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Today the Jo Cox Foundation asked every candidate to lay campaigning aside for an hour and spend time with a community group. So I left my teams this afternoon and joined the Coptic community for a while after their Sunday worship. I spent time listening about how important inter-generational activities are and it was amazing to see so many generations all enjoying time together.

Tonight I'm going to be in touch with some other MP's who were friends of Jo's and we're going to share stories from our visits. We all think it's a lovely way to honour Jo and also to keep us focused on what really matters even in the middle of a tense election campaign.

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Remembering Jo Cox

Today the Jo Cox Foundation asked every candidate to lay campaigning aside for an hour and spend time with a community group. So I left my teams this afternoon and...

Something quite amazing happened from when I was selected as the Labour candidate in 2013 right through to the election in 2015 ... I wasn’t asked about being gay once.  I think that’s amazing because it shows that our society is focusing more on who we are and what we can achieve in life than things like sexuality. The normalisation of being gay is far more radical than people think, and it’s making life for young people who are unsure of their sexuality far easier than in times gone by.

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But things are far from ideal because homophobic and transphobic hate crime is still very high, even in our city. And what is happening abroad in places like Chechnya is incomprehensible in its inhumanity. The president said recently that gay people care not being murdered by the state because they have no gay people and if they did it would be the family killing them, not the state. The values we hold dear here must be asserted in our relationships abroad through the UN and right through to our trading relationships.
Here at home we must not take our advances in equality for granted. We must show that gay marriage is no longer a separate thing, it’s now simply ‘marriage’. We should celebrate and defend these achievements because there are some who would love to turn the clock back.

Today LGBT Labour came to join me on the doorsteps. They exist to promote diversity in our politics and ensure we have a good representation in elected office from town halls to parliament and I’m a very keen supporter of their work.

The first day I went to parliament after the last election I did a BBC interview and they asked me what it was like being the first openly gay MP in Brighton and Hove. I was flawed by the question and didn’t know how to answer it because I’d never been asked about it. After the interview wet out I got a message from a youngster saying that he’d followed my career closely and only just found out that I was gay. He said that he was going to tell his parents that night that he was gay too because now he knew that people would see him for what he’s achieved and capable of first, and sexuality second, third, or not even at all, that he felt much more confident about opening up. I don’t talk about this kind of thing often, but in the week where over a hundred countries come together to stand against hate crime it seems appropriate.

You can read Labour's LGBT Election Pledges here

Promoting diversity in our politics

Something quite amazing happened from when I was selected as the Labour candidate in 2013 right through to the election in 2015 ... I wasn’t asked about being gay once.  I...

I never thought being an MP would mean I’d become a train nerd, but that’s what I’ve become! 34,000 people leave our city every day to get to work and during the last campaign I heard time and again about the agony people faced every day. So if residents need me to be a train expert, that’s what I’d become. 

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Our service has been on it’s knees for the last 18 months. The underlying cause of which is a strange contracting arrangement which gives government all the power but none of the responsibility, at exactly the time when the Department of Transport was 100% focussed on getting HS2 off the ground and took it’s eye off the ball.

On top of that mis-management at Southern / Govia led to a driver shortage, Network Rail screwed up its maintenance programme and overran too often, and unions chose a brutal schedule of strikes which at times seemed more political than industrial. All this on a single set of tracks between Brighton, Hove, and London the foundations of which were built in the Victorian era.

Over the two years your MP I’ve consistently given more time on this than any other single issue. My very first meeting in parliament was with the rail minister, and my very last meeting before returning to fight this election was to co-chair the group of every southeastern MP which I set up.

As a single backbench MP it has has been heartbreaking and frustrating that I don’t have the power to deliver the change you need instantly. At times I have felt powerless. But I have done everything I can think of to make a difference, here’s some of the things I’ve done for you:

⁃ Set up the first ever group of MP’s to scrutinise Southern Rail, support improvement, and challenge government over failures. I work with Sir Nicholas Soams, the Tory MP for Mid Sussex and we chair the group together. This group forced government to refocus onto our commuter problems and unlock £20m emergency funds for the line before Christmas, and £300m on investment into the line in the coming years. According to Network Rail this is the maximum amount of money they can physically spend on the line in this period. The tunnels need re-lining, signalling upgrading, and major new works at East Croydon which will free up new capacity and improve reliability.

⁃ I have work-shadowed a Southern train driver and done driver training on a simulator so I can understand better what challenges staff face

⁃ I’ve visited London Bridge construction site so I can understand why it caused so much disruption and discuss with developers how it could be improved

⁃ I brought the boss of Govia to Hove and chaired a public meeting so you could have your voice heard directly to the person running our trains. This was the only meeting attended by the COO of Govia.

⁃ Successfully campaigned with Which! for Delay Repay to be reduced to 15 minutes.

⁃ Challenged the government unrelentingly in the Commons and the media, highlighting failure and campaigning for improvements.

And finally it’s really important for me to say that in the middle of this crisis I’ve not forgotten the long-term. Yes we have to sort this shambles out, but we also have to hand a better service to the next generation than the one we have endured. So behind the scenes I have been speaking to our frontbencher team, transport select committee members, and Jeremy Corbyn too, because I desperately want a long-term solution to the capacity challenge we will ultimately face here. So I was jumping with joy that Labour has the manifesto commitment for an additional line between London and the south coast.

After a terrible period for commuters, last month Southern achieved an overall good record. I know this is not enough but there are glimmers of hope that improvements will start happening in the weeks and months ahead.

I have not been able to solve the whole problem alone, but I hope you’ll see that I’ve done everything I could think of to meaningfully impact the terrible service. One month of decent service is not nearly enough, we need the very best.

The photo I’ve posted here is of my last meeting in parliament before the election campaign started. Nicholas Soams and I summonsed Charles Horton, CEO of Govia, to answer questions about investment and improvement. I can assure you that the strength of your feeling about our rail service was heard and felt by all the rail bosses in the room.

So I promise you I won’t stop working to make this happen if you elect me again on June 8th, and I hope you can see that I’ve worked my socks off to do what I can for the last two years.

Standing up for commuters

I never thought being an MP would mean I’d become a train nerd, but that’s what I’ve become! 34,000 people leave our city every day to get to work and...

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