Last week’s elections gave Labour a mixed bag of results. In England there are certainly lessons to be learnt about why Labour could not regain the trust of voters and why they felt unable to vote for us. However, we also have to learn the lessons from where we did well and the convincing wins that saw Welsh Labour retain control of the Senedd and Tracey Brabin and Dan Norris elected the West Yorkshire and West of England mayors. We have to immerse ourselves in the communities that we currently represent, and that we want to represent, to earn the trust of the electorate. We need to get off the frenzy of Twitter, get out of the echo chamber, and actually get out and talk to real people: those who are struggling with employment, who are worried about their children’s education, who are concerned at the lack of adequate housing. Labour is a community-focused organisation – we need to get back to our roots and work from within those communities. Tackling the lack of trust in Labour will not be easy, but I am delighted to join Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet as UK Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator and look forward to working with colleagues from across the Party and our movement to make sure we can once again win back that trust and win power to change peoples lives.
The fire that broke out at an east London high-rise with Grenfell-style panels this week was a shocking reminder of the dangers residents in these buildings are living with every day. Thank goodness no one was killed, but 40 people, including children, were treated by paramedics and doctors, and 1 firefighter was injured. If the Government had delivered on its promise to remove dangerous Grenfell-style cladding by June 2020, the fire on Friday could have been avoided and these people would not be without a home. It is unconscionable that nearly 4 years after 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell tragedy, we are still having to push the Government to ensure that no one is living in unsafe high-rises and that blameless leaseholders are not held financially responsible. The Building Safety Bill as it stands in The Queen’s Speech contains a clause which would allow building owners to pass the entire cost of fixing a building – which can run into tens of millions – onto leaseholders with hardly any notice. This is not good enough. The Government cannot continue this callous and malicious policy of refusing to protect leaseholders.
This week I was pleased to join with colleagues from the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China to send a joint letter to Nigel Adams MP, the Minister of State for Asia, and I welcome the initial reply. We are seriously concerned about the reports of coercive control, severe restrictions on the freedom of religion of belief, the further erosion and repression of Tibetan culture and identity, and labour transfer schemes in the Tibet Autonomous Region, along with the atrocious human rights abuses that are happening in the Xinjiang province in China. The UK Government must now go further in holding China to account. We must extend and strengthen sanctions to make it clear to the Chinese Government that these abuses are not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.
Birmingham City Council are making £2 million small grants available in their Celebrating Communities funding scheme, part of a wider £6 million package assembled by the Council to maximise the benefit and legacy of hosting the Commonwealth Games. Grants will be available to run initiatives which deliver against one of three themes: ‘Getting Active’, ‘Ready, Steady, Fun’ and ‘Celebrating Culture’. The grants will be available to people and communities in all 69 wards across Birmingham and open to application in 1 March 2021 to 1 June 2021 and from 1 October 2021 to 1 January 2022.
May I take this opportunity to wish those ending their fasts this week Eid Mubarak. I know how difficult it has been to observe Ramadan during lockdown restrictions with social distancing preventing much interaction with friends and family. Though many of us will be eager to share this important day with extended family and friends, it is still incredibly important that we do so in a way that respects rules around social distancing. One of the best gifts we can give to those closest to us is to protect their health and that of the vulnerable in our communities. I hope everyone enjoys their own unique celebrations to mark Eid al-Fitr.
Of course, many will have spent their Eid celebrations reflecting on the situation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The situation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the wider region is fast-moving, and many constituents have been in touch with me to share their views about recent events. I am, and always have been, a passionate and determined supporter of Palestinian rights and my parliamentary record on this issue speaks for itself. Like many who have been in touch, I have been horrified by scenes of violence and brutality in East Jerusalem and at the Al-Aqsa mosque. There is simply no excuse for the actions of Israeli authorities at the site, and I am deeply disturbed to see worshippers injured by rubber bullets and stun grenades in the holy month of Ramadan. Rest assured, as per my previous record on issues relating to the region, I will continue to do all that I can to press for justice for all peoples in the region.
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!