I have had a very large number of emails from constituents about the debate next Monday in the House of Commons on Palestinian recognition. I will be attending the debate and will be voting in favour of my colleague Grahame Morris' motion which calls on the Government to "recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel".
During my time as the UK's International Development Secretary I visited Gaza and the West Bank and saw for myself the really difficult circumstances that the Palestinian people face as a result of closures, illegal settlement building, the lack of economic opportunity and the failure to find a political settlement. I want to see two states living side by side in peace and recognised by all of their neighbours, but the events of recent months have underlined the dangers for both Palestinians and Israelis of a resumption of violence and bloodshed. What happened in Gaza this summer was shocking and showed that this conflict will only be resolved through negotiations. That is why Labour believes that, amidst all the undoubted despair and disappointment, the international community must take practical steps to encourage all Palestinians to take the path of politics and rejectviolence, and to reopen negotiations leading to a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel.
Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given by others but a right to be recognised. And that's what we should do. Labour has consistently supported the principle of recognising statehood for the Palestinian people, and since 2011, we have called on the UK Government to support the Palestinians' bid for recognition at the United Nations.
It's been a very busy time with the Labour Party Conference in Manchester and the result of the independence referendum in Scotland. I was delighted and relieved that the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom - for me it was always a matter of solidarity and looking after one another.
Last Friday I visited two new housing developments by the Leeds Federated Housing Association in the Arthingtons and Belle Isle. They look good and the homes are much-needed. After that I went to Notre Dame Sixth Form College to talk to politics students. We had a lively debate about whether the voting age should be lowered to 16. I have long supported this and so did a majority of the students. And then it was off to the South Leeds CCG to hear from really committed staff about the work they are doing to help us look after our health.
On Saturday I will be out talking to residents in Beeston. Hope to see you!