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Opinion

Yesterday, 10:42

You might not have noticed, but there’s an epidemic sweeping this country at the moment with devastating results. It is shortening life-expectancy and destroying people’s quality of life. Doctors diagnose it all the time, and we should all be looking out for it: It’s called loneliness.

Personally, I was not surprised that recent research carried out by the Big Give in to individual giving, found that individuals living in the poorest boroughs (including Newham) give a higher percentage of their income to good causes than those living in more affluent areas.

This week, the branches, unions and affiliated organisations that make up the Newham Labour Party voted that I should be their candidate in the next election to be Mayor.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in the referendum of June 23 was the most significant political moment of our generation.

The Chancellor ended his Autumn Statement saying “We are bold in our vision”.

I’m hugely proud of what we’ve achieved on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, but none of this success is possible without the enthusiasm and passion of Newham residents –particularly our amazing Legacy Youth Voice.

We’ve seen all the great work around Children in Need, and it made me think of my children, who are not in need but sometimes thought they were – there are upsides and downsides about having a parent who’s a priest married to another priest, as you can imagine!

This month, I had the honour of representing Humanists at the Remembrance Day ceremony in neighbouring Tower Hamlets. This was a first for me. More importantly it was, so far as I’m aware, the first time that those without a religious faith have been officially represented at the ceremony in that borough.

Back in the 1980s, my mum was a Tate and Lyle shop steward. She told me about her campaign to gain parity for women workers: equal pay for work of equal value. She felt she’d been unsuccessful and believed the work of women was continually undervalued.

It has been quite a year. What with Brexit and Trump, you might feel “stirred up” quite enough, but the ancient Christmas tradition of “stir-up Sunday” could help you start Christmas in the right spirit.

I supported an event on November 3, organised by Det Ch Insp Shabnam Chaudhri, entitled Girls Allowed.

It’s not an Olympic legacy to be proud of,” is what Newham Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, said about plans to build three concrete plants and one asphalt plant next to the London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I couldn’t agree more.

As I write, Remembrance Sunday is just a few days away, poppies are on sale and the thoughts of the nation are beginning to be directed to the thousands and thousands of individuals who have paid the ultimate sacrifice during two world wars and many other subsequent armed conflicts, to enable us to enjoy the freedom and quality of life that we all experience today.

I’m very proud to announce that Newham Council has been shortlisted for honours in four key areas at the hotly contested Local Government Chronicle awards.

In April this year not only had I correctly predicted the outcome of the Brexit vote but in relation to the US election I wrote: “Donald Trump will clinch it. He has been totally outrageous to date – racist, sexist and plain stupid – but the Americans love him.”

I attended a concert at Milton Court last weekend.

A few weeks ago when the news of the closing of the Calais “jungle” camp by the French authorities was aired on television, I wasn’t sure what to feel, happy or sad, as we have come to know the place very well, and we almost built a bond with its unfortunate residents.

This month, I’d like to remind everyone living and working in Newham how important it is to make sure that they are using antibiotics in the right way.

The internet has proved to be a “mixed blessing”.

Every time I am on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, I’m struck by how much is going on: new housing going up at Chobham Manor, people screaming their way down the slide at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, taking part in a free community sports class or exploring the beautiful parklands.

In 2014 I went to the doctor. I thought I’d injured my knee whilst exercising and spent weeks icing and elevating the leg, as instructed, in the hope of improvement.

They shall not pass! was the call that brought out 300,000 east Londoners in 1936 to protest against attempts by Mosley’s Blackshirts to stage a provocative hate-filled march through the East End.

As an individual who passionately believes the best and most effective ways to eradicate poverty and achieve equality for all is through education that leads to employment, I am dismayed that once again there is an attempt to introduce grammar schools which will be for the select few and not enable the social mobility the government would like you to believe.

A couple of days after the referendum, once David Cameron had resigned, but before anyone else had put their name forward to be prime minister, I was interviewed on CNBC news. The final question I was asked, was who I thought should be the new leader of the Conservative Party.

One thing for which East Enders are known is surely our love of a good story!

A hospital not far from here is offering “dignity bags” to people suffering bereavements.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, last week outlined plans for more river crossings in the east and south east of London over the next decade to improve travel across the capital and support the area’s economic development. I welcome his commitment as there is an unequivocal need for river crossings in east London.

As if Brexit isn’t challenging enough, Theresa May now aims to overhaul our education system. The two prongs of her plans, grammar schools and religious selection, are distinct. But their common purpose is to turn the clock back 50 years or more, and both risk forging deeper division in our communities.

Conservative ministers have announced plans for new grammar schools. Along with many MPs from all parties, including quite a few Conservatives, I am against expansion of selective education.

With the temperature dropping a few notches and autumn setting in, why not come and warm up in the world-class venues on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park? There’s lots on in the next few weeks.

We all grew up with the term “hole in the wall”. To us that meant a cash machine and we all got used to the facility our banks provided.

A little over two months ago, the prime minister came to power proclaiming she wanted everyone, whatever their background, to be given the same opportunities to succeed.

Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recently held its annual general meeting, highlighting key achievements in the local NHS and giving people the opportunity to speak directly with its governing body.

If crack cocaine was being sold openly in Newham, there would be an outcry. And yet the “crack cocaine” of the betting world – the Fixed Odds Betting Terminal – is available in every high street in the country.

During the Brexit campaign, I was often quoted as complaining that EU rules forced us to spend thousands of pounds on new packaging so that a packet of smoked salmon could have an EU warning sign on the back saying “contains fish”.

The “hopper” fare has launched and it’s estimated 30m journeys will now become free every year. The £1.50 fare allows you to make another bus or tram journey for free within an hour of touching in. Another manifesto pledge delivered.

Newham’s first ever Heritage Awareness Week scheduled for Monday, October 24 to Sunday, October 30 is approaching fast.

Burkinis on beaches has been a hot topic this summer. So, should the state interfere with what people want to wear?

We have fought for the government to change the amount that can be bet on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTS) as we have seen the damage that the clustering of these premises has wreaked on our high streets.

A few years ago, visiting Pakistan, I had a long drive from the airport. In almost every village we passed, a group of youngsters was playing cricket at the side of the road. So many have their family roots in countries where cricket is played from infancy, and followed passionately: India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well as Pakistan, not to mention the West Indies. So why do we not see more cricket in the borough?

It was great to see so many people at the National Paralympic Day and Liberty Festival - an incredible celebration of deaf and disability arts and inclusive sports.

I am writing to remind residents that the NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the organisation responsible for planning and buying most local health services, is inviting local people to attend its annual public meeting.

Parliament is in recess and it’s a time to reflect on what we achieved over the past session and prepare for the coming challenges.

Arabella, my oldest granddaughter, started four years ago at a school which is on the same road as one of our cemeteries.

I have just returned from a trip to Israel which included a meeting in Ramallah, on the West Bank with the deputy Palestinian foreign minister.

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