Yvette Cooper MP

Working hard for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford & Knottingley

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Anyone who thought the nasty party was dead has been proved wrong by Zac Goldsmith’s desperate campaign for the London Mayoralty.

Rather than try to persuade Londoners with a positive vision, the Goldsmith campaign is increasingly resorting to disgraceful, divisive tactics as the polls show the Tories falling further behind.

With each day, the smears and innuendoes get louder. It’s no longer just Zac Goldsmith’s own leaflets, briefings and clumsy attacks.

Now the Cabinet is joining in, trying different ways to link Sadiq to Islamist extremism based on no evidence at all.

When it doesn’t work, they just become ever more shrill.

We can’t let this go by – it’s time to call it out for what it really is before it gets worse. What started as a subtle dog-whistle is becoming a full blown racist scream.

Sadiq is a mainstream British Muslim who has spent his whole life fighting extremism, and he’s paid a heavy personal price for it.

He had death threats from extremists when he voted for same sex marriage – and had to discuss police protection with his young daughters.

He had extremists come to his local Mosque to protest, telling the congregation – his friends and neighbours – that he will go to hell because he believes in democracy, as will anyone who votes for him.

But despite all that, he’s bravely put his pledge to be ‘the British Muslim who’ll take on the extremists’ at the very centre of his campaign, with real plans to take on the extremists and tackle radicalisation, showing the kind of leadership and willingness to speak out that we need.

He’s been a strong voice against antisemitism. And over many years working with him on crime and security policies, I’ve seen his determination to keep Londoners safe.

Yet that’s what makes Goldsmith’s campaign even more appalling – they aren’t just attacking Sadiq, they are trying to undermine the very values we need to defeat extremism too.

They’ve sent leaflets to British Hindus with the outrageous claim that Sadiq wants to take their family jewellery.

Other leaflets call him “dangerous” and “a radical” in the hope that if they whistle the words often enough voters will start worrying about radicalisation instead.

Michael Fallon has attacked Sadiq as a “Labour lackey” who supports extremists. And in the last few days we’ve seen Michael Gove, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson each try to link Sadiq in people’s minds with Islamist extremism in different and deeply dodgy ways.

It’s the campaigning equivalent of pointing and shouting ‘don’t vote for him, he’s a Muslim’ – a nasty approach straight from the Lynton Crosby playbook.

Plenty of sensible Tories have been appalled. Baroness Warsi tweeted: “If Sadiq Khan isn’t an acceptable enough Muslim 2 stand for London mayor, which Muslim is?”

Shazia Awan, a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate described the Tory campaign as “‘divisive’, ‘colonial’, ‘sectarian’ and the return of the ‘nasty party”.

Binita Mehta, Conservative Group Leader at Watford Council, told the Telegraph: “This reckless approach needs to be confronted before we compromise our hard work thus far to win over ‘BME’ voters”.

Meanwhile, Simon Wooley, director of the independent Operation Black Vote described Goldsmith’s campaign as “the politics of division” and scathingly added: “This is not Donald Trump land where communities are pitted one against the other for political gain. This is London where we are proud of our diversity and…. we do get on with each other”.

I am sure that London will reject Goldsmith’s divisive campaign. London’s greatest strength is the respect and tolerance diverse communities have for one another.

You just have to look at the amazing response Sadiq is receiving from London’s Jewish community to see that the politics of division are not going to work here.

But Goldsmith’s campaign could still cause long lasting damage to the fabric of London life – a generation of young ethnic minority Londoners are looking at this campaign and thinking “that could be me” if they stick their head above the parapet.

Divisive campaigning drives rifts between communities. It says that if you are a mainstream Muslim who rejects extremism and abhors violence, you are still liable to be attacked by Tories as a threat to security.

It undermines those standing up against extremism and makes it easier for extremists to spread their hatred. In short, Zac Goldsmith’s campaign isnt’t just unpleasant, it is irresponsible and dangerous.

