Posts Tagged Emily Thornberry

Weak-willed Labour MPs veto 10:10 at Westminster

Lib Dem MPs have been leading the debate on fighting climate change by trying to get the Government to sign up to 10:10 this week. Having been at the 10:10 launch, I was delighted to see this motion tabled – and I’d certainly have voted for it if I was in Parliament.

10:10 is the initiative to get individuals and organisations to commit to start reducing carbon emissions right now, by reducing 10% by the end of 2010. Islington Council has signed up and so have many individuals (the Fox-Turnbull household is doing its bit by replacing our old boiler with a combination one).

With endorsement from so many campaigners, including the 38 Degrees pressure group, and with the Copenhagen summit coming soon, this would have been both popular and good, the right decision at the right time.

After all, we are the first generation to understand the full impact of climate change, and the last to be able to do something about it.

So did Labour embrace the opportunity? No they did not. Despite many individual Labour MPs and ministers pledging to back 10:10, when it came to the vote they rejected any commitment to specific action by the Government, voting through an amendment full of vague praise for existing schemes instead.

Warm words and photo ops from Labour politicians are a waste of time if when it comes to taking real action now on the environment they refuse.

It’s no surprise that Islington South MP Emily Thornberry was among those vetoing 10:10. She has already failed to vote against Heathrow expansion; and she helped kill off the Fuel Poverty Bill.

Signing up to the 10:10 initiative would have made the Government’s commitment to action clear ahead of the Copenhagen summit. But once again we will get words without action. It’s shameful that weak-willed Labour MPs let the Government whips defeat this vital move.

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Equitable Life debate today

Liberal Democrat MPs will be using part of their Opposition Day today to debate the Government paying compensation to Equitable Life policyholders.

The Opposition Day motion is based on an Early Day Motion (EDM 1423) tabled by Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats, which so far has the signatures of 335 MPs from all parties, including more than 250 Labour and Conservative MPs.

The EDM reads:

That this House notes the Parliamentary Ombudsman has taken the unusual step of using powers under the 1967 Act to present Parliament with a further and final report on Equitable Life; also notes that the Public Administration Select Committee’s second report on Equitable Life, Justice denied? concluded that the Government response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report was inadequate as a remedy for injustice; recognises the vital role the Ombudsman plays in public life; reaffirms the duty of Parliament to support the office of the Ombudsman; believes the Government should accept the recommendations of the Ombudsman on compensating policyholders who have suffered loss; welcomes the formation of the All-Party Group on Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders; and notes with regret its necessary formation and the fact that over 30,000 people have already died waiting for a just resolution to this saga.

While Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has signed the EDM, Islington South & Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry has so far failed to do so.

While only MPs can sign the EDM, we can all show support by signing the national petition on the same subject.

Unlike Ms Thornberry, I fully support the case of Equitable Life policyholders for compensation. This injustice should have been righted long since.

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Mail backlog

I’m still catching up with my post-conference mail, on top of writing up notes from conference itself.

But my mail backlog is nothing compared to that reported to be building up following the recent spate of Royal Mail strikes in London and elsewhere. This is particularly bad news for small businesses, depending on orders and payments in the post.

According to the BBC, unions are claiming that the mail backlog may never be cleared, and are demanding overtime to do the work themselves. Now, I want my post as much as anyone: but this strikes me as barmy blackmail. First you go on strike to create a backlog: then you demand extra pay to clear it? I don’t think so. Especially when there are more strikes to come. Assuming the postal ballots arrive….

In a world where all of us are tightening our belts, and jobs are scarcer than for years, it’s arrogant of some (not all) mail workers to try and hold postal service users to ransom.

If the backlog cannot be cleared through regular work, then it’s reasonable to treat it as a separate job and get temporary or agency staff in to clear it. Or even ship it to another mail service for processing.

The Royal Mail has a contract with its customers, all of us, and must deliver our mail. They need to take some responsibility for sorting out this mess, without rewarding the people who disrupted services in the first place. Someone – ACAS or the Department for Business – needs to bang heads together to make sure we don’t get such problems in future. Or there won’t be a viable Royal Mail at all.

Don’t expect our local Labour MP Emily Thornberry to agree. She’s sponsored by the Communications Workers Union, which explains why she appears to be backing their calls for a blackmail bonus. Labour like to use the slogan ‘On Your Side’. But not if you’re waiting for your post to arrive.

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Richmond, sphinxes and umbrellas

Parliament may be on holiday, but the campaigning continues. Last week we were surveying in Richmond. Without leaving Islington.

Like all local authorities, Islington divides its area into wards, and each ward into 3 polling districts. To plan our campaign organisation, we Lib Dems further divide them up into ‘walks’, one of which is ‘Richmond’, covering Richmond Avenue and the surrounding turnings.

