The break out of these chains and burn it down edition

Your weekly update from Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party. 

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It's been a week of milestones. My boy turned 13 and saw his team lose at Wembley. I gave my hero Billy Bragg an Ivor Novello award. And my life was enriched by Fantastic Negrito. 

Fantastic Negrito AKA Xavier Dphrepaulezz is a genius. A genius. I saw him and his devoted band perform at Dingwalls in Camden, North London. 

This wildly flamboyant 50-year-old polymath marched out of Oakland to hustle, perform, create and ultimately discover himself. 

I couldn't help thinking how night has turned to day for him. A lifetime of hustle - from foster care, to the gunshot murder of his 14-year-old brother, to "dressing smart" and masquerading as a student to practice on the instruments in the UC Berkley music room.

His stage presence turns from light to dark in an instant. A second after jokey banter, he unleashes a savage polemic to the mesmerised audience. There's something almost punk rock about it.  

Yet he's produced the sharpest stage fusion of R&B, Rock, Roots and Blues I've ever heard -  up there with the best gigs I've ever seen. And I think the best is yet to come from this troubadour.

* Fantastic Negrito's new album "Please don't be dead" is out on June 15th. Here's the first single from the album on YouTube


Honouring our nuclear veterans

This week I was pleased to be able to help the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association and the Daily Mirror in their campaign to honour the vets with a medal.

It's 60 years since Britain exploded its first hydrogen bomb, at the height of the Cold War. Thousands of servicemen were sent to Christmas Island to witness Operation Grapple Y. Their only protection was to turn away and cover their eyes.

Many have suffered crippling illnesses, as have their children and grandchildren. Recently I met John Ward, who was born in West Brom, who has had cancer. His wife has miscarried. His son has had part of a kidney removed. His daughter, Denise, has calcium growths on her bones, infertility, no teeth left and a pancreas functioning so badly she has to take pig enzymes before every meal.

Another terrible case we highlighted was that of RAF pilot Eric Denson, who was ordered to fly his plane through a mushroom cloud, receiving 65 years of radiation in one dose.

Eric, plagued by crippling illness, later took his own life, and his family have suffered numerous abnormalities.

Thanks to the brilliant journalism of Susie Boniface (aka Fleet Street Fox), we found out that secret documents show that Eric WAS experimented on by the State during those tests.

I've now challenged Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to come clean about radiation experiments carried out on nuclear test veterans, like RAF pilot Eric Denson.

It's obvious why Britain exploded nuclear bombs over the South Pacific not South London. And it's time the State admitted men like Eric were put in harm's way - and recognised their service with a medal.

Please sign the petition here, and watch my video below.


Rattle and hum


"It is very child's birthright to have access to music. Our children need to have the artistic vitamins that will help to build a better society."       

I doff my baton to Sir Simon Rattle for this great letter to The Times.     



Sugar sugar

Sugar can kill. Sugary drinks have been linked to diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and cancer.

Yet when the World Health Organisation set up a commission to look for solutions, it said not to bother with a sugar tax
Not because it's not needed - but because they just couldn't agree among themselves.

The WHO needs to realise that this kind of bureaucratic madness can kill, too.


Thanks for everything Billy   


In the three decades I have known Billy, he has convinced me of matters as diverse as House of Lords Reform to the very many qualities of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

He’s also rowed with me on social media, condemned me on the Today programme and told me off for wearing muddy wellies in his tent at the Leftfield in Glastonbury.

Perhaps politicians should never have political protest singers as their heroes. But Billy is mine. Not just for the politics, or the fact he founded Jail Guitar Doors, which since 2007 has donated over 450 instruments to 68 prisons - but because of the love in his songs.

His political lyrics challenge us. But his songs of love reach deep into our souls.

Billy Bragg is one of the finest songwriters of his generation and on Thursday I was honoured to present him with a Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the Ivor Novellos.

On behalf of his many fans I had just one thing to say to the worthy winner of the award: We Keep Faith.



Cash for column inches

A deeply troubling "cash-for-column-inches" story suggests the Evening Standard is selling off positive news coverage to corporate giants like Uber and Google.

That amounts to a corporate fake news factory on a grand scale. If even vaguely true, George Osborne’s position as a credible editor is under serious question.


Et enfin...


Arch Brexiter Nigel Lawson has applied for residency in France. I believe the French expression for this is: "Il est hypocrite."


Each week, I send interested friends and colleagues a regular update of not only my work as Labour deputy leader and policy lead for digital, culture, media and sport but also a personal and unique insight into what it is like to hold down one of the weirdest jobs in politics.

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