This election is now bigger than tribal party politics. It’s about the basic decency, humanity and tolerance of our capital city.

I hope Londoners who normally vote for the Tories will reject this nasty campaign, send a message that the city is better than this, and vote for Sadiq Khan. Now more than ever we need the Mayor for all Londoners that Sadiq will be.

Yvette's article for The Times - Zac Goldsmith’s dog-whistle is becoming a racist scream

Anyone who thought the nasty party was dead has been proved wrong by Zac Goldsmith’s desperate campaign for the London Mayoralty.

With the closure of Ferrybridge power station today and the loss of hundreds of skilled jobs across Knottingley, Ferrybridge and elsewhere,

Yvette Cooper MP said:

"This is a sad day for the workers at Ferrybridge and their families. It's also a bad day for Britain's energy policy as Ferrybridge is closing much sooner than it needs to, even though the Government hasn't got enough alternative energy generation in place.

"The Government has no proper energy strategy in place and they have ignored the campaign to stop Ferrybridge closing this spring. There was enough coal already on site at Ferrybridge to keep the station going for another year. SSE and the Government have taken the wrong decision by refusing to look at ways to extend the life of the plant rather than close it so fast. Experts are warning that there isn't enough energy capacity in place for next winter, yet the Government is rushing to close existing power stations down this year.

“We all want to see higher environmental standards. However the Government has ditched clean coal technology planned for Drax, and undermined investment in renewables so there is too little alternative energy capacity coming through to replace the coal fired power stations that Ministers are determined to close down. And there has been a big increase in planned diesel generation to fill the gap, even though diesel has even more serious environmental problems.

"We now need a fair deal for all the workers at Ferrybridge - those that are leaving now and those that are staying on to help decommission the site safely. That's the very least they deserve after showing such loyalty and commitment over the last year which the threat of closure hanging over them. I've been working with the unions to press SSE for a better deal. And we need a serious plan for new skilled jobs in our area. We've already lost Kellingley, now we are losing Ferrybridge. The Government's so called "Northern Powerhouse" looks more like a Northern Power Cut instead."

ENDS

Government and SSE have made the wrong decision on Ferrybridge

With the closure of Ferrybridge power station today and the loss of hundreds of skilled jobs across Knottingley, Ferrybridge and elsewhere, Yvette Cooper MP said:

Yvette questioned Chancellor George Osborne on the Government's deeply unfair, and chaotic budget in the debate last week. She challenged him twice on his unfair cuts for the disabled and the chaos over his Budget sums. you can see the exchange below:

Chancellor twice refuses to answer Yvette's questions about budget unfairness

Yvette questioned Chancellor George Osborne on the Government's deeply unfair, and chaotic budget in the debate last week. She challenged him twice on his unfair cuts for the disabled and...


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Recent Refugee Taskforce

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, writes to the PM on setting a milestone for resettling unaccompanied child refugees

Ahead of the debate on the Government’s announcement on resettling lone child refugees in the Immigration Bill today, Yvette Cooper Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to commit to swift action to help hundreds of children this summer so they can get into school by the beginning of the Autumn term.

Many lone child refugees, particularly those from Syria have not been in school for years. The letter joins the calls from faith leaders today for the Government to ensure children helped by the new scheme are able to enter school as soon as possible.

She is also calling for more detail on how the new commitment will be implemented to make sure it delivers on the spirit of the Dubs amendment in practice.

***

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London

SW1A 2AA

 

9th May, 2016

 

Dear Prime Minister,

Can I welcome your decision to accept Lord Alf Dubs amendment, and the principle that Britain should do its bit to help child refugees who are on their own and at great risk in Greece, Italy and France.

I am glad that the Government has listened to the cross party support, and the many organisations who have been campaigning on this and who are very keen to work with the Government to put this commitment into practice. Last week in Athens I met with Greek Ministers who told me that resettling lone child refugees was vital to ensure their safety.

