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Westlake Legal Group > Jeremy Corbyn MP

Stephen Lynch: Britain has an opportunity to show leadership in Africa and around the world

Stephen Lynch is Managing Director of Lynch Communications, a public affairs and PR consultancy. He was a Conservative Party Press Officer from 2015 to 2017.

In this new chapter for Britain – the road to peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations runs through Africa.

This continent contains 27 of the world’s 50 fastest-growing economies. The population is projected to double by 2050, when 1 in 4 consumers globally will be in Africa.

Walking around Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I’ve seen China’s investment at work – the construction of major roads along its coastlines. China is showing aggression and invention in seeking investment opportunities in diverse sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture and mining.

The Chinese have built a 525km natural gas pipeline in the country, and are negotiating over a $10 billion new port and a special economic zone that aims to transform Tanzania into east Africa’s leading regional trade and transport hub.

At the UK-Africa Investment Summit last month the Prime Minister told the 13 assembled African leaders Britain wanted to become their “obvious partner of choice”, and aimed to become the largest G-7 investor in Africa within two years.

The continent is not without its challenges however – the World Bank and IMF both have warned that around 40% of its nations have alarming levels of debt.

Whether China is engaging in deliberate “debt-trap diplomacy” or not, the risk remains that the Belt and Road Initiative is loading unsustainable and potentially unserviceable debts onto less-developed countries.

At home, our government’s motives will be questioned, and it will be accused of holding post-colonial attitudes borne of guilt or arrogance. The British Empire historically has presented a blind spot for modern policymakers, who see only poverty and instability when they look to Africa. Although the recent summit did succeed in broadening discourse beyond familiar development issues, to infrastructure, clean energy and sustainable finance.

Labour says the aid budget is serving the needs of big business, instead of tackling global inequality, and that trade deals are not a panacea for ending poverty.

Global Britain is not a trite slogan, but a clear commitment to enhancing the UK’s global leadership and its investment and engagement in international relationships and agreements post EU withdrawal.

Conservative governments have looked to Africa and see friends, allies and partners in: ending violence against women and girls and giving them access to quality education; eradicating Ebola, malaria and other diseases to stop preventable deaths, as well as providing food security and clean water for millions.

At PMQs last month Boris Johnson contrasted his approach to international affairs with Labour’s leadership – taking “this country forward and outward into the world” versus isolating the UK and depriving us of our most crucial allies.

The PM told Jeremy Corbyn the government would continue to raise human rights issues “ever more vigorously and ever more energetically” from the increased leverage the UK gains from an independent, autonomous trade policy.

James Bloodworth skilfully described Corbyn’s foreign policy as sympathising and siding with “any movement who points an AK-47 in the direction of the West”. Indeed, the Shadow Home Secretary once said of Northern Ireland that “every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us”. Corbyn and his conspiratorial fellow travellers oppose British intervention in any circumstances, and hold America, Israel and / or the UK solely responsible for any global problem.

By contrast, the Tories’ 2019 manifesto succinctly said: “As Conservatives, we are immensely proud of the UK’s history and its standing in the world. Unlike those currently leading the Labour Party, we view our country as a force for good.”

The rumoured merger of the FCO and DFID, accentuated by last week’s reshuffle, provides an opportunity for the government to continue to do the right thing by those overseas, and the smart thing by its citizens here.

I’ve seen first-hand the good work that DFID – described by Angela Merkel as one of the UK’s “crown jewels” – and its social action projects can do.

Three years ago, I joined Conservative Friends of International Development (CFID) volunteers and Project Umubano founder Andrew Mitchell MP in training teachers in Rwanda in language and facilitation skills as their education system transitioned from French to an English curriculum. We delivered the programme to 700 school-based mentors – responsible for improving teaching methodologies in their respective schools. Our calculations showed our work would potentially go on to impact almost 16,000 teachers, and over 635,000 students!

CFID’s Project Urafiki in Tanzania in 2018 saw me spending the week with Jeremy Lefroy, Theo Clarke, Sir Desmond Swayne and others in training students in debating, public speaking and employability skills. Then-Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt joined us on the final day to judge which students excelled in presentation and persuasion.

