Welcome to this month’s Lewisham East newsletter.
In this monthly round-up I will detail how I have campaigned and raised the urgent matters that are impacting you and your families. This will include the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, the Government’s plan to live with COVID, local air pollution, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the proposed boundary review changes and saving our local health services.
As ever, please contact me and my office (via email@example.com) if you are experiencing any problems, you need help with. I am always happy to consider raising issues to the Government or other bodies on my constituents’ behalf.
I would also like to offer my congratulations to all those who were successfully selected as councillor candidates in the following wards;
Black Heath – Juliet Campbell, Amanda de Ryk and Luke Warner.
Catford South – Natasha Burgess, James Royston and Eva Stamirowski.
Downham – Andre Bourne, Coral Howard and Oana Olaru.
Grove Park – Suzannah Clarke, Mark Jackson and Hilary Moore.
Hither Green – Yemisi Anifowose, Mark Ingleby and Kim Powell.
Lee Green – Ese Ersheriene, Eva Kestner and James Rathbone.
Rushey Green – Louise Krupski, John Muldoon and James-J Walsh.
My commiserations go out to those candidates that just fell short. My advice is to keep trying and to not be deterred by this set back.
Russia & Ukraine
Like many of you I felt heartfelt sadness witnessing Europe descend into war after such a long period of peace. Ukrainian people must be applauded for how they have defended their country. Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is an attack not only on the Ukrainian people, but also on sovereignty, democracy, freedom and the rule of law. I and the Labour party support providing military assistance as well as political, economic, and practical support to Ukraine. Labour is resolutely committed to the security of our NATO allies. We must move in tandem with NATO allies, and reinforce NATO members on the Eastern flank
I am, however, concerned that Putin, who has not yet seen his plan come to fruition may turn to even more deadly measures to force through this needless invasion. I am equally distressed to see that Russian bombing has been targeting civilians. Any reports of war crimes must be investigated immediately, and if they are found to be true then Russia should be held to account.
In the chamber of the House of Commons, I asked the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for a review into any political donations made to the Conservative Party that may have Kremlin connections. It is essential that at this critical time Putin does not have access to British decisions makers, but unfortunately no commitments were made.
I have also signed the Book of Solidarity that will be sent to Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Chairman of the Parliament of Ukraine. We must continue to show our support to the brave people of Ukraine and so I was grateful for the opportunity to send a message of solidarity to them on behalf of Lewisham East.
I am aware of how much anxiety this conflict is causing, especially for people with family and friends in Ukraine. As your Member of Parliament, I will continue to make sure that your concerns are raised. Over the coming days and weeks, I will also try to put pressure on the Government to step up their game on helping refugees out of danger. I found it disgraceful that a Home Office Minister suggested that Ukrainian refugees should apply for seasonal fruit picking visas rather than claim asylum.
COVID-19 – Latest
On Monday 21st February, the Government announced their living with covid plan. As of Thursday 24th February, the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test was scrapped, as well as self-isolation support payments. Routine contact tracing was ended and fully vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 are no longer asked to test daily for seven days. The legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate was also done away with.
I do not want to see restrictions in place for a moment longer than necessary. I am, however, concerned that funding for symptomatic and asymptomatic testing, a vital defence mechanism that we have used to keep covid at bay, will end on 1st April. The decision to scrap testing will only exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis we are all enduring. It does not seem right that the families that are struggling to put food on the table will have to pay to see if they have an infectious virus that could put their loved ones at risk.
During the Prime Minister’s statement, I raised the issue that many people still have weakened immunity and do not know it. For instance, many people do not know they have diseases such as HIV until they have a routine blood test. Therefore, the Prime Minister needs to publish the scientific evidence supporting his decisions, to give people who still have weakened immunity the confidence that the loosening of restrictions does not put them at potential harm.
It is important that we remember, that whilst COVID-19 cases are not as high as they were over Christmas, the Government must be held to account over Partygate. Boris Johnson has taken us for fools by insisting that he did not break the COVID-19 rules he imposed on us. He has portrayed that his actions were legal & justified. He has claimed that he is taking full responsibility whilst at the same time he has not accepted any consequences. In recent days the Government have been accused of covering up the scandal as the cost of Sue Gray’s Partygate inquiry has not been revealed. Rest assured, the Labour Party and I will continue to press the Prime Minister on this matter.
Cost of Living
I have continued my work in calling for the Government to get a grip on the financial hardship experienced by many people in the UK and in Lewisham East. In a debate on the cost of living I highlighted the tough choices many local people are forced to take between heating and eating. I also discussed how the Government have wasted so much money during the pandemic. This was seen in the writing-off of COVID loans or the track and trace contracts given to friends of the Conservative party. The mismanagement of public money has prevented vital support funding going to people feel the squeeze. In the year 2020/21 there were 2,537,198 people using foodbanks under this Government. This is simply unacceptable. There are solutions to keep families warm and fed, but the Conservatives do not have the political will to do so.
You can watch my speech here.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
On Monday 26th February the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill came back to the Commons with Lords amendments. The amendments ranged from increasing sentences for child cruelty, assaults on emergency workers, assaults on those providing a public service, hare coursing and provisions relating to limits on protests. I managed to call for the Government to speed up their action on ‘Sex for Rent.’ This awful practice has seen thousands of women pestered for sex by landlords in exchange for rent since the start of the pandemic. The pandemic has ruined millions of people’s finances, and the cost of living is starting to bite. I am concerned that with these conditions we will see further exploitation unless something is urgently done about it.
Unfortunately, I was not called to make a speech. This was very disappointing as I was planning to speak on important amendments concerning protests, police transparency as well as the repeal of Vagrancy Act. You can, however, read the speech I was planning to deliver on my website.
I was concerned to hear how the Tory Boundary Review proposes Lewisham would be across five different parliamentary constituencies. Lewisham should not be used simply to make up the numbers of neighbouring seats, and there should be at least two seats fully within Lewisham as there is now. I would urge all those who are concerned about these proposals to attend the Bromley public hearings on 10-11 March to voice their opinions on these plans.
Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign
On Saturday 26 February I was delighted to speak at the Day of Action hosted by the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. I was joined by ‘die hard’ campaigners who have sought to protect our NHS from Tory cuts and neglect. I was happy to support their demands such as investing in a fully publicly owned NHS & guarantee free healthcare for future generations.