London is currently operating under the Government’s national pandemic restrictions that came into force on 5th November (as this report goes to print) and our streets are not at all reflective of this time in previous years. The crisis in Covid-19 testing remains the single biggest indicator of the Government’s failure to provide us with policies that would see us through.
The latest revelation that (at the outset of the pandemic) the Government paid the colossal sum of £21m to a go-between when personal protective equipment (PPE) was being secured has left the public reeling. It is a particularly shocking revelation when so many local businesses and individuals are being impacted upon negatively with this new lockdown, and our communities continue to reach out to those who need our help.
My job in parliament is to represent the needs of those who contact me, and as always, I welcome being kept well informed on peoples’ personal and professional needs, offering guidance and assistance in the most appropriate way.
My parliamentary participation was briefly limited following the Equalities and Human Rights Commission Report’s publication and my Labour membership suspension, however I had secured a backbench debate to raise the very urgent and pressing issues that refugees and in particular the Rohingya are facing, which are of course being exacerbated by Covid-19. This is an issue that we seldom hear about on the news despite it being among the largest and fastest movement of people in recent history. You can find my speech at:
Al Jazeera interviewed me on the above subject (the Rohingya) and you can see the interview here:
Contentious Bills that continue to make their way through parliament include: The Overseas Operations Bill, The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Spycops) Bill, and the Agriculture Bill.
The Overseas Operations Bill is currently in the Lords and was opposed by quite a few of us. Among other things it will limit both the right of Service personnel to bring claims against the government, and those of prosecutors to investigate and prosecute war crimes.
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill had its third reading and has now moved onto the Lords but I supported a number of my colleagues in positioning myself against this dangerous bill.
Understandably, I received a reasonable amount of communication from concerned constituents regarding The Agriculture Bill which does nothing to safeguard animal welfare, food standards and the environment, and I supported Lords amendments to address these shortcomings. However, thanks to this Government’s position these amendments got nowhere.
Black History Month debate: In parliament (20th October) and my speech is here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-10-20/debates/5B0E393E-8778-4973-B318-C17797DFBB22/BlackHistoryMonth
Subsequently, Dawn Butler MP honoured the CLP by addressing members for Black History Month (18th November) and I later spoke to members reiterating my firm belief that any form of racism divides people. I focussed especially on the importance of education as the route to understanding the present, I hope we can seriously develop a black history narrative in all of our schools to ensure that everyone is much better informed on everything from the anti slavery movement to the current Black Lives Matter movement.
The value of teaching colonialism and all its impact cannot be overstated and would enlighten so many in education on a myriad of issues that would bring about a sense of unity long outlasting annual Black History “Months”. Advances in maths and science and other areas were not the monopoly of the West but took place long before European colonialists arrived, and we don’t do justice to this and so many other aspects of the routes of our diverse culture.
Young people must learn about the brutality of the slave trade and the role of the slaves themselves; those who took part in uprisings which destroyed the commerce of the sugar industry through to the Chartists who did so much via their demands, all but one of which were met in their lifetime.
Ultimately, if we understand the common heritage that we share we can then see that all racism comes from a misunderstanding of history and historical roles. The Coronavirus continues to impact heavily on Bame (Black and Ethnic Minority) communities and the inequality it has highlighted must be a lesson to us all, with the poorest communities in the wealthiest countries suffering significantly.
The Parliamentary Assembly of which I am a member have regular sessions and I am perfecting the management of their translation system which enables the very many different European members to be translated to simultaneously. As a member of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons and we cover a lot of ground in our regular meetings.
I participated in a very interesting Interparliamentary Union Nicaragua bilateral meeting with members of the Nicaraguan Assembly and the UK parliament (22nd October).
I was delighted to join with a number of interesting speakers on the 12 November’s virtual public meeting about the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, organised by their UK Committee UK. There was consensus on the need for the Government to offer a formal apology for this massacre as well as that this subject be included in our national curricula.
Pablo Navarrete interviewed me (26th October) for Alborada – a Latin American media outlet – to comment on the victory of progressives in Chile and the referendum on having a new constitution.
In ISLINGTON my team and I continue to participate in regular conference calls with various authorities and individuals though most frequently with Islington Council and the Whittington Hospital.
In a virtual meeting with Islington Council’s Housing Department (12th November) we discussed the Council’s allocation scheme of social housing. I was very pleased to learn that a new team within Housing Options has been created to provide even more focused support to the most vulnerable members of our community and those in need of urgent rehousing.
