Action must be taken against legal highs

North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has today renewed calls for further action to tackle ‘legal highs’.

This comes after disturbing reports that emergency services in the West End of Newcastle were called to 90 incidents involving the drugs in less than a week.
Jonathan Arnott said, “It appears that current efforts to take these drugs off the streets are failing and more needs to be done to protect our young people.

“All of the agencies involved, from the police right through to the local council need to coordinate their efforts to really make a difference when it comes to removing these dangerous substances from circulation.”

The number of people using ‘Legal highs’ has surged in recent years, providing a cheap and readily available drug that has dangerous consequences. Seizures, unconsciousness and palpitations are just a few of the harmful side effects noted.

NORTH EAST MEP SHOCK AT EU JUDGES PAY PACKAGE

North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has expressed shock and anger over news that the total annual pay package for EU judges is now more than £225,000.

 “I am sure pensioners and people struggling to pay their tax will be shocked to hear that EU judges can earn over 300,000 euro per year.

“More shocking still is the fact that in many competence areas, EU law has primacy over that of laws made in the House of Commons by elected representatives of the British people,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.

Why are we paying a huge amount of money to people who are the final arbiters of laws we do not make?

“It is a bit like serfs paying their masters to abuse them. Well, now we wish to be the masters of our own home, thanks very much.

“The whole EU project is an expensive and corrupt racket,” said Mr Arnott, who sits on the EU Budget Control Committee.

Jonathan Arnott MEP urges Labour politicians to come clean over EU funding

A UKIP member of the European Parliament has urged Labour politicians to ‘come clean’ over EU funding. In recent weeks, there have been plenty of calls for the UK to apply for EU cash to help flooding victims and those who have lost their jobs in the steel industry, from two pots of funding known as the Globalisation Adjustment Fund and the Solidarity Fund. But UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Budget Committee, reveals that they’re not quite telling the full story in either case.

Jonathan Arnott said “The Labour Party are quick to say the government should apply for the cash, but in both cases they need to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The fact is, if we apply for EU funding for either of these worthwhile causes, the European Union will take two-thirds of the money off us by reducing our rebate the following year. For every £3 we apply for in funding, the rules say they will take £1.98 back off us. After considering that the money comes with strings attached, and the costs of applying for it, it’s really a marginal call whether we should be asking for them to give us some of our own money back or not.

“We’ve paid in our taxes to be in the European Union anyway, but if we apply for some of our own money back, they’ll take even more off us the following year. But it’s the most ardent pro-EU politicians who are the most vocal about requesting this funding. Most of them know perfectly well that most of the money will be confiscated back off us if we apply for it; it’s a confidence trick designed to make everyone feel that the European Union is on their side”

The full rules can be found online here.

My Column – Why Corbyn is bad for Labour

On the night of 6 January, I was sitting on a train back from London to my constituency; an appropriate day, perhaps, for me to have an epiphany. Reading an article on the excellent fivethirtyeight blog, Nate Silver cut through to the core of why mainstream right-wingers in America have proved unable to find a means of attacking Donald Trump that resonates: “Trump is such a target-rich environment that it’s a bit like an airplane spewing out chaff. Becomes hard to know what you’re really aiming for.”

That’s it! Exchange the word ‘Trump’ for ‘Corbyn’ in the above quote, and you’ll see what I’ve been battling with on a daily basis since Corbyn became leader. Everywhere we look, there’s a target. Do I attack Corbyn for his failure to control the Labour Parliamentary party? For his personal conduct over national anthems and suchlike? For his links to unsavoury organizations? For his utter naïveté as summed up by reading aloud the directions on the autocue? Nothing wrong with naïveté so long as you’re not auditioning for the job of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Do I attack him for such an appalling choice of shadow cabinet: a farming minister who wants to make eating meat socially unacceptable, a unilateralist and deeply unpatriotic defence secretary, a shadow chancellor whose opportunity to put Cameron under the grill turned into opprobrium for himself as he quoted Mao’s Little Red Book? Maybe I should look at his past views on IRA terrorism, or the views of his closest advisers? Or closer to home, the apparent sacking of a shadow minister who said that terrorists are responsible for their actions? This paragraph is getting longer and longer, spiralling out of control as one unmissable point after another springs to mind.

