PS

I’ve just heard that there is a gathering in Beeston Square on the Trump issue tomorrow which will be followed by a petition being presented at Ms Soubry’s office.I hope to go to it and to see some of you there. Details:

Demand that Theresa May revokes invite to Donald Trump for state visit

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Do you think President Trump should be honoured by a State Visit?

Hi all,

There’s a petition which you might like to consider here, suggesting that President Trump should not be invited for a State Visit (as Mrs May has provisionally agreed). It’s nuanced in that it accepts that as head of Government it’s reasonable for him to come for discussions, during which one hopes he will hear alternative views, but that in view of his behaviour it’s inappropriate to single him out for the honour of a State Visit with all the pomp and ceremony given to special guests. If you’d like to sign it, it’s here:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

The petition has gained 400,000 signatures (0.5% of the entire British population) in less than a day.

The problem with the travel ban in particular is that it’s absurdly discriminatory and arbitrary – for example, it will prevent athlete Sir Mo Farah, a senior Conservative MP and a number of similarly harmless people from crossing the US border, even if they were already in transit. The feeble initial British Government response, that it was a matter for the US, now seems to be being belatedly adjusted, with a request that Brits might be exempted.

It’s still a bit early to be sure how Trump will turn out, but it’s rather possible that he will prove to be a disaster, and whatever our politics it’s sensible for Britain not to rush to embrace him too enthusiastically.

Best wishes

Nick

PS A number of you have asked me to post regular updates on my county election campaign. As that’s mainly of interest to friends and to people in or with relatives in Eastwood and might bore everyone else, I won’t be writing much about it on the general email list, but if you get Twitter and are interested, you can follow me at @NickforEastwood.

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Conservative policies today: against the public interest

Hi all,

As you know, I’m being sparing in my comments at the moment, but I’d like to make a few specific criticisms of where Government and Broxtowe’s local representation is taking us.

  1. Local hardline policies

Loyalty to Conservative hard-liners is now consistently trumping the public interest. The Conservatives on the County Council voted solidly against Nottinghamshire being one of the counties asking for greater help for social care, even though there is an obvious crisis and plenty of Conservatives elsewhere are among those pressing for action. Instead, the Government is cutting corporation tax on dividends, which is clearly nice for shareholders but not an obvious priority, since we already have one of the lowest rates in the developed world and we really need companies to be investing, not paying out fat dividends.

Meanwhile, Anna Soubry manages in her latest email to write over 500 words on the current crisis in hospitals without addressing the basic issue that under Government policy the NHS is not seen as a sufficient priority. She suggests that more people should go to GPs (following Mrs May’s argument that GPs need to work harder), that it’s our own fault for being too fat (hardly a new phenomenon), that it’s because we’re living longer, and because “systems can be improved”. Sorry, Ms Soubry, the basic new problem is that the Government is not funding the service adequately.

Don’t take my word for it: this is what the people responsible say:

The BMA: “conditions in hospitals across the country are reaching a dangerous level”

The Royal College of Nursing: “NHS conditions are the worst ever”

The Royal College of Physicians:”The NHS is underfunded, under doctored and overstretched”.

We understand that Government funding is tight. But do we think that dividends or health are more important? Dividends, apparently.

Going to the local level, even with something as basic as allowing Stapleford to get a good supermarket is being blocked: the Conservative council won’t allow Aldi to go ahead until they get 10 houses built. Aldi is not a housebuilder so it’s not actually in their power to ensure that the houses are built quickly, but Ms Soubry blandly implies that it’s Aldi’s fault: “With some quick and clever thinking, Aldi can deliver both a great new store and 10 much needed homes. Time to get on with it!” I understand her instinct to be loyal to the Conservative council, however obstructionist, but surely the need for the entire Stapleford community should take first priority over a handful of new houses?

  1. The Brexit deal and national priorities

There is a fairly clear choice on how to do Brexit – in a limited way that removes us from the EU but keeps our access to the single market, or a zealot way that pulls us out at any cost. Hostage to the most militant Tory backbenchers, Ms May is adopting a set of policies that involves lower public spending, more cuts to corporation tax, reduced employment rights, lower environmental standards, slower wages growth, higher prices and later retirement. This is not in the national interest, and it doesn’t reflect either the small Tory majority in Parliament or a Brexit vote which was as close as 52-48.

The underlying problem here is that the Conservatives feel comfortable with their 10% polling lead and think they can indulge themselves with extreme policies and still win. Labour has a responsibility here to pull itself together, and the last few months have been an improvement on that front though there is still some way to go. But I’d also encourage voters not to create monolithic Conservative representation in the County elections in May: if we are governed by one party at national, county and borough level, we will simply not get sensible, balanced policies. I have an interest here, as I’m standing for Labour in Eastwood, but it’s a point that goes well beyond sheer party allegiance. One-party states do not work well, and we need local representation prepared to challenge the Government.

 

Best regards

 

Nick

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Happy Christmas!

Hi all,

This is to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a merry New Year (it’s usually that way round, isn’t it?). As usual, it’s important that we all take the time to think whether we know anyone who feels lonely or isolated, as the general festivities make it an especially hard time for them – looking in for a friendly visit can make a big difference.

