Last night I was a panel member at a really interesting questions and answers session in the City of London. I was joined by Emily Thornberry (MP for Islington South and Finsbury), Diana Page (Education consultant and City of London Common Council Candidate) and Kevin Maguire (Political Editor of the Daily Mirror) as chair.
We had a wide ranging discussion that touched on a number of subjects and I was glad to be able to take part and hear the views of local people.
Some of the highlights of the talk included:
-Housing: We discussed Labour’s record on social housing and agreed that, in the next manifesto, the Party must press on with the building of more housing. I emphasised my belief that housing can be a contributing factor to many problems in society such as health, unemployment and anti-social behaviour, and that it is something that we must get right. While I welcomed the funding pledges that the Prime Minister has made, I think that much more has to be done.
-The economy: The topic of financial regulation provoked some interesting thoughts from the panel members. We have to be realistic about what governments can achieve when regulating something as complex as the financial markets, but I do think we should do all we can to create a fairer financial market, and limit the chances of such a wide spread problem returning.
-International Development: I spoke to audience members about my experiences visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo a few years ago as the guest of DFID, and the difference aid is making there in something so simple yet so effective as distributing mosquito nets. More broadly I made my personal view clear that despite times of tighter financial spending, we should not cut international aid. Labour has a great record on international development, and the commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid marks another big leap forward.
-Drugs and alcohol treatment: This topic gave me the chance to outline some of the changes I would like to see in what has been a chronically mismanaged area. Work I have done with a law firm in the East End has confirmed my belief that a huge amount of crime and misery is caused by drug and alcohol addicts. While politically a thorny issue I explained that I felt, as a society, we should be looking to treat rather than imprison addicts. The example of pioneering work being done in Switzerland has shown that emphasising harm reduction across the board has to be the way forward.
It was an interesting night with a great panel and chair. I was glad to be able to set out again some of my key commitments to the audience to give a clear idea of what some of my priorities would be if elected: a commitment to good quality affordable rented housing for all who want it; reform of our political system; and a fresh approach to drugs and alcohol addiction treatment.