Read Tom’s letter to the PM asking her to help provide ‘certainty’ over Teesside’s future

Tom has written to the Prime Minister to ask her to provide ‘more certainty’ on Teesside’s future and to commit funds to the region.

160826 Letter to PM

The letter follows several media reports that Mrs May may be planning to block the introduction of city-region mayors, including the Mayor for the Tees Valley.

The elected mayor was intended to lead on various aspects of a regional strategy for Teesside economy, including those recommended by Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley Opportunity Unlimited report. In particular, the letter references the regeneration of the former SSI steelworks site at Redcar. The mayor was expected to lead a ‘Mayoral Development Corporation’ tasked with the regeneration of the site.

Tom said:

The Prime Minister has up until this point added to uncertainties over Teesside’s future. The reports that she is considering scrapping plans to introduce a Mayor for the Tees Valley means that the future of the development strategy for our region and regeneration of the former SSI site are in doubt.

As well as that, Theresa May’s mantra that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ hasn’t actually clarified what our future relationship with the EU will look like. Whether the UK will remain a part of the single market and comply with EU industry standards will have a massive knock-on effect for businesses in Teesside. We need certainty to attract investment and protect jobs in our region.

I worry that prolonged uncertainty about the mayor and Brexit will damage our economy here in the Tees Valley.

I have asked for the PM to commit to supplying the funding our region previously got from the EU, and to immediately clarify her position on the introduction of city-region mayors.

Change to Momentum rules ‘sinister’

Momentum, the pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaigning organisation, has changed its code of conduct to remove its commitment to ‘non-violence’.

One of those who argued for the change is Jill Mountford, a member of the openly Trotskyite group ‘Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’ (AWL). Despite her membership of the AWL she remains a leading figure in the Momentum organisation. Ms Mountford argued that the change in rules was necessary to allow for members’ right of self-defence while on protests.

A statement from Momentum cited World War Two and apartheid as examples of situations where violence would be legitimate.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, commented on the change with concern:

This change is both ludicrous and sinister.

It shows that Trotskyites within Momentum have a huge influence over the organisation and are shaping it in the direction they want to see: extra-parliamentary resistance to capitalism and the state.

I am sure new members of the Labour Party and Momentum will be either puzzled or concerned by the change. Most joined to support Jeremy Corbyn not to violently resist police in the streets!

The purpose of this alteration is to give violent protesters leeway in the organisation. It is frankly unbelievable that Momentum has changed its code of conduct because of hypothetical worries about a fascist invasion or the imposition of apartheid, as they have claimed. If either of those were to happen I imagine we’d all have more to worry about than getting kicked out of Momentum.

I have had many strong disagreements with my local Teesside Momentum group but I would hope they would distance themselves from this change and recommit to non-violence.

The original news story can be found here.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Party nominates Owen Smith, despite attempted ‘entryism’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party (CLP) last week voted to nominate Owen Smith as the next leader of the Labour Party.

The vote, 23-12 in favour of Owen, was welcomed by MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop, who also nominated the challenger in the contest.

Tom said:

“I am really pleased with this overwhelming vote to support Owen Smith as our next Labour leader.

“I know some of those who voted for Owen at this meeting supported Corbyn in the last election, which I think says a lot about both Corbyn’s leadership and Owen’s radical and practical vision for our country.

“As well as our local party and unions such as Community and GMB, polling shows the general public also believe Owen should be the next leader of the Labour party. I hope party members and supporters listen to these voices and vote for Owen Smith.”

The vote was carried despite one Jeremy Corbyn supporter, who is not a Labour party member, trying to enter the meeting using someone else’s membership card.  CLP officers spotted the discrepancy and ensured the individual was prevented from participating in the meeting.

Tom said:

“I am grateful that vigilant staff prevented this attempted entryism from influencing our nomination meeting. I will be informing the national party of the incident and will ask that they provide additional support to CLPs around the country to stop these sort of underhand tricks undermining the nominations process.

“If this is happening in local nomination meetings then we must be aware of what Corbyn supporters from outside our party may be doing to undermine the upcoming national voting process.”

This follows the news that Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed evidence from Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, of hard-left groups organising to influence the leadership election.

