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Andy Street: For the West Midlands, the Commonwealth Games have already arrived

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

The announcement in 2017 that Birmingham was to host the Commonwealth Games fired the starting gun on nearly five years of preparations. We knew that we had a great deal to do to create a Games that would showcase both the Second City and the wider region in 2022.

At the Games, more than 6,500 athletes carrying the hopes of 71 countries will compete in 264 events across 18 sports. But alongside those sports there will also be a huge cultural programme, and an unprecedented opportunity for local businesses to showcase their work to a global audience.

A major International Business Expo is expected to run alongside the Games, highlighting and promoting commerce in the region and sending out the clear message that Britain is open for business post-Brexit. Our ambition is not only an unparalleled programme of sport, but also trade, tourism and investment. Business leaders are already forming the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce; a membership-based international gateway for firms wishing to develop bilateral trade opportunities in Commonwealth countries.

We already enjoy fantastic sporting facilities – places like Alexander Stadium, Villa Park, Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Arena Birmingham and the Ricoh in Coventry – a fact which was a key part of the region’s bid to host the Games. However, vital investment in infrastructure has been necessary to prepare for the influx of visitors and athletes, from accommodation to transport, which has also ensured that the whole of the region, not just Birmingham, can benefit.

This will be the second biggest sporting event ever held in the UK, surpassed only by the London Olympics, and the Government is providing 75% of the £778 million costs, with Birmingham and regional partners contributing the rest.

This Government funding is supported by a hard-nosed business case, that draws upon the long-term benefits generated by the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Glasgow as well as the London Olympics. Those experiences showed how such events can literally change the trajectory of a place. In the West Midlands, where an economic revival is already underway, the boost brought by the Games will be perfectly timed.

With such significant public funding, we are focused on creating a lasting legacy. We are seeing new and revamped venues taking shape, new transport links, and valuable business ties – but the real target is a renewed sense of civic pride in citizens of the West Midlands, whether through their participation as volunteers, spectators, local hosts, or even athletes. We want everyone to feel it’s their games.

However, while we look forward to the enduring legacies after the closing ceremony, we have been equally determined to garner immediate benefits from this huge investment. They may not start until 2022, but In the West Midlands, the Commonwealth Games have already arrived.

In the last few weeks, there have been a number of exciting announcements. The Games’ new dynamic logo has given it a recognisable identity. The addition of three new sports – Women’s Cricket, Beach Volleyball and Para Table Tennis – means the 2022 Commonwealth Games will have the biggest female and para sport programme in history. International law firm Gowling WLG has been revealed as the Games’ first official sponsor, the first of many to provide business backing.

But it is the physical changes that are taking shape in the run-up to the Games across the region that are already bringing benefits, in terms of skills, jobs and connectivity.

With hundreds of thousands expected to visit our region, we are putting in place a transport network to carry them efficiently to the dozen main venues. That means new railway stations in Perry Barr, near the Alexander Stadium, and at Birmingham University.

Events aren’t restricted to Brum, with swimming taking place in the Black Country, netball in Coventry, bowls in Warwickshire and a number of sports at the NEC, in Solihull. So, rapid ‘sprint’ bus routes are being rolled out to serve key venues, while the Metro system continues to extend into the Black Country. Crucially, these transport investments support economic growth by giving local people access to jobs and link our communities.

Another example of how the Games are already paying dividends is the Skills Hub that has been established in Perry Barr. A huge site in this area, which was formerly occupied by Birmingham City University, has been cleared to create an athletes’ village. Backed by £165 million of Government funds – a further sign of its commitment to the West Midlands – this village will be converted into 1,400 homes for the community after the Games.

However, immediate benefit is being felt by the creation of the £100,000 Skills Hub in partnership with main contractor Lendlease. We know the construction industry in our region will need 50,000 more trained staff by 2030. Funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the hub will offer local people free construction training and a guaranteed job interview after completing a 20-day course.

