Your weekly update from Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party.
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As you are probably aware, I have long been suspicious of Russian attempts to influence our democratic processes. But today's blistering revelations in The Observer and Sunday Times take my fears to a new level.
Both papers are alleging that Arron Banks, who gave £12 MILLION of services to the Brexit campaign, was offered a business deal involving six Russian goldmines in clandestine meetings before the EU referendum. We are told the deal could be worth billions to Banks, Nigel Farage's chum.
I thought the idea of Kremlin gold being used to destabilise our democracy became redundant at the end of the Cold War or was the stuff of political thrillers.
If it's true that Mr Banks's previous account of events is inaccurate, his alleged links to Russian financiers and mine owners warrant further scrutiny.
I should say at this point Mr Banks categorically denies that the Russians sort to influence his referendum campaign and has dismissed today's reports as a "political witch-hunt". On Tuesday he gets the chance to have his say before the DCMS Select Committee. It should make for a very interesting session.
Taking a stand
I am really proud of Labour's new policy of supporting safe standing at Premiership and Championship football matches.
Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and my DCMS team took this decision after a comprehensive consultation with clubs, safety experts, supporters' trusts and councils - and listened to the views of more than 100,000 fans who signed a petition.
We now expect the government to take the case for safe standing seriously, rather than dismissing it as the pursuit of a "vocal minority".
As Rosena said: "Clubs, fans and local authorities know their stadium far better than anybody in Whitehall - the decision should rest with them."
Hours after we unveiled our new policy, the Premier League also backed our call for "local choice" on safe standing. Look out for a Government U-turn - and yet another Labour policy turned into law.
To Russia with fun
On the subject of football, England's Young Lions fly out to the World Cup in Russia on Tuesday. What a joy it is to see supporters and the media, for once, not talking up the team's chances to preposterous levels.
I really hope Gareth Southgate's team show us flair and passion. And because they don't have a World Cup song, I'd like to suggest a tune to get them in the mood.
Click on the pic to hear the track.
This week saw the first anniversary of the day when The Sun newspaper found out it was no longer relevant. Many happy returns!
Access to online computers in libraries is an absolute necessity for many of the poorest.
Yet shocking new data - unearthed by my colleague Kevin Brennan - reveals that there are 3000 FEWER terminals with internet access in England's libraries since 2010.
Proof - if more we needed - that the Tories will decimate our country's digital potential given half a chance.
And yet again that those most vulnerable and most in need are the victims of their cruel austerity.
Having spent hours in the gym, and walked, cycled, boxed and dieted my way to a six stone weight loss, I know how sport and exercise can change your life for the better - and make you happier.
So I was delighted to be asked to give a speech to celebrate the work of the Sport and Recreation Alliance.
Think about this. Every volunteer - every coach, minibus driver, steward or supervisor - creates the capacity for 8 people to take part in sport, with all the health, fitness and wellbeing benefits that brings to lives and communities.
In this Volunteers’ Week, I want to pay tribute to everyone - young and old - who help other people to take part in sport and exercise. Thank you!
Righting wrongs with Jeremy
It was great to see Jeremy Corbyn and MPs from across the political divide at an event I hosted in parliament for supporters of the campaign to honour our nuclear test veterans with a medal.
As Jeremy said: "The UK government put these men in harm’s way by asking them to take part in nuclear tests with little to nothing by way of protection. The veterans have had to live and die with the repercussions ever since.
“A medal is the first and least thing we can do to right the wrongs these veterans and families have endured."
Please join Jeremy and I in signing the petition here.
‘Older, white people are in the majority, even when the cast is majority Black or multi-racial.’ That's the view of theatre producer Tobi Kyeremateng who is on a mission to open up theatre access by offering black people - especially the young - free tickets.
Her initiative The Black Ticket Project, launched last year in London with poet Damilola Odelola, is now going national. The project demonstrates how diversity in the arts needs action, not just talk.
Tweet of the Week
A special award has go to Jeremy Vine for making me laugh a lot. Sorry about stealing your song, Jeremy!
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Your weekly update from Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party.
This week started in the saddest of ways, waking up on Sunday morning to hear that my dear friend Tessa Jowell had passed away.
As I said in my statement she was a passionate believer in a fairer, more equal society, a damn fine Culture Secretary, a wonderful boss, and a truly courageous advocate in the fight against cancer.
But what struck me most over the next few days was the astonishing outpouring of love and appreciation from across the political divide for Tessa and her public service, whether it be her work bringing the Olympics to London, as architect of Sure Start or just as someone who believed in helping the most vulnerable in society.
I think it reminded many of us in parliament about why we chose to enter politics and public service in the first place.
