My South London Press column, 29/07/2016

The former Prime Minster, Harold Wilson, famously said that “A week is a long time in politics” but that was before Social Media and 24 hour rolling news channels existed.  Events following the shocking outcome of the EU Referendum made me think that today he might have said an hour was a long time in politics. It triggered the most intense political crisis since before the Second World War and even with a new Prime Minister and Cabinet in place “uncertainty” continues to be a recurring theme.

That uncertainty doesn’t just relate to future trade and employment prospects but has real impacts on the lives of individuals living in Lewisham.  In particular citizens from EU nation states who live and work here and contribute to our community will be feeling anxious at this time.  We simply don’t know if, when and how Great Britain may leave the EU but I will press those who are charged with drafting the new legislation required to ensure that it includes provisions that gives them the same rights they enjoy today.

Lewisham is a tolerant and respectful place where people live together in harmony. We are proud of the strength and variety in our community locally. In Lewisham we are stronger through our diversity. In overwhelming numbers, people in Lewisham are civil to their neighbours and courteous to other local residents.  

But we know there have been racist and xenophobic incidents attacks around the country and in our own borough and these are being treated with the utmost seriousness by Lewisham Council and the Police. Hate crime is unacceptable and we are making it easy to report such incidents.

At a meeting of Lewisham Council a few days ago along with councillors from all parties I signed a declaration pledging to work together to  fight bigotry and intolerance, and support further community cohesion.  We are inviting local residents to make the same pledge and you can do so here http://tinyurl.com/hah6pzm

And finally, if watching the Olympics makes you want to know more about Brazil you don’t have to catch a flight to Rio to do so – you can get along to the amazing Horniman Museum in Forest Hill where you will discover the richness of Brazilian culture this summer. The Museum has collaborated with Brazilian artists and communities to bring you a snapshot of urban Brazil with a season of unique events and exhibitions, inspired by their everyday lives and neighbourhoods. It’s open from 10.30am to 5.30pm 7 days a week. Boa Sorte! 

My South London Press column, 01/07/2016

As the decision by the British people to leave the EU was announced last Friday morning everything changed yet nothing changed.  How Britain will leave the EU, the laws that will be needed and whether our country will even remain a United Kingdom are all unknown and will take years to be worked through.  But the issues that make a difference to the lives of each and every one of us – housing, jobs, education, the NHS, pensions were still there and the challenges they involve haven’t gone away.

Most Londoners, myself included, voted “Remain” but when the votes of the rest of England were counted we found ourselves in a minority.  We may feel that that the campaign generated much more heat than light, we may also feel that the case for remaining wasn’t expressed in clear enough terms to counter the distortions and emotional appeals of the “Leave” campaign but we have to accept the democratic decision.

London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan responded by saying “We all have a responsibility to now seek to heal the divisions that have emerged throughout this campaign – and to focus on that which unites us, rather than that which divides us.” And I am sure that here in Lewisham and across London we will set aside our disappointments and anxieties and strive to do exactly that.

One of the arguments put forward for voting “Leave” was that “we will take back control and can spend our money on our priorities”.  As the way our country goes through an extended period of change we must not lose sight of that and our cities and regions should say to whatever government is in control at Westminster that they too want to take back control and spend their money on their priorities.

This must become a time for real devolution – not just a few crumbs from the Westminster table but the handing over to those cities and regions the powers to make decisions on everything except those matters which self evidently must be dealt with at national level. There will be a huge programme of legislation required to disentangle Britain from the EU and that legislation can also be used to pass powers on.

Those parts of the country that embraced “Leave” so enthusiastically will have very different priorities to London and all I ask is that London be allowed to go on doing the things that have made it so successful – being open to do business with the world and to welcome the world’s brightest and best to the city, and being a city where respect and tolerance of difference is something we celebrate not fear.

We have serious issues we need to address not least the London Housing crisis and as we go forward we must demand that we are given the freedom to use the resources this city generates to resolve those problems without interference from Brussels or Westminster.

An edited version of this piece was published in the South London Press on the 1st July 2016.