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John Penrose: The conventional wisdom about this leadership election is wrong. Hunt’s spending plans are neither unaffordable nor irresponsible.

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare and a Northern Ireland Office Minister.

If you listen to the sober-sided, serious economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or to the Chancellor Philip Hammond himself, you’d think the Conservative leadership election is a horrible bidding war of doolally spending promises from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Has the party of sound money lost its soul? Betrayed its heritage? Are Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman spinning in their graves as leadership contenders try to out-Corbyn each other with unaffordable spending promises?

Well no, not really. I can’t speak for Boris Johnson but, as someone who’s been involved in a lot of Jeremy Hunt’s policy development work, that’s not what we’re doing at all.

Let’s start with the charge that, if it was right to introduce austerity in 2010, we should do the same for Brexit in 2019. Otherwise we aren’t being consistent.

But the problem in 2019 isn’t the same as 2010. Brexit isn’t the banking crisis, thank goodness. And if the problem is different, the answers should be too.

By 2010, Gordon Brown was trying to keep the economy going with huge increases in public spending, paid for with ballooning debt. Something like one pound in every four the Government spent had to be borrowed, to be repaid by taxpayers later. If we’d carried on like that, pretty soon the country’s credit card would have been snipped up and the bailiffs would have been knocking at the door. So we simply had to throttle back, to stop spending money we hadn’t got.

But today is different. Public spending isn’t ballooning and borrowing is under control. We’re living within our means, and there’s even headroom for a bit more spending if we’re careful. We’ve come a long way, and it hasn’t been easy. You can understand why Hammond doesn’t want the next Prime Minister to blow it.

What are today’s problems, if they’re different from 2010? The biggest is that some – although certainly not all – firms are putting off growth-creating investments until after the Brexit fog has cleared. And that no-one knows whether our trade with the EU will be easy or awful once we’ve left.

So it makes sense to spend a bit of money to promote economic growth. Post-Brexit Britain needs a stronger, more dynamic, more energetic, turbocharged economy, so we’re prepared for the challenges of life outside the EU. And Jeremy Hunt’s plans to cut corporation tax to 12 and a half per cent, increase investment allowances and exempt small high street firms from business rates would do exactly that. They would spark economic renewal and investment in UKplc, making us more resilient in economic shocks and recessions, and more productive and efficient so we can grow faster too.

In other words, it’s OK to use different answers in 2019 than in 2010. But what about the charge that we’re making the same mistake as Brown, by spending and borrowing unaffordably?

Hunt is on pretty firm ground here, because he agrees we’ve got to keep the national debt falling relative to the size of our economy. That means borrowing can’t balloon, and we’ll always be able to repay our debts. And his business career helps here too, because his plans to turbocharge post-Brexit Britain’s economy would mean we’d be investing to grow. They’re sensible investments in our economic future, not pale copies of unworkable, hard-left Corbynomic plans.

Nor is he expecting to do everything at once. We’d need to raise defence spending progressively over five years, for example, to allow time to plan. Otherwise you’d simply waste money on the wrong things.

The same goes for fixing illiteracy. That will take ten years, building on the huge progress over the last decade that has seen more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools than ever before.

And some of the plans would only be temporary, too. The pledge to help farmers adjust to a post-Brexit world has to be a hard-headed, short term plan to help re-equip machinery, buildings and breeding for new global markets, for example. Not a woolly, open-ended subsidy.

The plans have got to be about changing things, so we’re ready for a new world. Not expensively preserving the way they were before we voted to leave. Transformation and preparation, not status quo. But, for Hunt’s proposals at least, they are sound, practical, affordable ideas. And, most important of all, they’re thoroughly Conservative too.

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Iain Mansfield: Brexit by October 31. Stop using the Left’s language. And stand for skilled workers. Essentials for our next Prime Minister

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

Our next Prime Minister will take office at the most challenging time since the 1970s. Not only is there Brexit – an issue of fundamental national importance, that has destroyed the last two Prime Ministers and poses an existential challenge to the future of the Conservative Party – but the old political assumptions are changing. Across the West, traditional voter coalitions are shifting, as citizens reject centrist compromises. Flatlining productivity, unaffordable houses and millions of voters feeling abandoned, either culturally or economically, are just some of the challenges they will face.

Many of those who voted for David Cameron in 2010 are lost to the party, alienated by Brexit. In Britain today, age and education level are better predictors of a person’s vote than class. To win a general election, our next Prime Minister must forge a new coalition of voters that unites the traditional Tory shires with the left-behind Leave voters in the Midlands and North. Even more importantly, they must deliver authentic right-wing policies that address the causes of ordinary working people’s dissatisfaction. People want change and, if the Conservative Party does not deliver it, they are likely to seek answers in the flawed blandishments of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism.

