Last week, I attended the PACTS and Direct Line Constituency Road Safety Dashboard Awards. This reinforced the need for smarter focus on the issue of road safety as well as promoted a fantastic online tool on road safety progress called the Dashboard.
Road safety is very important and must be promoted in order to ensure the safety of everyone, particularly at-risk groups. The event highlighted a number of road safety issues, especially those that affect the vulnerable. The event also raised awareness of rising congestion and the issues this can bring. Many journeys often don`t need the use of a car, and we should encourage people to walk or cycle where appropriate. This would help to reduce both the number of vehicles on the road and vehicle related fatalities. Walking and cycling also brings about many environmental and health benefits, for example improved air quality. Read more
Yesterday I sent out an email to local Labour members and supporters in the constituency. You can read my thoughts below:
As a local Labour member, I am sure you will want to know the latest on arrangements for Labour’s leadership election. You may have heard that most Party meetings have been put on hold by Labour’s National Executive Committee so I want to let you know about a special page that has been established on the Party’s website nationally to keep people informed. You can access the page here. You will also see the page contains an e-mail address if you have any questions.
As an MP, I am not involved in the organisational decisions which have been made surrounding the leadership election. However, I had hoped to be able discuss the overall political situation with you and other local members at the Members meeting which Northfield CLP was in the process of arranging for next week. Therefore, in the light of the NEC’s decision to suspend such meetings, I am writing to share some of my thoughts with you. Please note that these are my personal thoughts and they do not reflect any official Party position. This follows up the other letters I have sent you in the past fortnight reflecting on the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote and then setting out the reasons for my resignation as Shadow Transport Minister . Some people have written to me supporting my decision, while others have written taking the opposite view. I have replied directly to as many as I have been able to in the time available and I also want to say a few words in this e-mail about some of the concerns which have come forward from members and constituents in the last fortnight. Read more
Three weeks ago it all felt so different. Britain had not yet voted to leave the European Union. The Pound had not plummeted. The Bank of England had not yet had to step in to steady the situation. The Prime Minister had not announced his resignation and the UK’s major political parties had yet not appeared to be in turmoil.
None of us have lived through anything quite like this before and nobody can know what lies ahead. As we now try to navigate a new course through the uncharted waters which lie ahead, though, here are some markers that I believe should guide us.
Read and watch my question to the Prime Minister on the long-awaited publication of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war:
“May I also ask the House to pause for a minute to remember Robin Cook, who had the courage to speak up against the orthodoxy of the day, and the courage to speak out as a voice of sanity in 2003?
The sequence of events that led to the UK’s participation in the invasion of Iraq shows that where the unshakeability of a political leader’s self-belief so traps him or her in its own logic that he or she cannot see beyond it, the consequences can be catastrophic.
As someone who voted against the war in 2003, I know that the Iraq war did not create from scratch the multiple problems that we see today in the middle east, but it has made them so much more intractable.
Does the Prime Minister agree that at root what the peoples of the middle east want is not so different from what people over here want? They want security, they want respect, and they want to know that they are not treated with double standards by the international community.”
Tomorrow, the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war will finally be published.
Ahead of publication, my thoughts have gone back to how it felt in the House of Commons – and outside – at the time. Sometimes it is easy to get hindsight mixed up with what we knew at the time, as we approached a conflict that was going to have such a profound effect on the Middle East and beyond. It was a conflict which also was to have a big impact on way politics and politicians are viewed today.
So I have revisited some of what I was saying and writing at the time. Here is a letter I wrote to Tony Blair some seven months before the invasion started, setting out some of my concerns about the course he was on. Below are also links to a couple of speeches I made to Parliament – one also in September 2002 and one in March 2003 just a week before the invasion.
I was one of the 139 Labour MPs who opposed the war and voted against the government in the House of Commons on 18th March 2003. Another was the late Robin Cook. British politics is the poorer without him. And we – his friends in the Labour family – particularly miss him at this time of new political turmoil.
* Letter to Tony Blair: 12 September 2002
* Speech in the House of Commons: 24 September 2002.
* Speech in the House of Commons: 11 March 2003.