Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East since 2015, visited Notre Dame on November 20 to speak to our A-level Politics students about the role of the left in government, and to answer their questions about Trans rights, freedom of speech, and the rights of workers.
Richard has a background in employment law and is currently Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs. He talked about the changes that have taken place in the UK since he came into post: Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency, the Covid pandemic, and the current cost of living crisis. He explained to our students that he feels the government is using the current crisis to attack workers’ rights, and that he’s concerned they plan to fully privatise the NHS, bringing in an American-style healthcare system.
Richard invited our students to ask him questions. These included the following:
Q: How can Labour offer an alternative for LGBTQIA+ people who don’t feel safe?
A: MPs within the party have different views, but any discrimination against Trans people needs to be tackled. Contact your MP to encourage them to vote for Trans rights.
Q: Should minimal service level legislation be brought in?
A: No, as this would allow the Secretary of State to make a decision about minimum service levels for any sector. Striking is a key democratic freedom, alongside voting and protesting.
Q: Would the online safety bill allow the government to decide what constitutes a legal but harmful opinion?
A: Freedom of speech should be limited. For example, there are legal consequences to racist abuse.
Q: What can the Labour party do about misogyny e.g. on social media.
A: This is becoming more prevalent as the situation in the UK worsens. We need a positive women’s rights campaign.
Richard ended his visit by stating that, although the Labour party is a broad church, it’s the responsibility of the left to generate policies that will deal with the current crisis. He certainly gave our students a lot to think about and we thank him for his time.