On 16 May I had a great time visiting Churchill Gardens School, a Primary Academy in Westminster. I spoke with pupils and their parents, who told me their concerns regarding the education their children are receiving. The people I met spoke with incredible fondness for the amazing job their school’s teachers do in helping their children. However, many were also very worried about the cuts they had heard about. A number of parents I spoke to said that life under the Tory government had become increasingly difficult and that the impending cuts were only going to make things worse. We talked about ways that an engaged MP could stand up for local people’s interests.
On 9 May, I spoke on a panel discussing climate change and energy policy as part of UpRising's Environmental Leadership Programme, for future leaders on climate change. Below is the text from my speech:
Thank you, my name is Ibrahim Dogus and I am the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Cities of London and Westminster.
I am delighted UpRising are hosting this event. You are showing as always the power of leadership. I’d like to thank your trustees, your co-founder Rushanara Ali, and your new CEO Lucy Caldicott.
I can’t say I have the experience and knowledge of some of the experts on this panel.
I came to the UK as a refugee in 1994. I learned to speak English. I waited on tables in Mayfair. I worked in restaurants. I worked hard, and now I run several restaurants and employ 60 people.
I am proud of where I am from. I am British. I am Kurdish. And I am a Londoner. Like so many of you here tonight, I have multiple identities and am proud of each one. This is the nature of the globalised world and this global city.
So why do I care about this debate tonight. Why do I care about the environment? Why do I say climate change is the biggest issue of our times?
Simple – because I am a father. A citizen. A human being.
I breathe the same polluted air as every Londoner.
And unless we tackle climate change in this generation, we will destroy the lives of the next generation. My children’s generation. Your generation.
My great fear is that instead of moving forward, we are moving backwards. Donald Trump is no friend of the environment. Brexit will threaten the progress we’ve made. This is a crucial moment.
We were asked to speak for just a few minutes on three things we should do in the next Parliament to tackle climate change.
I welcome the 2015 Paris Agreement but there is a real concern this week that Trump will pull the US out of the deal. The climate change negotiators’ meeting in Bonn this week are telling us that American participation hangs in the balance.
So the first thing I would say is a priority is to secure international agreement to tackle climate change, building on the Paris Agreement, and including the EU, China, America and the newly emerging economies of the south and the east. And the UK, post-Brexit.
The centre-piece for this international effort is holding down the increase in global temperature to below 2 degrees centrigrade, by reducing greenhouse gasses, and enabling the world’s economies to move towards carbon-free production and manufacture.
Second, I want more action to support business. I run an organisation called Labour4SME – small and medium enterprises. Small and medium businesses have a role to play in tackling climate change, as much as major employers. There are thousands of potential jobs in clean energy.
Labour will set a UK target of 65% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, dramatically decarbonizing our energy system and aim towards zero-carbon electricity production.
That means we need a comprehensive industrial strategy and long-term investment from government to deliver over 300,000 new, high-quality jobs in renewables. Real support for businesses to experiment, invest and take risks.
Britain will aim to be the world’s leading producer of renewables technology, claiming its share of estimate $630bn market by 2030.
One thing business needs is access to finance. Labour will set up a National Investment Bank to help small businesses.
The Coalition Government set up a Green Investment Bank. But the Conservative Government has just privatised it. A short-term profit at the expense of the environment.
I look around this room, and I see the young people who will be working in the companies of the future which are carbon-free, which are developing the solar, wind, wave and tidal energy for the future.
Third, we need to help householders to be able to cut their energy usage and their energy bills.
That means breaking up the cartel of the big energy companies.
That means promoting the growth of over 200 ‘local energy companies’ within the next parliament; giving towns, cities and localities the powers they need to drive a UK clean energy revolution.
I want to see public, not-for-profit companies and co-ops the centrepiece of a new energy economics, so we should support the development of 1,000 community energy co-operatives, with rights to sell energy directly to the localities they serve, with regional development bank assistance for grid connection costs.
We need to build more houses. So when Labour starts its house-building programme, and lets councils build houses again, they will be energy efficient and environmentally-friendly. And existing home need proper insulation. The Coalition’s Green Deal was a massive failure, but we need a new and better way to insulate millions of homes.
We need to plant more trees. So over the course of the next Parliament we should empower councils, colleges, schools, businesses and communities to plant more trees to green our neighbourhoods and breathe oxygen into our air.
So these are three things:
- secure international agreement between governments
- boost green technology and allow every business – big or small - to tackle climate change
- empower households to use green energy and save costs.
There are some that say tackling climate change is a burden on business. That’s what UKIP say. But I say, tackling climate change is the greatest opportunity to refashion our industries, our trade, our international partnerships and our global economy.
