NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 16th June 2017
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The horrendous tragedy in the West London tower block fire has quite rightly dominated the news in the week following the general election. If this turns out to have been an avoidable disaster – and there is growing speculation about the fire resistance of the cladding used in recent renovations – then not only must this never ever happen again but those responsible must be held to account.
I have been in discussion with Nottingham City Homes about the high rise flats in the city and will do so again on Monday. My priority is ensuring that the current assumptions – about escape routes and evacuation advice; about building regulation and sprinkler systems; about communication with residents – are challenged and properly thought through. There are some blocks in Nottingham East that have been in the news in recent months when different risks emerged, including hoax bomb threats, and I will be testing officials on whether the existing advice to residents is adequate. I also have concerns about escape route options and internal fire doors – all details I will raise with those in charge.
Nottingham City Homes have been quick to thoroughly review their arrangements and to meet again with the Fire Service. Let us hope that we can prevent such a reoccurrence as has happened at Grenfell Tower but also reassure all local residents that they are safe in their homes.
- Although the Conservatives are doing a deal with the DUP to stay in office as a minority Government nationally (more on this below), I am really glad we had so many fantastic results for Labour at last week’s general election – and especially pleased to have been re-elected to represent Nottingham East for the third time. A combination of local hard work and excellent campaigning by Jeremy and the national Party defied some of the worst poll projections. Labour now holds 262 seats with the Conservatives on 318, which when combined with the Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland means Theresa May can stay in Number 10. So while I’m disappointed that we could end up with five more Tory years, the improvement in our share of seats does mean we can keep their feet to the fire and hopefully find alliances across Parliament to stop some of the worst aspects of Tory rule. My priorities will remain defending the NHS, stopping cuts to Nottingham schools, fighting for local jobs and investment – which means a Brexit that retains key trading links with Europe – and providing a strong voice locally.
The result in Nottingham East was as follows:
Labour 28,102 71.9%
Conservatives 8512 21.6%
LibDems 1003 2.6%
UKIP 817 2.1%
Green 698 1.8%
Elvis 195 0.5%
- A recent inspection of East Midlands Ambulance Service by the Care Quality Commission has found that the service has made significant improvements, but that there are still steps to be taken before the CQC will be satisfied with the service overall. In November 2015, EMAS was told that it needed to make improvements in a number of areas, and while the recent report found improvements in staff numbers, vehicle availability and staff training, there is still progress to be made in areas such as response times. I will continue to follow this closely and remain in contact with staff at EMAS.
- The new tram bridge at QMC is nearing completion and is due to open to the public next month. The bridge, which connects the Queen’s Medical Centre tram stop to the main hospital building, will provide quicker and easier access to the hospital for patients and staff. I’m pleased to see progress on this project – once again showing that Nottingham is leading the way on public transport.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Theresa May’s new alliance with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party will be subject to significant scrutiny in the coming days. It has clearly big ramifications for the Queen’s Speech, which is supposed to set out the legislative agenda for the Government for the year ahead. I doubt very much that some of the worst and most controversial aspects of the Tory manifesto will still be there, simply because they don’t have the numbers to vote it through. Sadly, the Government do have a number of powers that don’t always require legislation – including the allocation of resources in some cases. I am concerned about the impact on the stability of the Good Friday Agreement and also the attitude of the DUP when it comes to social policy, such as their illiberal stance on a woman’s right to choose.
- The new Parliamentary arithmetic should give us scope to form an informal coalition against a harsh Brexit that sees us crashing out of the EU in a way that harms our economy, which is my big concern. I will be pressing the Government and Labour’s frontbench to do even more to salvage the UK’s membership of the Single Market which is so crucial for the country.
- Another smaller aspect of Brexit – but nevertheless important to consumers – is what could happen to mobile telephone costs if we end up outside the Single Market in a couple of years. This week saw the abolition of mobile ‘roaming’ changes across all European Union and single market countries, saving a traveller in Europe around £61 per year. But if we leave the Single Market and don’t negotiate a bilateral deal on roaming charges with the EU, these costs could be reimposed. Exporters doing business on the continent will face that unfair disadvantage and holidaymakers could see these higher charges returned. Just another issue that flows from a ‘hard Brexit’ if Ministers get this wrong.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Jo Cox was murdered a year ago today, a shocking attack by a far right extremist designed to silence her message of unity and community strength. I worked closely with Jo in Parliament and it is hard to forget the shock that rippled across the whole country at that brutality. Her husband Brendan has been a great inspiration both in coping with that awful loss and focusing on the good that has to emerge, including this week’s series of events to celebrate her life and what we all have in common.
He has been promoting ‘The Great Get Together’ – focusing on that message from her speech which was all about how we all have more in common than that which divides us. The events include picnics, street parties and stalls to bring together local communities and show that we have more in common than that which divides us. There are events across the city that began earlier this week, including in Woodthorpe Park tomorrow (Saturday) from 2:30pm until 5pm and on Sunday from 1pm until 2pm at the small park at the junction of Gregory Boulevard & Radford Road. If you’d like to find out more about the events, or would like to get involved, visit the website here.
Are we doing enough to forward this agenda of uniting communities and celebrating rather than fearing the diversity of our society? I do think more work is needed – but for now I’m glad that Jo’s life is being remembered in this respect.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East