Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

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Recent reports from the north-western Rakhine region of Myanmar are horrifying. Tens of thousands of refugees have been fleeing across the border to Bangladesh over the past few weeks. Their testimonies are heartbreaking, and it is clear action is urgently needed. There is strong evidence that the violence directed at the Rohingya people is systematic, and is intended to drive them out of the country. If this is correct, it is ethnic cleansing and a crime against humanity.

The latest upsurge in this decades-long was caused by an attack on border guard posts by a militant group known as the Arakhan Rohingya Salvation Army. The response by the army of Myanmar has been entirely disproportionate. They have burned entire villages across large areas of the region, forcing the residents to flee for their lives. Many credible and terrible reports of atrocities have emerged. These reports provide evidence of indiscriminate murder and mutilation, of gang rape, including of children, and of intentional deprivation of the survivors of all of their possessions and of the basic necessities of survival – food, clean water, and shelter.

The Government needs to do far more to make our condemnation of these abuses clear, and to put strong pressure on the government and the military of Myanmar to end this campaign of indiscriminate violence and guarantee the Rohingya their rights.

I was proud to sign a letter to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urging him to take stronger action, authored by my colleague Rushanara Ali, and signed by 157 Parliamentarians across every major political party. You can view the letter here:

http://www.rushanaraali.org/158_parliamentarians_write_to_boris_johnson_on_burma

I have also asked several Parliamentary questions on this issue throughout this year, on the 17th January, the 22nd June, and twice on the 4th September, keeping up the pressure on the Government to act. I am currently waiting on a Government response to my most recent questions. 

Statement on recent escalation of violence against Rohingya in Myanmar

Recent reports from the north-western Rakhine region of Myanmar are horrifying. Tens of thousands of refugees have been fleeing across the border to Bangladesh over the past few weeks. Their...

Many of you know I’m a big fan of crime novels. This year I’ve packed “Sunday Morning Coming Down;” By Nicci French, Claire Evans’s debut novel “The Fourteenth Letter” and “A Necessary Evil,” by Abir Mukherjee. I loved his debut, “A Rising Man,” that introduced a Scotland Yard detective, newly arrived in Calcutta to join the police, who becomes embroiled in the politics of Empire whilst attempting to solve a murder.

I always include history and politics, too. This year it’s “Martin Luther,” by Lyndal Roper, “Elizabeth: The Later Years,” by John Guy, complementing Elizabeth Fremantle’s “The Girl in the Glass Tower,” a fictional retelling of the life of Arbella Stuart, who almost became Queen after Elizabeth I.

The importance of getting a child to be fluent and enjoy reading cannot be overestimated.

The department for education’s Reading for Pleasure report, 2012, highlighted that importance, both for educational purposes and for personal development.

The more children read, the more they enjoy it. Reading enjoyment could be more significant for educational success than almost anything else.

The report claims regular reading outside school ensures children get higher marks in reading assessments, become more emotionally well-rounded and acquire increased general knowledge.

I think the government report is right. What a pity too few government ministers and advisors appear to have read it. If they had, surely they wouldn’t have proposed swingeing cuts to Newham schools.

Countrywide, school libraries and reading schemes would have been sacrificed to keep class sizes down. We’d all have been much the poorer for it.

Labour’s campaign to fund schools properly means those education changes have been quietly shelved. Theresa May realised they would be too unpopular to put to Parliament.

I’ll continue fighting for Labour’s plan to invest in our schools, keep class sizes to less than 30 for all five to seven-year-olds and give schools the funding to invest in good reading schemes and make sure pupils receive at least the same life chances I did. 

Newham Recorder Column: Fighting for more education funds

Many of you know I’m a big fan of crime novels. This year I’ve packed “Sunday Morning Coming Down;” By Nicci French, Claire Evans’s debut novel “The Fourteenth Letter” and...

Like many generations of my family before me growing up in Newham, I was regaled with stories about my family’s exploits and the East End’s history.

I heard of raids on Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirt meetings, the forced sale of our Grandmother Clock to fund medicine for my mum, the fight for Cable Street, the humiliation of standing on the stones begging for work and the victory of the Matchwomen.

My recent visit to Manor Park Cemetery and the grave of Sarah Chapman, prominent in the Matchwomen’s strike and buried in a ‘pauper’s grave,’ close to the railway line, was a deeply emotional experience.

I was invited by Sarah’s great-granddaughter. Mrs Sam Johnson wants Sarah’s contribution to Labour history recognised. She is rightly proud of her ancestor. Sarah was one of the amazingly inspirational leaders of the Matchwomen strikers. Women worked in brutal, hazardous conditions in the infamous Bryant and May factory. They and fought and won against all odds and created a trade union. Those women kicked off the wave of activism which created the Party I proudly represent today.

Other great characters rest in that cemetery. Jack Cornwell, for example, grew up in Newham and, in 1915, joined the Royal Navy aged just 14. In HMS Chester, under heavy shelling, he was mortally wounded, yet remained alone serving his gun for 15 minutes, until he died. For his gallant bravery he received the Victoria Cross.

Annie Chapman, a victim of Jack the Ripper, also rests there. Left destitute and betrayed by her husband, Annie was forced onto the Whitechapel streets in desperation born of extreme poverty before her murder.

It was a delight to be shown around by the remarkable Janet Briggs, who manages the site and brought the past alive for me. Her passion and care for all the souls residing there is exemplary. She and I will work together over coming months to find much-needed funds to renovate a war memorial to West Ham’s civilian dead.

We must do all we can to keep our histories alive.

Understanding our past helps us shape our futures.

Newham Recorder Column: Lyn Brown was reminded of some great characters while visiting Manor Park Cemetery

Like many generations of my family before me growing up in Newham, I was regaled with stories about my family’s exploits and the East End’s history.


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