It isn’t hard to understand why support for None of the Above is surging.

Dear Editor,

Yet another political conference season draws to a close. Labour floated controversial, borderline-communist policies to seize chunks of businesses and one speaker received a standing ovation for mooting taking us back to the 1920s with a general strike.

A vacuous Tory conference tinkered around the edges with platitudes, a few vague policy proposals.

Conferences shouldn’t just be an excuse for parties to talk to their own most supportive members and for MPs to pat each other on the back; they’re a chance to showcase a vision for the future to the wider public. And how did the public react? Well, a recent poll has revealed that 34% of people now think that Theresa May would make the best Prime Minister, whilst 23% preferred Jeremy Corbyn. None of the Above was in the lead with 43%.

It’s a perfect representation of the state of British politics in 2018. Theresa May leads an incompetent, divided government, unpopular even amongst her own Cabinet – never mind the public. And whilst Corbyn’s unique blend of Marxism and failure to stamp out antisemitism may appeal to the extreme left, it has failed to strike a chord with the public and Labour trail even this inept government in most polls.

Faced with issues from Brexit to the NHS, housing, infrastructure, education and policing – is this really the best the two main political parties can offer? It isn’t hard to understand why support for None of the Above is surging.

Regards

Jonathan Arnott MEP

 

Theresa May’s moves to strengthen economic links with Africa ahead of Brexit make sense

Dear Sir.

Theresa May’s moves to strengthen economic links with Africa ahead of Brexit make sense. Indeed, free and fair trade is one of the best ways to lift developing nations out of poverty. However, handing over an extra £4 billion of funding to the continent makes less sense.

If our Overseas Aid budget were ring fenced to fight floods, famines, natural disasters, and to provide clean drinking water supplies, it would enjoy broader public support.

Instead, we see example after example of money being poorly spent in pursuit of an arbitrary target of 0.7% of GDP (roughly 2% of our total tax take) in foreign aid. Meanwhile, lack of public funding in the UK (and other mismanagement) leads to a lack of medical practitioners and emergency service personnel; food banks in the UK are on the increase.

We are a generous country by nature, but that generosity must provide value for money and meet a common-sense definition of what foreign aid should be for. It should not be channeled through the European Union; the EU’s Court of Auditors does not fully monitor money once it reaches a third country’s bank account. It provides aid to oppressive regimes; contrast Iran’s appalling treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with the European Commission’s recent announcement of €50 million of aid for the Iranian regime, for example.

The appropriate formula post-Brexit is clear: cut the foreign aid budget down to size, whilst seeking to aid development through trade – getting money circulating in some of the world’s poorest countries and increasing their purchasing power.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

You only have to look at the current situation on Saddleworth Moor to realise what an important role our Army provides in times of crisis

Dear Editor,

Tomorrow (Sat) sees the annual Armed Forces Day and it is right that their essential work is highlighted, particularly when they are under attack themselves financially.

Events will be going on in various locations reminding us of their role in safeguarding our national security – and it is a role that grows ever more complex with potential cyber, biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear attacks.

But meanwhile a battle is raging about the defence budget with Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson wanting an extra £20b over the next decade but civil servants wanting personnel cuts and general uncertainty about just what sort of armed forces we should have for the future.

It is obviously impossible to know what the future holds but we must not leave ourselves vulnerable to our enemies and we must be able to defend our country. You can only pare back our armed forces so far without causing operational difficulties and it is not just at times of warfare that our troops are needed.

You only have to look at the current situation on Saddleworth Moor to realise what an important role our Army provides in times of crisis.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott,

As a former teacher I support suggestions by the Culture Secretary that mobile phones should be banned in classrooms.

Dear Editor,

As a former teacher I support suggestions by the Culture Secretary that mobile phones should be banned in classrooms.

Some head teachers have wisely already introduced such a ban, and there’s substantial evidence that others should follow that lead in the interests of their pupils.