Global Britain means an influential, powerful actor on the world stage. Playing leading, instrumental roles in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals. Championing the Paris Agreement on climate change (an issue disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest). A rock-solid commitment to NATO and contribution to security and defence in Europe and further afield.

It means a beefed-up diplomatic presence in Africa for FCO and DFID. The diplomatic footprint of China, France, Brazil, India and Turkey each outnumbers the UK’s staff on the ground. Russia and the Gulf nations are also expanding.

The government should make it much easier for people from Africa, and other non-EU countries, to obtain UK visas. As we know from trade discussions with friends in India in particular, our partners reasonably expect a quid-pro-quo on visa liberalisation for students and workers.

The government’s new expansion of fast-track global talent visas is welcome – there should be no arbitrary cap on leading scientists, researchers and mathematicians. Talent is spread equally through the globe, but the barriers to entry based on nationality have not been level. It is right to encourage and support the best and brightest to turn their ideas into reality here.

Global Britain means, above all, a compassionate Britain.

Conservatives are making the case for leadership in international development, knowing it is grounded in the interests of the world’s most disadvantaged people, in our own national interest and in our values – encouraging enterprise, opportunity and aspiration for every family.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

WATCH: “It’s not the end for Corbyn” – Burgon

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WATCH: Culture clash. Johnson and Corbyn differ on the deporting of offenders who are foreign nationals to Jamaica.

<blockquote
class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&quot;Is it
one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white
boys from the US?&quot;<br><br>Labour leader Jeremy
Corbyn challenges PM Boris Johnson on the deportation of convicted
offenders to Jamaica who were brought to the UK as children<a
href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PMQs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PMQs</a>
<a
href="https://t.co/UhVVr6xj7r">https://t.co/UhVVr6xj7r</a>
<a
href="https://t.co/6ZekDZBk1K">pic.twitter.com/6ZekDZBk1K</a></p>&mdash;
BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) <a
href="https://twitter.com/BBCPolitics/status/1227565934723899392?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February
12, 2020</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"
charset="utf-8"></script>

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Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Corbyn can’t hack it against Johnson

Boris Johnson is doing too well. The audience for PMQs in the press gallery is in decline because the expectation that he will get into any kind of difficulty is diminishing.

Jeremy Corbyn suggested the Prime Minister is a racist, who has “learned absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal” and is more inclined to deport a black criminal than a white criminal – the latter made to sound like Johnson himself, as traduced at the dinner tables of Islington.

Johnson retorted that Corbyn “demeans himself and besmirches the reputation of the Windrush generation” by conflating its members, who worked so hard to rebuild Britain after the war, with the criminals being deported to Jamaica.

Corbyn as usual shifted his ground – he has never mastered the art of sticking to one point – and denounced “this country’s one-sided extradition treaty with the USA”.

Johnson, with the agility which is one of his distinguishing features, shifted his ground too. He agreed with Corbyn that “there are elements of that relationship that are unbalanced”.

Honesty is often the best policy: otherwise one finds oneself defending the indefensible.

The Prime Minister was as ebullient today as on Tuesday, when he delivered his statement on HS2. Martin Vickers (Con, Cleethorpes) complained at PMQs that HS2 raises “little enthusiasm” among his constituents, for it “does little to improve connectivity to Cleethorpes”, and proceeded to itemise at excessive length the rail improvements required by Cleethorpes.

Johnson sounded amused rather than wearied by this. He said “the voice of Cleethorpes has been heard”, and had made “a vivid and compelling case” – words that will have delighted Vickers, while also entertaining the House.

Next week the House will not be sitting, but the week after that we can expect to see Corbyn take on Johnson again, and once again fail to make any kind of impact.

The new Labour leader will not be announced until 4th April, soon after the start of the Easter recess, so will not be in action against Johnson at PMQs until 22nd April.

But he or she had better start thinking now how to hold this Prime Minister to account.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lord Ashcroft: Labour are in a pickle, but the Tories must keep their heads down. Lessons from my new polling report.

