Robbie Gibb has worked as the Director of Communications at No 10 Downing Street from July 2017 to July 2019 so he has overseen the period during which his boss, Theresa made a complete mess of her attempt at resolving our departure from the EU. The red lines he refers to in this tweet are not ones that belong to the EU but rather the ones that belong to Theresa and her colleagues. However backstops are something very different. The reason for the backstops is to address the issue indicated in the lower image which is from the Vote Leave website. People like Robbie and his Brother Nick and indeed a number of others who voted to Leave did so to close our borders. It is the closure of the borders that leads to the backstop and it is naïve to suggest otherwise.
Three days ago we all had a chance to acknowledge the Bicentenary of the Peterloo massacre which took place when ordinary people in a vital part of our nation went onto the streets of Manchester to demand that their voices and views would be responded to by giving them a vote in what was our nations rather privileged democracy at that time. Along with the tragic deaths and injuries that took place on the 16th August, it took 99 years before a really meaningful change took place and 129 years before a more complete change had taken place. There is of course another change that is needed now which is that our 17 and 16 year old citizens need to be given an opportunity to vote in future elections. This will adopt the change adopted by the Scottish Parliament over their Independence referendum 5 years ago and also the Tory party arrangements over their election for Boris Johnson a few weeks ago. However there are also some more changes that are needed. It is clear from the way in which our current Government operates that wealthy individuals and powerful trade unionists are listened to in a way that individuals who choose not to fund the Conservative Party or who are not part of Trade Unions are ignored. The nature of a true democracy has to be made much more transparent than it currently is. The way in which this change will take place seems very hard to anticipate but it is evident that the collaboration amongst smaller and more accessible political parties which is currently emerging may help to take some steps in the right direction. It is clear that around the edges of the two largest parties that some individuals are willing to move away from the centre and find new ways of representing their constituents. Let us also hope that when the next General Election takes place that many of us are willing to lay down the traditional ways in which we vote and instead look at the people we are faced with and vote for the best candidate, irrespective of which party or lack of a party they stand for. The way in which Boris and his team are carrying out policy U turns from the way they voted previously under David and Theresa, without any acknowledgement and indeed under arrogant claims of them having radical and fresh ideas should make it clear that we need a new type of democracy.
It is of course clear that the existing members of the new Government structure are not willing to admit what is happening. The day before the Peterloo Anniversary was the day when some of our young people who should have been able to vote at the last General Election were receiving their A level results. Nick Gibb, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton spoke on the Radio 4 Today programme about the hard work that A level students had carried out and he may do so again later this week when GCSE results are published. At the end of his comments about students and Universities, Nick was asked about the offer that Corbyn has made to try to resolve the Brexit chaos and the criticisms by Johnson of MPs who he claims were collaborating with the EU. Nick stated very clearly “All MPs have to take very seriously how we vote…you can’t just pick and choose which public votes you are going to abide by and which you are not going to abide by” It is of course clear that Nick’s Government has reversed its own decisions in a number of areas over the last 9 years without explaining what has changed or what they got wrong and certainly without returning to the electorate with a request for a confirmation. They of course completely failed to adopt the name of Boaty McBoatface for the ship now known as RRS Sir David Attenborough despite our votes being clearly in favour of the more amusing name. Given that there was no credible reason for changing this, then there is a clear case for taking a more effective decision over our relationship with the EU. It is certain that if we leave the EU without a deal, our nation will be deeply damaged and no one voted for a departure date of 31st October which the Government only introduced when it failed to deliver on the two previous dates. Perhaps now is the time when we need a new form of Government that involves a different set of ideas to those now being proposed by Nick and Boris and that involves some fresh faces and opinions.
This tweet appears to say it all. An apparently sweet and innocent MEP called Roger Helmer is defending another individual who as it happens is politically high profile and even more wealthy and powerful as a business man than Roger, called Arron who having been offended by a 16 year old student because she has had the tenacity to stand up and argue that our nation and the rest of the world must respond to environmental footprints which each of us make, himself took to twitter to threaten her stating:
“Freak yachting accidents do happen in August …”
This was a response to a tweet by my MP and previously my MEP Caroline Lucas who had written “Bon voyage to @GretaThunberg for her 2-week zero-carbon trip by sail across the North Atlantic”. There were certainly many criticisms of Banks, and whilst many were no doubt from people who are opposed to these two men others such as Julia Hartley Brewer who has also been a critic of Greta simply stated “She’s a child, Arron. FFS.” and Arron responds with “Quite and one being used”. Now despite his twitter handle claiming he is an MEP Roger Helmer who was a UKIP MEP until 2017 after transferring his political allegiance from the Conservative Party is no longer one. However he served the EU and the West Midlands and UKIP for 18 years, 15 years as a Tory and 3 years as a UKIP. These two men who have both frequently used social media to attack many other people clearly need to work together to protect one another now if there is a risk that they could be set upon by the supporters of a student. Its lovely that Roger Helmer maintains his MEP status even though it is two years since he resigned but perhaps it is time for him to go to this page he could work out how to change his twitter handle. At the same time he needs to avoid making things worse. After all Arron realised after the first few waves of criticism that he had taken things a bit too far. On the other hand for Roger to claim that the offensive tweet was a legitimate comment is clearly deeply concerning.