A 2015 study by the London School of Economics stated that ‘where schools banned smartphones from the premises, or required them to be handed in at the start of the day, pupils’ chances of getting five good GCSEs increased by an average of two per cent.’

As cyber-bullying has risen, contributing to some children being anxious about going to school and even suicides, and as the range of uses of smartphones has increased (and therefore the potential for disruption of the learning environment), this issue has become more pressing in recent years.

Speaking as an ex-teacher, I always found one of the best ways to hold the attention of a class was to be prepared to be spontaneous: to use humour, to relate to students in a variety of ways. When a teacher is concerned that parts of a lesson might be filmed without their knowledge, edited and placed online to ridicule them, they’re likely to teach in a much more sedate style. This benefits nobody, least of all the students.

Nevertheless, it is not a matter for the government to wade in with both feet; it should be a decision for schools to make, with the backing of parents. It should not surprise readers to learn that I don’t believe government intervention should be the default response to every situation.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott,

The European Union seems to take umbrage whenever anyone dares to suggest that the UK shouldn’t simply accept the EU’s opening negotiating position on every issue

Dear Editor,

The European Union seems to take umbrage whenever anyone dares to suggest that the UK shouldn’t simply accept the EU’s opening negotiating position on every issue.   Michel Barnier’s latest complaint concerns defence and security.

Our Armed Forces are a key cornerstone of NATO’s defence of Europe and UK policing, security and intelligence (on a bilateral basis with every nation in Europe and through additional platforms such as the Five Eyes alliance) play a key role in policing, security and counter-terrorism operations.  None of this will change after we leave the EU, but Mr Barnier is said to be furious that the UK expects “better treatment” than some EU member states – many of whom contribute significantly less to European defence and security than we do.

Considering what the UK contributes, perhaps a better question would be ‘why shouldn’t the EU value the UK’s contribution to European defence and security’? Negotiation is about give and take; sometimes it seems the European Union expects all ‘give’ from the United Kingdom and all ‘take’ for them.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

It’s not rocket science to work out that an increase in crime in Cleveland and Durham is inevitably related to a reduction in the police force

Dear Editor,

It’s not rocket science to work out that an increase in crime in Cleveland and Durham is inevitably related to a reduction in the police force. Frighteningly, official figures have just revealed that violent crime is up in all but one police force area in the country and the biggest surge is in the Durham region.

This particular force had lost approximately 25% of their police officers since 2010 and as these figures demonstrate these cuts should not have been allowed to happen. Some organisations such as the police and NHS should be ring-fenced from austerity cuts, though money could still be spent more efficiently with less paperwork, more front-line professionals, and more scrutiny of massive salaries paid to those at the top of the tree.

Three straightforward elements are required to cut crime: criminals must fear detection, and fear tough deterrent sentences being handed out by the courts. Within such a framework, rehabilitation ‘with teeth’ is far more successful.

Appallingly our government’s actions have reduced the chance of detection, ignored the need for no-nonsense sentences and merely paid lip service to rehabilitation.

Urgent action is needed to halt and reverse this shocking increase in crime, particularly violent offences. Let us hope the government takes the appropriate actions – and soon.

Yours sincerely

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Arnott MEP

 This country is crying out for political leadership but voters are asked to choose which party they consider to be less incompetent

Dear Editor,

Theresa May has announced that she has split her cabinet into two groups to discuss various Customs Union options. This sounds like an excellent project for a A-Level politics class which is learning about Brexit, but is it really something that the UK Cabinet should be doing? Especially when this announcement was made 687 days after the British public voted for Brexit.

Theresa May came to power just a handful of days after the referendum, she knew that she came into Downing Street because of Brexit and that the issue would define her premiership. The UK should have had an agreed and confirmed position on key issues like the Customs Union within days, before negotiations with the EU even started; the fact that the Cabinet is still debating their position on this vital issue exudes weakness. It is nothing short of negligence on the part of the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile Labour has been doing all that it can behind the scenes to undermine Brexit; I’ve watched from the European Parliament as they’ve consistently voted for the European Union’s negotiating position (and generally against the UK’s). A competent opposition would realise that opposing a government engaged in negotiation primarily involves ensuring the government doesn’t give too much away, not asking it to concede more.

