Friday, 20 January 2017

Welcome Defence Investment In Crawley

I was very pleased to see that part of the £410million RAF military transport contract has been awarded to defence contractor Thales, which has a major site at Manor Royal here in Crawley. This contract is a further boost for our local economy and is further evidence that Crawley continues to prosper after the Brexit vote. This contract is a sign of the Conservative government investing in our Armed Forces, in the UK defence industry and in Crawley. In stark contrast, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour councillors at Crawley Town Hall have an ongoing boycott against the British Defence Industry, including disgracefully against companies here in Crawley.

Defence is one industry where Britain excels on the global stage but there are many others as well as some where our potential is not yet met but where freeing ourselves of the European Union’s shackles will create major global opportunities for us. With the formal triggering of Article 50 due in the next few weeks, these are exciting times for the UK.

While we are leaving the European Union we are not leaving Europe, but we are going to reach out to the rest of the world and so far the signs look excellent. Last week it was announced that New Zealand is very keen to have a free-trade agreement with the UK as soon as possible. I am very confident that this is just a sign of things to come. The United States appears to have changed their position with the new incoming administration no longer relegating the UK to the “back of the queue” when it comes to a trade deal, but moving us to the front.
We have a unique place and position in the world with our unmatched historical and cultural links across the globe, as well the global language being our own. This includes with the growing and emerging countries of the Commonwealth in Africa and Asia such as India. I view the UK as a truly global nation and Crawley’s proximity to London and having Gatwick here makes us very well placed to prosper as Britain booms post-Brexit.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Have a Happy and Peaceful Christmas

This week in my Crawley Observer column, I have written about Christmas.
I was struck by the recent passing of Greg Lake, who sadly died on the 7th of December, just a couple of weeks before Christmas. I wasn’t familiar with his other music but I did know his famous Christmas hit of 1975, I Believe in Father Christmas.  Although this song is often categorised as a Christmas song, this was not his intention. He said that he wrote the song in protest at the commercialisation of Christmas. This was 41 years ago and nowadays I barely hear anyone mention Christmas being too commercialised because it now just seems to be accepted. If anything, the media’s measure of the success of any Christmas seems based on how busy the shops are and how much they sell.

The Christmas build-up is of course a very important time for retailers for which many jobs rely on, but it isn’t the true meaning of Christmas. I was curious to see what the internet makes of Christmas so I did a Google search of the word “Christmas”. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first entry was Wikipedia which gives the following explanation: “ Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, meaning "Christ's Mass") is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration”.

That sums it up brilliantly and while recognising that cultural and secular themes and traditions have crept into how we celebrate Christmas; I believe that we should never lose sight of what Christmas is really about. Once we think about how Jesus lived his life, the Christmas themes such as giving, sharing, caring, and spreading joy become obvious.

I find myself becoming increasingly grateful each Christmas, because I’m in a warm home in a safe environment, with enough to eat and no major worries. Compared to millions across our world, most of us here are very fortunate so as well as thinking of those less fortunate, I see Christmas as a time to be grateful. I wish all readers of the Crawley Observer a very happy and peaceful Christmas.         

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Make Thursday Our Independence Day - VOTE LEAVE

This week is my final Crawley Observer column before the referendum. As I post this in the final minutes of the 22nd of June, I would be very surprised if Tilgate and Furnace Green did not vote for Leave. I've had a great reception as I have been going around campaigning for Leave. I also think Crawley and West Sussex will vote for Leave. But will the UK as a whole? The next 48 hours will not be forgotten in a hurry. 

 As I write this column on Sunday evening while watching Switzerland (non-EU) v France (EU) in the European Championships, I am wondering what this week will bring and how exactly the EU referendum is going to pan out. As I see it, from this week onwards there will be four parts to the referendum and the outcomes resulting from it.

The first part will be the media frenzy approaching polling day. There will be claim and counter-claim from both sides and while I support the Leave campaign, I do not agree with everything they have said. However, the ‘Project Fear’ tactics from the Remain campaign have been deplorable. This will reach fever pitch this week and goodness knows what they will trott out in the final days before the vote.
The second part is the vote itself. I think it more likely than not that Crawley will return a Leave vote, but if it doesn’t, then I can’t see Leave winning nationally if Crawley votes for Remain. I can however see either Leave or Remain winning nationally if Crawley votes for Leave. Nationally, it feels very close so I hope the turnout is high to give this election the biggest possible mandate.

