Almost four months into 2016 and it’s still not clear if it’s winter or spring or whether Newcastle will be a premiership club next season. The political weather is equally uncertain.
In March the Government were prevented from overturning the twenty year consensus on Sunday Trading. This will protect working people already in precarious and low paid jobs from having their right to shared family/personal time further eroded.
Launch of Blakelaw Post Office in Blakelaw Centre in March 2016
Also in March George Osborne presented a budget so unfair and divisive it saw one of his own Cabinet colleagues resign and forced the Government to U-turn on some of the cuts to disabled peoples’ benefits – though they have already been significantly reduced.
Then this month the leak of the Panama Papers provided proof of tax avoidance on an industrial scale, limiting the money available for the public services we all need so much. In terms of public services Newcastle City Council has had 45% of its budget slashed since 2010, losing £190m, yet it received not one penny from the Governments £300m transitional fund, 83% of which went entirely to Tory councils, in some of the most wealthy areas in the country.
Newcastle University – School of chemistry solar photovoltaics & solar fuels in January 2016
Whilst all this was happening junior doctors felt driven to unprecedented strike action after the Government imposed a contract many feel is unsafe and unfair and harms the NHS. Not surprisingly, most people trust the Doctors more than the Government over the NHS. My strong view is that people have a right to a family life, whether it is B&Q workers or doctors it makes for a better, safer, healthier working environment and we should help ensure they can spend time with family and friends.
Finally over the weekend Boris Johnson managed to find his way from London, where being Mayor is just one of his many jobs, to Newcastle, indeed to the Centre for Life. There, in a building funded by European money, surrounded by world beating scientific research also funded by European money, he told us why we would be better off with him rather than the biggest trading block in the world. The European Referendum is one of the most important decisions this country will ever take, constituents tell me they want facts and evidence on which to base their decision. I shall be looking to provide these, and Boris will certainly not be my source.
May 5th is Local Election day. I hope everyone uses the vote which we are all privileged to have!
Royal Society of Chemistry experiments – flash cotton in February 2016
Shadow Ministerial Role
- Spoke from the Frontbench for DCMS on the Government’s failure over satellite broadband and broadband more generally on January 21st and on Northern Powerhouse and Arts funding on 3rd March. On 9th March I responded for Labour on BT Service Standards [Westminster Hall] and on Diversity in the BBC on 14th April.
- I spoke from the Frontbench for the Business team on 15th March 2016 on Broadband and businesses.
- Ofcom published its Strategic Review of Communications which I broadly welcomed though awaiting the detailed implementation. I wrote a blog for the Register
- Toured Windsor Castle art collection.
Backbench and Constituency Role
- Gave evidence to the Planning Appeal for the McDonalds at Kenton
- Spoke from the Backbenches 4 February 2016 on rural Broadband Services and the Return of Kings event in Newcastle, 1 February 2016 on Universal Credit Work Allowance and 26 January 2016 on Further Education Colleges (North-east) [Westminster Hall] on 21st January on the representation of diversity in the House, on 19 January 2016 on STEM Careers: Diversity [Westminster Hall], on 14 January 2016 on Gender Pay Gap, on 12 January 2016 on The Commonwealth: Trade and Diplomatic Connections. On 1st March intervened in Westminster Hall Debate on Local Government Funding in the NE, on 8 March 2016 spoke about the lack of women in STEM in the International Women’s Day 2016 debate and on 25th February on careers advice to encourage girls in STEM.
- Blakelaw Ward Summit held with good participation and feedback. Minutes posted to join the Benwell and Scotswood Summit Minutes
- Helped arrange debate on The Immigration Act(s) and screening of ‘Everyday Borders’ Tuesday, 29 March 2016 5.30-8.00pm at Northumbria University. The screening was well attended and led to an excellent debate.
- Excellent trade mission to Nigeria with a number of very high profile meetings and roundtables including one with the President, and a number of significant contacts made. Presented guides to Newcastle to both President and Trade Minister. More detailed report available.
- Excellent trip to Canada for Broadbent Progressive Conference. The intervention focusing on a progressive economy and technology was very well received.
Broadbent Institute summit with James Galbraith in April 2016
Interviewed by Da Thirst for live stream Baltic 39/Figure Three, Geoff White – Channel 4 News. Interview on Geordie Shore for Inside Out broadcast. Quoted regularly in local media. Extensively quoted re Return of Kings intervention and wrote two supporting blogs.
Blog for The Register on the Ofcom Report. Blogs/interviews for House Magazine and Public Technology Net. New Statesmen, Huffington Post, The Register, Customer Focus magazine. Extensive coverage in Nigeria of our trade mission
After 126 responses to my advertisement for a six month living wage intern our new intern is Bobbie Mills who attended Heaton Manor School. A three month Hansard Scholar also joined the team in Westminster.
