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Confetti - Do It For Real

Nadia On...2021

27 December 21 words: Nadia Whittome
photos: Fabrice Gagos

In her regular column, Nadia Whittome looks back on 2021, discussing night club spiking, Sarah Everard, COP26, and Government ineptitude...

As it’s LeftLion’s December issue, I thought I’d take a look back at what’s happened in politics this year. I can only apologise for the lack of festive joy, but you can blame the Government for that. 

 This year got off to a difficult start. People spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve alone, unable to see family and friends. We then had months more in a national lockdown caused by the Government’s devastating mishandling of the pandemic. We lost loved ones, as deaths hit 100,000 and then kept on going. 

 Businesses went under, livelihoods were destroyed. Nottingham Trent students, forced to pay for rooms they couldn’t use, organised a rent strike and won some major concessions from the university. Although we’re not out of the woods yet, the vaccination roll-out by our incredible NHS has thankfully given us some light at the end of the tunnel. 

 In March, the murder of Sarah Everard sent shockwaves around the country, with women sharing their own experiences of sexual harassment and violence. Around a similar time, the Government was pushing through the Policing Bill, which handed additional powers to the police, cracked down on protest, and criminalised Roma and Traveller communities’ way of life.

Hundreds turned out on Forest Rec to oppose male violence and the curtailing of our democratic rights. Despite our best efforts inside and outside Parliament, the Bill continues to inch closer to becoming law. 

 In May, violence against Palestinians came to a head, with evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, attacks on worshippers in the al-Aqsa Mosque, and airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Once again, the people of Nottingham took to the streets in solidarity with the Palestinian people. While a ceasefire was achieved, there is no sign of any progress to end the occupation, recognise Palestine as a state and bring stability to the region. 

 We watched with horror over the summer at events unfolding in Afghanistan. Many of us donated to organisations supporting asylum seekers. My office later discovered that in many cases the Government had not even opened the emails we sent, attempting to help vulnerable people flee.

 No sooner had Parliament returned than the Government was up to its usual tricks - rushing through damaging legislation. This time, they passed the Health and Social Care levy - a flat tax making low-income workers pay for the NHS and social care, while protecting the wealthy. Just a couple of weeks later, they also cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week - taking £1,000 a year from 5.5 million families. 

I can only apologise for the lack of festive joy, but you can blame the Government for that

In Nottingham, as students celebrated the start of term, a spate of spikings in night clubs hit the national news, with some women fearing they had been injected. With the fierce outcry, including a “girls night in” boycott, police and clubs have now taken the issue more seriously. But to tackle spikings, and other forms of gendered violence, we must also tackle men’s behaviour - that means deep, long-term change.

 2021 was also a significant year for the climate - COP26 represented one of last and best hopes for keeping global warming to an increase of 1.5C. I witnessed events first-hand in Glasgow. The conference was disappointing - the outcomes agreed put us on course for 2.4C instead. But hope is not lost, as next year world leaders are due to reconvene.

 What happens in 2022 depends on all of us. In Nottingham and cities across the world, demonstrations showed that there is a huge movement in support of tackling climate change. It is because of public pressure that the Government continues to make more announcements in this area. Among the latest was more education about climate change - something I have been campaigning for alongside school students since my election. 

 But it will be an uphill battle because, as we have learnt, many Conservative MPs are not only focused on the interests of their constituents but on those of the private companies paying them on the side. 

 It was Owen Paterson breaking lobbying rules and then the Government's attempts to get him off the hook that threw a spotlight on corruption. But the problem goes much deeper. Conservative MPs receive over £4 million a year on top of their already generous £82,000 MP salaries. Lucrative second jobs should be banned - we were elected to represent our constituents, not the highest bidder. 

 When I hear them moan about their salaries, I cannot help but think of the one in three children who live in poverty in Nottingham East - their families pushed into destitution by policies Tory MPs voted for. I think of volunteers at food banks like Himmah and St Ann’s, the many businesses in Nottingham that offered free meals to children in the school holidays, and the people who give up their time to organise and campaign for change. 

 These are the people who have truly represented our communities in the last year - who help each other out, who stand up for each other. Westminster is depressing as ever, but the people of our city make me hopeful for the year ahead. 

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