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Alan Mak: We had a technological revolution in the 1980s, delivered by a strong leader. We have the same chance now.

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founder of the APPG on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To secure the Blue Wall, Conservatives must invest in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Our new voters will judge us on whether we deliver new jobs, rising wages and better infrastructure by making the most of new technologies.

Winning former Labour-held seats in the North, the Midlands and Wales was key to our success in last month’s general election, creating a new “Blue Wall” from Wrexham to Wakefield, Bolsover to Bishop Auckland, and beyond. “Get Brexit Done” and “stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister” were two messages devised by Boris Johnson that cut through with voters, enabling the Conservatives to win seats we had either not held for decades, or never held before at all.

At the next general election (and in local, county and Mayoral elections before then) Corbyn and Brexit will not be the dominant doorstep issues. Instead, we Conservatives have to deliver rising wages, new jobs, better living standards and economic renewal if we are to hold on to our Blue Wall seats.

This will only happen if the economy is growing, new businesses are starting or expanding, and new industries are replacing those that have left or are in decline. The only policy that delivers all these outcomes is investment in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – the new, advanced technologies that are already changing our economy from clean energy and advanced manufacturing to driverless vehicles and precision medicines. Our future electoral success across the Blue Wall will be inextricably linked to driving up productivity, creating new high-wage jobs and bringing dignified work back to communities that feel disaffected by globalisation.

A pro-Leave electorate that has backed another party for so long will need to be reassured that we Conservatives are on their side for the long term, not just whilst Brexit is being delivered. They will be looking to the Conservatives to ensure they are not left behind by the next big technological revolution. As I said in a previous article, this commitment must be a central tenant of Conservatism 4.0 – Conservative ideology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The last time our country went through a technological revolution we had another strong leader with a large electoral mandate. The computing revolution of the 1980s powered Britain to economic success – and political success for Thatcherism. The City of London prospered from the Big Bang, and our economy was transformed into a services-based powerhouse. In the North, Nissan was incentivised to open its first UK factory in Sunderland in 1986 whilst other international car makers would establish bases in Britain – another example of a Conservative government securing the jobs of the future.

Today’s Conservative Government has a similar opportunity – and responsibility – to harness the 4IR for the benefit of communities across the Blue Wall as artificial intelligence, big data and automation transform our economy and society beyond recognition. To keep our majority at future elections, we cannot allow the positive impact of the 4IR to be absent from any region or for its benefits to be inaccessible to any social group.

The 4IR will radically change how we work, regardless of sector or industry. Instead of dockers and miners being at risk of automation, in the near future it will be call centre operators, shop assistants, lorry drivers and factory workers. With a path to electoral victory that increasingly runs through industrial towns, every factory closure or job lost to robots without alternatives emerging, will make a majority harder to retain. As the 4IR accelerates, today’s Conservative Government already recognises that it must act quickly, working through the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to re-industrialise those regions, creating new jobs and more prosperity.

The policy interventions needed to make a success of the 4IR across the Blue Wall will be diverse, ranging from the installation of full-fibre broadband to every home and business to the local retention of business rates. However, three areas of focus should include:

  • Better transport within – and between – Blue Wall towns and cities. Local economies are more productive when people can get to work efficiently within their own town or city, and when travelling around their region, especially using public transport. However, our biggest cities outside London such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham are less productive than almost all similar-sized cities in Europe, and less productive than much smaller cities such as Edinburgh, Oxford, and Bristol. Poor transport links are an important factor in dragging down productivity in our regions outside London, and European cities and large towns are often more productive than our own in large part because they have better infrastructure. Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a light rail or metro system. Manchester and Lyon (France’s second largest city conurbation) have similar-sized tram systems with about 100 stations each, but Marseille (three tram lines) and Lille (two tram lines) have substantially more than Birmingham (one line) and Leeds (no lines). Likewise, trade between Northern towns is hampered by poor inter-city connectivity. One study showed that services from London travel at average speeds of 65-93mph, compared with 20-60mph elsewhere. That includes routes such as Liverpool Central to Chester, which takes 41 minutes to make a 14-mile journey. Meanwhile, passengers travelling from London Paddington to Reading cover a distance more than two-and-a-half times longer in 17 minutes less, at 93mph. Blue Wall towns and cities – and areas around them – need funding to upgrade their bus, tram and train services to make them as good as London’s, with more electrification and smart ticketing. If people cannot move around easily, we will be unable to match skilled workers to new businesses which is key to creating jobs and prosperity in the 4IR.
  • Local 4IR technology adoption funds. Local Enterprise Partnerships need to help Blue Wall businesses adapt to the 4IR. Only by rapidly adopting 4IR technologies and embedding them into everyday business life across every community and region can we ensure that these areas will not fall behind. Every LEP should come up with a regional Industrial Strategy that sets out how that region will embrace the 4IR. The Liverpool City Region 4.0 programme operated by the Liverpool LEP is an example for others to follow. The LCR 4.0 project provides assistance to manufacturing SMEs wishing to adopt new and emerging technologies to improve their productivity and develop new products and services using 4IR technologies. By helping traditional manufacturers upgrade their technology, they enable firms to stay in business and keep their workers employed by becoming more productive.
  • Local political leaders taking responsibility for the 4IR. Councils play a key role in making a success of their communities, from attracting inward investment and funding regeneration to granting planning permission for businesses to expand. The impact of the 4IR needs to be handled strategically, with local government taking a long-term view of local employment patterns as machines replace workers, new businesses spring up in new industries such as 3D printing, and patterns of work change as remote-working enabled by technology increases. Every local council should task one of its Cabinet members with specific responsibility for the 4IR, and create a taskforce of local councillors and officers to devise a pro-active strategy to help their local economy benefit from the 4IR, rather than reacting to changes brought on by technology.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already happening, and it is the defining political and economic issue of the next ten years, just as the financial crisis shaped the last decade. Not only is the 4IR the field on which we must fight the next great battle over the value of free markets at a conceptual level, but it is also the real-world driver of growth which we must harness to deliver rising wages and good jobs.

