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