Richmond is both a rather grand placename – meaning ‘rich world’ in French – and a very common one. Even within Islington there’s a different Richmond, Richmond Grove, which runs from the Town Hall to Canonbury Road. There are towns called Richmond everywhere from Aberdeenshire to West Sussex, not least the London Borough of Richmond (blessed with not one but two Lib Dem MPs!). According to the Times Atlas, Richmond is the most influential British place name worldwide.

Part of the Barnsbury ‘Richmond’ is Richmond Crescent, which certainly is a rich world. It became famous in 1997 as the home of Tony Blair when he set out from there for Downing Street. The Crescent is still home to other Labour luvvies including MPs Margaret Hodge and Emily Thornberry. Although I’m pleased to report that even in this unpromising territory there are Lib Dem votes to be found.

Ms Thornberry presumably does know which Richmond is which. However as Simon Calder reports, “Last Saturday the London Labour MP, Emily Thornberry, had the dismal job of defending the party’s defeat in the Norwich North by-election on Breakfast News. But the MP for Islington South and Finsbury told viewers that she had been energetically canvassing in Ipswich”. Oh dear.

Richmond Avenue is famous for the Egyptian-inspired sphinxes and miniture obelisks that flank the front doors of the houses on the southside, backing onto Barnard Park. There’s a great photo of a Richmond sphinx by Barnsbury resident Barbara Rich.

According to Harry Mount, the NILE caption is a tribute to Nelson’s 1798 victory at the Battle of the Nile, although the Richmond Avenue houses date from 1841. (I’ve blogged before about Nelson’s influence on Islington streetnames.) So not so much Nelson’s Column as Nelson’s sphinx.

The Richmond sphinxes may not be as ancient as the original, but they have survived nearly 170 years. So it was very sad to see that one had been smashed by vandals last weekend. I suppose ‘mindless vandalism’ is a tautology, but this really is stupid.

The previous time I’d canvassed Richmond Avenue was a weekend during the Euro elections, a rainy day. Many kindly voters invited me into their hallways. And by the end of that day I was without my umbrella. I was convinced I’d left it in the pub at lunchtime, but it never turned up.

Anyway, on Tuesday night I knocked on one door, to be greeted with “hello Bridget, we’ve got your umbrella!” But of course I wasn’t expected and despite a rummage in the hall cupboard, the umbrella was hiding, as umbrellas do. Still at least we know roughly where it is. And next time I canvass in Richmond, I’ll come away with more than votes.

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Euro elections – don’t forget your vote

The European election campaign is officially underway.

We’re knocking on doors seven days a week in Islington. Voting cards have gone out, and the first election addresses are hitting the door mats. Having worked alongside a hall full of Lib Dem activists over a very long weekend sticking and stuffing thousands of the things, I thought I’d be happy never to see another one of our election leaflets. But actually it was really good to see it arrive – proof that our hard work had paid off.

Of course if you look at the headlines you’d be forgiven for not knowing the Euro elections are happening. The revelations about MPs expenses – which have now got well into the ‘couldn’t make it up’ category – have knocked other politics out of the news.

People are right to be angry about the expenses scandals. Unlike Emily Thornberry MP, the residents I speak to are angry, not bored. This is an area that needs more scrutiny, not less.

The Euro elections are important. All the big issues that affect us – the economy, climate change, migration, and our rights as citizens and consumers – are better addressed by neighbouring countries working together. There’s a real concern that if ordinary voters are apathetic, extremists will get elected. So it’s important to vote on 4th June. Naturally I’ll be voting Lib Dem to re-elect our excellent MEP Sarah Ludford, the only MEP from Islington, as part of a strong Lib Dem team.

If you’re still a floating voter, then the clever people at VoteMatch have updated their website to help you decide.

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Islington’s Obama aftermath

How much more damning can it be that it takes an American politician to find something so positive and inspiring in a school shunned by its own MP?

That’s the conclusion of a thoughtful piece in the Observer about what Michelle Obama’s visit tells us about the First Lady and about schools like EGA.

I was a governor at EGA for four years, chairing the Finance Committee, and helping appoint the fantastic Head, Jo Dibb. I have always been proud of the school and its bright and beautiful young women. It’s full name – Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College – may sound like the sort of place that brings Italian teenagers to Brighton to learn English, but no, it’s the local girls’ comprehensive. As the Observer reports, “its pupils, of whom 20% are the children of refugees or asylum seekers, speak a total of 55 different languages and 92% of whom are from a black or minority background.”

