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The New Journal is fighting for our communities

Now we need a vibrant local press more than ever, argues Tulip Siddiq MP

09 April, 2020 — By Tulip Siddiq

WE see now the “low-skilled” immigrant working in a supermarket is actually a “critical worker” keeping our country going.

We are realising the importance of an occasional phone call to check on an elderly neighbour.

For me, local journalism is one of those things that really matters. Local papers might seem like a luxury at a time when our health, society and economy face such severe threats. On the contrary, I believe we need them now more than ever.

London is the greatest city in the world, but it can also be one of the loneliest. The local papers we are lucky enough to have in Hampstead and Kilburn bring our communities together. They give people who may not have family or friends nearby a point of connection with their neighbours, whether that’s by highlighting the work of community activists or giving them an idea about what’s happening in the area.

This is particularly important for the socially isolated, and it’s even more important now that social isolation is being enforced by law.

However, local papers are about more than bringing communities together, as crucial as that is. They also fight for our communities. Papers like the CNJ have fought tooth and nail to save local amenities like post offices and stop disastrous projects like HS2, which will blight the lives of thousands of Camden residents.

I remember when the CNJ’s “Thin Red Line” campaign against fire service cuts got a commitment from Sadiq Khan to review the fire station closures that took place under the Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London.

The CNJ also deserves credit for its campaign to stop young black men being murdered on our streets.

We often overlook the importance of local papers to our democracy when we talk about the need for a vibrant, free press to hold the government to account.

It’s just as important that MPs, Assembly Members and councillors are scrutinised, and only a strong local press can do that.

Having written for a local paper before I became a councillor and then an MP, I know how necessary it is to have journalists who live in the areas we represent challenging our decisions.
The need for scrutiny of local politicians has never been greater. Local authorities are going to be co-ordinating so much of our response to the coronavirus crisis. It will fall on councils to check in on vulnerable people, deliver food parcels, ensure businesses get support and distribute emergency funding to those in need.

And MPs like me have a big job on our hands to represent the concerns of constituents who face unprecedented challenges and push government ministers to support them.

Newspapers like the CNJ must be there to ensure that politicians like me do the best job we possibly can for our constituents.

We are lucky to have such a strong local press in Hampstead and Kilburn, but we will only have it as long as we are prepared to fight for it.

It was very moving to see our country come together to clap for carers. We should find a date in the future when we all wave our local papers in the air.

That way we can show our appreciation for the incredible National Health Service staff working to keep us safe in local hospitals, but also for the local journalists who do such fantastic work to make sure we hear about their efforts and so much else.

• Tulip Siddiq is the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.


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