The third part will be the immediate aftermath after the result. I think it very likely that whatever the result, there will be no status quo. We will be in a whole new political world and what this will look like will be anyone’s guess. As I wrote last week, when voting we should take a long-term view and not decide our vote based on the possible immediate aftermath of the vote.
Finally there will the long-term outcomes. This is where it really matters and I am confident the UK will have a better global future outside of the EU while still working with our European and EU neighbours. However, if we vote to stay, we will be trapped in an increasingly undemocratic political organisation that bullies and threatens those who dare to disagree with it. This is our only chance to leave and we should seize it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

This Thursday - Vote LEAVE

Last week in my Crawley Observer column I wrote about this week's historic EU Referendum, a manifesto commitment that David Cameron and the Conservative Government have delivered on.
Next week, our historic vote takes place on whether to either remain in or leave the EU. This will be it folks, our only opportunity to leave and we won’t be getting another vote. I urge everyone to use their vote and to make a choice that is best for our long-term future and democracy, not to vote on short-term uncertainties. That means voting for Leave.
Both sides in the referendum have come out with daft statements but the scare-mongering and the inaccuracies from the Remain side have been truly appalling. If we leave, we are not going to stop trading with Europe, we are not going to see the economy crash and the ridiculous claim that it will be harder to buy a home couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reality is that the UK’s inability to have any control over high levels of net EU migration is the largest contributing factor to the demand side of the supply and demand equation for housing. Only by leaving the EU and taking back control with a manageable and sustainable level of population growth can we start to get to grips with the housing crisis. The alternative is to see housing become ever more unaffordable for our young people and future generations.
There may be some short-term issues to resolve if we leave the EU, but when voting I say think about getting this right for the long term. The EU is of course is famous for making terrible short-term political decisions over sensible long-term economics. For example, the EU fudged the criteria for Greece to join the Euro in 2002 and then didn’t allow it to leave, creating economic chaos across the entire Eurozone.

Finally, we should never forget that many of those desperate for the EU to govern us are the same people saying the UK would become an economic disaster by not joining the Euro. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. Voting to leave is a positive vote that recognises we are better making decisions for ourselves as a country. Let’s take back control.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Crawley's Pétanque Shambles

The first time I had ever heard of Pétanque was when all Crawley councillors received an email telling us that a Pétanque Court was to be installed in Crawley's Memorial Gardens. There was no explanation as to what it is was, so I had to look it up online. Apparently, it is a French pastime similar to Boules. This appears to be the whim of one councillor who holidays in France, Labour's Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Councillor Chris Mullins.
Given that any proposed change for the Memorial Gardens should be dealt with sensitively, I just can't believe how badly this has been handled and Chris dismissing the concerns of the entire Conservative Group at Crawley Borough Council as "just a few Tories" has rubbed me up the wrong way. We are 18 councillors out if Crawley's 37 (48.65%) and have been elected to represent Crawley. We should not be dismissed so arrogantly.
This proposal has been widely ridiculed in the national press and Crawley's Conservative councillors discussed the Memorial Gardens at our meeting on Tuesday evening. We unanimously agreed to call on Cllr Mullins to reconsider and put his plan on hold, pending a review of both the demand to play pétanque and of potential alternative sites. We issued this press release:       
The entire Conservative opposition at Crawley Borough Council have called on the Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Chris Mullins, to immediately put on hold plans to install a Pétanque Court in Crawley’s Memorial Gardens.
At a meeting of the Council’s Conservative group on Tuesday evening, a motion was unanimously passed calling for Cllr Mullins to immediately halt his controversial plans for pétanque in the Memorial Gardens, pending a review of both the demand for such a facility in the town and of potential alternative sites.
The Conservative’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Beryl MeCrow, said “We are not opposed to this pastime but we have not been shown any evidence that there is a demand for pétanque in Crawley. All we know is that Cllr Mullins likes to play the game and is hoping other people will take it up. This could be a white elephant that would spoil the beautiful and tranquil Memorial Gardens.”

Councillor Brenda Burgess (Three Bridges) who has led the concerns added, “The whole way this has been handled has been shambolic and is part of a wider problem of a ‘closed-shop town hall’. We were just told it was happening and that there would be no discussion about it. We want this put on hold before the Memorial Gardens are dug up and spoiled. We want to see if there are more suitable locations such as Goffs Park or Southgate Playing Fields. Why won’t Cllr Mullins consider this?”

Update: the Crawley News has received a response from Cllr Mullins saying that he "couldn't give a f*** what the Tories think."