Work is progressing well on the village, while the nearby Alexander Stadium is getting a revamp that will increase its capacity to 40,000 and make it the home of British athletics. A new aquatics centre in Sandwell – the only venue being built from scratch for the Games – is also providing construction opportunities in the Black Country, once again spreading the immediate benefits of the Games beyond Birmingham.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson oversaw the benefits of the 2012 Olympics for London, and has shown real interest in how 2022 could do the same for Birmingham and the West Midlands a decade later.

Thanks to joined-up thinking, we are already benefitting – the Commonwealth Games are expected to create an average of over 4,000 jobs per year in the run-up to 2022. Economically, we are winning long before the first medal is presented.

There is just one more benefit that we won’t see until the Games get underway – and that is the opportunity to proudly showcase our region in the global spotlight. Birmingham is the UK’s most diverse city, where it is said you can see the world in a day. In 2022, the world will come to us, and we are looking forward to showing just what Britain can do in a post-Brexit world.

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

U.S. soccer: We’ve paid the women’s team more than we’ve paid the men’s team since 2010 — even though they bring in much less revenue

Westlake Legal Group r-4 U.S. soccer: We’ve paid the women’s team more than we’ve paid the men’s team since 2010 — even though they bring in much less revenue World Cup Work Women us soccer The Blog sport Rapinoe Pay men FIFA equal compensation Carlos Cordeiro

I fear the only fair solution is to pay our garbage national men’s team more.

No, actually, this is more complicated than it seems at first glance.

According to a letter released Monday by U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, the federation paid out $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses to the women between 2010 and 2018 as opposed to $26.4 million paid to the men. The total does not include the value of benefits received only by the women, like health care…

Comparing compensation between the two teams is difficult because the pay structure is based on different collective bargaining agreements…

USSF also says the men’s team generates more revenue. The women’s team generated $101.3 million over the course of 238 games between 2009 and 2019 while the men generated $185.7 over 191 games, according to the federation.

The killer: “WNT games have generated a net profit (ticket revenues minus event expenses) in only two years (2016 and 2017). Across the entire 11-year period, WNT games generated a net loss of $27.5 million.” Likewise, individual men’s matches generated more than twice as much revenue over this period than women’s matches did. U.S. soccer is paying the women more — while losing money on them. And the women want … more money?

Case closed, then! They’re being paid more than fairly. But wait — players on the men’s team agree with the women that they’re underpaid:

Note the second paragraph in particular. If that’s true then U.S. soccer is accusing the women’s team of being a revenue-loser essentially based only on the gate at matches, without accounting for TV right and ads — not to mention the value in terms of prestige that back-to-back World Cups supplies to a program that’s a borderline laughingstock on the men’s side.

There’s more. The men’s team actually received more money ($41 million) overall than the women’s team since 2010 due to the fact that bonuses paid by FIFA (not by U.S. soccer) for World Cup appearances are waaaaay more generous for men’s teams than for women’s. ESPN notes that the 2018 World Cup winner, France, alone received more money than the entire 24-team field did in the Women’s World Cup. That is, a bad-to-middling U.S. men’s team still comes out ahead in compensation to a juggernaut in the women’s sport.

There’s another key difference between how the men and women are paid:

The federation pays U.S. women’s team members per-game payments for national-team play along with professional-team salaries for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League, as all 23 members of the women’s World Cup team do. The federation doesn’t pay professional salaries for the men.

A key divergence in how the teams are compensated has to do with their bargaining agreements, not their genders. The women negotiated a salary-plus-bonuses scheme, the men got a more complicated structure in which you’re paid “by training camp call-ups, game appearances and through performance bonuses.” The bonuses are more generous on the men’s side, but the men don’t have guaranteed pay like the women do. Arguably the women sacrificed some incentives in return for better income security. Maybe they had no choice: A player capable of making the U.S. men’s national team might be lavishly compensated in a pro league somewhere even if he’s not starting whereas the weaker commercial demand for the women’s sport requires women players to demand that the U.S. soccer federation to kick in with guaranteed professional pay for star players.

