Whilst the Tories crash the economy, we have had a really busy, productive and positive conference that was full of practical Labour solutions to the issues we are facing.
This included announcements like a publicly owned Great British Energy company, renationalising rail and a commitment to create a new generation of homeowners.
After 12 years of Tory failure and the recent chaos, it couldn’t be clearer that this is our moment, and that Labour is the party ready to give Britain its future back. And this is backed up by recent polling.
During the conference I was proud to speak about my work as Shadow Justice Minister at the Society of Labour Lawyers fringe events on the ‘Erosion of Justice’ and on how Labour will tackle Violence Against Women and Girls.
I was also proud to speak at the Howard League’s event on prisons about how Labour will adopt a trauma-based approach. I also spoke at a packed rally about violence against women and girls and outlined how Labour will roll out specialist rape courts to tackle the dramatic fall in rape prosecutions under the Tories.
September was a truly sad month as our community and indeed the world mourned the loss of the Queen.
She meant so much to so many of us, with her seven decades of constant service often making it feel as though we would never lose her.
Her passing was a truly sad moment, but it also reminded us of everything she did as our Head of State.
As the world changed dramatically, she remained an ever-constant figure, standing above the fray of politics, keeping our country steady, no matter the political turbulence.
Throughout all this change she assured us and demonstrated time and again the commitment, selflessness, and humility that we expect from our leaders.
Not only this but her work was of huge impact on the countless organisations and individuals she met.
One of my earliest childhood memories was seeing the Queen as she visited the pioneering St Christopher’s Hospice in our constituency.
Her support, and that of the royal family, made such a huge difference to their work and helped to highlight everything our local Hospice has achieved.
The Queen also helped to bring us all together with numerous jubilees and celebrations over the decades. Just this Summer, we came together to hold platinum jubilee parties.
I was proud to help organise my jubilee street party and it was so heartening to see neighbours coming together for one of the first times since the pandemic and helping to raise more than £800 for the brilliant Living Well foodbank.
That such things – communities coming together, new friendships, raising money for good causes - all happened in her name, is testament to the place she had in our lives.
It was an honour and privilege to recognise all of this by attending the service in Parliament for receiving the Queen’s coffin and to attend the lying-in-state.
I was also proud to pay my respects to the Queen in the condolence book in Beckenham Library and to give a speech in Parliament paying tribute to all of her work which you can see here.
As I said in my speech; Queen Elizabeth II went above the call of duty, and for that, we will always be grateful.
I was really proud to host a ‘welcome to the community’ garden party last week in the wonderful Sydenham Gardens for Ukrainian families who have settled in our constituency.
It was brilliant to bring together so many Ukrainian families and their hosts, welcome them and help introduce them to the area and their neighbours.
We had a number of speeches from local organisations helping with the relief effort and I pledged to continue doing everything I can to help these families.
Most recently this has included specific casework and calling on the Government to urgently outline what support will be available as placements under the Homes for Ukraine scheme come to an end.
But despite raising this with the Government, we are still waiting. Until this is delivered many families will risk homelessness and the prospect of their lives being uprooted once again.
We cannot allow this to happen, and I will continue to work on this issue in Parliament and work locally with our groups to help support these families to rebuild their lives here.
I know we were all relieved to hear that after mounting pressure, Boris Johnson finally decided to stand down. This should have happened months ago. He has done untold damage to our country and political standards. He is a self-serving and a wholly incompetent leader who has been exposed for his lies and deceit.
But this now means that we are facing a Tory leadership election and the level of debate has been depressing. Tales about fixing the economy, when they have been in charge of that economy for the last 12 years, are ludicrous. Little to nothing being said about reaching net zero. And contenders attacking each other on gender identity to make political gains serves no one.
After 12 years of Tory failure, 12 years of a stagnating economy, 12 years of broken promises, Britain needs a fresh start, not just a change of the Tory at the top. Labour are ready to take the fight to the Conservatives, which is why we think the country should decide who our next Prime Minister is in a general election. Only Labour can provide the fresh start the country needs.
