Tag Archives: Chi Onwurah

Recognition of Palestine – letter to MP regarding debate and vote in Parliament

Today I have written to my MP to ask her to attend the debate and support the motion in the House of Commons next Monday, which calls for the UK to recognise a Palestinian state. I urge others to do the same – you are very welcome to use my letter as a template. The UK recognised the state of Israel in 1950, without any negotiations or pre-conditions. Surely the Palestinians are entitled to the same? The UK’s stated policy towards Palestine and Israel is that there should be a ‘two-state’ solution, but how can that be achieved when we will only recognise the right of Israel to exist?

Dear Chi,

I am writing as a constituent to ask that you attend the debate and support the motion being put to the House of Commons on Monday 13th October, specifically that ‘This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel’.

As you will know, the Labour Party supported recognition when the Palestinians took their case to the UN General Assembly in 2011. Just last month, at our party Conference Douglas Alexander reiterated that support for recognition saying ‘recognition of Palestine is not a gift to be given, but a right to be had.’

This statement clearly indicates that support for Palestinian recognition should not be subject to preconditions. So I trust you will vote for the motion, and against the amendment demanding that Palestinians only receive recognition from the UK in return for accepting Israel’s demands in negotiations. The Israeli government has repeatedly refused any clear parameters for negotiations, refusing to negotiate on the basis of international law and relevant UN resolutions.

Britain has accepted Palestine’s right to statehood. There is no excuse not to recognise Palestine , or to delay recognition according to Israel’s wishes. Britain, as the former colonial power, failed the people of Palestine in 1948 and we must not continue to fail these stateless people.

Recognising Palestine is to recognise Palestinian right to self-determination. Bilateral recognition of Palestine is in the UK’s hands: Israel should have no right of veto over Palestinian self-determination. Israel argues that recognition of a Palestinian state should only come through negotiation, but the right to statehood and self-determination should not be in the hands of the Israeli state. When Britain recognised the state of Israel in 1950, there was no negotiation.

Those on both sides of the debate about recognition repeatedly state their desire for a ‘two-state’ solution, but those who fail to support this motion are, in effect, only prepared to recognise one state. How can that be conducive to their expressed desire of a ‘two-state’ solution? Unless we recognise a Palestinian state, talk of a ‘two-state’ solution will remain cheap rhetoric.

I realise that Backbench debates are not subject to Party discipline, so you will vote according to the wishes of your conscience and your constituents. I trust that you make the right choice and I urge you to vote ‘yes’ to the motion and against any amendments.

Best wishes


Shouting down Labour MPs will not stop the Bedroom Tax

Yesterday I joined hundreds of others at the Bedroom Tax protest in Newcastle, at what I was hoping would be a broad based coalition of people who oppose this vicious tax and that could send a message to Westminster (to all political parties) whilst also engage with members of the public who may not be aware of what is being done in their name.

I was delighted that two good Labour MPs, Chi Onwurah (Newcastle Central) and Ian Mearns (Gateshead) would be speaking from the platform, along with speakers from a cross-section of socialist groups, tenants groups and people directly affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Sadly, the protest was spoiled for me by two or three vocal anti-Labour campaigners who tried to drown out Chi Onwurah and Ian Mearns and demand that Labour be excluded from the rally.

Those who know me and know my politics, will know that I am a passionate defender of the Labour Party and what we should stand for but at the same time I have been a harsh critic of the direction we have taken in recent years. Indeed I have some sympathy for the frustrations of comrades on the left who despair at the failure of the Labour leadership to come out emphatically and commit to repeal the Bedroom Tax if we form the government after 2015.

However, attacking good socialists like Chi Onwurah and Ian Mearns is not going to help bring down this government. Ian in particular is a champion of the Left within the party. If we had more Labour MPs like Chi and Ian, and other like Grahame Morris, Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett etc, then I am sure a commitment to repeal the Bedroom Tax would have already been made.

Further, there was a much bigger concern yesterday. As anyone who has knocked on doors, spoken to friends and neighbours about the Tax, or discussed it at the local pub or club will know – many people are either not aware or are ignorant of the sheer viciousness and unfairness of the Tax. Events like yesterday in Newcastle are a great way to raise awareness and educate Having speakers shouted at just puts off a lot of people who might otherwise be ‘non-political’.

I acknowledge that there is a need for the Labour leadership to come out tougher on the Bedroom Tax and on social security generally and I accept the argument for councils to pledge not to evict tenants caught in the Tory trap. Shouting demands to good MPs who oppose the Tax will not achieve anything, except to alienate some and divide the left.

Events like yesterday should be open to all who oppose the Bedroom Tax and want to see it repealed. Of course there will be people like me who want to see councils go further in protecting tenants in the face of Tory attacks. There will also be those who want a campaign of non-payment. Whatever our responses to the Tax, we should celebrate that Labour MPs want to nail their colours to the mast and publicly state their opposition to it.

Of course it would help if the Labour Party leadership recognised the inconsistencies of campaigning against the Tax now, but being reluctant to pledge to repeal it. But, the place to make that argument is within the Labour Party – join, get involved and make sure your MP is demanding Labour repeal the Tax.