David Burrowes and Nickie Aiken: Coming to you soon. The family hubs revolution.

This week’s National Family Hubs Fair and Conference brought together around 50 organisations that are committed to supporting families.

David Burrowes is Executive Director of the Manifesto to Strengthen Families and was MP for Enfield Southgate from 2005-2017. Cllr Nickie Aiken is the Leader of Westminster City Council.

This week in Westminster whilst MPs attention was on Brexit, a revolution began. It took place within the eight minute distance it takes to get to the division lobby in the Commons. But it was not about votes or Parliamentary plots – and certainly not about Brexit. It was the first National Family Hubs Fair and Conference. That does not sound too revolutionary, but these family hubs are transforming the lives of children and parents up and down the country, and are carrying the torch for the Government for when its attention returns to the domestic policy agenda.

The National Family Hubs Fair and Conference brought together around 50 organisations and family hub areas who are committed to supporting families. It was initiated by the Manifesto to Strengthen Families (led by Fiona Bruce and Lord Farmer in 2017 and signed by 60 MPs and several peers), which had a key recommendation: that the Government “encourage every Local Authority to work with voluntary and private sector partners to deliver Family Hubs, local ‘one stop shops’ offering families with children and young people, aged 0-19, early help to overcome difficulties and build stronger relationships…and put in place a transformation fund and national task force to encourage Local Authorities to move towards this model”.

Westminster Council did not need any encouragement, because it has been on the journey of service integration for many years. An integrated leadership team, consisting of statutory and voluntary organisations, oversees the development and work of the hub, and is committed to developing a shared approach through sharing of information, assessments, meeting processes and, importantly, their resources.

The significant funding challenges for children and family services mean that councils have to integrate, but in Westminster we have done it to improve and expand the reach of our services. We have shifted to a Family Hub model as a natural evolution from Sure Start Children’s Centres, realising that parents of older children (five plus) need and were asking for the same integrated support. We have launched the Bessborough Family hub as one of three hubs, supporting families with children across the age spectrum from under one to 19. As well as a physical building, the hubs will be a network of providers working across a given area.

All this sounds like management changes rather than a revolution but what we heard at our conference is that in Westminster and across the country in places like Chelmsford, the Isle of Wight and Rochdale, family hubs are tackling at source the biggest social problem which is relationship and family breakdown.

A lack of readily accessible early support for families with children aged from between under one to 19 who experience difficulties in their parenting and couple relationships and in their mental health threatens to undermine efforts to narrow the education attainment gap. It also fuels crises in social care services which are faced with unremittingly high numbers of children who are ‘in need’, on child protection plans, and coming into care.

Over half of referrals to children’s services come from the police, schools and health services, for whom the child or family’s presenting need was significant enough to require more help than they could offer. Yet without additional help many of these families will, sooner or later, require costly social services interventions.

The family hubs developing across the UK are key to tackling the “burning injustices” which the Prime Minister has identified as her mission – identifying families with complex needs as early as possible, no matter which service they come into contact with; preventing family breakdown; preventing children from going into care and from entering the criminal justice system; helping parents to gain employment; providing access to first-line mental health support to reduce referrals to higher level, more costly intervention.

Family Hubs are delivering significant outcomes: children and young people feeling safer; families being helped to improve parenting and children’s behaviour; better emotional wellbeing of mothers and children in the perinatal period and beyond; good lifestyle choices; more resilient families who can respond well to crises and cope with shocks; young people having strong attachment to at least one adult; and people being connected to and involved in their local community.

Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families, opened the Family Hubs Fair and expressed his support for family hubs and highlighted the £8.5 million LGA fund to support delivery of best practice. He then poignantly went off script to talk about the Valentine’s Day card he had received from his daughter Mia, and those strong relationships between family or friends which we all want in life.

Andrea Leadsom later took time out of a busy Brexit day to deliver a speech outlining her work as Chair of the Inter Ministerial Group for the Early Years. She emphasised the progress being made in supporting the crucial attachment between parent and child in the perinatal period and beyond and the implementation of her 20 years of experience encapsulated here at www.1001criticaldays.co.uk.

The call for early intervention is not new, but now there is a clarion call for leadership nationally and locally so children and family services can not only survive but thrive through partnership working of innovative Councils such as Westminster developing family hubs. So look out for a family hub coming to you soon and join the family hubs revolution!

ICYMI: Jo tears into Theresa May for claiming credit for shared parental leave

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave. As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s […]

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave.

As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s claim.

And afterwards, with the help of some excellent gifs, she took to Twitter to rip the Tories to shreds on workers’ rights. She highlighted the times in the coalition when we fought against them. And there was a touch of humility as she said that we might not always have got it right, but we sure as hell battled every day. Here’s are the highlights:

This is my favourite:

I like unrestrained, confident Jo telling it like it is.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

EDP/EADT Article: Is it Time to Axe HS2 & Spend the Money on Local Rail Schemes?

Britain used to lead the world in visionary transport projects. Whatever happened to those halcyon days when someone invented something and within a few years it was built? I’ll tell you what happened. Our sclerotic planning system happened. It r…

Britain used to lead the world in visionary transport projects. Whatever happened to those halcyon days when someone invented something and within a few years it was built? I’ll tell you what happened. Our sclerotic planning system happened. It really is the roadblock to everything.