We are a few days away from Labour’s manifesto launch, but we can expect to see some really radical and exciting policies on climate change. For example:
Labour will introduce a cap on energy price rises
We will insulate 4 million homes and launch a Homes Fit For Heroes initiative which will offer free home insulation for disabled veterans.
We will introduce a new Clean Air Act including emissions zones for major towns and cities.
We will ensure 60 per cent of our energy comes from low-carbon or renewable sources by 2030.
That means voters like you have a real choice on 8 June.
Finally let me say thank you for listening and I look forward to your contributions.
Tackling climate change is not just a moral imperative, it makes economic sense post-Brexit too.
We can lead the world in post-carbon technologies.
We have made a good start, but there is much further to travel.
Present In the community
I will have a fully-staffed office in the constituency open 24 hours, with regular surgeries
Champion for communities
I will be a champion for local communities and small businesses
I will fight against a hard Brexit and push to get the best deal possible
Speaking up on NHS, schools and housing
I will fight against cuts to schools, the NHS and social housing
Cleaning up the air
I will work with the Mayor to clean up our city’s air
I have had a number of constituents of Cities of London and Westminster ask me where I stand on issues concerning mental health services. This response to one constituent (name removed out of respect for privacy) outlines my views.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I am pledging to be an active and accessible MP for the community if elected. As part of this, I am pledging to have a dedicated office, physically located in the constituency, which is staffed full time, so I can best hear the concerns of constituents. In short, any issue you raise as a constituent, whether related to mental health services or otherwise, I will take seriously.
Another of my pledges, in line with Labour Party policy, is to fight tooth and nail for better funding for local health and care services, including mental health services. Under this current government, our mental health services are in a shameful state. Years of Tory cuts have pushed our valiant mental health workers to their absolute limits. People encountering mental health difficulties often have difficulty accessing services and when they do, they are greeted by stressed, over-worked staff who lack the necessary information to treat patients effectively. These are not the experience a vulnerable person should have to deal with.
To answer your question, yes I would be happy to support this campaign if elected MP. Improving access to mental health services should be a priority for the next government. Moreover, I personally believe breaking the stigma around mental health is a key step in the fight to provide better care.
My name is Ibrahim Dogus and I’m standing as the Labour candidate in Cities of London and Westminster at the general election.
After coming to London at the age of 14 with my family as political refugees from Turkey, I now run five successful small businesses and 4 charitable organisations in the heart of the city and employ over 60 people.
London has shown my family immense kindness and support. Thanks to our schools, I learned the skills to set up my business, while the dedicated doctors and nurses of the NHS saved my life.
So, I’m now standing as the Labour candidate to protect our public services from further Tory cuts and to give something back to the society that helped me so much.
I am a community leader who has worked for more than 20 years to foster better integration, particularly among the many different ethnic minorities in the capital.
I have also raised funds to set up and run football leagues to reach out to disadvantaged young people as a way of tackling anti-social behaviour, crime and drug addiction.
My background in business, charity work and community organising has given me extensive experience of the problems we face in this city.
Under the Tories, waiting times at the A&E units of our local hospitals and for elective surgery have soared. I will stand up for local residents to protect our NHS and work to cut those unacceptable delays.
The chance of finding an affordable place to live is a distant dream for many of our young people. I will work with housing chiefs to deliver more affordable homes to rent and buy for local people.
Our schools are under increasing pressure. Under Labour’s fully costed policies, there will be an extra £3 billion to fill the Tories’ spending black hole.
I will fight to get the best possible Brexit deal and battle against any Tory plans to cut people’s pensions.
Air pollution is a growing problem here in the heart of the city. I will work with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to make our air cleaner and our streets greener and safer.
I will hold regular surgeries and be an accountable, accessible and hard-working MP for is your local champion.
I will fight the corner of everyone in Cities of London and Westminster – not just the wealthy and the privileged few.
I hope I can count on your support and your vote on June 8.
A survey of West End residents recently found that 80% of respondents are opposed to the council’s plans to construct taller buildings, we have to wonder why the council is so keen on them. The heart of London desperately needs more affordable housing, this is for certain. However, more often than not, large new buildings are not put to good use; rather developers buy their way out of their obligation to allocate portions of new buildings to affordable housing.
Too many of these buildings, rushed through, risk eroding the character of the area, a hotspot for tourists and a symbolic hub for political and cultural life in our country, not to mention disrupting life for residents. We have to ask ourselves, do we want the historical heart of our capital to become a symbol for rampant capitalism, where anything that does not serve the interests of short-term gain is wiped away?