But then that’s the whole debate here, isn’t it? How much should public demand influence the players’ pay relative to achievement? “All U.S. soccer proved was that the women must consistently win at the highest level to approach what the men make while mired in mediocrity and underachievement,” said sports journalist Tanya Ray Fox, referring to the near-parity between what the women’s and men’s teams received from U.S. soccer since 2010. But if there are more eyeballs on the men for their inferior product, why shouldn’t they receive more for their mediocrity? Judi Dench is a better actor than The Rock, but if the latter can drum up more box office than the former, why shouldn’t he receive a bigger check? Like all sports, soccer is ultimately entertainment. At base, Megan Rapinoe and company are arguing with the fans for not having better taste.

The post U.S. soccer: We’ve paid the women’s team more than we’ve paid the men’s team since 2010 — even though they bring in much less revenue appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group r-4-300x153 U.S. soccer: We’ve paid the women’s team more than we’ve paid the men’s team since 2010 — even though they bring in much less revenue World Cup Work Women us soccer The Blog sport Rapinoe Pay men FIFA equal compensation Carlos Cordeiro   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Aussie rugby star: Help me fight my ban from the national team for believing that homosexuality is sinful

Westlake Legal Group if Aussie rugby star: Help me fight my ban from the national team for believing that homosexuality is sinful The Blog sport singer rugby israel folau dreher christian ban australian Australia

Remember him? I blogged about his case last month. Israel Folau’s a major rugby star in Australia and a Bible-believing Christian prone to posting things on social media which — well, which Christians believe. Like this:

View this post on Instagram

Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on Apr 10, 2019 at 1:18am PDT

Still not sure about “drunks” there, but eh.

That’s the post that ended his career as a member of the Wallabies, Australia’s national team. The panel that barred him concluded that the sport needed to “stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork,” never mind that Folau didn’t single out gays and didn’t deem them condemned. This was an invitation to all sinners to repent. The rugby governing body seems to have determined that to express this well-known Christian belief — or even merely to hold it? — is tantamount to creating a hostile workplace for gay teammates and employees. If Folau has attempted to shame any gay friends or colleagues or to pressure them to repent in his contact with them as part of the rugby team, I’m unaware of it. The ruling in this case seems to be, straightforwardly, that you cannot evangelize as a Christian even on your own time and represent Australia. If forced to choose in the name of “inclusion” whether to include gays or Christians, the sport chooses the former. Never mind that Folau himself never demanded that such a choice be made.

He’s fighting the ban in court and trying to raise big bucks to do it. The GoFundMe page he launched to pay legal costs brought in more than $750,000 — before it was yanked offline by the company as a violation of their policy. “We do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion,” said management in a statement. The “exclusion” of what? Of gays from … heaven? It wasn’t Folau who set that policy as far as Christians are concerned, I’m afraid. Meanwhile, some critics, not content to drive him from his own sport, are apparently now targeting Folau’s wife to see if they can get her kicked out of her own sport for having helped promote her husband’s GoFundMe campaign, per Rod Dreher.

He’s now launched a new fundraising page at the Australian Christian Lobby with a personal appeal in the form of the video below to help promote it. Result: More than $1.6 million raised in just 24 hours, making his case a bona fide international cause celebre among Christians. And not just Christians. Dreher flagged this notable op-ed from a few weeks ago by bioethicist Peter Singer, not normally an ally of the right’s. Singer takes freedom of conscience seriously, though:

If Rugby Australia had existed in the first century of the Christian era, and Paul had had enough talent to be a contracted player, Rugby Australia would presumably have ripped up his contract once his letter to the Corinthians became public. That makes it quite bizarre that Castle should have justified Folau’s dismissal by saying, “People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.” Did she mean that you can feel welcomed in rugby, regardless of your religious beliefs, as long as you don’t express them in public? That looks a lot like telling homosexuals that they can do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom, but they must not show their affection in public because some people might find it offensive…

