I always enjoy returning to Newcastle after Parliament breaks up for recess but this year it is a relief as well as a pleasure! Westminster is reeling from two months of unprecedented turmoil – and the country is also suffering from uncertainty on so many fronts.
The Brexit result surprised everyone, including many who voted to leave. We are now trying to understand what that momentous decision means, and the economic, social and political repercussions. The Government appears to have no plan.
The Parliamentary Labour Party is in disarray. The weekend after Brexit saw mass resignations from Jeremy’s frontbench. There is now a leadership election between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith. I have set out my position on my website and in a blog.
The Tory leadership turned into a coronation for Theresa May who, as she entered 10 Downing Street, claimed hers would be a Government for ordinary working people. We be holding her to account on that commitment but for many it recalled Margaret Thatcher’s quoting St Francis of Assisi as she entered Number 10 – one of the most divisive Prime Minister’s in history promised to bring harmony!
There is certainly a lot of division to overcome. Newcastle voted to remain in Europe by the narrowest of margins, the rest of the country voted to leave though Scotland voted to stay. We have to come together to make sure the many, many decisions that will be taken over the next few months do not deliver a Brexit that works for the privileged. We have some way to go.
Backbench and Constituency Role
I spent three days visiting the Somme and Belgian Battlefields with Northumberland Fusiliers veterans, families and cadets. We held a ceremony at the Tyneside Fusiliers Memorial Seat at La Boisselle and laid a wreath at the Menem Gate. The visit was covered by Tyne Tees and I wrote a blog on what I found a very moving and instructive experience.
As well as visiting the Hoppings and the newly opened Wylam Brewery at Exhibition Park, I had a guided tour of the Town Moor by Freeman-Farmer Ricky Alder and Town Moor Superintendent Kevin Batey. This was covered by the Chronicle and I learnt a lot about the stewardship of Newcastle’s great green jewel.
I held the third of my Ward Summits in Elswick to agree what my priorities should be for the ward. The minutes will be published on my website but the five agreed priorities were:
- Jobs & skills (across all ages)
- Children & Young People
- Health & Wellbeing
- Built environment( inc. general environment) & Regeneration
- Devolution of Power (to Local Authorities & Communities)
I spoke from the backbenches on 10th May on Housing in Newcastle and also Social Care budgets, on 12th May on Smart Meters, 26th May on Women and Equalities question on Adult Education to help older women into STEM careers, on 8th June on Voter Registration and on 9th June on representation in Parliamentary Art Work. I spoke on Article 50 approval on July 11th and on blockchain technology also on July 11th.
I arranged two Newcastle-Nigeria events including Solid Minerals Summit organised by Newcastle University student in Westminster and the visit to Newcastle of President Buhari’s Special Diaspora Advisor Abike Dabiri. Abike visited Newcastle before any other UK city outside London for a Town Hall meeting at Newcastle Business School and took back a very favourable impression of the city. Supporting Nigeria Newcastle links should promote new trade opportunities, particularly post Brexit.
Many in the constituency expressed concern over the Brexit result and I have received 100s of emails about it. I have also received hundreds regarding the Labour Leadership. I published the latest constituency casework piecharts for May and June on my website.
Excellent workshop on Adult Education held at Westgate Community College as part of the research for a report commissioned by the APPG which I chair.
Shadow Ministerial Role
I am still on the frontbench although as not all frontbench positions have been filled there is more work to go around and we are less effective at holding the Government to account. I spoke from the frontbench in the Back Bench Business Committee debate on Online Abuse on July 7th, emphasising the need to protect citizens, in the Westminster Hall debate on Broadband in Wales on 6 July 2016, on 28 June 2016 on the lack of any planning for Brexit and the impact on large manufacturers like Nissan and Hitatchi.
I closed the Opposition Day debate on 8th of June on the BBC Charter highlighting the success of the BBC as a public sector organisation.
I spoke from the frontbench in DCMS questions on June 9th on broadband coverage.
I spoke three times at the How the Light Gets In Festival to set out our position on the digital economy, rights, labour relations and the reasoning behind it. It also furnished two blogs one for LabourList and one for the New Statesman.
The Digital Economy Bill had its first reading. It has little to improve digital infrastructure or digital inclusion but raises a lot of concerns over data sharing.
Media, Organisation & visits
Quoted regularly in local media and nationally. Appeared on radio and television particularly around the referendum. Wrote a number of blogs on different subjects including EU, Digital, economics.
