My Column – Politics should be about legislation not what politicians look like

…And in the red corner, weighing in at 8 stone exactly…”  There’s a reason that the ring announcer in boxing gives the weight – and possibly height and reach – of both competitors.  The numbers are part of understanding the nature of the match that’s about to take place.

That reason doesn’t apply to politics.  When the Mail on Sunday asked Liz Kendall (one of the Labour Party leadership contenders) how much she weighs, it was completely irrelevant to the job.  It’s unnecessary press intrusion.  I don’t bandy about words like ‘sexist’ lightly  When you do, they lose their meaning – in a similar way when the word ‘racist’ is used to describe a children’s nursery rhyme, or to describe the Black Country flag designed by a 12-year-old girl (symbolising glassmaking, heavy industry and foundries), the real victims of racism are demeaned.  Reserve the word racism for racists, and it has a bigger meaning.

I don’t swear, so if anyone heard me swear they would know I was fuming with rage.  The swear word has a greater meaning and impact if used sparingly than if it litters every conversation.  Liz Kendall asked whether the journalist would have asked the same question of a man.  The journalist did sort-of did ask George Osborne a similar question last year, when he was busy losing weight on the latest fad diet, though that’s none of the national media’s business either in my view.

The two situations are different in reason and tone.  When a journalist suggests that she might weigh ‘about the same as the Duchess of Cambridge’, for me that clearly crosses a line.  These comments are only being made because she’s a woman, and that’s not acceptable.  Whether Liz Kendall should lead the Labour Party is nothing to do with her gender.  Incidentally, that’s why I also believe that Labour are wrong to have all-women shortlists for Parliament. They should choose the best candidate irrespective of gender or ethnicity.  In the straight-talking UKIP way, I’m going to call out the treatment of Liz Kendall for what it is.  Sexism.

New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has been subjected to a barrage of questions about his Christianity.  Does he personally believe that gay sex is a sin? What’s his view on abortion?  When you first think about it, this seems (slightly) more relevant than the questions to Liz Kendall.  But have you ever seen a Muslim or Jewish politician hauled over the coals over a similar issue?

I personally choose not to smoke; I don’t believe it’s right for me personally to do that, because of the health risks involved, but I don’t seek to force my personal feelings upon society.  All that matters from a political perspective is my stance about society.  So if – and he hasn’t said that he does – Tim Farron actually personally believes that gay sex is a sin, that’s his personal business.  Or if he believed it would be sinful for him personally to do it, that would be a private opinion.  I say, so what?  On the other hand, if he supported a public policy change to take rights away from gay people, that would be our business.  But he doesn’t, and there’s no evidence that he even believes any of the above either.

He hasn’t called for tougher limits on abortion either – though he has said that every abortion is a ‘tragedy’.  I’d go further myself actually.  I would call for a change in the law: a 24-week limit for abortion when babies now often survive without long-term harm being born at less than 24 weeks is just plain wrong.  I’ve seen Lib Dems leave their party because of Tim Farron’s personal views.  I could think of many reasons to leave the Lib Dems, but leaving because the leader is a Christian? How illiberal; how intolerant!

The ‘job’ in politics should be about what legislation not what we look like, about public policy not gender.  It’s about representing my constituents and working as hard as I can on your behalf – despite covering a vast area that stretches from Darlington to Berwick.  Earlier in this article I said that I don’t use swear words: to do so regularly spoils the impact.  I won’t swear myself, but when Liz Kendall told the Mail on Sunday journalist to “f*** off” I did allow myself a little smile.

Jonathan Arnott MEP speaks at electoral reform rally

North East MEP Jonathan Arnott is to be a guest speaker at a major event in London tomorrow (SAT) calling for electoral reform.

A ‘Great Gathering’ has been organised to take place at the Old Palace Yard at the Houses of Parliament to highlight the need for changes to the country’s voting system.

Mr Arnott is among high profile speakers invited to address the event, which has been spearheaded by 16-year-old Owen Winter, Independent Member for Youth Parliament for Cornwall.

It has being supported by various bodies, including the Electoral Reform Society, following the General Election which saw UKIP, the Greens and the LibDems together receiving millions of votes but which resulted in only a handful of MPs.

Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP, explained, “The 2015 General Election was the least proportional in British history.  Yet millions live in seats which haven’t changed hands for a generation – in such circumstances, who can blame people who feel their vote doesn’t matter?

“I believe it’s time for us to stand together to demand change from our government, for a modern system meeting the needs of a multi-party 21st-century democracy.”

Individual police bosses should not literally be taking the law into their own hands

Drug laws should be applied equally across the land and not be open to interpretation in different policing areas, says local UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott.

His comments come in the wake of admissions that Durham Police are letting cannabis growers and smokers escape prosecution.

“Their approach cannot be right,” said Mr Arnott.

“We have a serious drug problem in this country and whatever your views on cannabis the law says that cultivating and using it is a crime.

