BLOG: My thoughts on Chilcot

This morning's publication of the long awaited Chilcot report, vindicated the Liberal Democrats' opposition to the war in Iraq. 

Tony Blair chose the united states over the united nations, this report drives home that due process was overlooked. The Labour party, under his leadership, led the house of commons into a war based on information highlighted today as unsatisfactory

In 2004 then Liberal Democrat deputy leader, lord Campbell criticised the Tories - calling them the "wobblers of Westminster" for "their conversion from cheer-leaders to critics" of the war. 

I welcome Sir John Chilcot’s findings and offer sympathy to the lives blighted in Iraq and those servicemen killed and injured, as well as their families. I hope comfort can be found in the reports highlighting of the bravery and professionalism of those who fought with honour under the belief they were protecting their country.

As a party which firmly believes in evidence based policy making, we held deep reservations about rushing into this conflict. The the divisions Iraq caused, the unnecessary hurt overseas and at home was foreseen by our leader Charles Kennedy. He stated that action in Iraq would lead to more suicide bombers. 

At their hands we have had our own civil liberties eroded under Blair’s Labour governments. Blair famously stated ‘we should put our own safety over liberty’. The result of the decision to go to war led to our own basic rights being impaired, our own freedoms curbed by the

Threat to innocent lives on the streets of Britain, coupled with the erosion of our civil liberties initiated by Labour and continued under the current government.

The only community which has prevailed since 2003 is that of daesh. With no assessment, plan or agreement of a post-conflict plan. The Labour government had succeeded in offering mobility and a platform to their hostile ideology and terrorist cause. This is a devastating indictment of Labour’s time in power; and of our political system itself.  

In parliament the Liberal Democrats have called for a two-day debate, to help the process of learning lessons and to prevent such mistakes being made again. 

Writing today, I am proud that Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats have been vindicated over our stance opposing the war in Iraq, and we must ensure that these mistakes are never made again. 

BLOG: Why I vote Remain

Manchester, today, send a message.

Send a message to the world that we are better than the narrow, narcissistic vision that Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and the Leave campaign offer.

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BLOG: First Council Meeting

Last Wednesday was my first council meeting and Manchester's first council meeting with an opposition for two years.

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Blog: First week back!

Firstly, I would like to say another massive thank you to every single person who supported our campaign over the last year and to everyone who voted for me. The support I received on the doors and through this campaign has been heartwarming and the messages, emails, tweets and Facebook posts following my win have been genuinely moving. They were all massively appreciated, so thank you.

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Merry Christmas

I have recorded short video to say thank you for your support and to wish you a Merry Christmas! If you missed my 12 Days of Action, you can catch up here!

My Final Advertiser Column

I am sad that this is my last column for the Advertiser, which is closing at the end of the month. I hope I can write for its successor again after the election.
The Greens had their conference last weekend, and I agreed with many of their policies, and have voted for those policies in this parliament. 
Manchester Friends of the Earth praised me for voting for a Fracking moratorium, and I have voted against the bedroom tax, legal aid cuts and tuition fee rises. For tougher action against bankers and more support for mental health patients. I also want to see more social housing built in south Manchester.
And if I am re-elected I will vote the same way in the next parliament.
I disagree with Green plans to put up child benefit to £50 a week, or give every citizen £72 a week, including football stars and millionaires. These Green party policies would cost well over £200bn, help the rich and I don’t know how the country could afford it. Their leader has had problems explaining it too.
You only have to look at Greece to see what happens when a country keeps living beyond its means. The last Labour Government saddled us with huge debts run up on credit. They piloted a bedroom tax for the private sector and introduced tuition fees. As City minister Ed Balls did nothing to properly regulate the banks.
Labour wasted billions on ID cards, spent billions on an illegal war in Iraq and twice cancelled Metrolink. They introduced Foundation hospitals, huge PFI debts and have cut the NHS in Wales. Remember they promised “Cuts worse than Thatcher” in power.
We have forced the Tories to give free school meals to infants. To give the low paid a £800 tax cut. To give Manchester more powers, a Proton Beam Cancer centre and £37m more in pupil premium. We have brought down unemployment and created 2 million apprenticeships.
You have a choice in May. A Manchester Labour One party state, a Labour MP who is an unknown quantity, who has never spoken out against the Labour line publically ever. Or an MP who has a track record of speaking his mind, working hard, and fighting for south Manchester.

Green Homes Initiative

The Lib Dems have relentlessly pushed the green agenda over the last five years in government, in the face of strong resistance from the Conservatives. Yet despite much needed progress, people still suffer from homes that are too cold and bills that are too high. We will guarantee that nature and the environment will not be ignored in the forthcoming elections. The Liberal Democrats are putting green issues on the front page our manifesto.

Energy efficiency and climate change are vital issues that we must tackle. Insulating millions of homes will significantly improve the cost of living and quality of life of people across the UK and Trafford.

Lib Dems want to see a Green Homes revolution, delivering 10 million energy efficient homes by 2025 through ambitious targets and generous incentives for people who carry out work to make their homes warmer, cheaper and greener.

Last week the Lib Dems announced plans to introduce a new Green Homes Bill in the next Parliament. This would improve energy efficiency and promote renewable heat across the UK, ensuring more people benefit from permanently warmer homes and cheaper energy bills. All our residents would benefit as we would offer at least £100 a year off Council Tax for ten years when energy improvements are carried out.

