The only safe New Year prediction is usually how unwise it is to make predictions. The current line-up of party leaders could not have been predicted a year ago not least in David Cameron's role as a Conservative and not Coalition Prime Minister.
Each party leader will have set themselves a challenge for the New Year and as Parliament returns it's important to get off to a good start.
David Cameron will want people to recognise his efforts in getting EU reform and then recognise the importance of Britain remaining a member. Jeremy Corbyn will be hoping that people recognise what his "new politics" means and to translate that into taking the fight to the Government. New Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron will just be hoping to be recognised.
Inevitably leaders also have to focus internally on how best to take their party with them. The vindictive acts by the Government of cutting Short Money which opposition parties rely on and restricting trade union funding makes the Opposition's job harder. But there's never been a more important time to reach out beyond parties to voters. After all it's voters who are in charge. People who work hard and pay their taxes. The dedicated professionals who in our area give us some of the best schools and healthcare in the country and keep our borough one of the safest. And those whose time is taken up caring for their family and for whom a happy new year depends upon their own efforts more than political discourse. It is they who in 2016 will have their say probably in an EU Referendum, certainly in elections in Scotland, Wales and London, for Police and Crime Commissioners and for their local councils. It's going to be a busy year and I hope for all my constituents a happy one.
The only safe New Year prediction is usually how unwise it is to make predictions. The current line-up of party leaders could not have been predicted a year ago not...
Last week’s 17th North Shields Christmas Market kept its Dickensian links as did Parliament in the run up to Christmas with its Christmas tree and brass band carol concert in Westminster Hall.
So in the spirit of that Dickensian theme, in Parliament the Climate Change Agreement dominated matters, making Paris seem, after the recent terrorist atrocities, a tale of two cities. Then the Chancellor returned to the Commons to explain why he breached his welfare cap, blaming his being forced to abandon plans to cut tax credits. Had they gone ahead they would have made hard times even harder for many working families. In the New Year all eyes will be on the EU negotiations of which it’s fair to say the eurosceptics have no great expectations and should they go wrong could leave Downing Street with a house to let.
In the meantime MP’s return home to their constituencies to be able to say thank you to all those who work hard over the holidays to keep us safe, well and fed over the festive period. Also in my case to start the Pudding Run – this year is the 30th anniversary – on the Links on Boxing Day morning in aid of Woodlawn School. Let me say thank you to all my constituents, not least for their enduring common sense and great sense of community and to wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.
Last week’s 17th North Shields Christmas Market kept its Dickensian links as did Parliament in the run up to Christmas with its Christmas tree and brass band carol concert in...
The House of Commons was in sombre mood as Ministers described the effects of recent flooding from Storm Desmond. Residents of Shiremoor, Monkseaton, Preston Village and elsewhere know only too well the damage flooding can cause. The word which crops up again and again to describe the rainfall is “unprecedented” and record water levels are broken with growing frequency.
The money being invested in flood defences, including local relief schemes, we are told is increasing. The Governments Emergency Committee – COBRA – meets frequently to reassure us that all which can be done is being done to rescue people and clear up the mess. I remain sceptical however that our frontline emergency services and local authorities will be able to respond as effectively if budgets go on being cut.
I am no scientist but there seems clear evidence of a link between climate change and changes in weather patterns. Though too late to prevent recent floods, the Climate Change Summit in Paris has to take steps to reduce emissions and global warming. We were the first country to legislate through the Climate Change Act with its 80% reduction target by 2050. Paris must go further. Technology is cutting solar and wind energy prices and provided the cost of action does not fall on poorer countries or poorer people we need to see tougher targets. The question is less can we afford to act and more can we afford not to?
The House of Commons was in sombre mood as Ministers described the effects of recent flooding from Storm Desmond. Residents of Shiremoor, Monkseaton, Preston Village and elsewhere know only too...
I have the privilege of working in one of the iconic buildings in London. The Houses of Parliament, along with perhaps St Paul's Cathedral, are the images most associated with the capital. We set our time by Big Ben and parliament’s image even adorns sauce bottles. Parliament is iconic, and the symbol of what it stands for, also make it a key target for terrorism. Increased security checks and the eerie quiet on public transport served as a reminder of the horrors of what happened in Paris.
Events such as the terror attacks in Paris change things utterly, at least for a time. In the aftermath important issues become critical. So the Government's plans for new Investigatory Powers to tackle extremism and criminality seem more urgent. The focus on taking the fight to ISIS, the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, makes extending the bombing to Syria the next big question.
But it also challenges the wisdom of plans to cut police budgets and police numbers still further. Neighbourhood policing is not just important to deter and catch criminals - and terrorists are criminals - but it helps to reassure local people and local communities. The right response to terrorists who seek to disrupt our way of life is ‘Business as Usual’ and balancing hard fought freedoms with security is part of that way of life. So too is having a local police service with the resources they need to do their job.
I have the privilege of working in one of the iconic buildings in London. The Houses of Parliament, along with perhaps St Paul's Cathedral, are the images most associated with...