Meetings and visits
Late Shows, Freedom City, Food and Drinks Federation Dinner, Nursery School Heads, Lord Carter, Dougal Goodman, Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards, I/O Google event, Google Android Head of Engineering, , Franco British Council AGM, Andy Haddon – Earth Doctors bakery, Stocksfield Avenue Primary school visit, EU campaigning, Show Racism the Red Card 20th Anniversary, UK Digital Currency Association, Owen Larter – Microsoft, Arj Singh – Press Association, Emma Ashcroft and Becky Foreman – Yahoo and Microsoft, Guide Dogs lobby, Bishop of Newcastle Maiden Speech, Keith Harris/Adam Collerton/BBC – Freedom City, Reclaim the Internet campaign, Bridget Gray – Harvey Nash, Tom Miller – Open Labour, The Threepenny Opera, Progressive Economy Forum, , Westgate Baptist Church, HMRC Digital Centre, APPG on Adult Education, Pictfor CEO Forum, Photocall and Carer Speednetworking, Atanas Bostandjiev and Hetty Bailey – Gemcorp and Africa APPG, Serious Trust Annual Appeal Launch, Google West End Expedition, Private View of There Were Islands, Professor Chris Brink – Newcastle University, Labour market challenges in North East roundtable, Mural Launch – CHAT Trust, Simon Hanson and Allen Creedy – Federation of Small Businesses. DigiWorld Future Conference, Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, Celebration of New Dawn artwork, Tyneside Irish EU campaign, Station to station Queen’s Birthday celebration, Mike Brown, Huawei, FCO Director Africa, British Association for Screen Entertainment, Deans of English Cathedrals, British Museum, WEA Green Branch, Northumbria Police, St Joseph’s Summer fayre, Newcastle College, Martin Luther King, Primark, Vhils Freedom City, GMB BA staff cuts, Eagles Basketball. Vicolo Tyneside Cinema, Amazon, Bill Thompson BBC Archive, Remote Control Project, FSB Women in Enterprise, Catapult High Value Manufacturing, ITV, Hacked Off, Socialists & Democrats MEPs, Somme 100th Anniversary Tour Battlefields & Ceremonies with Fusiliers, Digital Europe, Clare Bury DG Connect Brussels, Cabinet Margrethe Vestager and Carolos Moedas European Commission, TUC, Heart Valve Voice, Arthritis Research, BBC Digital, Imaginary Futures, Cancer Research, Alliance for Intellectual property, Foundation for Science & Technology, Royal Mail, TechUK, Diana Award, Royal Society, Dixon Scott Circle, FinTech, Chennai 6 Lobby, APPG on Medical Research: Can patient data revolutionise healthcare?, Huawei 15 years in UK, , Dom André Soares – Anglican Bishop of Angola, Reclaim the internet campaign, Ashok Vaswani – CEO of Barclays UK, Clive Selley – CEO Openreach, Helen Pidd – Guardian, Graham Steele, Doug Belshaw – Dynamic Skillset, Bernard Ginns – Digital health Inhealthcare. Northern Pride, Tour of Town moors, Verity Harding – Google, Karen Tuck – BCS The Chartered Institute for IT, Widening Digital participation programme, Nigeria APPG Annual General Meeting, Tim Peake welcome home, , Muscular Dystrophy UK focus on Physiotherapy, UK Sikh Community Showcase and afternoon tea, Oona King farewell diversity reception, Denis Goldberg – South Africa APPG, Fairtrade APPG, Dinner with Lai Mohammed – Nigeria Minister of Broadcasting, Tom Loosemore – Co-Op, Peter Read and Ana Bradley – Women in Tech Charter, Kenton School, Menisha Gela, Northumbria Police,
UK E-Commerce Summit, Channel 4 News – Cold Call scams, Host Solid Minerals Nigeria panel, Nigerian Diaspora North East, Sikh Community Pro EU with Stronger In, IPSOS – Internet & Technology Sector research, Chair Policy UK Fin Tech’s Future, BBC Radio – TUC report on leaving EU risks women’s rights, Host Dinner with Newcastle University London Advisory Board, The Great Debate – EU Special, Town Hall meeting on the future of Adult Education, ISIGrowth Conference & Roundtable, How the Light Gets In Hay Festival events including The End of the End of History, Digital Democracy, Don’t be evil debate, Another Europe is possible, Barclays branch opening, Nomad Digital office opening, Final Year Degree Show – Newcastle University, Assembly at Engineering event – Hilton School, Pro EU small business.
BBC EU Referendum debate, Internet of Insurance Big Data, FTI Consulting roundtable, Northern Echo EU Referendum debate, Women in Engineering & EU Referendum, Dilse Radio EU Referendum, Tributes to Jo Cox- BBC, Capital FM and Metro, Spirit of Soweto, STEAM Keeping Schools creative, Hypercat summit, Bangladeshi EU event, Lifelines refugee film screening, “More in Common” celebration of Jo Cox’s life. Basil Bunting Celebration Morden Tower, Sunday Politics EU referendum result, Creative Africa Workshop, Precious STEM, Digital Single Market conference Brussels, Law Society Awards, APPG Adult Education research launch, Ohaneze Uk International conference Igbo Unity, Finding True North: Realising the Norther Powerhouse, ESOL teachers conference, Pictfor Summer Forum – “Brexit, Tech & the Digital Single Market”, English Martyrs School debate, Business & Industry Lunch: Skills for the Digital Economy, Labour Leader Women in Engineering eventBCS IT at the Top – Digital Economy, Chair – Africa-UK trade & investment agreements after Brexit, Elswick Ward Summit, Speak – Politics of land and development panel, Speak – NUBS Gender and Stem Network conference gala dinner.