In that context, there are three essentials that our next Prime Minister must prioritise for the good of the people, the nation and the party:

  • Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed.
  • Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left.
  • Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes.

Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed

Not only is delivering on the outcome of the referendum a democratic imperative, it is vital for the continued existence of the party. Recent polling shows that, if we have not left the EU, the Conservatives are likely to suffer devastating losses in a general election; these figures could be even worse if large numbers of members, councillors or even entire associations defect to the Brexit Party. Many members have held on over the last few months purely out of hope that the next Prime Minister would deliver where May failed: another betrayal in October would see these members permanently lost.

Leaving with a deal is preferable, if some changes to the backstop can be agreed and Parliament will pass it. If not, as I have argued previously on this site, we have nothing to fear from No Deal. Preparations for such should be put into top gear on the first day in office. The Prime Minister must make clear that they will under no circumstances ask for an extension; and that they are, if needed, prepared to systematically veto any measure put forward by the EU on regular business if the UK is for some reason kept in. While every effort should be made to secure a deal, if it cannot be reached, Parliament must be faced with the simple choice of permitting a WTO exit or voting no confidence in the Prime Minister – a gamble, admittedly, but one that is preferable to another disastrous extension.

Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left

In recent years too many Conservative politicians have allowed our opponents to define the playing field. We cannot beat the socialists by adopting the language and assumptions of socialism. Our next Prime Minister must stop feeding the narrative of identity, grievance and division, with its assumption that an individual’s potential is defined by their characteristics, that so-called ‘burning injustices’ are solely the responsibility of the state to address, and that the government always no best.

Changing the narrative will be a long endeavour. The systematic appointment of those with conservative values into key ministerially appointed positions; an authentically right-wing approach to policy making in Whitehall; and the withdrawal of state funding from the network of organisations that maintain the left’s grip on the policy narrative are essential. But over and above this, the Prime Minister must be willing to personally stand up and champion individual liberties and freedoms; to condemn progressive authoritarianism and to be visibly proud of Britain, our culture and the rich global heritage of our citizens.

Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes

Young, metropolitan graduates may once have been natural Conservatives, but no longer. There is little hope of reversing this in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Instead of squandering our effort here, our new Prime Minister should instead make the party the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes, particularly in the midlands and north.

Such voters have a natural affinity to the traditional conservative values of low tax and individual liberty, but also greatly value and rely day-to-day onn strong public services. This places the Conservatives in a difficult position after a decade of austerity: Labour made hay campaigning on cuts to police numbers and falls in per pupil spending in 2017. But how to fund significant increases in core services without raising taxes or alienating core Conservative voters, such as via the disastrous proposals on social care in the 2017 manifesto?

To find the funding the next Prime Minister must be bold enough to slay the progressive sacred cows that soak up billions annually in public funding. Three immediately spring to mind:

With the additional £15 billion plus a year, the Prime Minister could at a stroke increase police funding by 25 per cent (£3 billion), boost school funding per pupil by 20 per cent (£8 billion) and increase spending on social care by 20 per cent (£4 billion). And then split the proceeds of further growth between public services and tax cuts.

As well as this, we should champion the interests of the high street, enterprise and small businesses and oppose crony corporatism. Multinational companies that make use of aggressive tax avoidance, abuse their market position or actively work against UK sovereignty should not enjoy government grants, procurement or time in No. 10. Fundamentally, our next Prime Minister should spend more time listening to the Federation of Small Businesses and less time listening to the CBI.


As members, we have two candidates set before us. Both are able politicians and tested leaders who represent the best the Parliamentary party has to offer. As we assess who should be not just our next leader, but our Prime Minister, we should do so against their ability to deliver these vital elements.

Both have committed to delivering Brexit by October 31 – but which one has the ability, the genuine will and the courage to do so by any means necessary? Both are true-blue Conservatives – but which one will truly champion our values, taking the battle to our adversaries with the eloquence and conviction of a Thatcher or a Churchill? Both recognise the importance of reaching out to new voters – but which one can devise and push through the policies needed to unite the Tory shires with the Leave voters of the north? Consider carefully and cast your vote.

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McDonald’s Thinks Developing a Chicken Sandwich Will Help Them Compete with Chick-fil-A, but It’s Off by Miles

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The Chick-fil-A at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Screen grab via CFA.

The number one fast food chain on the planet is seeing a major threat on the horizon, and it smells like chicken sandwiches and waffle fries.

Chick-fil-A is fast becoming America’s most well known and most loved fast food chain. It’s on track to become the third most successful store in its class, surpassing other national brands like Wendy’s and Sonic and falling behind only Starbucks and the most famous chain on the planet.

McDonald’s has noticed Chick-fil-A’s rise, and it wants to make sure that the Christian chain can never step on its toes. With that in mind, McDonald’s has decided that it’s going to begin creating a sandwich that could possibly compete with America’s current chicken sandwich champion.

