This week, as Conservative Party Conference ended, the Prime Minister gave a flippant speech, which was heavy on jokes, but light on policy or coherence. Spiralling energy costs, growing inflation, empty supermarket shelves and labour shortages barely received a mention, apart from either to blame someone else, or to claim this was all part of his plan.
The Prime Minister talked up his desire to turn Britain into a high-wage economy. I share that ambition. But the truth is that ordinary people will not feel the benefits of wage rises compelled by labour shortages when it causes the cost of living to rise dramatically as well – particularly when this Government has decided to raise taxes on their homes and jobs with council tax rises and a National Insurance rise coming down the track.
To prevent this, productivity gains are needed too – but while queues snake around the block for petrol, businesses can’t find workers with the right skills to meet demand, and Brexit has achieved little but to create a new industry in filling out forms, the economy will continue to falter.
Whereas Labour outlined a vision at conference to spend wisely, tax fairly and get the economy firing on all cylinders, experts branded Boris Johnson’s speech as “economically illiterate”.
Conferences are supposed to set the tone for a Party’s values and policies. At Labour’s conference, I returned energised and enthused to share Keir Starmer’s vision for a brighter and more prosperous Britain that will deliver a Britain of good work and employment opportunities, security for families, equality and a country where we take care of one another.
After eleven years in power where we have seen wages, growth and productivity flatline, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the Conservatives have lots of slogans but are out of ideas. Meanwhile, it is working people and families who are paying the price.
Attending Buckingham Palace for launch of Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay
On Thursday, I attended the launch of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. The launch saw Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II place Her message to the Commonwealth into the Baton, for it to be sealed and locked until it will be read out at the Games next year.
It’s an honour to be able to see the Baton start its journey around the world. Now, more than ever, it is so important that we join together with those from across the Commonwealth to connect communities, embrace different cultures and share this message of hope.
I am so excited for the Baton’s return to Birmingham which will mark the start of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and put Edgbaston at the centre of the world stage. During the Games, our constituency will host several cultural and sporting events including the hockey, squash and women’s T20 and will also be the base for the New Zealand House at Edgbaston Golf Club.
At the launch, I was joined by 70 young people from Birmingham who lined the stage and held flags from all the nations and territories of the Commonwealth. This included one student from King Edward Five Ways in Bartley Green, who is part of Birmingham City Council’s Youth City Board.
I also had the privilege of meeting one of Edgbaston’s Hometown Heroes, Joan Hunter and Professor Francis Pope from the University of Birmingham. Professor Pope and his team played a pivotal role in the creation of the baton adding environmental sensors. So, as it makes its 140,000 Km journey around the Commonwealth, Professor Pope will be able to see readings that will support ongoing conversations around climate and air quality around the world.
Cancel the cut to Universal Credit
New data shows that the cut to Universal Credit will see 11,440 households worse off in Edgbaston Constituency. This equates to close to £12 million being taken away from residents across the constituency, 47% of who have children.
This is scandalous. What we are seeing from this Conservative Government is the poorest in our society having to make the largest sacrifices. While £20 a week sounds like very little, coupled with rising fuel costs, it’s the choice of feeding your family or being warm this winter.
One third of those in our constituency, who claim Universal Credit, are hard-working families. Not only will they face this cut to their finances, but they will also be slapped with the National Insurance tax rise. When will this Government understand that you simply cannot keep attacking hard-working families at a time when cost of living is not in line with wages. This is a breaking point that will see thousands of families moving into crisis.
For the Government to balance the books on the backs of our community’s poorest children is indefensible. I fear for the financial future of some constituents. But, it’s not too late for this Conservative Government to do the right thing and reverse this decision and I sincerely hope that they do the right thing.
I wrote to the secretary for work and pensions, Therese Coffey MP, to implore that she cancels the cut to Universal Credit.
Calling out councillors using schools to electioneer for political parties
This week, I was shocked to hear how Conservative councillor, Peter Fowler, used a local school to campaign for the Conservative Party.
Outraged parents from Harborne Primary School contacted me after receiving a newsletter from their children’s school, written by Cllr Peter Fowler and which contained blatant electioneering.
The law explicitly prevents schools taking part in any political campaigning and when teaching about political issues, schools must remain unbiased and show a balanced presentation of opposing views.
Not only did the body of the newsletter included political point scoring, more concerningly, the newsletter contained a link which led parents to a page hosted by the Conservative Party. The link had been disguised, suggesting that it would lead the reader to sign a petition. However, once there, parents were asked if they would deliver leaflets for Cllr Fowler, make calls to voters or knock on doors on behalf of the Conservative party, or even stand as a Conservative councillor in upcoming elections.
I find this appalling because it so blatantly flouts the limitations that ensure schools remain politically neutral. I understand the pressures schools are facing and it isn’t them that I blame for this. Why wouldn’t a school trust a councillor to uphold the law?
We should expect higher standards from our elected representatives. Before this newsletter was issued, Cllr Fowler would have been aware of the laws which protect schools from undue influence, and he should have had the decency to respect them. This is blatantly being disregarded. With local elections coming up next year, I am deeply concerned about the measures some members of the Conservative Party are willing to go to.
This is not the first incident of this type, which involves Conservative councillors utilising schools to influence voters. Earlier this year Cllr Dominic Stanford took a similar approach at both World’s End Schools in Quinton. Fortunately, the schools were alert to the issue and were able to take action to prevent political messaging from being issued.
To prevent these continuing incidents from occurring, I have called on the Council to launch an investigation into these actions so that any councillor dealing in these underhand tactics, faces the appropriate repercussions.