The new North East devolution plan is a political hotchpotch

News that three North East councils are believed to be going it alone on a devolution deal has been described as a “political hotchpotch” by local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

The government had declared a devolution deal was off the table when the proposal involving all seven local authorities collapsed earlier this month.

But ITV Tyne Tees has reported that Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland – the three areas that voted for a devolution deal – have got together and now negotiations are taking place with the government over forming their own separate deal.

“This is just bizarre,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.

“It would be crazy to have Newcastle and Gateshead having separate arrangements and we would end up with a political hotchpotch in the region and no actual North East plan.

“Nobody ever planned a three-Council mini-devolution scheme and I’m concerned that this will be pushed through for political reasons rather than based on any evidence to suggest it could work.

“There seems to be no overall strategy and some people would lose out in the inevitable funding postcode lottery,” he said.

North East education has been underfunded and neglected

Comments by the country’s senior schools inspector about the North-South divide in secondary education have been welcomed by North East MEP Jonathan Arnott.

“I fear that the worries expressed by Sir Michael Wilshaw,  Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, are totally justified and therefore welcome him bringing this important matter into the public arena,” said Mr Arnott.

Sir Michael has said that the growing divide in performance between secondary schools in the North and South should make us “worry as a nation” and poses serious consequences for the future.

“He is quite right that this divide must end; the youngsters of the North East deserve the best start in life,” said Mr Arnott, a former teacher and UKIP Euro-MP.

“Sadly education in the region has been underfunded and neglected in the same way as so many other aspects such as transport links and investment in industry and technology.

“Only today George Osborne has been talking about the Northern Powerhouse but we want and need action now. We have the highest unemployment rate in the country and our education standards need be among the best in the country to empower our youngsters to succeed in life.

“It is encouraging that Sir Michael singled out North and South Tyneside as areas where secondary schools are doing well and perhaps detailed analysis of why that is could help to raise standards elsewhere,” said Mr Arnott.

“We must never be complacent about education, it is vital for our country that children’s abilities are not wasted,” he added.

Jonathan Arnott MEP calls for investment not more empty words

The latest unemployment figures for the North East – showing it is still the highest in the country – demonstrate the ongoing need for investment in the region, said local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

“It is just not good enough for the government to keep muttering about the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as if that is some magic panacea.

“We need to see it put into action now – as these latest figures show. Empty words and promises mean nothing,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.

Official figures released today show that the national unemployment rate is 4.9% but in the North East it is 7.5% with the number of jobless up by 3,000 to 98,000 between May and July.

“I have repeatedly urged action to improve job prospects in the region and I don’t want to sound like a broken record but empty words don’t put food on the table.

“The difference between the North East and the UK average is now more than five times greater than it was a decade ago,” said Mr Arnott.

“It is because of our deep concerns for the North East that we have just issued ‘A Vision for the North East’ in which we set out detailed proposals for the region post-Brexit. We need positive action and UKIP is determined to show the way.”

Jonathan Arnott MEP reacts to report about problems facing girls in Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough’s MEP Jonathan Arnott has reacted to a report that the town has been branded the worst place for girls to grow up with a mixture of sadness and anger.

The report revealing that the town is the worst place to be a girl was produced by the charity Plan International UK. Having looked at factors including child poverty, educational attainment and teenage pregnancy rates it found a stark geographical divide for girls’ prospects, with inner city areas performing the worst.

Jonathan Arnott said “Last week I visited two charities in Middlesbrough (Teen Challenge and Tickle The Taste Buds) working with people at risk of substance abuse and to combat homelessness and provide support for families who simply can’t cope. I know that the charitable sector is doing phenomenal work, and I think it’s vital that we recognise the positives as well as the negatives.

“I hope that this report doesn’t result in people talking Middlesbrough down, especially at a time when there seems to be the prospect of some development and even the football team is on the way up!

“But nobody should be under any illusions about the reality of the lives of those hit hardest by poverty in Middlesbrough. It can be no coincidence that the town has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country with the North East region topping the regional figures again last month with 7.6% unemployment,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP.

