|Here are some of the things I’ve been doing this month. If you know anyone who would like to receive these updates, please share this link:
The Prime Minister’s repeated slowness to act on Covid means that Britain ends the year with one of the highest numbers of Covid deaths in Europe and the deepest recession of any major economy. Unemployment locally has soared by 198% since March and continues to rise, so in Parliament this month I again challenged the Government on what they are doing to support people into retraining and apprenticeships. We cannot afford to leave behind a Covid generation.
I hosted a virtual meeting with Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister Wes Streeting MP and a group of local primary heads to discuss the immense pressure on schools in the lead up to Christmas and looking ahead to the likely challenges in the New Year. We talked about Covid challenges, vaccines for teachers and the dreadful financial outlook for 2021.
Roll out of mass testing to schools has to be urgently scaled up but schools need to be given adequate resources to carry out this important work. Teachers have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic and they deserve a lot better than chaotic Government announcements on the last day of term.
In advance of Small Business Saturday, I also met virtually with local businesses in Wood Green to chat about some of the issues affecting them. I’ve since written to the Chancellor about the overwhelming call for a genuine review of business rates.
It is hard to believe that in the middle of a pandemic with the UK already facing the deepest recession of any major economy this incompetent Tory Government would risk a devastating “no deal” Brexit with our biggest trading partner. Yet with days to go that is exactly where we are heading. It is a monumental failure of Boris Johnson that we are in this position. For years he and his Brexit backing team have lied and promised the earth. There was never an “oven ready deal” better than staying in the EU, but no deal is the worst possible outcome. Our communities, already battling Covid, cannot afford food price hikes, shortages, yet more job losses. It is not Johnson and his millionaire friends who will pay the very real price of his shameful incompetence.
One of the central focus’ of my role as shadow Europe Minister has been building relationships with our European friends and allies in the run up to the end of the transition period. Regardless of this Government’s intentions Europe will remain home to our closest allies and partners and we have a duty to continue reaching out to them and working with them on our shared security, environmental, and economic challenges.
In recent weeks I have held constructive meetings with the Dutch & Spanish Ambassadors to the UK and emphasised that Labour remains clear in our European outlook and a Labour Government in 2024 will seek to cement our abiding relationships with our European partners.
I attended and gave the closing remarks at a Building Bridges event with the Jewish Labour Movement marking 100 years of their affiliation to the Labour Party. It’s crucial that we make every effort to rebuild our relationship with the Jewish community following the recent release of the Equality and Human Rights report, which showed that the Labour Party had committed three breaches of Equality legislation. I am looking forward to the Labour Party introducing training on how to tackle anti-semitism in the New Year.
Air pollution and Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death
I had the privilege of speaking at an event alongside Rosamund Kissi-Debrah last year. She has shown such bravery and strength campaigning tirelessly to recognise the role air pollution played in her daughter Ella’s death and the landmark ruling last week made legal history in ruling it was a contributory cause of her death. Rosamund is absolutely right to say it is a public health emergency. With this finding must come action for all children growing up in London today.
Shadow Ministerial Work
Earlier in December I held a constructive and open meeting with local members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to discuss their ongoing and very real concerns about the situation facing people in the occupied territories and the prospects of a lasting peace agreement based on a two-state solution. I am a firm proponent of ensuring there is a durable peace agreement based on the two-state solution and I underlined the actions that the Labour Party has taken in recent months in regards to Palestine, including the pressure applied to the British Government to condemn the outrageous plans to illegally annex parts of the West Bank. My colleagues on Labour’s shadow Foreign Office team Lisa Nandy and Wayne David, the shadow Middle East Minister, made it clear to the Government that these plans were fatal for the peace process and highlight our support for further action against the Israeli Government should they press ahead with their plans. I am pleased that, for now at least, these plans have been dropped and with a new US Administration taking office in January we all hope for a renewed push for peace.
With colleagues from the TUC I met with Glesi Hoffman, the President of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), to discuss challenges to democracy in Brazil and the prospects for workers rights and indigenous protections going forward. Read the letter I have since sent to the Foreign Secretary here. With the UK seeking trade deals following our exit from the European Union it is vital that we make clear to the British Government that we will not sell out our international solidarity on the altar of trade deals with emerging major economies like Brazil. As the shadow Minister for Europe & the Americas I have been clear and consistent on this and will continue making this case to the Government.
