Football's coming home (best remix ever)

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

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What a few days it has been to be an England fan, so used to unfulfilled promise and the pain of penalty defeats.

I well remember Italia 90, a glorious summer as it is now. We would meet in the Golden Lion in Kidderminster for the matches, and then spread out to other pubs after each game.

And I was at Wembley for Euro 96, when we dreamed (and sang) football was coming home for the first time. Both tournaments ended in sapping, agonising penalty shoot-out defeats to the Germans.

I still find it hard to cope during these huge games. I couldn't bear to watch the finale of the Columbia game and even yesterday as we were coasting 2-0 up against Sweden, I started panicking about extra time and penalties.

Yet instead of the usual siege mentality of the squad and the accompanying nervous disposition,  Gareth Southgate's Young Lions have risen above all that with their wonderful zest of youth, passion and camaraderie. 

They have conducted themselves with real style on and off the pitch, gone out of their way to pose for selfies with fans, pored over videos of celebrating supporters back home, and given new life to the greatest ever football song.

Now try these words from Southgate:

"We have a chance to affect something bigger than ourselves. We’re a team with our diversity and youth that represents modern England and in England we’ve spent a bit of time being lost as to what our modern identity is and I think as a team we represent that modern identity and hopefully people can connect with us."

What an astonishing sentiment that it is to hear from a national football manager. Could it be true that this team is helping us redefine our cultural and national identity? I really hope so. 

Whatever happens on Wednesday evening and beyond, football IS coming home to a new young, proud and inspired generation. For that alone, we shall be cheering to the rafters.


(And let's savour every moment...) 


A lesson from history


There have been many fine words written about our NHS this week. But my favourite moment was a photograph of nurses at Sandwell Hospital in my West Brom East constituency, who recreated an image of their predecessors from the 1920s at what was then Hallam Hospital.

 


A little search back in history reveals that the site - now the home of Sandwell NHS Trust - had started as a Workhouse Infirmary, set up under the Poor Law regime. That simple fact alone tells us what an amazing journey our health system has been through thanks to Nye Bevan, Clem Attlee and the Labour Government which founded the NHS in 1947, free for all, rich or poor.

But while we all now have wonderful stories about what the NHS has done for us and our families, it’s heartbreaking to see its hardworking staff fighting to deliver a world class health service whilst feeling the strain of Tory cuts. 

At a fundraiser with the Wolverhampton Labour Party on Friday, I reiterated how important it is that we get a Labour government elected at the earliest opportunity, so that we can give our NHS the funding and support it desperately needs and which the Tories - who we should never forget opposed its introduction - will never offer.


Making law for Seni

 

Making legislation in opposition takes skill, tact, charm and organisation. I'm very proud of my colleague and friend Steve Reed for doing just that on Friday with the passing of Seni's Law.

This bill will ensure people with mental health are treated with compassion and dignity while in police custody. Brilliant work, Steve.


Raising the roof

I had a phenomenal response this week to a Facebook post about the raising of the pension age for women. Millions of women born in the 1950s have had their state pension age raised from 60 to 66 by the Tories - at short notice and without any proper notification.

On Wednesday campaigners came together beneath the statue of suffragette Millicent Fawcett to protest against the loss of their financial independence.

Without the chance to plan for their retirement, millions of women like them, who have worked hard and paid into the country's pension pot, are now facing hardship in their retirement.

This is a massive issue for those affected and I pledged that Labour in government will address this gross injustice.


Bitter sweet ruling

 

The advertising watchdog's decision to hand down fines to Cadbury, Chewits and Squashies over the targeting of online ads at children is great news.

There's no excuse for trying to exploit loopholes in the new law and I warmly welcome the ASA's rigorous crackdown on offenders.

Banning online ads aimed at children is only one piece of the armoury we need in the battle against childhood obesity.

But these rulings send a clear message to sweet manufacturers that our children's health is more important than their profits - and we won't tolerate their abuses any longer.


Clanging the drum

 


The passing of Peter Firmin on the eve of this year's Children's Media Foundation conference was a timely reminder of the power of brilliant television in our lives.

Peter, who died aged 89, was co-creator of my all-time favourite children's programme The Clangers - and other greats including Basil Brush and Bagpuss. He took millions and millions of children on magical journeys, filled with glorious laughter and exquisitely joyful characters.

In a message to the CMF conference, I made clear that I am deeply troubled by the current negative trend in spend on children's programming. Labour will fight to ensure original, quality content for children - epitomised by the work of Peter Firmin - is at the heart of what public sector broadcasters deliver,


Schools and scandals

 

Music lessons cancelled, the annual school play abandoned, animals for special needs children taken away, 300 holes in the roof letting in water, a £5m bill for repairs, and a £350,000 budget deficit this year alone.

This is one devastating testimony of a fine state school in crisis - thanks to Tory austerity. There are many more similar stories to follow. Utterly shameful.


Misty eyes and gorillas

 

Mountain gorillas are a critically-endangered species with just 200 left in the DRC's Virunga National Park. Yet China is now seeking to use its massive trade leverage with the DRC to export a dozen gorillas to its zoos.

Capturing live great apes doesn't just deny them their freedom, but also disrupts social groups and often sees other family members killed during the operation.

It would be a tragedy if man's callousness to another species, with whom we share this planet, resulted in these gentle, beautiful creatures being lost for ever.


His aim is true

 

Elvis Costello is a master wordsmith. And when it came to revealing on Friday that he had been treated for cancer, he didn't miss the opportunity to offer some sage, powerful words.

He wrote: "Gentleman, do talk to you friends - you'll find you are not alone - seek your doctor's advice if you are in doubt or when it is timely and act as swiftly as you may in these matters. It may save your life. Believe me, it is better than playing roulette."

Great advice from a great man.


Running with Mickey

 

Please support my good friend Mickey Conroy who is doing the British 10k next weekend to support the Nia project which delivers cutting edge services to end violence against women and children. A great cause.

You can support Mickey's run here.