Let’s make Islington an organising hub for workers

Labour’s New Deal for Working People will be a game-changer. It will restore rights at work for millions of people. So I want to see it turned into legislation in the first 100 days of Labour government.

If selected I will use the convening power of Islington North’s Labour candidate to organise a recognition and access drive among the workplaces that are hard to organise. From the first day of the Labour government we go to the Borough’s most precarious and low paid workers and support their demands for workplace justice.

I want union organisers given access to every workplace by law; a fair pay agreement negotiated in every sector of industry; full employment rights for every worker from day one of the job; an end to zero hours contracts, bogus self employment and “fire-and-rehire”.

Decades of experience as a trade union rep tell me this will not be easy. As an NUJ activist in the late 1990s I saw Labour’s Employment Relations Act watered down by corporate pressure. My job as an MP will be push back against that pressure.

We need to scrap the Tory anti-union laws. And wherever Labour is wields influence – from councils to city regions to the new national industrial strategy we’ve pledged – I want to see unions recognised as statutory social partners and the equal pay obligations to women workers met in full.

In the meantime I will always be with workers on the picket line. I was on the picket lines during the 1984-5 miners’s strike and at Wapping a year later. So I know that everything working people have, we had to fight for.

Cap rents. Build homes.

Last year, there were more people were made homeless in England than bought their first home.

Sky high rents, averaging £2.5k a month in Islington, mean that 49 per cent of children living in private rented homes in the capital live in poverty. So now schools being forced to close because families are moving out.

This can’t go on.

That’s why I support the call by Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan for powers to cap and control rents. We need to end the injustice of insecure tenancies, no fault evictions and unsafe homes. And I support calls by Generation Rent for a comprehensive set of rights and protections against unscrupulous landlords and letting agents.

Rent controls alone won’t solve the problem but they could bring immediate relief: two-year rent freeze could save the average household £3,374.

The strategic answer is a crash programme of homebuilding: social housing, council housing and affordable new homes with state-backed mortgage guarantees. To do that we’re going to need to invest.

I want to see a Labour government close tax loopholes worth billions a year. We need to start taxing wealth as well as incomes, and adopt the steeply progressive tax principles of the successful post-war Labour governments. I also want to see big disincentives for speculative development of the kind that is leaving homes unoccupied, with the lights off, while their owners pocket rising values.

That is how we get Britain building, for the many, not the few.

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Peace and Security

Russia’s attack on Ukraine signals a new period of global conflict – in which totalitarian regimes like Russia and China are trying to break up the system of treaties and laws that have kept order since 1945. In the Middle East, the murderous Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October last year now threatens to become a regional war.

I’ve been in the forefront in building solidarity with Ukraine in the UK – I was in Kyiv until 36 hours before the bombs dropped, making links with unions and human rights groups there. We should go on supporting arms, aid and training for Ukraine – whatever it takes to defeat Putin, and we should boost our own defence output to do so.

Over Gaza, I called back in October for an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional return of Israeli hostages and a de-escalation strategy. I see no conflict between supporting Israel’s right to self-defence, and the demand for a two-state solution, immediate humanitarian aid for the civilian victims in Gaza, and the prosecution of Israeli war crimes in the international courts. I support the earliest possible recognition of the Palestinian state by the UK, and I am working inside the Labour Party towards this goal.

In a dangerous world like ours, we need strong alliances. That’s why I opposed Brexit, and support Labour’s plans for a security pact with the EU.

It’s why, in Labour’s policy discussions, I pushed for the party to declare its commitment to NATO “unshakeable”, and renew our commitment to the nuclear deterrent. From Berlin to Helsinki and Kyiv and I have worked with Labour’s European partners to promote democratic values and internationalism.

I want to see the UK’s armed forces well funded to meet the new situation and to look more like the communities they come from. Those changes are already under way and Labour should accelerate them. One of the ways we can do this is to enshrine the rights of veterans and service families to first class public services into law.

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Power to the People

Twelve years of Tory rule, on top of decades of free-market chaos, have severely weakened our democracy. We’ve got ministries run by crony appointees, the electoral commission weakened, Ofcom letting the media become swamped with right-wing disinformation, and now compulsory ID at polling booths.

So with democracy, it’s time to use it or lose it. We need a radical devolution of power to towns, cities, regions, nations and neighbourhoods.

In Islington, that means fighting for greater powers over housebuilding and money to build; for Sadiq Khan it means getting the power to cap rents and do real spatial planning to boost affordable homes.

I support proportional representation at all levels, including Westminster elections.

I want to see an elected House of Lords. I support increased devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales, and strong regional devolution for England and its regions.

Reconnect with Europe

I opposed Brexit, despite being critical of the Eurozone’s economic policies because I knew it would never deliver what it promised. As a member of Labour Movement for Europe I want to see the fastest possible reconnection with the EU: starting with a comprehensive security agreement and a voluntary agreement on agricultural standards that could streamline trade with the Single Market.

As the EU moves to carve out its own strong position in geopolitics, through strategic autonomy and technological sovereignty, we have to stay as close as possible to our European partners over standards, trade, net zero and industrial co-operation. There is no route to high growth through the Tories’ hard Brexit strategy.

At the same time I want to uphold the European Convention on Human Rights, which means in principle scrapping the Rwanda scheme as soon as possible.

Kick out the cronies

On the first day of a Labour government I want to see all the cronies appointed by the Tories – to the BBC, the National Trust etc – dismissed, along with the politicised “non-executive directors” they’ve placed in government departments. The bizarre arrangements that allow corporate CEOs to decide how public money is spent should also be scrapped: public service should be done by neutral public servants only.

