Honeyball’s Weekly Round- up

There was an interesting article in this week’s New Statesman in which George Eaton warns that Ukip could thrive following the election. Whoever wins the election, Farage’s party will have no shortage of political ground to exploit Eaton warns.

Support for Ukip is in decline, at least this is what the polls promise. The ‘giddy’ momentum Farage’s party enjoyed following May’s European election last year is unsustainable.

It’s difficult to know for sure if the party has peaked, or as Eaton’s article suggests, the party may enjoy renewed support following the election. Typically the immediate aftermath of an election is exhausting but vigilance of the threat Ukip could pose at this point is essential.

Last week the Fabian Society published a report which laid bare some astonishing statistics relating to poverty, in particular child poverty. It said that some 2.5 million British children would wake up in a home scarred by poverty, stating: “the hidden victims of an economy that is failing to bring prosperity to typical families, and of austerity policies which hit those with least the most. These are the children forced to go without new school shoes, half-term day trips or a healthy evening meal.”

The report warned that while the economy slowly improves overall, for child poverty the story is altogether different. In fact the problem is getting worse. It estimated that 1.2 million children will fall into poverty between 2015 and 2030, this is an increase of almost half. The report predicts that low income families will suffer as a result of further benefit cuts meaning low income families will be just £200 a year better off.

Earning differentials will widen and government policies fail to help low income groups allowing them to keep pace with everyone else.
The Fabian Society has made some conservative calculations too: it projects that 3.6 million more people will slip into poverty by 2030, including 1.3 million disabled people and over half a million lone parent households.

This is not inevitable, politicians could tackle the issue of poverty, however the Tories plan to slash £12bn from the benefit system indicating that it is not in any way dedicated to doing anything about poverty which is particularly concerning considering children are one of the groups who will be most affected by their in action.

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Parliamentary Pioneers Arrives

It’s arrived! Parliamentary Pioneers, my book exploring the rise of the first Labour MPs to enter Parliament and published by Urbane, is out in three days.

Pre order your copy here.

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Labour is committed to fair pay- for everyone

When Patricia Arquette gave a rousing speech (met with roaring cheers from the audience including Meryl Streep and the singer and actress Jennifer Lopez) at the Oscars this week calling for fair pay, there were no doubt those who raised eyebrows at her political statement.

In the impassioned speech she said: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

To the majority of us it’s unambiguous. Equal pay for equal work is of paramount importance, yet it’s astonishing that even in Hollywood there is a disparity between the pay of male and female stars. Leaked emails from Sony revealed that two of its female stars on the film American Hustle, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, were paid just 7% of the profits of the film, while the male stars received 9%.

In the UK there is a similar picture. Why is there such inequality when it comes to something as basic yet as emotive as peoples pay? In 2013 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that women still earn just 80 pence for every pound earnt by men.

Indeed under the Tories Labour says that progress to close the gender pay gap since the Tories were elected has closed, at a rate of just 0.3% a year.

It’s not just the fact that women are paid less than men in this country that’s an issue but also some of the country’s largest companies have been named and shamed by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills for failing to meet fair pay legislation.

The UK’s biggest energy supplier, SSE failed to pay the minimum wage to all its employees and East Midland Crossroads, the care worker employer, failed to pay more than £37,000 to 184 workers.

SSE said it was an oversight while East Midlands Crossroads said it was a complex matter.

Paying people on time and correctly is complex, nobody disputes that, but that’s precisely why experts are required to administer pay correctly and on time. It’s not an excuse to simply make an oversight.

We have a long way to go but a Labour government is committed to fair pay.

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My interview on 5 Live talking about domestic violence in the UK

I spoke on Radio 5 Live last week (available here) about domestic violence in the UK – a problem which is still under-reported and relatively hidden. Statistics show the limitations of our criminal justice system when it comes to protecting women and preventing further abuse. Two women a week in the UK are murdered by a partner or ex-partner and often we find that victims of domestic murder had already been in contact with key agencies and that opportunities to intervene to prevent abuse were missed.

The Tory government has consistently cut funding available for women’s refuges and much needed specialist support is also being lost. Some parts of the country now have no provision at all. This is why the Labour Party have said that we will set up a national refuge fund and introduce new, robust standards for police and support services to keep all women safe.

In the EU, I strongly support further legislation to combat and prevent domestic violence and will continue to work with colleagues to ensure that we have the strongest possible policies in place.

Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

All cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involving under 18’s must be reported, new legislation introduced for England and Wales will stipulate.

The law will state that health care professionals, teachers and other social care workers will have to report cases of FGM within a month of becoming aware of it. Failure to comply could result in internal disciplinary or being referred to their professional organisation which could result in them being barred from practice and sacked.

The law will apply in all cases of known FGM in under 18s, whether it is disclosed by the victim or noticed by the professional.

The hope is that it will increase the ability to find perpetrators and this will lead to an increase in the rate of prosecutions. The move follows a public consultation which asked for opinion from a range of stakeholders including health care professionals, survivors of the practice and community groups.

We have a duty of care to protect young girls from this practice. Identifying the pathways that lead to FGM is an important step. And equipping front line staff with the right tools to identify and support victims or potential victims is a significant step in the right direction.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published a report last week which found that women who have endured violence in the home may have problems providing the evidence required to obtain a lawyer. And another report, published in the same week by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), found that cuts to legal aid exposed victims to a court room ordeal, some are even forced to endure cross examination by their abuser because they are increasingly forced to represent themselves in court due to legal aid cuts.

The CAB report, Victims of Abuse: Struggling for Support, found that victims give up on their fight for justice because regulations, “both in terms of evidence requirements and income or asset thresholds requiring financial contribution, leave large numbers of victims giving up on their rights to justice”.

It adds: “In some cases these restrictions expose victims to risk, leaving no alternative but to represent themselves in court facing their perpetrator.”

In other news, worrying statistics emerged last week as it was reported that young people are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population. Almost half a million, 498,000 young people aged 16-24 are without a job and thee unemployment rate sits at 14.4% for thus demographic.

The Tories accused Labour of talking negatively of the unemployment figures, however there is no way to negatively spin these facts which are shameful.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said there could be “no doubt” that there was a genuine issue with youth unemployment that needed to be addressed.

Failing to invest in this group of people is short sighted and a disgrace.

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International child abduction

Last night at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg I spoke about the accession of 8 countries to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Labour Party will vote along with our colleagues in the Socialists and Democrats and across the chamber in accepting the accession of these countries; however I felt it was important to make a few pertinent points about this accession.

I’m worried that without further EU assessment into the infrastructure and procedures in these countries, both proposed and in place, we risk sending children who have already suffered a huge ordeal back into danger.

When the application of the Hague Convention was a Member State issue, the assessments undertaken allowed us to assess acceding countries in order to ascertain the level of child protection which would be provided. We worry that these vulnerable children will not be adequately protected.  What is a fairly legalistic attitude towards the recognition of other systems will have an effect on the lives of young people who have been abducted.

While the argument has been made by other groups that it is important to have a maximum level of participation in the Hague Convention to ensure that children who have been abducted in cross-border situations are given the maximum care and possibility of being reunited with their families, we wish to underline that the EU also has obligations. It is not sufficient that we simply accept the principle that we return children who have already suffered an ordeal to their state of habitual residence, then simply forget about them. We need to maintain pressure on acceding states to ensure their compliance with the terms of the Convention.

It is also helpful that there is virtual unanimity across the European Parliament on this. We need to ensure that child protection in these situations remains at the forefront, and that we don’t risk running before we can walk.

You can see the full speech here:

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The problem of voter apathy in young people

Last week was National Voter Registration Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness about the importance of registering to vote. The same day last year resulted in some 50,000 people registering to vote, this year the same campaign hopes to aim to register a further 250,000 voters.

Although the day was aimed at everyone who isn’t yet registered, some shocking figures relating specifically to young people aged between 18-21 revealed that as many as 800,000 of people in this age group won’t be able to vote in the upcoming general election because they haven’t registered.

The poll, conducted by the Electoral Reform Society, found that in addition to those who aren’t registered to vote, a further 9% said they had no clue of whether they were registered to vote at all.

In the course of my work I speak to students and young people on a regular basis from an array of backgrounds who are political engaged and interested in politics, many are hungry to learn more and some even have political ambitions of their own. However, there is also a large number, as illustrated by this poll who are disengaged, who are apathetic, who have given up their right to choose who or what shape our next government will be and that’s really sad.

Making a decision about who represents you is empowering, you become part of a group of people who have a voice and who help to shape the government.

The BBC political editor, Nick Robinson, said in a blog last week that the new system of individual registration is making the problem worse. He said: “You used to be able to rely on your college or student union – or Mum or Dad – to do it but now you have to register yourself. Having said that it’s easy to do – taking around three minutes online.”

It is true, this new system of registering to vote does not help the already dwindling numbers of young voters. There are some more stats which show a worrying low trend: In Lancaster only 22 out of a possible 7,500 students registered to vote in one ward. And in East Sussex there was an almost 90% drop in voters, plunging from 3,500 registered students in 2014 to just 377 this year.

You can register to vote here it only takes a few minutes, and I urge everyone to do so- as I say without it you do not have a voice and you are not able to participate in shaping future governments.

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