The 4IR is the latest phase of globalisation, and our task in Government is to manage it better, harness its economic benefits, and avoid some communities behind left behind as it transforms our way of life.


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

Daniel Rossall-Valentine: How to reform and improve the Apprenticeship Levy

Daniel Rossall-Valentine is Head of Campaign for This is Engineering at the Royal Academy of Engineering, and Deputy Chairman of Sevenoaks Conservative Association. He writes in a personal capacity.

Apprenticeships can aid social mobility by providing young people from all backgrounds with an opportunity to “earn and learn”, building a career with a long term future.

I’ve been fortunate for the last three years to work with an organisation that has unparalleled access to business and educational leaders so have been in the front seat as the apprenticeship levy has been implemented. The scheme is far from a failure, but it does need urgent tweaks if it is to win the confidence of employers and fulfil its potential.

The Apprenticeship Levy was announced by George Osborne in his July 2015 budget. It came into effect in  2017. The former Chancellor set an ambitious target of starting three million apprenticeships by 2020.

The levy is payable by all employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million through PAYE at a rate of 0.5 per cent of their full pay bill. Each employer sets up an individual apprenticeship account that holds all levy payments and that an employer can use to pay for apprenticeship training.

Money paid into an apprenticeship account remains available to that employer for 24 months from the date of payment. Any amount that remains unclaimed after that period will expire and is then available to cover the cost of apprenticeship training at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who have not paid the Levy.

The Levy was, and is, a bold attempt to encourage employers to train and progress staff, and a brave effort to tackle some of the UK’s greatest cultural problems; our belief that education primarily takes place in classrooms, our excessive faith in “credentials” and our concomitant under-estimation of on-the-job experience and training.

However, despite its noble intent, the Levy remains a rather clunky system which was created following rushed implementation with insufficient problem analysis, design, testing or adaptation. Whitehall unfortunately defaulted to its long-standing preferences for finding “one best way” and for creating a single top-down template lacking in flexibility.

The Levy has received a good deal of criticism, little of which has so far been accepted by the Government. One exception relates to levy-sharing. Levy-paying firms could only share 10 per cent of their levy with other businesses but from April 2019 firms have been able to share up to 25 per cent with other businesses in their supply chain.

The design errors can be categorised under three headings:

Optimistic forecasting

  • The Government under-estimated the cost of higher-level apprenticeships, and thus the percentage of money that would be claimed back by levy-payers. This has left insufficient money in the digital fund for smaller organisations to claim.

Some aspects of the system are too rigid

  • The system stipulates that to qualify as an apprenticeship at least 20% of the time of the apprentice should be spent away from the workplace.

The claim-back system is too inflexible

  • Organisations are required to spend money set aside within two years or lose it. This often does not give organisations enough time to organise apprenticeship programmes, especially where the firms cannot identify good quality local training providers.

Some aspects of the system are too loose

  • Curiously, there is no mandatory requirement for qualifications within the new apprenticeship standard. Without qualifications being part of apprenticeships, it is hard to see how they can ultimately lead to high-skilled, high-paid jobs.
  • With little regulation of apprenticeship quality, it is too easy for levy paying employers to recoup their payments by rebadging existing training schemes as apprenticeships. Even more concerning, existing staff can simply be designated as apprentices without the creation of any additional job opportunities.

Many large organisations which run excellent training schemes, internships, traineeships and work placements have resigned themselves to simply paying the charge, because their schemes are not compliant with the rules of the levy.
Other organisations have failed to find suitable training schemes in their localities, and so would like to collaborate with other employers to create suitable training, but the Levy only allows them to use 25 per cent of the funds for joint ventures.

Several essential reforms are required urgently.

  • The three million apprenticeships target should be abandoned and new rolling targets set which focus on the number of apprenticeship completions rather than apprenticeship starts. Industry specific targets should also be set for industries which are central to the industrial strategy and national productivity.
  • Increase the funding for the scheme by extending the levy to all large firms operating in the UK. The levy is currently only charged on payroll taxes. This means that large companies that spend less than £3 million on direct staff in the UK escape the levy. If firm size were measured by UK sales rather than payroll cost, the free-rider problem would be removed and the funding significantly improved.
  • A more flexible approach to on-the-job training, moving away from the stipulation that 20 per cent of the training should take place off the job, This four days on site, one day off-site pattern works in some industries but not in others. For instance, this pattern is a common way for accountants to train, but works less well in retail, where learning may all take place on site. This inflexible pattern is also tough for small employers, who may need to reschedule training at short notice due to staff absence or other business needs. No single pattern of work-based learning will satisfy all job types. The new system should allow employers to design bespoke training patterns that fit business requirements and hours of operation.
  • A more robust definition of what an apprenticeship actually is. Lack of definition has resulted in massive definitional stretching with some academics with PhDs being labelled as apprentices, and the apprenticeship badge also being applied to regular management training and routine clerical work. We risk the term “apprenticeship” being rapidly diluted and degraded if definitions and standards are not attached to it.
  • Increase the element of the pot which can be used by firms to collaborate on training. Many parts of the UK have real shortages of training provision and so organisations should be able to use at least half of their levy pots to work with other players to create centres of excellence for training.

