Thursday, 15 March 2018

When The Chips Are Down - You Know Who To Trust On Defence

Not this guy! (Picture courtesy of Guido Fawkes)
I wrote this on the evening of Sunday 11th March for this week's Crawley Observer, before Jeremy Corbyn's poorly-judged (but very predictable) statements on Russia and the Salisbury chemical weapon attack

Last week I wrote about how I won’t be watching any of the FIFA World Cup being held in Russia in June and July, because of their appalling actions in Syria. Recent weeks have seen over 1,000 civilians killed in Eastern Ghouta including 200 children. Banned chemical weapons have also been used by Syria despite Russia claiming in 2013 they would oversee their removal. I had written this before it became known that a chemical weapon had been used in Salisbury during a murder attempt, with it being pretty obvious as to which country the chief suspect is.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has rightly referred to Russia as a malign and disruptive force. We shouldn’t forget the invasion of Crimea, the major destabilising of Eastern Ukraine including the shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH17, suspected cyber-attacks on UK infrastructure and aggressive testing of UK defence capabilities by Russians warplanes.
Recent events have shown that we cannot risk letting down our guard against aggressive nations.  Against a backdrop of increasing global threats, we must make sure our Armed Forces have the resources and capabilities they need to maintain our edge against potential adversaries.

Since 2010 under the Conservatives, the UK has met the 2% of GDP target of defence spending and the defence budget will increase by at least 0.5% above inflation every year of this Parliament. The government are also spending over £179 billion on military equipment and support for our Armed Forces between 2017 and 2027.  We need to show that Britain won’t be bullied.
People know that the Conservatives are fully committed to our nation’s defence but everyone knows the same cannot be said of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. I do wonder if Russia may actually feel emboldened there is a chance of a Corbyn-led government, which may further motivate their destabilising tactics against us? 

Locally, Labour in Crawley is also weak on defence. Their left-wing financial Council boycott of the defence industry includes a major employer in Manor Royal. This is something the Conservatives will immediately reverse should we win political control of Crawley Borough Council.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

World Cup Russia 2018 - No Thanks!

Daily Mail Front Page 13th March 2018
I wrote this on the 4th March for the 7th of March Crawley Observer - before news of the chemical weapon attack in Salisbury (on the same day) had broken.

I used to think that politics should be kept out of sport but my view is changing. I recently enjoyed watching some of the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang in South Korea and supporting Team GB. Last weekend I spoke with a friend in Korea, so naturally I asked if he had enjoyed the recent Winter Olympics held in his country.

He said that he had intentionally not watched any of it, because he felt that the South Korean Government had used it for political purposes, and he disagreed with giving the North Korean regime a propaganda coup by having the joint Korean team. Some people in Korea didn’t like what was happening so they exercised their choice of a personal boycott.
I remember the sporting boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and the boycott against South Africa during the Apartheid era. South Africa were expelled from FIFA in 1976 although nowadays FIFA appears less bothered about human rights, given that just last week, FIFA’s President attended a football match in Iran where 35 women were arrested because they tried to attend the match.

As I write, Russia is continuing to oversee a devastating military campaign in Syria, with hundreds of thousands of civilians besieged and relentlessly bombed, while the rest of the world appears powerless to stop it. I note that there is outrage if a politician tweets something inappropriate but where is the outrage at what Russia is doing in Syria? Where are the protests outside the Russian Embassy? 
Yet come the middle of June, we will all be expected to cheer on our national teams as Russia showcases the FIFA World Cup - as if nothing has happened. Why are no UK or European politicians calling for a boycott of the Russian World Cup?

As a football fan, I’ve enjoyed watching every World Cup since Spain 82, but this year for the first time, I will be exercising a personal boycott and will not be watching any of it. For me, Russia’s hosting of the World Cup lacks any moral legitimacy.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

University Applications From Crawley Rise By 40% Since 2009

A fundamental reason as to why I have always been a Conservative is that I believe in aspiration and helping people to become the best they can be. One of the best ways to improve prospects for our young people is through education, with further and higher education enabling greater opportunities. I am therefore delighted to see that information released by UCAS (The University and Colleges Admission Service) shows that University applications in Crawley in 2018 have seen a 40% increase,  rising from 25% of 18 year-olds applying in 2009 to 35% in 2018.
This is great news for Crawley’s future although there is still more to do in raising aspirations, increasing educational attainment and having more skills in the workforce in a rapidly changing industrial world. Crawley is still below the national average of 37.4% of 18 year olds applying to University but the gap has significantly shrunk even though University applications have also risen across England as a whole.