Think how long it took to build the M25, or Stansted Airport. Or Terminal Five at Heathrow. I remember organising a conference on a third runway at Heathrow in the early 1990s. Nearly 30 years later I still doubt I’ll see it built in my lifetime. More recently, Boris Johnson’s visionary idea of a new London Airport in the Thames estuary was killed off without anyone really giving it a fair wind.

This week focus has switched to HS2, the proposed high-speed railway linking London with Birmingham, then Manchester and Leeds and eventually Glasgow. We were told initially that it would cost £30billion. The cost has now almost trebled.

The business case for the railway appears to be collapsing, given the revelation that the number of trains per hour has been cut from 18 to 14, and even those would run more slowly than originally predicted. People question whether the extra capacity is really needed given the fact that in rush hour trains are currently running at only 73pc full, and off peak 43pc full.

This week, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, presented by the economist Liam Halligan, revealed that the project has so far eaten up more than £4billion of taxpayers’ money and in future that amount will be spent every single year. Coincidentally £4billion is the amount spent every year on the maintenance of the entire UK rail network.

Costs on the HS2 project are spiralling out of control. HS2 employs no fewer than 17 PR companies to ram their propaganda down our throats and yet polls show the public has turned against this project in a massive way. This is hardly surprising given the complete failure of politicians and railway experts to convince us that it is anything other than a white elephant scheme whose only beneficiaries will be rich businessmen who will get to Birmingham 15 minutes more quickly than now.

Liam Halligan argues that the country would get much better value if it invested the money being spent on HS2 in providing new lines and new services across the country, especially in the North. You can see his point. Look at the railways in East Anglia, for example. Imagine the benefits to our regional economy if just a fraction of the £87billion earmarked for HS2 were spent upgrading the Liverpool Street to Norwich line. Or the line linking Norwich to Cambridge. Or the line linking King’s Lynn to London. What about spending some of the money restoring some of the local railways axed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s. The benefit to the local microeconomy could be breath-taking.

There are plans to link the North Norfolk Railway at Holt to Fakenham and Dereham. Campaigners continue to argue for the Haverhill to Cambridge line to be reopened, and you 
can see why. When the line was closed in 1967 the population of Haverhill was 9,000. It’s now 30,000, with a further 10,000 increase expected in the next decade. The Campaign for Better Transport has identified a myriad of new railway proposals in our region and across the nation, at a cost of £4.8billion. The problem is that if any of these schemes were implemented, they would also inevitably be bogged down in the planning process, with all sorts of vested interests and ‘Nimby’ viewpoints coming to the fore. It’s a wonder any new infrastructure is ever built. Perhaps we need to copy the Chinese, who seem to go from idea to implementation within a few months. Obviously, I jest, but there must surely be a happy medium.

To govern is to choose. The governments of the 1960s made some disastrous choices in implementing the local line closures recommended by Dr Beeching. Are our current politicians making the wrong choice in going ahead with HS2, rather than spending the money on local schemes?

Visit the EDP website.

Changes to electoral law passed this week will help disabled candidates

An order passed by the House of Lords this week will mean that expenses reasonably attributable to a candidates’ disability will no longer count towards their election expenses. The Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, told the Lords: Examples of such expenses include, but are not limited to, British Sign Language interpretation for hearing-impaired candidates, the […]

An order passed by the House of Lords this week will mean that expenses reasonably attributable to a candidates’ disability will no longer count towards their election expenses.

The Minister, Lord Young of Cookham, told the Lords:

Examples of such expenses include, but are not limited to, British Sign Language interpretation for hearing-impaired candidates, the transcription of campaign material into braille for visually impaired candidates and specialist equipment. This order will also exclude expenses funded from grants provided through the Government’s interim EnAble Fund for Elected Office from electoral spending limits. This £250,000 interim fund will support disabled candidates and help cover disability-related expenses that people might face when seeking elected office, such as those I have listed

Our John Shipley welcomed the proposal:

I thank the Minister for explaining this order and I want to record that I agree with it. It is entirely appropriate that any disability-related expenses in elections should be exempt from spending limits, on principle. That is because it helps disabled candidates to stand for election on equal terms with others. I noted the Minister’s comments about some objections that may have been raised on some of the details—but none is more important than the overall principle of equality of opportunity.

This order is in force now for the May elections.

But it isn’t any use to disabled candidates unless we actually help them with the costs of getting elected. 

If the Government is serious about getting more disabled people into elected office, they are going to have do put more than £250,000 into it. There are thousands of Council seats up for grabs. That £250k is not going to go very far. If you had one disabled candidate per parliamentary constituency, all 650 of them, and you consider that  BSL interpretation can cost £130 for half a day, you can see the problem. The previous Access to Elected Office fund at £2.5 million wasn’t enough.