“A Chicken Sandwich at McDonald’s should be our top priority,” the National Owners Association board said in an email addressed to fellow operators on Tuesday according to MSN.

“Chick Fil A’s results demonstrate the power of chicken,” the board added.

In any other kind of business environment, McDonald’s would be making the right move. The problem for McDonald’s is that while Chick-fil-A’s food is nigh unbeatable in the fast food market, the chain is so much more than chicken, shakes, and fries.

Chick-fil-A is backed by a Christian philosophy that drives their business. It’s corporate mission is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A,” as stated by Chick-fil-A’s about its corporate purpose. This Christian drive for being a positive influence makes them focus on hospitality and good service.

Chick-fil-A’s vice president David Farmer described the company’s approach to the customer’s experience as “[NASCAR] pit crew efficiency, but where you feel like you just got hugged in the process.”

And they do this very well. The chicken sandwich chain is so good at getting customers in and out with all the friendliness and warmth of a church door greater on Sunday that it’s become an internet meme. As it happens, I had a semi-jocular conversation with my RedState colleague Bonchie about it today, recalling the fact that I actually had to leave a Chick-fil-A drive-thru line solely out of fear that I’d be hit by cars due to the fact that the drive-thru line had spilled into the road and extended into the intersection before it.

This isn’t a rare occurrence, either, as this is a phenomenon that happens all around the country. People are willing to queue up in these lines because they know they’re not going to be waiting long thanks to the swiftness of Chick-fil-A’s employees.

Air traffic controllers don’t operate this efficiently.

I’ve been to many a McDonald’s in my day. Going in there is usually a hit or miss experience. I might get a friendly employee who takes my order and sends me on my way after only a few moments. I might also get a bored employee who clearly doesn’t want to be there and shows it in their attitude toward me. I’m one more obstacle in their quest to sit around and do nothing while they run down the clock.

Hopefully your order is complete, and after all that, you still have to eat McDonald’s. I haven’t been in one in years except to use it as an impromptu stop for a restroom on road trips.

McDonald’s thinks this is about a chicken sandwich. Yeah, the sandwich helps, but Chick-fil-A feels like a business with weight and substance to it. Meanwhile, McDonald’s feels like every other sterilized corporation that is more concerned with money than good service. They served food that was unfit for humans until Jamie Oliver uncovered what kind of meat they were serving to humans, and then quietly stopped doing it.

Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A has walked through fire and came out unburnt like some kind of Christian Khaleesi. After LGBT activists attempted to punish Chick-fil-A for its leaders daring to say it believed in traditional marriage — like any Christian would — Chick-fil-A walked away more popular and wealthy than ever. Even today, no matter how hard they try, left-leaning activists can’t seem to stop the juggernaut.

This endeared Chick-fil-A to the masses, not only because it stood tall against the bullies, but because it came out on top afterward.

It’s a proven corporation with classic American values, Christian principles, solid food, and customer service that many corporations only dream of.

McDonald’s doesn’t have a chicken sandwich problem, it has a “it’s nothing like Chick-fil-A” problem.

The post McDonald’s Thinks Developing a Chicken Sandwich Will Help Them Compete with Chick-fil-A, but It’s Off by Miles appeared first on RedState.

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BET founder: Democrats “too far to the left”, praises Trump’s economy

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America’s first African-American billionaire thinks the Democrats have gone “too far to the left”. He offered up a little advice to the 2020 Democrat presidential candidates – move to the middle before it is too late.

Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson is a longtime Democrat and supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. He calls himself a moderate Democrat and that’s the rub. Johnson is speaking out now to advise the candidates to stop the lurch to the far left if there is any hope of defeating President Trump in the presidential election. Political partisanship, he says, has gotten “very wicked and very mean”. It’s hard to argue with that assessment.

America’s political establishment is riven with partisanship that has become “very wicked and very mean,” said entrepreneur and media mogul Robert Johnson, who added that the Democratic Party has become too liberal for his liking.

“The party in my opinion, for me personally, has moved too far to the left,” Johnson, the founder of cable network BET and RLJ Companies business network, told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble Tuesday.

Boldly going where few black Americans go, Johnson praises President Trump for the booming American economy, the best in years by all measurements. He did what other prominent black public figures refuse to do. He acknowledged that African-American unemployment is at it’s all-time lowest level and that the tax cuts allowed the economy to take off. Johnson gives President Trump an A+ on the economy.

“I think the economy is doing great, and it’s reaching populations that heretofore had very bad problems in terms of jobs and employment and the opportunities that come with employment … so African-American unemployment is at its lowest level, ” Johnson said.

“I give the president a lot of credit for moving the economy in a positive direction that’s benefiting a large amount of Americans,” he said. “I think the tax cuts clearly helped stimulate the economy. I think business people have more confidence in the way the economy is going.”

