Meeting some of the musicians at Blue House Yard
Meeting some of the musicians at Blue House Yard

Welcome to my April e-newsletter

After such a difficult year, it has been wonderful to see our fabulous local businesses start to open their doors again.  Please show them your support and shop local where you can.  I visited the Blue House Yard market to meet some of the artists and musicians bringing colour and creativity to this corner of Wood Green.

COVID is not gone, the horrific situation in India and Brazil bring that home all too clearly.  There is no room for complacency, and I’m appalled by the reported comments of the Prime Minister, who when Labour was urging for measures to protect lives and livelihoods, was apparently so dismissive about letting bodies “pile high” in the streets.

What a sickening response when so many lives have been lost and so many families left devastated.  Even now the Conservatives are refusing Labour’s calls for a public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic.  We need to learn lessons now so these mistakes aren’t repeated.

We also need to know if they were helping themselves when they should have been helping us.  Every day brings another report of cronyism, dodgy contracts and privileged access.  I want to see a full inquiry into Government sleaze, because it can’t be one rule for them, another for everyone else.  Our local businesses have been pleading for support over the past year – you shouldn’t need the PM’s mobile number to have your voice heard.

Here are some of the other things I’ve been doing this month.  If you know anyone who would like to receive these updates, please share this link.

Stop the stealth privatisation of our NHS
I’ve had lots of concerned local residents get in touch about the US company Centene’s purchase of a number of GP practices across north London.  Whilst none are in Hornsey & Wood Green, one is in Haringey and I’m extremely disturbed at this stealth privatisation – not only for this particular case but what it means for the future.  I raised the issue in Parliament this month and my website has details of some of the other actions I’ve taken including meeting with the Clinical Commissioning Group locally.

Overseas Operations Bill
There were serious flaws in this Bill which returned to Parliament last week for the consideration of Lords Amendments.  In its original form it undermined Britain’s long-standing and unequivocal adherence to the Geneva Conventions and would have caused huge damage to our reputation abroad.  Former Military chiefs and former NATO General Secretary Lord Robertson worked with Labour frontbench to table four key amendments, including moves to exclude torture and, war crimes, and crimes against humanity from this Bill. I am pleased that following this sustained pressure the Government backed down on plans for a five-year limit on torture and war crimes prosecutions and made some last-minute concessions.

Finance Bill – the wrong priorities and a missed opportunity
I took part in the Committee of the Whole House looking at the Government’s Finance Bill, which was a missed opportunity to set out a plan for a fairer, greener post-Covid recovery.  This Bill hits families in their pockets while slashing social security and handing our key workers – including our NHS heroes – a real-terms pay cut.  Meanwhile, it offers nothing to stop some of the world’s biggest companies from using the Government’s enormous new tax break to stop paying corporation tax altogether.  My speech highlighted the skewed priorities of this Government that have seen 23 times as many people prosecuted for benefits offences as for tax offences despite the fact that the value of tax fraud is nine times higher than benefit fraud. I also spoke up for those hit by the loan charge scandal and urged the Government to do much more to crack down on the dirty money, often from Russia, that has seen our own Intelligence and Security Committee call London a “laundromat” for illicit and dark finances. Watch my speech here.

Don’t criminalise trespass
Over 600 Hornsey & Wood Green residents signed an e-petition in opposition to the Conservative Government’s pledge to make trespass a criminal offence.  I took part in the Westminster Hall petition debate and my speech highlighted how vital it is for people to have access to nature and the open countryside and my fear that these unnecessary proposals threaten our ancient freedoms and risk seeing landowners close off much-loved paths.  I also highlighted my concerns about the nature of the second reading debate and the disgusting discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers, who are already some of the most marginalised communities.  Read my speech here.

Fighting for University Students
I’ve been inundated with messages from students and their families who’ve been placed in an impossible position over the past year, suffering huge restrictions to their education and social life and facing a mountain of student debt.  I took part in an Urgent Question calling for information on the Government’s plans to compensate students for lost teaching and rent and urged the Universities Minister to set out a clear plan and stand up for our young people.

Commission on race and ethnic disparities
This report has been rightly met with widespread criticism, with even some of its own Commissioners saying they weren’t given sight of the final copy.  It’s a huge disappointment and missed opportunity to address the role of institutional and structural racism in the UK.  It’s particularly insulting during a pandemic where Black, Asian and ethnic minority people have died disproportionately and are now twice as likely to be unemployed.  I want to see the Government reject these toothless recommendations and instead implement the 253 recommendations on race equality enclosed in the Timpson, McGregor Smith, Williams, Angolini and Lammy Reviews as well as the recent report from the Joint Commission on Human Rights on Black People’s Human Rights.

Improve Maternal Mortality Rates and Health Care for Black Women in the UK
With over 187,000 people signing the petition calling for action to improve health care for black women, a debate was held in Parliament this month.  It’s an issue I took up in my recent constituency zoom chat on women’s health and I’m raising further questions in Parliament.

Domestic Abuse Bill
The Domestic Abuse Bill returned to Parliament this week.  During the pandemic we’ve seen Refuge reporting soaring pleas for help whilst a decade of savage cuts has left the sector struggling to cope.  No woman should feel they can’t seek help because of their immigration status.  I backed amendments to support migrant women and ditch the “no recourse to public funds” restrictions.  I also supported Labour’s call for a stalking register to track serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators and I’ll keep pushing for more support for all victims of domestic abuse.

