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!

Alistair Lexden: The Carlton Club meeting and the fall of the Lloyd George Coalition

How a proud, unbending leader misread his party, brought down a government, and set back the idea of sharing power for a generation.

Lord Lexden is the Conservative Party’s official historian. His website can be found here

These dramatic events were the subject of a lecture  delivered  by Alistair Lexden at the annual meeting of the Lloyd George Society in Llandrindod Wells on 16 February.  

The Place

The famous meeting, which was to alter the course of interwar politics in Britain, took place in a spacious smoking room-cum-library within a very large rectangular building of little architectural distinction in London’s Pall Mall.

(Members of the Carlton Club tended to be much more interested in smoking than reading; after the Second World War, they found it possible to dispense with a library altogether.)

Erected in the mid-1850s to replace premises of the 1830s that had come to seem unduly cramped, the clubhouse was said to have been inspired by the library of St Mark in Venice. The original was poorly reflected in its copy. One critic denounced “ the monstrousness of its proportions, and [its] violation of all orthodoxy and rule.”

Such rudeness had no effect on the Club’s popularity among Tories. In 1922 membership hovered around its maximum number of 1,600, just as it had always done – and over 2,000 more loyal Tories belonged to the Junior Carlton, a much more impressive edifice in the style of an Italian palazzo almost opposite it on the other side of Pall Mall, which had opened in 1864 to provide a political home for those on the Carlton’s waiting list.

The Club stood next to that great bastion of Liberalism, the Reform Club with some 1,400 members, from which it was separated by a narrow road, Carlton Gardens – quite insufficient to prevent members of the two Clubs trying to spy on each other’s political activities. In November 1884, when Tory MPs met to settle their tactics over the redistribution of parliamentary seats, blinds were pulled down at every window in the room after a member noticed two figures across the road in the Reform Club spying with the aid of an opera glass.

Such secrecy was unnecessary in October 1922. The press was given a full account of proceedings as soon as they were over. There was naturally intense public interest in a meeting that determined the fate of a great Prime Minister and his coalition government which had brought the country triumphantly from war to peace – a government once widely admired, but now under widespread attack.

Almost all Conservative MPs (known widely as Unionists in this period) were members of the Carlton in 1922, just as their predecessors had been since the Club’s establishment at the time of the Great Reform Act, ninety years earlier, as the old Tory Party began to evolve into Robert Peel’s dynamic Conservative Party, committed to judicious reform in both Church and State. Wives and families were neglected so that MPs could gossip and plot at the Carlton without interruption from guests, who were not allowed to enter it. Over the years, many meetings had been convened to settle pressing issues, but none so momentous as the one held on 19 October 1922.

The man who convened the meeting – and his colleagues

The meeting was called by the Unionist Party leader, Austen Chamberlain, the elder of the two sons of the great radical Joe, and the repository of all his father’s hopes for the future. So many of Joe’s ambitious plans for the reform of Britain and Ireland had been frustrated by the leaders of both main parties who blocked them in turn – first Gladstone, then Salisbury and Balfour.

Austen was expected to secure the political victories that had eluded his father. He was to be the Chamberlain who reached 10 Downing Street.

In October 1922, Austen Chamberlain had only held the Unionist leadership for some eighteen months, but a long parliamentary career stretching back thirty years, much of it in high office, meant that he was a politician of immense experience. Yet, experienced and battle-hardened as he was, he won no plaudits as Unionist Party leader.

He expected his MPs and the Party in the country to follow him with unquestioning obedience. As his biographer, David Dutton, puts it, he was “incapable of showing the subtlety and compromise which could have secured his position”. When he decided to call his MPs together at the Carlton, it was to deliver an ultimatum to them. He explained to a fellow Unionist Cabinet minister that he would “tell them bluntly they must either follow our advice or do without us”. If the latter, “they must find their own Chief and form a Government at once. They would be in a damned fix.”

This was the imperious folly of a man who had, since the start of the year, presided over growing internal Unionist tensions and divisions, which by the summer had infected the lower ranks of the coalition, and by October had reached the Cabinet itself, bringing two ministers to the point of resignation.

Chamberlain had no understanding of the tactics required to overcome rebellion. Guile needed to be mingled with toughness. But in Dutton’s words, “rather like Asquith in 1916, he seemed out of touch with mainstream thought in his own party and to be seriously over-rating his own strength.” He would be a strong candidate for the title of “ the worst ever Tory leader” but for the overwhelming claim of the current disastrous incumbent.

Chamberlain was encouraged in his utterly misguided dictatorial ways by his closest Unionist Cabinet colleagues, who prided themselves, not unfairly, on their cleverness: Arthur Balfour, charming but cold-hearted intellectual and former prime minister; the imperious, disdainful Foreign Secretary, George Curzon, who worked all the hours that God gave; and F.E. Smith, Lord Birkenhead, who combined a well-publicised venomous wit with a quick, well-stocked mind, enabling him as Lord Chancellor to make long, brilliant speeches on complicated issues in the Lords without a note. In 1922 he delighted above all in insulting fellow Unionists who dared to question the course that Lloyd George was pursuing. In combination with Chamberlain, these people did grave damage to a government which they wanted to remain in existence for ever.

Despite a certain waywardness on Curzon’s part, Chamberlain and his aloof, arrogant colleagues were convinced that their Party must remain in coalition with Lloyd George and his group of Liberal MPs, perhaps with a view to fusion at some future point with Lloyd George becoming head of a new centre party. This, they insisted, was essential in the national interest. Country must be put before Party. They found themselves confronted by an ever more insistent conviction within their own ranks that the country could only be saved if the Unionist Party broke free from Lloyd George and sought a new electoral mandate of its own.