Over this past month I have made numerous media appearances on Sky News, BBC Politics Live, Times Radio, BBC Politics London, ITV and GB News to get Labour’s messages out to the public and outline how a Labour government will deliver for our country.
One area where this couldn’t be clearer is on the recent heatwave. Extreme weather is just one manifestation of climate change but whilst Britain has boiled, the Conservative leadership candidates have engaged in fantasy climate denial. This task is urgent, and we have no time to waste but until we have a Labour Government, we will not see the pace of change we need.
In the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine our community has really come together to support innocent families fleeing this dreadful war. The Lewisham Polish Centre has also provided invaluable support and Bromley Council’s Ukrainian Support Hub, which I visited last month, is doing brilliant work helping families with issues ranging from benefits to school places and jobs.
Later this month I will be hosting a garden party for Ukrainians who have arrived in our community to welcome them and help introduce them to the area and their neighbours. The trauma they have faced is unimaginable and the least we can do is help welcome them properly as they begin to rebuild their lives here.
But whilst the community response has been fantastic there have been some huge failures from the government. First the delays in processing visas have prevented many in their hour of need from even coming to the UK.
One constituent was sponsoring a mother and son who were facing frequent air raids. Their visas took so long to process the family ended up going to the USA instead. My constituent went on to host another family but again delays meant this family went to another country. Despite raising this with the government they have done little to speed this process up.
Second, there are difficulties with the family scheme and the Homes for Ukraine scheme. One family had their host cancel at the last minute and had to go through an unnecessarily complicated and stressful process to be placed with another host. A central database across London identifying where families are and where hosts are available would help fix this. Despite writing to the Home Secretary about this the government have said they will not develop such a system.
In addition, if housing under the family scheme breaks down, for example due to overcrowding, these families are unable to switch onto the Homes for Ukraine scheme even though there are hosts available in the area. Instead, they would be facing homelessness and temporary accommodation. Again, despite raising this the government have not committed to fixing this.
Finally, at my local foodbank I met a Ukrainian mother and her 2-year-old son. They were queuing for food and nappies because the 5-week wait for universal credit had left them with absolutely nothing. How they can be expected to wait over a month for support is beyond me. But again, despite raising this with the Home Secretary and calling for immediate support the government are failing to fix this.
Our community has come together with open arms, and I hope my event later this month will also demonstrate this. But these failings, which are all fixable, have hindered many refugees in their hour of need. They deserve far better than this.
A fortnight ago marked one year on from the Government’s end to end rape review. But rape prosecutions are still at record lows and court backlogs are at record highs. It’s no wonder then the Justice Secretary failed to come to the House to make a statement on their progress so I called on him to do so, see here.
This week an Urgent Question was called on this and I was able to outline the shocking situation facing rape survivors’ and once again call on the Government to back our plan which would drive up prosecutions & restore victims’ confidence in our justice system, see here. But as ever, still the Government continues to sit on their hands. The sad truth is that under their watch they have effectively decriminalised rape.
Shockingly the Justice Minister wrote to the Speaker this week calling on me to retract my comments about the Government’s appalling record. I make no apology for calling out the Government on their failures, especially when they can’t face the fact that they’re letting sex offenders off and letting survivors down. See the write up on this in the Guardian here.
The Justice Secretary also laid before Parliament their Bill of Rights which will replace the Human Rights Act (HRA). The HRA has allowed millions of people to get access to justice, protected victims of crime, and ensured our loved ones get the care they need.
The Tories sham Bill will take those rights away, preventing people with health problems from objecting to Do Not Resuscitate Orders being placed on them in hospital without their consent. It will block women from forcing the police to investigate cases of rape, and it will stop victims of terrorist atrocities and major disasters like Hillsborough from seeking justice.
You can see me responding to the Justice Secretary on this Bill in Parliament here and you can find my write up on the devastating impact this will have on women seeking justice when the state has failed them here.
