Tessa Jowell is among the candidates for Labour's mayoral nomination. Photo: Getty Images
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As a trade unionist, there's only one candidate for me: Tessa Jowell

Linda Perks, secretary of the London branch of the Trade Union and Labour Party Liason Organisation, explains why she's backing Tessa Jowell to win for London.

London is a wonderful city, but we can all see it has problems. The housing crisis, rising inequality, a transport system that too often feels like it doesn’t work for us – the list goes on.

Labour politics is about putting our values into action – delivering real change for the people we came into politics to represent. So when I look at the London Mayoral contest, the question for me – as a long-standing trade unionist - is simple: who can deliver the change that London needs?

This week, a group of working people from across London have come together to establish Trade Unionists for Tessa. We come from a wide range of unions and represent every level of the movement, from former General Secretaries to new grassroots members. Tessa Jowell has brought us together because we know she can deliver the change that Londoners need.

Tessa’s record of working with trade unions is second to none. As part of her focus on delivering the Olympics, Tessa agreed a progressive partnership with the construction unions – ensuring that the thousands of workers who built and delivered the games were well treated and properly rewarded, and setting new standards for apprenticeships, training and health and safety.

As minister for the Cabinet Office she chaired the Public Services Forum, which brought the Government, trade unions and employers together to address workforce issues and ensure that fairly paid and supported staff were able to deliver high-quality services with proper and sustainable funding.

Wherever you come from, our city is supposed to hold a simple promise – that this is a place where you can fulfil your ambitions and make a life. But for too many people, this promise is not being kept.

For most working people in London, the biggest barrier to achieving the life they want is finding an affordable place to live. Home ownership is increasingly out of reach in London’s frenetic housing market, and standards in the private rented sector are falling while prices are going through the roof. And hundreds of thousands of people are languishing on social housing waiting lists. All of the other challenges facing London’s workers – from low pay to lack of skills and opportunities – can be made intolerable by the housing crisis.

Londoners are suffering through a combination of the Government’s indifference to the crisis, and the Mayor’s inability to get a grip. We need a mayor who gets the scale of London’s housing crisis, who knows what to do about it, and who can be trusted to deliver. That mayor is, without doubt, Tessa Jowell.

Tessa has a clear, deliverable plan to deal with the housing crisis. She will set up a new, TfL-style agency called Homes for Londoners which will get London building again for the first time since the 1980s – starting on the Mayor’s own land. Homes for Londoners will use public land to build the homes Londoners need – including innovative ‘rent to buy’ homes which will help London workers get on the housing ladder, new social housing, and purpose-built private rented homes to ensure better standards in that sector.

Crucially, Homes for Londoners will invest in thousands of young people so they can develop the skills to work in the construction industry, through a major apprenticeship programme. This is part of Tessa’s wider One London vision, which is about ensuring that everyone – no matter what their background – has the chance to share in London’s success.

But politics isn’t just about having plans and ideas – it’s about winning, and getting things done. Tessa is by far the best candidate on both those fronts.

First – she can win next year for Labour. If the party loses again in 2016 it won’t be able to do a thing for the Londoners that need it the most. It’s clear that Tessa is best placed to beat the Tories – the latest poll puts her head and shoulders above the Conservative frontrunner. We cannot deliver for the people we got in to politics to represent unless we start winning elections again – and Tessa is the woman to do it.

Secondly, she is a real leader. Leadership is not just about talking about changing society – it’s about actually getting things done. I know from personal experience that Tessa has that ability in spades. She has a natural empathy which gets people on her side, and ultimately helps her get things done.

I first met Tessa in 1995 when the then Conservative Government was seeking to break up the London Ambulance Service. This was an irrational proposal which would seriously weaken LAS's ability to provide an essential emergency service to the city. ‎ Tessa sat on the Common's Health Select Committee and gave invaluable assistance to the ambulance unions in finding our way around Parliamentary systems to help us succeed in making our case to keep a single ambulance service for London. 

