January 2015 Newsletter from Fabian
Leeds North East Constituency
Happy New Year 2015!
This is election year – the first time we have known so far in advance when the election date will be – so the campaign has already started.
Terrorism in Paris: Sadly, a week after the start of 2015, the appalling attacks took place in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and the Jewish supermarket leaving seventeen people dead, including Muslim police officers. The murderers claimed to be killing their victims in the name of Islam, but the attacks seemed to me to be more evil brutality than religious inspiration. Their attempt to frighten Parisians into restraining free speech spectacularly backfired when up to four million people demonstrated against the attacks a few days later on the Sunday, but the Parisian Jewish community will, I am sure, be further driven into leaving France for Israel. However, the solidarity shown by Parisians of all backgrounds was uplifting and I hope offered some reassurance that the creed of the gunmen will never win.
Since the shocking attacks in the three days from 7th to 9th January, there has been a great deal of debate about how far free speech can go before the offence it may cause others becomes unacceptable. We all have some constraints on our free speech and in the UK incitement to racial hatred is a crime. Pope Francis talked about the offence caused to people of faith when unfettered free speech insults religion, whether it is Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other faith. We do, however, need eternal vigilance if we are truly to defend our freedom. Satire and scepticism are part of our culture but so is our respect for the beliefs of others.
Sheila Saunders: Sheila was a great activist and Labour Party Member who sadly died too young in 2013. She was the Chief Executive of Leeds Jewish Welfare Board and Leeds Jewish Housing Association, amongst her many achievements. To cherish her memory, the thirtieth anniversary of her appointment, and all she did for those she served, Queenshill Lawn in Moortown Ward was renamed Sheila Saunders Lawn on Sunday 18th January. I was asked to open the ceremony and many others who loved Sheila were able to speak about her life. We still miss her greatly and hope that the renaming of this building will serve as a permanent reminder of her enormous contribution to the community and people she loved.
Roundhay High School: If ever there was a confirmation that sixteen and seventeen year olds should be allowed to vote in elections, it was my visit to the largest ever Politics class at Roundhay High School on Friday 9th January. The forty or so students were attentive, thoughtful and asked very intelligent questions after I spend twenty minutes telling them about the work of an MP and talked about some of the issues of the day. The Labour Party will include votes at 16 in its manifesto for the forthcoming general election and this group of young people certainly justified that policy. I definitely met some of the politicians of the future.
Holocaust Memorial Day: Sunday 25th January is Holocaust Memorial Day and the Leeds service takes place in the Town Hall at 2pm. It is always brilliantly well done, very moving and uplifting with many young people taking part – the Town Hall is usually full as well as all cultures are celebrated. At the same time the plight of current refugees is highlighted too. I will be attending as I do every year and I urge anyone who is free for about an hour and a half to come along – you will not be disappointed.
Election Campaign: Canvassing and Leafletting has started. We are meeting every Saturday and Sunday to leaflet and canvass in the constituency in the long run-up to the May 7th general election and Leeds City Council elections. We are meeting in a different ward every session starting at 10.30am and finishing at 12 noon. If any member is able to join us that will be really helpful. So far we have had between 10 and 15 out at each session, which is a good start, in spite of the awful weather,.
Burns Supper and other Fundraisers: On Saturday 24th January we are holding our traditional Burns Supper at the Greek Community Centre which is at the back of the Church of the Three Hierarchs on Harehills Avenue. The supper starts at 7.30pm and there will be bagpipe music, readings from the great Bard’s poetry and both meat and vegetarian haggis. It’s a chance to don your kilt and have a great time – we’re also raising funds for the election campaigns. I will be doing the Toast to the Lassies among other things! Tickets which can be bought at the door are £24 (waged) and £14 (unwaged) and there will be an auction and raffle (of course).
On Tuesday 17th February we are holding a fish supper at Marlow’s Fish Restaurant on Street Lane. Leeds-born Theatrical promoter and raconteur, Brian Daniels, will be giving an entertaining talk entitled Backstage with the Stars in which he will tell us all about some of the famous figures he has encountered and some stories about them you will not have read in the press or ever heard before. Brian used to own and run the Little Theatre in Hampstead, London, and has recently written a play about dementia which is being performed in a number of venues around the UK and in Prague. He’s intriguing and entertaining. Tickets are £25 and you’ll get a full fish supper with tea, bread and butter and a pudding.
Construction starts on Moortown Park: Work will begin on 26th January on the new Moortown Park development on the former Yorkshire Bank Playing Fields which will result in the first new public park being handed over to Leeds City Council after the completion of the 28 homes which will be built on just 28 percent of the site. A children’s play area and a wetland area are part of the layout of the new park and work should be completed within two years. The new park will be a huge asset for Moortown Primary School and the local community who have given their support to the development and has been planned carefully in full consultation with me as the local MP and the three Moortown Ward Councillors. Planning meetings started two years ago and on our advice the developers have met with every local community group as well as the school.
With my best wishes.
Labour MP for Leeds North East.