Keir weekly diary October 3rd 2016
Labour Party Conference; combating sexual violence; human rights in Scotland.
Labour in Liverpool
I spent much of last week at Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, a city that has really been rejuvenated by the restoration projects overseen by its Labour administration.
There was an excellent turnout from Camden.
Here is most of us, with Tulip Siddiq and her young daughter, Azalea! On Monday and Tuesday we all met for coffee to discuss our conference experiences and upcoming events.
You will, of course, know about the formal business – and the well-received speeches from Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Watson and many others. We must now get on with the business of tackling the Tories and representing our constituents.
Fighting Theresa May’s divisive and damaging proposals on grammar schools will be a key priority in the coming weeks.
There was much on the Conference fringe and I spoke at events on immigration, refugees, our criminal justice system, and the Fabian Society ‘Question Time’ evening.
Looking beyond Calais
The situation of the refugee camps of Calais and Dunkirk is seared on my memory and over the summer I have begun drawing up policy suggestions for how we might tackle the refugee crisis, and the broader question of immigration. It is an issue Labour has ducked for far too long.
At the Migration APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) meeting on Monday, chaired by Paul Blomfield MP, I began to spell this out.
I argued that Labour has been shy about speaking about immigration. We have been too quick to condemn; too slow to listen to the real concerns of people. This was the lessons I learned from meetings around the country; from students to farmers and from pensioners to stall-holders.
Almost everyone in business had a single message: even if we leave the European Union, we can’t afford to have more restrictions than we have now. They described the chronic lack of skills they face.
But I also met disenchanted members of the public, who told me of the strains on public services. And they don’t think we are listening to them.
It is a complicated, wide ranging issue and Labour need a confident, front-footed response.
This meeting – like the discussion on migration – was ram-packed. Hosted by the chair of Amnesty UK, Kate Allen, it was a chance to discuss what Labour needs to do to respond to the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since WWII.
At the heart of any Labour approach to this question must be the United Nations Convention on Refugees. This guarantees the rights of refugees to protection and is in line with a fine British tradition, which we must never abandon.
Labour will also never tolerate an environment of hostility for those who are seeking sanctuary here. I have seen for myself how communities from Colchester to Glasgow have rallied round to make people from Syria welcome. The government’s acceptance of 20,000 Syrians is a start, but not enough.
We have to establish safe, legal routes by which refugees can enter the UK. It cannot be right that there are children in the camps in Calais and Dunkirk who have a legal right to be in Britain, yet there is no-one to process their claims. Family re-unification is clearly not working.
It is scandalous that despite Alf Dubs’s scheme to take 3,000 unaccompanied children, which the government grudgingly accepted, not a single child from the French camps has yet arrived in the UK. Leadership from the government is clearly lacking.
Fabian Society Question Time
At the Fabian ‘Question Time’ event I was on the panel with Liz Kendall MP, Owen Jones and Sonia Sodha.
This was a robust debate, covering issues from education, online abuse and Brexit - and like all the events I attended it was conducted in a good spirit and without rancour.
Sexual Violence Advisers.
From Liverpool, I headed to Manchester to chair the national conference for Independent Sexual Violence Advisers. Attended by hundreds of advisers – a much undervalued group – this was a fantastic day of learning and information sharing.
Independents Sexual Violence Advisers provide crucial support to victims in our criminal justice system; and, as I reminded them in closing the conference, they are life savers and life changers.
An uplifting day with a brilliant group of committed professionals.
Human Rights in Scotland
After a brief stop in London overnight (fortuitously coinciding with Arsenal’s Champions League game!), I headed off to Scotland for meetings with our Labour MSP colleagues to discuss Brexit and then to speak on Friday at the Scottish Law Society annual conference on human rights.