“There needs to be a national debate on the issue and meanwhile individual police bosses should not literally be taking the law into their own hands.

“Durham police force has apparently decided to give a free pass to low level users and growers. But the law is the law and it should be followed – particularly by the police.

“Ron Hogg, the area’s police and crime commissioner, has said that where low level amounts of cannabis plants are discovered it is unlikely the offenders will be prosecuted.

“What message does that send out, particularly to vulnerable impressionable youngsters and what magic figure is defined as small? Even as few as a dozen can yield a street value of £10,000 which plainly makes it a commercial operation,” said Mr Arnott.

Letter – We need to get into a position where we have widespread faith in both our schools, those running them and those in charge of inspecting them.

Dear Editor,

I have been following, with great interest,  news articles focusing on the recent Ofsted inspections at ‘Cramlington Learning Village’ and the subsequent reactions.  I do not claim to have any inside knowledge regarding the situation at this school, but as a former teacher, I do find it surprising that a school once rated outstanding in every area tested can decline so dramatically in a short period of time.

This case once again raises the question of whether the methods of Ofsted inspections are appropriate and furthermore if inspectors are looking for the right things; especially when it comes to school leadership and management practices

We have all heard the reports of good schools and teachers being penalised for not being up to date with some paperwork or not precisely ticking a box on the inspectors’ list whilst in other inspections very serious issues slip through the cracks.

Whilst I stress that there may be underlying issues in this inspection that I am unaware of, this may be a good opportunity to once again open the debate regarding how our schools are administered and examined.  We need to get into a position where we have widespread faith in both our schools, those running them and those in charge of inspecting them.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

UKIP, North East

Letters – We must regain control of our borders

Dear Editor,

At a time when the parents of about 80,000 pupils have learned that they have not got their first choice of school it comes as no surprise to learn that

almost 188,000 of the 695,000 UK births in 2014 were to migrant mums.

The figure has more than doubled since 1997 when Tony Blair introduced New Labour’s open-door immigration policy. And it is expected to rise as high as one in three births by 2021.

We need much tighter immigration controls, our country is bursting at the seams and our infrastructure is struggling to keep up with demand.

It has recently emerged that net migration has soared by 50% in a year to 318,000 – the highest level for a decade. We just cannot go on like this.

We need to leave the EU and introduce an Australian-style points system for immigrants so that we have control over who lives here and brings the skills we need to grow our economy. We owe it to our children who are already being affected by the over-demand for school places.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

Letters – North East infrastructure requires further funding and investment

Dear Editor,

In the run up to the recent general election we all heard lots of talk about the Conservative Party’s “Northern Powerhouse” strategy and the need to invest in North East infrastructure in order to close the gap between the standard of services available in the region in comparison to other areas.  However, it appears that now the votes have been cast some of the proposed funding has failed to materialise.  David Cameron has even suggested that people should stop “griping” about the situation.

The state of infrastructure and investment in the North East is already decades behind that of other areas in the UK; not only does the promised investment need to be put into place asap; but further funding will also need to be invested in the years ahead.

Perhaps if the Prime Minister compared the new ‘Crossrail’ project and existing services in the capital to the experiences of local rail travellers in the North East he would understand why some people may feel the need to “gripe.”

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

UKIP, North East

Proposed recycling targets could hit householders in pocket

Householders could be hit in the pocket for failing to meet ‘impossible’ recycling targets being proposed by the EU, warned local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

EU bureaucrats are proposing that 70% of rubbish is recycled or reused even though most countries, including Britain, are struggling to reach the current target figure of 50% by 2020.

“I greatly support recycling, it makes obvious sense, but the power mad bureaucrats are keen to force through legislation which would prove impossible to meet,” said Mr Arnott.

“There is a major waste problem in this country but I believe the spotlight is being shone on the wrong target. Instead of picking on householders the authorities should be forcing manufacturers and suppliers to further cut down on packaging.

“Who hasn’t struggled to get into excess packaging on household items, such as ink cartridges or ironically scissors, and having done so it is just thrown away?

“And looking at the bigger picture we all know that appliances such as fridges and washing machines used to be far more durable and were ‘built to last’ compared to many of today’s products,” he said.

“Under the EU plans householders may be given smaller dustbins and treated like naughty children with the threat of fines hanging over them. This can only lead to fly tipping and sneakily dumping items in other people’s bins.

“I was among those who voted against these proposals under the Circular Economy report in Strasbourg,” said Mr Arnott.

“Instead of fortnightly bin collections, which are now apply in most areas, it would be better if we saw a return to weekly collections. Some people are zealous about sorting their refuse and can find they fill their recycling bin in just a week.

“On the other hand, of course, some simply couldn’t care less about recycling and they are exactly the people who won’t pay a fine if one is levied. As always heavy handed legislation could end up affecting the most law abiding.