John’s Monthly Newsletter March 2020
This has been a difficult month for all of us dealing with the outbreak of Coronavirus. Unfortunately, the Government has been too slow responding to the crisis & its impact on our economy & people’s lives. We have engaged constructively with the Government in its economic response to Coronavirus. But where there have been omissions and uncertainties in its announcements, we have pointed these out – not to score political points, but to ensure there is a comprehensive and effective economic package. You will see the representations that I have made throughout the month as read the newsletter. At the end of the month I stood down as Shadow Chancellor. I will continue to work hard as the local MP for our community and continue to contribute nationally to the development of London’s policy programme and campaigning.
Below is a brief summary of just some of my activities locally and in Parliament in the last month.
Sophie Ridge 1st
I was interviewed by Sophy Ridge about whether the NHS could cope with a coronavirus outbreak. I explained that I was concerned about the delay in setting up the Cobra meetings and the impact 10 years of austerity has had on dramatically cutting the capacity of the NHS. The clinicians and NHS staff will rise to the challenge as they always do but we will be putting them under a lot of pressure. We also discussed the budget and the labour leadership.
I attended the party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of grow heathrow which has been an important part of our campaign to stop the 3rd Runway.
No 3rd runway meeting at St Marys Church 3rd
I spoke at this public meeting that I had convened to explain the latest position on the runway following our court case win.
PCS demonstration 4th
I joined a number of MPs who came out to support PCS members at HMRC, whose jobs are threaten by office closure, in their ongoing fight to save the Ealing HMRC office.
SOAS Picket 4th
I joined a number of UCU picket lines to support these college lecturers who have been forced into strike action by threats to their pensions and casualisation of their jobs.
UCU Teach-out at UCL 5th
I met with staff and students fighting for secure contracts, fair pay and decent working conditions on the picket line as we proceeded to the “teach out” which focused on the Climate Emergency , the Green New Deal and the growing climate movement.
I attended the Waspi Campaign’s informal drop-in at Portcullis House to raise the Campaign profile, especially with newly elected MPs. It is a tragedy that we have been unable to implement the compensation scheme for these women that we set out in the general election campaign.
Labour: A Socialist Future? Seminar Series 5th
How do we win the argument? was the second seminar in the series that I am hosting in Parliament. Topics that we discussed included – How do we communicate our policies effectively? What does hegemony look like? Ken Loach and Justin Schlossberg looked at developing the narrative and the communications strategy that secures the support Labour needs.
Barnhill School 6th
I met with the school’s headteacher to provide support to the school in the provision of the excellent educational opportunities if offers our local children.
International approach to tackling the coronavirus 6th
I publicly called for an international approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak with the government leading a global strategy.
Uniformed group recruitment morning at Botwell Leisure Centre 7th
It was great to attend the local scouts and guides recruitment afternoon in Hayes. Thanks to all our local wonderful volunteers who provide our local young people with such a wide range of fun activities.
Andrew Mar 8th
In the interview with Andrew Marr we spoke mainly about how the budget should tackle the three emergencies that we are currently facing. Coronavirus of course, which is a considerable emergency. Secondly, we’ve got a crisis in all of our public services, particularly health and social care and one of the reasons we’re not as well prepared to tackle the virusis for example -17,000 hospital beds cut; social care in absolute crisis; a hundred thousand vacancies in social care. The third crisis we are facing is an existential threat of climate change. This Budget has got to be the most important budget I think since the Second World War.
Per-budget Speech at Coin Street Community Builders 9th
I gave the last pre-Budget speech that I will do as Shadow Chancellor before I return to the backbenches. This should be one of the most significant budgets in our peacetime history because we are facing three of the most serious emergencies that coming together our country has ever faced.
Immediately, we face the crisis of coronavirus as it impacts upon our country, with potentially immensely dangerous and, already for some, with tragic consequences. I set out a 5 point plan to address this crisis including funds to the NHS/Social care and financial support for those loosing their jobs.
After ten years of harsh and unnecessary austerity, we also face a social emergency, with extremes of poverty and inequality and crises in every one of our core public services.
And, of course, we are confronted by the overall existential threat of climate change and the growing, deeply troubling realisation that we are rapidly running out of time to avert a climate crisis.
Andrew Marr 11th
In responding to Andrew Marr’s question on the budget I said it wasn’t the scale we need and it wasn’t well directed.10 years of Austerity has made us ill prepared to tackle any crisis. The Government needs to learn the lessons of what they have done over the last 10 years. When you put a service into crisis it is very difficult to rebuild it.
Budget Response 12th
My opening speech in the budget debate focused on the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. As I have already said this is no time for partisan political knockabout or for that matter political publicity stunts. We have lives to save so we must all work together. We will work with the Government and parties across this House to protect our people and to contribute to the world-wide effort to overcome the outbreak of this virus. My full speech can be read at here
I attended at the ICA the sharing of the documentary on this wonderful author wha was so inspirational in the struggle for equality.
