There is just over two weeks until the local elections. Our aim must be to win – every member needs to get stuck in and help us achieve a Labour majority for our local council.
In my previous bulletin I stressed the importance of pushing for as many people as possible to register for a postal vote. I hope we have achieved our target because this could make a huge difference.
I now want to call on you all to bend every sinew in the last push to get our candidates elected. We need leafleting, we need door to door campaigning, posters in windows, we need phone banking to spread the word. We also need get people to register to vote as many of our potential supporters may not be on the register. Get people to register at:
If we work together and work if we work hard, we can make a Labour victory in the Borough a reality. This isn’t just about winning seats. It is about winning a decent chance at life for the many people of our region who have been left to sink into poverty by a succession of callous Tory governments.
A Labour Council with a working majority is needed to work for the majority of our people. Let’s make sure it happens. To volunteer to help spread the word and win the election contact your local branch or CLP to get details of what is happening in your area.
Let’s make 6th May a massive win for Labour in Birkenhead and across the Wirral.
The scandal of Fire and Rehire
Under the cover of the pandemic many of Britain’s bosses have decided to sacrifice their workers like pawns on the chess board of profit. Get the sack and only get your old job back if you accept less pay and lousy terms and conditions – Fire and Rehire as it has been labelled.
Workers are fighting back against this attack – strikes are underway at several workplaces including British Gas workers employed by Centrica. A number of constituents on strike have been in touch with me and I have pledged my total support for their strike and their union, the GMB.
Unite the Union are battling this pernicious attack on workers at Go North West Buses in Manchester and at British Airways to name but two.
I have demanded action from Parliament to ban this despicable practice. But although the Minister told me that they regarded it as “unacceptable” they haven’t lifted a finger to make it unlawful. I haver sponsored an Early Day Motion on the issue which states:
“That this House notes with alarm the growing number of employers who are dismissing and re-engaging staff on worse pay and terms and conditions, a practice commonly known as fire and rehire; agrees with Government Ministers that such tactics represent an unacceptable abuse of power by rogue bosses, many of whom are exploiting the covid-19 crisis to increase profits at the expense of loyal staff who have risked their lives during the pandemic to keep businesses going; welcomes the Government’s stated commitment to tackle those shameful abuses; calls on the Government to publish the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service report into the practice received by Ministers on 17 February 2021; and further calls on the Government to commit to including proposals in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech to outlaw this form of industrial blackmail, as is the case in other European countries, and to bring forward this new legislation as a matter of urgency to protect UK workers from exploitation by unscrupulous employers.”
Unite the Union, the GMB and others are leading the charge against the bosses on this issue and they are right to do so. Most of the companies involved in it are pleading poverty as an excuse. In most cases this is a bare faced lie.
The Observer reported that “nine of the 13 private employers accused over the past year of threatening to dismiss and re-engage staff on worse contracts have managed to maintain healthy profit margins, with some even increasing executive pay … British Gas reported profits of £80m in its most recent update, while its parent company, Centrica, received £27m under the UK government’s job retention scheme.”
As a lifelong trade unionist, you can all be sure that I will be fighting the bosses on this and I believe that the combination of industrial action and legislation can consign fire and rehire to the dustbin where it belongs.
And in Birkenhead I know that Labour Councillors will join with me on this – which is one more good reason to get the vote out on 6th May and win a majority for Labour.
Hash Tag Left Bank
The regeneration of Birkenhead is gathering pace. I have been working closely with councillors, council officers, the trade unions, and local businesspeople to push the renaissance of our town forward.
The work down on the waterfront that Peel, and Urban Splash have commenced is transforming an area long identified as derelict into a tapestry of houses, college buildings, offices, and amenities. Waterways, green spaces, and trees add to the attraction of these developments. This is all to be commended but …
… we need to match urban regeneration with a green industrial revolution that can create well paid jobs for the people of Birkenhead. Above all this means ensuring that the key industries in Birkenhead, like Cammell Laird, survive and prosper, that key employers in the region like Vauxhall can adapt to the new challenges they face and that new industries are attracted to set up shop in the industrial zones that have been created as part of the overall regeneration.
I have been working closely with the unions at Laird to help guarantee a future for the yard and while I do not have direct responsibility for Vauxhall because it is outside my constituency I have liaised with the local MP and the unions and have discussed the possibility of building supply chain industries in Birkenhead that will help prepare the factory to the switch to electric vehicles.
I want to make clear to you all that my goal is not to create a flashy shell of a town that has no substance but to rebuild a town that can begin to prosper through the creation of well paid, dignified and trade unionised jobs. Prosperity must be for all.
At the same time, I do not want to forget that small businesses employ people and need support too which is why I have lobbied to support the Oxton businesses who want to secure pavement space for the restaurants and shops.
Nor do I want to leave our estates languishing in poverty and deprivation. I am supporting educational and apprenticeship initiatives that can give hope to the youth in these too often forgotten neighbourhoods. Training and apprenticeships are a route to success for our young people.
Last but far from least, as the new housebuilding programme gets underway I will be pushing to ensure that we build new quality council houses – dignified homes that can give people a sense of dignity in their community.
I am delighted that the Council is committed to the same goals and I believe this is one more reason why we need to win for Labour on the 6th May.
Giving Covid the Needle
I am delighted at the roll out of the vaccine and the promise of a gradual return to normal life. I know that there have been Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers who have tried to make out this is all a conspiracy. My answer to them is tell that to the 127,000 plus grieving families who have lost a loved one to this deadly virus.
I am particularly pleased with the work of the Birkenhead Medical Building. The Covid 19 vaccination site at Birkenhead Medical Building has to date completed over 50,000 vaccinations. The programme commenced on 14th December. The focus of the service has been to target patients registered with the 20 practices who are part of Arno Primary Care Alliance and North Coast Alliance Networks in Birkenhead and North Wallasey.
The Birkenhead Medical Building has made the town a national leader in rolling out the lifesaving vaccine for Covid 19, injecting over 50,000 people to date. The staff across the practices involved in this effort worked closely with Birkenhead’s many and diverse communities including the Deen Centre, Wirral Change and other BAME campaigns to reach this incredible target.
I was delighted to visit the Centre in Birkenhead and meet Dr Abhi Mantgani, the Clinical lead for this fantastic achievement. I have put forward an Early Day Motion in Parliament saluting the hard work and dedication of the Vaccination Team.
But one thing that annoys me – and I hope it annoys you too – is that blustering Boris is claiming credit for the successful roll out of the vaccine and trying to secure an electoral Covid bounce. Let us remember that Johnson has done three things of note in relation to this pandemic:
1) Turned a blind eye to it, failed to turn up to Cobra meetings to prepare for it, allowed dangerous mass events to take place and imposed the lockdown too late give us a fighting chance of limiting the number of deaths;
2) Defended his rogue adviser Dominic Cummings when he blatantly breached lockdown rules. Not only was this a classic case of double standards with one rule for the rich and one rule for the rest of us, it fatally undermined public confidence in the need to maintain the lockdown to save lives;
3) Turned the allocation of contracts for everything from PPE to Test and Trace into a Teddy Bear’s Picnic for his cronies in the private sector. This guaranteed that while his rich mates made a fortune, they also made a spectacular mess. Test and Trace, for example, was for far too long a failure under Dido Harding – at a cost of £37 billion.
Which is why we shouldn’t buy the lie that the success of the vaccine is down to Boris. It isn’t. It is succeeding because it is what the NHS does best – mobilise its resources for where they are needed, co-ordinate its action, and reach out to the people in our communities.
Under the Tories the NHS has already been part privatised and is not safe in their hands. And this is one more reason why we must do everything to maximise the Labour vote on 6th May.
The Bullingdon Mob and the Greensill Affair
David Cameron and Boris Johnson both belonged to a club at Oxford exclusively for rich people – the Bullingdon Club. But this wasn’t just a place where toffs could get drunk and do unspeakable things with a pig’s head. It was a meeting place for the tycoons and influencers who were soon to graduate to Parliament and the City of London.
This is where lifetime friendships were based on the pledge to guarantee that you and your mates would help each other to get filthy rich – by any means possible. This has all come to light because of David Camron’s lobbying on behalf of the now collapsed Greensill finance company.
While he was prime minister – inflicting vicious austerity on the rest of us – Cameron recruited Lex Greensill as an unpaid adviser to the government. In return for this after he established his finance company and after Cameron scurried from office following the Brexit vote Lex gave David a job lobbying the government to get favours for the company from his mates like Sunak and Hancock.
These back-scratching shenanigans were exposed by the newspapers following the Greensill company collapse (at the cost of hundreds of jobs). What is more the practice of bringing bosses in as advisers and then giving them seats at the government’s top table when they go back to their private businesses was normal practice for the last eleven years of Tory rule.
The very fact that this sort of dodgy behaviour was the norm at a time when local council services, benefits, education, and health spending were being cut to the bone and people in modest homes where being charged a bedroom tax is sickening. And the Tory excuse, that no rules were broken by this lobbying, is being churned out to cover up for Cameron’s actions is disgraceful.
Labour moved a motion that this whole affair be subject to a full independent inquiry. Johnson voted this motion down.
If ever there was a reason to encourage people to vote Labour on 6 May the Greensill Affair and the involvement of a gang of Bullingdon Bullies in it is motive enough.
To finish off with a report of some of my activity directly to help Birkenhead. My team continue to deal with the large volume of cases that come to me – on housing, benefits, anti-social behaviour, mental health issues and much more besides. After just over a year I am pleased to say that from a standing start we are now getting on top of this work and serving my constituents as best we can.
Part of the serving the constituency has involved me in liaising with Mersey Travel to take measures to ensure that Rock Ferry Station is fully accessible to users with disabilities. Work has begun to work out how to ensure that both sides of the station can be easily reached by wheelchair users. My thanks to the Labour Candidate for Rock Ferry, Clare O’Hagan, Yvonne Nolan, a sitting Labour councillor, together with local branch members for their assistance on this issue.
I have also raised the profile of the Justice for the Cammell Laird 37 campaign. The 37 were unjustly imprisoned, sacked, blacklisted, and denied their pension rights when they waged a courageous fight to defend jobs at the yard back in the 1980s.
As well as meeting with campaign representatives I have now tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament on the issue, as follows:
“That this House warmly welcomes the victory of the Shrewsbury Twenty Four campaign in its decades long quest for justice; recognises that there are hundreds of other trade unionists and protestors who have been the victims of unjust and politically motivated punishments, including thirty-seven workers imprisoned in the Category A prison HMP Walton for their participation in the occupation of the Cammell Laird shipyards in 1984; understands that those imprisoned workers endured immense suffering and economic hardship as a result of their month-long detention and the blacklisting and loss of redundancy and pension rights that followed that imprisonment; condemns that gross miscarriage of justice and regrets that many of those who were so imprisoned have tragically not lived to see their names cleared; applauds the surviving members of that thirty-seven for their unwavering commitment to seeing that wrong righted and the GMB Union for its support of those members; notes that the Government has failed to honour its commitment to exploring the merits of holding a public inquiry into that historic injustice; further notes that in 2014, the European Parliament’s Commission on Petitions stated its belief that the authorities’ response to that dispute was an overreaction and that an apology should be considered; and calls on the Government to launch an inquiry and put into the public domain any and all documentation, including cabinet papers, from that period that may shed fresh light on those events.”
Last but not least in Westminster Hall debates both on the Vagrancy Act and the report of the Education Select Committee on adult education and training and apprenticeships I have raised the profile of Birkenhead, both in relation to the work we have done to end homelessness and in relation to the work that the Wirral Met college is doing to equip people with the skills they will need for the jobs that I am hoping will come with the inward investment I spoke about previously in this bulletin.
My work for Birkenhead is always well supported by the local Labour councillors. Without them following up a lot of the queries and campaign requests that come into my office would be far more difficult to deal with.
And this is one more reason why on 6th May it is vital that we get a Labour majority on the Council. I appeal to you all to get out and secure a victory.