If we are truly serious about making our Parliament more diverse, we need to put the cash in to help people to stand.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Newslinks for Saturday 16th February 2019

Brexit 1) Trump offers trade boost “Donald Trump last night gave Britain a massive boost by declaring that trade between… Read more »

Brexit 1) Trump offers trade boost

“Donald Trump last night gave Britain a massive boost by declaring that trade between the UK and the US will be “very substantially increased” after Brexit. The US President announced that the special relationship will be “strengthened further” following a new mutual trade arrangement agreed by both countries worth at least at least £12.8billion a year for trans-Atlantic trade. He also significantly raised hopes of a wide-ranging free trade deal between the UK and US by insisting he wanted to see Trans-Atlantic business significantly increased. UK and US officials signed a “Mutual Recognition Agreement” earlier this week which will mean current trade relations between the historic Western allies will be preserved after Britain quits the EU.” – Daily Express

>Today: Columnist Nick Hargrave: The capitalism of the future demands a bigger role for the state

Brexit 2) EU/Irish solidarity “will not diminish”

“Anyone believing the EU’s solidarity with Ireland may diminish is in for a “nasty surprise”, the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) has said. Leo Varadkar made the comments during the All-Island Civic Dialogue conference in Dublin Castle. The event aims to discuss the implications of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union on 29 March. Mr Varadkar added: “Ireland’s concerns have become the European Union’s concerns”.” – BBC

  • Merkel fears Ireland’s border stance is giving Brexiteers ammunition – Belfast Telegraph

Brexit 3) PM warned of “mass cabinet resignations”

“Theresa May has been warned of a mass walkout of up to seven Cabinet members if she fails to prevent a no deal Brexit, as a minister demanded a free vote on the issue. Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Scottish Secretary David Mundell and Justice Secretary David Gauke are among those said to be prepared to resign so they can vote to block no deal later this month. In total, more than 20 ministers of Cabinet level and below are “ready to stand up and be counted” according to one of those who is prepared to quit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Minister is itching to thump ‘jaunty’ Brexiteer after vote – The Times
  • Sturgeon can end threat of no-deal if she wants to – Brian Wilson, The Scotsman

Brexit 4) Forsyth assess chances of the Cooper/Boles amendment passing

“Another effect of Thursday night’s defeat for the Government is that it increases the chances of the Cooper amendment passing on February 27. This would compel the Government to seek an extension to Article 50 if Mrs May hasn’t won Parliament’s support for an exit deal by March 13. One Cabinet minister, with close links to several of the ministers who might quit to ensure this amendment goes through, tells me it is now “much more likely” to pass. This Secretary of State complains that the Government’s defeat “makes it harder to make the argument that we should hold our nerve” as “the best evidence for holding your nerve was that the outcome would be the same as when the Brady amendment went through”….Other Cabinet ministers aren’t so sure Cooper will pass. One tells me: “I don’t think the ministers will resign, and if they don’t resign, then it doesn’t pass.” If Cooper does go through, politics will enter into an even more unpredictable phase. One May Cabinet ally is predicting a general election if this happens.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

  • February 27th vote could be momentous – Leader, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Letwin’s wildcat executive would reduce ministers to marionettes

Brexit 5) Macron “backs” legal binding concessions to make the backstop temporary

“France and other European countries are ready to give Britain legally binding assurances that the Irish backstop is temporary. President Macron of France has softened his line in recent weeks to aid a last-ditch attempt by the EU to help get the withdrawal agreement across the line next month. Senior European diplomats said that the government would be given enough in the way of legal assurances to persuade Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, to change his legal advice. He has previously warned that the backstop could be used trap Britain in a customs union.” – The Times

  • Barnier says May’s strategy has “failed” – The Guardian

Brexit 6) Abuse forces female MPs to move house

“Female MPs have been forced to move house and hire bodyguards as tensions over Brexit fuel intimidation and abuse, The Times can reveal. Some MPs have been bullied into changing their position on crucial votes after being targeted by extremists, according to senior figures such as Harriet Harman, the former deputy Labour leader. One female parliamentarian has been advised by police not to travel at night on her own, another has been told not to drive herself and a third has been advised not to run in her local park. Several of those targeted say that police are failing to clamp down on the threats and in some cases are siding with the abusers.” – The Times

Brexit 7) Boles denounces “zealots” who want a new UKIP

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, says Nick Boles. Having twice almost died from cancer he is not afraid of attempts to deselect him by his Grantham & Stamford constituency where he has been an MP since 2010….The Conservative Party, he believes, is only successful when it’s pragmatic but “it’s got an ideology now and you either sign up to it or you are a traitor”. Jacob Rees-Mogg “may be polite and well dressed and good fun, but he’s a zealot. Steve Baker is a zealot. A bit of pepper in the soup is never a bad thing, but I’m not happy for my party to be run by zealots and at the moment Theresa is basically allowing them to run the party.” – Interview with Nick Boles, The Times

  • ‘Purple Momentum’ Tory activists planning deselection ambushes – Daily Telegraph
  • Soubry complains that ex-UKIP supporters are involved in deselections – Daily Mail
  • Democracy-hating Remainers are the true extremists – Michael Fabricant, Daily Telegraph
  • Hardline Brexiteers could trigger a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party – Tobias Ellwood, Daily Telegraph
  • Principled? No, the hard Brexit mob just want to burn the house down – Jack Doyle, Daily Mail

Brexit 8) EU may drop demand on Ireland to set up hard border if there is “no deal”

“The leaks from Brussels have begun. Unnamed EU “diplomats and officials” have floated the subject of a temporary opt-out for Ireland in a no-deal Brexit. Dublin will not have to erect customs infrastructure or police the outer limits of the single market immediately. There will be a transition. Officials told Reuters that Ireland will ultimately face checks on its own exports to Europe or face being kicked out of the EU customs union if it refuses to put up a trade border against Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal.” – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 9) Moore: A new centre party won’t succeed if it focuses on Remain

