Gill Furniss had only been an MP a few months before she got a tap on the shoulder – and an offer to join Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench team.
The Brightside and Hillsborough MP admits she was ‘absolutely gobsmacked’ when asked to become the shadow steel minister but stressed the role is one she is getting stuck into.
The 59-year-old is the daughter of a steelworker and born and bred in a city famous for the product
Huge South Yorkshire employer Tata announced it was in ‘exclusive negotiations’ with Liberty Group to buyout their Specialist Steels business. If the deal is signed, it would secure 1,700 steelworkers’ jobs in Stocksbridge and Rotherham.
Gill said: “After months of worry, steelworkers and their families in South Yorkshire at last have some certainty over what the future holds.
“There are still huge challenges facing the steel industry nationally and we shouldn’t be complacent.
“On energy prices, on business rates, on procurement, the government has made all the right noises about saving steel. Now is the time to act.”
She said MPs representing constituencies across Sheffield and South Yorkshire were extremely disappointed by the chancellor’s Autumn statement.
“It had nothing in it to reassure the steel industry,” Gill said.
“I’ll be writing to the minister and the PM on this – we need assurances from the government to support this vital industry.”
In late September, shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s most senior cabinet members, asked her to take on the role.
“He had a word with me at the party conference and asked me if I was interested,” Gill said.
“When I got the call I was absolutely gobsmacked.”
People are as passionate as ever about the steel industry, Gill says.
“People on the doorstep are very vocal about the industry, especially what happened to Forgemasters when the Coalition government cancelled the loan.
“People were so angry, I’ve never seen such anger. You were never short of people signing petitions outside Sheffield Town Hall.
“It’s a massive industry and in Sheffield especially, we are fiercely proud of our history and our steel heritage.”