Johnson acknowledged that Trump’s style of leadership may turn off some people but it’s Trump’s style. He said Trump could be a little less of a “showman”. I don’t know about that. I think it is Trump’s showman style that attracted a lot of his supporters in the first place. Trump garnered the most attention in the 2016 Republican primary due to his way of communicating and his ability to market himself as a candidate. His success in making himself the non-politician type of candidate who relates to the average voter, the ones who felt left out for so many years, was his greatest asset. Johnson admits that business people are worried about partisan politics that don’t allow Democrats to work with President Trump.

The truth is that the Democrats are trying desperately to run on a narrative that the economy is not doing well and that everyone is struggling with two or three jobs to simply put food on the table. The numbers show a different story. Does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election that the level of success seen by the Trump administration would be in place now from her economic policies? Say what you will about his personal style, Trump delivers. He does what he says he is going to do.

“At the end of the day, the American people are looking for someone who can deliver economically and deliver on opportunities,” he said.

Some didn’t appreciate Johnson’s remarks in the CNBC interview. A piece at The Root online takes umbrage at Johnson’s nod to the American economy. While the quotes stop just short of calling Mr. Johnson an Uncle Tom, the desire to play the race card and deny giving any credit to Trump is obvious.

Johnson’s line about black unemployment being at its “lowest level” echoes a frequent Trump talking point when the current occupant of the Oval Office attempts to make some connection with “the blacks.”

But the commentary never seems to take into account the fact that black unemployment remains the highest in the nation among racial groups, and almost twice that of the national rate overall and the rate for white people alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Root piece goes on to proclaim the kind of change that would be brought from Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and Julián Castro are preferable for African-Americans. LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, clapped back with the charge that Johnson isn’t working class now so his remarks sound as though he’s living under a rock.

“Bob Johnson is not working class. He does not reflect the issue, nor does he even seem like he has the ability to speak to the issues of the working class,” Brown told The Fix. “For him, to make a statement that this tax break has been helpful for black people — where has he been? Under a rock? There’s all kind of reports that have come out that this tax benefit disproportionately benefited the wealthy and not the working class. In and of itself, to make that statement says to me that he’s simply out of touch.”

Another critic agreed that Johnson is out of step.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the Black Pac, echoed Brown’s sentiments, telling the Post:

“[W]hile Mr. Johnson may share the interests of millionaires and billionaires, he’s out of step with black voters.”

Johnson isn’t supporting any of the candidates currently running. The party has moved too far to the left and he knows American voters are turning off to the messages being put forward. Joe Biden is the one who is supposed to be the centrist able to garner enough support to beat President Trump in the general election. Yet he continues to remind people old enough to remember what a lousy candidate he is and is being pushed to sound like all the rest of the candidates. Mr. Johnson is right. Trump deserves credit for low unemployment and an economy humming along thanks to his economic policies. It’s driving Democrat candidates nuts.

The post BET founder: Democrats “too far to the left”, praises Trump’s economy appeared first on Hot Air.

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Biden: Five years ago, you could mock a gay waiter at a business lunch in Seattle and no one would object

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Is that right? It was five years ago, you may remember, that Brendan Eich was being forced out at Mozilla because he once donated a thousand bucks to the Prop 8 effort in California years before.

Five years ago was also the thick of the Obama presidency and the tail end of the movement to legalize gay marriage, with the Supreme Court only a year away from the Obergefell decision.

He’s not setting this vignette in some heavily socially conservative part of the country either. He’s claiming out-and-out mockery of gays, to their faces, was S.O.P. in … Seattle.

Imagine how insanely heavy-handed you’d need to be in pandering to a sympathetic crowd for members of that crowd to feel obliged to call you out on it.

This is not the first time he’s told this story, Diamond went on to note. He’s been telling it for years, with the time span between when it was and wasn’t supposedly okay to mock someone to their face for being gay changing as Biden’s political needs changed. Here’s a report from, er, five years ago, with Uncle Joe remembering the bad old days of casual cruelty towards gays:

Biden then set a scene. It’s 15 years earlier and a group of businesswomen and men are at a restaurant for lunch. “And a waiter with a distinct lisp came up and asked for their order and someone said, ‘Well let me tell you what I’d like,’” Biden said, feminizing his voice and pretending to be a restaurant patron picking on the waiter. “Everyone around that table, although they thought it was awful, wouldn’t say anything.” Because, as Biden put it, this was “appropriate behavior” – the consensus would have been that it’s OK to make fun of someone who is gay. (Side note: Biden had a speech impediment as a kid.)

“Imagine what would happen today in any major city in America if some horse’s tail said that at a luncheon?” Biden mused. “Everyone else at that table would turn around and say, ‘What in the hell are you talking about man?’”