“When Tony Blair, Andrew Adonis, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Leslie, etc. run round shouting for Remain their eyes swivel and they start shouting like that crazy German who runs Airbus and thinks he ought to be running Britain’s trade policy. They speak all the time, but they have nothing to say about the post-crash problems of our age. People nowadays think of Mr Blair as untruthful, but the fundamental message with which he won three times was true. Under me, he was saying, Labour is non-tribal, centrist, pro-markets, open to all classes, open to the future. In their rage against Brexit, his heirs (and he himself) neglect that future completely.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 10) Parris: It’s the EU that is running down the clock

“Now to that quieter clock-watcher: a creature of my imagination, representing our EU fellow members and their negotiating team. His sardonic smile broadened a little at Thursday’s news from the Commons division lobbies. He knows what we British tend to forget: that it is not within Britain’s power to “rule out” a no-deal Brexit. Not unless we’re saying we would in the end submit to whatever our fellow members dictate. Hence the smile. If (as I believe, and as the rest of the EU probably suspects) no-deal is unthinkable to us, and if MPs cannot accept the draft deal that Downing Street has concluded, and if the clock is ticking, then when’s the best moment (from Brussels’ viewpoint) to turn the screw? Now or at the eleventh hour?” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Grayling under fire, as probation firm becomes insolvent

“Chris Grayling was under fire on Friday night as a private firm to whom he awarded a probation contract to monitor thousands of offenders went into administration after warnings it put the public at risk. Working Links, a company charged with supervising the rehabilitation of 20,000 offenders, announced its insolvency on Friday, three months after an investigation by inspectors uncovered serious failings in its operation. It was awarded the contract in 2014 when Mr Grayling was Justice Secretary as part of his reforms to privatise the probation of low and medium risk offenders. Its work will now be taken over by another private contractor Seetec.” – Daily Telegraph

Harper “planning leadership bid”

“Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper is gearing up to run for the party leadership when Theresa May quits, The Sun can reveal. Friends of the MP, who was sacked by Mrs May when she moved into No10, have been trying to drum up support for his leadership bid, according to Sun columnist James Forsyth. And privately the MP for the Forest of Dean has not denied that he is eyeing up the top job. A former loyalist, Mr Harper voted against the Brexit deal and tore into the PM for “misleading” MPs over it.” – The Sun

Skidmore backs social media “kitemark” to protect children

“Chris Skidmore, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, is clutching a plasma ball, in which tendrils of light radiate out from a central electrode to meet his fingertips….He has also spent time at UCL’s Educate Centre where researchers are establishing a kitemark-style system for technology that has been properly peer-reviewed and rigorously tested. Skidmore believes such a system may be the future to avoid overly bureaucratic regulation which could stifle innovation, and drive tech companies abroad.” – Daily Telegraph

SNP MP backs “softest possible” independence

“A leading SNP MP has criticised a key adviser to Nicola Sturgeon for proposing the “softest possible” form of independence in order to win the backing of voters. Andrew Wilson, who chaired the party’s Growth Commission, the economic blueprint for an independent Scotland, said a soft end to the Union would recognise the “level of integration and all the ties that have bound us for centuries”. He also dismissed Yes campaigners seeking an overnight revolution, saying: “Some (a very small number) would rather move immediately and overnight to a Marxist revolutionary state. That is their right, but they won’t win the chance to try.”…Joanna Cherry MP said you did not have to be a “Marxist revolutionary” to disagree with his softly softly approach.”- Daily Telegraph

Schoolchildren go on “strike” against climate change

“Pupils from around the UK went “on strike” on Friday as part of a global campaign for action on climate change. Students around the country walked out of schools to call on the government to declare a climate emergency and take active steps to tackle the problem. Organisers Youth Strike 4 Climate said protests took place in more than 60 towns and cities, with an estimated 15,000 taking part.” – BBC

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Cleverly calls on unions to take down hugely influential ‘school cuts’ site that uses ‘misleading’ statistics

Huge shale gas supply found in the East Midlands

“Theresa May is today urged to back the fracking revolution as new tests signal the East Midlands is sitting on “30-years’ worth of gas”. Ineos, Britain’s biggest private company, claims drilling results from its field in Nottinghamshire suggest “US levels” of shale gas under the soil.Tests found an average level of 60.7 standard cubic feet per tonne of gas – compared with an average 39 (scf) at a vast shale field in Texas. Ineos Shale chief operating officer Tom Pickering claimed it was the most significant drilling result so far in the short history of Britain’s shale industry. Geologists believe there could be 436 trillion cubic feet of gas in this part of the Bowland Basin. This test is consistent with that….With a recovery rate of 20 per cent that’s equivalent to 30 years’ worth of gas for the country.” – The Sun

>Today: Wilf Lytton on Comment: Our dependency on natural gas will cost us if we don’t act swiftly

Trump using emergency powers to build wall

“Donald Trump has defied fierce criticism to announce that he is using emergency powers to bypass Congress and pursue the building of a wall on the US-Mexico border. At a combative, rambling and at times incoherent press conference in the White House, the US president insisted he had no choice but to declare a national emergency to stop illegal immigrants spreading crime and drugs. Yet Trump admitted that he did not “need” to take the step now and was only doing so for speed. Opponents seized on the remark to accuse him of falsehoods and fear mongering for political ends, describing the move as “unlawful” and a violation of the US constitution.” – The Guardian

News in brief

  • Boles if fighting for his political life – New York Times
  • Child climate change protestors aren’t truants, they’re traumatised – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • There is nothing to fear from leaving the EU and trading with them under WTO rules – Helen Davies, Brexit Central
  • The Cairncross report threatens more state control of the media – Charlotte Henry, The Article
  • What Britain must do to defeat the Islamist threat – Ghanem Nuseibeh, Conservative Woman

Letwin’s wildcat executive would reduce ministers to marionettes

The whole plan involves maintaining a public-facing theatre of constitutional normalcy which will only further impede scrutiny and accountability.

