What’s in a name
I’ve decided, in response to some lovely emails, that I should give the newsletter a new title and design. This reflects the fact I always aim for my weekly musings to be not just about politics but also embracing the range of issues across my brief as digital, culture, media and sports lead for Labour.
I know it sometimes looks a bit idiosyncratic but I like its quirkiness. Sometimes I just like to share stories that have caught my eye. And the fact that you haven’t unsubscribed suggests to me you like that too.
I've given it the title Days Like This which, as you probably know, is a track from the great Van Morrison, one of my musical heroes. I think its positive outlook reflects my mood! But if you can think of a better title, let me know. And while I’ve been mucking about in spare moments with some design ideas (the headline is Futura for aficianados of fonts), I’d also be keen to consider alternatives. So, if you’re a great creative who has always wanted to design a newsletter, just email me your thoughts. And thanks in advance!
United in Liverpool
I'm really excited to be in Liverpool for Labour Conference. With the Tories in utter disarray and Theresa May forced to make a humiliating emergency statement yesterday, it's more vital than ever that Labour shows a real unity of purpose this week.
We need a Labour party pulling together, fighting for the best interests of our country and ready to take the reins of power when the wretched, paralysed and divisive Tory government finally implodes.
While I'm not speaking on the main platform this year, I'll be spending my time meeting members, attending fringes and discussing the host of policies that my shadow DCMS team and I have put together.
We’re here in full force this year talking about some of our recent policy initiatives on obesity and nutrition, social media regulation, the Future of Work, safe standing at football matches, and gambling addiction.
One stand-out event on the fringe for me will be the Observer/ Guardian event tomorrow (Sunday) "Data, Scandal and Democracy". I'll be discussing Russian involvement in the EU referendum with the brilliant investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr and key whistleblowers Christopher Wylie and Shamir Sanni. If you are attending conference in Liverpool, you can catch us at the ACC 5pm.
Blowing the whistle
There's always a degree of trepidation when unveiling a new policy. But the reaction this week to my announcement on Labour's gambling review was a wonderful affirmation that we had got it right.
The headline policy was the "whistle-to-whistle" ban on betting adverts during broadcast sports matches, which is designed to protect children and vulnerable people from the relentless bombardment of tap, tap boom and the omnipresent Ray Winstone. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, be truly thankful).
Within minutes of announcing the ban, it was clear the policy was chiming with parents. Even three-year-olds are being afflicted by exposure to incessant gambling ads.
A six-year-old managed to ruin dad's enjoyment of the World Cup.
By the age of eight, they've got the lingo.
There were many other similarly-themed from parents, a host from clinicians, psychologists and people working in gambling addiction, and even a few from surprising places like the Tory party, and a senior Ukip MEP.
When you appreciate that 25,000 of the 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK are 16 years old or younger, you get the scale of the crisis.
Among the other conclusions of the review, carried out with Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, was a ban on the use of credit cards for betting, a 1% levy on gambling operators to fund treatment of addicts, new clinical guidelines for that treatment and rules to empower problem gamblers to order their banks to block their bets. You can read the full report here.
It was also particularly pleasing to see the argument that gambling addiction is an illness not a moral failure taking hold in the narrative.
I promised that the next Labour government would implement all these new policies but, given the strength of support across the board, I have a sneaking feeling we may not have to wait until then.
Jeremy Vine tried to catch me out on his new Channel 5 show by offering up a vast selection of sugar-pumped coffees from Starbucks. Thankfully, I didn't fall for it. It's a big NO to the sugar, and another big NO to those global giants who don't pay their fair share of taxes.
Working for the clampdown
Ofcom chief Sharon White's speech was a strong and very welcome nod towards my recent announcement that Labour will bring in a social media regulator to redress the power that the tech giants like Google and Facebook hold over us. Hopefully it'll help DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright, in his own words, "understand the issue properly before I start to set out any decisions at all."
The Tories talk tough on the tech giants but rarely follow through with action. If they’re serious there is a perfect opportunity for Theresa May to follow our lead when she makes her speech to the Tory conference next week. If she commits to a new regulator, we will work with her to make it happen this side of the next election.
Ofsted may have been woefully late to the party but at least they have finally woken up to the destructive influence the Michael Gove legacy is having on our children's education. This report confirms the teaching of arts, music and drama is fading from classrooms while the government presses ahead with its narrow-focused E-Bacc.
The truth is the Tories are choking the pipeline of new talent needed to sustain our brilliant, globally-renowned creative industries - a rare beacon of growth in our economy. That's why Labour will put creativity back on the curriculum and introduce an arts premium to give schools the mandate to do what they do best:
Teach a balanced and broad curriculum that prepares and inspires the talent of today to succeed tomorrow.
Misty goes west
I'm really hoping to see Bush Theatre's one-man show "Misty" which has transferred to Trafalgar Studios for a six week run. It is only the second Black British play to ever get a run in the West End. By all accounts this take on modern London life written and performed by Arinze Kene is mesmerising theatre.
What's also remarkable is the belief shown in Arinze by the Bush Theatre, under its artistic director Madani Younis. You can read more about that in Madani's blog here. Sadly for the Bush, Madani is moving on. But that's great news for the Southbank Centre where he's taking over as creative director.
Yoghurts turn sour
This explosive research into the huge amount of added sugars being pumped into supposedly healthy yogurts - particularly those for children - has caught the food industry red-handed. For families it's a stark warning that manufacturers and retailers have been conning us for decades with fancy branding that masks the true ingredients.
For public health experts it's wake-up call to get on with their job - protecting the public's health - by challenging old wisdoms and out-of-date assumptions on what's good and what's not. For politicians it's testament to the need for new laws to stop companies feeding the sugar addiction that fuels obesity and the £10bn-a-year cost to the NHS in related illnesses.
And for me, it is yet more proof that the giant food conglomerates always put their shareholder profits before the health of our nation. They simply cannot be trusted.
On the ball
Three inspiring young Celtic supporters have come up with a plan to make football grounds more female-friendly - free sanitary products in the loos. Their campaign is called On The Ball. It's one of those campaigns that is a sure-fire winner and I was pleased to see the Baggies join the list of clubs who have signed up. Brighton, Huddersfield Town and Fulham have all joined from the Premier League. More to follow, I'm sure.
Jobs for the boys
As if it isn’t facing enough criticism already. Facebook is now under fire for its biased advertising system. A group of women have accused the social network of allowing bosses to target ads on the basis of gender. They claim they weren’t shown jobs for roles including roofers and security engineers. Facebook is disputing the complaint brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. But let’s just be clear in case of any confusion- it’s not a man’s world anymore. And any form of discrimination should be called out.
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