Friday, 10 April 2020

Happy Easter

The Easter weekend is here but sadly it will not be normal and it will not be a holiday. The Easter story is of course about the ultimate sacrifice being made for all of us and this year it feels that its relevance is particularly poignant.

We are all having to make sacrifices at this time, most notably for all of us, with our liberty. I know some people are finding this hard but it helps to remember why we are doing it and that when we get through this, which we will, that we have played our part in saving people’s lives. We all have family members or know people who are at risk and we all want them to be safe and well. It is also worth repeating that if our NHS becomes overwhelmed with Conoravirus cases, then absolutely any of us of any age, who needs healthcare because of unexpected illness or injury, risks not getting the treatment we would normally expect to receive.   

It also helps to remember that our frontline public sector and essential services workers are putting themselves at greater risk to keep our town and country running. Tragically, we have seen some deaths among those working on the front line. As well as heroic doctors and nurses, we have also lost prison officers and bus drivers, who have contracted Covid19 through their work.

These people have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving us all. We should think about that and put things in the right context, before complaining about our own loss of liberty, as well as for the minority of people who think the restrictions only apply to others.

From what I’ve observed and heard, the vast majority of us in Crawley are playing our part and that is something we should rightly be proud of. The small minority who aren’t doing the right thing do get a disproportionate amount of mentions on social media, but in a town of over 110,000 people, they really are a very small minority.
I wish all readers a happy Easter as we continue our resolve.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Thanking our NHS and Care Workers

Our everyday lives have changed amid the Covid19 public health emergency that is happening across the world. We’ve seen harrowing and heart-breaking scenes from hospitals in northern Italy, with a grim milestone having passed of more reported Covid19 deaths than in China. Heroic Italian doctors have given us a very stark warning and we ignore their advice at our peril.

We are seeing unprecedented action and support from the government and our local councils, but this is an effort where each and everyone of us has a part to play. Comparisons have been made with the war effort during World War Two but there is one big difference I’d like to highlight. During war, people and countries are fighting against each other but this time all of us from every country are united in a common cause.

Most of us in Crawley are pulling together and the community spirit is great to see, as well as heeding the government advice that comes from our top medical experts. It is vitally important we follow the advice issued and only from trusted and accountable sources. These include the Government, the NHS, Public Health England, West Sussex County Council, Crawley Borough Council, Sussex Police, West Sussex Fire & Rescue, and trusted national news outlets such as the BBC, Sky and ITN.

Unfortunately, a minority of people haven’t been heeding the advice and this has consequences, risking further transmission and spread of the Conoravirus, that then finds its way to vulnerable people whom this could kill or make very sick. It then follows that the more people who need treating for Covid19, the less NHS resource there is for those who need every other illness or injury treating. So please, can everyone play their part, we need 100% support, not 90%.
Those who work for the NHS are heroes at the best of times, but at this time they are pressured like never before. On Thursday evening at 8pm, please join in the planned public applause to say THANK YOU to our wonderful health workers and carers. It’s the very least we can do.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

When The Chips Are Down - You Know Who To Trust On Defence

Not this guy! (Picture courtesy of Guido Fawkes)
I wrote this on the evening of Sunday 11th March for this week's Crawley Observer, before Jeremy Corbyn's poorly-judged (but very predictable) statements on Russia and the Salisbury chemical weapon attack

Last week I wrote about how I won’t be watching any of the FIFA World Cup being held in Russia in June and July, because of their appalling actions in Syria. Recent weeks have seen over 1,000 civilians killed in Eastern Ghouta including 200 children. Banned chemical weapons have also been used by Syria despite Russia claiming in 2013 they would oversee their removal. I had written this before it became known that a chemical weapon had been used in Salisbury during a murder attempt, with it being pretty obvious as to which country the chief suspect is.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has rightly referred to Russia as a malign and disruptive force. We shouldn’t forget the invasion of Crimea, the major destabilising of Eastern Ukraine including the shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH17, suspected cyber-attacks on UK infrastructure and aggressive testing of UK defence capabilities by Russians warplanes.
Recent events have shown that we cannot risk letting down our guard against aggressive nations.  Against a backdrop of increasing global threats, we must make sure our Armed Forces have the resources and capabilities they need to maintain our edge against potential adversaries.