Politically, let’s hope for a rather less exciting 2017. We have to live with both Trump and Brexit, whatever our personal views, and it’s possible that 2017 will see Trump turning out less appalling than some of his statements implied and a serious Brexit negotiation which makes the best of the situation. It would be helpful if Britain actually had a negotiating position, rather than a series of contradictory off-the-cuff offerings from Boris Johnson and his colleagues in Mrs May’s team, but by March I hope that something coherent will emerge. From the Labour viewpoint, I think the priority is to challenge any attempt to make Britain the free-market nightmare that some in the Cabinet might like: a low-wage, low-regulation offshore tax haven with minimal environmental protection. If we’re to make Brexit work for our future and our children, it needs to be on the basis of giving us the chance to forge a better path, not merely a haven for speculators and polluters.

Further afield, perhaps the Syrian conflict will finally wind down. If so, the refugee pressures will lessen, and I hope that will allow our essential decency to come to the fore. At present, we are taking in children, but with the explicit threat to throw them out as soon as they reach 18. I don’t think that makes sense – if someone lives here from when they’re 10 years old after the Syrian nightmare, sending them back to Syria (which isn’t likely to be a stable, healthy society for many years) after 8 years growing up in Britain seems to me both cruel and a waste of opportunity. We shouldn’t confuse a widespread wish for migration controls with a wish to stamp on any chance of a decent future for those refugees whom we do take in.

At a personal level, I’m now settled back in the area, and enjoying seeing so many old friends. Even in Eastwood, which isn’t part of my former constituency, I’m meeting as lot of people who I know personally, and it’s good to be back in local politics.

With all good wishes for the holiday and 2017,

Nick

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Brexit judges…Trump…County elections

Hi all,

I’m settled back in the area now – it’s nice to be home!

Eastwood candidacy

I’ve plunged straight back into politics – I was selected recently as Labour’s County Council candidate for Eastwood. The BBC say it’s fairly unusual for a former MP to want to stand for the Council, as they 2see it as a demotion”, but I think it’s simply different – you have a much stronger focus on a much smaller area, and experience in one helps make you effective in the other.

As always, I look forward to fighting a positive campaign, helped by the fact that I like the sitting councillor (Keith Longden), who has served Eastwood for seven years, and have no intention of attacking him personally. Where i think I could contribute more is in raising Eastwood’s profile with the same energy and commitment that I applied in 13 years as an MP. Because it’s in Broxtowe, which is one of the most prosperous parts of Nottinghamshire, it tends to get overlooked by comparison with similar areas in the north of the county, but the needs are similar and the decline in services in the area is a serious issue. I look forward to a constructive campaign, and have also been out helping colleagues – yesterday in Awsworth working for our candidates Lisa Clarke and John McGrath.

Brexit passions

Like Anna Soubry and many others, I’ve been concerned by the intensity of the passions still surrounding the Brexit vote, most recently displayed by the Mail targeting the High Court judges as “Enemies of the People” and now highlighting the individual Supreme Court judges. I understand that Mr Farage hopes to organise a mass lobby of the Supreme Court with 100,000 people. Conversely, some of my friends on the Remain side are utterly furious with the outcome and keen to reverse it at the first opportunity. We all need to calm down – this is going to be a long haul and we are all in the same boat.

Some fundamental points:

First, when we have a referendum, we should respect the result, in exactly the same way as we respect a General Election result, even if we don’t like it. We’ve voted to leave, so we must work on that assumption and talk of an instant “Did you really mean that?” referendum is ineffective silliness.

Second, accepting a result doesn’t mean that everyone who disagreed has to shut up. There is nothing undemocratic in regretting a referendum or election result and hoping it will eventually be reconsidered.

Third, it is not reasonable to argue that the negotiations should be conducted on the basis of a secret agenda. Even the keenest of Brexit supporters has an interest in ensuring that it’s negotiated on a basis of getting what they want. Supporters of both Brexit and Remain have different ideas on what we should now prioritise (Free trade? Immigration controls? Workers’ rights?) and if Parliament is not involved in the discussion of our priorities then it really is not being allowed to do its job. That doesn’t mean that we need to know every detail of how we will tackle the negotiations. But we need to know the general plan, and at present the suspicion is that there isn’t actually a coherent plan at all. As one of the EU leaders said recently, “We’d be glad to negotiate with the British Government, but at present they just seem to be negotiating with themselves.”

Fourth, global examples of what happens when one tries to make the courts bend to the Government of the day or to mass demonstrations are all negative, without exception. If we don’t like the state of law – for instance, if we believe that all referendums should be mandatory, or we think that Parliament should not be consulted on negotiations – then we should elect politicians who promise to change it. That’s the democratic way. Pressuring judges to do anything other than interpret the current law on the facts really is undemocratic and extremely dangerous. The Government’s failure to defend the courts immediately is pathetic.

And finally, what happens if the package eventually negotiated is one that most people dislike? Do we press ahead anyway, on the basis of a general mandate from years earlier? Or do we at that stage have an election fought on the issue of whether to press ahead? We should, I think, keep our options open.

The US election

The intensity of the American elections and the rise to near-success of a demagogic populist who is willing to lie, to exalt in the use of power for sexual abuse, to attack the courts and to pander to racist views of entire ethnic populations should be a warning to us all. Mr Trump is close to success – even though I think he will fail at the final hurdle – because too many people feel they have been neglected and taken for granted.

I think there is a parallel to Brexit here, and we need to pay attention to people who feel left out much more actively than we’ve done in recent years. That doesn’t mean Trump-like pandering to prejudice. It means accepting that there are many people for whom our society doesn’t give a decent chance, and working to do something about it. It’s one reason I joined the Labour party, and also a reason why I remain active: we neglect our society at our own peril.

 

Best regards

Nick

PS Toton and Chilwell readers have a new website to follow and discuss local issues! See https://tcmneighbourhoodforum.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

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