The sacrifice we shall never forget

(Dartmouth Park Remembrance Service this morning) 

It is both a privilege and a duty, shared by all of us, to honour the sacrifice of all those who served in The Great War which ended on November 11th 1918. 

Today, as we mark the centenary of the end of what was then the greatest military conflict the world had ever seen, I was honoured to lay a wreath at the war memorial in West Bromwich in Dartmouth Park.

Earlier this week I was asked to speak on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the House of Commons debate to mark Armistice Day. I used the occasion to thank those organisations like the Royal British Legion who have done so much to recognise the sacrifice and the contribution of the First World War generation.

The Legion was formed just after the war. The poppy, of Flanders fields, is their emblem.

But they do not just commemorate. They also run impressive modern campaigns relevant to today’s veterans too, providing them with financial and emotional support.

What is most remarkable about them is not just the inspiring work they do in the days and weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday. It’s the work they do all year round. Remembrance should be something we do all year round.

My call to speak in the House came after an address from the Bishop at Lambeth, Rt Revd Tim Thornton, who said: 

"War starts in the hearts and minds and souls of men and women like us but peace too starts in the hearts and minds and souls of men and women like us."

Taking up the Bishop's theme, I responded by saying: " Let us not just speak of peace but let each and every one of us in this House be the peace makers."

To be part of these centenary commemorations, honouring the Fallen from our communities and all across the world, has been the most humbling experience.

We owe so much to all those who served, and all those who gave their lives, in the Great War. One hundred years later, they still have much to teach us. 

(You can watch a clip of my words to the House here, or the full speech here.)


Packing in Sugars


Sugar Awareness Week starts tomorrow and Wednesday marks World Diabetes Day, when I will be speaking at the Action on Sugar conference on the subject of food packaging and labelling. Every week new reports are coming through to prove the point that we have a public health crisis in this country with obesity and related illnesses like type 2 diabetes.

The latest from NHS Digital revealed that diabetes prescriptions alone are costing the NHS £1bn a year - up a massive £442m in 10 years. The answer isn't throwing more money at the problem. It's preventing people developing diabetes in the first place.

That's why I'm setting up an independent health commission into how a government can stop and reverse the rising tide of type 2 diabetes within five years.



Sweet inspiration

Dave Asprey is the cloud computing pioneer who stumbled across yak butter tea in Nepal - and turned it into bulletproof coffee.

He's been a huge inspiration during my journey to lose weight and reverse my type 2 diabetes. So it was a great pleasure to team up with Dave for his Bulletproof Radio podcast.

We discussed the £10bn cost to our NHS of treating type 2 diabetes; how by dismantling the global sugar economy we can make the world a better place; how I hit rock bottom after feeling hungry for 30 years; and how there is always an idiot politician who'll blame overweight people for being lazy.


In Sylvia's image

Sylvia Pankhurst's name is synonymous with the fight for votes for women. She was imprisoned and force-fed, and wrote the definitive history of the suffragette movement.

Yet she was expelled from the Women's Social and Political Union by her sister - endorsed by her mother - because of her determination to tackle poverty, her opposition to WW1 and and her commitment to keep campaigning for the vote during and after the war.

That's why her name does not appear on the memorial to the suffragettes in Westminster. It remains a glaring omission to this day.

Sylvia battled for socialist causes both domestic and international. She was committed to peace and fought against racism, fascism and imperialism. She worked with trade unions, fighting for the impoverished working class in the East End of London, while campaigning for votes, equal pay and childcare for women.

She is a hero of the Labour movement and it is long, long overdue that we recognised her as such. Today the Statue for Sylvia campaign needs another £50,000 to finish the casting, to raise her memorial and pay for ongoing insurance and maintenance.

This is not a corporate-funded campaign. This campaign is funded by individual donations and trade union branches. Sylvia's statue will be the people's statue. Please help in any small way you can to salute Sylvia's message of peace and equality.  Please donate here.


Keeping up with the kids

(Photo: Express and Star)

I put my jogging shoes on on Thursday - but still couldn't keep up with the children I joined in the playground at Hargate Primary School in West Bromwich running The Daily Mile.

This brilliant initiative has now grown to take in 4,500 primary and nursery schools across the UK. It tackles the crisis around childhood obesity and inactivity which has repercussions for children later in their lives, and takes a huge toll on our NHS.

I was absolutely delighted to take part and would encourage other schools to sign up as well. Nothing is more important than the health of our children. Hope you enjoy our video!


All wrapped up

The folding of the T-shirt in this viral video gave me a headache.

It really needed to be in slow motion. So I slowed it down and watched it 100 times, frame by frame. And made my own video...

...and that got nearly 100,000 views on Twitter - and the thumbs up from Fantastic Negrito, whose name is on the T-shirt. To the hundreds of people who passed comment, I promise to iron it next time!


Age of inequality

On Tuesday the state pension age for women was raised to 65, the same as men. Equality should be good. But it can't be when women's pension savings (average £35k) are a fraction of those of men (£179k) at the age of 65.

The Coalition's brutal shunting of the retirement age in 2011, without any proper notification, has left millions of millions of women born in the 50s facing a six-year wait for their state entitlement. It was a life-changer that most knew nothing about, and had no time to prepare for.

Many - unable to find new work to fill the gap - face poverty, despair, even homelessness. Labour in government will tackle this most unjust and cruel Tory attack on millions of women who deserve so much better.


The spike of journalism

My opposite number Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, MEDIA and Sport, spoke to the Society of Editors conference last week and declared that quality British journalism is "not sufficiently rewarded".

Then, in the next breath, he admitted he doesn't subscribe to any UK newspapers or magazines. It would really help if he put a little bit of his money where his mouth is.



Ibsen's choice

Paul Dacre defended his "Enemies of the People" front page by claiming it was a reference to a play by Henrik Ibsen.

Dacre's clearly well read. No doubt he knows that Ibsen also wrote: "Everything I touch seems destined to turn into something mean and farcical."




RIP Tara, the girl who seized the internet


This powerful, yet deeply distressing, piece in the New York Times by Molly Crabapple reminds us how women all over the world strive, and suffer, for the basic freedoms others can take for granted. RIP Tara Fares.


Priced out of music

Access to music lessons is dying out for poorer families, according to a report from the Musicians' Union. Their findings reveal that children from low-income families are half as likely to learn an instrument as those from affluent ones. This follows on from research covered in my column last month about the threat to music lessons in schools.

Composer David Arnold who has scored five James Bond films grew up in a working-class household. He says it's unlikely he'd have embarked on his career without free music tuition at his state school. To deny people who can't afford the chance of a music education is 'criminal' he says and adds 'The only musicians…we are going to hear are rich ones.'


Creative thinking



Aardman, the animation studio behind Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph, has always been a beacon of UK creative genius. Now founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton are looking to the day when they retire their mighty pencils.

They have decided to hand over 75% of the business to their staff, set up a workers' council and use the power of employee ownership to guarantee the company's independence going forward.

Creative and brilliant as ever. Like Shaun the Sheep, they never miss a trick or ever lose a beat!





O brother, where art thou?


To be fair to Jo Johnson, like Tracey Crouch last week, he made a principled resignation. He has quit because the EU negotiations are failing badly - unlike others who have quit solely for their personal ambition. I admire him for it.


Boy protege


This is a very funny and thought provoking book by fellow Kidderminster raised child, James O'Brien. May the spirit of the Horsefair remain in him.