To listen to Oliver Letwin’s speech of Tuesday – which we have a video clip of, if you missed it – is to gaze a long, long way through the constitutional looking glass.

In it, he admits to what had previously only been hinted at: that if the House of Commons passes the bill known as ‘Cooper/Boles’, the legislature will fundamentally usurp the proper role of the Government in running the country.

As he puts it, the House of Commons will be the Cabinet. It would be, as he acknowledges, a situation almost certainly unique in the uniquely long history of Parliament as a representative institution. He asserts, perhaps sincerely but inevitably falsely, that this upheaval would be temporary.

Brexit has prompted a huge volume of writing about the constitution, and spurious allegations of ‘constitutional outrages’ are not hard to find. But the consequences of what Letwin and his confederates propose are truly mind-boggling.

Earlier this month, I wrote about the unwisdom of the ‘Meaningful Vote’ as a constitutional innovation. So much of the incoherence which critics of the Government claim are making the UK a laughing stock on the international stage are rooted in the fact that the Commons has deprived ministers of their normal powers to conduct foreign relations and conclude treaties.

Of course, the impact of the Meaningful Vote pales in comparison to what Letwin proposes to unleash. But they each have their roots in the same dogma: that it is right and good to expand the power of the House of Commons, regardless of the circumstances.

So let’s consider just some of the issues raised by the Cooper/Boles plan to “fundamentally realign the relationship between civil service, government and parliament”.

As Letwin admits, the plan will take more than one law to take effect. Once underway the establishment of what will effectively be a wildcat executive will require further legislation, introduced by backbenchers and imposed on the Cabinet. The more of this there is, the more fatuous suggestion that the consequences will be containable: both the precedent and perhaps much of the legislative architecture of the Letwin Ministry will remain in place, to be wielded against any future minority government.

Moreover, what becomes of the actual ministers? Are they expected simply to remain obligingly in office, rendered an extension of the civil service as they wield executive power at the behest of the government-once-removed? To remain politically accountable for the policies of a shadowy parallel executive?

And not just politically accountable: all the mechanisms our system has evolved for scrutinising executive decision-making will remain trained on Ministers of the Crown. It is they, and not the officers of the new order, who can be called before the House, field questions, and so on. Yet what is the point of quizzing the Prime Minister, or indeed any Secretary of State, on Britain’s Brexit policy if they are not directing it?

As Letwin acknowledges in his speech, the actual Government is accountable to Parliament. But if Parliament becomes the Cabinet, what steps up to take the role of Parliament? There is nothing, save perhaps the judges and political scrutiny is not their function.

That’s just a small portion of the questions thrown up by these proposals. Elsewhere Nikki da Costa, the parliamentary and procedural expert, has sketched out an entirely distinct, political problem with how the Cooper/Boles plan would severely degrade not only procedural scrutiny but political accountability to the electorate.

It’s all worth a read, however right at the end she hits on something particularly important.

There’s a reason that the measures Letwin is advancing have not been tried before, and it is not because this country has never before faced a serious crisis. It is that the House of Commons always has the power to dismiss a government in which it has lost confidence, and either install a new one or take the argument to the people. Even outside a formal vote of confidence individual MPs can resign the whip or even cross the floor, should they wish.

But doing so involves taking responsibility: for renouncing your party loyalty; for withdrawing your confidence in the Government; for taking your case to the country.

Cooper/Boles, by contrast,  involves deliberately maintaining a public-facing theatre of constitutional normalcy – of confidence in Her Majesty’s Government; of ministerial responsibility; of the party system; and so on – whilst wresting and then wielding power beneath it, far removed from all established mechanisms of scrutiny and accountability.

You cannot honourably claim to have confidence in the Government whilst usurping its power to direct policy on the single most crucial challenge facing the country. The Prime Minister would be within her rights to treat Cooper/Boles as a de facto confidence measure.

Nick Hargrave: The capitalism of the future demands a bigger role for the state

Its muscular power is needed to boost share ownership, build houses and tax wealth rather than income. And let’s rule out a No Deal Brexit.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street Special adviser where he worked for both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works for Portland, the communications consultancy.

Philip Hammond’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference last October is unlikely to be remembered as a rhetorical classic. But it contains within it an important insight for the political fortunes of the Conservative Party and the long-term prosperity of our country.

Speaking to a less than packed hall, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told delegates that Conservatives of the future must:

“Harness the power of the market economy, taking a model which has evolved continuously down the ages, so that the capitalism of the twenty-first century looks nothing remotely like that of the nineteenth – and adapt it once again to speak to the values of a new generation.”

Hammond was speaking to a truth that Conservatives sometimes forget. Capitalism is not a static construct held in aspic. It is an economic system which flexes to meet the challenges of its time – and in doing so renews its mandate from one generation to the next.

This flexible conception of capitalism has been seen in the differing approaches of Conservative governments since the Second World War.

In the 1950s and 1960s, after a landslide defeat in 1945, our party accepted a greater role for state involvement in the running of the economy; spurred on by a gradual realisation that the laissez-faire approach of the 1930s had been an opportunity lost.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Margaret Thatcher burst onto the scene with an articulation of capitalism that was more libertarian and evangelical about the merits of free enterprise – in keeping with its time and a reaction to the drift and decline inherent in state involvement going too far.

The 1990s and 2000s saw the pendulum swing the other way, and voters demand a gentler articulation of the harder-edged approach of the 1980s – with support for a minimum wage, windfall taxes and more investment in the public realm. On this occasion, our party failed to meet this challenge, clinging doggedly to our post event conception of Thatcherism, and paid an electoral price.

The lesson of history is clear. When Conservatives adapt to generational calls for change on our political economy they prosper and own the terms of debate; more than capable of beating a Labour Party whose competence is usually doubted. When they fail to acknowledge the call for change they lose – and only regain power after a period of painful reflection.

If the events of the past couple of years have taught us anything, it is time for Conservative politicians to once again come up with a coherent answer for how capitalism can renew its generational mandate. Specifically, how it can materially improve the British people’s living standards in an economy that is undergoing a technological transformation; one that is increasingly global, that’s conducted online, that’s moving at pace to automation – and which is increasingly flexible in its conception of the nature of work.

It’s this transformation which is fuelling the rise of identity politics in our country – which for all its short-term attractions is unlikely to end well. It’s fuelling divisions between the upwardly mobile and the educated in our vibrant urban centres who are benefitting from this change – and the many in our towns and communities who feel left behind. Between a younger generation which is finding it hard to amass capital – and an older generation who have assets that have appreciated over the years.  It’s why a lot of public and private polling out there indicates that people feel the country is moving in the wrong direction domestically. And it’s why the main thing keeping the current Conservative voting coalition together is the illusory tiger of a Brexit which can never meet the hype – and one suspects will eventually end in disappointment.

So what’s the real answer for Conservatives in how we reinvigorate capitalism in a way that is relevant for the 2020s and beyond – and in the process renew our own mandate to govern? This could be the subject of several more articles, but here are a few core thoughts as follows:

  • First, in politics you must get the tone and definition right before you get into the policy weeds. The platform must feel upbeat, inclusive, and focussed on the guiding prism of a better future for us all to share. Optimism is infectious. This is where I think in hindsight Theresa May got the balance wrong during the period 2016-17.  The framing of the ‘privileged few’ may have been tactically popular, but it was caricatured and created expectations of a reckoning with business that was self-defeating and ceded political space to Jeremy Corbyn. It’s much easier to have difficult conversations with businesses about their responsibilities in the modern economy if you have an overall macro-message that is supportive. 70 per cent carrot and 30 per cent stick feels about right.
  • Second, I think we are going to have come to terms with a more muscular and high spending state over the next 20 years. Critically, that spending and guiding hand must be prioritised on investment in the future rather than pumping cash hand over fist into resource spending. In Treasury, speak this means more ambitious capital programmes than currently on R&D and science, digital infrastructure and transport. Always remember that the jobs, wealth and economic security of 25 years’ time will come from ideas that we cannot even conceive of yet.
  • Third, people have to feel confident they are benefitting from the system. Rather than using Labour language of ‘fixing a broken market’, focus instead on the positive articulation of what a muscular state can do to promote the holding of capital. Spend much, much more on state-backed programmes to build houses, remodel the corporate tax system with the strategic goal of incentivising employee share ownership – and turbocharge the somewhat limp National Retraining Scheme into a massive endeavour for all people in industries at risk of automation.
  • Fourth, we need to be able to pay for this and remain fiscally credible. There is no perfect way to do this but a shift towards wealth over income taxes is broadly the right way to go. This is hard but inevitable. Most realistically this can only come from a new leader at the height of their political powers.
  • Fifth, there is the question of how we maintain our political definition with Labour. I would strongly suggest we do not fall back into an ideological debate about libertarianism versus socialism (if put like that, Britain over the next 20 years is going to go for the latter). Focus instead on the values and language of economic competence and strong leadership, brought to life in the programme above, and the rest flows from there. With the current Labour frontbench this task is inordinately easier than if we were up against a centre-left leadership.
  • Finally, whatever you do – don’t countenance a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It will detract focus from this generationally important task – and will lead to many more years of austerity. This cannot be emphasised enough.

15 February 2019 – today’s press releases

Lib Dems: Tories failing on air pollution New figures released today by the Department for the Environment show that emissions of air pollutants have not dropped significantly over the past three years, despite the Government promising to tackle air pollution as a priority. Responding to the figures, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, said: These […]

Lib Dems: Tories failing on air pollution

New figures released today by the Department for the Environment show that emissions of air pollutants have not dropped significantly over the past three years, despite the Government promising to tackle air pollution as a priority.

Responding to the figures, Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, said:

These figures show that this Tory Government is failing to tackle air pollution, which they described themselves as ‘the biggest environmental threat to public health.’

Long-term exposure to these emissions can cause heart and lung problems as well as potentially contribute to cancers, with the young and the old being particularly vulnerable. People deserve better and Liberal Democrats demand better.

Liberal Democrats would pass a new Clean Air Act, giving people the legal right to unpolluted air wherever they live. New Clean Air Zones must also be brought forward in the most polluted towns and cities, and we would also restore subsidies to electric vehicles foolishly cut by the Tories.