No-one’s opportunities in life should be determined or limited by their background or circumstances. There is more to do, but it is also great news that the proportion of disadvantaged 18-year-olds applying to University this year is at a record high of 22.6%.
This follows statistics released last week showing that a record proportion of state school pupils are going both to University, and to highly selective Universities. 77% of young entrants to Russell Group institutions in England were from state schools, and 90% of young entrants to University more broadly came from state schools.

To enable all young people to choose the route that is right for them, the Conservative Government is also investing in apprenticeships and technical qualifications, so all of our young people are able to improve their chances and get on in life. The Government has also announced a major review of student financing, frozen the tuition fee cap and raised the repayment threshold to £25,000, which will save graduates up to £360 per year from this April. We are making real progress for our young people and seeing more than ever grasp increasing opportunities.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Mandatory CCTV In All Slaughterhouses

In Crawley we have an MP who has conviction and who makes a difference. On the 3rd of February 2015, Crawley MP Henry Smith put forward an Adjournment debate in the House of Commons calling for the mandatory introduction of CCTV in slaughterhouses. This followed the release of secret recordings that showed shocking and appalling mistreatment of animals in a slaughterhouse.

Henry stated the following at the time. “CCTV in slaughterhouses provides welfare oversight and helps prevent abuse; something, from the appalling scenes witnessed, is clearly now needed. Most supermarkets have already taken decisive action. All the major chains now insist that their slaughterhouse suppliers have CCTV installed. I am pleased to have support of over 170 MPs, and that 80,000 people have signed a petition on the Government website. Personally I've been vegetarian for over a quarter-of-a-century because of animal welfare and food sustainability reasons, but I believe the vast majority of those who eat meat also want to know that their food has been produced without cruelty."
I agreed with that and took the view that while voluntary introduction at many slaughterhouses was welcome, only the mandatory introduction can truly ensure the safeguards needed at every slaughterhouse. Henry’s efforts paid off when this subsequently became part of the Conservative manifesto in this year’s general election.

Then, last week, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced new plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England and it looks like the Welsh government is to follow suit. These rules will be phased in over the next year and Food Standards Agency vets will be able to ask to see footage of all areas where livestock are held. Any slaughterhouses found to be failing welfare standards could face a criminal investigation or lose staff licences.

While we do have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we should be rightly proud of the way in which the UK has led the way in the protection of animals, Henry Smith recognised that on this issue, there was more to be done and successfully called for positive change.  

Monday, 7 August 2017

Be It Caracas Or Crawley - Jeremy Corbyn's Socialism Never Works

Jeremy Corbyn with former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chaves   
It is desperately sad to see the ongoing suffering of Venezuela’s 32 million people and how the country has descended into a state of chaos under its far-left socialist regime. More than 100 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since April, amid shortages of food, medicine and basic provisions. Venezuela’s collapsing economy is seeing inflation of about 800% and the country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Amid the worsening situation, the Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to Venezuela and all dependents of British Embassy staff have been withdrawn. Criticism of the regime has come from virtually every other South American country as well as other western countries including the UK. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson rightly summed up Venezuela’s president by saying “Maduro is acting like a dictator of an evil regime. He has destroyed Venezuelan economy, eroded human rights and imprisoned thousands.”
Sadly, what is happening in Venezuela is an extreme example of what happens when socialism reaches its natural conclusion of running out of other people’s money. The Venezuelan president is a personal friend of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn who as of Monday morning has so far remained silent about recent events, but he and his colleagues weren’t always so quiet, having previously praised Venezuela as a model of socialism. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell once said that former president Hugo Chavez was “an example to any future Labour government in this country” while Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott once said “I think the importance of Venezuela is that it shows another way is possible”. When Corbyn and McDonnell congratulated Nicolas Maduro on succeeding Chavez, they noted his commitment to “continue Hugo Chavez's Socialist revolution in Venezuela”.

Jeremy Corbyn is due to visit Crawley on Monday 7th August to address cheering Labour Party members and Councillors who view him as a Socialist hero. While hailing Jemery Corbyn, they will be ignoring the lessons of our own political history of the 1970s and the late 2000s, as well the terrible decline of Venezuela which shows that ultimately socialism never works.