The Coalition in crisis

Arrogance in politics can only be tolerated if it brings success. In 1922 Chamberlain and his supercilious Unionist colleagues stumbled from one crisis to another. The coalition floundered in a sea of troubles which got worse as the months passed.

A highly controversial Treaty, designed to end a vicious two-year campaign of Irish republican violence, failed to accomplish its objectives in the short term, though it would soon come to be seen – rightly in my view – as one of Lloyd George’s greatest achievements. The summer brought the worst ever scandal involving the sale of honours, arising from the Welsh wizard’s brazenness in party fund-raising by means that his predecessors had taken pains to conceal (and as his successors were to do too). In September the country suddenly found itself, bereft of serious allies, on the brink of war in the Middle East in a cause that few believed justified hostilities.

Of these grave problems, the most serious for the Unionist Party was Ireland. Lloyd George’s willingness to compromise with those whom he had consistently denounced as a murder gang who needed to be extirpated cost the coalition the support of some 50 Unionist MPs. They never returned to the fold. The group, who came to known as the Diehards, harried the government with the kind of dedication that intransigent members of the European Research Group were to display nearly a century later.

Political failure had the usual, inevitable consequences. By-elections in 1922 invariably brought comfort, and often joy, to the Labour Party. This was seen as no ordinary setback, purely temporary in character, that a general election would reverse. It was regarded rather as the harbinger of a decisive Labour victory and the creation of a socialist state in Britain.

This terrifying prospect reinforced the determination of the Unionist leadership to remain in coalition with Lloyd George. Chamberlain and his fellow stuffed shirts thought it impossible that their Party could win a parliamentary majority on their own. In a speech on 16 October, Chamberlain said that the coalition must be maintained in the face of the “common foe”, Labour.

No question of principle, he asserted, divided Liberals and Unionists, and it would be “criminal” to allow personal and party prejudices to prevail “at a moment of national danger”. He added that if those who sought to preserve social order were divided, Labour would win, and it would “not be the moderates of the Labour Party who would prevail”. In other words, behind Ramsay MacDonald there lurked a British Lenin.

Could Chamberlain bring his divided and disaffected Party together to fight under Lloyd George’s coalition banner in order to save Britain from a red revolution? That was the question which the famous Carlton Club meeting was called to decide. Chamberlain chose to hold it on 19 October because he expected a by-election in Newport the previous day with Conservative, Labour, Liberal candidates to bring a Labour victory, and so prove that coalition alone could prevent the overthrow of the established order.

The meeting and its aftermath

Chamberlain arrived at the meeting seriously weakened by two overnight developments. First, his predecessor, Bonar Law, now a critic of the coalition, had decided after much agonising to come out of retirement and attend the gathering. Second, the Newport by-election had been won by a Conservative. MPs knew that with their old leader back in business they could safely reject their new one, and that the case for coalition made by Chamberlain was far from overwhelming. A report in The Times noted that “the fact that a Conservative, unaided by the party organisation, relying entirely on local effort, could win a Coalition Liberal seat against the opposition of a Liberal and a Labour candidate put Independent Conservatives in good heart.”

The most vivid account of the Carlton’s historic day was recorded by the Earl of Crawford, a Unionist member of the coalition cabinet, in his brilliant diary, edited and published by Professor John Vincent in 1984. “We assembled at eleven”, he wrote, “a thoroughly good-humoured crowd. We were just about to begin when a waitress advanced with two immense brandies and soda to lubricate Chamberlain and F.E. Much cheering… Austen, who spoke from 11.5 to 11.35… was grave, but very rigid and unbending: needlessly so… Stanley Baldwin followed – gulping and hiccoughing a lot of good sense – no hesitation in denouncing the coalition and Lloyd George in particular – a clear declaration of war”.

Bonar Law’s speech, seen by everyone as crucial, came late in the proceedings. Crawford recorded that he “condemned the coalition. He looked ill, I thought – his knees more groggy than ever, his face more worn with distress. His voice was so weak that people quite close to him had to strain their ears—but his matter was clear and distinctly put. After his speech the issue was unmistakable, and he was hailed as the Leader of the Party. A.J.B[alfour] made a delightful speech, so mellow and genial, full of picturesque touches, but too subtle to count. Then we voted. A few more words of dignified adieu from Austen, and the meeting broke up”.

The motion ,which was passed by 185 to 88 with one abstention, declared that the “Party, whilst willing to cooperate with the Liberals, should fight the election as an independent party, with its own leader and with its own programme.”

As Crawford noted, proceedings were conducted throughout in a good-humoured atmosphere – surprising perhaps in view of what was at stake and the vehemence of several speakers. Baldwin, the first to demand a complete break with Lloyd George, described him famously as “a dynamic force, and it is from that very fact that our troubles, in our opinion, arise… It is owing to that dynamic force, and that remarkable personality, that the Liberal Party, to which he formerly belonged, has been smashed to pieces; and it is my firm conviction that, in time, the same will happen to our party”. At just the right moment, Baldwin emerged from comparative obscurity to capture the predominant mood in the Party. Seven months later he was Prime Minister.

At Number 10, Lloyd George accepted his fate with good grace. He told his close Welsh confidant, the Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Thomas Jones, that “the moment he had learned the result of the Newport election and heard definitely that Bonar was going to the meeting, he had told Stamfordham [the King’s Private Secretary] that he would be resigning in the course of the day”. He did so at 4.15pm. When he got back to Number 10, he found a delegation of miners waiting to see him. He told them cheerily, “ I am very sorry, gentlemen, I cannot receive you. I am no longer Prime Minister.”

In fact he remained in office until 26 October when Bonar Law kissed hands, having been formally re-elected leader of his Party. Jones recorded in his diary “at 4.00 he motored away with his son Gwilym to Churt, smiling to the last.” Frances Stevenson did not remain so composed. Jones “found her burning papers in the fireplace, and looking sadder than I have ever seen her”. Did she perhaps realise that the man she loved would never hold office again?

