I welcome any extra money for our National Health Service, but the 3.4% Theresa May announced this week is barely enough to stand still and certainly won’t address the crisis caused by eight years of Tory austerity. It also included nothing for our desperately underfunded social care system which is on its knees. To try and pretend that it will be paid for by a mythical “Brexit dividend” to placate the likes of Boris Johnson treats the public as fools. Brexit will leave less money for our NHS – one of the reasons why the Royal College of Nursing was the first union to come out in support of a “people’s vote” on the final deal.
Labour would go much further and give the NHS the money it needs to survive and flourish. A £9 billion cash injection in the first year of a Labour Government together with costed plans to raise taxes for the top 5% and big business to top up NHS spending to around the 5% which many in the health sector say is needed.
You can never trust a Tory with the NHS – and nor can you trust them at their word on the EU Withdrawal Bill, which ping ponged back to the Commons this week to determine whether Parliament would get a “meaningful vote” on the final deal. In the end Dominic Grieve didn’t even vote for his own amendment, so despite Labour’s efforts we lost by 319-303. So much for the so-called Tory “rebels”. It’s incredibly disappointing because it will be disastrous to be left in a situation where Parliament is powerless in the face of a terrible deal or no deal. Airbus said publicly this week that they’d need to consider their future in the UK if we crash out without a deal, putting 14,000 jobs at risk. It’s worryingly clear there are many other companies in the same situation.
I took part in the incredible People’s Vote March on Saturday, the biggest march to date calling for another vote once the terms of the deal are known. It certainly feels like the tide is shifting as awareness of the impact of Brexit grows. Along with the new Left Against Brexit campaign that I’m a part of, I’ve also been working with Open Labour on its first ever pamphlet, launched this weekend, looking at the left’s relationship with Europe and what happens next. It’s the biggest challenge the country faces and together with Alex Sobel MP, Unison and guest contributors including former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Manuel Cortes (General Secretary of the TSSA) we looked at how any future UK-EU relationship can embrace fundamental Labour ideals such as internationalism and co-operation alongside the compelling arguments in favour of institutions such as the Customs Union and Single Market. The pamphlet explores a wide range of issues from protecting the UK economy, which means both facilitating frictionless trade as well as securing jobs; retaining the full range of worker, consumer, human rights and crucially preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland and maintaining peace in the region.
In the US, I have found it very difficult to watch and listen to the footage of the small, terrified childen separated from their parents and locked in cages and am pleased that the sheer scale of public outcry seems to have had an impact. It is utterly shameful and morally repugnant that the USA now has a leader who openly speaks of immigrants “pouring into and infesting our country”. These are dark times. This is the language of the far-right and Trump has energised them with his overt racism, “Muslim bans” and proud proclamations of wall building. We all know from our history books where this path leads. Trump’s decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council sends the wrong message about America’s priorities. The idea that Theresa May will be rolling out a red carpet for this man in just a few weeks’ time is deeply troubling. He is not welcome, his views are not welcome, and I hope and trust London will unite in one of the biggest demonstrations our city has ever seen.
I had a wonderful time over the weekend giving a leavers’ speech for the young people finishing their GCSEs at Highgate Wood, enjoying the Midsummer Muswell celebrations and presenting the prizes at the Shepherds Cot Trust Open Day at Hanley Lawn Tennis Club. I also took part in an interesting discussion on women in Parliament at the ArtHouse Crouch End, following their Sunday screening of The Winslow Boy.
Finally, I was very sad to hear of the death of Pamela Moffatt. She was a real force to be reckoned with, a passionate campaigner for disabled access and rights in Haringey and a formidable advocate for a well-funded social care system. I visited her at home in the run-up to my election as MP for Hornsey & Wood Green and still remember our conversation well. She was fiercely intelligent with a wonderful sense of humour and she will be much missed.