Praise where praise is due
I was mindful of the cross-party tributes to Tessa when it came to Thursday's anouncement of the reduction of the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 a spin.
As you may well recall, I first began campaigning on the issue from the backbenches five years ago. And when I became Shadow DCMS Secretary in 2016, I knew I had a chance to help deliver a sizeable, and desperately needed, cut in the maximum stake.
But while I enjoyed ribbing Sports Minister Tracey Crouch for delivering on a Labour Party manifesto pledge, I was also aware of how hard Tracey had fought the ferocious lobbying of the multi-billion pound betting industry.
So when I made my statement welcoming the stake reduction, I was determined to praise Tracey from the opposition benches for sticking to her guns and doing the right thing. It's something we don't do enough of in the House of Commons.
The announcement is definitely a big step in the right direction. But cutting the stake is just one part of the puzzle.
We need a levy on tax-avoiding online gambling companies based in Gibraltar; research, education and treatment for gambling addiction; restrictions on betting advertising in football; and a new Gambling Act fit for the digital age.
Above all, the industry, which brings in a massive £13.8 billion a year, needs to start taking its obligations seriously to the 430,000 addicts, 2 million vulnerable players and 25,000 young people gambling every week.
To the leaders of that industry, which has got rich for far too long on the misery of others, I have a simple message: "Clean up your act or a future Labour government will do it for you."
You can watch my statement to the House of Commons by clicking the pic below.
Give music a chance
It should go without saying that every primary school child has access to learn a musical instrument. But, sadly, it doesn't.
Instead the huge pressures on school funding and the government's insistence on a binary curriculum are stifling the creativity of future generations. Worse still, they discriminate against children based on class, wealth and postcode.
That's why I'm fully behind the Every Child A Musician campaign launched by the winners of the BBC Young Musician competition.
Music should be a Universal Right for every child no matter their background.
Banking a good cause
It is 90 years since a charity was set up to pay off the national debt. Yet not a penny of the £475m in the bank has ever been spent.
Shadow charities minister Steve Reed said: “This money has sat idly for nearly a century, accumulating in value but contributing nothing to either the national debt or good causes. This money would help charities feed the hungry, house the homeless and care for the sick, as well as supporting other worthy causes.”
Steve's right. Surely it is time the government closed this moribund bank account and redistributed the money to good causes.
Book (Plug) of the Week
My friends Tom Hamilton and Ayesha Hazarika, who prepped Ed Miliband for five years, have just released Punch and Judy Politics - an insiders' guide to Prime Minister's Questions.
It's a brilliant take on the bear-pit cut and thrust of PMQs, part funny and part terrifying! It's published by Biteback and I thoroughly recommend it.
Thirteen thousand Sainsbury's workers will lose up to £3000-a-year under new contracts being imposed by bosses.
Please sign and share this petition, calling on management to rethink this assault on the wages of loyal, long-standing staff.
Tipping the rich
Each year The Sunday Times Rich List "celebrates" the deep economic divides and burgeoning inequality that allows the UK's wealthiest 1,000 to grow ever fatter.
As my shadow ministerial colleague Liam Byrne says: "We're at a tipping point. If we don't take action now, the world's top 1% are on course to control two thirds of world wealth - in just 12 years time."
It's time we ended the risible low-wage, weak rights economy - where food banks are now the norm - that allows the wealth of the undeserving billionaires to balloon.
One of these is a Neanderthal skeleton held under close security by the Natural History Museum, the other has lost 86lbs in weight!
Everyone deserves a dignified death. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
For more and more Brits it has meant a peaceful death at the time of their choosing at Dignitas in Switzerland. Last year one Brit went there every eight days.
I recently met two of my constituents whose partners were suffering from terminal illnesses and wished to end their lives at Dignitas.
Their experiences couldn’t have been more different.
James Howley’s partner Helen was able to get the medical documents she needed to allow her the peaceful death she wanted.
But Julie Smith’s husband Paul could not access the medical letter required by the Swiss authorities because his doctor was concerned about falling foul of the law.
No doctor should be put in that position: having to choose between granting their dying patient’s wish or facing possible investigation.
What makes this story so strange is that Helen and Paul both attended the same GP surgery in West Bromwich.
Two people, facing similar challenges at the end of their lives, had totally different deaths – one dignified, one undignified and painful.
All because the law regarding helping patients go to Dignitas is a grey area.
It’s not often you have such a clear demonstration of a situation that is not working, unfair and devastating for those involved.
When this issue came to Parliament nearly three years ago MPs didn’t agree that the law should change.
I was among those not convinced by the arguments. Hearing James and Julie’s stories has changed my mind.