The charity is calling for girls’ committees to be set up, mandatory sex and relationship education, and greater cross-departmental government cooperation to address the problems which include daily harassment.

Mr Arnott said, “We already have mandatory sex and relationship education in this country. This must be age-appropriate and I’ve consistently opposed calls for this to be extended to children as young as five. But the report is absolutely right to say that girls are being let down and we all have a responsibility to eradicate this situation.

“The North East is the region of the country most in need of improvement across the board and I fear only when that happens will the inequalities facing girls and young women be remedied.”

Last week, UKIP launched its Vision For The North East which demanded a fairer deal for the North East in terms of funding and a range of policies to create jobs and get the economy moving again.

A vision for the North East

The UK Independence Party has today (Tue) launched a major new document which sets out UKIP North East’s proposals for a vibrant region post-Brexit,  proving that UKIP is here to stay as a major Northern political player for years to come.

‘A Vision For The North East’ is the Party’s response to false claims that UKIP is no longer relevant, and while the national Labour Party splits apart UKIP is working on consolidating its role as their main challengers in the North East.

From rebuilding our fisheries to upgrading our roads, from business rates to proposing new Veterans’ Centres in our cities to look after ex-forces personnel, the document covers ideas for how the North East can be turned around.

With the economic gap between the North East and the rest of the country having grown dramatically in recent years, the region has the highest unemployment in the country – and the difference between the North East and the UK average is now more than five times greater than it was a decade ago.

Local Euro-MP Jonathan Arnott said, “For far too long the North East has been abandoned and ignored by our governments. It’s time for us to fight for a fair deal in terms of funding, but also for our national government to understand the needs of local business and manufacturers.

“We’re a region that builds things, that makes things, that sells things. Our government and councils should be doing everything they can to make that easier.”

UKIP’s North East Regional Chairman Cllr Steve Turner added, “UKIP is all about bringing power back to the people, and that’s what the Party stands for in local government.

“We oppose the council Cabinet system, support local referendums and are the only Party to operate a no-whipping system because councillors should represent local people not Party bosses.”

The timing of the new document – just 10 days before voting closes in the UKIP Leadership Election – demonstrates that the regional Party is determined that the North East is not forgotten by the candidates at this critical time.

It is laying down the gauntlet to the leadership candidates to remember that the North East is crucial to the future of UKIP. The Party’s share of the vote at the last General Election was higher in the North East than in any other area of the country.

 

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Statement on the UKIP leadership election

Over recent weeks, I have been amazed by the amount of support that I’ve received from ordinary hard-working UKIP members for my leadership campaign. It’s not a headline-grabbing campaign because it’s a campaign of unity, a campaign to bring this Party back together after all of the turmoil that we have seen since the referendum. My view is that there actually isn’t that much wrong with UKIP’s actual policies; rather, I want us to develop our messaging to appeal to a broader spectrum of the public than we’ve previously reached. I believe firmly that the Party requires internal reform, and that I have the necessary skills to deliver on that.

In an increasingly media-driven campaign, these messages are not ones which are likely to make the front pages. Nor am I prepared, as some have urged me to do, to abandon my principles and adopt a strategy of courting controversy in order to gain column inches. Indeed, my belief is that UKIP must become a grown-up political party which is capable of taking on the political establishment on their own grounds. I want to see a UKIP which isn’t frightened to talk about the economy, a UKIP which will discuss the future of our NHS, a UKIP which champions excellence in education which goes far beyond Grammar Schools, a UKIP which has at its core a belief in people power and Direct Democracy, and a UKIP which will declare war on the crime which blights so many working-class communities. I want to see a UKIP which is more professional in taking the fight to our opposition in the target seats.

Oddly I have been criticised by some for stating that we need tougher policies on animal welfare in this country. I’m told, as we all already know, that courts already have the power to jail those who video themselves torturing defenceless animals to death. That is so, but the maximum sentences are absolutely derisory and courts on a regular basis are not jailing those who do it at all. I’ve used this in speeches as just one symptom of the malaise that has overtaken our criminal justice system.