The convicted arsonist appointed to the top team in the Lords…and there I go again. I can’t help myself. Corbyn is SO bad that selecting material to attack him isn’t easy. A scattergun approach doesn’t work. The best political approach is usually to focus on one thing, almost to the exclusion of all else. But with Corbyn it is the totality that is the problem. How can you convey all of the above in a soundbite? A fog descends; uncertainty creeps in. Which of the many problems with Corbyn do I highlight? Others will take a different view to me; there’s so much to go at that it’s uncoordinated and patchy. If Corbyn had only done half as much wrong he might perversely be even more vulnerable.

There it is again; now I have the urge, for the sake of completeness, to add Corbyn’s ‘newer, kinder form of the politics’ to the list – which has been drowned in a torrent of abuse. From McDonnell’s deeply unpleasant remarks about my party, to Labour MPs blocking each other on Twitter. Whilst writing this article, I’ve noticed his denigrating remarks about teachers, suggesting that they just ‘have to stay one chapter ahead of the class in the textbook’. An abundance of ill-conceived quotes should make Trump easy to attack too. But how do you convey that message to the general public, if you’re an establishment right-winger stuck in the Washington DC clique? Just as they’re gearing up to attack Trump over his comments about women, allegations about his personal life arise. Then there’s comments about Mexican immigrants and rape, an appalling attitude to Ebola, comments about Muslims and so on. The target keeps moving.

Both Corbyn and Trump deservedly generate negative headlines. Die-hard supporters elevate ‘their man’ simultaneously to the level of a saint, and the role of a martyr being crucified by the evil media. Yet the media is merely doing its job. Neither has had a career in frontline politics. A strange thing to say perhaps about Corbyn, who’s been a politician for decades. But Corbyn hasn’t engaged with the establishment of the Labour Party in that time. He has been a campaigner for various niche causes, railing against the establishment on matters of his own conscience.

It’s commendable enough in a way, but it doesn’t train you for the pitfalls of leadership. Corbyn and Trump are both feeling their way through the intricate maze of high-level politics for the first time. They both make rookie mistakes; they both inevitably generate more negative headlines than they would even for their somewhat eccentric views. The negative headlines they attract aren’t some kind of media conspiracy, but a byproduct of them not fully understanding the level of politics they’re operating at.

Put a striker who’s played his whole career at Conference level into the Premier League, and he’ll be found out. Maybe not on natural ability but on fitness, on tactical understanding, positioning and all the things that make one league far more professional than the other. It takes time and dedicated training for the aspiring footballer to avoid such errors.

Likewise, Corbyn and Trump need to surround themselves with wiser heads, steeped in experience of the mechanics of government. But they don’t; Corbyn appointed Seumas Milne. And yet, once in a blue moon, a Conference side will spring a major upset in the FA Cup, knocking out a Premier League side along the way. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win. Likewise, Corbyn and Trump will have the occasional success. Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Trump might get the Republican nomination. Neither though is capable of winning a General Election. The final parallel? Corbyn fans and Trump fans will both hate this article. Each consider the other’s man to be an incoherent buffoon.

This column was originally published on EU Reporter and you can read it here.

Letter – The impact of EU policy on flooding

Dear Editor,

Much has been made in recent weeks about EU policy limiting dredging of rivers, and how this makes flooding worse.

But we seem to have overlooked another important issue. The Common Agricultural Policy requires farmers to clear land of ‘unwanted vegetation’ in order to be able to claim subsidies. But water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass, so every time a tree or a hedge is unnecessarily cut down we increase the pressure on the water table and the risk of flooding.

If only we could learn one thing; the same thing in both cases. When bureaucrats mess with tried-and-tested methods, the impact is usually negative.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

UKIP, North East Region

Letter – Mental health services must become a priority

Dear Editor,

Mental health services have often seemed to be the lowest priority when it comes to the NHS, under successive governments.  I believe this approach is fundamentally wrong: mental health needs to be considered as important as physical health.

Over the last 24 hours, I have learned of two alarming pieces of news.  After a psychiatric hospital in York (Bootham Park Hospital) closed, patients were transferred to hospitals in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Darlington and Durham – where services are no doubt already overstretched.

Meanwhile, demand for these services is increasing: for example, referrals to the mental health charity Mind have increased by as much as 91% in the last 12 months in Redcar and Cleveland.  Of course they do a phenomenal job, but we cannot rely upon charity alone to deal with core services at a time of NHS underfunding.  It’s time to give the NHS the resources it needs to make Britain a world leader in mental health.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

My Column – Right for All the Wrong Reasons: Times Tables by Age 11

We’re living in a technology-driven world. Calculations can be done in an instant; you no longer even need to reach for your calculator. A tablet, ipad, laptop or mobile telephone will almost certainly have a calculator function – you’re never far away from something that will help you to deal with basic arithmetic if you can’t do it for yourself.

Why, then, is learning times tables in any way relevant in a modern classroom? You’d be forgiven for thinking that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has got it wrong, yet again, when she suggests that all children should know their times tables up to 12 x 12 by the age of 11. Yet as a former Maths teacher I’m convinced that knowledge of such essential arithmetic by the end of primary school is vital. I have a sneaky suspicion though that she may be correct by accident; right for completely wrong reasons. The unions have now come out and opposed Morgan, for the puerile and overly-simplistic reason that ‘everyone has a calculator now’. I speak from personal experience when I say that this spectacularly misses the point. Shouldn’t the teaching unions be talking to the maths teachers they represent?

There’s a tendency in the Conservative Party to hark back to the ‘good old days’, to suggest that education has lost something in recent decades as trendy teaching methods have replaced the traditional, that a certain amount of learning by rote can be a useful academic exercise and develop concentration. As a former teacher, I think that’s an over-simplistic approach which has the occasional grain of truth. Different children learn in different ways. The modern approach encourages children to develop skills of problem-solving, which in some ways offers a significant advantage. But it also risks leaving other children behind. Depending on the subject, or even the topic, factual learning is vital.

When I learned Spanish at school, there was an emphasis on vocabulary and verbs. If you don’t learn the words you need to know, or learn patterns of regular and irregular verbs, you won’t be able to speak the language. As teaching of modern foreign languages has lessened its emphasis on such learning, I’ve noticed a decline in the ability of students to speak correctly in the target language. Recently, on one of the Spanish islands, I was discussing an image with a graphic designer. He made a change which I hadn’t requested, and it didn’t look right. “No, the one you had before”, I said. He undid the change, then said “When English people speak Spanish they always get the verbs mixed up. But you use them perfectly”. In Spanish (as in English) there are many past tenses. All I’d done was choose the correct one. Learn a couple of phrases which use the tenses correctly, drop them into an exam – and hey presto, you’ve fooled an examiner into believing that you know the tense. Great for picking up a decent exam grade, but unhelpful for actually using the language.

Here’s the point: factual learning should never be done for the sake of it, harking back to some halcyon days that probably never even existed in the first place. When there’s a genuine educational need, that’s a different matter altogether. There is such a need for learning times tables, but I haven’t heard it come from Nicky Morgan’s mouth.

When I was teaching Mathematics, I always found it far easier to teach a range of topics, from algebra to geometry, from trigonometry to Pythagoras, to those who already had a basic arithmetic knowledge. The difference became more striking to me when teaching older children; at age 15 or 16 it became more important than at age 11. Questions might require, say, five steps of working out. At different stages, there will be a need to perform a simple arithmetic calculation. Those who did not know the answer would either have to work it out, or (if a calculator was allowed on that examination paper) input the numbers into a calculator. The thought process was broken; in having to take time to deal with basic arithmetic they would forget some of the detail of the question. From there, mistakes would creep in. The student who knew their times tables (and was proficient in adding and subtracting quickly) was in a position to continue and solve the problem uninterrupted. Those who possessed basic arithmetic proficiency would consistently outperform those who did not. If we want to improve mathematical standards in our secondary schools, then it is important to make sure that we first improve standards of numeracy in our primary schools.

To take a more advanced example, as a personal point of professional awareness whilst teaching I made sure that I knew all of my square numbers up to 50 x 50. If you know that 10 x 10 = 100, then 11 x 9 is one less than 100, which is 99. Know that 12 x 12 = 144? Then it follows that 13 x 11 = 143. Using that simple trick, and because I knew 23 x 23, I could work out instantly that 24 x 22 = 528. After learning a few more similar tricks, two-digit multiplications became very easy for me – though no doubt politics has dulled some of my sharpness by now.

At age 11, knowing your times tables up to 12 x 12 is hugely beneficial. It doesn’t need to be done by government diktat with league tables created to show how well one school is performing against another. It doesn’t need to be a cause of stress for teachers worried about how a poor performance from their class will reflect upon them. All that is needed is for a renewed focus and emphasis on times tables in primary education. This is the point that the unions should have focused on: introducing a battery of new tests ready to be rolled out across the country is a bureaucratic waste of time and money. Morgan misses the point here once again, but at least she was correct – albeit for the wrong reasons – on the issue of times tables.

This article was originally published on the Huffington Post website. You can view it here.