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

Many Conservative reading Diagnosis of Defeat, my polling report on the Labour Party’s predicament, will probably have felt a flicker of schadenfreude.

It is certainly true that Labour have very deep-rooted problems that go well beyond Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn, the proximate causes of their disastrous defeat. The belief among former Labour supporters that the party had ceased to represent them while taking their votes for granted had been growing for many years, as they explained in devastating detail in my post-election focus groups.

Worse still, the voters who deserted Labour see the party’s problems in a completely different light from that of many of the members who will decide its future. While Labour “defectors” said they did not want Corbyn to be Prime Minister, distrusted Labour’s policies and felt the party did not listen to them – not least because it had tried to stand in the way of Brexit – members were more likely to point to the media, Conservative lies, and the voters, as well as blaming Brexit for dominating an election in which they felt they would otherwise have been on stronger ground.

Three quarters of them think Labour did not deserve to lose, and nearly six in ten think their party’s values are closer to those of the British public as a whole than the Tories’ – a view shared by just one in twenty Labour-Conservative switchers.

Uniquely, they consider Corbyn the best Labour leader of recent times, and two thirds of them think the party had the right policies and only need a strong leader and a good campaign to be in a strong position at the next election – which only 15 per cent of Labour members expect to result in another Tory victory.

Several Labour MPs have urged serious study of the research, knowing real change is needed if the party is to recover. But other senior figures are eager to take the party down a different branch of what must surely be the wrong direction.

Andrew Murray, a Corbyn adviser and leader of the powerful Unite union, writes in Tribune that Labour should not get caught up in the “arid binary” of whether the result was down to Brexit or Corbyn, and he is right about that. While Labour’s “cloudy” Brexit policy and parliamentary obstructionism were damaging, the party’s “transformative message about a different kind of society” failed to impress the voters because of “the communications failure of the election campaign.”

Though Murray correctly notes that Labour’s long decline predates both Brexit and the Corbyn leadership, his remedy – a revival of class struggle and mass action – seems a million miles from the lives and priorities of the actual people we spoke to over the last month for my report.

Ultimately, the Labour Party will have to decide for itself whether it wants to get back in touch with those people or scurry back down the rabbit hole of socialist theory. Conservatives, meanwhile, should ignore Labour’s travails completely, and act as though they are already faced with the kind of Opposition that is ready to supplant them at any moment. In fact, there are a number of points in my report that should concentrate Tory minds.

Nearly a quarter of Labour defectors, including 17 per cent of Labour-Conservative switchers, still identify with Labour or think of Labour as “their” party. Voters as a whole are as likely as not (and Labour defectors are more likely than not) to say they would trust Labour more than the Conservatives with Britain’s public services.

Though only a minority say they think the Labour Party “wants to help ordinary people get on in life,” “stands for fairness,” or that it’s “heart is in the right place,” voters as a whole are still more likely to say they are true of Labour than the Tories.

One in five Labour defectors, and 14 per cent of Labour-Conservative switchers, say “2019 was an unusual election and the reasons I didn’t vote Labour were very specific – I will probably vote Labour again next time.” Only 17 per cent of Labour defectors, and only a quarter of Labour-Conservative switchers, say they cannot see themselves voting Labour again in the future.

Listening to the former Labour voters in our focus groups, all of which took place in what would once have been thought the party’s heartland, one of the most striking things was the sense that they felt liberated from the tribe, and empowered by the experience of changing their vote and seeing the result.

They have high hopes for Boris Johnson and the Tories, but their support is strictly conditional on delivery. Delivery of what? This is part of the problem. Another striking finding from my research was the idea that rather than a fourth Tory term, this was a new beginning, a completely new Government. As one put it, Johnson represents “a lot of hope and a fresh start” – an invigorating accolade, but also perhaps a worrying one for a Prime Minister who finds expectations not only high but perilously unspecific.

