Today is the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Race Relations Act 1968. This was the first legislation to outlaw race discrimination in our workplaces and in other settings like in the letting of homes.
The passing of such a landmark leads many of us to reflect on the current state of race relations in our country and globally. I think we’d all agree that current evidence shows progress is mixed.
Recent symbolic high-points like the wonderful royal wedding and its celebration of our diversity, have not been matched by the conduct of leading politicians around the world.
At home, the way that Boris Johnson recently, very deliberately, used his Telegraph Column to liken Niqab wearing Muslim women to letter-boxes and bank robbers, was a brazen exploitation of residual Islamophobia or Islamoscepticism in certain parts of our country. Rhetoric that was not quite at the “rivers of blood” level of Enoch Powell, but worse because of Boris’s perceived position as a more mainstream politician and potential prime minister.
Then more recently we had Home Secretary, Sajid Javid tweeting about “sick Asian paedophiles” finally facing justice, and columnists Rod Liddle suggesting that it would be okay if suicide bombers blew themselves up in majority Muslim Tower Hamlets.
The Charity Tell Mama reported a spike in Muslim-directed hate crime in the aftermath of Mr Johnson’s comments. And their response to Mr Javid’s tweet, I think was telling of where we are on these issues:
“The current atmosphere in our country is polarised. The last thing we need is language that can be misread, abused or used to fan the flames of division. We agree with much that the Home Secretary does on tackling hate crimes, including anti-Muslim hate or Islamophobia, but on this matter, we disagree. We all need to ensure that communities feel accepted and respected at this time, whilst the victims of grooming should be first and foremost in our minds.”
We would all do well to try and walk in the shoes of British Muslims in the atmosphere that has prevailed since the start of the War on Terror and the increase in terrorism from those proclaiming to be Muslim. And, to consider how the atmosphere has changed to all foreign and non-white people in the post Brexit vote era: best summed up in my experience by an emboldened gentleman born in Ireland, living in Loughborough telling me it was time for “them all to go home”.
This is all mirrored on the other side of the Atlantic, where Donald Trump failed to condemn the white supremacists at Charlottesville where one young civil rights protester lost her life. Adding to a lifelong track-record of his peddling racist tropes and using inconsiderate language regarding those of colour, his endorsement of police brutality, and opposition to leading sportsmen taking a stand against institutional racism across the USA.
In all these cases above they are sad, firstly because the politicians concerned think it is okay to ignore their moral leadership position and court favour through thinly-veiled attacks on multicultural societies. And secondly, because they feel that there is an audience in the country of such a size to make such comments politically advantageous.
The answer has to be for politicians who do take their moral leadership responsibilities seriously to stand up against such behaviour. I have heard far too much that this is just Boris being Boris, or that the language may be unfortunate but X politician is at heart not racist. The truth is that to acquiesce in such circumstances is to be complicit in behaviour that is undermining race relations in our country.
I am proud that at the next general election I will be standing for the Labour Party who were responsible for the Race Relations Act 1968, and other landmark equality legislation culminating in the Equality Act 2010.
That said, I would hope that politicians of all political colours would use today to reflect on the moral leadership that is required. Not just for our country’s sake: in an era of discrimination around the world, be it against Rohingya in Myanmar or Uighur in China, also, so that we can also assume some moral leadership across the world.
Here is my response to this important consultation from the Environment Agency on the Shepshed Incinerator. By way of background, this was rejected by the County Council, before being given planning permission by Tory Secretary of State Eric Pickles who went on to a £40,000 a year role with a waste management company.
As the Labour Candidate for the Loughborough Constituency at the next general election I have been contacted by people from across Loughborough and Shepshed with sincere and justified concerns about the construction of this incinerator.
The location of the proposed incinerator is highly proximate to the M1 at a well populated area along that key road with the large towns of Shepshed and Loughborough very close-by.
It is well known that the air quality in the area around the M1 is poor. The very heavy traffic leads to high amounts of nitrous oxide and particulate matter, along with the CO2 emissions that are produced.
The incinerator will only add to these pollutants in a way that can only deteriorate the quality of the air breathed by local residents.
Local families who already have to breath the substandard air caused by traffic on the M1 and other trunk roads in the area will be forced to breath yet poorer air. Particular concern has to be had for those living down-wind of the proposed site.
Loughborough is by quite some considerable distance the leading elite sporting university in the country if not the world with a considerable number of world leading athletes training there. This deterioration in air quality will be of significant detriment to the air they breath. Those using the world leading, multimillion pound facilities at the university will be inevitably exposed to the detriment resulting from the deterioration in the local air quality.
It is unclear how a proper assessment of these health impacts can allow the incinerator to proceed.