Austen Chamberlain gave Lloyd George much pleasure by defying his critics in defeat. The Times published a letter from him and thirteen other Unionist coalition ministers in which they paid tribute to the man who retained their admiration. They wrote that after 1916:

“With high courage and resolve he devoted himself to the single object of achieving victory… The problems which have required a solution since the Armistice have hardly been less grave than those which preceded it… [The Prime Minister’s] resource, energy and patriotism have been as strongly exhibited in this period as during the war itself. None the less we have been invited by members of our own party to send to the Prime Minister a message of dismissal.”

The contempt for their Party is palpable. Lloyd George knew how to inspire the most fervent loyalty in able men from a different political tradition.

One question remains: could a coalition of Unionists and Liberals have continued if Lloyd George had been induced to step down? Crawford, former Unionist Chief Whip in the Commons, holder of high offices and an acute observer of the political  scene, thought so. Two days before the Carlton Club meeting he noted in his diary “an undertaking given by Austen that our men shall stand as Conservatives, uncommitted, and that they shall not preclude the idea of a coalition after the polling”. That left just one outstanding demand from disaffected MPs, in Crawford’s view: “ a pledge that never again should Lloyd George be our leader. The controversy really pivots around his mercurial personality, and were he out of the way most of our troubles, and the central force both of our strength and weakness would disappear”.

But Chamberlain, loyal to a fault, would not contemplate enforcing Lloyd George’s removal to save the coalition. The Carlton Club meeting destroyed both Lloyd George and the very idea of coalition as a form of government that Unionists could contemplate. It took another world war, and the arrival in power in 1940 of another great coalitionist, Winston Churchill, to force serious power-sharing on the Tories again.

A few months later the Carlton Club was bombed out of its Pall Mall home, and moved to St James’s Street, where it remains.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. David Dutton, Austen Chamberlain: Gentleman in Politics (1985). Michael Kinnear, The Fall of Lloyd George: The Political Crisis of 1922(1973).Keith Middlemas and John Barnes, Baldwin: A Biography (1969). Keith Middlemas (ed.), Thomas Jones, A Whitehall Diary, Volume 1 1916-1925 (1969). Charles Petrie and Alistair Cooke, The Carlton Club 1832-2007 (2007). John Ramsden, The Age of Balfour and Baldwin 1902-1940 (1978).John Vincent(ed.), The Crawford Papers (1984).

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

Ofgem should introduce a new ‘low-carbon gas obligation’ in the next price control framework from April 2021. This would enable the UK to decarbonise its heating sectorat the lowest possible cost.

Wilf Lytton is Senior Researcher at Bright Blue and co-author of Pressure in the pipeline: decarbonising the UK’s gas.

Much of the energy we use in the UK comes from a single source: natural gas. Cheap and plentiful, it is used to power all manner of things – from cookers and boilers to power stations and gas-fuelled lorries – accounting for some 39 per cent of our total energy use.

Like flicking a switch, we hardly notice its existence, but grumble when our energy bills go up. Last year saw gas and electricity prices rise on two occasions, a trend that has become a source of much ire for British consumers and politicians. The energy price cap, introduced earlier this year, is not a long-term solution: it can only guarantee affordable gas prices so long as wholesale costs remain stable. Indeed, energy prices will rise again this April, despite the cap.

Burning fossil natural gas adds significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from homes and gas power stations. In fact, in 2016, the natural gas contributed to over a third of the UK’s total emissions. The Government faces a significant challenge: to provide the investment and incentives necessary to more deeply decarbonise UK gas, so this country achieve its current and likely future emissions reduction target, whilst avoiding further consumer price rises.

There are no straightforward solutions here, but Ministers can put in place measures that clearly signal to the actors in the gas market they want it to deliver clean and affordable gas. Bright Blue’s report new report, Pressure in the pipeline, recommends new policies.

First, Government needs to enable much greater usage of low carbon alternatives to natural gas. The UK is home to a cottage industry of low-carbon alternatives. In fact, there’s a good chance that a small proportion of the gas that ends up in your home already comes from one of more of the 100 or so anaerobic digestion plants in the UK that are connected to the gas network. These small-scale operations convert the nation’s food waste into biomethane. Biomethane produced in this way has the potential to replace up to 10 per cent of the natural gas we currently use.

The UK also hosts around half a dozen trial projects that are demonstrating the potential for using hydrogen to heat our homes. When hydrogen gas burns, it produces only water, making it one of the cleanest fuels to use. There is also a readily available supply of feedstock from which to produce hydrogen. However, manufacturing it sustainably requires a significant amount of energy, and there are technical challenges around using hydrogen that are still being resolved.

However, just as renewable energy has become the lowest cost form of electricity generation as a result of long-term policy decisions by government, so too are effective policies needed to ensure that environmentally sustainable alternatives to natural gas become the norm. A priority should be for Ofgem to introduce a new ‘low-carbon gas obligation’ in the next price control framework from April 2021. This will achieve two things: it will enable the UK to decarbonise its heating sector and it will do that at the lowest possible cost, without distorting the market, removing the need to subsidise alternatives to natural gas.

Furthermore, existing Gas Safety Regulations that restrict the use of biomethane and hydrogen in the gas network – particularly those concerning safety management and calculation of thermal energy – should be reformed so as to enable a higher proportion of low carbon gases to flow in the gas network.

Second, the UK Government must deliver a programme of energy efficiency improvements in homes across the country. Many of Britain’s homes have languished in a state of poor energy efficiency, leaving householders with expensive energy bills and exacerbating the problem of fuel poverty. It is clear that many homes can benefit from low-cost energy efficiency improvements, but homeowners either lack the financial resources or awareness to implement these.

