John McDonnell MP addresses DM2023

  • 28 Apr 2023

Secretary of the NUJ’s Parliamentary Group reaffirms the group’s commitment to defeating harmful legislation.

McDonnell thanked Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, stating the group would not be effective without the union’s detailed briefings and research on a range of issues raised since 2021.

As shadow chancellor, McDonnell’s work on a furlough scheme through TUC negotiations of which the NUJ was involved in, led to an agreement with the Conservative government. He noted that despite some success, the group had hoped to achieve more particularly for freelance and self-employed members, allowing for a fair package across the industry.

McDonnell stated the NUJ’s news recovery plan had been presented by the Parliamentary Group, featuring calls by the union on measures including sustainable funding routes for journalism, and a healthy diverse press.

Industrial disputes had also gained support from the Parliamentary Group with them naming and shaming companies to exert pressure on those who had refused to negotiate fairly.

On legislation, McDonnell referenced the Online Safety Bill, secured amendments on the Public Order Bill, and the harmful National Security Bill returning to the Commons where he hoped broad cross-party support recognising its impact on journalists would be obtained. Work was continuing too on the Media Bill to obtain maximum opportunities while protecting journalism.

As always, “we’ve taken the issue of safety of journalists seriously” McDonnell said. Delegates heard Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs ) were being used to silence journalists and interventions had been made on behalf of the NUJ on this issue.

He referenced his visit to Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison, and pledged the Parliamentary Group’s continued campaigning to prevent his extradition by the United States.  

Audience members applauded as McDonnell reminded delegates of “the real threat in terms of privatisation and to the BBC licence fee” presented by former culture secretary Nadine Dorries’ plans for public service broadcasting. “NUJ members were at the centre of the campaign to prevent the privatisation of channel 4” he said.

On BBC Local strike action, the MP said “we have been, and will continue to be on picket lines”. 

Over the past two years, the group has shared in parliament, incidents of journalists under attack, prevented from reporting government failure. McDonnell noted the arrests of Charlotte Lynch and NUJ member Andy Aitchison saying “We are able to speak with authority because it is your members who tell us what is happening on the ground.”

Afghanistan, Palestine and Iran were all named as countries the group had raised in parliament in recent months. “Government action is scandalous” McDonnell stated about the Tory government’s failure to adhere to its commitments to support journalists in Afghanistan.

BBC Persian service and the important role it played worldwide was highlighted, alongside objection to the oppressive actions of Iranian government who have targeted journalists and their families.

McDonnell ended his speech by reaffirming the Parliamentary Group’s position to do all it could to “not just ameliorate Minimum Service Bill legislation but to defeat it.”

The NUJ’s position as a member of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG) meant it was well-placed to work with unions on the EU Revocation Bill attacking trade union rights.

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