[T]ry putting yourself in the position of someone with Folau’s beliefs. You see people on a path toward a terrible fate – much worse than getting lung cancer, because death will not release them from their agony – and they are blind to what awaits them. Wouldn’t you want to warn them, and give them the chance to avoid that awful fate? I assume that is what Folau believes he is doing. He even tells homosexuals that Jesus loves them, and calls on them to repent so that they can avoid burning in hell for eternity. That doesn’t sound like hate speech.

Folau’s Instagram post “no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers,” notes Singer, quite rightly. If you want to throw him a few bucks to help the legal battle for freedom of conscience, feel free by following the link above. But do note: Folau’s net worth is estimated in the millions thanks to his rugby contracts and endorsement deals (some of which he’s now lost), and some critics are skeptical that he needs anywhere near the $3 million he’s requesting in order to conduct this court fight. Greed is a sin too, they note. Repent!

The post Aussie rugby star: Help me fight my ban from the national team for believing that homosexuality is sinful appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group if-300x159 Aussie rugby star: Help me fight my ban from the national team for believing that homosexuality is sinful The Blog sport singer rugby israel folau dreher christian ban australian Australia   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andy Street: How cultural renaissance in the West Midlands is driving economic growth

Andy Street is the Mayor of the West Midlands and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Creativity has always been at the heart of the West Midlands’ success. It was our creative spark that fired the industrial revolution, igniting a thousand trades where, alongside the furnaces of heavy industry, skilled local artisans fashioned jewellery, coins and trinkets that sold across the globe.

In the West Midlands of the 21st Century, culture and creative are critical, rapidly-growing parts of our economy. They not only define what a place is like to live in, they drive innovation and future jobs, and form a key part of our Local Industrial Strategy. The creative industries are growing at three times the national average.

Under a Conservative mayor we are seeing a cultural renaissance that is driving economic growth, equipping younger people with vital new skills, enticing tourists and uniting our communities by tapping into their diversity. Through targeted Government support and local leadership, once again that creative spark is lit – but this time it is illuminating new opportunities as well as powering industry.

We also want it to fire young imaginations, giving students the skills they will need to flourish in the constantly-changing cultural economy. This week, for example, two pioneering new free schools in the West Midlands were announced by the Department for Education.

In central Birmingham, a free school is being founded by BOA Stage and Screen Production. This will be an exciting 16-19 specialist college, set up by the Birmingham Ormiston Academy, backed by a number of industry sponsors and partners including Birmingham City University. It will offer a range of vocational and high-level technical qualifications for students wishing to enter TV, Film or Theatre professions.

In Sandwell, in what is believed to be a world first, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is partnering with Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust to create the Shireland CBSO school. This non-selective, non-fee paying school will admit its first cohort of pupils in September 2021, at the end of the orchestra’s centenary celebrations.

The home of the CBSO – Birmingham’s Symphony Hall – will also be opening up its doors thanks to funding that aims to turn it into community arts space akin to the Southbank Centre. With support from the Arts Council’s Capital funding programme, the venue has been awarded £4.5 million of National Lottery money which, with funding from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, will update Symphony Hall’s foyers, create new learning and participation spaces.

While Symphony Hall, one of Brum’s best modern buildings gets a new lease of life, across the city centre a cultural icon built by our Victorian forefathers is also looking to the future.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery are to launch a £40 million fundraising appeal to create new galleries and a separate cultural exhibition centre in the east of the city. The grand old museum wants to redesign its galleries and exhibition spaces, including the creation of a new children’s gallery to inspire youngsters.

