Problems on MP's doorstep - and all over the world

MP JOHN HEALEY: Reality of scale of problems brought homeMP JOHN HEALEY: Reality of scale of problems brought home
MP JOHN HEALEY: Reality of scale of problems brought home
A CHANCE meeting outside a Rotherham Co-op jolted MP John Healey into remembering the problems on his doorstep - the sobering reminder coming just months before he could become the UK’s defence secretary at a time of war and conflict.

If Labour win the looming general election, the member for Wentworth and Dearne could be faced with the challenges of Putin’s invasion of Russia and the Israeli action in Gaza, amongst other global powderkeg issues.

Should he become defence chief, he will be in charge of strategic military and defensive operations, oversee intelligence and NATO partnership and advise on policy including the Trident nuclear weapons programme.

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But the shadow secretary insists he keeps his finger on the local pulse.

He said as much in an interview with The New Statesman, the London-based British political magazine.Well aware of the potential for more bloodshed and confrontation across the planet, the 64-year-old MP still drew the spotlight back to issues in his South Yorkshire homeland.

“There were over 2,000 homeless veterans [in England] last year, but it’s when on a Saturday morning I’m going to the Co-op in Rotherham, and the lad sitting outside with his hat is ex-forces, that brings it home to you.

“A good MP is a better minister, so even with this shadow defence job, constituency connections are really important to me.”

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The former housing minister, the article says, "also worries about how austerity has impacted Britain’s troops, who are living in poor, government-contracted accommodation, claiming benefits, using food banks and leaving the forces faster than they’re being recruited”.

The feature spells out some interesting biographical details of the Labour politician, some of which his own constituents might be unaware of.

Mr Healey, who last month added his backing to a Wickersley charity event to raise money for Royal British Legion Industries, worked on a merchant navy ship to Durban, South Africa, at the tender age of 18.

He then hitch-hiked to Swaziland, where he is said to have helped build schools.

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He also learned to fly in the Cambridge University air squadron, and "in his early twenties bought a one-way ticket to the Canaries, from where he set sail across the Atlantic.

But life in the armed forces wasn’t a prospect. “No, for me, it was a life that was too disciplined, too constrained.

"I enjoyed the challenge and discipline of being in the air squadron – I had about 48 hours on the logbook and that included seven or eight hours of solo flights. But I never flew again.”

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