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The DUP Deal: A Tale of Two Families
July 4th, 2017

I am fiercely proud of my Labour roots in the old West Cumberland Coalfield. Of my great great grandfather who helped to organise supplies to the Jarrow Marches, of his son-in-law, a miner, Labour activist and First World War veteran. Of communities who taught me the meaning of solidarity, common decency and the dignity of hard work.

But they are only half my story. The other half is slightly more challenging to talk about in Labour circles. (more…)

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Statement on Hitchin & Harpenden
April 23rd, 2017

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister that there would be a General Election on 8th June, Labour’s NEC published their procedure for selecting parliamentary candidates. As part of this process, candidates who had stood in 2015 were asked if they would stand again.

I responded that I would not stand again in Hitchin & Harpenden.. This is due to specific prior work commitments. Namely that my employer is in the process of agreeing finance to support me to take professional exams. This support would be put at risk if I were to stand for parliament at this time. (more…)

education
Letter to Editor
April 3rd, 2017

Dear Sir,

I am writing to support local school leaders who have expressed their concern about cuts to their budgets.

Both my parents were teachers and I have clear memories of them facing similar struggles during the Thatcher and Major years. I remember the crumbling school buildings, temporary classrooms and ever-increasing class sizes. Teachers were “over stressed, over worked and underpaid”. (more…)

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A conversation with a Copeland voter
February 28th, 2017

“Hello is that Mr. Joe Bloggs?

“Yes. Who is it?”

“My name is Rachel. I’m calling from the Labour party on behalf of Gillian Troughton. Do you have a few moments?”

“Yes, go on.”

“I was just wondering who you planned to vote for in the by-election on 23rd February?”

“I have no idea” (more…)

Rachel Burgin Climate Change
Copeland By-Election: GMB Motion to Conference
January 26th, 2017

During my campaigning in the Copeland by-election, I have frequently made reference to the following motion that was moved by the GMB trade union at Labour Party Conference in 2016. It clearly states support for the construction new nuclear power stations.  Conference delegates voted on the motion and it overwhelmingly passed.

Within the Labour party, it is National Conference that decides on party policy, not the party leader.

Conference notes that: the USA and China have ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change on 4/5 September but the Government has failed to do so; the Government in merging the Department of Energy and Climate Change into the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has signalled that Climate Change is irrelevant;

Conference condemns the Government’s refusal to ratify the Paris Agreement immediately and calls on the Government to both ratify it immediately and seek to meet its obligations before 2050.Conference reaffirms its commitment to both a carbon-neutral environment and limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial ones.

Britain needs investment in energy and a strategic plan that balances environmental considerations, the need to tackle fuel poverty and job creation in the UK. (more…)

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Statement on the Copeland By-Election
January 5th, 2017

I am passionate about Copeland. My roots are here and I’m a West Cumbrian socialist to my fingertips. But this selection isn’t about me and it’s certainly not about my political ambitions. It’s about the future of the West Cumberland Hospital, the construction of the Moorside nuclear plant, the development of Britain’s Energy Coast Masterplan, providing decent education to local children and protecting local homes from increasingly regular “once in 1,000 year” floods. It’s about who can best articulate these issues in Westminster and within Labour party. And most immediately, it’s about having a hardened campaigner who can lead from the front in a tough by-election to hold this seat for Labour. My number one priority at this stage of the selection process is to do what I can to ensure that Labour’s National Executive Committee shortlist candidates that meet those criteria.

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Guest Post: Speech delivered by Jenny Sinclair at Blue Labour Conference
November 28th, 2016

Panel 2:                Treasures of the Left?

Speakers:            Fr Michael Docherty, Jenny Sinclair, Lord Maurice Glasman

Chair:                    Rachel Burgin

Panel brief:  Following an edict of persecution, St. Lawrence was instructed by a Roman prefect to bring forth the treasures of the Church. In response, he rounded up the poor and marginalised, the alienated and dispossessed, and presented them to his Imperial antagonist. For such impudence St. Lawrence would forfeit his life, but he was making something clear: our value rests with how we treat and cherish the least amongst us.

(more…)

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Guest Post: Speech Delivered by Father Michael Docherty at Blue Labour Conference
November 27th, 2016

Fr Michael Docherty is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster. He serves as parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Carlisle as well as being Deputy Head of Service of the Diocese of Lancaster Education Service.  He is a graduate of History as well as holding degrees in Theology and Dogmatic Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.  Prior to seminary formation he taught at St. Edmunds Catholic Secondary School in Dover, Kent. 

The French Dominican priest, Henri Lacordaire, once said that a priest is ‘a member of each family yet he belongs to none’.  It is in that vein that I speak today. As a priest, I am aware that I can only inform the people I serve how to vote, but never who to vote for: I do not belong to any particular political ‘family’ and any views I hold have been shaped by Catholic Social Teaching as well as through the formation I received from my own family during the 1970’s and 80’s.  (more…)

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Setting the record straight on diversity
November 27th, 2016

This is the text of a speech I delivered at the Blue Labour Conference in Manchester on 26th November 2016

It’s a real privilege to be asked to speak at this event. When I was first asked I said that even though I had done my fair share of academic work, I’m not really an academic when it comes to my politics and that maybe discussing post-liberalism wasn’t really my thing. “I’m a story teller!” I said. “Story telling is fine” I was told. So, that’s okay. I shall tell stories and I hope these will inform the debate even if they don’t directly answer the exam question, as set.

What better way to explore Labour’s approach to post-liberalism than to consider the issue of diversity. In the wake of Donald Trump’s shock election victory, my social media stream is awash with metropolitan angst about the white working classes. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been a “voice crying out in the wilderness” on this subject for a very long time so I have a deep sense of relief that others are finally waking up. But I do feel the need to set the record straight. Because, for me, this has never been about scrapping the diversity agenda. But broadening its scope. (more…)

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The 19 per cent
November 20th, 2016

This is written in response to the 81% of White Evangelicals who voted for Donald trump in the US elections.

I am Evangelical. I am the 19 per cent.

I am William Tyndale, who, in the early sixteenth century, yearned for the plough boy to understand the bible better than the pope. So he dedicated his life to translating the bible into English. For this, he was strangled and burned at the stake.

He was the 19 per cent.

I am the Levellers, campaigning for radical equality and religious liberty more than 250 years before universal suffrage. For these causes, they too gave their lives. (more…)

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What granny said to Iain Paisley (and would probably say to Donald Trump)
October 23rd, 2016

“I presume we can count on your support, Mrs Glenn”, the Rev Dr, Iain Paisley said to my granny while he was out canvassing one day. The Rev. Dr. was not wrong to assume he could count on support: after all, this was a DUP stronghold – the Fountain in Loyalist West Londonderry.

However, he hadn’t accounted for my granny.

“Reverend Paisley” she replied, shaking with nerves. “Do you remember the story of the wee boy and the jigsaw puzzle?”

A look of recognition came across his face. The story of the wee boy and the jigsaw puzzle was a story told in Presbyterian Sunday schools – and from pulpits – right across Northern Ireland. (more…)

One Nation
The speech I planned to give at Labour Party Conference
September 28th, 2016

Rachel Burgin, Socialist Societies delegate for Labour Business, speaking in support of the NEC’s provisions to tackle abuse within our party.

I am the fifth generation of my family to be involved in Labour and trade union politics. This is the first occasion that any of us have spoken at Labour Party Conference. We’ve been hiding our light under a bushel for the best part of the last century. But I owe it to them and their memory to speak out right here, right now at this Conference and on this issue.

Because everything I understand about socialism I learnt from them and from the Labour communities that they have lived in since the days of Keir Hardie. Their socialism was built on fixed set of values – a code of conduct – that all were expected to abide by – and wo betide anyone who didn’t! (more…)

Jo Cox: Facing a Task Unfinished
June 19th, 2016

In 1929, the China Inland Mission (now OMF) sent out a call for 200 workers. It wasn’t an easy sell as there had been a brutal Civil War: half their workers had fled the country and many of those who remained had been killed. In order to make the case to the churches for why people should go to such a dangerous place and risk their lives, Francis Houghton was commissioned to write a hymn. He produced “Facing a Task Unfinished”. It begins:

Facing a task unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease

It was precisely these words that came to my mind on Friday evening as I found myself standing next to the Archbishop of Canterbury in Parliament Square. The causes that Jo Cox has laboured for over the course of the last 20 years have benefited millions of the world’s poorest people. In parliament, she gained a reputation for being perhaps the most articulate and effective advocate of Syrian refugees. We have lost Jo but the Syrian refugees are still with us and they are as much in need of advocates as ever. In fact, every cause that Jo has ever fought for – whether that be modern slavery or maternal mortality – is still with us. Francis Houghton continues that we bear the torch that fell from the hands of those who have given their lives. The hymn goes onto say: (more…)

Overseas Aid
Donald Trump and the Religious Right
March 2nd, 2016

Those who know me well know that I can be very strident in my views sometimes.

Nevertheless, I am a great believer in public service and accordingly respect dedicated public servants – regardless of their political affiliation. There are some exceptions: I would find it hard to respect a BNP Councillor, for example, because I believe their politics is one of hatred. But within mainstream politics, I understand that we’ve all had different journeys and have reached different conclusions about matters of public policy in good and sincere faith. As a Christian, I know fellow Christians in the Conservative, Lib Dem and Green parties and I respect the contribution they make in their various spheres. (more…)

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Integrity
February 3rd, 2016

Integrity is the integration of thought, word and deed. Integrity preaches what it believes and practices what it preaches.

Like a stick of Blackpool rock, integrity is the same all the way through – from the outside all the way to the deepest depths of the human soul.

Integrity is prepared to count the cost – be that a reputation, a promotion, a relationship, a job – or even a life.

Integrity was my grandfather when he resigned from his job at the pit. He was a checkweighman: it was his job to weigh the pieces coal and sort them accordingly. One day he saw some of his colleagues siphoning off coal for their own use. As an honest man, he wanted no part in their deceit. But as a socialist and proud trade unionist, he could not and would not betray his work colleagues. So, for him, the price of upholding the principle of solidarity was resigning his job. Because he resigned, he wasn’t able to claim the dole, and he also found it almost impossible to get another job. His young family endured absolute penury – surviving on crisp sandwiches – until he eventually got a labouring job onsite at Windscale (now Sellafield). (more…)

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Letter to Moderate Labour MPs
January 7th, 2016

Dear All

We have been through a lot together.

In our youth, we heard Neil Kinnock call us back to being the voice of the “real people”. Not the voice of the party hack in party meetings and conferences with farfetched resolutions and pickled dogma. But real working class people in real jobs (and unemployed) in communities right across the country.

When he talked of people being the first in “1,000 generations” to go to university, I thought of my dad, who left a pit village for university in 1966. A village his family had lived in since the 1870s and a county where the family can be traced back to the middle ages. 1,000 years or 1,000 generations: who knows? But a monumental transformation in the fortunes of the Stalker family – thanks to Labour governments and the postwar consensus. (more…)

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Thoughts on Syria
December 5th, 2015

The conflict in Syria has forced me to ask myself profound questions about the ethics of war and peace, life and death, and the rights and wrongs of what is going on in the Middle East.

When I was eleven years old I was given a Gideon’s New Testament in a school assembly. Though I had been taken to Sunday School as a child, the church it was attached to was an extremely traditional village Anglican church which used the King James Bible, Book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern. Even as a reasonably intelligent youngster, most of it went completely over my head. This New Testament was the first bible I ever read – and understood – for myself.

So I started reading the Gospel of Matthew. Once I got past the familiar Christmas story, I hit the Sermon on the Mount. I learnt that the poor were to be blessed and enemies were to be loved. This turned my understanding of the world upside down.

Former leader of the Labour Party, George Lansbury, was a Christian Pacifist. His world view was rooted in the Sermon of the Mount. His ideology on war was “turning the other cheek” taken to its absolute logical conclusion. In 1933 he said

“I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world: “Do your worst”

At the 1935 Party Conference he famously said:

I believe that force never has and never will bring permanent peace and goodwill in the world … God intends us to live peacefully and quietly with one another. If some people do not allow us to do so, I am ready to stand as the early Christians did, and say, this is our faith, this is where we stand, and, if necessary, this is where we will die.

I believe that it is incumbent on all of us who instinctively err on the side of peace to reflect deeply on these words and to ask ourselves whether we stand wholeheartedly with George Lansbury’s sentiment. If Daesh came knocking at our door, would we be willing to die without any resistance whatsoever? Over the course of the last few years, Daesh have pretty much eradicated 2,000 years of Christianity from Iraq and Syria – and I quite expect that there are 1,000 stories of heroism that remain untold. But here in our Western comfort, how confident are we that we would rise to this challenge?

But we could ask the question a different way: if Daesh came knocking at our neighbour’s door, how would we respond? Would we stay inside our home, hide under the bed and pretend not to be at home in order to stay alive? Or would we run outside and put ourselves in harm’s way in order to protect our neighbour? I want to suggest that a Jesus that died on a cross to save the world from sin and bring peace on earth would probably do the latter. “Greater love has no man than this than he lays down his life for his friends”.

The pacifism that defined Labour thinking in the mid-1930s gave way to outright opposition to fascist aggression in the later 1930s and the Labour Party went onto form part of the National Government wholeheartedly committed to defeating Hitler. We clearly saw that National Socialism presented a threat to the entire world and that unless we acted militarily, we would end up subjected to it.

Perhaps the difficulty we have as politicians is that it isn’t us who is putting our lives on the line to defeat Daesh fascism (though Labour MPs supporting war have had death threats and have undoubtedly put their political careers at risk). Perhaps instead we should follow the example of the International Brigades and sign up Labour members to the armed forces.

Or perhaps the individualism of our age means that we no longer understand the nation as a collective unit that gives of OUR sons and daughters for the national interest. The Coalfield Socialism that has so deeply influenced my own world view always understood this. Mining disasters took the lives of fathers, brothers, sons. But the whole community mourned because we all belonged to each other. And 100 years on, we still mourn – whether they are our great grandfathers or someone else’s. And we took seriously our responsibility to offer practical care the grieving families.

But, you say, these bombs will kill civilians! And you are right. Perhaps instead we should send our troops into Syria unprotected by air power to rescue civilians from rape, torture and murder, to enter into face-to-face, arm-to-arm combat with Daesh forces. But to do so is to fail to use everything at our disposal not only to protect ground forces but also to rescue those living under the brutality of Daesh. There is a clear moral distinction between destroying military infrastructure that could be used to attack others and bombing targeted – intentionally or unintentionally – at civilian areas. And it is right that we ensure it is the former not the latter. But we know that Daesh deliberately mix themselves up with civilian populations in order to ensure that civilian casualties result from any military attack on them in order that they can win the propaganda war. And this is the problem with warfare in the Middle East: it’s almost always impossible to bomb military targets without killing civilians. And that’s why we should always proceed with care.

And, in respect of the Syrian conflict, they aren’t even our ground troops. We are using 70,000 members of the Free Syrian army. There are political reasons for this in respect of using Western ground forces in the Middle East. Hence the need to find troops form the region. But there’s no consensus on who the Free Syrian Army are. Are there 70,000 of them? Are they available to fight ISIS or are they busy fighting Assad? Are they “moderate” or have they been infiltrated with miscellaneous jihadists and other extremists? If we don’t have effective ground troops, we can’t defeat Daesh and the only thing that we could achieve is the death of civilians through bombing.

But most importantly, the situation in Syria is fiendishly complex. It’s not a straightforward fight between good and evil. We have a brutal dictator (Assad) who has killed 250,000 of his own people pitted against the brutal fascists of Daesh who are raping, torturing and murdering people who are under their rule with about as much humanity as 7th century war lords. We have the Free Syrian Army who started off defending themselves against Assad who brutally suppressed them during the Arab Spring now having to defend themselves against Daesh. Then we have the Kurds who are having to defend themselves against both Daesh and Turkey as well as ensuring their independence from Assad. Assad has the backing of Iran and also Russia who were supposedly attacking Daesh but were in fact hitting the Free Syrian Army, The Free Syrian Army have, at various times, enjoyed the support of some Middle Eastern States as well as the USA but they have never been a coherent force and the question remains whether Assad or Daesh are the greatest threat. The instinctive response to the Daesh attacks in Paris is to try to defeat them first but, in the short term, that will only help Assad – one of the most murderous dictators of our time.

Everything about the Syrian conflict smacks of something that will end up being World War Three with major powers on different sides of the conflict fighting it out in a war of attrition that could drag on for decades. We have a duty to do everything in our power to prevent that happening. This will require extraordinary levels of diplomacy, cutting off oil supplies and other economic measures – as well as military action. But we have to get this right. Both Daesh and Assad need to be defeated and that will require coordinated effort from regimes right across the world – and particularly from those regimes that are already involved in the conflict in some way.
Western regimes are already involved in military action in Syria and this clearly hasn’t yet succeeded. But if the West withdrew, there would still be a war that would still pose a threat to the stability of the Middle East and perhaps beyond. And if we fail to take a stand against Daesh, we may eventually become subject to them and their brutal ideology. In the famous words of Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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“Hammer of the Left”: Review and Reflections
October 31st, 2015

Review
In light of the recent election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader, like many party moderates, I was drawn to read Hammer of the Left. It is a book that is perhaps the defining account of the moderates’ battle with the Labour Left during the 1970s and 1980s. It is a bible of internal party organisation: the book’s focus on meetings and votes would be dry as dust were it not for Golding’s blunt and humorous writing style. The book was written specifically to offer an alternative version of events to those set out in the diaries of his arch-nemesis, Tony Benn.

It is in the context of the events described in this book that so many leading party figures spoke out against Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, fearing that history would repeat those early bloody battles. John Golding never served in the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet but his place in the history of the Labour Party is assured because of the role he played during these years on the NEC in altering the direction of the Labour Party. Whatever your views on the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, this book is compulsory reading for those who wish to understand the current battles in our party. (more…)

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Don’t Pray: Organise
October 11th, 2015

WARNiNG: If you are reading this article and you are not a Christian, can I please suggest you read the conclusion first!

As someone who has attended Church for almost my entire life, I have lost count of the number of Christians who have said “we need more Christians in politics”. I’ve heard it in prayer meetings, in sermons, in church newsletters and over coffee after the service.

I’m not entirely sure we do. I once remember speaking to the Minister at Methodist Central Hall some years ago who said, in passing, that a much higher percentage of MPs were churchgoers than the population as a whole. Interestingly, he said that the party with the highest percentage of churchgoers was the Lib Dems. I have no idea whether that statistic has survived their recent rout, however, the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron is perhaps the most overtly Christian leader of a British political party – certainly in my lifetime. On that score, he knocks Tony Blair and son-of-the-Manse Gordon Brown out of the park. I sincerely doubt that either of the latter have ever led prayers in Westminster Hall, or delivered bible-based sermons in St. Stephen’s Chapel.

But it has struck me that there’s a lot more than praying that Christians could do if they really do want to see more Christians in politics. I speak as a Labour activist about the opportunities within the Labour Party. I have no idea how other parties operate. (more…)

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Working Class Candidate Shortlists
October 3rd, 2015

I have a confession to make. Before I got involved in politics, I thought I was Middle Class. After all, my parents were teachers, they were owner occupiers and we lived in a nice village in the Midlands.

After I got involved in the Labour Party, I learnt that I was, in fact, Working Class. My family had lived in the same coalmining village for 7 generations and many of my family – including my dad – had worked in the mines. They had been involved in the General Strike and the Jarrow Marches. (more…)

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Speech to Blue Labour
July 18th, 2015

I am the fifth generation of my family to be involved in Labour politics. This is something I am deeply proud of. From the party’s birth in Primitive Methodism through the General Strike and the Jarrow Marches through the many countless mining disasters, the history of the Labour party is my family history.

I can wax lyrical all day about my Labour roots in the West Cumberland coal mining village of Lowca where my family have lived for seven generations. The problem for Labour is that I am part of an ever-decreasing number of people who vote Labour because their family has always voted Labour.

For decades, Labour’s strength has been the love people have for the party. Voting Labour is not merely a transaction but an act of solidarity towards family and community. Traditional Labour voters don’t say “I vote Labour” but “I AM Labour”. It is part of who they are. But that sentiment is dying out and that is Labour’s problem. (more…)

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Building a movement of Christians working towards a just and sustainable future
June 23rd, 2015

I am the fifth generation of my family to be involved in Labour politics. This is something I am deeply proud of. From the party’s birth in Primitive Methodism through the General Strike and the Jarrow Marches through the many countless mining disasters, the history of the Labour party is my family history.

Looking back even further, my ancestor George Lapsley, a Scottish Covenanter, faced almost certain death for his belief in a more egalitarian faith. It is THIS passion, conviction and courage that is the beginning of all my campaigning endeavours. If a cause is worth fighting for is worth making sacrifices for. “To live is Christ, to die is gain”. (more…)

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What Labour must learn from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
June 22nd, 2015

He offered a clear vision 

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. (more…)

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Why I am supporting Yvette Cooper for Labour leader
June 17th, 2015

In 2010, I was a “floating voter” for most of the leadership campaign. I was not convinced that any of the candidates had what it took to win the 2015 election. In the end, I supported David Miliband because I liked his work with Movement for Change. Many of my friends voted for Ed Miliband because they saw him as offering a break from New Labour and the opportunity to refashion leftwing thought for the 21st century.

I was determined not to be a floating voter this time, but it has, again been really hard. All five of the aspiring candidates have strengths and weaknesses.

I initially really took to Mary Creagh. I liked the fact that she’d been a local councillor and her “Bootstrap Labour” line. She had also had many years of work experience outside of politics lecturing on entrepreneurship. I think that put her in a really strong position to build a more constructive relationship with the business community. But she never found a distinctive voice – and I disagreed with her on important issues – like sharing a platform with David Cameron in the EU Referendum. (more…)

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Liz Kendall and White Working Class Aspiration
May 30th, 2015

Liz Kendall’s speech on Education yesterday has caused some ripples in some quarters for focusing on white working class aspirations. Presumably, the problem people have is that her language excludes the aspirations of children from other ethnic minorities.

Some years ago, I was a school governor of St. Bridget’s School, Parton on the west coast of Cumbria. The school was a small primary school of about 70 children and the enrollment was 100% white working class. Parton is an isolated coastal community squeezed between a main road, a railway line and the coast, too small to register on any nationally recognized statistical measure of economic wellbeing.

But perhaps the most striking statistic is that 40% of the households in the village do not own a car. If you live in a isolated coastal village and you don’t own a car then you won’t travel very far. The train can take you to Carlisle in over an hour – and it’s a further hour and a half on a different train to Newcastle. Travelling east to the M6 is more of a challenge and can only be done on irregular bus services. (more…)

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Knock on Tory Doors: the Lessons from Hitchin & Harpenden
May 15th, 2015

I got a positive result in Hitchin & Harpenden. I increased Labour’s vote by 4,020 (7.1%) and moved Labour from 3rd to 2nd place. It was the largest number of votes for Labour since 2001 and one of the best results for Labour in an “unwinnable seat” in the country. 20.6% of the vote in one of the bluest parts of Tory Hertfordshire is not to be sniffed at.

But my satisfaction with my own result was totally consumed with grief at the national picture. Dozens of our members had been working in neighbouring Stevenage: many of them were new to the party and/or new to campaigning. As a local party we almost certainly knocked on many more doors in Stevenage than we ever did in our own constituency – at least during the short campaign. But then the stakes were high: we wanted Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister and winning in Stevenage seemed the best way of achieving that. (more…)

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Message to Activists
May 11th, 2015

Since my selection on 29th March 2014 you have worked tirelessly to get our message out across the constituency. There aren’t many of us (though more than you might think!) but we should all take pride in what we have achieved. 11,433 votes is our largest number of votes since 2001 and 4,020 more than five years ago. Holding Bearton by such a substantial margin and keeping Walsworth in contention for 2016 were also credible results.

But we should also take pride in the fact that we were able to reach communities that we haven’t worked for decades. In the end leaflets were delivered not just across Hitchin, Harpenden, Wheathampstead and Redbourn, but Great Ashby, Sandridge, Jersey Farm, Kimpton, Whitwell, Ickleford, Pirton, Breachwood Green and Peters Green. (more…)

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Thankyou
May 11th, 2015

Dear Sirs

I am writing to you to thank the 11,433 people in the Hitchin & Harpenden constituency who placed their trust in me to represent them as their Member of Parliament. Although I did not win, I was heartened that Labour made progress with 4,020 more people voting for us than in 2010.

I would also like to thank my political opponents, Peter Lilley (Conservative), Pauline Pearce (Liberal Democrat) and Richard Wise (Green) for fighting an unfailingly courteous and clean campaign. We respected each other both personally and politically – and for that I am enormously grateful. (more…)

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The New Harpenden Secondary School
May 5th, 2015

I am deeply aware of the extent to which the Harpenden Secondary School issue is dividing the community and the level of heartache and anger that is felt. It has become increasingly apparent to me that, as a local political representative, it is crucial that I listen to all sides and seek to bring the town together.

In the last few days, I have spoken to parents in Redbourn, Kimpton and Whitwell. Our rural communities are perhaps most severely affected by the shortage of school places because they are furthest away from the existing schools. Parents in Kimpton and Whitwell want the school built in Batford because it would be closest to them and their children would qualify for free bus services. So, the school issue affects families in different places in different ways and it is important that all voices are heard. Some of our farming families even struggle to secure places at their local village primary school. (more…)

Overseas Aid
Robin Hood Tax
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding a proposed Financial Transaction Tax and the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ campaign.

I know how strongly many people feel about this issue. I believe our banking sector needs to be reformed so it is more sustainable and competitive and so that our banks work for savers, investors and the small and medium-sized businesses that have found it so difficult to get the finances they need to invest and grow. I also believe that the banks should make a significant contribution to repaying the debts that were incurred as a result of the banking crisis. (more…)

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Pedestrian Safety
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding pedestrian safety.

I agree we should be making it easier for everyone – and especially the 10 million people in Britain aged over 65 – to walk safely in our local streets, communities and countryside. I also appreciate that organisations such as Living Streets have made a number of important recommendations to improve pedestrian safety. (more…)

For Rent
Private Rented Sector
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the problems that many people in the private rented sector are experiencing, including rising and insecure rents.

I agree this is a huge and growing problem and that it is contributing to the cost of living crisis that is affecting so many households in our constituency and across the country.

11 million people now rent in the private sector, including 1.5 million families with children. Too often those renting in this sector can face sharp and unpredictable rent rises and feel unable to control one of the most fundamental parts of their life. (more…)

For Rent
Homelessness
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding homelessness and Crisis’ ‘No One Turned Away’ campaign.

It is deeply concerning that homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply since 2010, and that there has also been a big increase in the number of families living in temporary accommodation. A number of homeless shelters have been forced to close, leaving those who find themselves homeless vulnerable and without support.

Labour is committed to tackling the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping by building more affordable homes. (more…)

Redbourn
CAMRA
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding community pubs and the CAMRA ‘pubs and real ale’ manifesto.

I share your concern about the serious challenges that are currently facing many community pubs and Britain’s breweries. Indeed, British pubs are closing down at a rate of twenty nine per week – almost twice the number of pub closures in 2011.

I also recognise the important contribution that community pubs and breweries can make to our local economy, jobs and trade. (more…)

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Official Labour Party response on Faith Schools and Religious Freedom
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding Christianity and faith schools.

Christianity has played an incredibly important role in our national and cultural history and I believe it is vital that Christians – and, indeed, people of all faiths – remain able to celebrate their beliefs freely. (more…)

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Human Rights
May 1st, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding human rights, the Human Rights Act and the related campaign by Amnesty International.

I agree that promoting justice, equality and human rights should be absolutely central to Britain’s domestic and foreign policy. I also appreciate, as Amnesty International emphasise, that in too many parts of the world basic human rights are under threat and human rights abuses continue. (more…)

petrol
Fuel Duty
April 29th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently concerning fuel duty and the related campaign by FairFuelUK.

I appreciate that the cost of fuel has been a major part of the cost of living crisis that is affecting households in our constituency and across the country.

That is why under a Labour Government there will be no return to the Fuel Duty Escalator, which drives up tax, and we will not increase VAT in the next Parliament. The current Government’s decision to raise VAT to 20%, however, added around 3p per litre to the price of fuel. (more…)

surveillance
Surveillance
April 29th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding surveillance laws and oversight.

I know there is real public concern about this extremely important issue. I believe it is vital that our surveillance laws are proportionate and effective in meeting the ongoing terrorist threat Britain faces and in countering new and growing threats such as cybercrime. It is also crucial, though, that our surveillance powers are matched with effective, transparent and up-to-date oversight. (more…)

Murdoch
Media Ownership
April 29th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently concerning media ownership and plurality.

I believe that a diverse, open and accountable media is crucial for the free flow of ideas and to challenge unhealthy concentrations of power.

The concentration of media power in too few hands is damaging to our democracy. No media owner should be able to exert undue influence and no media company should believe they are above the law. That is why Ed Miliband was absolutely right to stand up to powerful interests in our media during the phonehacking scandal. (more…)

Autumn Statement
Welfare Benefits
April 29th, 2015

Labour is committed to restoring fairness to our social security system.

Sanctions have been part of our social security system since its foundation, based on the belief that the right to work goes hand in hand with the responsibility to prepare for, look for, and accept reasonable offers of work. But we must ensure that sanctions are both fair and proportionate, based on transparent procedures and with safeguards in place to protect the most vulnerable.

Under this government, we’ve seen an exceptional rise in the proportion of people sanctioned, in part driven by unofficial targets imposed on JobCentres by the Department for Work and Pensions. (more…)

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Gender Equality
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding gender equality.

I believe that no one should suffer discrimination because of their gender or gender identity, nor indeed, because of their age, race, religion or belief, disability or sexual orientation. I am also proud that the Labour Party has been at the forefront of this fight for equality over many decades.

I agree, however, that while there has been real progress on gender equality in recent years, much more needs to be done to tackle vital issues such as the gender pay gap, violence against women and girls and women’s representation in public life. (more…)

One Nation
Build a Better Britain
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the ‘Build a Better Britain’ campaign.

I agree that we need to do much more to ensure that our community and communities across the country have the good quality, affordable homes they need. To achieve this, the next Labour Government will need to focus much more closely on solving the current housing crisis and ensuring that local communities have the powers to build the homes local people need and in the places they decide.

The current Government, however, has presided over the lowest peacetime level of housebuilding since the 1920s and the gap between the number of houses being built and the number of houses we need is unprecedented – at over 100,000 each year. Under this Government rents have soared, many first time buyers have been priced out of the market and the number of new affordable homes has collapsed. Homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply. (more…)

train
Ownership of the Railways
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding ownership of the railways.

It is clear that the Tories’ plan is failing to deliver a rail network that works for passengers or taxpayers, because they put the interests of the big train operating companies before those of working people.

Rail fares have risen by 20 per cent on average since 2010 and British passengers are now paying the highest rail fares in Europe. The Government’s chaotic franchising system has seen millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money lost through the West Coast Main Line franchising process while the successful East Coast franchise has been sold off despite returning £1 billion to the UK taxpayer while in public control. (more…)

flooding
Flooding
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding flooding.

I share your concern about this extremely important issue. The floods we saw last year showed the terrible impact that flooding can have on people’s homes, livelihoods, businesses and communities. It should also remind us how important it is that the next Government do far more to prioritise flood prevention and adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

Under the current Government flood defence funding has been slashed and flooding has been downgraded as a priority, leaving thousands of families at risk. (more…)

alex,_cancer_word_with_a_cross,_through_it
Breast Cancer
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding breast cancer and the related ‘Stop Women Dying’ campaign by Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

While welcome progress has been made in recent years on screening, treatment and survival rates for breast cancer, it is clear that with 12,000 women dying every year in the UK from breast cancer, much more needs to be done.

In particular, earlier diagnosis is critical to improving cancer survival, because treatment is more likely to be successful at an earlier stage. It is deeply concerning, therefore, that in the last year 20,000 patients waited longer than two months to start urgent cancer treatment and that the two month cancer treatment target has been missed for a whole year. The Government’s decision to restrict funding for extra investment in cancer drugs has also led to thousands of patients missing out on cutting-edge radiotherapy and surgery. (more…)

sustainable farming
“Stand Up for the Countryside” Campaign
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for writing to me recently concerning CPRE’s ‘Protect our Countryside’ manifesto.

I believe that everyone should be able to access and enjoy the countryside and that we need to do more to support communities living in rural areas and to protect and preserve our natural environment.

Under the current Government rural communities have often been hit harder than others, with wages falling and the cost of living rising more rapidly than in other parts of the country. Transport is often worse and more expensive in rural areas, broadband roll-out remains slow and inadequate and rural communities lack sufficient power to make decisions about their future, including over housing and infrastructure. (more…)

alex,_cancer_word_with_a_cross,_through_it
Cancer Care and Services
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding cancer care and services.

I share your concern about the growing pressures we are seeing on cancer services and I believe the next Government need to do far more to ensure we are diagnosing cancer earlier, treating it more effectively and preventing it in the first place.

In the last year 20,000 patients waited longer than two months to start urgent cancer treatment and the two month cancer treatment target has now been missed for a whole year. The Government’s decision to restrict funding for extra investment in cancer drugs has also led to thousands of patients missing out on cutting-edge radiotherapy and surgery – the two forms of treatment that are responsible for nine in ten cases where cancer is cured. (more…)

Autumn Statement
Personal Debt and High Interest Lending
April 19th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding personal debt and high interest loans.

I agree we need to promote more sustainable forms of personal lending such as credit unions and to provide greater support and advice for people facing debt problems.

The alarming growth we have seen in the high-interest loan market is further evidence of the current Government’s failure to tackle the cost of living crisis or to build an economy that works for working people. Working people are on average £1,600 worse off under the Tories – this is the first Parliament since the 1920s where living standards have got worse. (more…)

mental-health-labels
Mind’s wellbeing tips for parliamentary candidates
April 13th, 2015

We know that election campaigning has an impact on wellbeing, with two-thirds of MPs identifying that stress negatively affects their health. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave. Common signs range from feeling over-burdened or lonely, to smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual, to experiencing headaches.

With this in mind, here are our tips to help look after your wellbeing during the campaign:

Make time to relax
If you know that a certain activity helps you feel more relaxed, set aside time to do it – whether it be mindfulness practice, being active by going for a run or swim, listening to music or taking your dog for a walk. And even five minutes of relaxation can help. (more…)

nhs
You can’t trust the Tories with public safety – 999 emergency response times up, yet they want to cut almost 20,000 more police officers
April 10th, 2015
  • Response times in Hertfordshire up 29% between 2011 and 2014
  • 20 of the 27 forces who provided data showed increases in how long it took to attend the highest priority 999 emergencies at night
  • Two forces recorded huge rises of over 50 per cent, in one instance from an average 7 minute response to an average 11 minutes
  • Three forces recorded rises of over a third
  • Three forces recorded rises of over a quarter (more…)
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Labour puts neighbourhood policing at the heart of its plan to build safer and stronger communities
April 10th, 2015

Neighbourhood policing will be protected with a plan to safeguard over 10,000 police officers over the next three years

At the launch of its Crime and Justice Manifesto today, the Labour Party will commit to keeping police on the beat – legislating to introduce a new ‘Local Policing Commitment’, which makes sure police forces guarantee neighbourhood policing in every area.

Labour will set out £800 million worth of efficiency savings a year by year three of the next parliament, as part of its Zero-Based-Review of spending, which the Tories cannot and will not match, to enable Chief Constables to safeguard over 10,000 police officers in the first three years of the next Parliament from extreme Tory cuts.
(more…)

mental-health-labels
Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls
April 10th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently concerning violence against women and girls.

I agree that the current level of violence against women and girls is far too high and that too little is being done to prevent these crimes, to support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

There were an estimated 1.4 million female victims of domestic violence last year and two women are killed each week by their partner or ex-partner in the UK. Reports of rape and domestic violence are up, yet the number of prosecutions and convictions are down. At the same time, specialist prosecutors for rape have been cut back, domestic violence courts are closing, and specialist police officers are overstretched. (more…)

Hitchin
Labour launches local election campaign with pledge to deliver “the biggest devolution in England for 100 years”
April 7th, 2015

Labour will launch its 2015 local election campaign in Leeds today (Tuesday April 7) with a bold devolution pledge to reverse a century of centralisation by giving back an unprecedented £30 billion of funding from Whitehall over five years. This will enable the creation of economic powerhouses in every region, backed by new freedoms.

Shadow Cabinet members Harriet Harman, Hilary Benn, Chris Leslie, Chuka Ummuna and Michael Dugher will sign a covenant with Labour local government leaders to deliver a new devolution deal for England in the first year of a Labour government. (more…)

nhs
GP surgeries
April 7th, 2015

Some 600 fewer GP surgeries across England are open in the evening and at weekends compared to the time of the last election, new figures today show.

The figures underline the true scale of the Tory-led Government’s NHS crisis – with patients forced to turn to A&E as they struggle to secure a slot to see their doctor on the first working day after the Easter break, which saw doctors and NHS England express fresh concern about GP access and the resulting pressure on A&E departments.

David Cameron first promised seven-day opening for GP surgeries in the Conservative manifesto before the last general election in May 2010, but once in Government promptly cut back Labour’s scheme for evening and weekend GP opening. (more…)

For Rent
Homes for Britain
April 7th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign and the very serious problems that are currently affecting our housing market.

We are currently experiencing the biggest housing crisis in a generation. The current Government has presided over the lowest peacetime level of housebuilding since the 1920s and the gap between the number of houses being built and the number of houses we need is unprecedented – at over 100,000 each year.

Under this Government rents have soared, many first time buyers have been priced out of the market and the number of new affordable homes has collapsed. Homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply. (more…)

disabled-man-008
Carers
April 7th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently concerning support for carers and the related campaign by Carers UK.

I appreciate the vital contribution that Britain’s 6.5 million unpaid carers make to those with care needs, our local communities and our economy.  I believe that for too long carers have been ignored and unable to get the help and financial support they need in order to help others.

The previous Labour Government introduced the first ever Carers Strategy in 1999 and a future Labour Government will build on this to provide greater support for family carers. (more…)

education
FE Funding
April 7th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding funding for further education (FE).

I believe that investing in skills is absolutely vital to Britain’s future and to help create the kind of high-skill, high-wage economy we need. Good quality post-16 education is a key part of this so I appreciate why many young people and organisations including the UCU and the ATL have expressed such concern at the Government’s plans for FE funding and non-apprenticeship provision.

The current Government have failed to properly support FE or to provide the relentless focus that is needed on improving the quantity and quality of apprenticeships. Indeed, in the last year, the number of 19-24 year olds starting an apprenticeship has fallen by more than 6,000, 24 per cent of apprentices aged 19-24 are receiving no formal training and around one in five are not receiving the appropriate minimum wage. (more…)

climate-change2
St. Ippolyts Solar Farm
April 7th, 2015

I was recently asked if I supported wind and solar farms.

The most accurate answer is: it depends.

What I mean is: I strongly support any strategy that seeks to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and secures our energy supply.

It does not follow from this that I support every individual wind and solar farm application. (more…)

Overseas Aid
UNICEF UK’s ending violence against children campaign
March 26th, 2015

Labour is committed to helping end violence against children across the world and I can assure you that a Labour Government will play a leading role in shaping the post-2015 international development agenda.

I am proud of the UK’s record in supporting international development. The last Labour government cut debt, trebled the development budget, brokered ambitious deals on trade and climate change, outlawed cluster bombs, and set the UK on track to be the first major economy to reach the target to give 0.7 per cent of gross national income to development. (more…)

Rachel Burgin photo 3
The drawback of being an “honest politician”….
March 25th, 2015

…is having to publish articles like this:

http://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/Labour-parliamentary-candidate-Hitchin-Harpenden/story-26229225-detail/story.html

Because I just can’t shrug off false allegations. The truth matters to me.

 

climate-change2
Loving the Thousandth Generation: A Christian Perspective on Climate Change
March 24th, 2015

In November 2009, a flood hit Cumbria that was so enormous that even the local MP described it as biblical. It – quite literally – tore the county in two. So many bridges fell that driving from one side of Workington to the other became a 90 mile journey. Children were cut off from their school, shoppers were cut off from the supermarket and commuters were cut off from their train station. While much of the media attention focused on Cockermouth – a town that had been almost completely submerged by the flooding – the damage to infrastructure caused more widespread – and longer term – disruption. And it affected communities psychologically as well as economically. There was the dawning realisation that our 21st Century existence was at the mercy of the elements. We felt our vulnerability quite deeply.

It was the churches that were at the forefront of the clean-up effort. One church set up a drop-in centre that served hot food on an almost 24/7 basis. Others were out with their supermarket trolleys picking up debris, bringing provisions or serving hot drinks. They brought cheer – and a really powerful sense of community solidarity. I attended a church youth service in Cockermouth shortly afterwards when the town was still in ruins: never in my life – either before or since – have I ever seen the human spirit soar so much. Cumbrian kids have always been able to have fun in the rain but this was on a completely different level. Both local MPs paid tribute to the contribution of the churches in a subsequent parliamentary debate. (more…)

mum
Save the Children’s No Child Born to Die Campaign
March 24th, 2015

Thank you for contacting me regarding preventable child deaths, access to healthcare in developing countries and Save the Children’s No Child Born to Die campaign.

I agree the UK should lead international efforts to reduce child preventable deaths and shape the post-2015 international development agenda.

Save the Children’s campaign states that 6.3 million children under the age of five die each year. And preventable child deaths are increasingly concentrated in the world’s poorest regions. (more…)

Nazarene
Anti-Christian Persecution: Official Labour Party Response
March 23rd, 2015

For many in our local community Easter is not only a time for reflection and prayer but also an opportunity to contemplate the sacrifices made in the struggle to defend faith.

Good Friday is almost upon us but more than 2000 years later, regrettably, sacrifice is once again a part of daily life for millions of Christians around the world today. Christian persecution is once again filling our headlines, dominating our prayers and weighing down our hearts.

2015 has already been a year of real tragedy and suffering. Only this month, suicide bombers attacked two churches in Lahore killing 17 people and setting off a cycle of violence across the city. Those murdered included Christians praying at their place of worship, and those brave volunteer security guards that give up their time, and ultimately their lives, to protect their right to do so. (more…)

europe
Europe: FAQs
March 21st, 2015

Why can’t we just have a free-trade relationship?
Britain will always be heavily influenced by whatever happens within the European Union due to our geographical and economic proximity to the continent. It is therefore in our national interest to have a seat at the table when EU policy is determined. The example of Norway is often trumpeted as a country in Europe but not the EU, but what is not mentioned is that Norway has to comply with most EU rules and regulations to trade with it, but has no say in how they are made. It would not be in Britain’s national interest to find ourselves in a similar position.

Surely we could still trade with Europe even if we weren’t in the EU?
It is in Britain’s economic interests to remain within the EU not only because so much of our trade is done with the EU, but because so many international businesses choose to base themselves here because of our unique position as the bridge between Europe, the Commonwealth and America. (more…)

tax dodging
Hitchin and Harpenden needs a better plan and a Labour Budget
March 21st, 2015

This week’s Budget changed nothing for working people here in Hitchin and Harpenden.

George Osborne spent an hour telling people they’ve never had it so good. But after five years of the Tory government, working people are still an average £1,600 a year worse off.

The Tories came into office promising to protect our National Health Service, make people better off and balance the books. But their plan hasn’t worked and the Budget said nothing about the NHS. I’m worried that the NHS as we know it won’t survive five more years of the Tories.

The Tory government started Budget day with plans for extreme spending cuts and they ended Budget day with plans for extreme spending cuts which go beyond simply balancing the books. (more…)

nhs
Reversing Privatisation: Clive Efford MP’s NHS Bill
March 21st, 2015

Labour MP Clive Efford successfully introduced a Bill that will scrap David Cameron’s market framework for the NHS and make sure local NHS patients are always put first. Now the Tory-led government is under pressure to honour this new bill and make sure it is enacted and enforced.

The Tory-led government has forced hospitals to open themselves up to a privatisation agenda which prioritises spending on competition lawyers and tendering exercises instead of on patient care.

The Bill would scrap the rules that force market tendering of services and that are seeing millions of pounds wasted on competition lawyers instead of patient care.

1. Section 75 regulations
These are the rules that many doctors say are forcing them to put services out to the market, even if they do not want to, for fear of legal challenge.
Labour oppose these regulations because they risk fragmenting care and are seeing large amounts of money spent on tendering exercises rather than patient care.

  • Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party show NHS hospitals are now spending in excess of £60 million per year just on tendering exercises / assessing tenders for bids. In addition to this, Clinical Commissioning Groups will also be spending millions on putting services out to tender.
  • In a survey by Health Service Journal, two thirds of commissioners said they had experienced increased commissioning costs as a result of the new regulations (Health Service Journal, 4 April 2014)
  • Last year, the Chief Executive of the NHS said “You’ve got competition lawyers all over the place, causing enormous difficulty…We are getting, in my view, bogged down in a morass of competition law which is causing . . . significant cost in the system” (Sir David Nicholson, Financial Times, 5 November 2013). (more…)
nhs
Updated response on TTIP
March 21st, 2015

Thank you for writing to me about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free-trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the USA and the EU.

Labour believes it is right that this important issue is debated in Parliament and I agree that these proposals deserve proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level.

The Labour Party supports trade agreements which can bring significant benefits through boosting trade and growth, securing and creating jobs, and bringing down costs and extending choice for consumers.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement between the US, the world’s largest economy, and the largest single market, the EU, has the potential to bring significant benefits. Europe and the United States are the UKs’ most important markets today. Indeed, the US is the UK’s biggest export market and likewise the UK economy attracts a significant level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from across the Atlantic. That’s why we support the principles behind these negotiations and recognise that more and better trade is good for the UK. Reducing barriers could for example help our car industry export more vehicles to the US where there are regulations inhibiting this and negotiations could remove. (more…)

mum
PRESS RELEASE: Labour delivers for families
March 21st, 2015
The next Labour government will deliver an additional 50,000 childcare places, and increase paternity leave and pay.
Labour candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden, Rachel Burgin, said the commitment would tackle the shortage of childcare places and give families more choice about how they manage work and care.
“Under the Tories, the cost of childcare has risen by 30 per cent – faster than pay,” Rachel Burgin said.
nhs
Emails received on the NHS and Privatization
March 17th, 2015

Below is just a sample of the emails I have been receiving on the NHS and Privatization:

Dear Rt Hon Peter Lilley, John Stocker, Richard Wise, and Rachel Burgin,

Please do not encourage or continue the false  assumption that the private sector can deliver care and disease management more effectively than a publicly owned and governed NHS. Competition is good in defined arenas – essential public utilities and natural monopolies are not those arenas.

For ANY private sector company to out-perform its nationalised equivalent it must be SO FANTASTIC that it can do the “day job” PLUS (more…)

Overseas Aid
Tradecraft Video
March 17th, 2015

This is superb:

http://traidcraft.wistia.com/medias/wyyaye5bvc

 

climate-change2
Labour’s Announcement on Energy Bills
March 15th, 2015

The energy market isn’t working for working people…

  • Energy bills have increased by over £300 since the last election.
  • The number of families with children who can’t afford to heat their homes is at an all-time high.
  • Limited competition, in a market dominated by 6 companies, and weak regulation has resulted in 3 out of 4 families being overcharged.

 

Energy companies hike prices when the cost of energy rises but don’t cut them fully when it falls…

  • When wholesale prices rose, energy companies hiked up bills.
  • Over the last year, wholesale energy prices have fallen by an average of 20%, yet the Big 6 have only passed on cuts of 1- 5% on gas bills and nothing on electricity bills.
  •  The consumer group Which? estimates that further cuts of up to 10% in electricity and gas bills are possible this year – saving families up to £2.5bn a year (more…)
nhs
NHS Past and Future
March 15th, 2015

NHS staff have suffered under the Tory-led Government, with ministers often trying to blame doctors, nurses and other staff in order to hide their own failings.

Labour would recommit to the Pay Review Body process and we would not renege irresponsibly on the outcomes of the Pay Review Bodies, as the current Tory-led Government has done over the recent 1% pay increase. It was unfair for NHS staff to be singled out in that way; the Pay Review Body had looked carefully at the issue and the Government should not have rejected its advice. Ultimately, if David Cameron hadn’t wasted £3 billion on a reorganisation nobody wanted, the NHS would have a much better financial outlook than it has today. (more…)

Overseas Aid
PRESS RELEASE: Labour Candidate backs life-saving international aid law
March 15th, 2015

Rachel Burgin, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden has backed legislation to enshrine the UK’s commitment to the world’s poorest people in law, completing a course set out by the last Labour government.

On Monday 9 March, Parliament passed a law to guarantee the UK’s promise to spend 0.7% of our Gross National Income on international aid – in line with an aspiration first put forward over 40 years ago.

The law nearly failed because the Tories and Lib Dems failed to vote for it in the House of Commons. At the final vote in the House of Commons a group of Tory MPs tabled dozens of wrecking amendments and tried to talk out the bill. The Tory-led Government also failed to put forward this legislation, instead relying on a Private Member’s Bill from a backbench MP to make the 0.7% commitment law. This was despite the fact the commitment to 0.7% was included in both the Lib Dem and the Tory manifestos and in the Coalition Agreement. (more…)

education
Excessive Teacher Workloads
March 15th, 2015

Since Michael Gove entered office, barely a week has gone by without a review of another examination or national curriculum subject. This has piled on the paperwork and seen the workload of the average primary and secondary classroom teacher increase by nine hours and six hours a week respectively. Labour recognises that the workload issue is one of the greatest killers of progression and commitment in the teaching profession, which is all the more worrying at a time of looming teacher shortages.

So whilst we have some deep concerns about some of the Government’s changes, such as the removal of practical learning from a range of subjects, we think it is important to have a period of stability in what is taught in our schools. In order to promote continuity in the classroom, a Labour government would retain the new primary curriculum and, in the main, continue with the GCSE changes. We would not, however, go ahead with decoupling AS and A Levels, which would leave young people without the opportunity to reach the highest standards and realise their full potential. An end to the relentless change will mean teachers can concentrate on what really matters: their subject knowledge and classroom practice. (more…)

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Modern Slavery Bill
March 15th, 2015

No one should be subject to threats, abuse or slavery, but unfortunately too many overseas domestic workers in this country live under these horrendous conditions.

The plight of some overseas domestic workers is simply unacceptable.

I am proud that since 2013 Labour has been working with overseas domestic workers and the charities and campaigners that support them to listen to their experience and seek to force the government to act to untie their visa and stop their suffering.

This work is essential, because as Kalayaan, a charity who work with domestic workers, have found from the (more…)

William Carr
Labour has a better plan to protect pensioners’ living standards
March 12th, 2015

The next Labour government will protect pensioners’ income, introduce new laws to safeguard their retirement savings, keep their energy bills down and improve care for those who are frail or vulnerable.

Older people have been let down by this Government which has worsened their living standards by failing to act against rip-off pension fees or energy bills and slashing funding for social care.

We have taken a difficult decision to restrict Winter Fuel Payments for the very richest older people, the top five per cent with retirement incomes that make them higher rate tax payers.  (more…)

Rachel Burgin Climate Change
PRESS RELEASE: Labour Candidate attends Climate Change Demo
March 8th, 2015

Rachel Burgin attended the “Time to Act ” demonstration in London on Saturday 7th March in order to highlight the problems associated with Climate Change.

The event attracted in excess of 20,000 people from a wide range of backgrounds and political persuasions.

Rachel also attended the pre-demonstration church service at St. Mary Le Strand, organised by Operation Noah.

Rachel said “the issue of Climate Change is much bigger than one political party. I believe it is important that all of us – of whatever political persuasion – who recognize the the importance of addressing these challenges – are prepared to work together to find solutions. (more…)

Redbourn
Answering questions from Redbourn
March 5th, 2015

I have been asked a series of questions for a Redbourn publication. I trust this reassures readers that I don’t duck hard questions and will give direct answers when I think they are appropriate….

What is your current occupation?

Transaction Support Manager at a niche Energy Law Firm in the City that specializes in Renewable Energy projects in Africa.

  (more…)

sustainable farming
Sustainable Farming
March 3rd, 2015

I have received a lot of emails on sustainable farming. My response is below:

I grew up in the countryside – in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire villages – and attended rural schools at both primary and secondary level. As an adult, I also spent some years living in rural Staffordshire and Cumbria – so I fully understand the issues facing our rural communities. In recent years, I have been active in the recently-formed Labour Coast and Country campaign group that seeks to raise the profile of rural issues within the Labour Party.

The Labour Party believes that there are huge challenges facing the food and farming industry. It is clear that we need to produce more food without damaging the natural resources that we all depend on whilst promoting the highest possible animal welfare standards. (more…)

Peter Lilley MP
Peter Lilley and Kazakhstani Human RIghts
March 2nd, 2015

From the Hertfordshire Mercury

An MP who is paid £15,000 a year to advise a repressive regime has been urged to confront it about human rights.

Peter Lilley, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, is paid the sum for his advisory work on the Eurasian Council on Foreign Affairs (ECFA), which is funded by the government of Kazakhstan.

The Central-Asian nation has been led by the same man, Nursultan Nazarbayev, since 1989, and has been criticised by Human Rights Watch for cracking down on free speech and torturing prisoners. (more…)

education
Tuition Fees: Q&A
February 28th, 2015

Is this setting generations off against each other – young vs the old?

  • Not at all – we think we can protect everyday pensioners without doing what this government has done which is to load all the costs onto the young generation.
  • This package is really about dealing with the huge problem of student and taxpayer debt that the Government’s botched tuition fees increase is leading to.
  • Pensioners will be unaffected. This will mean that people who are working and on the top incomes get less generous relief.
  • But they will still be able to save up to £1m and get tax relief on it.

  (more…)

education
Labour’s Better Approach: fairer for students, fairer for taxpayers
February 28th, 2015

Labour will tackle spiralling student debt by cutting the tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £6,000 for undergraduates from September 2016 and providing additional grants for students from lower-income backgrounds…

  • Cutting the tuition fee cap will reduce graduate debt by nearly £9,000.
  • Labour will also increase student grants by £400, so that the full grant increases from around £3,400 to around £3,800, benefiting all students with a household income up to £42,620. More than half of students will benefit.
  • The grant increase will cost £200 million and be paid for by asking the highest earning graduates to pay more by increasing the interest rate on loans from 3 to 4 per cent for the highest earners.

(more…)

education
Speech to sixth formers at St. George’s School, Harpenden
February 28th, 2015

It is great to be here with you at St. George’s School. I have heard so many wonderful things about this place so it is a real privilege to be here.

Thankyou for inviting me, to those who have organised today’s event – and for making me feel so welcome.

I hadn’t realised this school was planted from Keswick – a place very dear to my heart:

“We moved to the strange land of the South. We missed our excursions to the island, and our lake picnics (Lake Derwent Water). Instead of hills to climb and form teas, there were bicycle rides along green lanes, past rich cornfields into lovely villages, and we enjoyed the sometime shocked, but always interested attention, of the Hertfordshire folk who looked upon us no doubt as interesting specimens from the queer educational school up the road.” (more…)

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Keir Hardie, the Welsh Miners and my UKIP opponent
February 26th, 2015

My UKIP opponent has asked whether I agree with places being blighted by wind farms and solar panels. This is, of course, a nonsense question. ALL forms of Energy bring with them blight: the question is what sort of blight and which communities get blighted. There’s no point in saying “yes of course we should have Electricity and Heat in our homes, just so long as some other unfortunate community gets to be blighted”. This question matters because when I lived in Cumbria, it was the poor communities who ended up getting blighted with wind farms as the wealthier communities had more influential people on their parish councils. This is where NIMBYism has a callous heart – and where as politicians, we need to show leadership.

But there are solutions. It is possible for a wind farm to be a community asset owned by the parish council for the benefit of local people – both in terms of profits and cheaper – or even free – electricity. Then, a wind farm becomes, not so much a blight on the landscape but a community asset that provides prosperity to local people. (more…)

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PRESS RELEASE: Labour Candidate commits to being a “Fulltime MP”
February 24th, 2015

David Cameron has rejected Ed Miliband’s call for him to follow Labour’s lead in banning MPs from holding paid directorships and consultancies.

MPs are dedicated to the service of their constituents and the overwhelming majority follow the rules. But the British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.

Labour MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates have already been put on notice that from the coming General Election the Party’s Standing Orders will be changed to prevent them holding such second jobs. (more…)

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COMMENT: Labour is the party to tackle Climate Change
February 23rd, 2015

When I introduced myself to Ed Miliband as the Labour PPC for Hitchin & Harpenden, he burst out laughing and replied “so you’re up against a Climate Change denier then?”. So said the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change who introduced the country’s first ever Climate Change Act in 2008 which committed this country to ambitious Climate Change objectives. And as Prime Minister he has pledged to work for:

  • Ambitious emissions targets for all countries, reviewed every five years, based on a scientific assessment of progress towards the 2C goal.
  • A goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century.
  • Transparent, universal rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions with all countries adopting climate change adaptation plans.
  • A deal whereby richer countries provide support to poorer nations in their efforts to combat climate change

(more…)

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Ed Miliband on Climate Change
February 22nd, 2015

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/21/ed-miliband-climate-change-issue-national-security

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Christians on the Left standing for Parliament in 2015
February 20th, 2015

This list includes both MPs and candidates who are known to Christians on the Left. There will be others who are not known!

  • Russell Whiting (Suffolk Coastal)
  • David Mellen (Rushcliffe)
  • Darren Paffey (Romsey and Southampton North)
  • Rachel Burgin (Hitchin and Harpenden)
  • Suzy Stride (Harlow)
  • David Drew (Stroud)
  • Nick Bent (Warrington South)
  • Jon Wheale (Burton) (more…)
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Some questions for my UKIP opponent
February 20th, 2015

Since my UKIP opponent has asked me a question, I thought I’d ask him some questions to return the favour:

1) You have invited me to join UKIP. Unfortunately I’m banned from joining UKIP because I’m a member of Hope Not Hate – an organisation that helped me keep the BNP off Cumbria County Council. Why does UKIP have a problem with me campaigning against the BNP?

2) What are your views on Peter Lilley MP’s outside interests? Do you think he should have a second job? Why is there nothing on your website about such a central issue in this campaign? (more…)

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The European Union
February 20th, 2015

My UKIP opponent has asked for my views on the European Union.

To start off with, I really envy people who are able lie awake at night worrying about Europe. For most of us, the daily grind of earning a living and paying the bills occupies most of our thoughts. It’s been a tough few years as many of us have seen our real incomes fall and the cost of living soar. For those of us priced out of the property market – and in many cases, priced out of affording to save for a private pension – the concept of enjoying financial security is alien to us. (more…)

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Labour and Mental Health (2)
February 15th, 2015

Mental health will be a key priority of the next Labour Government, and I am proud that it was Labour who in this Parliament won the vote to introduce ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health into law.

It is critical that people in crisis get the help and support they need regardless of where they turn to for help, whether it’s health services, the police, social care or community organisations. I am delighted that local organisations in Hitchin & Harpenden have come together to sign their own declaration on the action they will take to achieve this and I will support this work in any way that I can. (more…)

mum
Labour and Childcare
February 15th, 2015

Families want to affordable childcare to help them manage work and kids, but this Government has not only closed over 700 Sure Start children’s centres, but left an increasing number standing empty due to reduced opening hours and cuts to services. Parents are asking why we’re not making better use of these public buildings, while they are struggling to find the childcare they need.

Labour will require Sure Start centres children’s centres to offer childcare, opening up an extra 50,000 childcare places to families. And by ensuing that our Children’s Centres are used, we will help them to fulfil their role as hubs for family services in the community. (more…)

me and dad
Labour to extend Paternity Leave
February 15th, 2015

Fathers are increasingly involved in family life, with 7 in 10 younger working fathers now regularly dropping off their kids at school. And mothers and fathers increasingly want to be able to enjoy the early weeks and months of their children’s lives together – but too many parents can’t afford for fathers to take up their entitlements.

Fathers currently receive just two weeks paternity leave paid at the statutory rate (currently £138.18 a week) – an entitlement that only about half (55 per cent) of fathers currently take up. Beyond these two weeks fathers have no independent right to parental leave. (more…)

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Tax Dodging
February 15th, 2015

I have had a lot of emails from people expressing their concern about tax dodging. My response is below:

I agree with you that tax dodging is morally wrong, and I am very concerned by recent reports alleging large-scale tax avoidance via HSBC’s Swiss banking arm.

If we are to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis and pay down the deficit we need thriving businesses that create more secure and better paid jobs across the country, and we need to see taxes being paid not avoided. David Cameron and George Osborne have totally failed to tackle tax avoidance in the last five years. They have failed to close the loopholes we have highlighted. And the amount of uncollected tax has risen under this government. One of the Tories’ top donors, Lord Fink, has admitted to avoiding tax and has even said “tax avoidance: everyone does it”. I disagree. (more…)

For Rent
Labour’s Plan to get a Fairer Deal for Private Renters
February 6th, 2015

Britain faces the biggest housing crisis in a generation with less than half the number of new homes we need being built.
The Tory-led government refuses to do anything about it. Their record is shocking with house building now at the lowest level since the 1920s.

I’ve spoken to many young people in Hitchin & Harpenden, who have all but given up on their dreams of ever owning their own homes. While the flexibility of renting may suit some, others have been forced into the private rented sector as the only available option. (more…)

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Official Response from Douglas Alexander MP on Palestine
February 6th, 2015

I share your concern at the lack of progress on the Middle East Peace Process and the issue of Palestinian human rights.

I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours. After decades of diplomatic failure, there are those on all sides that today question whether a two-state solution is any longer possible.

Despite John Kerry’s exhaustive efforts in 2013, the latest round of negotiations collapsed in April last year. And the appalling loss of life that occurred in the conflict in Gaza last summer – with 2,131 Palestinians killed, the vast majority of them civilians, and seven Israeli civilians killed by rocket attacks from Gaza, makes the task of achieving a lasting and just peace all the more urgent. (more…)

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Profile for the Herts Advertiser
February 6th, 2015

Rachel Burgin works for a niche Energy Law firm based in the City that specializes in Renewable Energy projects in Africa. She is married to Paul who is a retail worker and trainee Methodist Lay Preacher.

With deep roots in the religion and politics of the old West Cumberland Coalfield, Rachel spent most of her young adulthood serving her local community as a Sunday School teacher, Youth Leader, School Governor and Parish Councillor. She came into politics when the BNP posed a direct threat to her community and values and she successfully headed up the campaign to prevent them winning Council seats.
(more…)

One Nation
Cities in the Wilderness: Solving Hertfordshire’s Housing Crisis
February 6th, 2015

Not every community is as committed to preserving their countryside as we are. San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley has grown from a city the size of Stevenage to a city larger than Birmingham in the space of sixty years. The population of California has doubled in my lifetime with cities springing up in the wilderness almost overnight. The same can be seen right across the deserts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

But the key word here is “desert”. People in Arizona aren’t particularly precious about their cacti – and with empty desert for hundreds or miles on end, there is plenty of space to go around.

(more…)

climate-change2
Warm Homes
February 6th, 2015

Millions of people in Britain today struggle to heat their homes. Labour has set out radical plans to freeze energy prices until 2017 so that bills can fall but not rise, and fix the energy market for the future, with a tough new regulator to curb rip-off bills.

But one of the main reasons our energy bills are so high is that our homes are some of the least energy efficient in Europe – leaking heat from their doors, walls and windows. Two thirds of households have never even had an energy efficiency assessment, so they don’t know how much money they could save. A Labour government will provide half a million personalised home energy reports detailing how households could save money on their energy bills.

(more…)

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Palestine
February 4th, 2015

I have received a number of emails asking for my views on Palestine. My response is below:

Like you, I was profoundly affected the conflict in Gaza this summer, and the tragic loss of life which it entailed. I believe it is imperative that a negotiated settlement based on peace and recognition of the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to national independence and security is concluded as soon as possible.

 

I believe that Israel should have the right to peacefully coexist with neighbouring countries. I firmly reject Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial in all its forms – as well as Islamophobia and Xenophobia. Moreover, I do not believe that any theology should ever be used to justify oppression, injustice or tyranny, the hostile occupation of foreign territories, the deprivation of basic human dignity or the denial of freedom of conscience, expression or association. (more…)

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