UNICEF and Save the Children estimate that well over 1,000 children in Greece are not in proper accommodation because children’s homes are full and are either alone in makeshift camps, sleeping rough or even being kept in detention.

I have met many children and teenagers living in squalid conditions in makeshift camps, children who have been trafficked, and who are at serious risk of abuse and violence. In Calais, I have have met children of 11 and 12 years old who have family here in Britain that could look after them, but who have been waiting for months alone because of Government bureaucracy.

The decision to resettle some of these children is a life changing one and I wholeheartedly applaud this change of heart from the Government.

However, we must now make sure this commitment is delivered in practice. We therefore want to know further information from the Government about the practical steps and milestones needed to make sure that a significant number of children and teenagers can very swiftly be given sanctuary here.

Senior faith leaders including the former Archbishop of Canterbury have today called for all children in Calais with valid legal claims to be reunited swiftly with family in Britain, and 300 of the most at risk unaccompanied children in Greece and Italy to be brought to Britain by the start of the new school year in September.

This would be an important early milestone and would show the Government's commitment to swift progress so children aren't caught up in more bureaucratic delays. Can I urge you to commit to this plan to make sure children are swiftly helped and that we get them back into school and the education they need as fast as possible.

The Government has shown with the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that, by working with local authorities, and providing the extra support needed, we can move quickly to resettle vulnerable refugees. And I pay tribute to the work of Minister for Syrian Refugees Richard Harrington in this.

Can you give a commitment that the Government will work with the LGA in a similar way to provide the additional support needed for specifically to help arriving child refugees, to make sure that local authorities are actually able to provide places in practice?

The LGA have made clear they are keen to help, but it is important that they are given the support they need and that children are relocated across the country, rather than putting pressure on a small number of local authorities.

 

Please can you also provide us with more details of the funding that will be  need much more detail about the funding that in place for local authorities to properly support these children’s needs, as well as the process for identifying children to be resettled to the UK?

Other organisations, including faith groups and charities have also offered to help. As you may be aware, independent schools have already offered to make available 80 funded places to child refugees, indeed I have been contacted directly by schools wanting to help. Can I urge the Government to urgently work with wider organisations to see what additional support they can give to maximise the number of children and teenagers we can help.

These children haven’t been in school for many months, some many years. Resettling 300 of the most vulnerable child refugees from Europe in time for the start of the new school year, as well as expediting the cases of the children in Calais is the minimum we should be doing and I urge you to listen to the call from faith leaders and make this commitment today.

Tonight thousands of child refugees will sleep rough and in makeshift camps across Europe, on their own, I urge you to act swiftly to deliver on your commitment to resettle some of those children and teenagers as swiftly as possible so that we don't leave them at risk any longer.

 

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP

Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce

Letter to the Prime Minister on setting a milestone for delivery of child refugees commitment

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, writes to the PM on setting a milestone for resettling unaccompanied child refugees Ahead of the debate on the Government’s announcement on...

Responding to the Government re-announcement on resettling child refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Refugee Taskforce said:

“This is the same announcement as the Government made back in January and includes nothing new to help the thousands of child refugees alone in Europe who are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. It doesn't address the crisis within Europe and I hope MPs of all parties will back Alf Dubs amendment on Monday. 

“As we said at the time, we welcome vital support for children and families at risk in the Middle East and North Africa, but we also cannot turn our backs on the thousands of children who are going missing in Europe because children's homes in Italy and Greece are full, and other countries can't cope with this crisis alone.

“It seems the Government has made this re-announcement because they are under pressure over the vote on Monday. But it is disappointing that they haven’t listened to our call for them to help children in Europe. They are ignoring the whole point of the amendment which was for Britain to do its bit and help 3,000 of the 95,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived in Europe. Many of these children even have family here in Britain who could care for them but there was also nothing new in this announcement to sort out the appalling failures in the family reunification system either.