Since 2010 under the Conservatives, the UK has met the 2% of GDP target of defence spending and the defence budget will increase by at least 0.5% above inflation every year of this Parliament. The government are also spending over £179 billion on military equipment and support for our Armed Forces between 2017 and 2027.  We need to show that Britain won’t be bullied.
People know that the Conservatives are fully committed to our nation’s defence but everyone knows the same cannot be said of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. I do wonder if Russia may actually feel emboldened there is a chance of a Corbyn-led government, which may further motivate their destabilising tactics against us? 

Locally, Labour in Crawley is also weak on defence. Their left-wing financial Council boycott of the defence industry includes a major employer in Manor Royal. This is something the Conservatives will immediately reverse should we win political control of Crawley Borough Council.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

World Cup Russia 2018 - No Thanks!

Daily Mail Front Page 13th March 2018
I wrote this on the 4th March for the 7th of March Crawley Observer - before news of the chemical weapon attack in Salisbury (on the same day) had broken.

I used to think that politics should be kept out of sport but my view is changing. I recently enjoyed watching some of the Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang in South Korea and supporting Team GB. Last weekend I spoke with a friend in Korea, so naturally I asked if he had enjoyed the recent Winter Olympics held in his country.

He said that he had intentionally not watched any of it, because he felt that the South Korean Government had used it for political purposes, and he disagreed with giving the North Korean regime a propaganda coup by having the joint Korean team. Some people in Korea didn’t like what was happening so they exercised their choice of a personal boycott.
I remember the sporting boycotts of the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan and the boycott against South Africa during the Apartheid era. South Africa were expelled from FIFA in 1976 although nowadays FIFA appears less bothered about human rights, given that just last week, FIFA’s President attended a football match in Iran where 35 women were arrested because they tried to attend the match.

As I write, Russia is continuing to oversee a devastating military campaign in Syria, with hundreds of thousands of civilians besieged and relentlessly bombed, while the rest of the world appears powerless to stop it. I note that there is outrage if a politician tweets something inappropriate but where is the outrage at what Russia is doing in Syria? Where are the protests outside the Russian Embassy? 
Yet come the middle of June, we will all be expected to cheer on our national teams as Russia showcases the FIFA World Cup - as if nothing has happened. Why are no UK or European politicians calling for a boycott of the Russian World Cup?

As a football fan, I’ve enjoyed watching every World Cup since Spain 82, but this year for the first time, I will be exercising a personal boycott and will not be watching any of it. For me, Russia’s hosting of the World Cup lacks any moral legitimacy.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

University Applications From Crawley Rise By 40% Since 2009

A fundamental reason as to why I have always been a Conservative is that I believe in aspiration and helping people to become the best they can be. One of the best ways to improve prospects for our young people is through education, with further and higher education enabling greater opportunities. I am therefore delighted to see that information released by UCAS (The University and Colleges Admission Service) shows that University applications in Crawley in 2018 have seen a 40% increase,  rising from 25% of 18 year-olds applying in 2009 to 35% in 2018.
This is great news for Crawley’s future although there is still more to do in raising aspirations, increasing educational attainment and having more skills in the workforce in a rapidly changing industrial world. Crawley is still below the national average of 37.4% of 18 year olds applying to University but the gap has significantly shrunk even though University applications have also risen across England as a whole.

No-one’s opportunities in life should be determined or limited by their background or circumstances. There is more to do, but it is also great news that the proportion of disadvantaged 18-year-olds applying to University this year is at a record high of 22.6%.
This follows statistics released last week showing that a record proportion of state school pupils are going both to University, and to highly selective Universities. 77% of young entrants to Russell Group institutions in England were from state schools, and 90% of young entrants to University more broadly came from state schools.

To enable all young people to choose the route that is right for them, the Conservative Government is also investing in apprenticeships and technical qualifications, so all of our young people are able to improve their chances and get on in life. The Government has also announced a major review of student financing, frozen the tuition fee cap and raised the repayment threshold to £25,000, which will save graduates up to £360 per year from this April. We are making real progress for our young people and seeing more than ever grasp increasing opportunities.