Our plans include reforming the Green Deal ‘pay as you save’ scheme into a new ‘Green Homes Loan Scheme’ which would extend the current scheme to include renewable heat and electricity. In addition, as part of our plans to introduce Five Green Laws in the next Parliament, the Lib Dems have unveiled proposals for a Zero Waste Bill. This Bill will tackle industrial fly tipping and protect the environment for future generations.

Lib Dems in Government have a proud record of improving the nation’s leaky housing stock resulting in permanently warmer homes and cheaper bills, including beating our own target of getting one million homes more energy efficient through the Green Deal and other polices. The Green Homes Bill would build on the success of the policies for warmer homes the Liberal Democrats have delivered in Government.

Advertised Column: Why I Support Safe Standing

John_Leech_standing_at_rail_seats_1.jpgI welcome calls from the Welsh Assembly calling for a pilot to introduce “Safe Standing”
I support Safe Standing at football matches because it will lead to cheaper tickets and a better atmosphere at games, and make grounds safer. It is also supported by the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Direct.
Currently, thousands of football fans stand up every week at every premier league ground in areas that are not designed to stand up.
As a season ticket holder at Manchester City for 31 years, I have seen football change hugely since I first started going. But Safe Standing is not a return to those terraces I remember in the 1980s.
It is the introduction of rail seating, which provides a rail on each level, so that people cannot be pushed forward into the person in front, but also has seats attached to the rail, so that safe standing areas can easily be converted into seating areas for European games.
Countries like Germany, Austria, Sweden, Canada and the United States, have “safe standing” for domestic fixture. A standing season ticket at Bayern Munich starts at £150, half the price of the cheapest season ticket at City.
Safe Standing will be in the Liberal Democrat manifesto at the next election. I hope the other parties follow suit.

Advertiser Column: Time To Get Serious About Mental Health

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives.

For many years there was little discussion about mental health issues. Unlike a physical illness, there were rarely any visible signs.

Thank goodness attitudes are changing, and this is helped when influential people or those in the public spotlight talk about their struggles with mental health issues. Their stories raise awareness and understanding for those with mental health issues.

In recent time, wealthy, powerful and influential people like Stephen Fry and Alastair Campbell have talked about their mental health issues. Stephen spoke movingly about a suicide  attempt, and the rollercoaster ride of emotion you get when you read Alastair’s diaries gives a real insight into his struggles on a day to day with Mental Health.

Closer to home, my constituent and Liberal Democrat peer, Lord David Alliance, recently talked publically for the first time about his acute depression despite running one of the largest textile businesses in the world, employing 70,000 people and with a turnover of £2.5 billion per year.

Mental health cannot, and should not be ignored or stigmatised. It should be taken as seriously as physical health. I am really proud that the Liberal Democrats have taken a lead on this in Government.

Last October Nick Clegg announced that, from this April, mental health conditions would be brought into line with other NHS services with the introduction of the first ever waiting time standards. How could it be right that you would know how long you had to wait for a hip replacement but someone with a debilitating mental health condition had no clarity about when they will get help?

Moving forward, the Liberal Democrats are promising to give patients the same choices whether they have a physical or mental illness as part of their £8bn boost to the NHS.

But just as important as the treatment, is the need to change attitudes. We would fund the “Time to Change” campaign, which challenge mental health stigma and discrimination.  It is time to change attitudes to mental health, and people like Stephen Fry, Alastair Campbell and David Alliance do society a huge favour by being honest about their struggles with their mental health.

Advertiser Column: 70 Years On, We Should Never Forget

This is my Advertiser Column on Holocaust Memorial Day and Hate Crime Awareness Week. This was written before today's worrying figures that anti-Semitic incidents had doubled in the past year in Greater Manchester.

HMD15.jpgThe reason I love Manchester is because it is a vibrant, diverse, multicultural city. There are many creeds, colours, faiths and lifestyles in the city, and that makes us a stronger place to live. 

Of course, we have political disagreements, and that is welcome and healthy in a democracy, but not a line is crossed and violence is used to scare or intimidate those who take a different view, of have an alternative faith or lifestyle.

I recognise that most agree with that view of the world, but that is not the view of everyone, and two events last week reminded me of this. 

The first was Hate Crime Awareness week, where the police and council were highlighting to victims how to report Hate crimes.

The second was Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

Give recent terrorist acts in France, and an increase in fear amongst the Jewish community, it is important we remember the lessons of the Holocaust, and remember the victims, survivors and their stories.

In the days after those attacks, when Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of no faith, were killed,  I spoke publically and reiterated my belief that is was important that the reputation of all faiths was not undermined by a small number of extremists who seek to divide communities through terror, and who abuse the faith of others for their own ends.

Similarly, the terrible state slaughter of millions by Hilter’s Germany in the concentration camps, over a delusional belief in sub and superior human beings, should remind all of us of the danger in focusing on our differences rather than similarities.

Whilst we cannot take back those shameful acts, family members cannot be brought back, we all owe it to Hitler’s victims and indeed all victims of anti-Semitism and racism to ensure we never go back to those dark times, and we never forget.

For more information on the Manchester Jewish Museum’s click here.

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