To all members of the Labour Party, we are delighted to welcome you to Brighton and Hove for your annual conference over the next few days. It would be fantastic for the whole of Sussex to benefit from Labour MPs for the next few hours. It would reverse the usual setting in our region with a large number of Conservative MPs and a very small number of Labour and Green MPs. Over the next few days, the Sussex Conservative MPs will be far fewer than the overall number of local MPs. I hope that some of the Labour MPs who are visiting our community will consider what they can do over the next few days to extend beyond the conference events and the campaigning events planned. It would be fantastic if they could consider what they could do to visit communities around Sussex that would benefit from Labour MPs if their votes were counted through a proportional representation election system.
Parliament is closed for the next three weeks and there will be a number of issues that will emerge that need to be dealt with very urgently. The reduction of the Universal Credit is one of those very significant elements and although the Labour Party tried to reverse it within Parliament, sadly they were not successful. There were also some Conservative MPs who attempted to reverse the decision made by the Conservative Government. Sadly, that was equally unsuccessful. Perhaps over the next few days while there are a significant number of Labour MPs visiting Sussex, they could be radical and seek to discuss that theme in our area. Both within the City and across the rest of Sussex there are a significant number of Foodbanks many of which are very aware of the challenges that the Universal Credit reduction will have in their communities. It would great for some Labour MPs to visit our foodbanks and I am certain that the foodbanks would welcome them. If the Labour MPs contacted the local Conservative MPs in the same setting to let them know they are visiting their location, they could invite them to visit the foodbanks at the same time. The MP visitors could listen to the foodbank coordinators and perhaps they could subsequently consider if they could work together to reverse the decision by the Government. Clearly the Sussex MPs who are Ministers are unlikely to admit reversing the Universal Credit policy, but there are several Sussex backbench Conservative MPs so Labour MPs meeting with them could create a constructive impact for our communities and for the whole of our nation.
As it happens along with the value of visiting the Foodbanks there is also a FareShare based in Brighton that covers the whole of Sussex. I recall many years ago when the Labour Party had a conference here in Brighton that the Foodbank was invited to meet with a Labour Minister Hilary Benn on West Street. It would be fantastic if some of the other MPs could pay a visit to Moulsecoomb to see Sussex FareShare. There is also an opportunity for all of the Labour Party members to sign a petition that I set out back at the end of June for the Government to fund charities like FareShare to redistribute good quality surplus food that will otherwise get destroyed. The petition is entitled “Provide additional funding for redistributing surplus food” and it is not my idea, but the idea that came from a Parliamentary group called the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee and so the petition is very credible. However it needs a lot more signatures to be responded by the Government. Let alone by Parliament.
There are of course a number of other themes that the Labour Party could engage with while they are here in Sussex. One of them is the environmental focus that our own MP, Caroline Lucas is very experienced in and which Boris Johnson is now calling for us to “grow up”. One of the ways of moving forward would be for Labour MPs to meet with Caroline while they are here in Brighton. As it happens she has a private Bill that is now due to be read for the second time on the 29th October. It would be fantastic if the Labour Party could get behind that even more than some of the MPs who already endorse it. Another theme is the youth provision that has been badly impacted in our nation over the last decade. If some MPs could visit youth agencies such as Downslink Group YMCA while they in Sussex, they could learn a great deal. No doubt there are other themes as well. Let us hope some of the Labour MPs here this week will use their visit to benefit from our communities.