The apprenticeship levy has the potential to rapidly deliver the apprentices that the economy needs and produce a highly skilled, productive workforce. But it has become very clear that this has not yet happened, and the levy is not working to its potential. The Levy’s design faults are serious, but not insurmountable. The government needs to listen to its critical friends and produce fast reform of this scheme to help Britain compete and to ensure that our young people get the training and jobs that they need and deserve.

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

A look back at 2019, the year of Amazon’s HQ2

Westlake Legal Group crystal-city A look back at 2019, the year of Amazon’s HQ2 year in review Technology property News & Updates News land hq2 housing development Culture Business amazon headquarters amazon 2019 news
Crystal City is now known as the new home of Amazon HQ2. (Photo by Aaron Spicer)

Right before the start of 2019, tech giant Amazon announced it would add a second headquarters in Northern Virginia, causing both excitement and concern about what the move will do to the region’s economy. 

Now, as we enter into 2020, we take a look back at the progress Amazon has made in the project, the changes Arlington County has implemented and what exactly is going to happen next. 

November 2018

  • Amazon announces the addition of HQ2 in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, bringing with it 25,000 jobs (on top of the more than 8,500 employees already in Virginia) at average salaries of $150,000.
  • Virginia Tech University announces it will build a $1 billion Innovation Campus for grad students on the same day Amazon announced the location of HQ2. 
  • The contractor of the tech mogul’s project is JBG Smith Properties. 

Winter 2019

  • Home sales in Northern Virginia rose 5.4% in December, compared to the same time period in 2017, boosted by a 28% increase year-over-year in Arlington and Alexandria, per the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors. The impending arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 is believed to be a big driver of those numbers.

Spring 2019

  • Various public transportation improvement projects come into fruition as a result of the expected influx of people on the roads and transportation system. Projects include adding two-way traffic to Route 1 and the addition of a new east entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, which is now in the concept design phase.
  • Amazon submits its first plans for HQ2 to the Arlington County board for approval in March, 2019. The plans reveal a pair of 22-story buildings at Metropolitan Park that will take up about 2.1 million square feet. Below the buildings, there will be a parking garage, according to the plans. 
  • Arlington County Board approves $23 million in grant money to Amazon, spread across 15 years. 
  • Amazon officially signs the leases of three Crystal City sites: 241 18th Street South, 1800 South Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. 

Summer 2019

  • Virginia Tech decides on Alexandra’s Potomac Yard, which is about 2 miles south of the new headquarters in Crystal City, for the location of its Innovation Campus. The campus is currently in its planning phase. 

Fall 2019

  • The Seattle-based company hosted the first of its Amazon Career Days on Sept. 17, in an attempt to fill the first round of jobs before even breaking ground on HQ2. 

December 2019

  • On Dec. 14, the Arlington County board approved Amazon’s first new construction plan, paving the way for the start of work on two towers in Pentagon City, according to the Washington Business Journal
  • Amazon contributes $20 million to Arlington’s affordable housing loan fund. 
  • Amazon plans to invest close to $14 million in expanding Metropolitan Park, adding 36,000 square feet of open space. 
  • About 400 jobs with HQ2 have been filled. 
  • Here’s a look at the latest developments coming to Arlington as a direct result of the much-anticipated HQ2.

Looking Ahead

  • Construction for the Metropolitan Park portion of the HQ2 project will begin in the middle of 2020, with eventual completion in early 2023. 
  • Eastern entrance to the Crystal City Metro station is in the concept design phase, set to be complete at some point this year. 
  • Traffic patterns will be reconfigured throughout the area, in an effort to improve connectivity between Crystal City and Pentagon City. 
  • Amazon’s 10-acre second phase of new development in Pentagon City at Pen Place is not expected to open until 2025 at the earliest. 

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

Organic grocer to close in Fairfax after just two years

While the fate of Shoppers hangs over the region, another Greater Washington grocery store is quietly closing its doors just two years after its grand opening.

Organic grocer Earth Fare will close its Fairfax store, its only location in the region, on Jan. 11, a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday to the Washington Business Journal. She declined to further comment on how many employees would be affected or why the store is closing.

The Asheville, North Carolina-based chain brought its mostly organic and sustainable products to Fairfax in January 2018, hoping to capitalize on the region’s higher levels of income and preferences for healthy food. Between now and its last day, the 20,000-square-foot store at 11052 Lee Highway will sell its merchandise at a 20% discount.

It’s unclear how this closure fits into the larger strategy for the company, founded in 1975 in Asheville. The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday that three Earth Fare locations are slated to close in Indiana, in Carmel,…

Read the full story from the Washington Business Journal.


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

Neil O’Brien: Policies for a new Britain – in which the central point for new Tory MPs is moors on Sheffield’s edge

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

The rain fell. As the weeks of the campaign went by, bright orange Halloween pumpkins rotted on doorsteps, while Christmas decorations gradually went up. Across the country floods came and receded. The short days got even shorter.

A man in a beautiful big Georgian house with a very large Apple Mac in the window told me that we had ruined the country. A man in a bungalow on an estate told me that he’d voted Labour his whole life, but this time he would be voting Conservative.

Leaflets went soggy in the drizzle. Towns and villages turned on their Christmas lights. More rain fell, and then, at the end of it all, there was a flood tide of a different kind. A blue tide, sweeping across the country, particularly in the midlands and north.

That flood has washed away old familiar landmarks. The Beast of Bolsover is gone. Jo Swinson is gone. Jeremy Corbyn is going. The “People’s Vote” campaign has shut down in the light of… how people voted. “Workington Man”, much discussed at the start of the campaign, really did turn Conservative, and sent Mark Jenkinson to Parliament.
Laura Piddock, who’d vowed never to be friends with a Conservative, was replaced by one: Richard Holden.

