Out and about at Glastonbury

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Out and about at Glastonbury

Late on Friday night, amid the latest half-baked Twitterstorm from my dwindling band of trolls, I arrived at Glastonbury. You probably know how much I love this place, and that no hashtag is going to get in the way of my celebrating this greatest of gatherings in a field.

I feel a whole lot lighter, both physically and mentally, than at the last Glasto two years ago - a truth not lost on some of the wittier voices on Twitter.


The sight of the Free Nazanin flag high above the crowd as the-genius-that-is-my-hero Fantastic Negrito headlined on the Other Stage will stay with me a long time. Along with anti-austerity punks Life, these two acts draw a straight line of authenticity from Oakland to Hull and were my pick of yesterday.


Today I'm looking forward to emerging talent Lauran Hibberd on the BBC Introducing stage.  Two guitars, bass and a drum; indie pop rock with catchy tunes that will grow.

Photo: @nevblake


Waging war on the plastic planet


I arrived at Glastonbury too late to catch the Extinction Rebellion procession, paying tribute to indigenous people who have led the fight against global heating. The Climate Emergency is front and centre. The well-publicised ban on all single use plastics is being strictly enforced and the installation of 800 taps and 37 Water Aid refill kiosks will be saving the planet from a waste mountain of over one million plastic bottles. 

Coincidentally I wrote a short blog last week in celebration of National Refill Day. Over the last 15 years, the purchasing of bottled water has doubled in the UK, around 13 billion plastic bottles are used and thrown away each year, and more than half of these are water bottles. Only half of all the water bottles used are recycled and some 15 million are littered, put into landfill or incinerated EVERY day. 

My message is that drinking water from reusable bottles is not just good for the environment, it's also good for your health. Refill for All!



The enablers of extinction

Talking of existential threats to things I love, you may have seen the letter I signed and organised calling for the reversal of Chris Williamson's reinstatement. It certainly animated the far left and spawned the #TomWatsonOut hashtag. These extinction enablers are either so blind they cannot see (or perhaps simply don't care about) the threat that is currently being faced by the Labour party.
I can only presume that they didn't knock on any Labour doorsteps during the EU election, and must have missed the tidal wave of disillusion that now surrounds our policy on Brexit, or the revulsion that Labour supporters have at our approach to ridding the party of anti-semitism. I've heard it time after time from voters now, and I have seen the polling analytics, and the prospects are simply terrifying.

So I make no apology, nor ever will, for signing a letter which has received huge support from fellow MPs, councillors and peers. I am pleased that Jennie Formby, our General Secretary, has listened, and I trust she will now ensure the disciplinary charge against Chris is handled in a transparent and appropriate manner.



A ball of inspiration

Tuesday's big match in Lyon will smash all UK TV audience records for a women's World Cup match as England's Lionesses take on the USA in the World Cup semi-final. The inspiration this tournament is bringing to millions of girls - not least my own 11 year old - is beautiful to behold. We are staring at another huge opportunity to harness grassroots football, starting with the girls's game, if the largesse of the Premier League clubs and FA can match the unbridled enthusiasm we are witnessing. I for one - wearing my Shadow Sports Secretary scarf - will continue to lobby for real investment in state-of-the-art pitches across the land.

To that end I was delighted to see a great new facility opened this week at Ferndale Primary in Great Barr in my West Bromwich East constituency. In partnership with the Albion Foundation (West Bromwich Albion FC) Ferndale will be delivering Premier League Primary Stars, disability and girls’ football sessions.

WBA women FC's Anna Wilcox and Women's Head Coach Louis Sowe were there to cut the ribbon. What a great way to celebrate National Sport Week and the England women’s team fantastic run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Bring on Tuesday.



Keep watching


I am glad that Jeremy Hunt has finally acknowledged that protecting free TV licences for the over 75s was a Tory manifesto promise and that breaking it would be grave breach of trust. I have written to him asking him to confirm that the Government will pay for it - not the BBC.

Unless the government acts swiftly to honour their promise, 3.7 million older people will be lonelier and poorer than before. When 4 in 10 older people say the TV is their main source of company, taking away these free TV licences would be a terrible act of cruelty.



Words, boxes and buses

BBC News presenter Simon McCoy's put-down of Boris Johnson's nonsense about makes buses from cardboard boxes - "I wonder what he writes on the side"  - was a highlight of the week. But the conspiracy theorists have a good point. Not only does Johnson appear to have deliberately orchestrated a "Look, squirrel" moment, but he simultaneously altered the top google search for "Boris Johnson" and "bus". We must never let it be forgotten what Johnson actually writes on the side of buses...



Nick no longer agrees with Nick

Nick Clegg was on the airwaves this week extolling how Facebook's own investigation had found no evidence of significant Russian interference in the EU referendum. Then he tried to raise alarms over attempts to regulate the digital market saying "tech fear" could provoke "tech phobia". His answer to the problem of live-streaming terrorist massacres and enabling suicides was "an oversight committee".

That’s spin and it attempts to diminish the failure of purposeful leadership of Facebook and blames those who have raised concerns about cover up, corporate cover up and market failure.

Underlying all the harms, hate and fake news on social media platforms is one central, fundamental problem: that the digital market is distorted, dominated by a small number of data monopolies.

By the way, this is the same Nick Clegg who in June 2018 was unveiled as a founder-member of the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity, with the stated aim of giving "countries under attack a toolkit with which they can help protect themselves." I guess that "toolkit" is what the man who, four months later, became Facebook's Head of Global Affairs (salary circa £1m) now calls an oversight committee.



Make them pay

I'm pleased Health Secretary Matt Hancock has finally recognised the over-riding case for NHS gambling addiction clinics. This is another crucial win for Labour's gambling policy. Now he must adopt Labour's mandatory levy on betting companies to make them pay for the harm they cause.


Death by opoids

According to the United Nations the chance of a 15-year-old boy dying by the age of 50 is now higher in America than in Bangladesh. Prescription drugs are saving lives in Africa but ending them in the United States, according to this piece from The Economist.


Food for thought

Last weekend I helped out at the food bank collection point at Tesco in West Bromwich East. Thanks to the wonderful volunteers and the good hearts of locals, 624.3kg in food stuffs was raised. Some goes to the non-working poor, and some goes to the working poor. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, in the mid-1990s 37% of those in poverty lived in a working household. Today 58% of the 8 million people in poverty live in a working household. Ponder those figures for a moment.