Weekly Update 3

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Every God, Angel and Saint

Your weekly update from Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party 
I don't want to die. 

A cheery hello to you. I guess being 50 you think about death more often. And this week has been mainly spent coughing and spluttering under a duvet in the Black Country. Whilst fighting the fever, my thoughts on mortality have been stimulated by Yuval Noah Harari's excellent book, "Homo Deus", Dr Harari outlines a possible optimistic future for us all, suggesting that in the next century humans will aim for immortality.

It seems a long way off from the sofa I've been recovering on this week - and the book has plenty of caveats - but Harari gets you thinking. If you're trying to prepare for the 21st century, this is the publication for you
"For generation after generation, humans have prayed to every God, angel and saint and have invented countless tools, institutions and social systems - but they continued to die in their millions from starvation, epidemics and violence. Many thinkers and prophets concluded that famine, plague and war must be an integral part of God's cosmic plan or of our imperfect nature, and nothing short of the end of time would free us up from them.

Yet at the dawn of the third millennium, humanity wakes up to an amazing realisation....[that] in the last few decades we have managed to rein in famine, plague and war."

Inspiring stuff.

We won't accept a bad deal for Britain

This email is already much longer than the Bill the government published this week to take us out of the European Union – a small Bill with big consequences. 

We will be supporting the Bill. I'm a remainer in a party of remainers but we're also democrats. We accept and respect the result of the referendum. But we won't accept a bad deal for Britain. So we will be putting down amendments to ensure that we maintain access to Europe's markets, workers' rights and environmental protection measures, and to make sure that the vote at the end of the Article 50 process is a meaningful one. 

I know this is a tough decision for many of our members to accept but ask yourself this: if the Scottish referendum had gone the other way but required a parliamentary vote to enact it and Labour blocked it, what would the consequences be? Not great. This is a long way of saying, we have to respect the decision of people in the referendum.  

It comes down to talking to people

Our volunteers and activists are out every day at the moment, supporting our by-election candidates Gillian Troughton in Copeland and Gareth Snell in Stoke as well as our mayoral and county council candidates. Physically, it's tough. They're out there in all weathers, knocking on doors and talking to voters, putting our case across. But that's what Labour people do. 

I've been involved in Labour party campaigns since I was seven, and every single general election since. I've been thinking recently about how the ways we campaign have changed over those 40 or so years. About how advances in techniques and technology have helped improve our efficiency and targeting, and how, as a party, we have invested heavily in training for our organisers and new technology. 

But mostly - I've been thinking about how it still comes down to boots on the ground. How it comes down to talking to people. 

Our membership has grown significantly since 2015. One of the challenges we face with such an expanded membership is ensuring every single member feels able to get involved in a way that makes sense for them. We know not every member will be able to - or want to - start going out knocking on doors and talking to voters. But they still need to feel involved, and valued, and they need to have opportunities to take action to make a difference. 

We've been doing a lot of work on this area and will be announcing some new initiatives very soon. If you have any ideas or thoughts, let me know.

If you want to volunteer to help in Copeland, you can contact the Campaign office on 
07710 365 075, or email copeland@labour.org.uk

And if you'd like to lend a hand in Stoke, call 0773 187 9973 or email catherine_powell@labour.org.uk

The Future of Work

Tomorrow I'll be talking to the Cooperative Party Economy Conference. The theme is  "In Our Interests - Building An Economy For All'' 

I'll be speaking about Labour's Future of Work Commission, and about some of the issues that have come up during our evidence sessions. I'm sure you know about my interest in how technological advances affect what we do and the way we work. I like to be positive about the future but some of the papers presented at our last session made staying optimistic a pretty tough task.

I'll be writing an in-depth blog about that last session when I get the chance.  It is worth remembering the positivity of the first session however. 

To which I'd add these encouraging remarks 
from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella talks about preserving human jobs, and putting the capabilities of AI in the hands of every organisation. 

Access to the arts

I'm looking forward to a number of visits next week. On Thursday I'll be in Corby to meet with members of Labour's Creative Councillors Taskforce. I'll be seeing in person some of the innovative strategies Labour councillors are using to safeguard access to the Arts in the face of the most brutal cuts ever made to local government budgets. 

And then on Friday, I'll be visiting Salford's thriving Media City production hub. Along with my colleague Lucy Powell MP, who represents Manchester Central,  I'll be visiting the ITV Newsroom and talking to Lucy West, their Head of News. If I can swing it, I'll also try to take a look at the set of Coronation Street, this country's greatest ever soap. 

I've mentioned the importance of diversity in broadcasting before - how much it matters that the people both on camera and off represent the people of this country. Regional production is a key part of encouraging that diversity. So I'm thrilled to have the chance to see that in action. And to tread the hallowed cobbles of Weatherfield, of course...

In other news...

"Tell me Tom, in which country do you think the Islamic dirty bomb will be deployed first, England or the US?"  So said the chief dinner guest, a globally renowned inventor and superstar speaker. 

This was a decade ago and the speaker had hitherto been somewhat of a hero to me. I spent the evening mesmerised by his every word, not just because he was very charismatic and told great tales but also because, to my utter consternation, he outlined a very detailed plan to trek out of LA and into the hills in the event of the apocalypse leading to a breakdown of American civilisation. He claimed to have built himself a bunker with all mod cons and five years worth of provisions. 

I've never known if he was winding me up. But if he was joking, other people were deadly serious - laying out hefty amounts to prepare for the end of the world.

Of course, all that money's wasted now President Trump has made it clear he's going to restore order to the world stage... #alternativefacts

In other (fake) news

Interested to see Channel Four have announced they'll be running a series of programmes - documentaries, investigations and panel shows - on fake news.

Fake News - from lies peddled by unscrupulous politicians seeking power, to spurious stories on social media - could have affected elections across the globe last year. Labour is holding an inquiry to look at the changing way news is consumed and shared online, and at the practical, political and ethical issues raised by fake news.

You can make your contribution to the inquiry here

Bleakly amusing (actual) news story of the week

..has to be this analysis by Buzzfeed which suggests that outlets peddling completely fake news struggle to find a home in the UK, because our traditional news outlets do such a good job of stretching the truth to the absolute limits all by themselves.

On second thoughts, maybe that's no news to anyone...

And finally

- for anyone else out there suffering with a January bug, here's a playlist I made whilst poorly -  some easy listening for under your duvet.
Each week, I send interested friends and colleagues a regular update of not only my work as Labour deputy leader and policy lead for 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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