Evidently that revolution in attitudes towards gays he spoke of in 2014 was *very* new, because here he was again last year claiming that the poor gay waiter in his mind’s eye was being mocked with no hint of dissent by onlookers as recently as “five to six years ago” — 2012 or so — in a city as blue as Washington D.C.

The detail about a lisp is, uh, vivid. Someone in the press should attempt to pin him down on this, just for fun: Can ol’ Uncle Joe give us an approximate date on which mocking someone in a professional setting to their face for exhibiting stereotypically gay traits went from grudgingly acceptable to taboo? Somewhere between 1999 and 2014, it looks like.

The whole thing reminds me of the story Howard Stern tells in “Private Parts” about how he used to prank a very old Bob Hope by getting him to tell and retell the story of playing golf with Eisenhower and George Bush’s father, Prescott. Hope would mention it reflexively every time the subject of Bush came up, Stern noted; once, as a bit of cruel fun, Stern simply mentioned the word “Prescott” to him to see if it would trigger Hope to tell the story, and sure enough. Someone should try that with Biden. Tell him that your cousin, who happens to be a gay waiter, is supporting him in the primaries this year. See what happens.

See if he does the “feminized voice” for you in running through his shtick.

In fairness to Uncle Joe, all politicians have canned speeches and anecdotes. This isn’t even the first time he’s been caught this year recycling material ad nauseam: He’s told the story of recruiting people in Detroit from “the hood” for tech jobs over and over through the last decade. The “gay waiter” anecdote, combined with his debate performance, should concern Biden fans not because it trades in stereotypes or because it’s goofy to believe open mockery would be tolerated in a business setting in Seattle in 2014 but because the guy does seem at times as if he’s lost a step, forced to rely on the same ol’ scripts. What’s he going to do at the next debate when Harris launches a seventeen-point attack on his work on the crime bill 25 years ago? Run through the “hood” speech again?

The post Biden: Five years ago, you could mock a gay waiter at a business lunch in Seattle and no one would object appeared first on Hot Air.

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Greg Hands: Here are the next steps towards implementing our Alternative Arrangements plan

Greg Hands is the MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

One point just about everyone in the Conservative Party agrees on is we need to deliver Brexit as soon as possible if we are not going to face some sort of existential crisis at the ballot box.

All effective political action, in my experience, rests on three qualities: keeping your overall objective resolutely in sight, but be being willing to listen and to compromise when it comes to implementation.

It was that philosophy which underpinned the Brady Amendment, the only positive Brexit amendment to pass during the recent Parliamentary debates on Brexit. It recommends approving the Withdrawal Agreement, as long as the Backstop could be “replaced with Alternative Arrangements”.

Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements Commission (AAC), which I co-chair with Nicky Morgan, was launched in April to build on the Brady Amendment by developing credible and practical Alternative Arrangements to the Irish backstop. The AAC is neutral on Brexit outcomes and politically independent. We draw our legitimacy from a Parliamentary Commission, including over 40 MPs and peers, and a Technical Panel chaired by Shanker Singham and including a former head of UK Border Force, a leading Dutch customs expert, Sweden’s former Director of Customs and Fujitsu’s Industry Lead for Customs and Borders.

This week the AAC launched its interim report at an all-day consultative conference in Westminster. It’s taken a lot of work to get this far, but one thing we don’t have is time because, frankly, the Government should have started doing this work months ago. In that regard, I am delighted that, as the DEXEU Secretary of State, Stephen Barclay, told the conference, the Government has now commenced its own work in this area and set up three advisory panels.

Our ambition has been to produce credible and detailed Alternative Arrangements, and a protocol on how to implement them, and publish them as a resource for all sides in the Brexit negotiations. It’s up to the next UK Prime Minister, and his interlocutors in Brussels, Belfast, Dublin and other European capitals to work out how best to use them. We recommend that Alternative Arrangements can be fully implemented within two to three years, or sooner in many cases.

We have not recommended any single solution. Instead we have suggested a tiered trusted trader programme for large and medium-sized companies; special economic zones for cross-border communities, such Derry/Londonderry-Donegal and Newry/Dundalk; exemptions for the very smallest companies; and that Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) checks should be carried out by mobile units away from the border using the existing EU Customs Code or a potential common area for SPS measures.

We will spend the next few weeks sharing our ideas with key stakeholders in Belfast, Dublin, Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Paris – indeed, I am due to visit Holland and Germany as I write. We are also encouraging people to share their comments and ideas by filling in the consultation form. We will listen carefully to what people have to say before publishing a final report, including the Protocol, in July.

The first and most important precondition we set for the report is that any workable arrangements must protect the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement. An important aspect of the AAC’s work has been the opportunity to spend time in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Let’ s be honest, listening and respecting Irish opinion on the ground has not actually ever been a strong point of Westminster politics and we have been determined to behave and to act differently.

