With the county on tenterhooks awaiting the result of the York and North Yorkshire Mayoral elections, the Jigsaw Group welcomed a timely guest.

Rachael Maskell; dedicated Labour Member of Parliament for York.

With preparations complete and the air charged with challenge Rachael took to the hot seat, in the centre of a group side-lined in politics.

This meeting was not a political leaning. The invitation was extended to all parties out of need for clarity. Because it is difficult to nod never mind hope to lean politically, in the absence of accessible manifestos.

The following is a snapshot of the groups ayes and no’s in response to the Labour MPs insights. So as was said to Rachael…

‘Settle in for some plain talking Yorkshire politics.’

‘ ’Ow Much?!’

Lewis launched with a nationwide concern asking: ‘What will you do about the cost of living?’

Rachael outlined Labour’s commitment to social justice. From increasing wages to reforming social security, so that working families can make ends meet. But it was plans to reclaim the public transport system that really hit home with the group, many of whom are reliant on ‘poor’ rail and bus services. The proposal for a publicly owned clean energy company won further nods of approval with many present struggling with energy costs.

‘Clearin’ t’ Fog’

Beth brought matters back closer to home asking: What will be the new Mayor of York and North Yorkshire’s role?

Rachael shed light on the enormity of the role which includes oversight of police and fire services and transport. Beyond essential services the mayor will lead initiatives to explore the future of jobs and skills in the region. Most important to the group was the reported accountability of the mayor’s role. Offering hope for more inclusive forums like this one?

‘Bout Time…’

Transport failings including strikes and unreliable bus services, were brought to the forefront by Keith who asked: What will you do about public transport? Its poor!!!

Rachael admitted to sharing to Keith’s frustration and outlined Labours polar approach to bring rail services back under public ownership and give communities back control over bus services.

Here the group demonstrated advocacy, keen to share the insights of lived experience with the new Mayor to make sure that local services meet the diverse needs of local people.

‘Freezin’ Out’

Ann raised the issue of inclusion asking: Where can people with learning disabilities find accessible information about each party?

Rachael admitted party shortcomings in this domain and assured the group that an Easy Read version of the Labour manifesto will be made available. Voting is a fundamental human right which entails understanding of the issues and proposals being voted for.

The group valued Rachael’s candour and sincerity. But with York a designated ‘Human Rights City’ being frozen out of political communication is inexcusable.

‘Out in T’ Cold

Katie raised the question of exclusion asking: Why are people with learning disabilities not represented in adverts about voting/ elections?

Again Rachael responded with candour admitting that she didn’t know the reason why and pledging to ask this question of her peers.

For the group lack of representation fuels further feelings of disregard.

Forgotten Folk

Denise brought to mind folk often forgotten asking: How will the labour government help us to attract more support workers?

Rachael empathised with support workers present and outlined Labour’s pledge to improve their pay, working conditions and training as well as career development prospects. To attract and retain support workers Labour aim to transform the perception of support work, as aligned with an NHS career.

‘In t’ Pink?’

Carol broached the ailing state of the NHS asking: What will you do about health?

Rachael outlined Labour’s holistic approach emphasising the impact of preventative measures to prioritise physical and mental health. Reiterating the essential role of support workers, she stressed that key to revitalising the NHS is the development of robust social care systems.

In support of a shift in emphasis Dianne made a plea for Rachael to educate colleagues that every time they say the word health, they add the words ‘and social care.’

A True North

As the meeting drew to a close the air remained positively charged. Only now with the buzz of momentum from steps made in the right direction.  A journey of mutual benefit.

For the Jigsaw group newfound clarity on the impact of a Labour government.

For Rachael a set of actionable steps to better meet the needs of individuals with learning disabilities and introduction to driven group of advocates.

And for all political parties a directive.

To truly serve constituents and enhance political engagement, include diverse groups at the grassroots of politics.

So as we welcome a new Mayor to York and North Yorkshire, a parting sentiment from the group. Yorkshires’ success is rooted in the embodiment of a True North.

So where next?

Let’s start with a reminder. Of an open invitation to all parties. To follow Rachael’s lead to the hot seat. In the centre of a group edging into politics.

‘Let’s put t’ world to rights.’