Modern slavery in Haringey

Early start with the Freedom Breakfast – organised by Pastor Nims Obunge of the Peace Alliance. These are uplifiting occasions when Nims forces us (the Haringey community) to raise our eyes above our daily grind and brings out our better selves as we wrestle with really trying to make the world a better place. This year the ‘breakfast’ is focused on celebrating the abolition of slavery 200 years ago. A variety of speakers take the podium and each table also is posed three questions to discuss and then feedback to an invited panel – politicians, police chief, a representative from Amnesty and myself.

My speech (read in full here) was really focused on the continuation of slavery in modern terms – i.e. human trafficking, which is increasing and endemic and is alive and sick in Haringey as elsewhere. In fact the police busted a big trafficking gang locally who were charging people between £3,000 and £5,000 to come here and were then sold into mainly prostitution.

So whilst we have come a long way since the slave trade per se – but clearly still have a long way to go.

Haringey Peace Alliance

Busy bee today! First engagement of the day is 8am to a Haringey Peace Alliance breakfast. (If you’ve not heard of them, this is how they describe their aims: “The Peace Alliance was launched in July 2001 as a local initiative in Haringey. It was the result of a Church–led response to crime in the community. Key partners from the Church, the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the Borough Council, as well as local MPs, and community leaders pledged to work together to promote peace in Haringey.”)

Pastor Nims, who started this movement, is just an inspiration and I am really happy to be invited to attend and to speak. Having only been informed I was speaking a couple of days ago and with no time before today to prepare – I rise at 5am to compose my speech and my thoughts. I could have winged it – but I like always to give thought and time to those events that I attend.

I arrive and literally before I can get my coat off we are on. I make my speech. Seems to go down quite well. I think they are used to things in Haringey being a Labour show, with Labour MPs etc, so with me there, there is a kind of ‘let’s see what she says’ sort of atmosphere.

My main thrust is that we should put young people as a priority and that social cohesion (which is the theme of the breakfast) is best achieved by different groups doing activities that interest them – and then the activity is the common interest and the differences are irrelevant. In light of which I have my first stab at upping the ante on the regeneration of the Scout Park – eight acres of wild land in the middle of Hornsey & Wood Green. That was very well received as an idea.

Then it is onto the African Caribbean Leadership Council lunch for the elders. Here is a very large room and Christmas cheer. Very pleasant time talking to various people and a good lunch. Quick speech and then I have to rush off to Parliament. I missed Prime Minister’s questions because of all the engagements so far today – but caught it later. Between the rumour mill around Charles’s leadership and Cameron’s very weak performance – it was a shame not to have been there. I caught the program later and indeed, for all the talk of his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron’s appearance this time was poor and he failed to make any good points. Worse than that – when it got rowdy – he was pictured basically looking to the Speaker for help to quiet the House. You have to have more balls than that David! And his punch line – something about less of a white paper and more of a white flag – was a) not very good b) clearly scripted. So soon after being crowned too … the House can be very harsh and cruel from what I have seen – and the boy didn’t do good.

As for Charles – well clearly I am not going to put any detail of the private discussion that went on in the Parliamentary Party. But I am under-whelmed by the anonymous briefings. These are difficult times, and I believe that a change of leader would simply be a gift to Cameron – who is already looking weak and in my view likely to be woefully exposed as inconsequential. The spotlight of leadership is extremely tough and I don’t believe he will prove to be the saviour the Tories are hoping for.

If any of the ‘would be’ leaders are responsible for the anonymous briefings then I would not support them as they have not had the courage to challenge in the appropriate way and showed appalling judgement over their timing.