I was very pleased this week to join a Welsh Labour event (virtually, of course) in a discussion about representation and leadership for Black, Asian, and minority communities both within the Labour Party and beyond. Representing Ladywood, a constituency where two thirds of people come from an ethnic minority background and over a quarter are of black or mixed heritage, I am particularly concerned with ensuring the voices of those from minority backgrounds are heard in the corridors of power. Mostly recently, I have been concerned by how police stop and search powers are disproportionately applied to people of Black and Asian backgrounds and how our justice system shows inequalities among communities and I was one of the first MPs to speak up about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME people. It is so important that the recovery from the pandemic includes a discussion on the inequalities caused by racism and discrimination in our society so that we can rebuild stronger and fairer than before. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a real and important turning point in our discourse on race and we must build on this so that we see a real improvement in relations, in opportunities, and in diversity of representation and leadership.
It was good to see this week that Birmingham City Council have secured funding to look at the exempt accommodation market in the city. We need to work towards proper oversight of the exempt accommodation sector so that the high concentration of vulnerable individuals living in this accommodation have the proper and appropriate safeguards to ensure their security. Millions of pounds worth of public money is paid into this sector every year and yet neither local authorities nor the Social Housing Regulator have effective control. This must change and the Government must look at introducing proper legislative control to ensure the safety and security of residents and the effective spending of public money.
I was glad to have the opportunity to speak in one of our Opposition Day debates this week on the economy. I have been incredibly disappointed by the rhetoric from the Government – and some backbench Tory MPs – who seem to be trying to divide communities even in the face of something as all consuming as the coronavirus pandemic. Why pit mayor against mayor? Why pit region against region? The virus pays no heed to which political party is in charge or the boundaries of regions and it is running amok through the country. The Government need to behave like a Government of the whole of the United Kingdom and pursue a national strategy that is comprehensible and understandable to the vast majority of us, that is rational, and that doesn’t mean u-turns every few days and a new policy every week.
We know that this strategy must involve local public health officials who have the expertise to get this virus under control. We also need a package of support that will support jobs and businesses and ensure that our economy will be able to regrow once this crisis is over. For all those saying that we cannot afford to borrow therefore we cannot support all jobs: how can we afford not to when the cost of borrowing is so low and the economy will need all those businesses and jobs to strengthen once the pandemic is behind us? If we decimate our local economies now, how will we recover once the pandemic is over? Once again this week we have seen the Chancellor dragged to the House of Commons to plug the gaps in his support schemes. It’s clear we need the Government to take a more strategic approach so that they support jobs and businesses as changes to regulations happen – not desperately revisit their plans after the fact when they realise they have left millions of people behind yet again.
I have been contacted by many concerned constituents this week about the campaign to provide free school meals over school holidays. Labour tabled a motion in the House of Commons this week that would have seen free school meals continued over the holidays until Easter 2021 and is what the Welsh Labour Government have committed to in Wales. Unfortunately Tory MPs voted against this motion, a purely political stunt that nevertheless will have a significant impact on the thousands of children and their families already living in poverty in the United Kingdom and facing the added pressure from the impact of Covid. This was an appalling decision by the Tory Party and it is astounding that despite the huge amounts of money spent on failed test and trace systems and apps, they have not managed to find £20million to feed the most vulnerable children in the country. They will have to live with their own consciences.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!