Farron slams ‘Tory death tax’

Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has taken a swipe at the Conservative Government ahead of the introduction of what he has dubbed a “Tory death tax”.

From 16th February, new regulations introduced by the Conservative Government mean the cost of death certificates, as well as birth and marriage certificates, is going up from £4 to £11.

Citizens Advice recommends people get “several copies of the [death] certificate, for which there will be a charge.” Upon losing a loved one, people now face a charge hike of £49, on the basis seven copies are purchased.

Mr Farron accused the Conservatives of introducing these measures “by the back door” as MPs have been denied a vote on them.

The former Leader of the Liberal Democrats added:

These regressive fees, charged to people just when they are grieving for loved ones, are nothing more than an insensitive death tax.

People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better. Profiteering off the back of people losing loved ones should bring shame on those who call themselves ‘compassionate conservatives.

Rise in eating disorder hospital admissions shows desperate need for early intervention

Responding to the figures showing there has been a dramatic rise in hospital admissions for eating disorders in the last year, Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said:

Eating disorders are life threatening illnesses, but the real tragedy is that this is preventable. By focusing on early intervention, the numbers of those suffering with eating disorders could be greatly reduced.

The Liberal Democrats demand better for those suffering with eating disorders. The Government must extend access to Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services up to the age of 25 as well as introducing waiting time targets for adults as well as children.

Equally, on average, medical students receive less than two hours of teaching on eating disorders throughout their undergraduate training. By improving training we will be able to greatly improve early intervention and give those suffering the help they so desperately need.

25 of the Nicest MPs in the House of Commons

People don’t usually put the words ‘nice’ and ‘politician’ in the same sentence. They should because many politicians are indeed very nice people. Just like in the wider population, there is a fair share of nasty ones too, but in my experience most politicians are much more normal and nice than they are ever given credit for. 

I don’t know all 650 MPs so I cannot pretend that the 25 MPs listed here really are the actual nicest MPs in the Commons – but in my experience these all have one thing in common – they are liked across party boundaries. Some of them have political enemies in their own parties but even their enemies would concede their ‘niceness’. 

The fact that an MP isn’t on this list doesn’t mean they are nasty. I also haven’t included many of my closest political friends, but let’s just for once celebrate these MPs for doing their jobs and remaining human beings. It’s not always easy in the pressure cooker of party politics, especially at the moment.

I’m not going to give an analysis of my choices. I’ll leave them to speak for themselves. So, in no particular order…

Tracey Brabin (Labour, Batley & Spen)

Tracey Brabin

Layla Moran (LibDem, Oxford West & Abingdon)

Layla Moran

Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff North & Penarth)

Stephen Doughty

Dominic Grieve (Con, Beaconsfield)

Dominic Grieve

Liz Kendall (Lab, Leicester West)

Liz Kendall

Margot James (Con, Stourbridge)

Margot James

Caroline Flint (Lab, Don Valley)
Caroline Flint
Stephen Gethins (SNP, North East Fife)
Stephen Gethins
Tracey Crouch (Con, Chatham & Aylesford)

Tracey Crouch

Greg Clark (Con, Tunbridge Wells)
Greg Clark
Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley)

Jess Phillips

Keith Simpson (Con, Broadland)

Keith Simpson

Robert Halfon (Con, Harlow)

Robert Halfon

David Lidington (Con, Aylesbury)David Lidington
Wes Streeting (Lab, Ilford North)

Wes Streeting

James Brokenshire (Con, Old Bexley & Sidcup)

James Brokenshire

Alistair Burt (Con, North East Bedfordshire)

Alistair Burt

Alison McGovern (Lab, Wirrall South)

Alison McGovern

Nicky Morgan (Con, Loughborough)

Nicky Morgan

Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge  Malling)

Tom Tugendhat

Jonathan Reynolds (Lab, Stalybridge & Hyde)

Jonathan Reynolds

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central)

Hilary Benn

John Glen (Con, Salisbury)

John Glen

Harriett Baldwin (Con, West Worcestershire)

Harriett Baldwin

Anneliese Dodds (Lab, Oxford East)

Anneliese Dodds

 

People don't usually put the words 'nice' and 'politician' in the same sentence. They should because many politicians are indeed very nice people. Just like in the wider population, there is a fair share of nasty ones too, but in my experience most politicians are much more normal and nice than they are ever given credit for. 

I don't know all 650 MPs so I cannot pretend that the 25 MPs listed here really are the actual nicest MPs in the Commons - but in my experience these all have one thing in common - they are liked across party boundaries. Some of them have political enemies in their own parties but even their enemies would concede their 'niceness'. 

The fact that an MP isn't on this list doesn't mean they are nasty. I also haven't included many of my closest political friends, but let's just for once celebrate these MPs for doing their jobs and remaining human beings. It's not always easy in the pressure cooker of party politics, especially at the moment.

I'm not going to give an analysis of my choices. I'll leave them to speak for themselves. So, in no particular order...