EGA’s part of an innovative e-learning project with other schools in the Kings Cross area. Its annual language festival – where the girls teach each other new languages – is an inspiring event. On my school visits, I was always impressed: the level of teaching, the behaviour of students as good as anything at my old school. The facilities have improved dramatically too. There is new school library, language labs and tennis courts, even before the hoped-for rebuild. Ofsted graded it excellent and now outstanding.

Just last week I spoke to one of my constituents on the neighbouring Barnsbury estate; he was anxious about how his oldest daughter was going to find EGA when she starts there this autumn. Don’t worry, I said, it’s a great school. By now he’ll know the First Lady agrees.

It’s entirely right for parents to want the best for their children. But as Ofsted confirms, EGA is giving the best of educations to its young women. So why are local Labour politicos, including Emily Thornberry, so reluctant to send their own daughters there? I suspect it’s the old elephant in the corner of the English education system: not standards but social class.

Thank God for Michelle Obama, who is, to quote James Kempton, “probably the greatest black female role model today”, seeing the best in EGA: not rough, just diamonds.

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Fuel poverty campaign in the Gazette

The Islington Gazette has published my letter on the Fuel Poverty Bill – and Emily Thornberry’s shocking failure to vote.

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Thornberry’s indifference helps kill Fuel Poverty Bill

If your MP could help pass a Bill in Parliament which could save lives, help the poorest people in Britain, help in the fight against climate change, and what’s more create jobs in a recession, don’t you think that would be worthwhile?

I do, and that’s why I backed the Fuel Poverty Bill introduced by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath.

With the spring weather we may forget the tragedy that 20,000 people needlessly die from the cold each year, and many more become ill. Fuel prices have more than doubled over the last five years. Many homes are poorly insulated so that energy is wasted.

The Fuel Poverty Bill would end fuel poverty by 2016 by bringing all homes up to standard and cutting fuel bills for the poorest families. It would mean fewer people face illness or death from cold and damp. It would help to reduce the wastage of energy which contributes to climate change. And it would produce work for thousands of people when we desperately need it.

The Bill has been backed by many major charities, including Help the Aged and Friends of the Earth. I want to thank all the Islington residents who signed my petition supporting the Bill. I would have voted for the Bill, and I congratulate MPs from all parties who did so.

Sadly I have to report that despite their hard work, the Bill will not go forward, because it just missed getting the 100 votes needed.

I am totally disgusted with Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, who once again did not bother to vote.

This comes after she failed to vote on Heathrow or on knife crime, she voted in favour of Post Office closures, against tax cuts, and against more money for social housing in Islington.

It is a disgraceful record.

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Back the Fuel Poverty Bill

The Government has admitted that unemployment is now over the 2 million mark.

To quote Work & Pensions Minister (and former Islington councillor) James Purnell, “these are bad figures. There is no gloss that anyone is going to try and put on them.”

It’s hard to take in the scale of the figures – the latest rise, an extra 165,000 unemployed at the end of last year, is roughly equal to the population of Islington.

Just this week, I spoke to three different friends who are affected by this: one is preparing to reapply for his job, one is doing voluntary work while she’s job hunting and another is worried about his partner’s job in a round of redundancies. These are uncertain times.

The Government could and should take a bold stand and tackle the economic and the climate change crisis together: by creating jobs in the work that needs to be done insulating our homes, developing renewable energy, producing more food and goods locally, and providing better public transport.

Tomorrow sees the 2nd reading of David Heath’s Fuel Poverty Bill. By calling for major energy efficiency programme, to bring existing homes up to the current energy efficiency levels enjoyed by modern homes, it could tackle both unemployment and the impact of climate change.

I hope that for once, Emily Thornberry, Islington South’s Labour MP, will swallow her partisan pride and back this excellent Bill. Watch this space.

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Another Heathrow vote

Campaigning MPs from all parties are doing their best to combat the expansion of Heathrow.

And for good reason. As I’ve blogged before, another Heathrow runway will be a disaster for the environment without helping the economy: a seriously bad idea.

One of the many disgraceful aspects of the Heathrow issue is that the Labour government denied MPs the decision. So good news that this week Susan Kramer MP opened a debate to amend the Planning Act 2008 “to require parliamentary approval for proposals for the building of new major airports and additional runways at existing major airports”.

Lib Dem MPs backed the idea. So did principled Labour MPs like Jeremy Corbyn. In fact most of the Labour rebels were London MPs who know how their constituents will be affected.

So how did Emily Thornberry vote? She didn’t. Couldn’t be bothered? Had a better offer? Who knows…. We can all protest, go on demos, sign petitions, etc: many of us do! But we rely on our MP to do the one thing we can’t do: use their vote in Parliament on our behalf. And once again, Emily Thornberry has let Islington down.

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