Westminster matters: it is the living, beating heart of our democracy and home to some of our most diverse and vibrant districts, such as Soho. What happens here reflects what happens elsewhere in the country and the attitude those in power take. In this Conservative safe seat, the worries and views of the residents seem to go unheard.
The residents of Westminster have a powerful choice. On June 8, they can send a message to those in power, to let them know that their voices count. Many in Westminster have told us that they feeling the local planning system is dysfunctional. They feel as if their views are not being taken into account, that the Council just don’t listen to them – and frankly the duty of the Council must be first and foremost to genuinely listen to and act on the concerns of residents.
Let us indeed do something to address the housing crisis. The City of Westminster’s population is predicted to increase from 226,000 to 262,000 by 2036, which will require 21,000 more homes for the area. Some new buildings, appropriately located, would do a lot of good. We want real consultation, not pretend consultation. Rather than asking whether people want taller buildings, the Council should embark on a real and meaningful conversation with residents. And only after a shared vision has been arrived at will they be in a position to ensure planning policy framework is aligned with what residents want. Let us not forget only a year ago protests put an end to a new development in Westminster. All the consultations you can hold will not change people’s local feelings about this issue.
This Tory government has not delivered with regard to the environment or energy. Air pollution is a problem across the UK. The government has done nothing to retain environmental protections provided by the European Union following Brexit. Energy bills have soared under this government, making just getting by harder for many.
The Tories’ promise to be the greenest government ever has proven to have just been a PR stunt… we are now looking to fall short of our targets for reducing our carbon footprint, while at the same time, the government has cut spending on flood defences. This does not add up.
We need to focus over the next parliament on undoing the damage the Tories have been doing to our economy and to working families, and do so in a way that incorporates positive impacts on the environment. As a matter of urgency, we need to clean up the air in our urban areas.
Almost 40 million people across the United Kingdom live in areas which exceed legal air-quality limits and polluted air is responsible for 40,000 premature deaths each year. This is a particularly serious issue in my constituency of Cities of London and Westminster. Labour is proposing a Clean Air Act to tackle this.
The government has made no guarantee to retain protections for the environment provided by the European Union after Brexit. We are falling behind on our climate change targets. On top of this, the government is cutting spending on flood defences at a time when we need them perhaps more than ever. Taken together, what this means is that we need to be more serious about preventing climate change and mitigating its impacts.
At the same time, our country desperately needs meaningful investment in infrastructure and job creation. Investing in our renewable energy industries would be a way of killing two birds with one stone.
In tangent with this, we need to break the strangle-hold the ‘big six’ energy companies have on the market. Supporting more competition and localised energy production is one step in doing this. Ultimately, we need to drive down consumer-end prices, as many families are struggling to meet their energy needs. The important thing is to make sure we do this while ensuring a commitment to renewable energy.
We need to integrate a concern for the environment into all the policies we are carrying out. Our economy and business environment is in urgent need of support – we can include an environmentally conscious outlook into every step we take to tackle these pressing issues.
Last night (9 May) I had the great opportunity to take part in a panel discussion on Energy and Climate Change as part of UpRising's Environmental Leadership Programme. I put forward the Labour Party's policies on climate change and energy to the audience of many of this country's future leaders on climate change.
I learnt a lot from the other distinguished members of this panel and from the audience themselves. I am not an expert on these issues, like the other members of the panel and the chair (Lord Deben, Sir Edward Davey, Caroline Russell, and Emma Howard) but these issues matter greatly to me on a personal level and I know they matter to the Labour Party. In the constituency where I am standing, Cities of London and Westminster, air pollution is a huge problem and one that needs addressing urgently. Moreover, many in the constituency place great importance on environmental issues.
It was a great evening and I found it very encouraging to see so many young people, clearly so passionately engaged with these and political issues generally. There was definitely a strong pro-Remain sentiment in the room and everyone on the panel expressed their concern over how Brexit will affect our environmental legislation. As a remain voter myself, I sympathise greatly with these concerns. I outlined to the audience how, if elected, I would fight to get the best Brexit deal possible.
I also spoke about the Labour Party's proposed cap on energy prices and drew attention to the many failings of the Tory government in tackling climate change or supporting innovative business growth through renewable energy technologies.
It was heartening to hear the other speakers put forward so clearly and passionately their plans for our country to tackle climate change and to use that to grow business. I am of the firm belief that giving businesses the means to tackle climate change can actually be a way of helping them grow and innovate.
All in all, a great evening! I am very grateful to the organisers for having me, to my fellow participants and to the young people who are ready to fight for the future of their country and planet.
(A piece I wrote for Labour List in April)
It was a Budget from a new government but, once again, the stubborn Tories have refused to accept the miserable failure of austerity.