Much of our cultural renaissance has been funded in this innovative way, with local businesses and charitable trusts providing backing alongside central funding. One great example is the Black Country Living Museum, the huge open-air site most recognisable across the UK as one of the regular backdrops for TV’s Peaky Blinders.

A cultural enterprise with an annual turnover of £6.2m, the museum’s annual surpluses are reinvested into caring for its impressive collection of buildings, vehicles and local artefacts.

Now the Dudley site is aiming to attract 500,000 visitors by 2025 as part of an ambitious expansion project, which will see an entire new town built, highlighting Black Country history through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

It has secured £9.4 million from the National Lottery Heritage to reach the £23 million needed to complete the expansion, with work expected to be finished by Spring 2022.

More than a dozen charitable trusts, including some bearing famous local names such as Owen and Cadbury, have contributed to this grand scheme, alongside support from Midlands Engine and the Arts Council for England.

This approach ensures the tax-payer does not bear the entire financial burden of cultural improvements, while encouraging local ownership and investment in them.

Elsewhere across the region, areas once synonymous with industry are being reborn as creative quarters that are regenerating neighbourhoods and driving economic growth.

In Birmingham, Digbeth’s Custard Factory – once the home of Birds custard – is a creative hub surrounded by challenging and innovative street art, while the city’s Jewellery Quarter has become one of the UK’s most vibrant cultural communities, and a highly sought-after place to live.

Devolution has made much of this possible, with local decision making building cultural networks that feed creativity.

Under my leadership, the West Midlands Combined Authority is setting up a network to help the film and TV industry engage with the West Midlands. The Screen Industry Body will be an agile, responsive regional network, reflective of the rapidly-changing nature of the screen sector, and creating a single point of entry.

Elsewhere, a new region-wide Culture Board is linking up with organisations across the West Midlands to strengthen the sector, and ensure that investment in areas such as housing and transport facilitate culture – by placing art in railway stations, for example, or along new sprint bus routes.

Martin Sutherland, Executive Director of Coventry  City of Culture 2021, is chairing this new board to ensure our region links up to the festival, which is our most important creative and cultural event by far. It will be the crowning glory of the West Midlands’ cultural renaissance.

The City of Culture will provide a vehicle to showcase just what the region has to offer, and Coventry is rising to the challenge. Excitement is growing not only among the public but throughout the business community in Coventry and Warwickshire, where the level of support from commerce and the community is setting a new standard for the region.

Curated by Cultural Director Chenine Bhathena, the festival will not only celebrate the wonderful creative side of Coventry, the programme of events will also address many of the social issues facing the city, using culture to reach out to diverse communities.

Finally, Creative industries in the West Midlands will benefit from a £1.2m boost from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the ‘Creative Scale Up’ programme.

Launched by Creative Industries Minister and Stourbridge MP Margot James, the money will be used by the WMCA to link creative companies to investors.

From region-wide networks to grass-root festivals, from pioneering schools to reimagined museums, the West Midlands is experiencing a cultural renaissance that is not only complementing our economic growth, it is actively driving it.

There is one other benefit, and that is how our region is perceived around the globe. With investment in transport networks and improved air links, we are becoming a tourism hotspot.

The Boston Globe recently described Brum as ‘visionary’. The New York Times says the Second City is “England’s heartland metropolis: big-shouldered, friendly and fun.” Tourism has become a vital part of our economy. Birmingham alone welcomed 41.8 million visitors in 2017, a 6.9 per cent increase from 2016 and generating £7.1 billion worth of economic benefit.

The vibrant culture of the UK’s most diverse region is taking visitors by surprise. With the Commonwealth Games in 2022 we can look forward to an influx of visitors hungry to discover more. By working closely with Government to target investment, we have rekindled that creative spark that is one again catching the eye of the world.

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

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

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

Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

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Onward, Hancock – and the delusion of leadership candidates retreating to their comfort zone

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

Reading Matt Hancock’s piece in the Sunday Times a couple of weekends ago previewing Onward’s interesting new publication, Generation Why, and watching a clip of his speech at the publication’s launch, reminded me why I gave up talking to people in politics about football nearly 20 years ago.

