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‘Time is right’ for Sheffield MP to stand down

Meg Munn MP is retiring from the House of Commons after 13 years.

Meg Munn MP is retiring from the House of Commons after 13 years.

 

In less than a year, Meg Munn will watch as her successor becomes the new MP for Sheffield Heeley.

It’s a time when, you assume, she could put her feet up and let newly revealed Labour candidate Louise Haigh do the leg work for the general election.

“It’s not like that, unfortunately,” she laughed at her Woodseats office.

“I think it is the most difficult election to call than we have seen for a very long time.

“People have been voting less over many years so there are less people engaged before you start.

“The cuts have also affected different parts of the country in different ways as well.

“So the way people feel will be massively different.”

The former social worker, who grew up in Woodseats, jokes she was ‘born into the Labour party’ following the footsteps of her councillor dad.

But it was not until the age of 41 when she was elected into Parliament as a replacement for retiring Bill Michie.

Now, aged 53, she said: “At the time I was feeling it was a choice between my career and whether I wanted to do politics full time because it was becoming a struggle to do both.

“I got involved in European elections and got the bug really.”

Two of the earliest constituency cases on the MP’s desk made headlines and, crucially, changes at a national level.

One was Richmond teenager Daniel Anderson, 17, who tragically died after developing septicaemia from a lip piercing.

His mum Christina approached Meg’s office to lobby for stricter regulation of body piercing and today an amendment to the Local Government Act now means all outlets must be registered and inspected.

Dystonia patient Keith Hall, of Intake, also sought help as he battled to have ground-breaking deep-brain stimulation treatment for the rare body-twisting disorder.

At the time it was not available on the NHS because of a lack of funding.

Meg said: “That made a massive difference not just to Keith but to everybody else with the condition who could get the NHS to start funding treatment.

“These cases are one of the most rewarding things about being an MP – and it is not always what you might have expected at the outset.”

Much has changed in 13 years, not least technology and society’s attitudes to same-sex marriage.

The former minister for women and equality oversaw the implementation of civil partnerships and also attended the first equal marriage in Sheffield this year.

She said: “We used to have postcard campaigns, now it is predominantly emails that I get.

“When I was first elected I remember saying to staff ‘I want a website’ and someone asked me why.

“Everybody who stood for election in 2005 had a website and everybody last time was on Twitter.

“When it came to civil partnerships it was one of those times where Parliament wasn’t ahead of the public, all the reports about it were positive.

“I think opinions had been changed in a positive way.

“I attended the first civil partnership, it was 8am one December morning, and it was magical really.”

But there have also been some lows.

“Losing the election in 2010, of course, was not good and the period just prior to that was difficult”, said Meg.

“The expenses stuff was part of it but also feeling a little bit out of step with the leadership at that point.”

The Heeley MP faced some criticism in 2009 after it was revealed her researcher husband had completed the tax returns of several MPs, as well as her own, and been paid for the work.

Meg said: “There was nothing wrong with it, he had the experience to do it and was paid for it, There wasn’t anything in it but it made an interesting story.”

The MP announced earlier this year that she would step down and says it is the ‘right time’ to do something different before retirement.

It is possible her new direction may be based in equality, as she is involved with work getting more women into construction and science, technology engineering and manufacturing careers.

She joked: “I’d like to have a little more time to do my garden but that’s not necessarily what’s going to happen.

“I’m not scared in that sense because I have done lots of different things and I am sure I will find a range of things to try which will hopefully make a difference.”

Related story: MP reveals plans to stand down

“The things you can’t quite believe are some of the people you get to meet,”

Meg Munn praised the people of Heeley before she steps down next year and hailed the area as a ‘fabulous constituency’.

She added: “One of the best things about being an MP is you get to meet all the people who glue the community together.

“Organisations like Heeley Development Trust and Gleadless Valley Forum, that are really working hard to make a difference in their community.

“There are many headteachers as well. We have been very lucky in some schools which have had a lot of problems in the past to have some great headteachers working really hard.”

Meg, who has lived in Barnsley throughout her time as an MP, also said she had tried to inspire youngsters to aim high during work with schools.

She added: “I’ve always tried to say to them, I grew up around here and this is where I have ended up, you can have big aspirations and ambitions.

“Sometimes kids think if you work in London you are different from them. So the message is really that I went to Mundella school too, which I hope says to them you can have big dreams.

“The biggest thing I will miss is the relationship that you have with the people of Sheffield Heeley, after 13 years I am pretty well known.

“I won’t miss the getting up and getting on a train to London every week.”

Labour’s new candidate for Heeley said she wants Sheffield to get the ‘best possible deal’.

Louise Haigh was selected for the role by party members after a hustings on Saturday.

All the candidates were women,

Louise, who lives in Sheffield and works for Aviva, is also a trade union representative and charity volunteer.

She said: “I will be working hard between now and the election and talking to thousands of voters from across Sheffield Heeley to win their trust and support.

“I want to use my experience in the public and private sectors to make sure we get the best possible deal for Sheffield.

“People here need to continue to have a Labour MP representing them, standing up for the many not just the privileged few, and a Labour government taking positive action to tackle the cost of living crisis.”

 

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