Historically, Government schemes to improve energy efficiency have been overly complex and poorly targeted. Instead, regulation should leverage the private sector’s ability to deliver improvements in homes. By increasing energy efficiency requirements for boilers and introducing Home Affordability Assessments, private sector actors could be encouraged to deliver energy efficiency improvements to UK homes.

Natural gas remains one of the cheapest forms of energy we have today, though for how much longer that will be true is unclear. However, what we don’t pay for now – its carbon dioxide emissions – we will be forced to pay for in decades to come. Complacency is not an option: we cannot afford to continue burning natural gas for much longer. And the sooner we seriously pursue alternatives, the less costly it will be.

Bob Seely: The rule of law is an absolute. It cannot be dispensed with when we deal with ISIS terrorists.

A key moral from the case of Shamima Begum is that we need better information both to protect and prosecute.

Bob Seely is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for the Isle of Wight.

The case of Shamima Begum, who ran away to live under ISIS rule when she was a teenager, is deeply troubling. In 2015, aged just 15, she went to Syria to support the terror group, and was almost immediately married to a Dutch jihadi convert. She now wants to return to the UK with her surviving child.  Two other are dead.

She is one of hundreds of former and current ISIS supporters who hold UK passports, and who now may try to make their way back to Britain as ISIS faces final collapse.

Before I entered Parliament, I served with our armed forces during the campaign to destroy ISIS’ so-called caliphate. I was proud to do so. The territory that ISIS controlled, which initially stretched from central Syria through to Mosul in Northern Iraq, was a true heart of darkness. It was a revolting regime that mixed mediaeval theocracy with police state practises, and which advertised its death cult in infamous beheading videos.

Four years of bombing and ground force assault by the US, its British and French allies, our Kurdish partners on the ground in Iraq (the Peshmerga) and Syria (the SDF) have defeated ISIS as a physical force, but this victory intensifies a problem: what are we to do with returning ISIS fighters and their fellow travellers? What do we do with those who continue to nurture the idea of violent jihad in their minds? Getting our decision wrong could cost lives.

There is a natural – and exceptionally understandable – instinct to feel anger and contempt for the decisions made by Begum and others. The public revulsion has been rightly expressed by Sajid Javid.

However, it has proved hard to prosecute those who went to live in the ISIS-controlled area. As a result, Javid and his team steered through the Counter Terror and Border Security Act, which this week became law. First, it brings in a designated area offence, allowing prosecution for being in a geographical location without good reason. Second, it makes revoking UK citizenship easier. Third, it brings in Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures – ‘super ASBOs’ – to disrupt those engaged in extremism in the UK.

However, this law can’t be used retrospectively. In addition, if Begum is a British citizen and does not have a second citizenship, she has the right to return. This is not a negotiable point. It is illegal to make her stateless, and attempts to do so will see the Government in court. Furthermore, she was a child when she left. She has made some dire life choices, but her age should be taken into account. Either way, if she makes it to our shores, we will have to find a solution for her and for people who have done worse.

Public anger is understandable, but our priority must be public safety – and that means making some difficult choices.

In practical terms, it means continuing to develop intelligence on ISIS returnees. We need to be ‘collecting’ on both UK and other ‘internationals’ who served ISIS. We need to do so to be able to make judgements on their relative danger to our societies, how we monitor them and how they can be deradicalised. The more information we have, the more we can judge which returnees are a threat. Everything we do, including the deals we strike and whom we decide to prosecute, has to be based on that.

Back in 2016, it was reckoned that 700 UK citizens were fighting for, or supporting, ISIS. That figure now totals between 800 and 1,000. Of those, between 100 and 250 have died. UK air power killed some of them; the US and the French others. More were killed by our Kurdish the Peshmerga and the SDF. Other UK fighters who survived and who have a second passport will not be able to return – because they have been quietly stripped of their UK citizenship.

However, even if we identify most of those British citizens who served ISIS and are now considering returning, we will miss some of them. However good our agencies’ information is, some will have slipped through. Therefore, the need for information, on both known and unknown ISIS terrorists and fellow travellers, is our priority. The greatest protection we have against another Manchester bombing, 7/7 or Borough attack is knowledge.

We do not have to help ISIS terrorists and their war brides to return. But for those who make it here, whether they are prosecuted or not, there must be a price for returning and living their lives in the freedom that they denied others when they lived in ISIS-controlled territory. That price is information.

Phil Taylor: In its bid for bleakness, Labour’s broadcast is both glib and deceptive

Setting flimsy evidence and distorted statistics to a depressing soundtrack does nothing for their credibility.

Phil Taylor is a Conservative activist in Ealing.

In their latest party political broadcast Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has taken the idea of shroud waving to a new level, trying to pin the deaths of thousands of citizens on the government.

But the numbers it uses are misleading in one case and downright bogus in the other.

The “hard-hitting” film is the third to be made by filmmaker and Corbyn-booster Simon Baker. His first two, “Our Town” and its follow-up “Our Country”, were well-produced and hit emotional buttons expertly. This time Baker is going for the righteous indignation button, and is jabbing it as hard as he can.

The characters you see in the broadcast are not patients, doctors, and nurses in the NHS. They are actors. Many of the factual captions displayed on funereal black backgrounds alongside the images are fictitious too.

Teenage suicides have nearly doubled since 2010

The ugliest part of this is the way Labour is talking up the teenage suicide rate. The UK has one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe. At seven per 100,000 in 2015 it is the fourth-lowest out of 28 EU countries, and only two-thirds the EU average.

UK suicide is at historic lows, with 2017 being the best year in the current data series for male suicide. In its latest report the Office for National Statistics (ONS) did not mention teenage suicide as being of particular note.