We’ve tried to spend spent as much time as we can talking to people, organisations and businesses in Northern Ireland and Ireland. In total, we met over 50 organisations on three separate visits. These have included Diageo (the owner of Guinness); the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association; the Irish International Freight Association; the Irish SME Association; Manufacturing NI; Londonderry Chamber of Commerce; the NI Retail Consortium; the list goes on…

The second precondition is that any solutions should rely on existing technology and processes – which, incidentally, are advancing all the time – and not any high-tech “unicorns”.

And the third precondition is that Alternative Arrangements must be compatible with any of the potential Brexit outcomes, including but not limited to the current draft Withdrawal Agreement. This means Britain would be ultimately able to adopt its own independent trade and regulatory policy.

We believe our Commission has met these conditions.

So what are we going to do, once we have finished consulting on our findings? We are going to finalise the report and publish alongside it next month a Draft Alternative Arrangements Protocol. This could either be inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement to ensure the Backstop is superseded or used on a standalone basis in any other Brexit outcome.

Politically, we hope that by genuinely listening, engaging and doing the technical work we can help break the Brexit logjam and give both sides something to negotiate around. Having demonstrated that Alternative Arrangements are possible, in a reasonably short time-frame, we can further say to both the EU and to the Irish Government that a negotiated Brexit is within reach, as long as they can make progress on the Backstop issue.

That is an incredibly important prize and it is no exaggeration to say that upon it the future of both Brexit and the Conservative Party depend. I hope all colleagues in the party can wish us good luck.

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Toys ‘R’ Us R Back

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Great news for children — and grandparents.

Toys ‘R’ Us is returning by year’s end. In more modest form, but still back.

Toys ‘R’ Us was the massive go-to temple of toys with vast aisles of eye-popping playthings for children, grandparents and parents that went out of business early last year.

The rebirth is still supposed to be a secret. But excited toy makers spilled the beans about the plans to move back into the business that once brought in $7 billion a year to the nation’s top toy chain.

It was founded in 1948 by Charles Lazarus as a children’s furniture store just as America’s postwar baby boom took off. Fourteen years ago Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Vornado Realty Trust took the company private with plans for an IPO.

But declining sales, a series of disruptive management changes and the financial burden of debt from the buyout began a downhill slide that canceled the IPO after Walmart captured first place in toy sales.

Almost two years ago the company filed for bankruptcy, listing $4 billion in liabilities. Then in March 2018, executives announced a liquidation, closing 740 U.S. stores, 100 outlets in Britain and more in Australia. Some 200 Canadian stores were sold separately.

The return of this toy story is reportedly scheduled for this Christmas season, starting with a half-dozen stores of about 10,000-square feet, about a third the size as before, and an e-commerce site. Lenders have been toying with the idea for sometime with the name Tru Toys.

The new stores will have play areas where children (oh, all right, adults too) can try out the toys.

A business return may not be all that easy. Amazon, Target and Walmart have expanded into the toy void. And some toy makers who lost money in the liquidation may be hesitant.

But others have signaled enthusiasm for the return. “This market needs a self-standing toy store, that’s for sure,” said Isaac Larian, CEO of top-performing toy maker MGA Entertainment. “We will sell them inventory.”

So, turns out Geoffrey, the corporate giraffe mascot, may not be extinct after all.

The post Toys ‘R’ Us R Back appeared first on Hot Air.

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Damian Flanagan: What drives the Conservatives’ underlying problems? For answers, ponder our exile from the cities of the north.

So why am I even writing about this secretive group of no-hopers? Because they happen to be called “The Conservative Party” – and it currently runs the country. Also, I happen to be one of them, having recently taken over the running of the newly reformed Manchester, Withington Constituency Conservative Association.

The position of the Conservative Party not just in Manchester, but in cities across the North of England is so dire that it is probably beyond the imaginings of people in the rest of the country and certainly seems to be a blind spot for Conservative Campaign Headquarters. There hasn’t been a single Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for over 25 years, and until two years ago, the council was a hundred per cent Labour, with no opposition whatsoever – leading to zero scrutiny of any Council policies.

In the recent local elections,t he Conservatives sunk to a new low in Manchester, attracting just 6.5 per cent of the vote, half that achieved by both the Greens and Liberal Democrats, and barely 1/9th of the 58.8 per cent achieved by Labour.

The opposition to Labour in Manchester now consists of three Liberal Democrat councillors (who recently complained that the council was too “right wing”). There is also not a single Conservative councillor on the councils in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle…

So why should people elsewhere care about this? If Northerners like Labour so much, shouldn’t they just be allowed to get on with it?

You could argue that the local elections were an aberration and that people were venting their frustration with the Brexit stalemate in Westminster, that two unrelated issues – local government and national government – were being conflated.