Philip Hammond’s disastrous first Budget statement, presented to parliament a few weeks ago, showed the Tories’ utter blindness to economic reality. The chancellor’s statement was nothing short of a full-on attack on small business in this country. The newly-increased business rates will burden many small businesses to the point of collapse. This will remove that source of tax revenue. Increased national insurance contributions for the self-employed, without any extra securities, would have threatened the most dynamic workers in this country, stamping out innovation, had they not been humiliatingly dropped within days of the announcement.
By cutting housing relief to save money, the government will be placing more people in need of support, potentially cancelling out the money saved anyway. The logic of it all is hard to grasp.
We are now, according to John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, experiencing a sustained slump in living standards, which is unprecedented in modern British history. Britain is the only major developed country that has seen a return in growth since the crisis but not a rise in wages. The government would like to claim that austerity is to thank for the fact that now, seven years on from the financial crisis, we are enjoying growth, rather than simply because of the cyclical nature of the world economy. In fact, austerity and the Tories’ anti-business policies have stunted our recovery, leaving us lagging behind where we could be now. Rather than accepting these facts and taking long-overdue measures to help this country, they are just stubbornly trundling along with their eyes firmly closed.
What this country needs is support for small business, infrastructure improvements, and greater support for the self-employed innovators. This is how we will drive the economy forward. As Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary, pointed out in The Huffington Post, in areas from infrastructure to research and development our country “languishes well below OECD averages for the amount of GDP reinvested in our economy”.
The last thing we need right now, when so many are just scraping by, is a continuation of the catastrophic policies of the last years, but that is what we are getting. As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out in his response to the Budget, one million working households are claiming housing benefit and three million working families rely on tax credits to make ends meet. This is not an image of success.
And so now, rather than carefully assess the situation in modern Britain, the government has stuck stubbornly to its failing strategy and dealt yet another blow to innovative small business. In fact, the move was so blatant that even Tory backbenchers threatened to revolt. These policies have been described as neo-liberal extremism. I do not think is overly harsh. The government continues, in the face of all evidence, to pursue policy after policy that damages the economy and reduces living standards for the majority.
While over the last 15 years, living standards have declined for most, there are some who have flourished. McDonnell has pointed out that chief executive officers earned 150 times average pay in 2010 and now receive awards some 186 times greater than the average worker. At least the Tories’ Britain works for some.
To add insult to injury, not only did the Budget attack business, it did not even address the big issue on the lips of so many entrepreneurs, employers and small business owners, like myself, across the country: Brexit.
The financial uncertainty around Britain’s departure from the EU is only compounding the Tories’ counter-factual approach to managing the economy. It is common knowledge that Hammond is against the way the government is pursuing the Brexit negotiations. He knows that people across the country are worried. And yet he made not a single mention of Brexit during his Budget speech. This was the icing on the cake. This government acts as if it is blissfully unaware of the struggles in this country faced by millions every day.
A West End Labour survey has today found that residents overwhelmingly oppose plans to build more tall buildings in Westminster. More than 80% of respondents believe that Westminster Council is wrong to want to develop more skyscrapers and tall buildings. Residents cited the following concerns:
- Tall buildings and skyscrapers pose a threat to Westminster's unique character. Tall buildings block out light; block out historic views and would be at odds with the character of Westminster's historic neighbourhoods.
- Tall buildings won't tackle London's housing crisis. They are likely to be unaffordable and used as 'deposit boxes' by wealthy oligarchs.
- The Council does not listen to residents and its consultations are by and large meaningless. Many pointed to a feeling that the planning system is dysfunctional, as it only meets commercial not resident needs.
- "We want well-thought-through plans for affordable not luxury housing, that meets local needs and fits in with the existing character of neighbourhoods."
- "The character of Westminster is unique. It will be ruined by a lot of skyscrapers".
- "Westminster Council have a history of not taking account of concerns raised by residents."
- "I have never been consulted by Westminster."
Pancho Lewis, of West End Labour, said: "Residents are fed up of not being listened to by the Council. They feel like this is another instance where the Council is bringing forward plans which are totally out of sync with the vision they have for the city. The Council should listen to them and put residents in the driving seat - not impose ideas from above."
Ibrahim Dogus, Labour's candidate for the Cities of London and Westminster said:
"The people of Westminster deserve a Member of Parliament who will take on board their concerns and fight for them. We need real and lasting solutions to the city's housing crisis. What we do not need is the continuing erosion of London's character, ignoring the people who live here in favour of luxury property developers."
Westminster Labour is now calling for the Council to change the consultation questions. Rather than ask residents whether they want tall buildings, Labour is calling on the Council to begin with these questions: "What vision do you have for Westminster's future? How should planning policy match that vision?"