These deaths are terrible, but thankfully they are rare: 155 young people in the 15-19 age group took their own lives in England in 2017 (the latest year for which definitive statistics are available). This age group are less likely to kill themselves than any other, older age group.

Labour is picking its data very cynically: 2010 was the best year ever for suicide in this age group in England at 3.2 deaths per 100,000 population – so every other year in the time series is worse.

If you want to call calendar 1998 to 2010 the product of New Labour and 2011 to 2017 that of the Coalition and the Conservatives then the average teenage suicide rate under New Labour was 4.30 per 100,000 of population and it was 4.33 in the later period.

Teenage suicide, as sad as it is, is thankfully a relatively small phenomenon and one that has changed little over the 36 years for which we have readily comparable data. Making it into a political weapon and attaching a sound track to it is, in my view, pretty disgusting.

Health and social care spending cuts have been linked to 120,000 excess deaths in England

The most eye popping claim that Labour tries to nail on is that “austerity” is responsible for 120,000 excess deaths. This claim is based on a lightweight academic paper printed in the British Medical Journal in 2017. The first place to look for evidence of how flimsy the work is is the study itself which notes:

“A limitation was that our study was observational and retrospective, thereby our findings likely capture association rather than causation.”

At the time this was published in November 2017 academics were pretty scathing. For instance, Dr Richard Fordham, Senior Lecturer in Health Economics at the University of East Anglia, said:

“…longitudinal studies are fraught with difficulties in proving causality and despite the best statistical efforts of the authors, one should treat their conclusions with some caution.”

And Prof. Martin Roland, Emeritus Professor of Health Services Research at the University of Cambridge, said:

“…the authors overstate the certainty of this link to funding and are highly speculative about the money needed to ‘save lives’ in future.”

For the first time since World War Two, life expectancy is going backwards in the poorest areas

The paper did not mention or test for the most likely explanation of the excess deaths – the strange fact that the Golden Cohort of those born immediately before the Second World War have enjoyed great longevity, are passing quickly, and the succeeding generation do not seem to be as long-lived. This same effect has been seen in in France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Switzerland.

The paper extrapolates a benign trend in the run up to 2010, assuming it could have run on for years more. Such trends rarely do. It also assumes that health spending could have continued to increase as it had under New Labour.

Although the paper avoids direct political comment it cannot avoid the fact that this counterfactual was never available. The £20 billion Nicholson Challenge “cuts” had already been kicked off in 2009 by Andy Burnham and numbers of nurses in training had already been throttled back. Furthermore Alistair Darling was promising £46 billion of further cuts to public services if he was still chancellor after the 2010 election.

The BMJ paper was an exercise in statistical voodoo whose numbers have no meaning in real life.

Labour knows that talking about the NHS works well for it. At the last election it offered an impressive-sounding £37 billion to fix its problems. Last year the Conservatives promised to put in an extra £84 billion over the parliament, but even more than doubling Labour’s 2017 offer is – according to Labour – inadequate.

Labour’s bleak, feel-bad movie pulls at the heart strings and and glibly deceives.

David Shiels: Would No Deal lead to Irish unification?

The topic is being discussed – including at Cabinet – but that in itself is not convincing evidence that such a major change is imminent.

Dr David Shiels is a Policy Analyst at Open Europe and also works on contemporary political history.

Would a No Deal Brexit lead to Irish unity? The possibility of the break-up of the United Kingdom triggered by a chaotic Brexit was reportedly discussed at Cabinet last week, with one minister telling colleagues that the UK was “sleepwalking into a border poll.”

The reports have upset the DUP, angry that the constitutional question has been brought into the discussion at this stage. Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said it was a revival of “Project Fear.” After coming on board with the Brady amendment to give the Government more time to renegotiate the Brexit deal, the DUP’s lines on the backstop have hardened in the last few days.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a sense that by talking up the prospects of a No Deal border poll, the Government is feeding into a narrative set by Sinn Fein. From the Government, the message to the DUP seems to be “support our deal or take your chances with a referendum.” For a party which already sees the backstop as something which undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom, the fact that the Government is thinking along these lines is disturbing.

Meanwhile, the interventions by Sir John Major and Tony Blair have also gone down badly with Unionists, the two ex-premiers having recently spoken about the impact of a No Deal Brexit on the peace process. (It should be remembered that the joint intervention by the former Prime Ministers during the 2016 referendum was claimed to have encouraged an increase in Vote Leave support in Northern Ireland).

Of course, some will say that the DUP are getting what they deserve. Brexit was clearly a provocation to Irish Nationalists and the party should not be surprised that talk of Irish unity is now on the agenda in a way that it was not before the referendum. There is a sense that the party has trapped itself into supporting a hard Brexit – though the recent intervention by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP Chief Whip, suggests that the Party acknowledges the dangers of a No Deal Brexit and wants to avoid that outcome.

Although the Irish Government has been keen to downplay the possibility of a border poll – no doubt aware of Unionist sensitivities over the backstop – there are plenty of commentators and politicians in Dublin who are contemplating unity in a way they had not done before. Even John Bruton, the very moderate ex-Taoiseach, has pointed out that “By backing Brexit at all costs, including a no-deal Brexit, the Democratic Unionist Party has enhanced the likelihood of a border poll that would end the Union.”

Despite these conversations about Irish unity, there are no convincing signs that a change in Northern Ireland’s constitutional position is imminent. True, a number of opinion polls have shown increased support for Irish unity because of Brexit, with more people supporting a united Ireland in that context. The possibility of a No Deal Brexit shows the most dramatic effect, and one opinion poll by the Belfast-based LucidTalk polling company – cited by Bruton – suggested that in the circumstances of No Deal 55 per cent of people would probably or certainly support Irish unity.

