Wonderful Tessa

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


This week started in the saddest of ways, waking up on Sunday morning to hear that my dear friend Tessa Jowell had passed away. 

As I said in my statement she was a passionate believer in a fairer, more equal society, a damn fine Culture Secretary, a wonderful boss, and a truly courageous advocate in the fight against cancer. 

But what struck me most over the next few days was the astonishing outpouring of love and appreciation from across the political divide for Tessa and her public service, whether it be her work bringing the Olympics to London, as architect of Sure Start or just as someone who believed in helping the most vulnerable in society.

I think it reminded many of us in parliament about why we chose to enter politics and public service in the first place. 

Praise where praise is due

I was mindful of the cross-party tributes to Tessa when it came to Thursday's anouncement of the reduction of the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 a spin.

As you may well recall, I first began campaigning on the issue from the backbenches five years ago. And when I became Shadow DCMS Secretary in 2016, I knew I had a chance to help deliver a sizeable, and desperately needed, cut in the maximum stake.

But while I enjoyed ribbing Sports Minister Tracey Crouch for delivering on a Labour Party manifesto pledge, I was also aware of how hard Tracey had fought the ferocious lobbying of the multi-billion pound betting industry.

So when I made my statement welcoming the stake reduction, I was determined to praise Tracey from the opposition benches for sticking to her guns and doing the right thing. It's something we don't do enough of in the House of Commons.

The announcement is definitely a big step in the right direction. But cutting the stake is just one part of the puzzle.

We need a levy on tax-avoiding online gambling companies based in Gibraltar; research, education and treatment for gambling addiction; restrictions on betting advertising in football; and a new Gambling Act fit for the digital age.

Above all, the industry, which brings in a massive £13.8 billion a year, needs to start taking its obligations seriously to the 430,000 addicts, 2 million vulnerable players and 25,000 young people gambling every week.

To the leaders of that industry, which has got rich for far too long on the misery of others, I have a simple message: "Clean up your act or a future Labour government will do it for you."

You can watch my statement to the House of Commons by clicking the pic below.

Give music a chance

It should go without saying that every primary school child has access to learn a musical instrument. But, sadly, it doesn't.

Instead the huge pressures on school funding and the government's insistence on a binary curriculum are stifling the creativity of future generations. Worse still, they discriminate against children based on class, wealth and postcode.

That's why I'm fully behind the Every Child A Musician campaign launched by the winners of the BBC Young Musician competition.

Music should be a Universal Right for every child no matter their background.

Banking a good cause

It is 90 years since a charity was set up to pay off the national debt. Yet not a penny of the £475m in the bank has ever been spent.

Shadow charities minister Steve Reed said: “This money has sat idly for nearly a century, accumulating in value but contributing nothing to either the national debt or good causes. This money would help charities feed the hungry, house the homeless and care for the sick, as well as supporting other worthy causes.”

Steve's right. Surely it is time the government closed this moribund bank account and redistributed the money to good causes.


Book (Plug) of the Week

My friends Tom Hamilton and Ayesha Hazarika, who prepped Ed Miliband for five years, have just released Punch and Judy Politics - an insiders' guide to Prime Minister's Questions.

It's a brilliant take on the bear-pit cut and thrust of PMQs, part funny and part terrifying! It's published by Biteback and I thoroughly recommend it. 

Supermarket sneaks

Thirteen thousand Sainsbury's workers will lose up to £3000-a-year under new contracts being imposed by bosses.

Please sign and share this petition, calling on management to rethink this assault on the wages of loyal, long-standing staff.



Tipping the rich


Each year The Sunday Times Rich List "celebrates" the deep economic divides and burgeoning inequality that allows the UK's wealthiest 1,000 to grow ever fatter.

As my shadow ministerial colleague Liam Byrne says: "We're at a tipping point. If we don't take action now, the world's top 1% are on course to control two thirds of world wealth - in just 12 years time."

It's time we ended the risible low-wage, weak rights economy - where food banks are now the norm - that allows the wealth of the undeserving billionaires to balloon.


And finally...

One of these is a Neanderthal skeleton held under close security by the Natural History Museum, the other has lost 86lbs in weight!