Cladding scandal
The Fire Safety Bill returns to the Commons and Labour has again been pushing the Government to go much further and help all the leaseholders who’ve been so badly let down.  The Government’s concessions don’t go anywhere near far enough as they don’t include lower-rise buildings or other fire-safety defects.  It’s shameful that the Government has betrayed the promise that leaseholders will not pay for the crisis.  Labour will keep fighting this injustice – it is the dodgy developers who must pay the price.

In the constituency:

Mary Feilding Guild
I presented my petition in Parliament this month expressing the strong local opposition to the closure of Mary Feilding Guild and cruel eviction of its elderly residents in the middle of a pandemic. The shameful way they’ve been treated by the Guild’s new owners has highlighted the appalling insecurity that still exists in provision for the elderly.  Alongside the lifting of the eviction threat I want to see the Government put in place better safeguards and protections so all elderly residents have the security of knowing that their homes can’t be ripped away so easily.

Tile Kiln Lane
I’m pleased that Thames Water put a halt to their work on Tile Kiln Lane following my intervention alongside concerned local residents.  It’s a special site for wildlife and one that must be protected.  I’ve been newly elected as a Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Woods and Trees and my website has details of some of the work I’ve been doing to protect our mature, urban trees.

Apply for my Politics Summer School
I am delighted that my popular Politics Summer School for 16-19 year olds will be going ahead this year as a virtual event.  Young people have faced an incredibly challenging twelve months and I’m planning a varied, interactive week that I hope will be fun and informative.  Find out how you can apply here and please spread the word to anyone who might be interested.  Applications close on Friday 4 June.

Environment Update
The environment must be front and centre in our post COVID recovery and you can read my latest Climate Change & Environment Update report on my website.

Along with MPs across Europe I have taken part in a scheme to “adopt” a democracy activist who has been imprisoned since the stolen election in Belarus last year. The tenacity and determination of the democracy movement has been inspiring since that election, and as Labour’s shadow Europe Minister I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with all those detained – and the wider Belarusian people – in their battle for democracy and freedom.

Shadow Ministerial Update

Four months in to the reality of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and the damaging effects continue to mount. Northern Ireland has had a resurgence of violence, trade has suffered with exports of many goods collapsing, our reputation has been trashed by the government continuing to break international law, and our standing with our EU partners has been undermined by the Tories childish decision to withhold full recognition of the EU Ambassador to the UK. Keir Starmer has been clear that Boris Johnson’s deal is holding back British business, Rachel Reeves has been engaging with businesses on steps which can be taken to help them adapt, and as shadow Europe Minister I have continued to meet with EU partners to discuss their concerns about the UK’s approach and I’ve made it clear we believe in a friendship and cooperation with the EU which the Tory Party simply does not recognise.George Floyd 
While nothing will bring back George Floyd the trial of his murderer, and the announcement that the US Department for Justice will be launching an investigation in to Policing in Minnesota, has shown a way forward for the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. There is so much to achieve both here and in the US, but President Biden and Vice President Harris have shown leadership in accepting the systemic racism in the United States and committing to eradicating this awful reality for so many black people. We have to follow this lead, and my Labour colleagues and I have been consistent in calling for real change from this government – starting with the rejection of their flawed Commission in to racial equality. We cannot stop until all lives are equal on both sides of the Atlantic.Russian influence 
Throughout my time as Labour’s shadow Europe Minister I have been dedicated to holding the Russian government to account and pressing for steps to be taken to protect our democracy in the UK. In recent weeks the need for action has been demonstrated once again with threats against Ukraine and the revelation of sleaze and cronyism – with many Russian links – at the heart of the Tory Party. It’s vital that we get to the bottom of this and implement in full the 21 recommendations of Parliament’s Russia Report and I will be continuing to demand action until the Prime Minister acts.
You can view the Parliamentary Questions I’ve submitted this month here

I’ve attended a number of virtual events and meetings including:

  • I spent some time with the British Transport Police learning about how they’re tackling the growing problem of catalytic converter theft in the community and what my constituents can to do prevent theft from their own cars.
  • I met with the Black Swimming Association to discuss opening up the opportunities and benefits participating in aquatics have to offer to all.  It was great to be back at the Park Road Lido myself this month for my first swim of 2021.
  • I attended a Guide Dogs digital event on e-scooters and the challenges they can pose for people with sight difficulties.
  • I attended the Show Your Support for Learning Disability Nurses Event organised by Mencap. Learning Disability Nurses can play such an important role helping support people with learning disabilities when they go into hospital and ensuring they get the care and reasonable adjustments they need.  Not enough hospitals have them and this important campaign is calling for at least two in each NHS trust.
  • Speaking at an event organised by the Manchester Fabians Society on the impact of Brexit on international students.
  • Speaking at an event organised by Labour Movement for Europe on UK-EU security, defence and foreign policy cooperation post-Brexit.
  • Meeting with the Royal Foundation in my capacity as Co-Chair of Foundation Years Information & Research to discuss their work on the early years.
  • Supporting Hornsey School for Girls as they took part in the Debate Mate Cup competition for Comic Relief speaking on malaria.  It’s a subject close to my heart as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Other Neglected Tropical Diseases.
  • Meeting with the School Council at Haringey Learning Partnership.  They made some great suggestions for a purposeful & fun summer for Haringey young people.
REMINDER: Vote Early, Vote Labour – Thursday 6 May
On Thursday 6 May, Londoners have the chance to vote for a brighter future for London and re-elect Sadiq Khan and our London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney.
If you’ve applied for a postal vote, then vote early, post early.  Royal Mail recommend that voters post their ballot packs by Tuesday 4 May to ensure they can be counted. Ballot papers can also be handed into polling stations and local authorities on Thursday 6 May before 10pm.
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