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

How can any Councillor look their constituents in the eye and defend Council policies which prioritise investing in a hotel company over providing frontline services for residents

Dear Editor,

Last year I was very vocal in my opposition to plans from Stockton-on-Tees Council to invest in a Hilton hotel.   At a time when local residents were been faced with simultaneous Council Tax rises and cuts to key services I felt the the mere idea of investing in a luxury hotel was absurd.  However, in the end the Council ignored all of those who opposed this plan and invested in Hilton anyway.

Imagine my surprise last week when I learned that the Council which was more than happy to invest huge amounts of money in a hotel had decided to raise Council Tax by 6% – the highest rise of any Teesside council.

When many people are struggling to simply make ends meet and evermore people are relying on foodbanks to feed their families, how can any local Councillor look their constituents in the eye and defend Council policies which prioritise investing in a billion dollar hotel company over providing frontline services for local residents?

Council Tax appears to be on the rise all across the North East, but I am sure that your readers will agree that this decision by Stockton-on-Tees Council was particularly egregious.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The narrative surrounding hospital services in Hartlepool must change

Dear Editor,

I welcome the announcement from Alan Foster that maternity services will not be centralised at James Cook University Hospital as had long been feared.

The loss of Hartlepool’s A&E services is still a major issue for the area and it is very clear that local people want key medical services to remain at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

The narrative surrounding hospital services in Hartlepool has long centered around talking about which services will be cut, removed or reduced; this must now change to a discussion about how to improve existing services such as the midwife-led maternity services and how to increase provision for those requiring emergency care.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP