The election of the fantastic Janet Daby in Lewisham, with over 50 per cent of the vote, was a welcome bit of good news in the midst of a frustrating week of the Government steamrollering through votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill. I know that Janet will be another strong pro-EU voice in Parliament, speaking up for her constituents and our great city of London against a hard Tory Brexit.
It’s needed, because despite Labour fighting hard to try and win the “meaningful vote” amendment that would have given Parliament, not the PM, the power to decide what happens if no deal is reached or if the Commons rejects the deal, we were defeated. Most of the so-called Tory rebels ultimately chose to stand by the PM and accept her “verbal assurances”, which have unsurprisingly turned out to have been worthless. We shall have to wait to see if the softer Tories under Dominic Grieve will enforce their will this week as the Bill ping pongs between the Lords and the Commons. It’s crucial because from everything we’ve seen so far of the Prime Minister’s negotiating ineptitude it’s impossible to believe any deal she comes back with will protect jobs, our economy and the global, tolerant values our community holds so dear.
Personally, I backed Labour’s own amendment demanding “full access to the internal market of the European Union” as well as amendments supporting a Customs Union with the EU, a cross party amendment calling for a people’s vote on the final deal and Labour MP Mary Creagh’s important amendment to give the new Environmental watchdog the teeth it needs to be effective. I also supported an amendment backing full European Economic Area (EEA) membership. Not because I think the EEA model is perfect, but because it is at least a tried and tested model which I don’t believe should be taken off the table at this stage.
There was scarcely any time to debate the amendments, but on Monday I was able to take part in a Westminster Hall debate and make the case for why Parliament’s vote on the exit deal must contain the option to stay in the EU. I also explained why I’m so frustrated that this corrosive Brexit debate fractures what is so important right now: the values of human rights, peace, stability and security that we must defend. You can watch my speech here.
It can sometimes feel like Brexit is the only show in town, and the whole machinery of Government is doing nothing else. It is such a drain of time and resources when there are so many other issues that require our attention. On Monday for example, I took part in an important debate on a new money protection scheme for tenants’ deposits. At the moment they’re not protected, so if an agent goes bust or a cowboy landlord runs off with the money it’s tenants that lose out. That has got to change, and I spoke up to support the proposals – and ask if councils would receive any extra resources to carry out their new trading standards responsibilities.
It is depressing enough that in 2018 “upskirting” is an issue that exists. It is even more so that on Friday a Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope was able to successfully block plans to criminalise it simply by shouting “object”. There is no excuse or justification for taking a photo up someone’s skirt. It shows Parliament at its worst when a sensible, cross-party supported Bill to deal with a serious issue can be delayed because of a dinosaur who thinks these silly Parliamentary shenanigans are just a jolly old game. Along with his Tory colleague Phillip Davies, he seems to delight in wrecking bills for no apparent reason, yet that didn’t stop Theresa May deciding he was worthy of a knighthood a mere six months ago. So many of Parliament’s procedures need bringing into the 21st century. So too do some of our MPs.
Since I was first elected in 2015, housing has been the number one local issue people have raised. It’s too expensive, there isn’t enough, and far too many families are languishing for years on council waiting lists or struggling in overcrowded, poor quality homes. I have consistently argued that we need a minimum of 50 per cent genuinely affordable homes in all new development of 10 units or more. This week I wrote to formally object to the plans for the old M&S site in Wood Green. The current planning application proposes 128 homes with only six at London affordable rent. That’s pathetic and not what Wood Green needs. I hope it will be rejected, and whenever applications like this are submitted I will stand up for our community and raise my objections.
I had a wonderful weekend enjoying the entertainment at Labour Live and supporting the fantastic Fair in the Square in Highgate.