A weird link? Let me explain. There comes a time when, despite theoretically sharing an interest in the same subject, you have so little actual shared experience of that subject that it becomes impossible to have any sort of meaningful conversation about it. You might as well be talking to each other in a foreign language.

As a youth of 16 or 17, playing at the bottom of the non-league pyramid, my favourite place to play was Heanor Town. For those that don’t know the East Midlands, Heanor is a small town in the North of Derbyshire. The football pitch was located at the top of the slope of the cricket pitch. While badly sloped, the pitch was impeccably cut whatever the weather (usually cold or freezing), the floodlights worked, and the dressing rooms had the intense smell of deep heat. Most importantly, the locals absolutely loved football and sport in general. Heanor was a football town.

When you talked to the locals about football, they didn’t just talk about Man Utd or Derby or Forest; of course, they did talk about them, but they’d be as happy talking about the last game against Kimberley Town, or Jeff Astle’s last song on Fantasy Football, or how Notts County fans moaned all the time. In short, when talking about football there was a shared understanding that you were talking about the game as a whole. It was expected that everyone knew practically everything there was to know about the game since they were a child – about players, fans, grounds, songs, old kits and all the rest.

When I arrived in London politics, full as it was with privately educated, mostly Southern staff that hadn’t played much, that shared understanding was totally absent. While many professed a love of the game, their entire way of speaking about it was alien. They’d talk almost entirely about the top of the game over the last few years since they became interested or – increasingly and weirdly – about football statistics. Nobody knew what the Anglo-Italian Cup was, let alone the FA Vase. And because nobody had really played at school, nobody knew what it was like to get hit on the thigh with a Mitre Multiplex in January. The Fast Show’s “I love football” sketch was no longer an amusing parody, but reality. Talking about football was a bizarre and depressing experience. So I stopped.

Which takes me back to Hancock’s article and speech. In giving advice to the Conservatives in appealing to the young, he wrote: “First, we need to get our tone right. Sometimes Conservatives can sound, as Ruth Davidson succinctly put it, a bit ‘dour’. Of course, it’s our job to be the pragmatists, but nobody wants to hang out with the person always pointing out the problems, rather than the one hopeful about the solutions…” At the event, he said:  “As well as delivering better economic prospects for people, we’ve got to sound like we actually like this country. We’ve got to patriots for the Britain of now, not the Britain of 1940. And enough about being just comfortable with modern Britain, we need to champions of modern Britain.”

Just as I found it increasingly difficult to relate to most of the privately-educated, metropolitan Conservatives talking about football, hearing this, I found myself similarly thinking that I have literally nothing in common with the same sorts of people’s views on politics. It’s as if we’ve grown up in entirely different worlds. Honestly, how can anyone think that the British people are collectively optimistic, happy-go-lucky, and modernity-obsessed? How can anyone seriously think that this is the best way to engage with people? How can they imagine themselves walking into the average pub, shopping centre or call centre canteen and connecting with ordinary people with such a case? 

Ordinary people don’t want to hear about 1940 or about life before large-scale immigration; most are happy with the people they live amongst. But they also emphatically don’t want to hear politicians droning on about how great the future is going to be and how technology and 3D printing is going to change everything for the better. It’s just not how they think about the world and not how they talk about it.

Look at what most working class and lower middle class people really think about things – those that make up the bulk of electorate. They think: that the economy is, at best fine, but that they see little of the benefits of growth; that long-term careers are a relic of the past; that good pensions have gone and that a long retirement is just a dream; that home ownership is increasingly unattainable; that the cost of living is too high; that their town centres are boring; that the NHS is over-burdened and under-funded and might fail them when the time comes; that crime is rising and police numbers are falling; that their savings will get raided to pay for social care; that childcare is ruinously expensive; and they think that politicians are out of touch thieves. While this is more prevalent amongst the old in provincial England, it’s actually common everywhere.

