LETTERS

A lot of fake news comes from the heart of Westminster

Dear Editor,

Fake news has become a common and controversial topic in UK politics, often blamed on Russian spy agencies and foreign powers trying to subvert Western democracies – but, in reality, it’s more likely to be generated by the power of the internet to spread information without quality control or checks. However, a lot of fake news comes from the heart of Westminster itself.

Last week, there was a controversial story about MPs voting against animal welfare – suggesting that animals are not sentient, and cannot feel pain. Traditional media platforms such as the Independent and the Evening Standard ran this story. Politicians savaged fellow MPs for their votes and huge petitions were started in opposition to this decision. There was only was problem – the story wasn’t strictly speaking true.

I have written to your paper times stressing the importance of animal welfare issues. A quick glance at this story made me uneasy: what would be the actual legal impact of a vote contained within the EU Withdrawal Bill? As a result, millions of people were unwittingly exposed to little more than political propaganda. When it turned out that the story was in fact the very definition of ‘fake news’, one story being portrayed as something else, I wasn’t surprised.

We live in an age of fake news and it has become a part of everyday life in this digital age. We must be more careful than ever to scrutinise and verify for ourselves what we read both in the media and online. I try to read both left-wing and right-wing news sources, national and regional, so that I’m able to get a feel for what’s fact and what’s opinion – and to understand the opinions of those who think differently to me.

Regards,

Jonathan Arnott MEP

The latest claims from Michael Barnier sound rather petulant to me 

Dear Editor,

There clearly is no tactic the EU will not use to try to sabotage our country’s Brexit.

The latest is a claim by their chief negotiator Michael Barnier that if the negotiations fail it will be harder to travel with pets from the UK to the EU.

It sounds rather petulant to me but highlights that they are willing to use any opportunity to try to threaten and frighten the British public. They know we are a nation of animal lovers so obviously see this as a means to scare those who travel abroad with their pets.

The EU is desperate for Brexit to fail and for us to remain tied to their apron strings because they need our money to keep their project afloat. It is no wonder they keep coming up with pie-in-the-sky divorce settlement figures and any scaremongering device they can invent.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

Research showing that rail transport in London receives six times as much funding as that in the North East is depressing reading.

Dear Editor,

Research showing that rail transport in London receives six times as much funding as that in the North East is depressing reading.

The government keeps talking about the Northern Powerhouse and investing billions of pounds across the North of England but meanwhile businesses in this region continue to suffer from poor transport links.

I have long argued that we need real action and not just hot air and yet again figures reveal that the promises are not being translated into reality.

The potential for growth in the North East is tremendous with the skills, enthusiasm and sheer hard work ethic – but we are still being let down by the powers that be. And it is not good enough.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

LETTERS

Welcome for proposals to increase prison sentences for drivers who cause death by dangerous driving

Dear Editor,

I welcome Government proposals to increase prison sentences for drivers who cause death by dangerous driving or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The plans suggest the same should apply for causing death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone and it is proposed that the current 14 year maximum should be increased to life, making it equivalent to manslaughter, which in reality is what it is.

With an automatic third reduction for a guilty plea the maximum a motorist, who admits such an offence, can receive is less than ten years and is usually less. While no sentence can bring back the life of the victim their families so often leave court feeling that justice has not been done.

Raising the limit to life will enable judges to impose higher sentences more in keeping with the gravity of the offences.

But I was disappointed to read that the Prison Reform Trust and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety do not support raising the maximum terms with the former instead suggesting longer driving bans and “community based intervention.”

Frankly that is both out of touch with public feeling and reality. A driving ban, long or short, will not deter many of the defendants whose selfish behaviour has wiped out a life.

Meanwhile I am pleased that the proposals also include a new offence is to be created of causing injury by careless driving as this fills a gap in existing legislation.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

LETTERS

The Gambling Commission has found that 450,000 children are gambling every week

Dear Editor,

Gambling is so often the preserve of the poor and the desperate. Sadly too many find themselves in such financial straits in the North East.

It is all too easy to be lured into betting and the growth of online gambling is making it even easier –  all from the comfort of your own home or even out and about with a mobile phone.

Now it emerges that bookmakers are apparently targeting youngsters by using children’s cartoon characters to promote their online service.

I am glad to see that the ASA is investigating, particularly as the Gambling Commission has found that shockingly 450,000 children are gambling in England and Wales every week.

Youngsters are particularly susceptible as playing online games is part of their culture. The Local Government Association has revealed that one in ten children aged between 11 – 15 are “following” gambling firms on social media.

It is ironic that it was a Labour government that liberalised the gaming industry allowing its evils to proliferate and it is those in its traditional heartlands, such as this region, who are paying a particularly high price.

Yours faithfully

Jonathan Arnott MEP

LETTERS

The government plans to impose vicious cuts upon the Army Air Corps.

Dear Editor,

I was deeply disappointed to learn that the government plans to impose vicious cuts upon the Army Air Corps.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have been justly criticised for their attitude towards our Armed Forces but the record of Tory governments under both David Cameron and Theresa May have been equally appalling.  Despite this record, the Conservatives tend toreceive relatively little criticism for their decisions towards our Armed Forces.

The Conservative Party like to talk big on defence spending and constantly say that they view our Armed Forces as a key priority for any government.  However, the actions of successive Tory governments have proven that these are no more than empty words designed to win votes.

Defence must always be a priority for the British Government but it appears that neither our current government nor the official opposition can be trusted to properly defend our nation and give our Armed Forces the resources and funding that they require.

What a deeply troubling state of affairs.

Regards,
Jonathan Arnott MEP