I’ve attended all of the Party’s internal leadership hustings so far. The format has allowed me to develop a platform, though actual debate between candidates has been limited. I have learned that I have significant support in the North of England, and indeed I am convinced that I am leading the race across the North. Yet it is a fundamental of the UKIP membership that the majority of members do not hail from the North of England; I would need not merely to be leading in the North of England but to have an absolutely overwhelming level of support in the North to have any realistic chance of winning the leadership election.

I’ve built a level of support for my campaign which would no doubt be sufficient for a second-place finish nationally, but no more than that – and there is no prize for a silver medal in a leadership contest. We are in the process of electing a new leader of the UK’s third political party. This should not be taken lightly, and the only reason for standing is for a candidate to believe that they can meaningfully aim to win the ballot. I do not subscribe to the view that anyone should stand to raise their own profile; we are in the middle of a very serious endeavour.

I have also been let down badly by those who have said one thing in private and done another in public. That’s politics, but UKIP should be better than that.

In a smaller field of candidates, there would be a massive chance for a uniting, positive, compromise candidate to win. That is not the race that we are in. Having spoken at length to colleagues, friends and family over recent days, I have come to the conclusion that it is appropriate at this time for me to step down from the leadership race. This will provide sufficient time for my supporters to endorse another candidate, whoever she may be. I wish them all the best. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all of those who have worked on my behalf and supported my campaign, and to thank the MEPs, AMs, councillors, branch and regional chairmen and others who signed my nomination papers and endorsed my campaign. Your support, encouragement and help will not be forgotten.

Having gone from election campaign to referendum to leadership election campaign in the last six months, everything has been an emotional rollercoaster. I now intend to take a few weeks out, to take a holiday and to reconnect with personal friends I haven’t had chance to spend time with lately.

I shall continue to monitor future developments in the leadership election with interest. I have not yet fully made up my own mind which other candidate to support, and until I am fully convinced in my own mind I am not prepared to endorse any other candidate.

I wish the future leader of UKIP all the best.

Jonathan Arnott MEP welcomes investment from GlaxoSmithKline

The decision by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to invest £275m at its UK manufacturing sites including in County Durham has been welcomed by local MEP Jonathan Arnott.

“This is great news not just for the local area but for Britain in general and I am delighted with the firm’s view that despite Brexit the country remains an attractive location.

“There was such doom-mongering about the economic future of the UK before the Referendum vote but already we are seeing that the fears were exaggerated beyond belief and the GSK investment decision demonstrates this,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP MEP for the North East.

The company, which has nine sites employing a total of 6,000 people, will invest a total of £92 million at the Barnard Castle site to build a new sterilising facility.

“Investment is desperately needed in my constituency which repeatedly comes out the worst in the country in terms of employment, wages and house prices. I earnestly hope that this GSK decision will be mirrored by other firms.”

Mr Arnott, who is standing for leadership of UKIP following the resignation of Nigel Farage, added, “Regardless of whether I become leader or not I will continue to do everything I can for the North East which has been shamefully neglected for decades by successive governments.”

Jonathan Arnott MEP announces bid for leadership of UKIP

UKIP’s Jonathan Arnott has announced his candidacy to be the party’s leader following the resignation of Nigel Farage.

Mr Arnott, 35, MEP for the North East, aims to reach out to the 13.6 million people who voted to leave the European Union on June 23 but who did not feel able to support UKIP at last year’s general election.

A former mathematics teacher, Mr Arnott is keen to develop a more unified UKIP with a wider appeal to all British citizens.

Speaking about his intention to speak directly to the millions who voted for Brexit but not necessarily for UKIP, he said: “These people voted for Brexit in a democratic election and our government must be held to account, to ensure that ‘no’ really does mean ‘no’ and that Brexit really does mean Brexit.

“It is increasingly clear, following Andrea Leadsom’s abandoning the race to become Prime Minister, that the establishment is organising itself for ‘business as usual’.

“Worryingly, under the new Prime Minister Theresa May, negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will be in hands of those who do not actually want us to leave.

“The Labour Party is of course in complete disarray, so quite frankly UKIP represents the only alternative to the establishment and will be the only unifying force for Brexit.

“Since June 23, the entire DNA of UKIP has changed. We are no longer a party of protest, but a party of the future.

“There are many challenges that lie ahead but first we must hold the government’s feet to the fire to enact the will of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit in the referendum.

“I envision a party which will use the opportunity provided by Brexit to create jobs for working people, to protect our steel industry and manufacturing, to rebuild our fisheries and deregulate our small businesses.

“We will stand up for the working people who Labour ignore and the Conservatives despise. And we will be the party that stands up for our small businesses, helping them to create jobs and become the big businesses of tomorrow.

“We are not anti-immigrant or anti-immigration, but we are fiercely opposed to uncontrolled mass net immigration, which drives down wages and ultimately costs jobs.

“We’re finally moving power back from Brussels to Westminster, but now we must campaign further to devolve that power from Westminster to the people.

“I do not fear taking on the rudderless Labour Party in its heartlands. In my region, the North East of England, I led the UKIP fight at the 2015 general election.

“We went from having below-average UKIP results in 2010 to gaining the highest UKIP share of the vote of any region in the country and we stand poised to gain Westminster seats.

“My two years as local elections co-ordinator, and six as the party’s general secretary, have given me an intimate understanding of the internal workings of UKIP and I propose constitutional reform that will achieve a dynamic, democratic party where the views of grassroots members and branches have greater input.

“Standing for leader has not been an easy decision for me to make, as I know the level of hard work and commitment that will be required.

“I have nothing but praise for the way that Nigel Farage, the greatest orator in modern politics, was able to devote so much time and energy to UKIP.”

Jonathan has been MEP for the North East since 2014. Prior to being elected he was the party’s general secretary for six years.

He enrolled at the University of Sheffield aged just 15, having gained his ‘A’ levels three years early, leaving after having attained a Masters in Mathematics.

He went on to become head of mathematics at a school in Sheffield before entering politics.

A skilful chess player, and former Yorkshire chess captain, Jonathan has also played for Britain at the board game Stratego. He is married and lives near Middlesbrough.

Mr Arnott has written a book about chess and more recently authored: “The Blueprint: Our Future After Brexit.”

Response to the Chilcot report

Many MPs voted for military intervention in Iraq, at the behest of Tony Blair, and have since changed their minds on the basis of what has happened since.

I opposed it at the time, largely because of the shifting reasoning. We were told that it was about support for terrorism. When that couldn’t be proved, we were then informed that it was about weapons of mass destruction. Finally, we were given the reasoning that it would help the Iraqi people.

But without a credible plan, there was no guarantee that it would actually help anyone. The rise of ISIS proved much worse than I, or many of us, could ever have imagined.

If the reason for war keeps changing, then it begins to look like an excuse: a government which was desperate to give any rationale it could think of for going to war, irrespective of evidence. War is not something which should ever be entered into lightly, or without due consideration and contemplation. It is the most solemn duty of any government, under the leadership of any Prime Minister. For that reason I opposed it.

Now the Chilcot report has been published, we know more than we did. It will take time to absorb such a lengthy, detailed and nuanced report. The report is hugely critical of the Blair administration, for example:

“Military action at that time was not a last resort.”

“The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.”

It also questions how the legal basis for war was decided.

Blair told Chilcot that much could be seen only now with hindsight; Chilcot blew this out of the water: “We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”

The comments in the Chilcot report go beyond what I was aware of at the time; if the evidence available to the Blair government was even more overwhelming at the time, how could Blair and his cabinet possibly have gone along with it?

Robin Cook did not. He resigned from the Cabinet, being unable to accept collective responsibility on the war. His comments at the time were telling:

“On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own. Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.”

Why didn’t more of the Labour Cabinet, who were in full possession of all the facts, speak out at the time?

There will be many questions that should be asked in the coming days but one will be pivotal. How did Labour get things so badly wrong, and how can we prevent war ever being entered into so lightly by a British government again?

Statement on the upcoming UKIP leadership election