My latest monthly e-newsletter has just gone out to thousands of homes across Hornsey & Wood Green. You can read a copy below. If you’d like to receive my e-newsletters, and you don’t already, you can sign up here.
Welcome to my May e-newsletter
The Queen’s Speech that starts every Parliamentary year is a chance to set out a vision for the future. After the year we have had, more than ever it should have been an opportunity to set out a vision for a post-pandemic fairer, greener future. One that acknowledged the bright light Covid has shone on the inequality in our society, the fragile state of so many of our public services after 11 years of austerity and was bold in tackling the genuine challenges we face.
Instead, we got a package of measures to make it harder to vote, harder to protest and harder to challenge the Government’s decisions through the courts. I used my speech to slam the Tories’ failure to tackle the climate emergency or to address the crisis in social care. Read my speech here.
The Government’s lack of ambition on climate change isn’t good enough. In the run-up to COP26 we need bold and robust plans to tackle the climate emergency and I want to hear your thoughts. Join my virtual climate consultation on Wednesday 30 June at 11am. Register here to take part
Whilst nationally the recent election results for Labour were extremely disappointing, I am delighted that London has overwhelmingly re-elected Sadiq Khan as London Mayor and Joanne McCartney as our London Assembly Member.
We pledged to lead London’s recovery from the pandemic. The work to revitalise our economy, to deliver better jobs, support arts and culture, and tackle economic inequality is already underway.
We’ve already delivered more police and record funding for young Londoners. Now we’ll build on that work to keep Londoners safe.
We’ve delivered record levels of affordable housing. Now we’ll go further to build the homes Londoners need and deserve.
We’ve reduced toxic air pollution by a third. Now we’ll continue to take bold action to address the climate emergency.
Applications close next Friday 4 June for my popular Politics Summer School for 16-19 year olds. Find out how you can apply here and please spread the word to anyone who might be interested.
I’m pleased the Government has finally agreed to a public inquiry over their handling of the COVID pandemic, but it’s not good enough to kick it down the road for another year. Labour will keep pushing for the start day to move forward. Justice delayed is justice denied. We need answers now on why our death toll was so high, why our front-line staff had to struggle without the right PPE and what happened in our care homes. The TUC has highlighted that 15,000 people of working age have died during the pandemic and I support their calls for the public inquiry to examine the measures in place to protect the safety of workers.
In Parliament, I challenged the Attorney General about the courts backlog, already an issue following years of Tory cuts and made worse during the pandemic. Coming in the week that reports reveal fewer than 1 in 60 rape cases lead to charges, I also questioned the scandalous length of time victims are forced to wait for an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate to become available. I urged the Government to review the absurd situation in which advocates, who are meant to support victims, are forced to stay outside the courtroom.
This Government still isn’t doing enough to tackle endemic violence against women and girls, so Labour’s taken the unusual and welcome move of issuing our own Green Paper. It includes bold policies that would crack down on street harassment, repeal the rape clause for social security claims and get rid of the barriers to legal aid that make accessing help so hard for refugees and migrants with no recourse to public funds. Find out more here.
End Child Food Poverty – no child should be going hungry
Almost 4,500 people from Hornsey & Wood Green signed the petition to end child food poverty and I took part in the Westminster Hall debate. You can watch my speech here. It is obscene that millions of children are languishing in poverty whilst those on the top of the rich list saw their wealth grow by billions last year. The same Prime Minister who opposed free school meals for hungry kids during the holidays was spending on average £800 a week on takeaways last year. We need to build a more equal society.
I’m also leading a Westminster Hall debate today on support for children entitled to free school meals.
Ban fire and rehire
I’m appalled that British Gas has gone ahead with the mass sacking of striking gas engineers who refused to accept a 15% cut in pay rates and other imposed changes in terms and conditions. The dispute could have been resolved through negotiation. Instead, British Gas has resorted to sacking highly skilled and qualified engineers. Using the threat of unemployment to reduce pay and diminish terms and conditions is despicable, especially after a decade of pay restraint and in the middle of a deep recession. Labour will continue to push for the use of such fire and rehire tactics to be outlawed outright.
Global Minimum Rate of Corporation Tax
I welcome President Biden’s proposals for a global minimum rate of corporation tax and am frustrated that the UK is the only country in the G7 not getting on board. Labour pushed for a vote in Parliament, yet the Tories voted against it. It would be a much-needed start in tackling major tax avoidance and preventing our businesses getting undercut. If big multinationals pay their fair share, we can level the playing field for a fair economic recovery.
The illegal, dangerous, and brazen hijacking of a civilian airliner to arrest a opposition activist and journalist flying between EU and NATO cities is appalling and unforgiveable. I have been working closely with the shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy to make it clear to the government that robust action has to be taken with our allies without delay to demand the release of those detained and make it abundantly clear that these actions will not be tolerated.