It is always difficult to poll for hypothetical situations, however. There is a debate about whether demographics in Northern Ireland favour Irish unity in the longer term – but this would be happening irrespective of Brexit. The most recent actual test of opinion in Northern Ireland – the 2017 General Election – showed that that voters continued to follow traditional patterns of behaviour. The DUP’s vote went up by just over ten per cent on the previous Westminster election, while Sinn Fein’s vote also went up by just under five per cent.

Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must call a border poll “if at any time it appears likely to him [or her] that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Some may contend that these circumstances have been met, since the Unionist parties are now polling under 50 per cent at Westminster and Assembly elections.

It could equally be argued that the Nationalist parties would have to win a clear mandate for a border poll before one is called. Much may depend on the position taken by the non-aligned Alliance Party, and whether its anti-Brexit position would lead it to endorse a border poll in the circumstances of No Deal (though there is no suggestion that it would do so). There is also a view, taken by Lord Bew, that the Government could actively use a border poll to determine support for the Union.

Clearly, Unionists must proceed with caution, and they should be prepared for all possibilities. As I have argued before, the fact that all the border constituencies have returned abstentionist Sinn Fein MPs is a sign of considerable dissatisfaction with the existing governance arrangements in Northern Ireland, and this has been exacerbated by Brexit. It is right that the Government takes seriously the concerns of Nationalist opinion.

It may also be that if a Brexit deal is secured, the constitutional question will be taken off the table again.  For as long as No Deal remains a possibility, it is unhelpful for Ministers to speculate about a border poll – particularly as there seems to be little strategic thinking behind this approach. Raising the question is not only counterproductive in terms of bringing the DUP onside, but also adds another element of uncertainty to the current debate in Northern Ireland.

Nus Ghani: Our new measures will make taxis and minicabs safer for passengers

Whilst most drivers are pillars of the community, recent events have shown how regulation and protections can be tightened.

Nus Ghani is a Transport minister and Member of Parliament for Wealden.

Taxi and minicab drivers do a vital public service – whether that’s helping the elderly to visit the supermarket, transporting children to school, or ensuring a safe journey home after an evening out.

But it’s crucial that everyone, including the most vulnerable, know that when they take a taxi ride they will be safe.

Sadly the recent child sexual exploitation scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, and Newcastle, in which some rogue drivers used their vehicles to facilitate assaults on young girls, have highlighted that this is not always the case.

Since I became a Minister at the Department for Transport last year I have made it my goal to ensure that everyone can use a taxi or minicab safely. I know first-hand how entirely women and girls in particular must place their trust in their driver.

Of course there are already many rules in place to ensure drivers are fit to carry out their jobs. In the vast majority of cases these regulations work well. However the Jay and Casey reports into the circumstances surrounding the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, along with work by the Times, Daily Mail, and other newspapers, have highlighted how these rules could be strengthened and tightened.

For instance, while under current system taxi and minicab drivers must apply for a licence from a local authority, the standards they must meet to obtain one varies across the country. It means that drivers can get a licence in areas where the rules are applied less stringently – but they can then offer their services in places where they may have been refused a permit.

Last year an independent review commissioned by my Department laid out a series of recommendations as to how the current system might be improved. We have given the findings of the review, carried out by Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq of the University of Bolton, great consideration, and today I am unveiling a package of comprehensive and tough measures – including new laws – that will ensure taxis and minicabs are safe for all.

These reforms will also ensure that reputations of honest drivers, who are overwhelmingly in the majority, are left untarnished by the criminal few. We plan to:

  • Introduce legislation that will set out minimum standards all drivers must meet before they can be issued with a licence;
  • Create a national database of all operators, vehicles and drivers, including those who have lost or been refused licences because of safety issues;
  • Bring in new powers which will enable authorities to take action against drivers found flouting regulations, regardless of where they are licensed;
  • Consider laws to prevent drivers from working anywhere in the country without restriction.

As part of new national minimum standards, the department will consider whether vehicles should be fitted with CCTV, using encrypted systems that mean footage can only be accessed if there is a crime reported.

In addition we are consulting on tough new guidance to licensing authorities that will improve safety of passengers. This includes; increasing the regularity of criminal record and background checks for drivers and new checks for taxi firm staff; tests to ensure drivers are proficient in English; and improved handling of customer complaints about rogue drivers.

I’m of course very aware that the vast majority of taxi and minicab drivers are pillars of the community who would never dream of harming to a passenger or exploiting the rules. So we have taken great care to ensure that these measures do not make honest drivers’ vital and challenging work any harder.

Nor will these reforms will not stifle consumer choice or stunt the innovation in this sector – something the Government is keen to support through its ‘Future of Mobility Grand Challenge’, which aims to make Britain world leaders in the movement of goods, services and people. Already firms are creating some great developments, such as Citymapper’s Smartride system that harnesses technology to enable people to share rides.

So it’s clear: the future is exciting one for both passengers and drivers, and the measures I am outlining today will play a vital part in creating a world where taxis and minicabs are safe for all.

Shaun Bailey: London just isn’t working for everyone. We need a Mayor who will help it to do so.

Our concerns aren’t in Europe, or America. They’re local. They’re at the end of our road. We are worried about the dire state of crime, housing and air quality.

Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London

One of the things that strikes me as I go around meeting Londoners is just how much of our beautiful city we don’t see on our tellies or in our newspapers.

London is – without a doubt – the global city the world knows and loves, but for most of us it’s just ‘home’. Yes, it’s the place of the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Square Mile, but it’s also home to quiet neighbourhood parks, local chippies, crowded train platforms, and backed-up roundabouts that do our heads in.

Most of us living in London just don’t experience the city the world reads about. Other than a long commute to work, most of our day-to-day doesn’t reach much beyond our hood. The London experience of someone living in Harrow can be significantly different to someone living in Romford. The same goes for Sutton and Walthamstow. Or Bexley and Barnet, for that matter.

London sure felt like a small place when I was growing up. I had the estates around Ladbroke Grove and not much beyond that. We’d wander up and down the Grand Union Canal and take the Number 7 bus to Oxford Circus every once in a while, but my ends were my world. I didn’t know much about the City, or the historic redevelopment of Canary Wharf. And South London? You might as well have been talking about another country.

No, my concerns back then were closer to home. And it’s the same principle that applies to local elections now. Our concerns aren’t in Europe, or America. They’re local. They’re at the end of our road. Londoners are worried about the dire state of crime, housing and air quality. The upcoming election is about the cost and quality of our daily lives.

Since Sadiq Khan’s election, London has become more dangerous, commuting to work has become more expensive, and homes have become harder to find and even harder to afford. It’s these everyday concerns that have made Londoners anxious for their futures.

Violent crime now haunts every borough in Greater London. Knife crime is at its highest for a decade. Gangs are out of control. Londoners are worried about their personal security, and the safety of their children. Everyday it feels like we read about yet another young life lost to knife attacks.

London is also growing and that’s putting intense pressure on our transport services. Despite what was promised, tube fares have gone up for 4.5 million Londoners, while ridership has gone down. Bus routes are being cut and tube improvements are being cancelled. The Elizabeth Line is now two years behind schedule and billions over budget. All told, Transport for London is losing nearly a billion pounds per year, meaning Londoners will be paying the bill for Sadiq Khan’s poor leadership for years to come.

As a result, the city’s volume of road traffic is up and our road congestion is worse. Our air is far too dirty. The millions of trees that were promised aren’t being planted. Asthmatics like me are finding it harder to function, and the health of our youth and our elderly are being impacted.

In short, Londoners are finding it harder to get by and get around. They’re finding it harder to find a home and raise a family. The cost of living is up, and quality of life down. While those with the means are rightly enjoying all that London has to offer, most ordinary Londoners on ordinary wages are struggling.

Put simply, London just isn’t working for everyone. And Khan doesn’t have a plan to make it work. Instead of getting on with solving London’s problems, Khan is satisfied with shifting the blame. Because Khan never takes responsibility. Ever. In Khan’s world, his lack of delivery is always someone else’s fault.

That’s just not good enough for the people of Barnet. Or Harrow. Or Romford. Or Bexley. Or whatever piece of this wonderful city you call home. If London doesn’t work for all of us, then that’s on the Mayor, and no-one else.

And it’s on me, too, as I develop my plan for London. I look forward to sharing it with you over the coming months.

Chris White: Time is getting extremely tight to pass all the required withdrawal legislation

With 45 days left, unless workarounds or extra time can be found, uncomfortable decisions may have to be made on which Brexit Bills to prioritise.

Chris White was Special Adviser to Patrick McLoughlin, when the latter served as Chief Whip, as well as to Andrew Lansley and William Hague when each served as Leader of the House. He is now Managing Director of Newington Communications.

The clock is ticking. We’re running out of runway.  Whatever metaphor you wish to use, Parliament has an awful lot of legislating to do before 29th March if it wishes to complete the passage of the seven Brexit Bills, along with a large amount of secondary legislation.

Today, the Prime Minister will update the Commons, setting out the Government’s progress in negotiating with the EU following the passage of the two advisory amendments last month.  They instructed, though not mandated, the Government to seek to both remove the backstop (Brady) and avoid a No Deal scenario (Spelman/Dromey).

Since then, the negotiations have been less than productive, revealed in striking language in the Prime Minister’s letter to the Leader of the Opposition over the weekend.  In it, she stated that she was still seeking alternative arrangements to the backstop without specifying in detail what they were, and that negotiating a free trade deal as a third party outside of the Single Market was a “negotiating challenge”, which is somewhat of an understatement.

A month on from the meaningful vote on 15th January, whilst significant column inches are dedicated to the possibility of the Malthouse Compromise we are no closer to knowing if the EU is prepared to alter the existing deal.  Parliament is running out of time before 29th March, either to pass a Bill implementing an agreed deal, or to pass legislation ensuring the UK is ready for a No Deal Brexit.

The scale of the challenge

On 31st January, the Leader of the Commons quite rightly cancelled the February half-term recess, yet also scheduled a range of business in the Commons that, whilst important, didn’t progress No Deal legislation in any way.  This risk-averse programming is almost certainly down to the fact that, with negotiations ongoing with the EU, the Government doesn’t wish to give any opportunities in the House to amend legislation to include unhelpful and challenging amendments.  For example, there have been strong hints that amendments could be tabled to the Trade Bill in the Lords that would seek to keep the UK in a Customs Union.

If this is the case, and with reports suggesting that the next ‘meaningful vote’ is in around three weeks, in the week commencing 25th February, we may not see any more progress in the Commons on much needed No Deal legislation until a deal is reached that the House can agree on.

In terms of readiness, a number of No Deal preparation Bills have already received Royal Assent, including the Customs Act, the Nuclear Safeguards Act, the Road Haulage Act and the Sanctions Act.  However much more needs to be done. For a start, winning the meaningful vote is only the first step – the Government must then pass a European Union Withdrawal Agreement Implementation (EU WAIB) prior to 29th March to give legal effect to the Withdrawal Agreement.  However the Government must not put all its eggs in one basket, and in order to provide security in the event of No Deal should pass a further six Bills, and additional secondary legislation.

These Bills range from allowing the UK to enter into trade deals, creating a domestic agriculture and fisheries market, maintaining our healthcare agreements, giving powers to implement financial services regulations, to bringing EU citizens under UK law.

The current state of play is as follows:

As you can see from the above table, agriculture, fisheries, and immigration are well behind schedule and will need considerable work to pass before 29th March.  Equally, Trade has its own issues as outlined above.

The Government also has to pass around 600-700 statutory instruments, or secondary legislation, before 29th March to be ready, in addition to the above Bills.  The timetable for their consideration has increased in recent weeks and the Government might just be on track, but around 200 still have to be considered in the next few weeks. Certainly the SI committees are working overtime, and have significant reading ahead of them.  The Times’s Esther Webber reported one SI from BEIS was “636 pages long, weighs 2.54 kilos and covers 11 matters that would be expected to go in separate documents.”

Will the UK be ready in time?

There are 45 days left until 29th March, and Parliament will sit for 26 of them (not counting sitting Fridays), unless it chooses to add more sitting days to the calendar or change the business on Fridays from Private Members’ Bills to Government business.  If the deadline of 29th March remains in place, it is unlikely that the Government will be able to pass both the EU WAIB and the six remaining No Deal preparation Bills.

This will mean uncomfortable decisions about which Bills it has to prioritise, and whether workarounds can be found through alternative means.  The Trade Bill is probably the highest priority for the Government aside from the EU WAIB, but failing to set up domestic agriculture and fisheries markets prior to exit day, for example, will cause severe concerns and uncertainty in those sectors.  If Government, Parliament and the EU reach consensus about an amended deal, or agree to the existing deal, then it’s likely that there will need to be a short extension to Article 50 as passing the EU WAIB inside a month, whilst technically possible, would be extremely challenging.  However, the Government must continue to progress with the No Deal Bills over the next few weeks, or the UK faces running out of runway before 29th March.

Ciaran Cadden: Could referendums offer a way out of Northern Ireland’s political deadlock?

Why not give the electorate the chance to pass judgement directly on Sinn Fein and the DUP’s ‘red lines’?

Ciaran Cadden graduated from University of Manchester in PPE, and is co-editor of @tweetyouthvoice. He currently teaches English in Taipei.

Any onlooker to the current political discourse in the United Kingdom would perhaps be forgiven for thinking that all aspects of public policy within the country are running so smoothly that we can afford to give all our attention to an amicable divorce from the European Union.

Alas, they would be mistaken, and in the most north-westerly corner of the UK we have been without a functioning devolved government since January 2017. That’s well over six-hundred days, but who’s counting?

Unfortunately, and rather embarrassingly, the world is counting, and watching with despair as a sustained, yet fraught, peace agreement with shared governance is disintegrating before our very eyes.

By no means is the Belfast Agreement of 1998 perfect. In fact, I and many others have reservations in particular about the concept of a ‘shared executive’ and its ability to succeed in an increasingly-polarised electoral environment. The middle ground in Northern Ireland is shrinking, and this may require a fundamental re-think on how to progress with representation at Stormont. I have previously floated the concept of voluntary coalition, but this has been taken up with little to no enthusiasm.

The failure to grasp this nettle has resulted in a rather depressing false false: a sustained lack of representation at Stormont or Direct Rule from Westminster.

Yet another way is possible. As an ideological conservative ,I and many others adhere to the philosophy of small government and the promotion of individual liberty, empowering the individual and the local community in making decisions they see as justified.

Why can’t we make a similar case for governance in Northern Ireland? At least, perhaps, to solve the outlying issues which are ensuring that the locks on the Stormont gates are there for the foreseeable future.

If we are to believe the rhetoric from the DUP and Sinn Fein, alongside the swathes of media reports, governance is being blocked due to two distinct subjects: an Irish Language Act, and social issues pertaining to same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Perhaps it is time to ask the people of Northern Ireland to decide on these issues, and then for the main two parties of the DUP and Sinn Fein to come together and decide on a way forward on health, tourism and a business strategy for a post-Brexit Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein have stated that refusal to back an Irish Language Act is a “red line” in their negotiation strategy, yet commanded only 27.9 per cent of the vote at the last assembly election in 2017. Even if other parties were advocating for a standalone act, it seems illogical to allow this one issue to block governance for everyone in Northern Ireland who rely on Stormont for important decision-making. For example, the Institute of Directors (IoD) have claimed the Stormont stalemate has risked £1 billion of infrastructure projects not going ahead.

By contrast, the DUP and others do not have a majority anymore and thus cannot utilise a ‘Petition of Concern’. However, if Stormont does not sit then no vote can be had on the introduction of same-sex marriage. Something ought to give way.

It is unfair – yet easy – to shrug one’s shoulders and not legislate for matters which appear popular to the Northern Irish electorate. For example, a Sky Data poll in April found 75 per cent of respondents supported the introduction of same-sex marriage. It is also counter-productive to hold the institutions to ransom over a language act.

However, I do not agree that MPs in Westminster should rail-road decision making for the Northern Irish people no matter how much virtue-signalling they utilise. Thus, to break the impasse one ought to advocate for one or more referendums.

‘Referendum’ is now a dirty word, particularly on the British Isles for people who didn’t get their way on the Brexit referendum (even though these people advocate for another referendum to correct the original verdict!). But they are democracy in action, a direct application of people power which has worked from ancient Greece to modern-day Switzerland – and even in the Republic of Ireland, where use of such a means has changed their constitution beyond recognition.

Even though Sinn Fein have weaponised the ancient language, Irish is not necessarily a one-sided issue, and nor indeed are social issues such as same-sex marriage. Allowing for the electorate to rise above divisive rhetoric of election time, and vote for an issue at face-value, will cultivate that sense of togetherness and cooperationwhichNorthern Irish politics is so desperately lacking.

Empowering the electorate to decide on such issues, and thus issuing a mandate to legislators for governing, should allow talks to continue without so-called “red lines”. Instead we could look to a governing institution which will advocate and deliver prosperity for all in Northern Ireland.