The Conservative Party has been profoundly changed by the election. Since 1997 we’ve gone from having from three per cent to 34 per cent of seats in the North East. From 13 per cent to 43 per cent of seats in the North West. From 13 per cent to 48 per cent in Yorkshire. From nought per cent to 35 per cent of seats in Wales. And from 24 per cent to 75 per cent of seats in the West Midlands.

Our new intake are 30 per cent of the parliamentary party. And their seats are different. In 2001, we had just no seats in the 30 per cent most deprived constituencies in England. In 2010, we had 24. Now it is 49 of those seats. In 2001, we had just 14 seats in the most deprived half of England. Now we have 116.

Look at the change another way. Average out where in English Conservative MPs elected in 2017 represented, and the centre point was down in the Speaker’s leafy Buckingham constituency. Average out the newly elected Conservative MPs in England in 2019, and the central point is out on the wild and windy moors on the edge of Sheffield.  It would take you a long time, but you can now walk almost the whole length of the Pennine Way without leaving a Conservative constituency.

The Prime Minister also has the chance now to go on an epic trek: one to change the face of British politics forever.
It goes without saying that we need to keep our promises on GBD (Getting Brexit Done) and the NHS. But we can’t let Whitehall just KBO with business-as-usual.

I don’t think we will. The signs of last week’s earthquake have been there for some time, and people like Dominic Cummings have the most been attuned to them. Even some of the 2019 strategy has been road-tested before. Under Cummings in 2001, the no euro campaign ran “Never Mind the Euro, what about our hospitals?” flyposters, riffing on famous the Sex Pistols album cover.

In the James Frayne/Dom Cummings led-campaign against the North East Assembly in 2004, the campaign had a strong anti-politics-as-usual slant, with ads condemning the cost of the proposed “talking shop” for ordinary people.
But now we have a majority, how to respond to the dissatisfaction that’s been growing for so long?

Once we get Brexit done, we should be conspicuous in the use of our new freedoms. We could axe the hated tampon tax or cut VAT on fuel. We can improve animal welfare, banning live exports and puppy smuggling. We could end the absurd practice of paying child benefits to children living overseas. We could help small business, reviewing legislation that curtails lending like the CRD IV and Solvency 2. We could replace bureaucratic EU regional development funding with something better, and end the environmental waste of the CAP and Common Fisheries Policies.

Things like the review of sentencing and end of early release are key to showing the county is under new management.

But the question I am most interested in personally is whether we can have a bold enough economic policy that people in the newly gained Conservative seats can see the difference in five years’ time.

Let’s be clear: many of the places we’ve gained have suffered economic decline for many decades. There is a good economic case for levelling up: there are no major countries that are richer per head than Britain and have a more geographically unbalanced economy. More balanced growth is stronger. But to get it, we need to mobilise in an unprecedented way.

I’d suggest four ways to level up.

First, rebalance the government’s most growth-enhancing spending. Spending which most spurs growth is too concentrated on places that are already successful. We should rebalance spending on innovation, transport, housing and culture to lift the performance of poorer areas. Government should rethink the focus on current demand levels and current strengths which creates a vicious circle for less wealthy areas.

Second, we should recognise that Britain has de-industrialised more than any other G20 country since 1990; that the UK’s tax system is currently uniquely hostile to manufacturing and other types of capital-intensive businesses; and that this has a particularly negative effect on lagging parts of the country which are more reliant on manufacturing.

Despite its small share of overall GDP, manufacturing makes an outsize contribution to productivity growth and compared to professional services is more likely to happen outside city centres.

While manufacturing accounted for around a quarter of productivity growth nationally since 1997, it provided 40-50 per cent of productivity growth in poorer regions like Wales, the West Midlands and North West. More generous capital allowances would help lagging regions, but currently EU rules limit the places in which we can offer such allowances. Let’s use our new freedom.

Third, lets recognise the centrality of private sector investment in growth. Moving public sector jobs around doesn’t cut it. We need private inward investment. That means souping up DIT and making sure we are using every weapon including tax breaks to attract higher end private sector jobs to poorer places.

The highlight of the Conservative manifesto for me was the pledge to invest a stonking £3.2 billion a year in R&D by the end of the Parliament. But unless we spend differently, it won’t benefit lagging areas.

So, fourth, we have to shift the balance of government R&D: from mainly in universities to more happening in firms. From fundamental research, to more applied (like in China and the Asian economies). And from half the core budget being spent in three cities, (London, Cambridge and Oxford) to a distribution more in line with the geographically balanced spending of the private sector.

And more. We should learn from the Connell Review and the way the US uses ringfenced budgets for innovative procurement to put rocket boosters under small tech firms. We should build up innovate UK and make it easier to get SMART grants too.

Obviously, there are a zillion other things: sorting out the over-expansion of low-value university arts courses and under-investment in apprenticeships. Building on funding to fix run down town centres… there’s masses to do.
But above all, somewhere in Whitehall there has to be a strong central point to make all this happen “by any means necessary”.

We start with a huge river of goodwill from this election. Now we need to channel it to get the wheels turning again for places that feel left-behind.

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Unfit for office. But worse even than Corbyn are Labour’s moderates – who are willing to put his anti-Jewish racism into power.

It’s claimed that the twentieth century saw a totalitarianism of race, fascism, and one of class, communism.  But the truth is that the two tended to mingle.  The nazis were class warriors, at least in their earlier phases (the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, our italic).  And the communists were sometimes race ones.