Tom’s comments on more Job losses at Boulby Potash Mine

Commenting on news that Cleveland Potash are cutting another 140 Jobs Tom Blenkinsop, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, where the mine is located, said:

Tom at Boulby mine with on-site GMB and Unite representatives

Tom at Boulby mine with on-site Unite and GMB representatives

“This is very concerning news as it comes just a week after another accident at the mine.

“Mines by their nature are hazardous but there has been a marked increase in incidents in recent months. In April 11 miners were trapped underground for hours when a fire cut them off, in June a gas blowout killed John ‘Richie’ Anderson, last week a worker was put in to and induced coma for two days after suffering a serious electric shock and there have been other health and safety incidents since the workforce was reduced at the beginning of the year.

“I will be meeting with the chief inspector of mines, Bob Leeming, Tomorrow (Tuesday 16th August) to talk about the series of accidents in recent months and since the initial redundancies were announced.

“Safety must be the first priority in any potentially dangerous workplace and I will be seeking assurances from the mines owners that they have taken this into account when deciding on these new job losses.

“I already have concerns that the new 11.5 hour shifts could have an effect on safety and I would like a guarantee that proper consultations will take place if there are any further changes to the shift pattern and that the high temperatures and hazardous conditions are taken in to account when changes are made.

“My thoughts are with the workforce and their families at this difficult time, I will do all I can to help them. I have already contacted on-site union representatives and I will be working closely with them through the redundancy process. I would also like to reiterate the calls I made for enhanced redundancy payments when previous job losses were announced.”

You can read Tom’s concerns about redundancy payments here.

GMB joins Community, USDAW and the MU in nominating Owen Smith

GMB logo

The GMB union is the fourth union to nominate the challenger Owen Smith for Labour leader. It is also the first to take its decision via a general vote of members.

The union, which represents over 600,000 working people, voted for Owen over the current leader Jeremy Corbyn by 60% to 40%.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland said:

Unionised working people are having their say on this Labour leadership contest. Steelworkers, binmen, lollypop ladies, defence sector workers, welders, factory workers, bus drivers and thousands of others are saying they need a Labour government – they need Owen Smith for leader.

I hope that the voices of these organised working people will be heard over heckles of disorganised protesters who for too long have been allowed to drown out serious concerns about our present leadership.

It is no coincidence that the first union to nominate a candidate by a ballot of all its members nominated Smith by such an overwhelming margin. Tim Roache he is a real leader and one who listens to the working people of this country.

I hope Unison will follow GMB’s lead in endorsing the only candidate in this election who can save the Labour party and the NHS we created.

For more details visit GMB’s website.

Tom welcomes Community’s nomination of Owen Smith for Labour leadership

community logo

Tom Blenkinsop has praised the steelworkers’ union’s decision to nominate Owen Smith in the current Labour leadership contest.

Tom, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said:

Our steel industry is in crisis. We need a government that will offer us real solutions. This nomination shows that British steel workers from Skinningrove to Port Talbot see Owen Smith’s vision for the country offers real hope.

The Tories’ inaction has contributed to the steel crisis and Jeremy has offered no solutions. While Jeremy may have worn a ‘Save our Steel’ badge in last week’s leadership debate it was Owen who put forward policies that could actually help the industry.

The deeper we get into this steel crisis the more people need Labour budgets not just Labour badges. Only Owen stands any chance of delivering that.

The union, one of the fourteen affiliated to the Labour party, announced their nomination last week in an article for the website LabourList.

In that article Roy Rickhuss, Community’s general secretary, said:

Community’s members desperately need a Labour Party that not only speaks for them, but speaks to the country at large. At the moment, I fear it does neither.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership now presents a significant barrier to a future Labour government. He very plainly cannot lead a party and his continued presence as Labour leader makes our ability to build an election winning, social movement, the likes of which was saw in the late 90s and early 00s, harder not easier.

Owen Smith offers an agenda that is as radical as it is pragmatic. In a short space of time he has laid out detailed plans to make workplaces fairer and more prosperous. He has shown a real understanding of what an active industrial strategy should look like. Owen clearly has incredible ambition in his plan for Britain while recognising the fundamental need for Labour to be trusted with the nation’s finances.

Community represents workers across a variety of sectors, from the steel industry to the prison service. It was the first union to make such a nomination in the current Labour leadership contest.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) have also nominated Owen Smith for leader of the Labour party.

