My Week in Westminster

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My last week in parliament:

▪️Wednesday 
I met with Melissa Benn and Michael Pavey from the Comprehensive Future Campaign against grammar schools to talk about how to help make the case within the Labour Party for an ideologically consistent approach on selection; of course we oppose new grammars but we need to articulate a future way of taking the 3 remaining counties out of this system. Need to win the argument. More about the campaign here: http://comprehensivefuture.org.uk/

I attended the Scrap the Cap nurses demo and met with Norfolk nurses. See the post below for September 7th.

I joined the PLP Briefing on Brexit – with Keir Starmer and a number of MPs who voiced concern that they couldn’t support Labour’s position they would be breaking promises they had made to their constituents. However the argument against was this; the Bill is so bad, so anti-democratic and provides the potential for Tory ministers to undermine our rights at work, our human rights and many others. The Bill gives powers more sweeping than anything given to ministers during WW2 – a naked power grab. Any Labour MP that voted for would lose any credibility in standing up for their constituents. This not now about Brexit, but about protecting democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.

And finally I spent time with Denis Skinner. We talked about the summer we’d had and I ribbed him about whether he’d yet seen the film about him that’s just been made (more here: https://www.dennisskinnerfilm.co.uk/). In his usual Denis-like way said he wasn’t that bothered but he’d been invited to the premier which he’d have to go to because his friends and family have been invited. I asked him about whether he sang in the film, to which he said he didn’t think so, but if he had he’d have sang Al Jolson. He then sang it to me outside the Chamber, in a beautiful voice. As well as being a miner he’d also been a pub singer. Then he told me how 30 years ago his mother (now dead) had bad dementia and was becoming uncommunicative – one day with his mum something happened and he began to sing for her and almost instantly it cut through and he she began to communicate. As you may know, science has found out that singing has an impact on those with dementia, but what Denis tells me is that he had no idea 30 years ago but he reasoned that the part of your brain that gets a ditty is a different part of the memory to that which stores usual memories. He sorted this out 30 years before science. An incredible man.

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▪️Thursday
As part of my work as Chair of the APPG on Drones, I met staff for a briefing on the Drones Inquiry into the use of armed drones. At present there’s no clear policy on how UK drones can be used overseas. This is a significant human rights issue. The Inquiry will conduct evidence collecting trips to Washington and Pakistan and make recommendations to government for improvements in transparency and accountability. You can read more about the inquiry here: http://appgdrones.org.uk/inquiry-launch/

During an interview with BBC Look East's Andrew Sinclair I talked about the EU Withdrawal Bill and the threat it represent to our democracy. This wasn't about blocking Brexit. It's about bad legislation that undermines Parliament and our democratic system. Now that the Second Reading is over we are waiting for the Committee Stage and the fate of the many amendments that MPs will attempt to get through.

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