Why get so worked up over one little speech and an article? Because it’s clear that the Conservative Party is preparing to return to its recent comfort zone – using claims of a broad appeal to the young, which would be reasonable, to justify an appeal to the tiny number of successful, highly affluent, urban voters who are basically like those at the top of the Party. It’s dressed up as daring and confrontational, but is in fact just about following a path of least-resistance in the Party, while making those that make the case feel good about themselves. If Hancock is so sure this plays well, Heanor are home to Gedling Miners Welfare on Saturday. I’m sure they’d love to hear from him.

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Judy Terry: Under Labour sports facilities in Ipswich are under threat

Labour-controlled Ipswich Borough Council has just announced a review of sports facilities in the town. Spending is £1.5m a year on sports provision with a net cost of £350,000 a year. A council review in 2017 resulted in the abolition of crèche services, whilst committing to reversing these annual losses,” explains Ian Fisher, Leader of the Ipswich Conservative Group.

The Council claims maintenance of ageing properties, most dating from the 1980s, is an issue, and nothing is off the table, including closures, or new facilities.

Cllr Ian Fisher, Leader of the Ipswich Conservative Group says:

“A lack of maintenance should not be an excuse for closures. This has always been an issue with the Labour group. All properties should have 10-year maintenance plans, to ensure public safety and contain costs. A lack of regular maintenance eventually results in expensive repairs and refurbishment, which is evidently happening with these buildings, as well as other council-owned properties, including the former Post Office, an architectural gem, on the Cornhill in the centre of town, which is now scheduled for works, although there isn’t a tenant.”

Fisher acknowledges that the ‘fitness’ market has changed significantly over the last 20 years or so, with many private gyms, with swimming pools and spas.

“However, not everyone can afford membership, and that needs to be borne in mind during the review:

“We haven’t seen the terms of reference for the review, nor the budget, but hope it has a wide brief, to evaluate other facilities, such as community centres, alongside the sports facilities. It makes sense to join things up, providing the best options for each neighbourhood.”

This is especially important, following the County Council’s decision to further review its children’s centres, having closed nine in 2014, the remaining 38 are now under threat:

“We have serious concerns about these facilities, given the gang culture, and the need to support young vulnerable people and their families. Bringing services together under one roof would be enormously beneficial, both financially and socially.”

He points out that two of the sports centres, at Gainsborough and Whitton to the east and west of Ipswich, have a number of football pitches, “which are especially popular in the evenings and at weekends, providing opportunities for people of all ages, male and female, to have fun, developing social and competitive skills. We would oppose any plans to close these facilities, although we are open minded about the future of the buildings, themselves, which could be adapted for additional services.”

Fisher suggests introducing a cycle track on spare land, and closer working with clubs and schools, as well as the university and Ipswich Town FC, to develop home-grown players. “It is almost certain now that the football club will go down, which will have an impact on the local economy, but this will be an opportunity too.”

The Conservative Group would also oppose closing the swimming pools, “which are accessible to everyone, of all ages and level of fitness, throughout the year, at a reasonable price.” Schools are required to teach children to swim, and use both Crown Pools and Fore Street Baths, which is the second oldest such building in the UK, as do people from across the region.

With Snoasis, a state of the art ski centre, now expected to become a reality, Fisher suggests there could be potential to develop a new sports village nearby, on the former sugar beet site at Sproughton, owned by Ipswich Borough Council through one of its trading companies, which could be an added tourist attraction. “Ipswich lacks vision, and an ambitious plan to benefit the wider community could attract inward investment, with external funding from key sports organisations, including the English Cricket Board, which recently made a commitment to develop the sport in deprived areas:

“The Ransomes ground, which is part of the review, used to have an enviable reputation for the sport, and is ideally located close to schools and a council estate, to revive cricket in Ipswich. Labour always treat cricket and rugby as ‘elitist’, but that is not the case; a broader range of young people deserve the chance to play.”