Captain Cook museum to be refurbished, leading to ‘confused’ protest

Tom Blenkinsop MP has queried a proposed ‘march to save’ the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton.

A protest is due to take place against the supposed ‘closure’ of the museum, which is due to receive a refurbishment. The museum will only close temporarily to allow for this work.

The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton pays tribute to the legendary navigator’s life. Cook is credited, among other things, with being the first western explorer to reach the east coast of Australia and Hawaii.

Tom, who is himself from Marton, said:

The organisers of this march on the museum are obviously confused.

The story of Captain Cook is a huge part of the Marton’s history – if the museum was under threat I would be the first to protest.

I have been assured by Middlesbrough councillors the only the reason the museum is closing temporarily is because significant funding has become available for a much needed refurbishment.

I am concerned that this march might worry residents for no reason when really we should be welcoming the funding made available to help recognise one of Marton’s and Yorkshire’s most celebrated sons.

Hinkley Point deal shows Britain has less control after Brexit

The Hinkley Point C (HPC) nuclear power plant in Somerset will be built by a French state-owned energy company and funded in part by a Chinese state-owned group.

EDF, which is 85% owned by the French government, is expected to give the final go-ahead to the project following a board meeting later today. HPC will also receive one third of its funding from the Chinese state owned CGN group.

The plant when finished will supply 7% of the UK’s electricity and provide over 9,000 permanent jobs.

The HPC development was the subject of the EU competition investigation in 2014, and was only approved following representations from the UK government.

Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, said:

The success of this vital project will now rely on Chinese and French government money, over which we will have less influence due to Brexit.

My constituents who voted for Brexit did so because they wanted more control. We are now dependent on governments we hold little sway over for our energy security, that’s not the greater control leave voters wanted.

The fact that the Chinese government has secured a foothold in our energy infrastructure and could massively influence our energy future, should worry those who were concerned about the sway even other democratic countries had over our internal affairs.

In order to secure foreign investment post-Brexit we will have to give more and more. The last government jeopardised the British steel industry to encourage Chinese investment in the UK, I worry what we might have to give up next.

HPC is scheduled to go online in 2025 and is predicted to provide over 30,000 jobs before then.

Tom’s Comments on the European Regional Development Fund

Commenting on news that payments from the £3 billion EU development fund were suspended just days after the Brexit vote, Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

“Businesses across Teesside and East Cleveland have benefited from some of the £3billion European Regional Development Fund which is designed to improve economic growth in areas like ours.

“The Tories inability to guarantee match funding will means that the money put into the North East by the EU is sitting in a government bank account and is not creating the jobs which the area desperately needs.

“The future of the ERDF needs to be made clear by the new Chancellor and those, like Boris Johnson and local UKIP Councillors, who were part of leave campaign which guaranteed that the North East would lose no funding need to make sure this happens.

“So much for the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton who campaigned to leave the EU has been removed as the Northern Powerhouse minister and won’t have to clean up the mess he has made on Teesside and across the North.”

Tom reveals why he’s backing Owen Smith to be the next leader of the Labour Party

The Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has revealed his reasons for backing Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith.

Tom has backed the Parliamentary Labour Party’s vote of No confidence in Jeremy Corbyn and has nominated Owen Smith to stand against him in the Labour leadership contest.

Tom said:

Owen is principled, passionate, radical and credible. He’s the candidate we need to unite us as a party and defeat Tory austerity.

“I’ve seen him in Parliament and can tell you what a brilliant Labour voice he is. During the last year, he’s secured major victories over cruel Tory cuts to disability benefits and over cuts to support for low-paid workers.

“Before that, as Shadow of Secretary of State, he stood up for Wales when the cuts were hammering working families and rallied against the Tory tax cuts for millionaires and when he was in Labour’s health team, he fought the Tories’ plans to privatise the NHS tooth and nail.

“I’ve recently been contacted by a young Hemlington resident who works in the NHS and voted for the Conservatives at the last election, in his letter he says that he would ‘love to be given the opportunity to vote for a Labour Party I can believe in’ and I believe that with Owen Smith will give him that chance.

“Only an Owen Smith led Labour Party can reach out to the large section of voters who are crying out for an effective opposition to hold the Tories to account at a time when Brexit will change the shape of the country for decades to come. Labour voters and the country deserve better than Jeremy Corbyn.”