Another busy week – Amnesty, Oxfam, the Packington, and more

Once again, I’ve been too busy to update my blog for a bit. Not for lack of news or views, but lack of time to share them.

So here’s another quick roundup:

I’ve been busy lobbying away on the Digital Economy Bill, including signing a letter to the Guardian and speaking to the Open Rights Group anti-disconnection rally.

I spoke at a public meeting on asylum and immigration issues, organised by the local Amnesty International group. I am a longterm supporter of Amnesty International – I used to host letter writing groups in my home – and I am a Friend of the Refugee Council. During my time as deputy leader of Islington Council, and one of my most enjoyable roles was carrying out the citizenship ceremonies to welcome new citizens to the borough and hearing their very different and often moving stories. So I am keen to support the Let Them Work campaign.

It’s shameful that asylum seekers are kept in poverty, even criminalised, instead of being allowed to work; meanwhile the dehumanising bureaucracy takes years to process their cases while costing us all a fortune. By working asylum seekers, many of them highly-educated, could support themselves and their families, put their skills to service in society, and pay taxes. Jeremy Corbyn MP, who spoke as well, completely agrees with the LibDems on this: unfortunately his Government does not.

I’ve continued my programme of visits to locally-based charities with a interesting meeting with RNID; several members of my family live with hearing loss, and I suffered severe (thankfully temporary) hearing loss for some months a few years ago, so RNID’s work is close to my heart. They do excellent, practical work championing hearing tests, and pressing for sensible access measures, like ensuring that inductive loops actually work. More dramatically, research they are funding could lead to a cure for noise-induced hearing loss.

This week I’ve been popping back and forth to Westminster too. On Saturday I was at the Scout Association’s ‘Virgin Voters’ event, meeting first-time voters and young citizens to hear their views. Top priorities were affordable transport and student funding, as well as concerns about cleaning up politics, climate change, and jobs, that voters of all ages might well share.

On Wednesday, I started the day in Westminster, chairing a meeting for Oxfam on climate change. It’s easy to despair in the face of the challenge of climate change. Communities in some of the poorest nations are already living with droughts or floods – or, in the case of Pakistan, both. Oxfam’s projects there show how you can tackle poverty and work with the grain of local people while tackling climate change too: very inspiring.

There have been celebrations this week, a welcome chance to unwind after canvassing: on Saturday, I joined the Zimmers party for lead singer Alf Carretta’s birthday. On Tuesday we were marking 50 years of the Islington Society. On Wednesday night, the party was for Bob Gilbert, the much-loved green guru of Islington, who is taking early retirement from the Council to be a fulltime Dad and writer. And on Thursday I was celebrating the completion of phase 1 of the Packington estate. Beautiful canalside flats, all for local tenants from the old Packingon Square, a great achievement by the residents in partnership with Hyde Housing and Rydon.

Thursday also marked the end of an era, with the last Islington Council meeting before the local elections on 6 May. There are many good councillors retiring, including my colleagues Lucy Watt, Ruth Polling and former leader James Kempton. But the real sadness is the death of Councillor Donna Boffa, just a week ago. She was an amazing woman, who, in her short life, did what all politicians should aspire to do: make a difference. My tribute to her will be online soon.



  1. jack potter said

    I live in Australia, and forty years ago I was privileged to work with the wonderful Alf Carretta. I am 72 and there even way back then there was no more gentlemanly, courteous, talented and delightful person with whom one could hope to perform…. I owned a health food shop which was sensationally successful at 296 Upper Street near Cross Street and Alf and a collection of greatly gifted people used to travel around London and the Home Counties performing and noone could have given more delight to us and the people who saw us work than to marvel at his dexterity, and creative skills. When I heard, forty years later that he was performing with the Zimmers and travelling all over the Globe I thought, Well nobody could deserve recognition more for his delightful contribution to everybody who came to know him. Alf you were a high point in my life. I can never forget you. I grieve to hear that you are now perilously ill and beg everyone to take care of you to repay the contributuion you made to us all, Your loving old friend Jack

  2. jack potter said

    I left a comment and somehow it has dropped out, so here goes again… I love in Australia, I am 72, and forty years ago I had the incredible pleasure and satisfaction of working with the greatly talented and delightfully gentlemanly Alf Carretta. I owned a Health Food Shop at 296 Upper St near Cross and a group of gifted people worked with me around the Home Counties performing in drama festivals and Alf was our touchstone. What a creative and dexterous artist and dear friend. When I saw on the internet a few year ago that he had suddenly became famous as the lead singer for the Zimmers and was travelling all over the Globe as their lead singer, I thought to myself, well noone could ever deserve more the recognition he garnered than dear Alf. It was a privilege to know him, a delight to work with him and a memory I will always treasure till my last breath. I learned tonight that he is perilously ill and hope and pray that those of you who are near to him take care of him as I would, and our gratitude to him for the plaseure he has given us, is repaid. Cheerioe dear friend, Your old mate Jack

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