I next met Tessa on 8 July 2005 when as Minister for London she pulled representatives of staff working for London's emergency services together to say thank you for their bravery and professionalism ‎in responding to 7/7. It was clearly a very intense and fraught day for her but she made the time to meet people who had put their lives at risk for others in the course of their job and took the opportunity to ask their opinion on how the city's emergency systems could be improved for the future.  She understands the workers in the front line matter as much as the management - a rare quality in a politician. 

It’s that combination of empathy and focus on delivery which is Tessa Jowell’s trademark. People always talk about what Tessa did to win and deliver the Olympics and create Sure Start, but they are not exceptions - she’s always focused on turning Labour values into action.

That’s why I trust Tessa to deliver for working Londoners. We need a mayor who understands what London needs, and who knows how to bring about that change. Tessa can be that mayor, which is why more working people from across our city are joining Team Tessa every day.

Linda Perks is Secretary of London TULO and is writing in a personal capacity.To join Trade Unionists for Tessa email tradeunions@tessa.london.

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“Brexit is based on racism”: Who is protesting outside the Supreme Court and what are they fighting for?

Movement for Justice is challenging the racist potential of Brexit, as the government appeals the High Court's Article 50 decision.

Protestors from the campaign group Movement for Justice are demonstrating outside the Supreme Court for the second day running. They are against the government triggering Article 50 without asking MPs, and are protesting against the Brexit vote in general. They plan to remain outside the Supreme Court for the duration of the case, as the government appeals the recent High Court ruling in favour of Parliament.

Their banners call to "STOP the scapgoating of immigrants", to "Build the movement against austerity & FOR equality", and to "Stop Brexit Fight Racism".

The group led Saturday’s march at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre, where a crowd of over 2,000 people stood against the government’s immigration policy, and the management of the centre, which has long been under fire for claims of abuse against detainees.  

Movement for Justice, and its 50 campaigners, were in the company yesterday of people from all walks of pro and anti-Brexit life, including the hangers-on from former Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s postponed march on the Supreme Court.

Antonia Bright, one of the campaign’s lead figures, says: “It is in the interests of our fight for freedom of movement that the Supreme Court blocks May’s attempt to rush through an anti-immigrant deal.”

This sentiment is echoed by campaigners on both sides of the referendum, many of whom believe that Parliament should be involved.

Alongside refuting the royal prerogative, the group criticises the Brexit vote in general. Bright says:

“The bottom line is that Brexit represents an anti-immigrant movement. It is based on racism, so regardless of how people intended their vote, it will still be a decision that is an attack on immigration.”

A crucial concern for the group is that the terms of the agreement will set a precedent for anti-immigrant policies that will heighten aggression against ethnic communities.

This concern isn’t entirely unfounded. The National Police Chief’s Council recorded a 58 per cent spike in hate crimes in the week following the referendum. Over the course of the month, this averaged as a 41 per cent increase, compared with the same time the following year.

The subtext of Bright's statement is not only a dissatisfaction with the result of the EU referendum, but the process of the vote itself. It voices a concern heard many times since the vote that a referendum is far too simple a process for a desicion of such momentous consequences. She also draws on the gaping hole between people's voting intentions and the policy that is implemented.

This is particularly troubling when the competitive nature of multilateral bargaining allows the government to keep its cards close to its chest on critical issues such as freedom of movement and trade agreements. Bright insists that this, “is not a democratic process at all”.

“We want to positively say that there does need to be scrutiny and transparency, and an opening up of this question, not just a rushing through on the royal prerogative,” she adds. “There needs to be transparency in everything that is being negotiated and discussed in the public realm.”

For campaigners, the use of royal prerogative is a sinister symbol of the government deciding whatever it likes, without consulting Parliament or voters, during the future Brexit negotiations. A ruling in the Supreme Court in favour of a parliamentary vote would present a small but important reassurance against these fears.