This week our party leader, Keir Starmer, carried out a reshuffle of the shadow cabinet. The changes made show how Labour is relentlessly focused on the priorities of working people and serious about winning the next election.
Keir and Labour are ready to fix the mess the Tories have got the country into and to inspire voters to believe that Britain’s best days are ahead of us.
I am especially pleased that Labour has recognised that International Development must remain as a cabinet role. It is an honour to continue my work to tackle poverty and inequality around the world and, to continue to challenge the Government on vaccine equity given the new Omicron variant now posing a huge global danger.
Vaccines remain our greatest tool in the fight against the pandemic. However, the Government has allowed 600,000 vaccines to be destroyed instead of donating them to low-income countries. They knew the virus would mutate unchecked and despite Omicron they are still hoarding surplus doses. This only makes us all less safe.
Moreover, we now have 42 cases of the Omicron variant detected in the UK. The latest variant is a wake-up call that the pandemic is not over. We need to act with speed to bolster our defences to keep the virus at bay.
Labour is calling for the Government to immediately re-introduce pre-departure Covid tests for anyone travelling to the UK. We’re extremely worried that there are major gaps in the Government's Covid surveillance arrangements. But crucially, the Government must learn the lessons from previous waves of the pandemic to ensure that the same mistakes are not made again.
Challenging the health secretary on GP Appointments
Many of you have written to me to ask why it is now so hard to get an appointment with your GP. However, it is no wonder given we’ve lost 1,800 fully qualified GPs since 2015.
Boris Johnson pledged to increase number of GPs by 6,000 by 2025. On this he has broken his promise, just as he has also failed to increase the number of GP appointments by 50 million. This is important as it puts patients' health at great risk.
We went into the pandemic with an NHS already on its knees: with 17,000 fewer NHS beds, 100,000 full-time NHS staff vacancies, hospitals crumbling, public health services cut, GP numbers down. We were promised a plan to bring down waiting list times and it is now crystal clear that the Government doesn’t have one. If they want to see what one looks like, they need only look at what the last Labour Government did. Waiting times down from 18 months to 18 weeks.
Without a serious workforce strategy, millions of people will continue to wait in pain for months on end for their treatment because there simply aren’t the people, we need to treat them. It is staggering that Boris Johnson will be breaking another promise.
I wrote to the health secretary to outline how the unmanageable workloads for GPs are causing experienced doctors to quit and as the crisis worsens, so will the skills gap. The NHS is in crisis not simply because of Covid. The NHS is in crisis because of the Conservatives.
For more on this, catch me on Midlands Politics this Sunday at 10am on BBC1.
Supporting the Birmingham Christmas Appeal for toy donations
Today I visited local drop-off points where residents were donating toys to the Birmingham Live Brum Wish Christmas Appeal which aims to ensure no child in Birmingham goes without a new toy or game on Christmas morning.
Working with the fantastic Quinton and Harborne Labour Party volunteers who have offered their time to help with the collections, I attended Edgbaston Cricket Stadium to help organise and take-in donations.
Every child should have the joy of opening a present on Christmas morning. Yet, it’s shocking that 110,000 children across Birmingham will wake up in poverty this Christmas, with many going without a present.
The number of children living in poverty has dramatically risen since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 and now stands at 4.2 million – that's 31% of children in every school classroom. That is a shameful figure and one which needs to be rectified immediately. However, with the Government’s planned benefit cuts and no plan to address soaring fuel prices, people on low incomes are facing a difficult winter.
That is why I am so pleased to see Birmingham Live, local organisations and of course, our Labour Party volunteers coming together to see that, at the very least, we can ensure every child in Birmingham has a gift this Christmas.
Donations of new or nearly new toys are being requested for children aged between 0 and 16 years old. Donations can be made at any of the following locations:
- Royal British Legion Quinton at 211 Worlds End Lane, B32 2RX on Friday 3rd December between 2:00pm and 6:00pm
- Harborne Street Stall on the High Street on Saturday 4th December between 11:00am and 1:00pm
- Edgbaston Cricket Stadium on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th December between 11:00am and 3:00pm
For any further information on what you can donate or if you would like to get involved with the appeal, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marking World Aids Day
On Wednesday I marked World Aids Day by calling on the Government to stop cuts to AIDS projects.
New analysis shows that women now constitute more than half of all people living with HIV and AIDS-related illnesses. 55% of those living now with HIV worldwide are women and AIDS-related illnesses have now become the leading cause of death among 15–49-year-old women globally.
After Conservative cuts to international aid causing programmes dedicated to tackling HIV and AIDS to have a reduced scope of targeted countries earlier this year, I'm calling for government cuts to be halted.
While HIV infection fell in 13 key countries, 2020 saw infection rates amongst women increase by 20 per cent in Zambia. Sub-Saharan Africa has also seen a similar disproportionate increase in the rise in gendered HIV infections. Six in seven new HIV infections among adolescents (aged 15 to 19) are among girls, and young women (aged 15 to 24) are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.
The Government’s cuts to international aid programmes have seen research into diseases like HIV and AIDS drastically reduced and the Voluntary Service Overseas’ programmes no longer being able to reach countries where vital support is needed.
So, on World AIDS Day, I called on the Government to stop cutting aid to programmes and projects protecting lives, providing healthcare and preventing transmission. The fight to tackle HIV and AIDS remains as important as ever and a global effort is the best approach to tackle the crisis and save lives. And with women disproportionately impacted we must work to address this stark inequality.
Support needed for the Emotional Wellbeing Service at St Germain’s Church
St Germain’s Church in North Edgbaston has been running a free mental health drop-in service that has delivered over 800 one to one sessions to people who have been struggling with emotional difficulties like anxiety and depression.
With sessions running twice a week, the team joins up with the benefits service and community network support officers to provide a rounded approach.
It was born out of the pandemic in May last year. However, since its launch, it has seen demand grow and grow and now needs help to continue to run the service.
It’s so important to give people hope that things can change. With NHS waiting times for mental health taking month, this is a vital service. If you can and would like to support the service, please visit their Crowdfunder campaign page.