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Since my brief career as a nurse – which was an unmitigated disaster; I talked too much, asked too many questions and made disparaging remarks about the culture of the hospital, but that’s several stories for another time – I have always been interested in health. I was angry to discover that Newham people actually have a shorter life expectancy than folk in Essex; according to the 2011 census, twice as many people in one of our Newham wards describe themselves as ‘in very bad health’ than in more affluent areas. And while I am prepared to accept that some of it is down to the East End belief that shopping and raising a glass to the lips are exercise, I regret to say that some of the blame must rest with the authorities concerned.

Become a flu fighter and get the flu jab. Last year, more Newham residents vulnerable to flu received a free jab than in any other part of London. This includes pregnant women and people with long-term conditions such as diabetes. Plus, 75 per cent of residents over 65 years old received a flu jab last year. This means that less people in Newham got the flu.

The House of Commons voted by 274 votes to 12 this month in favour of recognising Palestinian statehood. I was pleased MPs had the chance to debate this important issue, and voted in favour. I received around 1,000 emails on the subject – one of the largest postbags I have ever had. But recognising another country is a matter for the Government, not for Parliament. Ministers made it clear after the vote that they would not be recognising Palestine any time soon.

The Silvertown tunnel will run  (image: TfL)

Letters have dropped onto the mat in thousands of homes across east London as public consultations get under way over controversial proposals for toll charges and a new tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown. TfL says in the letter that the Silvertown Tunnel between the Royal Docks and Greenwich will be “a valuable alternative” to the congested A12 Blackwall Tunnel. Newham Council wants more river crossings anyway, Beckton as well as Silvertown.

The big issue is—whether there should be toll charges including Blackwall Tunnel. Environment activists, meanwhile, don’t want another tunnel at all—but say public transport should be improved instead. Consultations go on till Till December 19, with 5,000 responses to City Hall so far. The battle of Silvertown rumbles on...

I just drove past the bleeding body of a young man, curled upon the pavement around the corner to my home. Several Police officers were with him. He seemed to be clutching a stomach wound. It’s Friday: not yet 10pm.

The first of April 2015 will be Newham’s 50th birthday, having been brought into being on April 1, 1965 by the London Government Act which merged the boroughs of East Ham, West Ham, a small area of Barking (along the River Roding) and the North Woolwich area to form Newham.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have managed to have really good conversations with many people around the borough. I enjoy taking advantage of such opportunities where I can spend quality time in Newham listening to people, responding to their concerns or queries. I would like to spend more time doing such work but its not always that easy, so I make the most of it when I can.

Transport for London (TfL) recently announced plans for a 24-hour weekend tube trains from next September, with six services to run every hour across the Jubilee, Victoria and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines.

Next week we will begin moving families who need them into temporary homes on the Carpenters Estate. We would like to have moved many more into other properties last year, including the three high rise blocks, had we not been legally blocked from doing so. Since the council regained possession of the illegally occupied block, officers have been carrying out repairs to make the homes safe and suitable for families to move in as soon as possible.

For anyone with a social conscience there is no shortage of issues to get worked up about. The conflicts in the Middle East. Austerity and the growing gap between rich and poor. The list is endless, and it is easy to become overwhelmed.

The remarkable campaign of the ‘Focus E15 Mothers’ is a reminder of something that has been all-but absent in public policy in recent years: The importance of family ties. For if this brave band of young mums is defending anything, it is the aspiration of mothers with small children to live close to the people who love them and will support them in times of need, rather than being shipped out to far-off places.

I spent a day in Glasgow during the referendum campaign. It was disturbing. Most voters I spoke to wanted to stay in the UK, but I met quite a few who didn’t. The main reason? They didn’t want a Tory Government. One said to me: “Who wants to be part of a country where the next Prime Minister could be Boris Johnson?”

This month has been re-named Stoptober. Across the country smokers are being encouraged to get the support they need to stop smoking for good.

Lyn Brown MP

The campaign by the young mums of Focus E15 has shone a light onto the impact of a number of this Government’s policies on thousands of my constituents.

E-cigarettes - friend or foe?

The popularity of e-cigarettes has soared since they were first introduced to the UK about a decade ago, with current estimates suggesting that there are 2.1 million users in Great Britain alone.

It has been a huge couple of weeks for the future of our country and I believe there is a big lesson for us all to take from what has happened.

A highlight of my summer was joining over a thousand delegates from 60 countries at the triennial World Humanist Congress which this year took place in Oxford (whc2014.org.uk). The theme was the timely one of freedom of expression and belief.

Back in the Stratford of the 1960s, I remember a shop where they kept a box of tins of food that had been damaged. Some had lost their labels, some were dented and some had just got a bit scuffed. There was a sign on the box, saying ‘Damaged goods. Cheap!’, but not many people bought those tins, They preferred the perfect-looking ones on the shelves.

Carpenters Estate occupied! [photo: Isabelle Infantes]

Angry mothers who had to leave their homeless hostel in East London last year when its mother-and-baby unit was shut down took their campaign onto an empty council estate in protest at the lack of social housing. Hundreds of homes have been empty for up to 10 years on Stratford’s Carpenters Estate, next to the Olympic Park. So members of the Focus E15 marked the first anniversary of their campaign by occupying boarded up houses and holding a protest fair on Sunday to show that “perfectly habitable” properties are being left empty. That made the Mayor of Newham’s cabinet housing advisor furious—he accused the mums of agitating and “misrepresenting” what the Town Hall was doing to help the homeless:

Scottish Saltier flying above Stratford Old Town Hall

The Scottish Saltier is flying over the old Stratford Town hall with Newham Council backing the ‘Better Together’ campaign as Scotland votes tomorrow on whether stay in or quit the UK. Newham’s directly-elected mayor, Sir Robin Wales, is a proud Scot and an ardent supporter of a United Kingdom who genuinely believes we are better as a united island. The ‘yes’ voters who want an independent Scotland have won support, unsurprisingly, from English Democrats who believe England should have its own Parliament—like the Scots—because they believe we would prosper without having to support the rest of Britain:

In the past few weeks we had a rise in theft from cars to the east of Newham around Little Ilford ward and a rise in mobile phone snatches by men on bicycles around Canning Town and Beckton.

This parliamentary session seemed likely to be uneventful. Not so.

It’s funny what people think about those of us who wear clerical collars; people have expressed surprise that I use money, that I swear (only those who’ve never met me before!) and that I get fed up and argue with my husband and children, among many other things. And they don’t expect me to be down, gloomy or miserable.

School without uniforms... New Directions pupil referral unit

Pupils are back to school for the new term, many with new uniforms if they’re joining a new school. But some parents in east London finding it tough making ends meet question whether expensive uniforms are necessary. Government regulations say head teachers can discipline a child for not wearing a uniform—and some heads do. A pupil can be suspended or even expelled if they repeatedly ignore the uniform rules. Schools like Tower Hamlets’ Bishop Challoner have a strict code, while alternatives like Newham’s New Directions pupil referral unit say uniforms can be a barrier to some pupils and don’t have an impact on how well they do in the classroom..

This week, free school meals for pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are extended across England. Many heads have already spoken to the media about the challenges of implementing the scheme with a lack of Government support.

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