Thus, incompetence faces down incompetence into stalemate at the polls. This country is crying out for genuine political leadership to deliver Brexit properly, but voters are instead asked to choose which of the two they consider to be marginally less incompetent. Byrom had it right: “Strange all this difference should be, twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee!”

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

We must give our police the resources and manpower that they need to keep our streets safe

Dear Editor,

Last week the Gazette reported that violent crime on Teesside has risen more than 70% compared to nine years ago and by 12% compared to last year.  The same report stated that over the same period, almost 500 Cleveland Police posts have been lost – a fall from 1,721 in 2009 to 1,274 in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary has insisted that savage police cuts have not had a significant impact on the rise of violent crime.  By continuing to claim that police forces across the UK have the resources and the manpower required to tackle the increasing violence on our streets, the government is literally attempting (and failing) to defend the indefensible.

Preventing and reversing such a significant rise in violent crime would be a tough task for any police force at the best of times, even with the full backing of our political leaders. I am afraid that I must admit to having deep concerns regarding whether it is even fair to expect an already overstretched, underfunded Cleveland Police force to be capable of tackling this issue – especially while Cabinet Ministers continue to bury their heads in the sand and attempt to pretend that the issue simply doesn’t even exist.

The Home Secretary and this Conservative government must abandon their pathetic attempt at spin, be honest with the British public and give our police the resources and manpower that they need to keep our streets safe.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The decision to send a passport contract overseas, to the detriment of local jobs, is another illustration of why we are right to leave

Dear Editor,

I trust that the irony of the decision to award the contract for new British blue passports to a foreign company has not passed the public by.

The reason that Gemalto, a Franco-Dutch company, has been nominated over a local British company is because the UK is still (at least until Brexit) required to follow EU competition rules.

Achieving best value is always to be desired, but we should be free to choose to which company we hand taxpayers’ cash in the particular circumstances of the work involved. Sometimes the value of creating or protecting local jobs will outweigh a marginal cost saving.

The passports are currently manufactured by a firm in my constituency and so this decision is particularly painful.

Unlike many Brexiteers, the colour of our passports doesn’t really bother me. What does concern me is what they symbolise: regaining our freedom from EU rules and regulations; our ability to once again make our own choices.

The decision to send this contract overseas, to the detriment of local jobs, is another illustration of why we are right to leave.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The UK has failed for decades to build enough houses to meet demand

Dear Editor,

The UK has failed for decades to build enough houses to meet demand. In the last Budget, the Chancellor announced sufficient funding to deal with the issue – but what I fail to see from this government is a coherent plan to achieve it. Left-wingers do (correctly) speak about the need to protect the greenbelt; right-wingers (also correctly) point out that mass immigration further increases demand for housing. Both sides decry the failure to ensure that first-time buyers can get onto the property ladder.

I want to hear more about actual solutions. For years we’ve seen the private market, and social housing. But what if we were to introduce a hybrid between the two? What if government were to finance – using the existing money announced by the Chancellor – the setting up of a new Housing Corporation to build cheap, modern, modular, starter eco-homes – and to sell those houses to young people and other first-time buyers at cost price? When a young person comes to sell, years down the line, they could have a guaranteed sale back to the Housing Corporation (providing it’s kept in good condition, at an appropriate proportional profit) to be used to help someone else?

We could sell literally millions of people new, cheaper modern starter homes – and after the initial cost outlay to the government, it would be a self-financing project. Perhaps government won’t like this solution, for some reason. If not, they should be equally imaginative and think of something better!
It’s sadly this lack of vision, a lack of leadership, that currently infects modern politics. Successive dull Labour and Conservative governments have shown little imagination, little appetite for finding creative solutions to modern problems.
Regards,
Jonathan Arnott MEP