Stalin “always hated Jews”, Paul Johnson tells us.  “He hated the fact that so many of his relatives wished to marry Jews, and refused to meet five out of his eight grandchildren.”

So perhaps the institutional anti-semitism of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership should be all that surprising.  But it still has the power to shock.  One Jewish party member was told that “Hitler was right”; another heard two members agree that Jews are “subhuman”. Another that “we only have prostitutes in Seven Sisters because of the Jews”. An unsuccessful council candidate was told to go home and count his money.

An online post referred to “bent-nosed manipulative liars”; another to “cockroaches of the Jew kind”.  Others used such terms as “kike” and “yid”.  One Jewish Labour MP was called a “yid c**t”.  Another was told that “we shall rid the Jews who are a cancer on all of us”.  The party has certainly lost the MP concerned.  It was Luciana Berger, now a Liberal Democrat – unable to bear Corbyn’s Labour any more.

Another member was called a “f**king Jew”.  Another former Labour MP, Louise Ellman, has left the party.  But why continue this shaming list?  Please note: none of these quotes are connected with Israel.  None of them even land in that murky territory where anti-Zionism and anti-semitism meet – for example, where Israel’s actions are compared to the nazis’.

All that is necessary to add is that the source of these quotes is decidedly non-Conservative.  It is the closing submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission of the Jewish Labour Movement, the party’s “only Jewish and longest-standing affiliate”, as it describes itself.  The assertion that Labour’s anti-semitism is “institutional” and “endemic” is the Movement’s own.

And it is in no doubt at all why it has come about.  “Since Jeremy Corbyn has become leader of the Labour Party, he has made the party a welcoming refuge for anti-semites,” the submission says.  It goes on to list in detail Labour’s failing to deal with the problem under the following headings: failure to implement processes to protect Jewish members from anti-semitism; hostile response to those calling out anti-semitism…

…Denial; discrediting of victims; defence of perpetrators; active victimisation of those calling out anti-semitism: on and on the submission goes.  The more of the detail one reads, the less Corbyn’s own personal views matter.  Whether he is or isn’t himself anti-semitic becomes scacely the point any more (though the evidence suggests that in his characteristic dim muddy way he is.  (“Zionists don’t understand English irony”, he once said.)

Yes, anti-Muslim prejudice, and even anti-semitism, can be found on the Right.  ConservativeHome needs no-one to remind us so: after all, we were the first conservative media outlet, as far as we know, to call for an enquiry into the former – doing so as long ago as 2010.  We later supported an enquiry into all forms of hatred by the anti-extremism commissioner.  The Conservatives have taken up the idea of an independent enquiry.

But there is a solid reason why most of our media colleagues have fixed their attention on anti-semitism and Jeremy Corbyn rather than anti-Muslim prejudice and Boris Johnson.  It is because while parallelism always has a mesmeric attraction, there is sense in not applying it in this case.  Which is why Sayeeda Warsi’s campaign has struggled to gain lift-off outside its usual Guardian and Independent stomping grounds.

If the parallel really applied, Johnson would have been playing footsie for years with, say, David Duke.  (Steve Bannon is not the same thing – and his relationship with Johnson is clearly tangential, in any event.)  And the problem with Party members would be far wider and deeper than all the available evidence suggests that it is.  That independent enquiry into prejudice and hatred cross-party would tell us more.

In the meantime, there is an election to be getting on with.  Most voters will have what to them are more pressing reasons to reject Corbyn than anti-semitism.  After all, nearly all of them aren’t Jewish.  Labour’s anti-semitism thus touches few of them directly.  Far more simply don’t trust Labour with their taxes.  Or think Corbyn just isn’t a leader. Or hate his pro-IRA history. Or else just want to “get Brexit done”, as Johnson keeps putting it.

They nonetheless have – in the other sense of the words that follow – an interest in anti-semitism: a stake in opposing it, one might say.  Hatred of Jews is what doctors would call an early indicator, a bit like memory loss in relation to Alzheimer’s: a warning of what is to come.  If Labour is prepared to treat a group of people with such institutional viciousness, simply because of who they are, how will they treat other people they dislike?

If the party’s own internal processes won’t deal with anti-semitism justly, how can its leaders be trusted to use the machinery of government fairly?  For example, would businesses get a fair price for assets that are nationalised?  Would companies get proper value for the shares they commandeer?  What price would Labour compel landlords to sell their properties at?  What wages would they force businesses to pay?

As Neil O’Brien recently put it on this site: “where Corbyn’s ideas really differ from previous Labour leaders is that he doesn’t really believe in the rule of law. Your house, your business, your savings: all these things don’t really belong to you, in Corbyn’s eyes: you have them only as long as the government suffers you to have them, and they can be retrospectively taken away if he sees fit.”

The Jewish Labour Movement knows all this very, and has decided that, Labour though it is to the core, it cannot give Corbyn the thumbs-up – or even wrap itself in the silence that can be taken for consent.  Others have decided otherwise.  We know what his own Shadow Health Secretary thinks of Corbyn, thanks to Guido Fawkes’ story yesterday.

We scarcely need to guess what the stalwarts of Blairism and Brownism think: Yvette Cooper, Hillary Benn, Jess Phillips, Liz Kendall.  Unlike Berger, they haven’t been driven out.  Unlike Tom Watson, they haven’t walked away.

They’re still there – standing for election.  Their anti-Toryism outweighs Corbyn’s anti-semitism.  It must do: or they wouldn’t be prepared to support him as Prime Minister in the event of Labour forming a government.  We say that they are therefore even worse than he is – worthy of a place in an even lower circle of hell.