The Conservatives look forward to working with residents, and the council, to ensure that any recommendations comply with assurances of detailed consultation to meet the needs of an expanding local population. “Such an important review requires close scrutiny before any changes are implemented.

“These facilities should be maximised to help vulnerable people, including preventing loneliness, which can be ignored.”

Only a third of council seats are up for election, whereas other district councils in Suffolk are ‘all out’; if Ipswich adopted the same system, £250,000 a year or more would be saved, significantly offsetting losses in the sports centres…

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Chloe Westley: As a migrant to Britain, I say: what’s wrong with patriotism, borders and control?

Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

When I was a child, I remember our teachers playing Imagine by John Lennon at a school assembly. I thought the sentiment was lovely. All people living in peace, no countries, no borders, no war. It’s a very pretty idea…with absolutely no basis in reality.

The modern Zeitgeist among academics and politicians in Europe is that borders are a thing of the past; that they are a nasty, xenophobic barrier to progress and co-operation, and any sense of national pride should be disregarded as backwards and racist.

As an immigrant to this country, I don’t understand this way of thinking. To deny the notion of nationhood and borders is to deny that there is anything of value in this country worth protecting, or any particular set of principles that divides British society from any other. But this country is special, and it is worth protecting.

It is a privilege to call Britain home. And it isn’t racist or xenophobic to expect the Government to protect and guard its borders, as well as to ensure the implementation of a fair and controlled immigration system. The desire to protect your home is as universal as the desire to love, to work and to raise a family. Why should protecting your country be any different? We put up fences and walls to guard our homes, but guarding national borders is somehow subject to accusations of xenophobia.

Globalists do not believe in maintaining national borders, because they do not believe that this country is their home. After all, if you believe that there is nothing that distinguishes Great Britain from the rest of the world, and reside here merely for convenience, then you would be satisfied being born or living in any other country. In fact, the way some on the Left describe this country with disdain, you would think they would prefer to live just about anywhere else.

There are of course those who describe themselves as strictly ‘European’ – not citizens of the world, but citizens of Europe. They advocate a greater European superstate, to replace individual nation states, with a strict border around Europe. They replace nationalism with supranationalism – the community is extended to the European continent. Whilst this is a minority view, (just 15 per cent freely choose to describe themselves as ‘European’), it is worth pointing out that calling oneself a ‘proud European’ expresses the same innate instinct to belong to a country (albeit an imaginary country, as the EU is not yet a superstate).

Living in a world without borders, and without nations, would not magically result in world peace and a greater sense of belonging. Rather, people would seek other tribes to belong to – quite possibly even extreme political and religious tribes.

Moral Psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt lhave warned against the dismissal of national identity. The need to belong to and defend a community is an innate human instinct, and is often expressed by loyalty to the nation state:

“There is nothing necessarily racist or base about this arrangement or social contract. Having a shared sense of identity, norms, and history generally promotes trust…Societies with high trust, or high social capital, produce many beneficial outcomes for their citizens: lower crime rates, lower transaction costs for businesses, higher levels of prosperity, and a propensity toward generosity, among others.”

There are of course extreme forms of nationalism, particularly ethno-nationalism, that need to be avoided. We should strive for a golden mean of nationhood: one which allows citizens to care for and protect one other, to maintain national borders and traditions, which is welcoming to visitors and immigrants, and is fair and just in dealings with other nations.

A shared national identity doesn’t necessarily mean that citizens believe their country or their people are innately superior to all other nations. Your love for your family does not require you to hate strangers – but you would do anything to protect and care for them above other people, simply by virtue of them being family.

You cannot force people to stop loving their country. A shared national identity is what brings people together, despite differences in religion, politics, football teams and age. Because the thing that we have in common is our home – and we should take care of and protect our home together.

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