The Kremlin Gold Special

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

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As you are probably aware, I have long been suspicious of Russian attempts to influence our democratic processes.  But today's blistering revelations in The Observer and Sunday Times take my fears to a new level.

Both papers are alleging that Arron Banks, who gave £12 MILLION of services to the Brexit campaign, was offered a business deal involving six Russian goldmines in clandestine meetings before the EU referendum. We are told the deal could be worth billions to Banks, Nigel Farage's chum.

I thought the idea of Kremlin gold being used to destabilise our democracy became redundant at the end of the Cold War or was the stuff of political thrillers.

If it's true that Mr Banks's previous account of events is inaccurate, his alleged links to Russian financiers and mine owners warrant further scrutiny.

I should say at this point Mr Banks categorically denies that the Russians sort to influence his referendum campaign and has dismissed today's reports as a "political witch-hunt". On Tuesday he gets the chance to have his say before the DCMS Select Committee. It should make for a very interesting session.

 


Taking a stand

 

I am really proud of Labour's new policy of supporting safe standing at Premiership and Championship football matches.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and my DCMS team took this decision after a comprehensive consultation with clubs, safety experts, supporters' trusts and councils - and listened to the views of more than 100,000 fans who signed a petition.

We now expect the government to take the case for safe standing seriously, rather than dismissing it as the pursuit of a "vocal minority".

As Rosena said: "Clubs, fans and local authorities know their stadium far better than anybody in Whitehall - the decision should rest with them." 

Hours after we unveiled our new policy, the Premier League also backed our call for "local choice" on safe standing. Look out for a Government U-turn - and yet another Labour policy turned into law.

 


To Russia with fun


On the subject of football, England's Young Lions fly out to the World Cup in Russia on Tuesday. What a joy it is to see supporters and the media, for once, not talking up the team's chances to preposterous levels.
I really hope Gareth Southgate's team show us flair and passion. And because they don't have a World Cup song, I'd like to suggest a tune to get them in the mood.
Click on the pic to hear the track.


Sundowner 

 

This week saw the first anniversary of the day when The Sun newspaper found out it was no longer relevant. Many happy returns!

  

 


Offline

 

Access to online computers in libraries is an absolute necessity for many of the poorest.

Yet shocking new data - unearthed by my colleague Kevin Brennan - reveals that there are 3000 FEWER terminals with internet access in England's libraries since 2010.

Proof - if more we needed - that the Tories will decimate our country's digital potential given half a chance.

And yet again that those most vulnerable and most in need are the victims of their cruel austerity.

 


Sporting allies

 

Having spent hours in the gym, and walked, cycled, boxed and dieted my way to a six stone weight loss, I know how sport and exercise can change your life for the better - and make you happier.

So I was delighted to be asked to give a speech to celebrate the work of the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

Think about this. Every volunteer - every coach, minibus driver, steward or supervisor - creates the capacity for 8 people to take part in sport, with all the health, fitness and wellbeing benefits that brings to lives and communities.

In this Volunteers’ Week, I want to pay tribute to everyone - young and old - who help other people to take part in sport and exercise. Thank you!


Righting wrongs with Jeremy


It was great to see Jeremy Corbyn and MPs from across the political divide at an event I hosted in parliament for supporters of the campaign to honour our nuclear test veterans with a medal.

As Jeremy said: "The UK government put these men in harm’s way by asking them to take part in nuclear tests with little to nothing by way of protection. The veterans have had to live and die with the repercussions ever since.

 “A medal is the first and least thing we can do to right the wrongs these veterans and families have endured." 

Please join Jeremy and I in signing the petition here.

 


Stage Access


‘Older, white people are in the majority, even when the cast is majority Black or multi-racial.’ That's the view of theatre producer Tobi Kyeremateng who is on a mission to open up theatre access by offering black people - especially the young - free tickets. 

Her initiative The Black Ticket Project, launched last year in London with poet Damilola Odelola, is now going national. The project demonstrates how diversity in the arts needs action, not just talk.

 


Tweet of the Week


A special award has go to Jeremy Vine for making me laugh a lot. Sorry about stealing your song, Jeremy!


 


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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