My Column – In 1983 Newcastle Central voted Conservative – have Labour learned the lessons of history?

My father-in-law was a miner, and one of my wife’s earliest memories is receiving food parcels during the strike.

So believe me, I understand where the antipathy towards Thatcher comes from. But just before the strike, in 1983, Newcastle Central voted for Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives (as did Darlington and Tynemouth).

The first reaction of anyone who grew up under Thatcher will be shock – how is this even possible? I wonder how many readers will head to Wikipedia to check that fact for themselves. The answer is, that Labour had chosen a Corbyn-style radical, Michael Foot, as leader.

The Labour Party was out of power for a generation, and it could be headed that way again. Whilst they won Newcastle Central back quickly, Darlington and Tynemouth took a little longer.

This time, it’s not Newcastle Central that will be at risk to the Tories – but seats like Hartlepool under threat to UKIP.

With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, the whole character of British politics has changed.

In one sense, that’s a good thing for democracy. There was a time, not so long ago, when the policies of Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were so similar to one another that only UKIP was offering anything substantially different to the status quo.

Lack of real choice leads to inability to effect change; that in turn leads to apathy, and apathy to low turnout at elections. In that sense, I welcome the change in Labour leadership.

In another, the thought of a 1970s-style tax and spend economy (which had inflation running over 25%) is rather chilling. You don’t help the poorest people by making the country poorer, you do it by making the country richer. We shouldn’t hand the Falklands to Argentina, or give up most of the country’s ability to defend itself.

There are problems, too, with a radical leading a non-radical party.

With most of the top talent in the Labour Party refusing to serve in a frontbench position under Corbyn, he’s resorted to appointing a convicted arsonist (sentenced to 16 months in prison) as his Education spokesman in the Lords.

His new shadow chancellor has, under pressure, offered a lukewarm apology for pro-terrorist comments.

I won’t rehearse the full list of Corbyn gaffes; there isn’t space in this column. I will merely say this: he is auditioning for the job of Prime Minister. Things you can get away with as a backbench campaigner won’t pass muster as Leader of the Opposition. Divided parties lose elections, badly.

Ultimately, though, the reason the Conservatives won so many Labour strongholds in 1983 was economics.

When you’re a backbench MP in opposition, you can get away with proposing a string of bizarre uncosted measures and back it up with fairytale economics. Sooner or later, though, you have to grow up.

I know the feeling: UKIP’s 2010 manifesto felt great, but had more holes than Swiss cheese. We had to grow up, and we did. Our 2015 manifesto was professionally, independently costed – unlike any other manifesto of any other Party.

Yet Jeremy Corbyn seems wedded to the idea of saving, and spending, massive amounts of money through clamping down on tax avoidance and tax evasion. I’m all for clamping down on those things, but a dose of realism is necessary. The astronomical sums suggested cannot be raised for the exchequer.

He may have thought of a catchy phrase in People’s Quantitative Easing (PQE) but history teaches us that printing money to boost public spending doesn’t work. It caused mass inflation and poverty in Zimbabwe and Weimar Germany. It caused the Latin American debt crisis of the 1970s.

There is an initial attraction and appeal of new ideas. Once they’ve been tested in debate and during a General Election campaign, their flaws become obvious. Who would want to risk a return to the kind of economy we had in the 1970s?

Back in 1983, the people of Newcastle Central were so scared that they elected a Conservative MP. In 2020, there will be another show in town. Those unhappy with Labour may well find a new home in the pro-working class UKIP.

Labour have not learned the lessons of history. Those that do not, are doomed to repeat it.

You can read this article in full on The Chronicle website here.

Statement on the loss of 1,700 jobs at the SSI plant in Redcar

“This is a tremendously sad day for Redcar, the North East and the United Kingdom.  Thousands of jobs will now be lost directly at SSI, and thousands more indirectly.  Redcar will be hit particularly hard as it is already has high levels of unemployment.  Our proud British manufacturing tradition deserves better than this, and the real tragedy is that it is so unnecessary: the industry will be viable in the long term

The high pound, Chinese market dumping, high cost of raw materials and especially government-caused artificially-inflated energy prices in an energy-intensive industry have contributed to temporary unprofitability. Steel is trading at a fraction of the price it did in 2010, but it will recover. This is a textbook example of the need for state aid, because now much-needed skills will disappear from our economy.

Our government blames EU rules; I blame our government too, for not putting British business above EU rules. Today is a poignant reminder of how remaining in the European Union costs British jobs. The message for the forthcoming referendum campaign could not be clearer: for all Labour’s scaremongering about jobs supposedly ‘at risk’ if we leave the EU, jobs are being lost on a daily basis because we’re still in.”

Letter – Labour Party railway re-nationalisation plan derailed

Dear Editor,

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for the re-nationalisation of our railways is derailed before it even gets out of the station.

As long as we remain members of the European Union, Britain is simply not allowed to do this. Ever since the First Railway Directive back in 1998, the EU has dictated that all member states must provide competition and allow independent companies to apply for non-discriminatory track access.

Mr Corbyn has only been in position for days, but it is already clear that his policy ideas are off the rails.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

Call for investment in local level football

North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has challenged George Osborne to invest £3m in grassroots football in the region to match that just given to China.

“This region has produced some great footballers and will do so again in future I’m sure but money needs to be spent at grassroots level to help that along.

“China is the second largest economy in the world and can doubtless find it’s own cash to train football coaches instead of us handing it to them,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.

“Local teams suffer because of cuts in local authority and government spending and everyone is trying to make the best of a bad job. This is a massive slap in the face for them.

“It also comes at a time when the country has a massive obesity problem and children need to be encouraged into sport.

“If the government can find this cash for China they can find it to help keen young British footballers and coaches,” he said.

Cameron blasted over payment of £1.7bn EU bill

Local MEP Jonathan Arnott has blasted David Cameron over payment of a £1.7bn EU bill.

When the sum was demanded from Britain by Brussels last October after a review of  member states economies the Prime Minister vowed that the money would not be paid.

But it has just been revealed that, despite George Osborne later saying the bill had been halved following negotiations, payment has been made in full.

North East Euro-MP Mr Arnott, who sits of the EU Budget Committee said today,

“For Cameron to label this bill as appalling and completely unacceptable and yet pay it in full shows the sort of politics this man is wiling to deal in.

“It is deceitful, hypocritical and it stinks of the old politics of which people are sick. It truly is a case of the EU saying ‘pay up’ and Cameron saying ‘how much?’

“He has promised an EU referendum by the end of 2017 and when that long awaited day comes I hope people will decisively vote to leave – the only way to ensure we decide how our money is spent and not Brussels bureaucrats,” he said.