At Hawkeys Lane War Memorial last Sunday the names of the fallen in 1915 were read out by Tynemouth World War One Project volunteers. The recently unveiled commemorative boards in the memorial garden at the Linskill Centre shows the effect of war on our community. Remembrance services last weekend were well attended, despite the inclement weather and the wearing and laying of wreaths of red poppies symbolised not the glorification of war but a mark of respect to those who gave their lives in the defence of our country.
I can respect other people’s views but for me defence is a deeply embedded principle. In our area many people have served in the Armed Forces or have family who have done so. Strong Labour areas like the North East have traditionally provided the staunchest defenders of our country. And the two local veterans awarded the Legion d'Honneur at a recent service I attended in Durham Cathedral demonstrates that defending our country can also mean defending others.
Over the next few months Parliament will face big decisions not least about a replacement for Trident and my party’s position remains in favour of multilateral not unilateral disarmament. For us defence is not just about guns, ships, planes or even missiles, it is also about the pay and conditions of those who serve. We owe that to those who currently serve as much as we owe respect to those who have gone before.
At Hawkeys Lane War Memorial last Sunday the names of the fallen in 1915 were read out by Tynemouth World War One Project volunteers. The recently unveiled commemorative boards in...
The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is. On average a fisherman dies each week, making fishing the UK’s most dangerous peacetime occupation. Yet over the next few months local fishermen may be forced to go further for longer to make a living in fishing grounds under increasing pressure.
For most fishermen along the North East coast the nephrops fishery – prawns to you and I – is the staple catch, in a season which usually runs from October to April. More than 60 boats depend on the prawn fishery, all under 18 metres, most under 10 metres, it’s a fishery which sustains stocks and around 1000 jobs in the industry. Now that’s under threat from bigger, nomadic boats from Ireland and Scotland muscling in on the catch and threatening to overfish.
At this point Euro critics usually wag their finger at the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy. But this is a home grown problem, needing a home grown solution. As I warned in the last fisheries debate and again in a recent letter to the Minister, Ministers need to act to protect the nephrops fishery in the Farne Deeps, defend the local fleets or devolve the power Ministers have to our region to protect our own. Most MP’s aspire to be a Minister so when Ministers have the power why won’t they use it?
The recent service for Lost Fishermen and Seafarers in North Shields was a timely reminder of just how dangerous the fishing industry is. On average a fisherman dies each week,...
It is ironic that at the same time the film “Suffragette” is in cinemas we are facing perhaps the biggest disenfranchisement in our history. The Government is planning to bring forward plans for Individual Electoral Registration by 12 months, against the advice of the independent Electoral Commission. The effect is likely to be that a million people will disappear from the electoral register, on top of the estimated million already missing.
We support Individual Electoral Registration, and legislated for it, but we also recognise the huge challenge it poses. Some local authorities, whose responsibility it is to maintain registers, have coped well with the challenge so far, including our own here in North Tyneside, but there’s still work to be done.
Any government should encourage people to register to vote. Without registering you can’t have your say in the election of an MP, a Councillor, a Mayor, an MEP, or a Police and Crime Commissioner. Nor can you vote in the forthcoming Referendum on our membership of the European Union, a decision which will have a huge impact on our future as a country.
Even if you don’t intend to vote, not being on the electoral register could make getting a bank card or a mobile phone contract much harder, or you could face a £80 fine for not registering.
You’ll need your NI number to register to vote. Registering takes less than three minutes by going to gov.uk/register-to-vote. Don’t lose your voice!
It is ironic that at the same time the film “Suffragette” is in cinemas we are facing perhaps the biggest disenfranchisement in our history. The Government is planning to bring...
Next week the Conservatives at their Conference get to reflect on their party’s unexpected election victory, this week in Brighton the Labour Party is reflecting on our unexpected leader.
Party Conferences have a unique place in party history. Instead of the hoped for unity, they are often remembered for their discord, usually a political version of looking back in anger. Although new Leaders give renewed interest the only part of Conference which attracts attention is often the Leader’s speech.
There’s also a myth about party conference, that members and affiliates come together as the supreme decision making body. In fact every Labour leader has ignored conference decisions when it suited them, including fondly remembered leaders like Clement Attlee.
The speed of doing politics has moved on rapidly. Political participation for many people is about signing up to online campaigns and petitions. For others political communication goes little further than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter. Only very few could imagine stretching that to 5 days in a Conference Hall.
So there may be something in the view that the week long annual Conference is no longer as relevant, in seaside towns which like conferences themselves have seen better days. Perhaps it’s time for more frequent, shorter conferences, in the regions, closer to the people and away from London. It would certainly mean Parliament would no longer need a Conference Recess and we could get on with our job of scrutinising the Government.
Next week the Conservatives at their Conference get to reflect on their party’s unexpected election victory, this week in Brighton the Labour Party is reflecting on our unexpected leader. Party...