As we acknowledge two anniversaries this week, it was fascinating to discover that that there is a rather tenuous link. The celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock included an interview on radio 4 of a man who was 21 years old at the time and who ended up driving Bob Dylan around the Isle of Wight two weeks later when he came over for the Festival. The man stated very clearly that when he was 21 he was as mature as most 16 and 17 year olds are today. Role on a couple of days and today we are acknowledging the 200th anniversary of Peterloo when men and women took to the Streets of Manchester to demand a vote. Their demands would have made our modern arrangement of 18 year old men and woman having a vote look very fantastic and even very radical. However given the views of the man who drove Dylan around the Isle of Wight, it is clearly time to extend the voting rights to 16 and 17 year old citizens of the UK. This will fit in with the Scottish arrangement and indeed the Conservative Party arrangement. It will also move us into a new way of thinking when it comes to our democracy which is in desperate need for an upgrade.
A local Councillor went onto social media to explain that this is the new form of Prime Ministers Questions and it is a good way forward. The irony is that Caroline who I have met prior to her election as the Eastbourne MP should know better as she was part of PMQs herself. The point behind PMQs is that men and women who are reasonably well prepared although to be fair are party politicians so of course heavily biased on one of two directions are given the chance to ask questions and the Prime Minister has no way of avoiding the questions even though they have plenty of opportunities to ignore answering the questions, a function that Theresa May demonstrated very clearly. If Caroline and indeed Boris are in any way intending for him to be held to account they need to recall Parliament. If however there are reasons why he won’t and his colleagues can’t then the alternative if he wants to be treated with any credibility under the heading of #PeoplesPMQs is for a collection of people from a range of backgrounds and skills would be brought into settings in different parts of the UK and they would get the chance to ask questions in a context where he was forced to listen to them. The idea of using a TV based solution where his support team get the opportunity to divert the questions they don’t want him to be faced with is clearly nonsensical and not worth watching.
The commercial size of the replacement for King Alfred and the impact on our city of successful or failing contracts surely means we need to find a new way of delivering such large schemes. The news yesterday of the collapse of the Crest Nicholson scheme designed by Haworth Tompkins which emerged in 2016 is a follow on from the collapse of the Karis Holdings scheme designed by Frank Gehry which was announced in 2003. Given that the original building which is in series need of replacement or rebuilding was 80 years old last year, it seems as though we may not see a replacement until it is approaching its 100th Anniversary. As a resident of Brighton living on edge of the city in the North Eastern quarter I am a long way away from King Alfred and so I have very little knowledge of what is taking place but I do recall being involved in discussions with Chris Gilbert of QED Property who spent many hours holding discussions for buildings that were being proposed for the site that was on the edge of Brighton train station. At that time my children went to St Bartholomew School and I was helping to manage a building on the London Road which was also nearby. The last part of that area in terms of the buildings on and around the site has just been finished and Chris deserves a great deal of credit for the approach he took at the time. Based on the news pages it appears that for 2 years after the Crest Nicholson scheme was given the green or at least amber light that no meetings took place involving Councillors who had spent a lot of time arguing for their involvement raises the question of how well it can work if Councillors are part of the project management. To be fair the Brighton station site was a vacant site and clearly the King Alfred site is actively used. However every year that goes by makes the site feel even more desperate for its refurbishment or replacement. It would be interesting to know if Chris Gilbert would have a view about what the Council should do next?
After Boris was elected as leader of his party by 93,000 party members and appointed Prime Minister by the Queen two weeks ago, he began the process of putting together a Cabinet to run our nation. However he also had to end his role as a Daily Telegraph, weekly columnist which paid him £275,000 a year or £5,300 per column. One of the MPs who he appointed to a very senior role, Priti Patel was also obliged to give up a very well paid side role as she was previously earning £1,000 per hour, working for an organisation seeking to win contracts with the Ministry of Defence. The two of them have failed to submit these matters for approval in the way most ex-Ministers are supposed to do so and indeed Priti failed to submit her request at all but perhaps such matters are relatively minor as both Boris and Priti have paid a high personal price to serve our nation as PM and Home Secretary. Nevertheless according to the Government website “The basic annual salary for an MP from 1 April 2019 is £79,468. MPs also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London or their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.” The payments for the Prime Minister is £149,440 and for Cabinet Ministers £141,505 according to the Daily Mail.
So in the context of such a set of arrangements the demand above expressed by Priti Patel may not seem so concerning. However the rest of society includes many businesses and organisations for whom £36,000 a year or around £17 an hour is more than any or most of their workers earn. Indeed some businesses are paying around half of that sum to most of their staff as it is the minimum wage. One of the arguments by eurosceptics is that immigrants should not come into our nation and drive down wages. However the reverse logic applied to the majority of people that immigrants will earn twice as much as most people will also raise concerns. The big challenge is how will the existing workers from many nations be able to remain in our nation and continue to work in many of our vital settings if they are being recruited for roles that earn less than £36,000 a year. It seems inevitable that this will be a poor decision if it is adopted as we will be left without the provision for workers from abroad to fill our gaps. Just last week I was rung by the Government to ask how many overseas workers we have appointed or we need to recruit. We are not a company that does this, but many of our public sector agencies spend millions of pounds attracting workers from other nations to fill the gaps left by our lack of internal skills and trained people. Most of these recruited positions are lower down the income steps than £36,000.