Stopping the Boris Johnson Brexit

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Stopping the Boris Johnson Brexit


Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister is bad news for Britain. It signals our move into a new and dark populist politics, plundered from the Trump playbook, where evidence and the truth are sacrificed on the altar of expediency. Empty rhetoric is replacing reality and honesty, and Boris Johnson promises what he cannot deliver.

Beneath the guff and bluster the new Prime Minister only cares about one thing: achieving a hard or disastrous no-deal Brexit. Either would be terrible and destroy jobs and industry across this country. Given the right wing Brexit extremists Johnson has appointed to his cabinet and his lack of majority in parliament, I predict this Government imploding sooner rather than later. 

Now, therefore, seems a good time to remind ourselves of how a Labour party in opposition made a series of promises to the electorate, won the trust of the country and then held true to its word.

In 1997 Labour invented what became known as the pledge card - a simple business card memo of key Labour policies. It was used to maximum effect before and during the 1997 General Election.

With its commitments to slashing NHS waiting lists, cutting school class sizes, and no rise in income tax, the pledge card became the key guide to those out on the doorsteps, and to the voters who wanted to be able to hold a Labour government to its promises. Perhaps, most significantly, it was honoured by Labour in power, and part of the reason why we went on to govern for 13 years.

Today, as we face the imminent prospect of an early election Labour must rekindle that spirit with an early clear statement of our core principles on the biggest issues this country has faced since World War Two. The pledge card I envisage will have just two simple statements:

Pledge 1: REMAIN: We promise to fight to Remain within the EU with a People’s Vote.
Pledge 2: TRANSFORM: We promise to transform Britain with investment and energy and to address the underlying reasons that people voted to leave: deprivation, inequality and lack of opportunity.

As Jonathan Freedland argues so persuasively in The Guardian today, Johnson is uniting Leave, Labour must unite Remain. 
The Boris Johnson Tory Brexit we are hurtling towards will do irrevocable damage to our country.

The nation needs to know that Labour stands completely, unequivocally against it and will do everything in our power to stop . Johnson thinks he can win an election on Brexit alone. But he can’t. With a clear pledge to Remain and Transform Labour can and will kick the Tories out once and for all.

It’s more important than ever that Labour seizes the moment and campaigns unequivocally and proudly for Remain. It’s who we are. If you haven't already signed the Labour Remain petition you can do so here.



Stand against Galloway's hate


What is certain is that we need to prepare for an early General Election, and George Galloway has announced that he’s intending to stand against me in West Bromwich East.

Where Labour stands for solidarity, equality and hope, Galloway has sown division, hatred and distrust. If you want to know what Galloway really stands for read this Ofcom ruling against RT (formerly Russia Today), the Kremlin-funded propaganda vehicle. Ofcom has fined RT £200,000 for a series of impartiality breaches - included two Sputnik programmes hosted by Galloway - which have been used to spread lies about the Salisbury poisonings and the Syrian conflict.

The irony is that while Galloway claims to support Brexit, there isn't a patriotic bone in his body. Galloway seeks to silence me, but I won’t be cowed. But I can't do it alone. So I would be truly grateful if you could help fund my campaign and say no to the politics of hate.



Adventures 4 Health pt 2

We did it! Last Saturday fter 3 1/2 hours along nine miles of waterways, my team and I completed Challenge 2 of my #Adventures4Health, canoeing along Black Country canals into the heart of Birmingham.

This was a very different, but still gruelling, experience to climbing Snowdon. But there was still a great sense of achievement when we finally arrived to a warm welcome at Brindleyplace, the iconic heart of the city's waterways, named after the 18th century canal engineer James Brindley.

It's quite humbling to enjoy the tranquility of the canals which were once major industrial thoroughfares. The Canal and River Trust (West Midlands), who nowadays care for the waterways were splendid hosts for the challenge during a year in which they are celebrating the 250th anniversary of the canal network reaching Birmingham centre. 

As well as promoting healthy outdoor activities, and raising money for charity, we were also supporting British Canoeing's Clear Water Clear Access campaign for cleaner, healthier waters and greater recognition of the right to access our country's amazing "blue" spaces.

Nine miles paddling, often buffeted by cross winds, is no stroll in the park, and I couldn't have even dreamed of attempting this two years ago - let alone actually finishing it - when I was 100lbs heavier. I hope I can show other people who are worried about their weight, or just want to get healthier and more active, how accessible outdoor activities can be.

Special thanks to British Canoeing, the Outdoor Industry Association, and the Canal and River Trust for all their support. Next stop...swimming the Serpentine and a 50km cycle ride. If you would like to support my four charities, you can do so here.


Take down Theresa

I had the privilege of introducing Lenny Henry at the Labour creative industries event at Tileyard in London. Sir Lenny, a vocal campaigner for diversity in the arts, was brandishing a letter he had recently received from outgoing PM Theresa May. Mrs May had cast doubts on the legality of proposals to offer tax relief to film and TV makers who promote diversity in front of and behind the camera, and whether the talent really exists in the pipeline. Watch Lenny's take-down here. The great man speaks much sense.


Getting shirty


Less than a year ago, we were told by the gambling industry that they are committed to reducing the amount of advertising in football. We were told that we are facing a ‘watershed moment’ in which they would strive to provide an ever safer gambling environment.

These are their words, not mine. But it is impossible to take these words in good faith when we are actually seeing an increase in gambling advertising around matches. This report details how half the Premier League and 17 out of 24 Championship clubs will have a betting sponsor for the forthcoming season, a new record.

The time for warm words is over. Either the industry is going to act in good faith, or we will need stricter regulation of gambling advertising – starting with a ban on football shirt sponsorship.


Reasons to be less than cheerful


1. When you turn 100 years old you get a letter from The Queen. But from next year over 11,000 centenarians will also get letters demanding payment for a TV licence. Analysis by my shadow DCMS also shows a similar outrage awaits 109,000 over 95s and 469,000 over 90s. 

2. The BBC has announced that it will be recruiting a door-knocking team of to assist TV licence form filling and applications for pensions credit. Whether the knock comes from a BBC "outreach" worker or a government enforcement official, the impact will be the same.

3. Economists predict axing the free licence could cost the government an extra £1.6bn in welfare payments - double the amount the BBC is saving - because more people are going to start claiming benefits. They call it an "unintended consequence". I call it the price you pay for delegating welfare policy to TV executives, and breaking your promise to the most in need.


Jewels in the crown

Once again Labour has led the way on policy and the government has followed suit, heeding our call for women’s sports and the Paralympics to be added to the list of crown jewel sporting events to be broadcast free to air.

These events attract TV audiences in their millions and showcase the very best of British sporting talent. They should be awarded the status, protection, and recognition they deserve.

Next, it’s time for a full review of the events listed and for Government to put an end to cutting grassroots sports facilities.


Lack of fibre

Just 4% of the UK has access to full fibre. Yet outgoing DCMS Secretary Jeremy Wright's review of Huawei's involvement in 5G is a muddle, leaving our digital infrastructure hostage to transatlantic geopolitics. As I told the House of Commons, we need a trustworthy and modern 5G network. I fear that, despite all his bluster, under Boris Johnson as PM we'll get neither. While welcoming Nicky Morgan into the DCMS role - the fourth in my time as Shadow - I urge her to get a grip.


The busk goes on

Kensington and Chelsea council have gone all "bah humbug" by banning buskers from certain areas. Street musicians and performers always help to bring joy and put a smile on people's faces. So it's disappointing to see this heavy-handed approach to street entertainers.

The Musician's Union (MU) has long had a successful code of conduct that ensures that any noise nuisance is dealt with. As the MU says it's 'surprising' the council couldn't make it work in their borough. It's not a problem for the Labour neighbours Hammersmith and Fulham. 

Despite the clampdown, buskers have vowed to continue. With the closure of music venues, the street is often the place where increasing numbers of performers feel they can earn a living from their talents. 



People and the planet

seminal report into the the UK's food and farming system reveals the terrible damage to our health and environment of the relentless production of cheap unhealthy food. The result is a nation growing sicker on processed gunk, a tide of rising obesity, soaring food poverty and impoverished high streets, and a farming industry contributing 10 per cent of our climate-heating gases.

As the RSA concludes: “Our own health and the health of the land are inextricably the last 70 years, this relationship has been broken."

Farmers I talk to want to move to more sustainable farming methods that assist carbon capture and puts soil regeneration at the heart of what they do, but they need long term support from government to do this.

In addition, let’s plant more trees, examine improve mixed land use including opening up woodlands to grazing animals and change our food production. More real food not processed food.

* Ancient woodlands now cover just 2% of our land. Putting brown bears and grey wolves back in those habitats for the first time in over 1000 years is a stimulating rewilding initiative for both the wildlife and our precious woods. Read about it here.


End of the carnival of animals


The Wild Animals in Circuses bill passed its final reading in the Lords this week. It means that by January 2020 creatures such as lions, tigers and zebras will no longer be used to perform for audiences. Being cramped in the back of a lorry for hours on the road is no life for an animal. Or being stuck in a temporary pen. It has taken more than a decade for these welfare reforms to become reality. But what was once an acceptable form of entertainment will now become a thing of the past. And this change in attitudes can only be welcome. For the sake of the animals.


Turning off the ticket tap

Victory at last for music fans. Google has finally taken action and suspended ticket resale site Viagogo from its rankings as an advertiser. It follows a tireless campaign by organisations including UK Music and the FanFair Alliance, and MPs. Google is the first place fans visit when searching for tickets. For too long festival and gig-goers have ended up paying over the oddsfor because of Viagogo's vastly inflated prices. 


Ride the rails kids

The cost of travelling to university open days, similarly to music and drama college auditions, can be too high a price for disadvantaged families. This initiative from West Midlands Railway and Worcester University to provide free travel to the University of Worcester for this autumn's open day is excellent. I hope many other rail and coach firms hear the message and promote access for all.


Of rats and races

Here's another clip from The Specials' homecoming gig at Coventry Cathedral. I have been thinking how hard it is to describe how important the band and their music have been for me over the last 40 years. I am not sure if they know the magnitude of their cultural and political impact on my generation. This one is for all those with the t-shirt and the college scarf!