Meetings and visits
Citigroup Block Chain, Simon Blagden, APPG Small Business, Digital Europe & Tech UK, Council for mathematical sciences, Fun Palaces, Motion Picture Association, Homes for the North, British Gas Connected Homes, Adult learning APPG, Newcastle Univeristy Student Union, British Irish Chamber of Commerce, National Portrait Gallery, Somerset House Big Data, Nigeria trade mission briefing, Atos, Tento Technologies, Citizens Advice, Royal National Theatre, Central School of Speech & Drama, The Sun, Oxford Innovation, Royal Statistical Society, Digital Radio UK, British Board Film Classification, Hildebrand Technology. Rotherhithe broadband, Marium Raja – Nationofbillions, Eddy Leviten – Alliance for Intellectual Property, The Showmen’s Guild, Association of Colleges, BBC Trust, Kenya delegation, Ian Moss – British Phonographic Industry, Victoria Hasson – Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Nigeria APPG executive, Optical Confederation – Eye health and sight loss, Doteveryone MP discussion, BBC Worldwide, Reform policy roundtable, Melanie Johnson – UK Cards Association, 2015’s historic number of BME MPs celebration, Persecution of Christians, Job losses at BA Heathrow, Commonwealth global trade, Dance City 30 year celebration, NUFC foundation, Artists Union, Fiona Stanton, RSC Northern Stage, Solar fuels initiative Newcastle Uni, Institute of Neuroscience Newcastle Uni, Channel 4 diversity in broadcasting event, Insurance Brokers Association, SME4Labour event, Royal Mail, Stuart Turner – Semta, British Board of Film Censors, ITV, Katy Clark, Fuel poverty, Bauer Academy, Incorporated Society of Musicians, Pteg urban transport, Great British Class Survey, English National Ballet, Alex Neil and Richard Piggin – Which, MLK meeting, Atkinson Road Primary Academy, Newcastle United Supporters Trust, National Assembly of Kenya, Air Passenger Duty campaignBenny Wenda with Andy Gray, Ambassador of the Russian Federation, DigiWorld Executive Club, Facebook, British Council & British Libraries, SAB Miller – Investment in Africa, Happus, Laing Gallery, Royal British Legion, Grainger Market, Excelsior Armstrong Project, NECC, APPG Portugal, Film 4, Alzheimer’s Society, Dance City – Africarmen NECC, Ladbrokes, Constituent with MS, LGBT History North East, City Council Elections launch, Quay Voices Concert, InterContinental Hotel Groups, Africans for Momentum, APPG Trade out of Poverty, YouElect debate, Livenation, Pictfor, Science Museum, Royal Society of Chemistry, TechFuture Girls, Rex Glensy, APPG Credit Unions, BRIT Awards, Ofcom, APPG Angola, Transpact, Google Digital Garage, Orson Nava & Stella Nwimo, Advisory Council for Transport Safety, Children’s Media Foundation, British-German APPG Dinner with German Ambassador, Tower of London, Foundation for Science & Technology, Motel One, MLK Steering Group, Globe gallery. Vodafone Dinner, ABFE Advisory Board, Human Rights Watch, British Sikh Report launch, Become an Angel campaign launch, Mozambique High Commissioner, Sierra Leonne High Commissioner, Caroline Atkinson – Google, Streetwork homeless outreach visit, Virgin First Class Lounge Newcastle opening, Francis Baillet – Ubisoft, Montreal British Consul General, Wuthering Hacks – Gathering information on libraries, Newcastle University Early Music Festival, Tour of Windsor Castle colonial/BME Art, , DigiWorld Executive meeting, Study Group International Students, British Technology Q&A, Briefing on persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria, Pictfor AGM, West End Women & Girls, Sheila McKechnie Foundation annual awards, HSBC dinner, Broadcasters and campaigners re Diversity in BBC, MLK, StuBrew
STU BREW microbrewery in April 2016
Franco British Council – improving digital skills, Advertising Association leadership summit, Connected world, Inventors STEAM Co celebration, John Akomfrah exhibition, Pictfor CEO forum dinner, Policy Connect industrial evolution, British council reception, Africa APPG roundtable on Digital Inclusion in Africa, Mortimer Spinks Technology. Black Portraits Exhibition, Digital Humans, Around the House, British German Dialogue – Freedom & Data sovereignty in the digital society, Evidence at planning inspectorate for McDonald’s Kenton, Trade mission to Nigeria: President of Nigeria, Vice President, Foreign Minister, Trade and Industry Minister and Information Minister for Nigeria, Chair of the Governor’s Forum of Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, UKTI Lagos Digital economy Roundtable British Council Cultural roundtable. N8 Research, IOT Tech Expo, Discovery Museum – ‘People like us’, Constituency dinner, St Charles School, Blakelaw Ward Summit, Stand up to Racism, One Dance Roundtable, Business Finance & Accountancy APPG, AV Festival launch, Women in Tech Westminster Forum, IPPR Oxford Media Convention, Creative & Cultural Skills Conference, Women in Tech Interview for Tech North, Newcastle University Royal Society Pairing Scheme & encouraging women, Westminster Higher Education Forum: The future for the Catapult Network, Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund panel discussion, ‘Everyday Borders’ screening and panel discussion, Ottawa Progress Summit – Progressive Economics in the Age of Inequality and Slow Growth, BBC Electric Car interview, Cloud Security Expo, Elswick art launch – schools and traders.