“Children are risking their lives every day making dangerous journeys, and Europol estimate at least 10,000 children have disappeared in the crisis, many trafficked into prostitution and modern slavery. Many children are sleeping rough or in makeshift camps because children's homes are full, and many have been sexually abused and exploited too.

“Britain must not stand by when so many children are at risk on our doorstep. We must listen to the calls of Kindertransport survivors who ask that Britain show the same values today as we did decades ago, and vote on Monday to help 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees at risk in Europe.”

ENDS

 

Notes:

In January under pressure of a defeat in the Lords, the Government announced they would resettle unaccompanied children from the Middle East and North Africa:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-01-28/HCWS497/

Yvette's response to the Government re-announcement on resettling child refugees from the Middle East and North Africa

Responding to the Government re-announcement on resettling child refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Refugee Taskforce said:

Yvette Cooper, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, has written to the Prime Minister following his comments on unaccompanied child refugees in Calais at the Franco-British Summit:

3rd March, 2016

 

Dear Prime Minister,

This afternoon at the press conference with President Hollande after the Franco-British Summit you said that lone child refugees with family in Britain can apply to join their family here, under the Dublin convention.

However this is not happening in practice and urgent action is needed by the British and French Governments to protect these extremely vulnerable children and teenagers from criminal gangs, prostitution, trafficking and abuse.

Charities have said that it is currently taking 9 months for a ‘take charge’ request to be processed. Can you tell me why it is taking this long and what these vulnerable refugees are supposed to do in the meantime?

Charities have also said that so far Britain has not accepted a single ‘take charge’ request involving unaccompanied minors in Calais, and in the past few weeks have rejected two such requests.

Is this true? Given your commitment today to implement the Dublin Agreement how can the Government justify not accepting any requests at all? Can you urgently review the Home Office handling of these take charge applications so that young refugees with relatives who can protect them can get urgent help?

Furthermore, the Government is appealing the ruling from the Upper Tribunal that three unaccompanied children and a mentally ill sibling be allowed to travel to Britain immediately to be in the care of their close relatives while they apply for asylum, rather than wait in the Calais camp with no one looking after their welfare.

Given the extreme vulnerability of these unaccompanied child refugees, why is the Government still appealing against the ruling? And will the Government now drop its appeal against the Upper Tribunal ruling and do everything it can now to work with the French authorities to fast-track the cases of unaccompanied children with family here?

Charities in Calais estimate there are some 150 lone children in Calais who have family here in Britain who could look after them while their asylum claim is being processed.

In January you announced that £10m would be made available specifically for the identification of unaccompanied children in Europe who could be reunited with family, and as you know that was welcomed as a step forward.

Since this announcement, how many children in Calais have been identified? And what discussions have taken place with Citizens UK, Save the Children and Help Refugees, working in Calais to help reunite them with their family as soon as possible?

These children, some as young as 11 and 12, are alone and at terrible risk. According to Europol some 10,000 lone child refugees have simply disappeared in Europe in this crisis.

You and I both have children of a similar age. None of us would conscience our own children living alone in these conditions. Nor would we want them to be vulnerable to abuse, gangs or prostitution. We have a moral duty not to turn our backs on them now, especially when they have relatives ready to keep them safe.

Both you and the French President have rightly recognised that these vulnerable children and teenagers need help, and where they have family in Britain who can look after them they should be reunited.

However both the British and French bureaucracies are badly failing these children now. It is shameful that our two proud countries are proving incapable of sorting this out when so much is at stake. I urge you to end the foot dragging and make sure there is urgent action between both Governments to rescue these children before more of them simply disappear.

Yours Sincerely,

 

Rt. Hon Yvette Cooper MP

Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce

Yvette Cooper letter to David Cameron following comments on child refugees in Calais

Yvette Cooper, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, has written to the Prime Minister following his comments on unaccompanied child refugees in Calais at the Franco-British Summit:


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