Corbyn either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the vileness of the institutional anti-semitism that he has brought to his party: the other of what was, until he got hold of it, Britain’s great modern democratic twins.  They know.  And truly, they care.  But not enough.

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Here’s how to negotiate your way to a higher salary

Westlake Legal Group hands-in-air-with-money Here’s how to negotiate your way to a higher salary salary salaries raise professionals negotiations money funding Finances Economy december cover story Culture Features Culture cover story career development Business
© siraanamwong / stock.adobe.com

Whether you’re starting your first job or looking for a raise well into your career, these tips from Brian Barr, assistant director of career development at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, will help you negotiate your way to a higher salary.

Do Your Research

Before you can give a target figure to an employer, make sure you know what the average salary is for your industry. LinkedIn, GlassDoor.com and Salary.com all have helpful information. “Not doing research to see what other people in your same position are being paid is one of the big mistakes people make before going into a salary negotiation,” says Barr.

Aim Higher

If you’re asking for a raise, Barr says the general rule is to ask for 5% above your current salary. “You have to know your worth,” he says. Be sure and revisit your original job description as well, he says, so you can note if your responsibilities have expanded.

Make It About the Company

Yes, this is an expensive region, but bosses don’t care about your personal obligations. “Negotiating for higher pay is not based on personal qualities, like, ‘I need more because I just got my kid entered into high school or I just put a mortgage down on a new house,’” Barr says. “It’s more about what do you bring to an organization. Not to be blunt, but what does an organization care about your private life? Instead, tell them things like, ‘I bring a logical understanding of a specific programming system,’ or ‘I have done this research before,’ or ‘I have written these articles.’ All those different things increase your own personal stock value. Those are the things that tend to increase your salary ask rather than personal life situations.”

Speak Up

It’s OK to talk money. “Salary range is always the most terrifying question to be asked in any interview,” Barr says. “But it’s a totally valid question.” But, again, make sure you’ve done your research so you don’t inadvertently undercut your potential salary.

This post originally appeared in our December 2019 issue as part of the “State of the Salary” cover story. For more cultural reads, subscribe to our newsletters.

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This is the state of the salary in Northern Virginia

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© siraanamwong / stock.adobe.com

With Amazon adding to the region’s arguably already robust tech sector, and local leaders focused on diversifying the professional landscape, the economic forecast for Northern Virginia looks promising for those on the search for an even better salary.

Northern Virginia. It’s been one of the best places to live and work, with some of the highest average salaries, some of the most sought-after real estate and some of the best amenities available in any area of the country for at least the last 10 years.

Wow. That statement may read like typical economic development marketing bluster. But in this region, facts consistently bear out the reality behind the hype.

In fact, Northern Virginia has not just done well in the past few years, but is just entering a new era of serious boom times (hello, Amazon). According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey, Loudoun County ranks No. 1 by median household income in the entire nation. Yes, the outside-the-Beltway county outpaces the San Francisco-adjacent suburban communities and the suburban enclaves where New York City commuters typically live, in terms of salary. Loudoun’s median household income is just under $140,000, while Arlington and Fairfax ($122,394 and $122,227, respectively) are also in the mix with California and New York/New Jersey bedroom communities. For comparison’s sake, the median household income for the entire state of Virginia, according to recent Census data, is $72,577.

But hold on—there are caveats.

“We are about 18.4% more expensive in terms of cost of living than the national average,” says Jeannette Chapman, deputy director and senior research associate for the Stephen S. Fuller Institute, an economic think tank based at George Mason University. “If you look at where we rank in terms of other large employment metros, we are third behind San Francisco and New York,” she says. “So what that means is that the top-line average wage or household income doesn’t purchase as much here as other areas in general.”

In short, salaries in Northern Virginia are relatively high, but so is the cost of living.
Despite the impressive NoVA numbers, local economic development leaders have made it their mission to see those salaries climb even higher.

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Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (Photo courtesy of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership)

The goal, according to Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP), is to create more jobs with a higher average wage so that residents can work and live here.

With 2018’s announcement that Amazon had picked Crystal City as its second headquarters, it’s fair to say things are heading in the right direction.

Landrum and her team were instrumental in the dealmaking process with Amazon’s HQ2, which will take up 6 million square feet for its new campus that stretches between Alexandria and Arlington.

That huge development will positively affect many workers and businesses in Alexandria, with a lesser but similar ripple effect to be felt across the entire Northern Virginia region.

One thing representatives from AEDP discussed with Amazon was the pay. “They ended up coming up with an average wage of $150,000,” Landrum says. “That is significantly higher than Alexandria’s prevailing wage, which is about $72,000. This single employer is going to bring at least 25,000 employment opportunities literally right here to our doorstep,” she says. She notes that also translates to another 25,000 indirect employment opportunities.

An economic impact report from the Fuller Institute showed that approximately 15% of new Amazon workers (7,265 to 8,218) would choose to reside in Arlington, with 69% of these workers (34,578 to 34,727) residing somewhere in Virginia.

The remainder would largely reside in Maryland and DC. These new households—ranging from 7,100 to 8,000 in Arlington County and approximately 34,300 in Virginia overall—are expected to generate a total household income ranging from $7.9 to $9.5 billion.

According to Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the ripple effect from Amazon will change salary levels across the area. For professional services, salaries in the DC area average $121,000. Professional services wages in Fairfax County pay $125,000 on average. “That Amazon average wage will probably lean those wages forward,” Hoskins says.

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Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (Photo courtesy of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority)

The “Amazon factor” will certainly have its impact on the region, but Northern Virginia has already been adding between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs each year going back to 2015, Chapman says.