While we welcome the closure of Belarusian airspace to UK aircraft, and the withdrawal of the license to operate for Belarusian airlines, this is not and cannot be enough. We’ve been clear that Lukashenka should not be allowed to get away with his reign of tyranny and there is an urgent need to targeted sanctions on Belarusian persons and entities operating in the UK, such as the subsidiaries of the state oil company, and a full assessment of whether Russia had prior knowledge of Belarus’ intentions.
Israel and Palestine
I’ve been contacted by thousands of constituents deeply concerned by the appalling loss of life and destruction in Gaza and the firing of rockets into Israel and tragic loss of life in both communities. In 2018 I had the opportunity to visit Israel and the Occupied Territories in a delegation arranged by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) and my thoughts during the conflict were drawn to the warm and welcoming people I met in the Occupied Territories, who were living in appalling conditions. Civilians on both sides of the divide have suffered and experienced loss, and attacks against them can never be tolerated or condoned.
I welcome the announcement of a cease-fire but this cannot be the end of the international focus on the conflict and it doesn’t bring back the lives of the hundreds of civilians who have died.
Labour has been clear that we must address the root cause of the conflict and renew pressure for a long-term peace settlement based on a two-state solution with an independent Palestine and a secure Israel.
Anti-Semitism and far right activity
Closer to home I have been appalled by the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, and some of the language used, by groups of people protesting against the Israeli government. British Jews are not party to the conflict and are not responsible for the actions of the current government of Israel. Any anti-Semitism undermines the cause of Palestinian statehood and I have joined MPs of all parties in calling for a swift police investigation into the high-profile incidents we have seen of Jews in Britain being targeted. I was very worried to see far right activist, Tommy Robinson, appear in person to ‘support’ a pro Israel rally and sincerely hope that the foreign policy challenge of a two state solution for Israel and Palestine is not used to tear up our hard fought community cohesion here in the UK.
Five months since the end of the Brexit transition period and the effects on businesses and individuals is increasingly being felt. I have been appalled by the wrongful detention of EU citizens by the UK Border Force and I have raised this directly with the Immigration Minister as a matter of urgency.
Labour has also repeatedly raised the damage being done to businesses from the government’s flawed deal, and Rachel Reeves challenged the Chancellor on the huge gaps in their deal. It’s vital that the government works with businesses, but while my Labour colleagues have been working with employers and businesses the government has repeatedly failed to engage.
As Labour’s shadow Europe Minister, I continue to meet regularly with our EU partners and their sense of disappointment from the government is clear. We need to be working closely with EU allies on all manner of subjects and there seems to be a real lack of focus and commitment from this Tory government. I’ve always been clear that a future Labour government will work closely with our EU allies and this remains the firm intention.
In the constituency:
Mary Feilding Guild closure
What happened at the Mary Feilding Guild is a shameful reminder of the insecurity that still exists in provision for the elderly. The home has now closed with all 16 residents forced, in the middle of a pandemic, to find a new home. I’m appalled at the actions of the new owners, and will be working with Labour’s Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall to see what more can be done to provide better safeguards and protections for care home residents.
No compulsory charging at Hampstead Heath Ponds
Swimmers have launched a legal challenge against the City of London’s new charges at Hampstead Heath Ponds. I’ve always supported voluntary – not compulsory – charges and have repeatedly raised my concerns with the City of London about the impact of their new charging scheme particularly for regular swimmers on low-incomes. As Londoners we don’t have access to the sea or some of the more secluded rivers and lakes that rural areas enjoy. But we do have the Ponds and they are precious and should be open to all – nobody should be priced out of the great outdoors.
You can view the Parliamentary Questions I’ve submitted this month here
I’ve attended a number of virtual events and meetings including:
- Taking part in the first online Wood Green Summit in partnership with the Wood Green Business Improvement District. We discussed issues including housing, employment and the environment and how we can create a better future for young people.
- Meeting the Chair of Governors and Head at Highgate School following the concerning claims of a culture where sexual abuse and harassment allegations were not being adequately addressed.
- Meeting with the Principal of the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) to discuss the impact of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) announcement to claw back adult skills (AEB) funding from colleges that miss their 2020-21 academic year targets by more than 10 per cent (also known as the 90% threshold).
- Meeting local members to discuss the Labour Party’s “Driving out Anti-Semitism” training, which I recently attended, and Labour’s progress on implementing the Anti-Semitism action plan.
- Attending the oral evidence session for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders.
- Visiting Mecca Bingo in Wood Green as they opened their doors again following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions on 17 May. Good luck to all of our brilliant businesses who’ve had the toughest of years. Please shop local, eat local and support them whenever you can!
Advice & support:
The Queen’s Speech also included plans for restaurants, pubs and cafes to be forced to put calorie counts on their menus. I share the concerns many have expressed about such a move and have asked a Written Parliamentary Question on what consultation will be taking place with eating disorder charities. Tackling the underlying causes of obesity and creating healthy relationships with food isn’t solved by gimmicks like this that risk doing more harm than good.