A nation to be proud of again

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A nation to be proud of again


The past two years have shown we have a government that is not equal to the task. Our national conversation is toxic, angrier than I have ever known. Trust in politics is shrinking. We are now a country divided like never before: between “haves” and “have nots”; between North and South; and between Leavers and Remainers. 

It needn’t have been so. The Government could have sought a Brexit to bind the nation. Instead, the Tories have turned into a narrow nationalist sectional party.

It is Labour's duty to engage intelligently with the Government on Brexit negotiations. But the Prime Minister must create the conditions for that engagement. And I fear her inflexibility and lack of imagination will mean she is unable to do so.

I raised these points in a keynote address yesterday to The Fabian Society, where I made the case for Labour to lead the country by turning our vision to rebuild Britain for the many, not the few into a programme that will deliver both within and beyond our traditional Labour base: a nation to be proud of again.

I concluded: "The country needs the leadership that only we can give. Let’s make sure we do not fail them."

You can read my speech in full here, or watch it by clicking on the picture above. 


Something has to change

As you may have noticed, on Wednesday I was asked to make the closing speech on the motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister.

Here's an extract...

"The Rt Hon Lady will be forever known as the 'nothing has changed Prime Minister'. But something must change. The truth is she is too set in her ways, too aloof to lead. She lacks the imagination and agility to bring people with her. She lacks the authority on the world stage to negotiate this deal. Ultimately she has failed.

It is not through a lack of effort. It is not through a lack of determination. And I think the country recognises that effort. In fact, the country feels sorry for the Prime Minister. I feel sorry for the Prime Minister. But she cannot confuse pity for political legitimacy, sympathy for sustainable support."

Sadly, everything the Prime Minister has done since I made that speech has been to prove my point. I truly despair.

You can watch the speech in full by clicking on the video above, or read a transcript here.


What an absolute Turkey

This from the BBC's fact-checking service...

The claim: Boris Johnson told a Channel 4 News reporter that he "didn't say anything about Turkey during the referendum. Since I made no remarks… I can't disown them".

Reality Check verdict: Boris Johnson talked about the issue of Turkey joining the EU several times in the lead-up to 23 June 2016 and was co-signatory of a letter to the prime minister warning about Turkish membership a week before the vote.


Since Johnson has decided to use the Trumpian playbook of disseminating lies, it would be amiss if I didn't remind you of this video from the vaults where he calls for Turkey to be admitted to the EU. As they used to say in newspapers... you couldn't make it up.




Of books, beer and dogs

Photo: Steyning bookshop - events

Thanks for all your delightful suggestions to my request last week to help celebrate the revival our independent bookshops. I really enjoyed receiving them. I promised to name check a few. So big shouts-out to the wonderful Margaret and Pauline at Warwick Books in (you guessed it) Warwick; to the team at Rossiter's in Ross on Wye - it's a "gem of a place"; to Wivenhoe Bookshop in Colchester who also run The Shed for classes and exhibitions; to Scarthin Books of Cromford in the Peak District where "every member of staff is a complete Bibliophile" AND they stock Richard Cox's crime novel First Dead Body. (Great plug there, Richard!).

My favourite hat tip has to be for Sara Bowers and her family who run Steyning Bookshop in Steyning, Sussex. Not because of the Steyning Festival they run, or their tireless support of local arts but for inducing Ian Rankin over for a "meet the author" evening with the promise of a dog walker and a brewery tour. Genius! Please keep the suggestions coming and please keep supporting your local independent bookshop.



No gloss on gambling


Kelly Field is a truly courageous woman. By sharing her story, and inspiring Sheridan Smith's character in ITV's Cleaning Up, she has revealed the dark side of the "glossy" online casinos that lured her into massive debts.

Kelly, who was driven to contemplating suicide after maxing out on credit card after credit card, says: "The reality is people are sitting at home, alone, losing their money and sometimes their life to gambling. Gambling kills. I know of people who have taken their own life when they couldn’t see any other way out."

This week has brought fresh revelations about the gambling companies' repeated failure to support those addicts who want to self-exclude. Kelly's testimony serves as a powerful reminder that if the industry doesn't put its own house in order, then politicians must do so instead.


Moving the goal posts

What a brilliant decision by amateur football side Headingley AFC to adopt a gambling addiction charity as their shirt sponsor - a fabulous antidote to the dreadful situation we have with 60% of Premier and Championship clubs having betting sponsors.

The shirts will feature a 'Gambling With Lives' logo in memory of former Headingley player Lewis Keogh, who took his own life aged 34 in 2013, having run up gambling debts of £50,000.

Charity founders Charles and Liz Ritchie said: "This is a special deal. Every game will flag up the dangers of gambling and generate discussion among people who are targeted by gambling marketing. One day Headingley will be seen as pioneers of changing the place of gambling in football." Hear, hear!

The club are also promoting the first NHS gambling addiction clinic outside London. The NHS Northern Gambling clinic delivered by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and GamCare opens its doors. Great news all round.



Pilgrims and pioneers


The creatives behind Plymouth's iMayflower project should take a well-earned bow after securing a massive £3.5m from the DCMS for their transformative plans.

Forgive me if I name-check the team - Plymouth City Council, Destination Plymouth, Mayflower400, Plymouth College of Art, Real Ideas Organisation and the University of Plymouth - who put together the successful bid which aims to provide 4,000 jobs, and support 200 local businesses including artists, digital pioneers, and makers and doers throughout the city and region.

The idea is to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims setting sail in The Mayflower in 1620, using the historical narrative to fuel a creative buzz of arts, theatre, music, storytelling, digital innovation and entrepreneurial dynamism.

As council leader Tudor Evans says: "Plymouth has built a creative industry sector from scratch in a short number of years and this funding means we can harness the talent we have now and develop it for the future.”

I can't wait to visit Tudor and the team and watch this spectacular project bloom.



Palace for the homeless                                                                 


Crystal Palace Football Club's decision to use a club lounge for homeless people to sleep is a brilliant move. It's a great example of a club showing social and community responsibility. Let's hope others now follow suit.



A widget for austerity


The Daily Mirror's digital team very helpfully put together a brilliant widget which you can find in this article which lets you know how many over 75s in your area stand to lose out if the free TV licence is abolished, linked to Pension Credit, or the age threshold raised to 80.

It's a sharp reminder to Cabinet ministers that in their own backyards hundreds of thousands of people will suffer - and feel badly let down - if the Tory manifesto promise to keep the free TV licence is broken.

And it's a sharp reminder to the rest of us that the BBC's job, as Independent Age pointed out,  should be to inform, educate and entertain - not to do the dirty work of austerity for this government.


Pride of Port Talbot


Banksy artwork appears on garage. Garage owner sells Banksy for six-figure sum. Turns down higher offers. Insists artwork stay in Port Talbot. Banksy moves to display in centre of town. Buyer agrees to send more Banksy's. Port Talbot becomes a tourist destination.

After another depressing week in Westminster, this Banksy tale has really cheered me up!