Proudly British. Proudly European

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Proudly British. Proudly European


Today we are staring down the barrel of a Boris Johnson premiership. In a little over four weeks away, this most self-serving of politicians will likely be handed the keys to the greatest office in the land. With him comes the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit, heaping national humiliation on our country, and a catastrophic impact on jobs and the economy, as we turn our back on our closest and most important allies and friends.

That is why these last few days I have been making the case for Labour to come out as an explicitly pro-Remain, pro-reform party. As I told Robert Peston on Thursday, we will have the opportunity this coming week at Shadow Cabinet to take the historic decision to campaign to remain in the EU.

In my speech to the Centre for European Reform on Monday,  I said that "our members are Remain, our values are Remain, our hearts are Remain. We need our Labour party to be true to who we are".

I argued that the core values of the EU - Internationalism, Solidarity, Freedom - are British, Labour values, and that our future doesn’t need to be Brexit. I concluded by saying: "If we leave, we become less than we were and less than our children have a right to expect."

You can read or watch the speech in full here. You may also have seen the "Proudly British Proudly European" video that I made to accompany it. It has been watched nearly one million times now across my social media channels, and I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received.

If you were one of the tens of thousands who liked, shared or engaged with the video, thank you for amplifying my voice and joining me in speaking out loud and proud in support of Europe. The patriotic choice for Britain is to Remain.



Together for Jo


Today, on what would have been her 45th birthday, my constituents, Liam Byrne and I have been celebrating the life of my friend Jo Cox at a series of #GreatGetTogether events.

It is a privilege to be together with so many amazing people as we remember the life of Jo and her enduring message from her maiden parliamentary speech that "we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us". Words that are even more powerful and relevant today than they were back in 2015.


Bring Nazanin back home

On Thursday I met Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, during his hunger strike at the Iranian Embassy. I wanted to show my personal support and that of the Labour Party. Richard and I discussed how his family is trapped in a terrifying geo-political game.

His courageous decision to go on hunger strike has raised awareness brilliantly. It has also upset officials at the embassy who are complaining that staff are finding it difficult to work.  But for Richard, Nazanin and their five-year-old daughter Gabriella, life is unbearable.

There is a simple solution. I am urging the Iranian govt, in a move which would also assist the de-escalation of military tension in the region, to release Nazanin as an act of humanity. Please, if you haven't already done so, sign this amnesty petition to help bring Nazanin back home.



The hunger shames

This pitiful image of a lost and starving polar bear, hundreds of miles from home, raiding rubbish dumps for scraps, is testament to the frightening loss of ocean habitats.

What it demonstrates is not just the plight of one animal, the demise of its natural environment, and the threat to its species and thousands of others, but the impact of giant corporations with protected interests charging the human race towards the end of existence.

This week a new study revealed that 13 environment correspondents have been killed over the last 10 years, and another 16 missing feared murdered, in the course of their investigations.

Reporting on green issues is now as deadly as covering drugs gangs. Only war reporting claims more victims. Thank you to all the journalists standing up to corporate and political powers who destroy the earth's natural resources to feed their profits. We are in the middle of a climate emergency and our planet needs you more than ever.


Cheer comes the summer

The UK Music Summer Party is always a great event. This year there was much cheer following the announcement of honours for former ceo Feargal Sharkey, founding chairman Andy Heath and UK Music director Jackie Alway. But the biggest celebration of all was over the fantastic success of the #LoveMusic campaign, when music creators and industry groups found their collective voice and defeated the tech monopolies to bring about the EU Copyright Directive.

The story of how UK Music, tiny minnows in the global economy, defeated a battalion of lobbyists, lawyers and spin doctors working for Google across Europe is told in this short video.  I thoroughly recommend you watch it. 


Turning the tables

In a speech to the Demos think-thank on Tuesday, I announced that Labour will introduce a new watchdog for the gambling industry, a Gambling Ombudsman dedicated to consumer protection, with powers to provide customers with legal safeguards and financial compensation when appropriate.

This will form one arm of a new tripartite structure: the Gambling Commission as regulator to oversee operators, the ombudsman to protect consumers, and a specialist NHS programme to oversee the commissioning of research, education and treatment. (The latter will become necessary when the government gets around to adopting Labour's policy of a mandatory industry levy of over £100 million to fund addiction treatment.) You can read my speech here.



Leeds is the way

Leeds College of Music has axed all audition fees for prospective students, and will reimburse travel expenses for applicants from lower-income households. Cutting audition fees was the headline recommendation of the Acting Up Commission I set up three years ago with colleagues Tracy Brabin and Gloria De Piero, and I couldn't be more delighted that Leeds College is showing the way. Access for all now!


Closing the gap

Inequality and a lack of diversity in sport is still an issue that needs tackling. That includes in the media where those covering games and matches are still largely male and from white middle-class backgrounds.

One initiative challenging this imbalance is Women of Sports Photography, launched by Sophia Rooke (pictured) from the University of Buckingham. The 20-year-old set up the group, backed by the Chartered Institute of Journalists, after her own research found a gap in representation available between male and female sports photographers in the UK and globally. A freelance basketball photographer, Sophia is calling on everyone, no matter what gender to, 'stand up and close the gap in sports photography'.

In another step forward, the Sports Journalists' Association has just awarded a new diversity scholarship to aspiring football writer Ahmed Shooble. The 22-year-old, whose family fled the civil war in Somalia, says he hopes to become 'a symbol of success' to other young people from minority backgrounds interested in the sports media.



A giant of a deal

Actors working for Netflix will now get a minimum weekly fee after Equity negotiated the first direct union agreement with the streaming service giant. The deal offers much-needed protection to performers who are heading to Netflix in increasing numbers. This is given theatre work often doesn't pay enough for them to earn a decent living wage.

With the insatiable demand for binge TV not looking like waning, the US company has set its sights on the UK where it's aiming to make more productions. This includes a rumoured potential 10-year deal to lease space at world-famous Pinewood Studios where the James Bond is filmed. Hopefully this means more work for the endless talent to be found on British shores. 



Old friends


A couple of very old friends have turned 40 in the last few days: the irresistible Boys Don't Cry from The Cure; and the epic, unforgettable Unknown Pleasures from Joy Division, celebrated here by 6 Music. Being 12 must have been a big year for me.