The location of the incinerator is inappropriate given the many populations that will be inevitably impacted by its construction. The below table is from the Local Air Quality Protection Group (http://www.laqpg.org.uk/).
It is clear that this incinerator will have damaging impact on a disproportionate number of people from groups that include children, the elderly, and the most elite sportsmen and women in the world.
The people of Loughborough and Shepshed have long since become reconciled to living next to one of the busiest transport arteries in the country, the M1. Indeed many people live incredibly close to this very busy motorway. This has public health impacts, notably respiratory impacts, that are undeniable. It is also undeniable that there will be further deterioration as a result of the presence of this incinerator.
The impacts are disproportionate and indefensible. There must be far more appropriate locations further away from such populations.
Place at Risk People at risk Distance in km
Longcliffe Golf Club Outdoor sportsmen/women 1.1
Longcliffe Nursing Home Elderly people 1.8
Nanpantan Pre-school Children at play outdoors 2.0
Nanpantan Scouts Children at play outdoors 2.1
Watermead Nursery Children at play outdoors 2.2
Nanpantan Sports Fields
– Football, Cricket Outdoor sportsmen/women 2.2
Brush Bowls Club 2.2
Loughborough Tennis Club Open-air sportsmen/women 2.2
– Holywell Pitches Open-air sportsmen/women 2.3
Holywell Primary School Children at play outdoors 2.5
Charnwood College Children at play outdoors 2.5
Booth Wood Primary School Children at play outdoors 2.5
Ashby Ward – Charnwood Residents 2.5
Nanpantan Ward – Charnwood Residents 2.8
– Cricket Ground Open-air sportsmen/women 3.0
– All-weather Pitches Open-air sportsmen/women 3.0
– Athletics Track Open-air sportsmen/women 3.0
Mountfields Primary School Children at play outdoors 3.9
Loughborough Hospital Infirm people 3.7
– Sheltered Housing etc Elderly people 3.9
Planned Garendon Park SUE Residents 1.0 – 1.5
Planned Science & Enterprise Parks Employees 1.5 – 2.0
DNRC Stamford Hall Infirm people 9
Yesterday I spoke at the Leicester demonstration against President Trump and what he stands for. This is the speech as written (there may have been more than a few divergences in delivery!).
Speech to Trump protest 13th July 2018
Why is this protest against Donald Trump’s visit important? We’ve hard won rights in this country like that which we celebrated in this town with the unveiling of the Alice Hawkins statue celebrating 100 years of some women getting the vote.
Rights that have been shared by a community of nations.
Principles of respect and non-discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or sexual orientation.
These principles need to be preserved. They are preserved by civilised countries and people coming together to show what is okay and what’s not okay.
And that is what this is all about.
We have a President in the White House who is a proven racist and mysognist. And he is using the highest office in the world’s most powerful country to attack the hard-won values and freedoms that people, particularly from the Labour movement, have fought hard to win and retain.
So today is about saying enough is enough.
We cannot stand by as someone in his position:
- Repeatedly objectifies and abuses women.
- Repeatedly behaves in a racist manner.
- Condones police brutality.
- Puts into place migration policies that single out countries on the basis of religion.
- Propagates the most hostile environment for migrants. Seperating children from their families at the border and caging them. Potentially never to be reunited.
And today is as much about what sort of country we want to be, as what sort of president Mr Trump is.
Because we see some of these characteristics coming into our politics. The complete absence of humanity shown to people of colour in our migration policies. The ongoing failure to address gender imbalances. Narrow parochialism and casual xenophobia that has become so mainstream.
Well, enough is enough.
And we have a choice to make. As our values are being challenged here and abroad, we have the rise of strongmen, from China, to Russia, to Turkey. Free-speech, LGBT rights being challenged, gender equality failing to progress.
Do we turn a blind-eye for the sake of some mythical special economic relationship with a demagogue who has already rewarded our loyalty with massive trade barriers? Or do we use this opportunity to say to Trump, they way you talk, the way you act, the way you are trying to lead the Western world, it’s not okay, it has to stop, the world is watching you and will not dance to your tune.
So we should be proud of the reception we are giving Mr Trump, because this is who we are, and this is the the direction that the world should be going in.
Mr Trump you’re not welcome here.
“To lead is to decide”. That is what Theresa May told the Tory backbenchers last night (9th July 2018).
I think in this instance the Prime Minister should have followed the approach she adopted to her nonsensical “Brexit means Brexit” soundbite. Because in actual fact “to lead is to lead”, and good leaders bring others with them.
The tumult of the last few days has its origins way back in Mrs May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October 2016. When she set out red lines like the European Court of Justice having no role in a post-Brexit future, she may have brought Brexiteers like Davies and Johnson on board, but she set-up a negotiating position that was not consistent with prioritising market access.
