Commons Diary: Wes Streeting
As Parliament returns from a long summer recess, it’s time for both major parties to hold a mirror up to themselves, says Wes Streeting
My week began on Sunday with the Jewish Labour Movement’s conference. Labour’s antisemitism crisis has dominated the headlines for no other reason than the stubborn refusal of people at the top of the Labour party to genuinely listen and respond to the concerns of the vast majority of British Jews about the failure to effectively tackle antisemitism within our ranks.
More than 500 Jewish Labour members turned out. The vast majority refuse to be driven out of the Labour party by racists, cranks and their apologists. Having been a member of the Labour party for 20 years (with a brief departure over the Iraq War and tuition fees) I share their stubborn refusal to be driven out.
Gordon Brown gave a star turn with a barnstorming speech that reminded us what moral leadership looks like. “This is about who we are, what we stand for, what makes us tick. It’s about the soul of the Labour party”, he said.
This is why I haven’t pulled my punches on this issue. How we respond to prejudice tells us much about who we are. It’s why I am frankly appalled by the deafening silence of Conservative MPs over concerns about Islamophobia in their party. I see the same pattern of downplaying, dismissing and deflecting concerns expressed by a wide range of Muslim leaders and organisations, with honourable exceptions like Sayeeda Warsi.
Boris Johnson and the Burqa was the tip of the iceberg. It’s too easy to hold a mirror up to others. Both of our main parties need to hold a mirror up to ourselves.
Labour’s NEC finally did the right thing by adopting the IHRA definition on Tuesday, but the alt-left warn this isn’t over.
Parliament returned on Tuesday. The Treasury Committee got straight down to business with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. He’s confirmed that he’s willing to stay on beyond his planned departure date next year to see through our departure from the EU – a relief for those of us who welcomed his steady hand at the tiller in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. The mere prospect will undoubtedly upset the Brexit zealots. So another good reason to keep him on!
On Tuesday afternoon I led a Westminster Hall debate about the TOEIC visa scandal. Thousands of international students were wrongly deported and thousands more have been left in limbo after our government effectively branded them all cheats and denied them the right to appeal.
This is Britain’s forgotten immigration scandal. The government has created a hostile environment for international students – dragging the resolution of individual cases out through lengthy and costly action in the courts, with the hope that students will simply give up.
There is a simple and cost-effective way for the government to end this madness by allowing students to re-sit the TOEIC test, clear their names and get on with their lives.
The Archbishop of Canterbury again came under criticism on Wednesday for supporting IPPR’s commission on economic inequality, which provides some radical proposals for addressing the gross inequality that blights our country. If his critics think that’s bad, wait until they read what Jesus said in the Bible!
The big item on the Commons agenda was the Prime Minister’s extraordinary statement on the use of Novichok in Salisbury and Amesbury. There can be no doubt of Russia’s involvement and there will be cross-party support for a robust response.
Finally, another major victory for my mate Stella Creasy, a woman who makes effecting change from the opposition backbenches look easy. This time she’s won a major review of hate crime legislation with a view to extending coverage to misogyny. Last week Wonga announced it had gone into administration off the back of another of Stella’s campaigns. She doesn’t ask for credit (she certainly didn’t want credit at Wonga’s rates!) but she deserves it in bucketloads.
Wes Streeting is Labour MP for Ilford North
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.