Tracey Brabin (Labour, Batley & Spen)

Tracey Brabin

Layla Moran (LibDem, Oxford West & Abingdon)

Layla Moran

Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff North & Penarth)

Stephen Doughty

Dominic Grieve (Con, Beaconsfield)

Dominic Grieve

Liz Kendall (Lab, Leicester West)

Liz Kendall

Margot James (Con, Stourbridge)

Margot James

Caroline Flint (Lab, Don Valley)
Caroline Flint
Stephen Gethins (SNP, North East Fife)
Stephen Gethins
Tracey Crouch (Con, Chatham & Aylesford)

Tracey Crouch

Greg Clark (Con, Tunbridge Wells)
Greg Clark
Jess Phillips (Lab, Birmingham Yardley)

Jess Phillips

Keith Simpson (Con, Broadland)

Keith Simpson

Robert Halfon (Con, Harlow)

Robert Halfon

David Lidington (Con, Aylesbury)David Lidington
Wes Streeting (Lab, Ilford North)

Wes Streeting

James Brokenshire (Con, Old Bexley & Sidcup)

James Brokenshire

Alistair Burt (Con, North East Bedfordshire)

Alistair Burt

Alison McGovern (Lab, Wirrall South)

Alison McGovern

Nicky Morgan (Con, Loughborough)

Nicky Morgan

Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge  Malling)

Tom Tugendhat

Jonathan Reynolds (Lab, Stalybridge & Hyde)

Jonathan Reynolds

Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central)

Hilary Benn

John Glen (Con, Salisbury)

John Glen

Harriett Baldwin (Con, West Worcestershire)

Harriett Baldwin

Anneliese Dodds (Lab, Oxford East)

Anneliese Dodds


 

There is nothing to fear from leaving the EU and trading with them under WTO rules

 The List is a grassroots organisation of Leave voters which I founded over a year ago, to represent the voice of the electorate. We are not affiliated to any political party or organisation, but are very active as we continue to campaign for the voice of Leave voters to be heard and are advocating leaving the […]

The post There is nothing to fear from leaving the EU and trading with them under WTO rules appeared first on BrexitCentral.

 The List is a grassroots organisation of Leave voters which I founded over a year ago, to represent the voice of the electorate. We are not affiliated to any political party or organisation, but are very active as we continue to campaign for the voice of Leave voters to be heard and are advocating leaving the EU under WTO rules.

Members come from different political persuasions but are united in ensuring respect for the democratic result of the 2016 referendum. We firmly believe in leaving the EU in its entirety and also believe that our sovereignty and powers were given away illegally and unconstitutionally.

The List has also found that most of our members extensively researched the issues and knew the applicable treaties, as well as WTO principles, prior to voting in the referendum – and even after all the Project Fear, we still decided to vote Leave.

In view of the current circumstances surrounding Brexit, The List believes that Brexiteers are even more motivated today compared to how they were in the referendum. In March last year, we put together a petition to Theresa May stating the reason why we believed most of the 17.4 million voted Leave, and delivered it direct to her at No. 10 with over 1.2 million signatures.

Now we have decided to write an Open Letter to Parliament which you can view here on our new website. We are asking people to sign the letter online, and to take a copy of it and send in an email to their local MP with a link to the website where they can view people’s comments. This Open Letter demands that we leave the European Union and not be tied to any trade deal. These are two separate issues and should not be combined. By not agreeing to a ‘no deal’ or
trading under WTO rules, those elected MPs are stipulating that they will not support 17.4 million people who voted Leave; the highest vote for anything in British electoral history.

The Open Letter has recently gone live and continues to receive new signatures daily. We are hoping to reach as many of the 17.4 million as possible, and are therefore asking Leave voters and those that voted Remain but support the result, to leave their name on the website and pass the link on.

So what is there to fear from trading under WTO rules, even for an interim period? The answer is, nothing.

The WTO, established in 1995, (preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, established in 1947) is an international organisation aiming to reduce all barriers to trade.

The combined share of international trade of WTO members now exceeds 90% of the global trade. Most countries around the world are members, including the UK and the EU.

In 2016, UK world-wide trade accounted for 52% of goods exported (48% exported to the EU, which continues to decline, and 52% to the rest of the world). As EU members, our trade with various countries outside the EU has been dictated largely by agreements with the EU, and devised to suit them. Under WTO rules, we will be free to make our own trade arrangements with those countries, tailored more to our needs.

The WTO requires member countries to apply tariffs (taxes) on goods and services to other WTO countries equally.

Unlike the EU, the WTO does not tell countries what to do other than to keep their promises. There is no ‘confrontation with WTO officials’ as one Irish Government source reportedly claimed in a newspaper report in respect of arrangements concerning the Irish border. The WTO is a member-driven organisation and there is no WTO rule requiring governments to secure their borders. There are, however, non-discrimination rules, but a ‘waiver’ could be sought for the UK/Ireland border either based on national security, or if the EU are in agreement, the UK and Ireland could act in the interests of the Good Friday Agreement and permit no hard border between the two. These are just some suggestions which Remain-backing MPs seem to refuse to discuss.

Under WTO rules, the UK will not only be able to negotiate our own trade agreements with the world, control our borders and make our own laws, but with no more annual payments to subsidise the EU and our armed forces free of the EU command structures to boot, we will be free to paint our own future on a clean canvas.

If there are problems along the way, then we will deal with them, as we have always done, with a pragmatic and flexible attitude – for you cannot put a price on freedom.

The List believes that we, the electorate who voted Leave, should have our voices heard; about what Brexit means to us and why we voted Leave. We have all heard about “the People’s Vote” so it’s time we were heard, the other side of the story, “the People’s Voice!”

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