I’m Labour’s candidate in Cities of London and Westminster
I was born and brought up in a Jewish family in north London. My parents came from the East End and Tottenham. I was the first in my family to go to university where I studied law. I began my legal career as a trainee solicitor with a law firm known for its human rights work. I later joined the Bar and was appointed a QC in 2010. On the way I worked at the former European Commission of Human Rights and served as Parliamentary Counsel under the 1997 Labour government. I’m proud to have worked on the Human Rights Act — one of Labour’s lasting achievements. I’ve worked in the Cities of London and Westminster for over 30 years, most recently in Essex Street. As a lawyer I’m used to giving people a voice. I will continue to do that if I become the Two Cities’ first ever Labour MP on 12 December.
I’ve never forgotten why my generation had those opportunities, opportunities that didn’t come to my parents’ generation. It was because the 1945 Labour government had to courage to make radical changes to society – setting up the NHS and education as free, universal services, and channelling growth into reducing the gap between rich and poor
I got involved in politics in my teens, the late 1970s. I remember it as a scary time. The cold war was in full flight with the rhetoric ramping up on both sides. And the far right was on the march in London and elsewhere, spewing vicious anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic poison. The Labour Party was my natural political home. I set up a Labour Party Young Socialists branch in my area and we organised successfully against the far right. I’ve been a committed Labour activist ever since. This is my eleventh general election campaign as a party member.
I am proud to have been at the forefront of setting what is today’s anti-austerity agenda.
By the mid- 2000s, I was convinced new Labour’s economic policies were not addressing people’s needs and were failing to repair the widening inequality left by the Thatcher era. I worked alongside our now shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on the Left Economic Advisory Panel (LEAP) and wrote a number of the Red Papers on economic policy – anticipating austerity and the need to provide an alternative. The first LEAP conference ‘Beyond the Market Economy’ was held in May 2006 at Birkbeck, University of London. Just over 80 people came along to discuss the problems caused by New Labour’s embracing of neoclassical economic dogma. John McDonnell MP, LEAP Chair, said “If we’d organised an event like this two or three years ago, we would have had a room with half a dozen people”. , but today economic issues are right at the top of the political agenda. The themes included exploring 21st century models of social ownership; debt and the financial system; and how to secure housing for all who need it
I later signed up to the Radical Alternative to Austerity initiative in 2012. I am proud to have been at the forefront of setting what is today’s anti-austerity agenda.
Decades of fighting climate change
My work on housing was informed by serving as a councillor in Southwark. I was elected in 2006 to represent a ward in Peckham where housing shortage and cost had an enormous impact on local people. I also led campaigns on primary school places, strip club licensing, amending local planning policy to favour retrofitting of renewables to residential properties. I became a founder trustee of Peckham Power, a community energy project run by and for residents of Peckham and Nunhead. This was an initiative to build interest and local expertise in community owned and managed energy, launched in November 2008.
In 2018 I was honoured to be appointed as the Labour Party’s inaugural General Counsel – a first for a UK political party. The Chakrabarti report remarked on the absurdity of a large organisation with prominent governance and legal functions lacking any legally trained staff. In a little over a year I successfully established the Party’s in-house legal services operation before returning to practice at the Bar. I helped set up systems across a wide range of legal and compliance areas, including helping the NEC design improvements to procedures to tackle complaints of antisemitism, sexual harassment and other forms of equalities-related misconduct, so that cases could be dealt with quickly and fairly.
In my professional practice I often work pro bono with charities and campaigns who want to sponsor private Member’s Bills or amendments to government legislation. The projects I have assisted include attempts to improve rates of young voter registration (such as the excellent work done by Bite the Ballot; the successful attempts to persuade the coalition government to launch a Modern Slavery Bill; and most recently attempts by domestic violence charities to improve the Domestic Abuse Bill.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to study and acquire those professional skills. But too often the present generation isn’t so lucky. The young of today – like my daughter – are the first generation in living memory to expect to be worse off than their parents. The gap between rich and poor has widened once again. Young people are priced out of central London by spiralling rents. As a student I had a full maintenance grant, but today’s graduates leave university with debts of tens of thousands of pounds. I want to do something about it – as a Labour MP and part of a Labour government committed to real change.
It’s not 1945. But today’s Labour Party has rekindled the spirit of radical change for our times.
If you elect a Labour government on 12 December, we will:
Rebuild public services – investing in the NHS and education, connecting every address in the UK with ultra-fast fibre-optic broadband, with free access for every home
Start building genuinely affordable homes – after 5 years we’ll be completing 150,000 new social rented homes a year. For private renters we’ll introduce security of tenure and take action to cap rents. We will reform leasehold law. I will campaign to change the law so that leasehold owners — such as the thousands in living in Westminster, with the freehold often owned by anachronistic landed estates – get proper control over management of their properties and are freed from spiralling service charges and ground rents.
Take action on air pollution and climate change – investing in public transport, insulating homes, and creating 400,000 new high-skill green jobs
End in-work poverty – making sure people have a living wage and a proper contract. We’ll extend maternity leave and close the gender pay gap.
And we’ll offer a democratic solution to the Tories’ Brexit mess: a people’s vote to give you the final say on a new deal or remaining in the European Union.
Only Labour can beat the Tories in Cities of London and Westminster.