The brutal murder of my fellow MP and friend Jo Cox has left Westminster and many communities across the country in shock. Jo was going about her normal constituency duties and killed in circumstances we never expect to see in this country. She was the best of MPs, a fearless campaigner but also a genuinely caring person, the very nicest you could ever hope to know.
The House of Commons will assemble tomorrow to pay tribute to Jo and across all political parties we will come together to give thanks for the privilege of knowing her and to reinforce our democratic values, which Jo represented so ably. Everyone who knew Jo is devastated by these events but my thoughts are now with her husband Brendan and her two children who have been so cruelly robbed of their mother.
- Nottingham residents have this weekend shown their solidarity not only with a vigil in memory of Jo Cox, but also in response to the terrible news last weekend about the mass shooting in Orlando. This hateful attack on the LGBT community was difficult to comprehend, and with 49 people murdered it is the worst mass shooting in US history. The Council House flew the rainbow flag at half-mast this week, and a book of condolence has been opened for the victims. It is important that we demonstrate that these kind of extremist attacks are unacceptable and have no place in either the USA or the UK. It was also particularly kind of President Obama to telephone Jo Cox’s husband Brendan this weekend to express his condolences – as have many leaders from across the world.
- In other local news, earlier in the week I had the chance to visit the site of the new biosciences building being constructed at the BioCity site on Pennyfoot Street. The site visit was arranged as part of ‘Open Doors’ week, which aims to encourage people to consider a career in construction. It was really interesting to see how the work is progressing, and I look forward to visiting the new building once it has been completed.
- On Thursday I was invited to address the pupils at Nottingham Girls High School about the forthcoming EU referendum at their morning assembly. After a question-and-answer session ‘grilling’ it was nice to also have an opportunity to be shown around the school facilities.
- Although it’s outside the boundaries of the Nottingham East constituency, I also had a chance to visit Trinity School to see their music department in action, where pupils have a greater than normal part of their curriculum time dedicated to music learning – with access to one-to-one tutoring too. Ahead of the roundtable meeting I am convening to discuss music education later in July, I wanted to see first-hand how they have deliver and resource their approach.
- Yesterday I attended the Armed Forces Day event at the Mapperley Sports Village off Ransom Road where they had stalls, a dance group and other activities raising money for Nottinghamshire charity Forces In The Community. I would like to pay particular tribute to Lesley Gnandte and her friends for putting in the time and effort to arrange the event as a mark of our support for the service and sacrifice of those who serve in our armed forces.
- On Saturday I also dropped by the Refugee Week launch event at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery which was a great assembly of a series of charities and voluntary organisations helping support the refugee community including the Refugee Forum, the Red Cross – and thanks to Roger Bromley chair of Nottingham Beyond Borders and Katy Culbard for arranging and coordinating everything.
- A new children’s TV series filmed in and around Nottingham has been shown on CBBC this week. The programme is called Jamie Johnson and timed to coincide with the Euro 2016 tournament, is based around 11-year old Jamie whose dream is to be a footballer. It’s fantastic to have locations in the city such as St Ann’s Allotments used for the series, and I was pleased to hear that the cast will return to Nottingham this summer to film a second series. If you want to catch up with the series, you can watch it on iPlayer here.
- Nottinghamshire Deaf Society’s project ‘Hearing Deaf Voices’ is looking for volunteers to help with their work to celebrate local deaf culture and heritage by capturing memories and experiences. They will be holding two volunteer ‘taster sessions’ later this month if you’re interested in helping, on Saturday 25th from 10am and Tuesday 28th June from 2pm until 5pm at 22 Forest Road. To book contact Nic Ramsdale in the Hearing Deaf Voices team email firstname.lastname@example.org
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- On Monday the Government was asked to make a statement on the terrorism threat and on wider security measures in the UK in the light of the horrific attacks on the lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender community in Orlando, USA. This was an act of terrorism that targeted the gay community, where 49 people were killed and a further 53 people were injured at a nightclub in Orlando at the weekend. Both the Government and the Shadow Home Secretary on behalf of the Opposition condemned this attack. My deepest sympathies and solidarity are with the families and friends of those who died. In this country we celebrate diversity and we should never let terror divide our communities. We will continue to fight hate and homophobia in all their forms and stand alongside the LGBT community.
- Also on Monday the Policing and Crime Bill was debated in the House of Commons. There are some positive developments: measures to give anonymity for victims of forced marriage; improvements on the police bail regime; and the proposed ban on the use of police cells for people in mental health crisis. I was also pleased that the Government listened to the Opposition and strengthened the measures in the Bill on child exploitation, particularly on the licensing regime for private hire vehicles. There were some significant developments in response to the historic verdict of the Hillsborough inquest. I welcome that during the debate the Government indicated that they are prepared take some action on the long-standing loophole of retirement being used by police officers as a route to evade misconduct proceedings and to extend the 12-month limit for exceptional instances of misconduct and will follow progress on this closely.
- On Tuesday my colleague Andy Burnham the Shadow Home Secretary asked an urgent question on the incidents of English fan violence in Marseille at the Euro 2016 football tournament. The Shadow Home Secretary said that many England fans were clearly the victims of violent extremists and poor security and drew the House’s attention to serious concerns raised by the chairman of the Football Association in a letter to UEFA which identified a number of major security lapses at the stadium. Given the heightened security around the tournament, it is extraordinary that fireworks and flares were taken in and then let off. I am concerned about the potential for further violence amongst fans – something we cannot afford to see and I know people who are out there to enjoy the football will be worried about this. The Home Secretary stated on Monday that the Government would work with the French authorities and echoed the England captain and manager in urging fans to stay out of trouble.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Although this is the final weekend before the EU referendum (this Thursday – with polling stations open between 7am and 10pm), many of the campaigning events have been put on hold out of respect for Jo Cox. The BBC Radio Nottingham debate I was due to take part in will now be rearranged for this coming Tuesday from 6pm.
This is one of the most momentous weeks in modern British politics and, as you will know, I am urging people to vote to Remain in the EU. On Wednesday I published an article for the New Statesman magazine in which I argued that the risk of economic downturn that would follow leaving the EU means voting ‘out’ is not the right answer for those concerned about immigration. You can read my full article at the link here.
Being in the EU brings us great economic benefit: it accounts for 44% of our exports and 53% of imports of goods and services, as well as almost £500 billion foreign direct investment. This is my last MP Update before the referendum on Thursday and I would be interested in your thoughts this week – and if you have any questions I can help with – and I sincerely hope we remain in the European Union in order to maintain our global influence, our national prosperity and our wider security.