Listen, learn, rebuild

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Listen, learn, rebuild

I know how hard Labour's European election candidates campaigned, and how dispiriting it was  - on the streets and doorsteps - when faced with so many supporters and members who felt they couldn't support the party.

I want to congratulate those who won their seats. But, in particular, I want to commiserate with those who lost their MEP seats - David Martin, Sion Simon, Clare Moody, Paul Brannen and Alex Mayer - and all the losing candidates. So a giant thank you for all your valiant efforts to: 

East Midlands: Leonie Mathers, Tony Tinley, Nicole Ndiweni, Gary Godden. 

Eastern Region: Alex Mayer, Chris Vince, Sharon Taylor, Alvin Shum, Anna Smith, Adam Scott and Javeira Hussain.

North East: Paul Brannen, Clare Penny-Evans

North West: Wajid Khan, Erica Lewis, David Brennan, Claire Cozler, Saf Ismail, Yvonne Tennant.

London: Katy Clark, Laura Parker, Murad Qureshi, Taranjit Chana, James Beckles, Sanchia Alasia. 

South East: Cathy Shutt, Arran Neathey, Emma Christina Turnbull, Rohit Dasgupta, Amy Fowler, Duncan Enright, Lubna Arshad, Simon Burgess, Rachael Ward.

South West: Clare Moody, Andrew Adonis, Jayne Kirkham, Neil Guild, Yvonne Atkinson, Sadik Adam Al-Hassan.

West Midlands: Sion Simon, Julia Buckley, Ansar Ali Khan, Zarah Sultana, Samuel Hennessy, Liz Clements.

Yorkshire and Humber: Eloise Todd, Mohammed Jawad Khan, Jayne Allport, Martin Mayer, Alison Hume

Wales: Matthew James Dorrance, Mary Wimbury, Mark Whitcutt.

Scotland: David Martin, Jayne Baxter, Craig Miller, Amy Lee Fraioli, Callum O'Dwyer, Angela Brotherton.

While we need to consider the results in more detail in the weeks ahead,  it is already clear how bad they were. None of which will give any comfort to the millions of people who need a Labour government in Westminster. 

It is self-evident that we need greater clarity in our position. The triangulation of our Brexit policy had little, or no appeal. While it may be convenient to pass off the results as a blip or one-off protest vote, I am concerned about what longer-term damage is being done to the party's overall credibility and electoral standing. 

If we are not careful we will start losing support from all shades of opinion, in all parts of the country, as a result of this confusion. The party badly needs to restore a sense of direction and to act decisively before things spiral out of control. 

As I look at the list of those who served our party with such dedication, and read the deeply-thought emails and messages from swathes of members calling it a day, I know we have to listen, learn and rebuild. And fast.


Give members a say

On that subject, many thanks if you took part in my Brexit survey of Labour members and supporters on social media. Eighty-three per cent of those who took part said they want an all-member ballot to decide our party's Brexit policy. Thirteen per cent want a special conference, and 4% said we should wait until party conference in late September. Of the 9,125 people who took part, 63% identified themselves as members. I appreciate these surveys aren't scientific. But 83% is a strong indicator of the way we need to go. 


No mountain higher

"Both Tenzing and I thought that once we'd climbed the mountain, it was unlikely anyone would ever make another attempt. We couldn't have been more wrong."

Those words are from Sir Edmund Hillary speaking to National Geographic Adventure in 2003 - the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest. Sixteen years on, this extraordinary photograph from Project Possible's Nirmal Turja and this absorbing article "The Tragedy of Mount Everest", show just how wrong Sir Edmund was.

Since climbing Snowdon, I have been pondering my next mountain. This one may have to wait.


No going Baku

The reports out of Baku about police stopping and checking Arsenal fans wearing Henrikh Mkhitaryan shirts for the Europa League final  - in support of the Armenian who feared for his safety in Azerbaijan - are dreadful. It is an utter disgrace and must never be allowed to happen again. 

UEFA must ensure that if a country forces a player to choose between their sport or their safety, or discriminates against travelling fans, they are barred from hosting future events. That should include stopping Azerbaijan from hosting matches in the 2020 European Championships. 



A diverse conversation

Lenny Henry, guest-editing this week's Broadcast magazine, popped in to my Commons office a couple of weeks back to discuss diversity in film and television.  He made an excellent point about only one member of the OFCOM board coming from a BAME background, which I promised to take up. We also spoke about the work of the Acting Up commission I set up with colleagues Tracy Brabin and Gloria De Piero, and Labour's plan to use tax breaks to deliver diversity on and off screen. Sir Lenny - Black Country raised like all the finest people - even slipped in a curve ball question about my current TV viewing. Damn journalists! You can read the full interview here



Paying the price

Two new studies into ultra-processed foods published this week have a stark conclusion: that eating food made in factories with industrial levels of salts, sugars, additives and preservatives is not good for our health.

Yet in the UK 50% of our diet - the highest level in Europe - now comes from ultra-processed foods. If we are serious about improving the nation's health and reducing the risk of obesity-related illnesses, we need to reverse that trend. 

That doesn't just mean junk food ad bans and public health awareness campaigns, it means measures like the sugar tax to take on the global food conglomerates. It is time we looked at making polluters pay for the damage to our health - an issue that will be tackled by my commission on halting the rise in Type 2 diabetes. I am very encouraged by the strong hints from Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, that she feels the same way.



Beyond faith

The significant contribution of contemporary Muslim women artists to British culture is often overlooked. So it's good that the Whitworth in Manchester is addressing this. A new exhibition at the gallery is showcasing the talents of five creatives- Robina Akhter Ullah, Shabana Baig, Fatimah Fagihassan, Aida Foroutan and Usarae Gul. As well as their own works, each has chosen pieces from the Whitworth's collection to display from a new perspective.

The show is part of a University of Manchester project on the roles and experiences of Muslim women in the UK and in the cultural industries. Assistant curator Uthra Rajgopal says it's important that arts institutions feature a range of different voices 'for the public to see and understand'. And to overcome the stereotyping of Muslim women in the media. She adds: 'Each of these artists has individual and diverse views about issues such as faith and identity. They want to express them- and for their artwork to stand first.' 





Small independent bookshops which foster the magic of reading are part of our heritage. Wenlock Books, like many, is also at the heart of its community. Owner Anna Dreda organises poetry breakfasts and festivals, slow reading groups and children's storytimes.

Anna first starting working there nearly 30 years ago, and in 2003 realised her dream of taking over. Today she is dreading the last time she puts the key in the lock and walks away.

The demise of institutions like Wenlock Books and Camden Lock Books is very sad. That they have been driven out by Amazon - a predatory, tax-avoiding online giant, owned by the world's richest person - is terribly wrong. It is way beyond time the government stepped in to defend our high streets.


Not a fair cop


When police are more concerned with arresting and jailing two respected journalists than trying to find the people who carried out a terrorist atrocity, we should all be alarmed. That this assault on investigative journalism is taking place in the UK should alarm us even more.

Amnesty's Patrick Corrigan is right. We must speak out loudly in support of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, and defend the vital press freedoms that are under attack.


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