m very committed to green issues, so introducing the joint schools and adult choirs, singing a Native American song celebrating the custodianship of the Earth, was a special treat. Then a party in Otley, for all those volunteers and helpers who pounded the streets and manned the phones to get me elected.

Nobody becomes an MP without a huge number of people putting in the leg work to get them there. It was big thanks time – and a reminder of what I’ll have to do to justify the faith that they, and Leeds North West’s electors, have placed in me.

Monday morning, and it was off to London. I arrived in Parliament and was immediately given a tablet and laptop – already full of emails.

I’m not going to be forgetting my constituents down at Westminster!

There was a round of induction events – it’s not at all obvious how to operate in the Mother of Parliaments.

Then I started on the pile of paperwork.

Memo to self – I need an office and staff.

The first day on the benches of the Commons was fun- sitting on the back row next to veteran Paul Flynn, very witty – but also inspiring.

It felt like being part of history when our leader Jeremy Corbyn arrived to a standing ovation, and gave a brilliant speech.

I spoke to Jeremy again that day – and we remembered the Brudenell rally, when thousands of Leeds people turned out to hear him. I can assure them – he’s still listening.

I’m the only Jewish MP in the new 2017 intake, and was welcomed by the Chair and Director of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Leeds has a long and distinguished history of Jewish political involvement, and I’m very proud to be part of that.

One item of news dominated the week for me, as for everyone – the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

I was angry about that, about the failures of Kensington local council and Conservative central government on safety and regulation.

Last weekend I made a point of visiting the high rise tower block in my constituency to hear the concerns of those who live there.

Since then I’ve been able to reassure them that Leeds Council has made safety of its tenants a top priority. The cladding used here is fire retardant, and safety checks are regularly undertaken on council-owned blocks.

End of week one – at Otley Carnival, and thanking the army of volunteers who made that possible – then Father’s Day.

I took my boys to Otley for a Great Get Together picnic, in memory of Jo Cox. Being an MP is going to be a Leeds NorthWest/London balance – and a work/life one, too. I’m hoping to get it all – more or less – right.

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