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Sat, 28 November 2020

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Commons Diary: Alex Sobel

Commons Diary: Alex Sobel
4 min read

Five days in self-isolation following a coronavirus scare gave Alex Sobel plenty of time to take stock of the new reality in British politics.


The first recess of this Parliament has allowed me to reflect on the significant change we have all had to adjust to since the general election. The class of 2017 have had a rude awakening. From late night strategy meetings and contesting every vote, we now must get used to four and a half years of Conservative majority rule, where decisions are made by an executive intent in keeping power squarely in Number 10. As the Sajid Javid resignation showed, even the office of chancellor of the exchequer is not enough to resist the will of the prime minister and his chief special adviser. It was tough to lose so many brilliant colleagues and the road back will be hard. My biggest concern is for my constituents and people up and down this country who have had to endure so much in the past decade of austerity.

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Whoever is the next leader of the Labour Party takes on what is the hardest but most crucial job in British politics. For me, the leadership candidates must pass three tests. Do they have a clear understanding of the policies needed to meet the challenges of the late 2020s whether that’s the housing crisis, automation, an ageing population or most importantly climate change? Can they keep the party together and mount an effective opposition to Boris Johnson and his new majority government? And can they resolve the internal issues in the party, most urgently dealing with the antisemitism crisis that the party has failed to tackle? Each candidate has shown strengths. I like that Rebecca Long Bailey is making climate change a key focus of her campaign. I like that Keir Starmer is demonstrating a plan for party unity and for being the strongest possible opposition. Lisa Nandy has been particularly impressive when presenting her ideas for tackling antisemitism and she has duly earned the endorsement of the Jewish Labour Movement. As the chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, she is living proof that it is perfectly possible to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people without straying into antisemitism. The candidates have a few more weeks to demonstrate that they can meet all the required criteria for leading us back from the wilderness and into power where we can put our principles and values into action and make lives better.

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The 2019 general election was dubbed the Brexit election. However, with climate disaster becoming ever more imminent, many of us were keen to define it as much as we could as the climate change election. Five more years of Conservative government signals five more years of apathetic policy and missing unambitious carbon targets. Whilst a Labour government was the clearest vehicle for which a real impact could have been made, I am determined that we can get back on track. The new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Net Zero, which I chair, was officially launched this month and we will use every possible method to tackle this existential emergency that is already having an impact at home and abroad.

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The coronavirus scare was made very real to me last Friday after a journalist called my office to inform me that I had been at the UK Bus Summit with someone who later tested positive for the virus. This led to the cancellation of my planned constituency events and surgeries and I decided, after taking advice, to place myself in five days ‘self-isolation’ at home. People who know me understand that staying still is quite a challenge, though I am pleased to have finally had time to redecorate the front room, help my children with their homework, catch up on some paperwork and play Sid Meier’s Civilisation 5 on PC.

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The next decade holds big challenges and it rarely has it been so important to show that capitalism and social progress aren’t opposing forces. Quite the opposite. All it takes is a longer-term view, a more inclusive attitude and for everyone to take that first step.

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