Being able to play outside is an important part of children’s development, helping young people understand nature as well as encouraging healthy levels of activity.
I was extremely disappointed to see that Wandsworth Council has rejected the petition to build a playground outside Nightingale Square Hostel. There are 113 children living in the temporary accommodation, and it is important that they have somewhere safe to play together.
I wrote to the council outlining my concerns with their decision. I highlighted that their objection to the potential noise disturbances that the playground might bring to local residents contradicts their suggestion that the area could instead be used to build.
Wandsworth Council have repeatedly failed to build a decent number of genuinely affordable homes over the past decade and must take steps to provide more across the borough. The space outside Nightingale Hostel is very limited, and I believe that a small playground really is the best use for the space.
This week I visited Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, as part of an Oxfam delegation. Zaatari was first opened on 28th July 2012 to host Syrians fleeing the violence of the ongoing war and the camp is now home to over 80,000 people.
I am pictured here with Khalid. Khalid is disabled and cares for his young children. The family were due to be resettled in the USA. However, due to President Trump’s travel ban, the family remain living in the camp.
What stood out when talking to people in Zaatari was that, overwhelmingly, refugees wish that the conflict would end and they could return to their lives in Syria. I have invited the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for International Development to meet with me to discuss this.
Our close relationship with the United States has always been important, and that will continue to be true regardless of any differences we may have with individual presidents, including President Trump. However, state visits, which require an invitation, have historically taken place after a considerably longer period following a president's inauguration than the one currently proposed for President Trump.
I am opposed to a state visit in these circumstances. Almost two million people have signed a petition to this effect, which was debated in Parliament on 20th February 2017, and I have written to the Prime Minister outlining my opposition. The Foreign Secretary responded to my letter, stating that President Trump’s policies relate only to the United States of America. The Foreign Secretary indicated therefore that this would not be an adequate reason to stop President Trump making a state visit to the UK.
If the state visit does go ahead, I remain strongly opposed to giving President Trump the honour of addressing Parliament and I am pleased that the Speaker of the House of Commons has also expressed this sentiment. In order to prevent President Trump from making an address in the Palace of Westminster, I have sought permission to sign Early Day Motion 890. If President Trump was permitted to address Parliament, I would boycott the speech.
Hundreds of people have contacted me about tonight's vote and Brexit in general and so I want to share how I will be voting on the Government’s Bill to trigger Article 50 and explain my decision.
Despite having voted and campaigned passionately to Remain in the EU, I do not believe the fundamental question of this vote is to re-run the EU Referendum campaign.
I believe the fundamental questions at the heart of this vote are this: how do we best reflect the will of the British people? How do we preserve and advance the idea of a representative democracy?
The health of our democracy at this point is critical: distrust in our politics has never been higher. The EU Referendum introduced huge uncertainty into the understanding of our political system. David Cameron’s total failure of leadership meant it was never clear to the public what the relationship between the referendum and Parliament would be.
And yet, given the scale of the change we’re about to go through, we need our political system to work properly more than ever.
The UK’s political system is based on the essential idea that an MP represents the interests and will of the constituency that elected them to Parliament.
On this Bill, I believe the Referendum means that we, as MPs, must vote not on our judgement of what is in the interests of our constituents, but instead on what we understand their will to be.
Across Wandsworth, over 100,000 people (75%) voted to Remain in the EU.
So, while I fully expect Parliament as a whole to vote to trigger Article 50, I will vote against triggering Article 50.
As long as I am MP for Tooting, I will represent the will and interests of its people faithfully and to the best of my abilities. That is the commitment I made during last year’s election and one I will not back away from.
I also believe this decision honours our democracy: respecting both the referendum result as a whole and the principle of a representative democracy. To do anything else would be to undermine people’s faith that they have a voice in our political system.
Through her impulse for autocracy and total control, Theresa May is already undermining our politics further. She may like to pretend the Referendum was a landslide or a whitewash, but we know it wasn’t. She may want to claim every person who voted Leave voted for the same concept of a harsh and extreme Brexit, but we know they didn’t.
In doing so, the Prime Minister has also set people against the idea that once votes have been cast, the decision of the majority is respected, but what follows must be done in the best interest of all. Yes, the decision to leave the EU was made by 52%, but the form of Brexit must take the interests of 100% of our people into consideration.
That is her duty as Prime Minister and Theresa May is currently not fulfilling it.
It’s becoming clear that the Prime Minister is pursuing an extreme version of Brexit that she does not have a mandate for. Everything is up for grabs: from our economy, the Single Market and workers’ rights to the NHS and the rights of our friends, family and colleagues who happen to be EU citizens.
The many benefits of the relationship with the EU have not just disappeared. As we work out the future of the UK, we have to fight for what we believe and for our interests. Brexit will change our country, but it doesn’t have to destroy everything great about it.
And that starts in standing up for the principle of a representative democracy in this vote so that everybody has a voice.
That is why I will be voting against trigger in Article 50 – to faithfully represent the people of Tooting in Parliament.
And it is why after Parliament as a whole votes to trigger Article 50, as I fully expect, I will ensure that the people of Tooting have a constructive voice in how the UK leaves the European Union so that we protect the things we cherish.
I hope that you can understand my decision and that we can work together as the UK charts its course through the great challenge ahead.
Wishing you all the best,