The trust Labour squandered over Brexit will not return simply because the legislation taking us out of the EU is complete. But by the same token, nor will previously frustrated leave voters stick with the Tories simply out of gratitude for getting Brexit done. “What have you done for me lately?” will be the question in four or five years’ time. Labour are in a pickle, but the Tories must keep their heads down.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Strife between Johnson and the press is a good thing

“I’m a journalist, I love journalism,” Boris Johnson told the Commons on Wednesday, after Jeremy Corbyn had accused him of “shutting newspapers out of Number Ten”.

Corbyn was referring to a cack-handed attempt on Monday by Downing Street to bar some media organisations from a Brexit briefing.

The reporters who were going to be admitted quite rightly refused to attend the briefing, and instead showed solidarity with their excluded colleagues.

This and other skirmishes indicate that some in Number Ten, far from loving journalism, hold it in contempt, and wish to see what they can get away with.

They reckon they do not need the parliamentary lobby, or the traditional broadcasters, and can communicate direct with the public via social media.

In some ways, their hostility is to be welcomed. The iconoclasts in Number Ten who take their cue from Dominic Cummings, and admire their own boldness in defying the established media, are actually expressing the traditional hostility of those in power towards those who seek to hold them to account.

It is normal for Prime Ministers and their staff to consider themselves misrepresented and persecuted by the press: a story told by Lance Price in his account of the battles between Downing Street and the media since Lloyd George came to power in 1916.

Stanley Baldwin loathed the press barons, Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere, of whom he said in an interview in 1924, in words he did not intend to see quoted: “They are both men I would not have in my house.”

Baldwin gave no more interviews after that indiscretion, and refused to speak to the parliamentary lobby journalists as a group either on or off the record, though he did have certain favoured individuals through whom he got his story out.

And he became a master of a new medium, radio, by which he could talk in a reasonable and affable tone directly to millions of people.

So too Johnson, with his mastery of social media, by which he speaks directly to millions of people without the press getting in the way.

Just now, Johnson is in the ascendant. He has confounded his critics and won a solid majority. At Prime Minister’s Questions, one sees him relaxing into his role and proclaiming his love of every good cause, even journalism.

This could all become too cosy. The public interest requires a press prepared to speak out in ways which infuriate those in authority.

No Prime Minister should take what the press says too much to heart, but all should treat it is a valuable early warning system, directing attention to grievances which if ignored and allowed to fester will do mortal damage.

As Churchill remarked: “Criticism in the body politic is like pain in the human body. It is not pleasant, but where would the body be without it?”

Parliamentary journalists are right to protest when jacks in office try to block or restrict useful channels of communication.

But some of the best journalists make scant use of those channels anyhow. One thinks of the late Tony Bevins, first political editor of The Independent, who turned his back on the lobby system.

Johnson benefited, during his rise to power, from the exaggerated criticism he received from parts of the press. This struck many voters as unfair, concealed from his opponents the threat he posed, and encouraged low expectations which he was able to exceed.

But now that he is ensconced in Number Ten, he deserves as fierce (though also, in its way, admiring) a scrutiny as he himself directed 30 years ago at Jacques Delors while working as a correspondent in Brussels.

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WATCH: The PM “might recall saying that climate change is a primitive fear without foundation”

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Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Johnson discovers the merits of brevity, and says nothing against hypocrisy

Boris Johnson has discovered the advantages of brevity. It is not only a good idea, at PMQs, to ask brief questions, which give the PM the minimum time to think.

It is also a good idea for the PM to give brief answers, by saying yes to whatever part of the question lends itself most readily to a whole-hearted affirmative, while ignoring the rest of it.

So when Derek Thomas (Con, St Ives) asked to come and see the Prime Minister about the shortage of dentists in Cornwall, Johnson just replied: “I’m very happy to meet my honourable friend at any time.”

The dental aspect of the question had been avoided, or postponed, but everyone was happy. Thomas can tell his constituents he is seeing the PM, and the rest of us have not had our time wasted by hearing Johnson expatiate on the importance he attaches to the welfare of Cornish teeth.

Jeremy Corbyn produced a Tory cheer by declaring, “This Friday the UK will be leaving the European Union.”