Separately, I had a discussion (virtual) with Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Executive Member for Housing & Development regarding ongoing housing issues in the borough. We both agreed that for the Holloway Prison development we must ensure final development plans include as much social and truly affordable housing as possible and that the planned women’s centre works to serve the community. We also shared our ongoing concerns over cladding at both Tiltman Place and Queensland Road, as well as the Council’s plans to prevent rough sleeping during this second peak of Coronavirus. On the latter, I am very pleased with the Council’s proactive efforts to ensure there is enough provision to house all those who, sadly, are rough sleeping in our borough, and to ensure there are resources in place to help them move into secure housing.
I had one of my regular calls with Islington Council’s Leader, Cllr Richard Watts and Dan Lawson, the Council’s COVID-19 Silver Commander (5th November) for an update on Islington’s ongoing pandemic situation.
I remain concerned that students who must continue their learning from home for a variety of reasons often do not have access to laptops. I commend the Council’s ongoing efforts to secure more equipment for students after the government announced an enormous reduction in the number of laptops they would allocate.
Unfortunately more local residents are needing to access food banks than ever before, and the Council has reopened the We Are Islington helpline (020 7527 8222) to assist those who are being affected by this crisis.
On 10th October Islington People’s Right’s (IPR) Annual General Meeting (AGM) marked their 50th anniversary and it was a pleasure to speak and celebrate their excellent provision of essential services to Islington residents. This organisation provides ongoing welfare benefit and debt advice, supports disabled families, and delivers outreach sessions to the community. I am very proud of the work done by IPR and especially the 12 trustees who keep the organisation going. I must also thank the various organisations and trusts that work with IPR to fight poverty and inequality, including Islington Council.
The Covid-19 crisis has put the spotlight on the inequality in our society. Those who have especially suffered and are vulnerable include many who have been made redundant, and/or are not able to work due to the risk of Covid, or are struggling mentally. We have to reflect on what we are learning during this pandemic. In a post Covid world, we must ensure we provide resources to end rough sleeping, support the vulnerable, and invest in local businesses and society. I am determined to be one of those voices demanding more from the government.
The lesson we are learning here are that we are only as secure as the person next to us. If people in our country are living in a dangerous way because of a lack of health care or financial security, we can all be affected by it. As a society we must invest in ourselves, our neighbours and our communities. Thank you to IPR for always working with this in mind, and investing through their projects.
On 13th November I met with Mohammed Kozbar, Chair of Finsbury Park Mosque to discuss a troubling increase of racism and islamophobia they have experienced in recent weeks. We should never tolerate racism in any shape, and we are all proud of our diverse borough. I commend the ongoing, tireless work of all faith groups in Islington North to support all those in need at this incredibly challenging time.
At the start of November I met with Roy O’Shaughnessy, Chief Executive Officer at Capital City College Group, alongside Sean Vernell, University College Union (UCU) Vice-Chair of Further Education Committee to discuss growing concerns around the safety of staff and students in schools and colleges during this second spike of Coronavirus. I also spoke at the joint National Education Union (NEU)/UCU Islington meeting on 11th November, and listened to the concerns of union members. I appreciate that this is an incredibly difficult time for all, where the benefits of in-person teaching must be balanced with the risks of Coronavirus. The safety of staff and students is paramount and must always be the first priority.
I attended a modest vigil at Hillrise, Warltersville Rd(10th November) for a young boy – Ben who suffered with mental health issues and took his own life on the estate. Ben’s passing should remind us of how vulnerable some people are, particularly at this isolating time. Whilst there, Cllr David Poyser and I spoke with some of his lovely and supportive family, neighbours, and community members. Despite this, a young person living on their own is bound to have a bigger struggle at this time, and support from neighbours and family is not a guaranteed route through.
I am pleased to support Roger McKenzie in his bid for the position of General Secretary of Unison and spoke at a rally in his support (27th October). In Islington many of us know Roger well from his time as an Islington Councillor.
I was pleased to visit Mary on the Green (Newington), sculpted by Maggi Hambling which has inspired a great deal of divided comment. This statue was the result of an enthusiastic local fundraising team dedicated to ensuring that the memory of feminist writer and advocate, Mary Wollstonecraft was upheld and indeed celebrated in the place where she had such close links with, and where she opened a boarding school for girls.
Reminder: Socialist Campaign Group: You can sign up for the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs newsletter at https://socialistcampaigngroup.com/ and also follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/socialistcam
CONTACTING JEREMY CORBYN MP
My contact details remain unchanged and due to Covid-19 restrictions my Advice Sessions are being held over the telephone.
Constituency Office Tel: 0207 561 7488 (Mon, Tues, Thurs 10am – 12pm)
Write to: Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA