• June
  • 4th
  • 2009

Today’s Election

VoteOn the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, it is important for us to remember the significance of living in a democracy. In China and other states like it, people are denied the freedoms we take for granted – to surf the internet freely, to read and discuss what we want and crucially to choose who governs.

The right to vote was won through struggle and determination, in this country through movements such as Chartism and the Suffragettes. In more recent memory we might reflect on South Africa, where within my lifetime black people voted for the first time.

Despite recent events and the temptation for people to turn their back on politics, we must not take our rights for granted or forget the sacrifices of previous generations which allow us to cast our votes today.

Therefore I urge you to use your right to vote today. In the first instance, of course, to vote Labour, but crucially to vote. Apathy could be a route for the BNP to gain representation in London – which would be a huge blow to a city which is rightly proud of its diversity.

Chuka

  • June
  • 2nd
  • 2009

Chuka on 5 Live

chuka-5live-pic1Chuka appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live this week, taking part in Front Bench on the Up All Night show, discussing the expenses revelations alongside other candidates including pop star David Van Day.

To listen, follow this link (opens Real Player)

Or alternatively, listen on iPlayer – Chuka’s contribution is at 2hr30 in.

  • June
  • 2nd
  • 2009

Trees and Better Streets for Streatham

Lambeth Council is undertaking a programme of street improvement and tree planting as part of the borough’s £3.5m Better Neighbourhoods initiative. Pavements and roads will be resurfaced while outdated and uneccessary street furniture and signs will be removed to enhance streetscapes.

TreesThe programme includes major improvements for Streatham High Road, taking place this summer. Dozens of new trees will be planted along the road intersection while crossings and busy sections of the pavement will be widened.

Other neighbourhoods will benefit from more trees and better pavements, having been earmarked as being in most urgent need of environmental improvements. These include Streatham Vale, Brixton Hill and the Poynders Estate in Clapham.

Some of the initiative’s funds are targetted specifically for estates, bringing improved play areas and recycling facilities alongside tree planting. Across Lambeth, around 250 of the new trees will be planted on residential streets, helping to make our area greener and more attractive.

  • June
  • 1st
  • 2009

Hyde Farm CAN

Recently, Chuka visited the community garden set up by Hyde Farm Climate Action Network on Radbourne Road, and was shown around the site by co-founder Adrian Audsley.

Chuka gets stuck in at Hyde Farm Community GardenHyde Farm CAN was established in 2007 and includes over 150 households on the Hyde Farm estate in Balham. It is a grassroots organisation which puts into practice reducing the community’s carbon footprint. The Radbourne Road gardening project has recently been established to create capacity for local food growing, allowing local residents to grow their own vegetables. Alongside this, Hyde Farm CAN has helped residents insulate their homes for the winter to reduce fuel usage and energy bills.

The organisation is inspired by the transition towns movement, which involves urban areas finding ways to adapt to the challenges of climate change and rising oil prices. Hyde Farm CAN’s ‘think global, act local’ approach is to be applauded, and provides an excellent example of how, by working together, urban living can be made more sustainable.

For more information, check out Hyde Farm CAN’s website.

  • May
  • 25th
  • 2009

Compass Conference – No Turning Back

Chuka will be speaking at the Compass No Turning Back conference next month, at London’s Institute of Education on Saturday June 13th.

The conference will address the need for a new political and economic settlement following the failure and collapse of free-market ideology. Discussions will touch upon renewing democracy, creating equality, fairness, the control of markets and environmental sustainability – issues which now sit at the centre of political debate. Chuka will be taking part in the conference’s question time session at 14.45 alongside Guardian journalists John Harris and Polly Toynbee, BBC Newsnight’s Paul Mason and Prof Ruth Lister CBE of Loughborough University. Other participants include Harriet Harman and Jon Cruddas alongside representatives of leading think tanks, trade unions and pressure groups.

To find out more about the conference and booking details, follow this link.

  • May
  • 25th
  • 2009

Daily Politics

daily-politics-pic2

Chuka was a guest on the BBC’s Daily Politics show last Friday, discussing the expenses revelations, the reform of Parliament and the future of politics.

To watch the programme on iPlayer, follow this link.

  • May
  • 25th
  • 2009

Ever wondered what an MP does?

With the continuing expenses revelations and debate about the role of Parliament, it is helpful to go back to basics and look at what MPs actually do.

emily-thornberryLast week Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South let Guardian journalist Aida Edemariam follow her to find out about what her job involves on a day to day basis. One theme which emerged is the importance of constituency casework, an aspect of MPs’ work which has grown exponentially. Emily Thornberry receives over 1,000 queries from constituents a month, each of which is answered individually, on issues including housing, benefits and asylum applications. This important work, however, needs to be balanced with legislative duties in the chamber and in committees.

Emily’s work is, of course, very similar to that of our own MP, Keith Hill. Chuka has been assisting Keith with his surgeries for the last 4 years, dealing with much the same case work and helping local people with their problems.

Read the article in full here.

  • May
  • 24th
  • 2009

Next Generation thinking

Earlier this week, referring to the continuing political crisis engulfing Westminster, Chuka said that “Labour’s next generation has a duty to make a contribution if it does not wish to inherit the public’s contempt”. In that vein Chuka appears in today’s Independent on Sunday, in which he argues in favour of reforming the electoral system, and the Sunday Times, in which he argues for party selection processes of candidates to be made more open and to involve the public. Click on the logos below to read what Chuka said.

              

  • May
  • 21st
  • 2009

Serve the people

Many of my fellow PPCs have signed up to these ethics pledges that Progress, the independent organisation for Labour party members, has put together - I agree with them and pledge to observe them. However, I think we need to go further (which is not to say that others do not) if we are to restore trust between voters and political representatives. In the article below, which appears in today’s Guardian, I advance some suggestions on how to do so with my friend and colleague, Cllr Mark Bennett, who serves Streatham South.

Chuka Umunna & Cllr Mark BennettThe collective reputation of MPs has been burned to ash and the clean-up begins not a moment too soon. MPs of all parties have been shamed, but it has been most galling when associated with people on the left, who were first elected by telling voters they would change the rules – in politics and beyond – to make Britain better and fairer. Labour activists who go door to door for them have been on the receiving end of public anger and are themselves furious.

The mantra often repeated is “my claims were within the rules”, but this is a complete irrelevance when the claims do not stand up to moral scrutiny. How can they not see this?

It appears they have been deafened to political reality by the siren songs of vested interest, manifested in the deference of Commons police and staff, the patronage of the whips, the Speaker’s offices and the indulgence of the fees office. To the public, it seems they have been rewarded with TVs, kitchens, massage chairs and imaginary mortgages for doing so. If politics in Britain is to have a future, all this must change.

Another future is possible. We are two Labour politicians but there are many more of us – parliamentary candidates, councillors and activists – who still believe in what Harold Wilson called the “moral crusade” of our party. We are all putting our hearts and souls into it and a better future for our communities.

Most of our politicians are idealistic and well-intentioned. The corrupt are few, and now is the time for them to be driven from office by the many who want to rebuild trust in what should be an honest and open vocation.

As the Commons considers what to do, Labour’s next generation has a duty to make a contribution if it does not wish to inherit the public’s contempt.

We must start by recognising that if we want to dismantle the “gentlemen’s club”, we must tackle the machine ¬politics out of which it was born. Root and branch constitutional reform is a prerequisite. We must elect the Lords, make the voting system more ¬proportional and end the degraded adversarial culture of Westminster, as exemplified by the so-called theatre of prime minister’s questions.

The Labour party must change too. MPs who have acted within the rules but outside the bounds of public acceptability should be deselected. There is a moral and political imperative to do so – we will not retain seats where we are offering damaged goods. The higher education minister David Lammy has mooted introducing primaries as a way of making parliamentary selection more open, and to involve the public. The clamour for this is growing.

But first, changes to MPs’ expenses and the election of the Speaker are imminent. Gordon Brown’s proposal of an independent parliamentary standards regulator, responsible for pay and allowances, is welcome. Expenses should now be fully published online and investigated without further delay, with absolute application of the law towards MPs found to have broken it.

Whatever shape the new expenses system takes, one principle should win out: there must be an end to any privileges that set MPs apart from the people they represent – no first class travel, no London congestion charge reclaim, and no claims for anything that is not directly related to the work of being an MP.

In 1994, the then Labour leader, John Smith, said: “The opportunity to serve our country – that is all we ask.” Service. That is what our parliamentarians need to remember as they consider reform. The time has come to serve the people, not politicians.