From that point on it was inevitable that there was going to be a reckoning. Either in Brussels as she took over a negotiating position that was so full of demands for “British-only” rules and oversight that the EU would never grant the market access we so badly need; or, within her own cabinet as Brexiteers complained that Mrs May, in seeking the market access we need, had rolled back on the hard-line position set-out in 2016.
Mrs May had set out two irreconcilable desires back in 2016. Complete autonomy for the UK on the one hand, with the required market access, on the other. There was always going to be a point at which she was going to have to look over the cliff-edge and have second thoughts.
This seems to have happened in the run up to the Chequers Summit.
The reality is that the Chequers Summit should have happened two years ago. Probably, before the Article 50 process even started. Not around 3 months prior to the key summit for determining our future relationship with the EU.
Proper leadership would have canvassed and marshalled her Cabinet’s opinion to a reconciled position long ago. That would have been how to lead in the national interest.
Instead, we have been forced to engage in a prolonged shadow-boxing session with the EU whilst the Conservative Cabinet engages in open-warfare over our negotiating position. Violating all the norms of good Cabinet Government while the March 2019 deadline draws ever closer.
So, what has all this been about? What has been the point of the last two years of UK Government work and efforts on the Brexit negotiations (remember the army of civil servants hired to work on this)? It seems that keeping the Tory Party together has trumped all else. That is the case whatever one’s opinion on Brexit. This Government has not advanced the country in any meaningful direction on Brexit. It has been about the Conservatives and Theresa May staying in power.
We have had Airbus, BMW, Jaguar Land-Rover, and others express major concern at this lack of progress in recent weeks. If the Labour Party had been in the driving seat we would have committed to a customs union (as we did many months ago) and none of these companies would be making these statements. I would even suggest investment levels in these high-employing sectors would be substantially higher.
This last two-years has been the self-indulgent Tory party as its very worst. It’s time for a change.
Ever since I was in school (a long while ago!) it seems that people have talked about the potential of tidal energy in the Severn Estuary. It was incredibly disappointing to hear that government had kicked the proposed tidal energy lagoon in Swansea into touch. A decision rounded upon by local politicians of all colours. A massive missed opportunity. Unlike the Tories’ deal with the DUP it would have been £1 billion well spent. Contrast with the £30bn EDF Hinkley nuclear project is also instructive.
The fact it came in a week where public health and environmental concerns were summarily dismissed in the Heathrow decision is doubly depressing.
My friend Chris Grocock has penned the following piece explaining why we should have gone ahead with the lagoon.
With this decision the Conservative Party has backed an outdated potentially dangerous technology where the expertise, ownership and engineering skills sit with foreign state owned companies (China and France) and which, like fossil fuels, still relies on importing an unstable finite fuel supply (Uranium) from the global marketplace.
The Prime Minister and Secretary of State have turned down a world-first opportunity to build a sustainable renewable power source extracted from our national waters, invest in jobs and skills, regenerate local communities, reduce carbon emissions, reinvigorate British industry and develop an entirely new sector of the UK economy.
The false idea that this decision has anything to do with the market is a nonsense. It is a purely political decision based on the unwillingness of the Tories to show any imagination or oppose the vast power of vested interests in the energy sector.
Yet serious public investment in the technological and industrial development of renewable energy would be truly transformative – environmentally, economically, socially and politically.
Over time it would eventually lead to an oversupply of inexhaustible electricity causing the price to plummet and ushering in an era of inexpensive, clean energy. How can renewables not be cheaper when the fuel source is infinite, abundant and doesn’t require expensive extraction from increasingly inaccessible locations? All that’s missing is the investment in technology and infrastructure to create economies of scale. The spin off benefits would be incredible.
And this is how Labour’s proposed national investment bank and regional development banks can and will most fundamentally transform Britain and set an example to the wider world.
It’s not principally about being green although the environmental impact would see us lead the way in the fight against climate change.
Nor is it about foreign policy although it would be great for Britain not to compromise with corrupt authoritarian regimes or feel the need to invade countries to secure our energy supply.
It’s not even about economic development although it would be amazing to cultivate new cutting edge industries, create thousands of jobs and improve the productivity of the UK workforce.
It’s ultimately about demonstrating a belief that sustained investment and innovation can make energy so cheap, even free at the point of use, that it is available to everyone entirely on the basis of need no matter their wealth, status or position.
I don’t know if anybody can truly conceive what that would look like in its entirety – for health, transport, education, housing, for information technology, industry, construction and agriculture – but it has to be one of the great missions of 21st century socialism.
For today, for tomorrow, and the future of our country.