More happily, Corbyn remembered the late Nicholas Parsons. Johnson agreed, unrealistically, that it was good to avoid hesitation, repetition or deviation.

Caroline Lucas, for the Greens, proceeded to raise the bar to a quite impossible level by demanding an end to hypocrisy. She said Britain will not be taken seriously until it stops ploughing foreign aid into the development of fossil fuels.

Johnson tacked the easy bit of this, assuring the House that “not one penny will be going into digging out coal”.

He said no word about hypocrisy, without which politics would become unsustainable. No politician can avoid the need to don at frequent intervals the mask of virtue, and pretend to an even greater devotion to carbon neutrality, or dental services in Cornwall, than he or she happens at that particular moment to feel.

Siobhan Baillie (Con, Stroud) invited Johnson to come and see “our famous flamboyant flamingos” at Slimbridge, in her constituency.

This was not a difficult question. Johnson said he would love to come and see her famous flamboyant flamingos at the earliest opportunity.

Here is a can-do PM, who points out when Corbyn is being “negative”, but does even that in an almost affectionate manner.

The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, delivered a short statement in which he promised, in effect, not to behave like his predecessor, John Bercow, and defy standing orders.

Oh brave new world, that has such people in it.

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Rachel Wolf: My top tip for Labour leadership candidates – parties can’t win everywhere, and shouldn’t try

Rachel Wolf is a partner in Public First. She had co-charge of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto. She was an education and innovation adviser at Number 10 during David Cameron’s premiership and was founding director of the New Schools Network.

The last manifesto was focused squarely on issues that mattered to the new Conservative voter: immigration, crime, public services, infrastructure (I refuse to say ‘levelling up’, which is classic Whitehall speak). Its clarity – including on Brexit – inevitably meant some voters turned away. But far more were attracted to a party that was willing to stand for something.

Labour tried not to choose, and it lost. Not just because of the Corbyn, but because Corbyn’s character led to vacillation.

Now Labour leadership candidates face the same dilemma. Their potential electorate is divided. Do they want to reclaim their heartlands?  Or do they want to represent urban, younger, Remain-voting and generally graduate voters? There’s no shame in either decision – young people in cities need representation, too. Indeed, Conservative strategists have long agonised about not persuading more of them to vote Tory.

But what Labour can’t do, right now, is persuade both. Recently, it has looked as though Lisa Nandy is the only Labour candidate to both understand this and to want to steer the party back to its core vote. Moderates who have despaired at the toxic, institutionally anti-semitic mess they represent are focusing their attention and their hopes on her.

I think their analysis is wrong. Yes, Nandy has gone one step further than many: she knows that simply having a Northern accent and a semi-plausible back story is not enough to persuade intelligent, competent, former Labour voters to choose her.

She is willing to talk about the issues that matter to former Labour voters, including immigration and welfare. Her work with the Centre for Towns shows she understands the importance of those who live in towns across England – a huge focus in the last Conservative manifesto for good reason.

But her substance is in the opposite direction to her rhetoric. Her defence of Brexit voters is accompanied by a spirited defence of free movement. Her attack on Labour’s welfare position for being too ‘paternalistic’ is accompanied by a belief that people do not want ‘draconian’ welfare rules and that we should – by implication – radically increase the scale of benefits.

This is the worst of both worlds. Substance that alienates traditional Labour voters, and rhetoric that alienates new ones. This isn’t respecting Leave voters, it’s patronising them – and it’s certainly not going to appeal to the vast Remain-voting Labour Party membership whose votes Nandy needs if she wants to lead the Party.

Starmer is unlikely to appeal to former Labour voters. But he is more likely to appeal, properly, to someone than Nandy after she has been tested over five years on her policy positions.

It might sound odd for the co-author of the Conservative manifesto to give the Labour Party advice, but I mean it. A good Opposition makes Government better – and as a Jew, I’m praying that the Corbynites go for good.

To govern is to choose. The same is true for those who oppose the government. Until Nandy and the other candidates face up to this, they will remain in the wilderness.

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