Yet the crisis over Brexit and the full-scale retreat of the Conservative Party from many cities in the north of England are profoundly connected.

Think back to the last time that the Conservative Party enjoyed thumping majorities of over 100 in the House of Commons and was able to act decisively. You have to go back to Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s, a time when the Conservatives still had MPs in urban constituencies in places like Manchester, had a considerable group of representatives on the council there and could appeal to voters in northern cities.

Since being rooted out of those northern cities in the 1990s, the best the Conservatives have been able to hope for are slim majorities in general elections, leaving them highly vulnerable to party divisions over Europe.

Having the vision and doggedness to produce policies that re-engage with the inhabitants of places like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Tyneside and Newcastle has seemingly not been in the mindset of anyone in the Conservative Party. That needs to change urgently.

The fact is that the Conservatives have for over 22 years been incapable of ruling without the support first of the Liberal Democrats and now of the Democratic Unionists. Parliament has been paralysed, Brexit frustrated and finally the Conservatives went begging to Labour for agreement with their policies. All these things are intimately connected to the fact that there has not been a Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for 25 years.

Imagine, though, that the Conservatives were to declare their determination to win back these “lost” Northern cities, starting by setting up a permament office in Manchester and sending some of their best people to find out what exactly is going on and to find a solution to the ingrained antipathy to Conservatives. Supposing we were to make it a marquee policy that we will not, as Conservatives, accept the age-old, north-south wealth divide – why should we? There is no reason whatsover why the north should be poor.

Let’s commit ourselves as Conservatives to those neglected northern cities by taking radical measures: offering tax incentives for companies to set up there and moving government departments north – the relocation of sections of the BBC to Salford and the creation of Media City there has been transformational in the economy of that area.

Let’s commit ourselves to the end of failing, inner city northern state schools which trap many children in a cycle of ignorance and poverty for life, and demand that minimal standards are met instead, and that we will closely monitor and put in targetted resources to these areas until that happens.

Imagine if people in the North began to think of the Conservatives not as the “Nasty Party” only concerned with their own interests and support base in the south, but rather as the visionaries who lifted them, once and for all, out of relative poverty and offered unprecedented opportunities, rediscovering the entrepeneurial drive and world-beating heritage of these post-industrial cities.

In Manchester, the populace are constantly told, over and over, that the source of all problems are “Tory cuts”. It is a matter of almost existential, religious belief.

The local governments of such cities as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle – cities which once led the world as centres of invention and industry – tend to focus on a culture of welfare. There is little sense that a spirit of enterprise, self-reliance and sense of public good is required to guarantee a prosperous future: it’s this compassionate and engaged Conservative vision that the North needs to rediscover.

As Conservatives, we need to support and nurture such a vision. But we are not going to manage it as a London-centric organisation that just views the cities of the north as largely unwinnable provincial backwaters.

The Conservative revolution that needs to begin in cities across the North should also transform the Conservatives nationally. The Conservatives cannot be merely a party of the South and the countryside: it must strongly engage with the interests and concerns of England’s northern cities.

Many people think the great irresolvable fault line in British politics lies between Britain and the EU or else on the border of the Irish Republic. But delve further into what exactly is causing the underlying weakness and reliance on coalitions in Conservative governments, and you will see that it is the long Conservative exile from the cities of the North which is a chief cause of what is stopping the UK advancing forward with decisiveness and unity as a nation.

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Victoria Smart: The story of a banker, an industrialist, and Brexit

Ruth Smart is the Founder and Director of Tranect Ltd and is election agent for Knowsley Conservatives.

I would like to tell you a story of a banker, an industrialist and Brexit.

A young man from our bank came to visit my company a few days ago. Apparently we are now borrowing so much money from them that we qualify for the personal services of a Senior Relationship Manager. Or maybe the bank just wanted to check on the assets against which their money had been borrowed.

“Please excuse the mess” I apologised, as I led him through to our production area: “We are in the middle of moving our factory. Let’s start at our stores, where I can then walk you through what we do and point out the machines you financed.” He followed cautiously as we made our way round crates stenciled for exporting, stillages of parts and bustling workers.

Stopping in a temporarily clear area, I gestured around me. “Raw material comes in here, which we don’t issue until the job can be completed without stopping. Average work in progress is less than one week, and as we build to order we have no finished goods stock.”

“All this racking here has material we currently buy from the EU but, because of Brexit, we have just borrowed money from you to buy this Italian machine over there, so that we can make this material ourselves. In future, we will be able to make this week what we need next week, instead of waiting four to six weeks for deliveries from Europe, and it will also make us more Brexit-resilient.”

At the “Brexit” word he raised an eyebrow, “How much will Brexit impact your business ?”