Picket Line UCU University of Greenwich Branch 18th
I spoke at this lively UCU picket line and was joined by local Labour Party members.
Response to the Chancellors Economic Update 17th
In my response to economic update I asked that we establish a principle throughout our discussions. To protect our people, the underlying principle must be that, wherever a person is sick, self-isolating or laid off from their employment, we will protect their income and give them security. I raised a number of questions about issues that the Chancellor failed to address.
With regard to those people who are sick, there is an urgent need for statutory sick pay to be available for everybody from day 1, and that means extending it to people on low pay, in part-time work and on zero-hours contracts, who at the moment do not qualify. I asked the Chancellor to consider abolishing completely the lower earnings limit with regard to statutory sick pay, as called for by the CBI. I also asked him to heed the call of the TUC and other groups to lift the overall level of statutory sick pay. The TUC has proposed that it should be raised to the level of the real living wage, and I think we should support that. Other countries are providing 100% protection of wages.
Labour’s Economic Plan for Individuals Affected by Coronavirus 20th
The coronavirus pandemic is causing immense human & economic hardship. The Government’s been too slow responding to coronavirus & its impact on our economy & people’s lives. Today I’ve published our comprehensive set of proposals to secure people’s wages, welfare and wellbeing: The plan can be read
Below is a short introductory video of the plan.
Urgent Question to the Chancellor Covid 19 Support for businesses
I asked the Chancellor to make an urgent statement on the 2 million workers that are on zero-hours and part-time workers. They are still not eligible for statutory sick pay and they appear to be excluded as well from the job retention scheme, which is focused on the definition of “employees” while, in law, these are referred to and defined as “workers”.
My response to the second reading of the contingency-Fund bill
In my response I said that we are supporting this Bill to enable the Government to access the resources to tackle the crisis but will raise some issues on the way in which the resources will be applied so that no one who makes the right choice to stay at home faces hardship.
I focused on the protection of workers safety and their income, the self-employed, the construction industry, raising statutory sick pay, job seekers allowance and carers allowance, security for renters, suspension of household bills.
I also suggested that loan agreements to businesses should include job retention clauses, which would mean that when businesses receive a loan, they can give workers the security they need in the knowledge that they will not lose their jobs.
I asked the Chancellor to assure NHS workers that they will get not only the equipment they need but the tests they need. The World Health Organisation has made it clear from the start that its advice is test, test, test. The scale and the speed of testing need to be addressed.
I went on to ask what extra resources are being made available to local councils, Charities and the Voluntary Sector to allow them to scale up their operations in response to coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable.
I then raised the issue of a reduction of interest rates to zero for students loans for the duration of the crisis, temporarily suspending no recourse to public funds, allowing temporary access to benefits for non-UK nationals so that they can survive this period, a refund of lost revenue to transport authorities and free transport for key workers.
I think we will look back at this period as an unprecedented moment in our lifetimes. I know that this is already a tragic time for so many, and all of us will be hurt by this, but I want us all to be able to look back with pride about what we did in this period—to be able to say, “We widened who was covered by our safety net when we had to. We protected people and their jobs and wages. We cared for people around us. We provided all the support that was needed and, as a result of that, we came through this all the stronger.” The full text can be read at
Treasury Questions 24th
I once again raised the issue of zero-hours workers, most of whom are not on PAYE. They are called limb (b) workers, so the scheme does not apply to them. The Chancellor has said that for zero-hours workers, employers may compensate on the basis of average hours worked. This should be mandatory and applied to all zero-hours and variable-hours workers based on average earnings over the previous weeks. That is exactly how those workers’ holiday pay is calculated at the moment, and it is an accurate reflection of what they earn. We need some urgent action for this sizeable group of workers. There are at least nearly a million zero-hours workers, perhaps a million more.
Closing Statement on Financial and Social Emergency Support Package 25th
In my last speech in the Chamber as Shadow Chancellor I paid tribute to the response of the British people. The community-based mutual aid groups that have sprung up. The 160,000 people who have signed up to offer support to those who need it. The 11,000 recently retired NHS staff who, despite the risks, have returned to the profession. The creative way in which families and friends have adapted to meeting up remotely via new technology.
I highlighted the concerns that I have raised in the previous days in the chamber and urged the Government to act, and to act urgently, to plug the gaps that have come to light. I also condemned the banks and retailers who have seen this crisis as an opportunity to hike up interest rates and prices.
It will be solidarity that will see us through this crisis to protect our community. And upon which we should build our society of the future.
I am so sad to hear that my old comrade Ted Knight has died. He was one of the finest and most courageous socialists I have known. He devoted his life to the greatest cause there is, humanity.
Labour’s Second Report on economic policy and Coronavirus 30th
‘Opposition parties must work constructively but keep holding the Govt to account right now. We’ve sent the Govt a short document proposing urgent economic policy changes to protect people affected by Coronavirus. This second short policy note that we have produced highlights five problems with recent announcements that need addressing, and sets out five deliverable reforms that would ensure no one – in or out of work – misses out on being protected in this time of crisis.