Jamaica deportation flight
Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful in the draw to urgently question the Home Secretary on this matter, but I had lots of emails from constituents and had already urgently raised it. The fact that only 13 people eventually left on the flight – 37 fewer than Priti Patel had initially intended only reinforces the belief that the Home Office was putting speed over due process. The Home Office’s record is shocking and the appalling injustices of the Windrush Scandal must never be repeated.
Mental Health provision
Covid-19, the climate emergency, and the dire economic circumstances have helped produce a mental health crisis in this country. In my casework I’m increasingly hearing from constituents caught up in the mental healthcare system or struggling to receive the help they need. At the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, I asked the Chancellor what steps he will be taking to ensure there is robust support for mental health going forward.
Watch my question here.
I also took part in a Westminster Hall debate on deaths in mental health care and you can read my speech here. In a separate intervention during the same debate, I highlighted the need for any inquiry to allow for learning as we go as there are young people now in mental health care that are still raising serious concerns about the quality of care. I raised an example of my own constituent whose daughter has spent time in 11 different hospitals since she was 14 at a huge cost of over £700,000 per year.
You can view the Parliamentary Questions I’ve submitted this month here.
Where possible, with the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, I’ve attended a number of events and meetings both in Westminster and across the constituency including:
- Attending the regular Carers’ Coffee Morning at Priory Park Café
- Attending the Christmas light switch on at Hornsey Church Tower.
- Speaking at the online launch event for Haringey Giving Week.
- Attending the Climate Change evidence session of our All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics & Sustainability in Fashion in my role as Co-Chair. Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined so there is a lot of work to do.
- Hosting the online launch of the Malaria Must Die campaign as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Malaria and Other Neglected Tropical Diseases. Find out more about the campaign here.
- Speaking with a number of constituents taking part in the online annual Justice for Palestine lobby.
- Chairing an online meeting of the Foundation Years Information and Research, a group I co-chair that promotes the vital importance of the earliest years for children’s development and well-being.
- Taking part in an interesting zoom chat with Year 11 Citizenship students at Hornsey School for Girls.
- Joining the panel on the ITV London Late Debate to discuss Covid-19, Brexit and one year on since the General Election.
- Attending the Muswell Hill Creatives Winter Fayre.
- Attending the Crouch End Chanukah Celebration at Priory Park.
- Taking part in a zoom catch-up with the 3 Million campaign, a grassroots organisation campaigning for the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living here in the UK and one I’ve supported since they were first founded.
- Visiting Hornsey Vale Community Centre to help announce the restart of their important lunch delivery service. I’m delighted they’ve secured a National Lottery Community Fund grant to buy a reconditioned dish washer so their lunch club can operate safely.
- Marking Islamophobia Awareness Month in November by sending a video message of support to Haringey Stand Up to Racism and Masjid Ayesha Tottenham’s Zoom event. The report provided by the Labour Muslim Network into Islamophobia in the Labour Party shows there is still a lot of work to do to combat this appalling racism and I am pleased the Party have accepted all the report’s recommendations.
- Attending Haringey Socialist Educational Association’s AGM
- Meeting with Haringey Council, David Lammy MP, Joanne McCartney AM, Cllr Matt White to discuss progress with cycling improvements in the borough.
- Supporting Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen as they launched their new van to help more people in the community.
- Holding a webchat with Amnesty International’s Children’s Human Rights Network to discuss children’s rights and Covid-19. Children have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic – from schooling and exams, to work prospects, to mental health, but largely shut out of much of the conversation. This really interesting chat was a great opportunity to listen to young people’s thoughts on the last few months and I’ve followed up with some written Parliamentary Questions.
Advice & support:
If you have an urgent issue over the Christmas period, here are a number of organisations that may be able to help you:
- Haringey Council Out of Hours Emergency: 020 8489 0000
- Shelter Housing Advice Line: 0808 800 4444
- Samaritans: 116 123
- Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
- Police (non-emergency): 101
If you need to urgently contact me about a casework issue, such as help with a housing, welfare or immigration problem please send me an email with your name, address, postcode, telephone number and a summary of the problem.
You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook or visit my website at www.catherinewest.org.uk.
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
MP for Hornsey & Wood Green