Pointing at the crate going to China, I explained: “Half of our exports go outside the EU, and we are trying to build those up with help from the Department of International Trade. Half of our exports go to the EU and those pallets over there are going to Holland, Germany and Denmark.”

“I don’t know what will happen to our EU business after Brexit, but we have all the government-suggested systems in place: E-Z certs, EORI, TSP, DDN and we have done everything else recommended by our local Chamber of Commerce. We are as ready for Brexit as we’ll ever be.”

“Good” he replied, “Will this new machine also cut your costs ?”

Shaking my head, I sighed. “We can’t compete with the mega factories in Europe running 24/7 or with the sweatshops in the far east paying a dollar a day. Our USP is speed of delivery. If a customer knows what they want in six month’s time then they buy cheaper abroad. If they need it next week they come to us, and they don’t quibble about price. Our aim is to be the quickest rather than the cheapest, which also provides us the flexibility to react quickly to new opportunities.”

Looking around at all the activity he asked, “When are you moving and how disruptive will that be ?”

“Next month”, I replied. “We are only moving a few miles, to a unit by the docks that we bought with a mortgage your bank provided. It needed gutting and completely refurbishing, but that meant we could fit it out to suit our needs. It’s a bit manic at the moment, but my son and son-in-law are managing the move and they are trying to minimise disruption to our ongoing business.”

Looking through his notes he pointed at a number “How will your mortgage repayment compare with your rent here ?”

“Cheaper,” I grinned, “We bought the new unit at a knock-down price because of the state it was in and, even with the cost of the refurbishment, it still reduces our fixed costs, which also gives us more resilience if the UK economy falters after Brexit.”

As we made our way back to the relative calm and quiet of my office, he asked: “Do you think the UK economy will falter ?”

Shrugging, I gestured for him to sit at my conference table, and moved a couple of packing boxes out of the way to sit down opposite him.” I don’t know what’s going to happen with Brexit. I’m not clever enough to see the future, but I will tell you this. We as a family discussed what the implications would be, made a plan, sorted out the financing, implemented the plan and by the end of next month we will be Brexit ready.

“We are moving to a factory with double the space and buying new machines with help from your bank. We have invested our profits from last year into fitting out our new factory, and we are doing all that because we believe that this country has a great future. Brexit may cause problems for some businesses but it will also create opportunities, for those of us who are willing and able to take advantage of those opportunities.”

“This is very impressive,” he commented looking up from his notebook. “I can see now why my colleagues rate you and your business so highly. When can we lend you more money to support your growth ?”

Reflecting on that visit made me realise that, after three years, all those businesses who want to prepare for Brexit will have done so by now. Yes, there will be losers from Brexit who will dominate the headlines, since bad news sells newspapers, but there will also be winners among those who have made the effort to prepare for Brexit. We have now perhaps reached the point where we are as a nation as Brexit-ready as we’ll ever be.

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Woman-owned networking company The Founding Moms comes to Fairfax

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Rebecca Spain knows what it’s like to run her own business.

The single mom of three started her journey in Maryland through a personal training business and recently moved to NoVA as a consultant for the local fitness industry. Now, she’s hoping to bring her gathered experience to the table (a roundtable that is), in order to help other local moms in the business sector.

In April, Spain stumbled upon The Founding Moms (TFM), a networking company run by “momprenuer,”  Jill Salzman, that connects local mothers together to offer shared resources in the business world.

Spain related heavily to the group, as the biweekly meetings of local professionals seemed more casual and beneficial to moms in particular, rather than standard networking groups or business luncheons.

“I wanted to connect with others, and it was something that I had in my heart for a while,” says Spain. “So, instead of trying to start something entirely on my own, I partnered with Jill to bring the group to this area.”

TFM’s Fairfax County chapter will officially launch with a kick-off meeting at Eggspectation in Chantilly on Wednesday, June 19. Spain will lead the discussion on business- and mom-related topics, and attendees are encouraged to share stories with one another about their successes and struggles of being working mothers.

“My goal is to connect people and create community,” says Spain. “Connecting people face-to-face is much more powerful [than digitally] and this way we can unite people, bring them together and share resources as a place for overall growth.”

Biweekly meetings will be held on topics ranging from digital marketing to getting past the “idea phase,” every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.

Attendees can register for the free kickoff event by RSVPing through The Founding Moms website for the Fairfax chapter, and can also sign up for one of two memberships if interested in continuing participation.

One membership allows access to Salzman’s online webinars on a range of business-focused topics, and another grants access to all upcoming meetings in the Fairfax area, known as “exchanges.”

As for Spain’s hopes for the success of the organization in NoVA, she says, “Local moms need to be in a community to become a strong and supportive community. When we help each other along the journey, how much stronger can we be for each other?”

For more information, visit foundingmoms.com// Eggspectation: 5009 Westone, Chantilly; free

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