Finally this week I led our Opposition Day debate on community payback. Community payback is an opportunity for offenders to make reparations to the communities and victims they have harmed but under the Tories hours have been wiped or completed at home. I outlined Labour’s plan to restore confidence in these sentences and ensure offenders are held accountable, see here
This week I met with the CEO of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to outline the challenges we have been facing and to lobby him to take action.
The main issue has been timetable changes between Sydenham / Forest Hill and London Bridge. There have also been issues around overcrowding on the services because of shorter trains as well.
I am pleased to announce that following our meeting GTR have now agreed to increase the number of carriages per train on the service from 5 as it currently stands to 8-10 from September onwards.
I also outlined how disappointed our community is with the timetable changes and whilst I was unable to get concessions on this, we have managed to get the trains back up to 8-10 carriages, which should help reduce the overcrowding.
Whilst this is a win, I will continue to lobby GTR to get our services restored to what they were pre-covid.
This week Sue Gray’s report was published and laid bare the rot that has infected 10 Downing Street under this Prime Minister.
The Government has treated the sacrifices of the British people with utter contempt, and it is abundantly clear that the Prime Minister misled Parliament and the British people.
It is outrageous that we have a Prime Minister and Chancellor who have broken the law, lied about it and yet are still in office.
We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and the Prime Minister is more focussed on saving his own skin, leaving his Government paralysed on the issues that matter.
We deserve better. Tory MPs who said they were waiting for this report have now seen how seriously the Prime Minister has demeaned his office. They must now act and force this out of touch Prime Minister out of office.
After 12 years of a Conservative Government, taxes are at their highest level in 70 years and we are seeing the biggest drop in living standards since the 1950s, with food prices increasing, heating bills going up, wages stagnating, and the Bank of England forecasting growth to go negative next year. The Conservatives claim to be the party of economic responsibility, but this is their record in government.
The Queen’s Speech was an opportunity for the Government to show that they are in touch with reality and on the side of working families. It was an opportunity to show that they understand the challenges people are facing, but they failed.
Labour would deliver an emergency budget cancelling the National Insurance increase, as well as cutting small business rates, while ensuring every pound of taxpayers’ money is well spent. You can see my speech here.
The humanitarian impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been appalling, civilians are being killed and over 4.7 million Ukrainians are now estimated to have fled their country, while another six million people are internally displaced.
In response our local community has rallied together and responded with huge generosity. In particular, the fantastic Lewisham Polish Centre in Forest Hill have been doing brilliant work co-ordinating a relief effort for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
I was really proud to visit them and contribute to their appeal and was heartened by the support they have received from our local community. They received so many donations that our local Labour Party office was used as an overflow storage facility. I was also honoured to visit the centre last month to welcome one of the first Ukrainian families to arrive in the Borough under the Homes for Ukraine scheme after fleeing the war.
The generosity and compassion of our community has really shone through with so many people registering to sponsor a family. Sadly, however, Home Office bureaucracy has left applicants facing huge delays and unnecessary hurdles.
In Parliament I raised the case of one constituent who was sponsoring a mother and young son. They had fled to Poland, but they had to return to Ukraine because they could not find accommodation. Still awaiting a Home Office decision on their visa application one month on, back in Ukraine they were spending 5 hours a day sheltering from air raids.
I am relieved that they have now received permission to come to the UK but the delays in issuing the visas put them at risk and added further unnecessary trauma. Sadly, their case is not unique. My team have been working tirelessly chasing up visa applications with the Home Office, often remaining on hold for up to three hours in order to progress cases.
It didn't have to be like this. The government ought to have been better prepared. They should cut the bureaucracy around the lengthy applications requiring large amounts of documentation, with bio metrics and security checks carried out swiftly en-route instead. And they should ensure the Home Office is adequately resourced to issue the visas quickly.
The Ukrainian people have shown great courage in the face of appalling Russian aggression, but the Government needs to also step up and match the spirit of the British public and other Western nations in giving sanctuary to those fleeing this war as we have done in generations past.