UKIP MEP and former teacher Jonathan Arnott calls on Corbyn to apologise for insults to teachers

Teachers up and down the UK do a fantastic job of educating the next generation.  They prepare challenging, engaging lessons.  They motivate, encourage, discipline and inspire.  They work ridiculously long hours during term-time – the actual teaching time is dwarfed by the preparation and planning – and yes, they do get long holidays to compensate.

But yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn – who as a teenager taught a little Geography in Jamaica – slapped down hard-working teachers up and down the country in the most appalling way: “I worked out what all teachers do. If you are a chapter ahead of the class you are okay – until you have a really bright kid, and then you have got a problem.”

It sends out a message to all teachers: The Leader of the Labour Party does not value the work that you do.  To him, your professional skills are nothing more than reading from a textbook and regurgitating what you’ve read.  As a former Mathematics teacher, I speak from personal experience when I say that I know how difficult and rewarding a job it can be. It’s about having a passion for your subject, caring about the future of your students and finding ways to make challenging ideas easy to understand.

I’m disappointed that the teaching unions – so quick to attack Nicky Morgan for wanting 11-year-olds to know their times tables – have remained silent on this.  Jeremy Corbyn seems to be getting a free pass from one of the biggest insults of an entire profession by a political leader in modern times.

I call upon him to unreservedly apologise to the teaching profession for his shocking ignorance of this valuable career.

Fears over air safety scares secrecy

Worrying new secrecy rules surrounding air safety incidents have come under fire from local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

The EU has brought in a regulation which means that accounts of aircraft safety incidents, known as Mandatory Occurrence Reports, (MOR) are no longer publicly released.

Details of the MORs have been available to the media from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but the EU regulation now bans the information being publicly accessible.

“The open practice of MORS has helped ensure safety for passengers and gives them confidence when flying and this new unnecessary ruling runs counter to transparency principles,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP North East MEP.

“I believe the public should still have the right to know about such incidents but the ban also covers Freedom of Information requests. The European Union is enthusiastic about ‘freedom of movement’ but not so keen on other personal freedoms.

“The media in this country play an absolutely vital role in society and under the previous system members of the press were freely able to access information about safety breaches, such as the terrifying phenomenon of idiots shining laser pens at plane cockpits.

“Now we will be kept in the dark about potentially dangerous incidents which is plainly wrong. Such behaviour endangers the lives of those on board as well as those living near busy airports, such as Newcastle. When there are safety incidents the public should still have the right to know.

“It is the EU’s relentless drive for total power and control that lies behind the myriad regulations and directives emanating from Brussels and we must vote to leave and be in charge of our own destiny,” said Mr Arnott.

 

 

Jonathan Arnott MEP raises concerns over flooding risks

Following the floods which have caused such devastation in the country, North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has written to the region’s local authorities asking about their contingency plans.

“Local authorities play a vital role in protecting residents from the elements, particularly during cold winter months, and I am very anxious to know what provision the councils have made,” said Mr Arnott.

As well as asking if there are particular flooding concerns in their areas and which sites are considered to be at heightened risk, Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP, has also asked the Chief Executive Officers about their general winter readiness.

“I want to know how much grit is available to deal with icy conditions which will inevitably occur this winter and what contingency plans they have in place in the event of worse than expected weather conditions,” he said.

“Residents rely on their council to assist their safety and as has been shown in other areas such as Cumbria and Yorkshire flood defences have been inadequate and I do not want the same situation to arise in the North East.

“The blame for some of these disasters lies with the EU and the introduction of the European Water Framework Directive which came into UK law in 2000. This has meant that dredging – a highly effective method of mitigating rising river levels – has virtually halted.

“While not explicitly banned, the circumstances in which it may be authorised are significantly limited and involve a lengthy assessment process. Any sediment removed from the river bed, which previously may have been used to raise the river banks, is now classed as hazardous waste and must be disposed of.

“I have asked a written parliamentary question to the European Commission asking if they have plans to review the Water Framework Directive and ease the current restrictions.

“Furthermore, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has led to widespread chopping down of trees to meet farm subsidy requirements. But chopping down our trees increases the risk of flooding: water sinks into the soil 67 times faster under trees than it does under grass.

“The complete mismanagement has had a devastating impact for so many flood victims and the economic burden is estimated at nearly £6bn. The UK’s net contribution to the annual EU budget currently stands as £14.3bn and frankly funds handed over to Brussels should be redirected to help those in need here to ensure sufficient flooding defences.

“The only way to abandon EU legislation adversely affecting my constituents is take back control over own policies and leave the European Union,” said Mr Arnott.