Resist the far-right

With the far-right trying to exploit the migration crisis, backed by well-funded far-right media operations. I’m proud of the decades I’ve spent as an anti-fascist campaigner. I marched for Stephen Lawrence and the other victims of racist murder in the 1990s, and I marched with Black Lives Matter in 2020.

I want to see the broadest possible movement to oppose the new far right, and to push back against the misogyny and racism that are driving it. I am a life long supporter of A Woman’s Right to Choose, and will vote to completely decriminalise abortion.

I will always seek to be a reliable ally for the LGBTQ+ community, as I have been for my whole life.

When Labour takes power, the tabloids and the far-right social media influencers will declare war on us as a government. We need to stick to our principles – and offer fascism’s target audience a radical alternative and a narrative of hope.

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Let’s get Net Zero done in Islington!

The climate emergency is intensifying, bringing wildfires, floods and heatwaves. We can feel it happening here in Britain: but in parts of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa the effects are already devastating for millions of people.

Yet it’s not too late to act. Labour has pledged take the carbon out of our electricity system by 2030, with a massive programme of public investment that aims to leverage in billions of pounds from the private sector.

The aim is to use £24bn of public spending – financed by borrowing and a windfall tax – alongside a radical change to planning and pension fund rules, to give investors in wind, solar, nuclear and our energy infrastructure long term certainty.

This could have an immediate impact here in Islington. The GreenSCIES scheme would use heat recycled from the tube and data centres to slash people’s energy bills. And Labour has pledged £3bn to fund schemes like this. So let’s get to the front of the queue with a comprehensive plan, ready to become one of Labour’s flagship green energy projects within weeks of the election.

I know that, on the journey to Zero Net Carbon, we have to take all communities with us. The “just transition” can’t be merely a phrase. That’s why I’ve become a UK champion for the Fossil-fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty: so that we commit all countries to ending investment in new fossil fuel extraction at the same time. And it’s why I will consult the trade unions at every step of the process of replacing oil and gas with renewables.

To slash household bills I want Labour to nationalise the energy retailers as proposed by the TUC. I support Labour’s call for a bigger windfall tax on the oil and gas giants. Above all we need rapid planning reform to allow solar, wind and nuclear power providers to link up to the grid and start harnessing the power of the planet to heal itself.

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Crime is a Class Issue

Crime is a working class issue. From nuisance and anti-social behaviour, through to low prosecution rates for rape and domestic violence, and the long-term failure to combat organised crime and corporate corruption – failures in the criminal justice system are eroding the quality of life in our communities, and even belief in a democratic system.

And the poorest suffer the most: twice as likely to suffer violence, or be burgled, three times more likely to be robbed; six times as likely to be a victim of domestic violence, according to Public Health England. According to the public health expert Michael Marmot: “Anti-social behaviour undermines social cohesion and community function and increases community dissatisfaction and feeling unsafe in the community, all of which undermine health”.

I want the police to become crimefighters – not crime administrators. I want the criminal justice system to become an engine of rehabilitation and social justice. That means more police officers, more probation staff, more prison staff and a fully resourced courts system.

It means removing the pressure on police forces to deal with problems that other services are too stretched to handle – like homelessness, addiction and mental health problems. A strong welfare state, with resilient communities, public services we can rely on can free police resources to prevent and prosecute crime.

A combination of cuts, staff shortages, and routine racism have undermined morale and leadership in too many of our police forces. There can be zero tolerance for the kind of racism and misogyny revealed in recent investigations. I want to see swift and transparent justice for the victims where policing goes wrong. And more powers for police and crime commissioners to demand change.

I was proud to stand alongside protesters on the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of 2020 – just as I played a leading role in justice campaigns for victims of police racism in the 1990s. I want to see the Spycops enquiry speeded up, so that the full story of politicised policing and misconduct can be revealed – and to make sure it never happens again.

Fighting crime effectively means more national co-ordination. Alongside our local police forces I want to see the National Crime Agency beefed up into an FBI-style body whose main purpose is to convict the organised fraudsters, the major drug gangs, the people traffickers and the corrupt businesses that launder their money, and the money of the super-rich. That agency, together with the Serious Fraud Office, should have independent powers to pro-actively investigate allegations of corruption among politicians, too.

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Healthcare Is For Everyone!

The NHS is in crisis. And Islington is on the front line. Saving maternity care at the Whittington, and fighting for more staff, and for health workers’ rights, will be my priority.

We’re facing massive underfunding, a crisis in social care and acute demographic pressures affecting public health.

So it is more important than ever to defend the principle of free, timely healthcare, across the board – provided by publicly-owned services and a workforce that is well-paid and respected.

But we need to transform and modernise the health service, so that it promotes health and wellbeing for all, and makes maximum use of new technology, so that health workers can move from perpetual crisis management to the kind of 21st century system they dream of running.

I’m in no doubt: to save the NHS we’ll need more money across the board: for primary care; to employ more staff on decent wages; to create universal access to elderly social care and mental health services.

My vision

I want to see government setting mandatory public health targets – not just for local authorities but for the private sector – and building in the Marmot Indicators (on child mortality, wellbeing, decent housing etc) into all aspects of government policy.

Labour’s priority should be to provide free universal healthcare, social care, dentistry and mental health services for all. These are the foundations of a 21st century economy that puts people before profit.

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