Buddy Rizer, the executive director of Loudoun County Department of Economic Development, has witnessed that steady growth before Amazon became a factor.

He says Loudoun County has had a unique economic success story in the last decade. “It’s been big on investment but also big on jobs,” Rizer says. “Traditionally, our economy has not been the big one-shot job creation. We had a few of those, like Raytheon and others. But what we have seen is a ton of organic job creation, averaging more than 3,000 new jobs a year.”

Loudoun County has diversified its economy over the last few years and is now less dependent on government work as it becomes more of a tech-based economy, Rizer says. For example, the county has become the world’s largest location for data centers, with 14.5 million square feet of data centers in the county now and 13,000 jobs in or around the data center industry. “This year we will make more than $300 million in local tax revenue from the data centers,” Rizer says. “And we have reduced taxes by 25-and-a-half cents” over the last six years.

That’s all good news for the Northern Virginia economy to be sure. The growth charts are all going in the right direction, but chatter about a potential recession has some nervous.

However, Chapman says there are recent examples to provide predictors of how a recession could play out locally.

“There was a minor recession regarding sequestration because of federal policy changes,” she says about the 2013 automatic government spending cuts. “And government shutdowns disrupt things across the board, like retail workers and Uber drivers. So I would say that we are recession-resistant, but not recession-proof.”

Chapman says that what could jeopardize this area’s super-charged economic growth is the failure of the private sector to grow and pivot away from the federal government. “We were able to grow in the past 50 years because of the federal government,” she says. “But forecasts show that is going to flatten out, and so that source of growth is gone. It needs to come from somewhere else, and that is the role that Amazon plays. Not the number of jobs, but getting that sort of work here that tends to cluster around each other.”

This post originally appeared in our December 2019 issue as part of the “State of the Salary” cover story. For more cultural reads, subscribe to our newsletters.

Richest Counties in the United States, by Median Household Income

According to the most recent American Community Survey, from the U.S. Census, released in September 2019, three of the richest counties in the nation are in Northern Virginia.

Loudoun County, Virginia – $139,915
Santa Clara County, California – $126,606
Marin County, California – $126,373
San Mateo County, California – $124,425
Arlington County, Virginia – $122,394
Fairfax County, Virginia – $122,227
Somerset County, New Jersey – $121,378
Douglas County, Colorado – $119,615
Howard County, Maryland – $116,984
Nassau County, New York – $116,304

Median Home Sales Prices

Arlington County: $637,300
Fairfax County: $508,200
Loudoun County: $489,900
Alexandria: $467,800
Prince William County: $371,300
Fredericksburg: $291,100


Average Credit Card Debt in the DC Metro region: $7,687

Median Student Loan Debt in the DC region: $22,803
With one in two people over age 25 in the region with a post-grad degree, the number of people with student loan debt runs high. In fact, the DC region ranks No. 1 for student debt holders who owe more than $100,000.

Median debt for millennials in the DC region (can include student loans, car loans, credit card debt): $25,810

Child Care Costs

Average cost of child care in Virginia, for one child: $13,728 per year

Average cost of child care, for two children: $24,929 per year
(That’s 42.5% more than the average rent in Virginia.)

Average cost of public college in Virginia: $12,820 per year

Median Income in the DC region: $102,180

The budget you need to live comfortably in the DC region, according to Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator:

For a two-parent household with two children
Housing: $1,482
Food: $951
Child Care: $3,279
Transportation: $735
Health Care: $950
Other Necessities: $982
Taxes: $1,953
Monthly Total: $8,795
Annual Total: $105,539

For a two-parent household with one child
Housing: $1,693
Food: $678
Child Care: $1,021
Transportation: $1,043
Health Care: $764
Other Necessities: $957
Taxes: $1,217
Monthly Total: $7, 374
Annual Total: $88,484

For a one-parent household with one child
Housing: $1,693
Food: $438
Child Care: $1,021
Transportation: $815
Health Care: $463
Other Necessities: $860
Taxes: $1,216
Monthly Total: $6,505
Annual Total: $78,059

For a two-adult household
Housing: $1,474
Food: $545
Child Care: $0
Transportation: $914
Health Care: $603
Other Necessities: $814
Taxes: $882
Monthly Total: $5,232
Annual Total: $62,787

Sources: Median home sales prices via Zillow; Debt stats via ValuePenguin and LendingTree; Stats of child care costs via Child Care Aware of America and Economic Policy Institute

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David Gauke: An election won. But a year on: “You promised us you’d get Brexit done, but all we hear about is Brexit”

David Gauke is a former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary.

November 2020. An all-day Cabinet Meeting had concluded. The decision had been reached and an anxious Prime Minister was preparing to address the nation from the Downing Street lectern. The meeting could have gone worse – only three resignations – but there was no concealing the fact that the Prime Minister and the Government were in a tight spot. The honeymoon had finally come to an end.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had had a good few months. He was the first leader of the Conservative Party since Margaret Thatcher to win a comfortable majority last December. Even though he had lost a few seats in London and the Home Counties (one particularly eye-catching shock in Hertfordshire), the fear of Corbyn and a desire to ‘get Brexit done’ had been enough to breach the red wall and return a majority of over 30.

His Withdrawal Agreement Bill had been rushed through Parliament and, on 31 January, the UK finally left the European Union. It was a moment of great historical significancem even if the moment itself was much of an anti-climax. After all, the terms of the implementation period meant that nothing very much changed on 1 February.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats, although receiving a majority of the votes between them in last year’s general election, had entered into a period of introspection. A few elder statesmen warned of the consequences of leaving the EU on the terms agreed, but no one was listening. After all, the people had spoken in both a referendum and a general election. Who cared what a few out of touch Jeremiahs had to say?

