Apologies for the lack of weekly updates over the past few weeks. It's been a very busy period, so there's plenty to catch up with this week.
Parliamentary Roundtable for the Safeguarding of Migrant Children
Given the retrograde step by the government to end the Dubs amendment scheme for supporting and taking in unaccompanied child refugees – a shameful decision by the government – I thought I should start with a meeting three weeks ago now.
On 18 January I hosted a roundtable debate and the formal launch of the BME and Migrants Advisory Group: Safeguarding Children and Young People. It was invaluable to be able to listen to people’s first hand experiences and to hear about the brilliant work is being undertaken by the Victoria Climbie Foundation.
If you want more information, let me know.
Acland Burghley Filmmakers- 19th January
Soon afterwards, I was interviewed by a group of fantastic filmmakers from Acland Burghley secondary school in Camden. I was blown away by their professionalism and it was excellent to be able to discuss issues surrounding youth academic underachievement. Looking forward to seeing the final edited film!
Visit to Manchester- 20th January
Later the same week, I travelled to Manchester with fellow Labour MP Lucy Powell.
We met the Equality and Human Rights Commission to discuss what needs to be done to secure and preserve rights that are currently underpinned by our membership of the European Union. We then met Labour members and council leaders and talked about how Labour needs to develop a response to the underlying causes of the referendum result, and the disaffection many voters have with politics.
Saturday NHS Action Day- 21st January
Then it was back for a freezing cold Saturday with the brilliant Camden Labour team campaigning for the NHS. The Tories have imposed devastating cuts and another winter crisis is looming. We are holding the government to account for their policies at a local level as well as in Parliament.
Supreme Court Brexit Judgement- Tuesday 24th January
Then – just over two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament would have a say on the Article 50 issue. In a speech to the House I outlined how the Prime Minister was wrong to attempt to sideline Parliament in this process and how the role of this house in holding the Prime Minister and the Government to account throughout the process is crucial.
We also forced the Government to publish a Brexit white paper, which is essential for proper scrutinty and accountability of negoations.
My statement can be found here
Stoke By-Election and the Big Debate- Thursday 26th January
Two days later, I travelled to Stoke-on-Trent and launched the Labour by-election campaign with local candidate Gareth Snell. We joined Ruth Smeeth MP and visited the Wade Ceramics centre where they have been producing high-quality ceramics for over 200 years!
In the evening I was back home to host the Holborn and St Pancras Big Debate. I discussed how the Left can counteract the populist right with fellow MP Caroline Flint, Stephen Bush and Polly Toynbee. It was great to be able to debate the big issues we are currently facing with an audience of local people. Thanks to all who made it.
Burn’s Night in Edinburgh- Friday 27th January
Next day: Edinburgh to deliever the immortal memory at Edinburgh South Burn’s Supper after spending the day discussing Brexit related issues in Scotland. Vegetarian Haggis is interesting!
Reaction to Trump’s Travel Ban- Monday 30th January
Following Trump’s executive order, I released the following statement with Tulip Siddiq and Sarah Hayward:
‘We are deeply concerned about President Trump’s executive order banning certain people from entering the United States. Camden, like the country, has a proud tradition of welcoming people from all corners of the globe, whether they are fleeing persecution and violence or simply seeking a better life. Our diversity is our strength.
We welcome the intervention of the government to clarify the order’s impact on Camden citizens, but remain alarmed at the world’s only super power using this might to persecute people on the basis of religion. This is not in line with Camden values or British values. We will continue to press the government to speak out in defence of all of Camden and Britain’s communities. Silence sent the wrong message.
It is far easier to sow division and hate than it is to build consensus and co-operation. It is incumbent on all of us to work to build a society where everyone is welcome regardless of their background. We will continue that work to ensure Camden is a place where everyone can succeed and no one is left behind, or treated differently, stigmatised or attacked on the basis of their religion, race, or characteristics beyond their control.
Should any Camden resident need assistance as a result of the executive order, please contact Keir Starmer, Tulip Siddiq or Sarah Hayward.
I can also be contacted by telephone on 0207 219 2634 by anyone who has concerns relating to this matter.
Article 50 Amendments Weeks
Then an intense two weeks in Parliament on the Article 50 issue.
I have emailed all members setting out my approach – thanks to all who responded. I have read all of your emails.
I understand and respect all views on Article 50 and it is no secret that this has been a very difficult time for the PLP and the Party.
Having campaigned passionately across the country for the UK to remain in the EU, the outcome of the referendum result last June came as a bitter disappointment to me. Along with many others in the 48% who voted to remain, I cherish not just the practical benefits of EU membership but also the fact of being an EU citizens.
But we lost the referendum and, as democrats, we have to accept the result. I acknowledge that some people disagree and believe that the result should be ignored. But having worked as a human rights lawyer in countries where citizens are either denied a vote or their votes are ignored, I cannot accept that argument.
So, over the last three months I have been working to put in place proper scrutiny of the Brexit process.
Although each step has been incremental, the Government has moved its from position from October – when they had no plan, were insisting there would be no running commentary and would not commit to a vote on the final Article 50 deal – to:
- Publishing a 76 page White Paper on which Parliament can hold them to account. This was one of Labour’s planned amendments for Committee Stage, but this was withdrawn after the Government’s concession.
2. A commitment to match reporting back procedures that are in place in the European Parliament during the Article 50 process.
3. A vote in Parliament on the proposed draft Article 50 deal before it is considered by the EU Parliament or Council, as well as a second vote on the final EU-UK deal that will shape our future relationship with the EU.
Taken together these show progress has been made. More, of course, is needed and I will keep challenging the government until Parliament has a much bigger say over the process.
In substance, what matters is that the Article 50 process results in the best deal possible for the UK and the rest of the EU and that we ensure that the UK has a strong and ongoing relationship with the EU in the future.
Labour has consistently said that jobs and the economy must come first and we have been fighting for tariff-free and barrier-free access to the single market and for a deal that works for the services sector as well as goods. I have been travelling all over the UK talking to many communities and businesses about precisely what they need to get out of the Article 50 deal and will continue to do so.
But I want more than that. What many of us value about our relationship with the EU is the collaborative and co-operative approach in ensures in vital areas such as science, technology, medicine, arts, culture and, of course, policing and counter-terrorism. There is no reason why a new relationship with the EU cannot be forged on these principles and that is what I, and the Labour Party, will be fighting for.
A values-led approach to our ongoing relationship with the EU, not the abandonment of any relation with the EU.
I don’t think we have made this argument loudly enough yet.
Eleanor Roosevelt Lecture- 9th February
Straight from Parliament and Article 50, I went to UCL on Thursday evening and delivered the Annual Eleanor Roosevelt lecture at UCL. My maiden parliamentary speech after my election in 2015 referenced Eleanor Roosevelt’s inspiration to modern advocates of human rights so it was an honour to be asked to deliver this lecture in light of Britain leaving the EU. Human rights must be at the centre of a values based response to Brexit.
You can read the full text of my speech here
All comments welcome!
Workers’ Rights speech at Unite Conference- 10th February
The next day, on Friday, I travelled to Esher to attend Unite the Union’s conference on the impact of Brexit on workers’ rights. A passionate and engaged audience and a very good discussion about the way forward – particularly on the Great Repeal Bill, which much protect not only all workers’ rights, but also all environmental protections, consumer rights and, of course, human rights.
From Esher I went straight to the Roy Shaw Centre in Gospel Oak for a busy surgery and then the train to Banbury to deliver a fundraising dinner speech for their CLP.
If there is anything you would like more information on or wish to discuss further then please email me at email@example.com