That spring, the economy continued to drift on comfortably enough. It is true that the oft-promised tidal wave of investment that was supposed to flood the country did not materialise (after all, investors wanted to know about the future relationship), but many businesses remained sanguine that, now that Brexit had been delivered, the Prime Minister would pivot to finding a sensible accommodation with the EU.

The Prime Minister had said that he would get a comprehensive free trade agreement before the Implementation Period expired, but would not extend the Implementation Period beyond 31 December 2020. There was more than a little scepticism about this position and some confidence that these were pledges not to be taken literally.

At least, that was the position until the political excitements of May. Alarmed at the lack of progress towards reaching a free trade agreement, sources close to Sajid Javid had suggested to The Times that ‘EU intransigence’ meant that it may be necessary to extend the Implementation Period by 12 months.

The reaction soon put paid to that idea. Within hours, a letter of objection had been submitted by 25 newly elected Conservative MPs – all of whom had become members of the ERG – pointing out that they had won their seats on the basis of ‘getting Brexit done’ and that ‘extending vassalage wasn’t getting Brexit done’. Senior Cabinet Ministers briefed that they would resign rather than allow the Implementation Period to be extended. Lord Farage threatened to form a new party.

By the end of the day, the Chancellor had made it abundantly clear that he was resolutely opposed to any extension of the Implementation Period and that he had not authorised any briefing to the contrary. The pound fell.

Progress towards a trade deal remained slow throughout the summer. The UK said that a deal should be easy because the parties began the process aligned on a large range of matters. The EU pointed out this was all very well if the intention was for both parties to remain aligned. An agreement could be quickly agreed if the UK accepted ‘dynamic alignment with EU regulations’. The Prime Minister said that this didn’t constitute Brexit.

The EU also offered a ‘barebones’ deal, but it required all sorts of concessions from the UK that appeared politically impossible. The French made some threatening noises about fish; Scottish Conservatives MP (who had happily seen off the SNP last year) demanded that our fishermen should not be betrayed; the Prime Minister deployed the Royal Navy, the practical purposes for which were not entirely clear.

Meanwhile, discussions with the US about a free trade deal had run into the ground. The Prime Minister won much praise for robustly dismissing demands from the US for acceptance of their food standards and increased drug prices. Donald Trump said that the Prime Minister had been ‘very, very mean’ and withdrew an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit Washington. None of this did the Prime Minister any harm with the public, although he was forced to admit that no progress was going to be made in reaching an FTA with the US until after the Presidential election.

The Opposition made a push towards extending the Implementation Period in June but Johnson saw off all Parliamentary manoeuvres with ease. He had the numbers. And he remained confident that a trade deal was in sight. The markets were not so sure. The pound fell.

Party conference was a triumph. It is true that the economy seemed to show signs of slowing as uncertainty grew. Clearly, Brexit had not been entirely ‘done’ but the Prime Minister delivered a barnstorming speech attacking the European Union for being cumbersome and bureaucratic, and that its delays in signing up to an agreement just demonstrated how right we were to escape the clutches of this sclerotic entity. The audience loved it. And the pound fell.

Post-conference, the mood began to change. Inflation picked up as the consequences of the depreciation in sterling worked its way through the system. Living standards were starting to fall; business investment was now falling fast.
Much of the country blamed the EU for the failure to reach an agreement. But much of the country did not. ‘Get Brexit done’ was now a phrase only used ironically.

A clip of the Prime Minister being harangued by an angry first-time Conservative voter from Wakefield went viral. “You promised us you’d get Brexit done but all we hear about is Brexit”, Johnson was told. “Why should I ever trust you Tories again?” To be fair, it was the only interrogation the Prime Minister had received for some weeks after he had declined broadcast interviews for weeks.

Not long afterwards, the deadlock in the EU negotiations was broken. The UK had been curiously reluctant to set out its positive demands for an FTA and it was left to the EU to take the initiative. It brought back the proposal was a ‘barebones’ agreement. It addressed tariffs and quotas which mattered to the EU.

But it did nothing for services, left the UK as rule takers in a host of areas and, when it came to fish, required that the demands of the French and others were accepted in full.

‘What else are you going to do?, the Prime Minister was asked after a testy exchange with the President of the European Commission. ‘You have weeks left before the Implementation Period comes to an end. This is the deal. Sign it or Great Britain leaves on WTO terms.’

That takes us to our emergency Cabinet meeting. So what does the Prime Minister do? Agree to a deal that, on any fair assessment, gives the EU all that it wants but fails to deliver any of the UK’s negotiating objectives. Or leave on WTO terms having, one year previously, acceded to the EU’s objectives on the divorce payment, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland.

Two very bad options. The Treasury advises that the economic hit of both choices will be considerable but that, in this case, a bad deal will be better than no deal. Politically, the Prime Minister ponders whether he could sell such a deal as a triumph. It evidently isn’t a triumph, but that hasn’t always stopped him in the past.

Either way, the honeymoon is properly over. A general election may have been won on promises to put Brexit behind us and move on, that getting a comprehensive free trade agreement would be easily achieved and that our post-Brexit future would be filled with opportunities to trade with the rest of the world. A year later, those promises collide with reality. There is a price to be paid.

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James Cleverly: We need one last push, with your help, to deliver Brexit, stop Corbyn – and win

James Cleverly is Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is MP for Braintree.

On Thursday, voters will go to the polls in an election unlike any I have seen before. The stakes are high. The choice is stark. And we have just five days to secure the result we need.  Nine seats stand between us and the majority that would allow us to get things done. To deliver Brexit, bring the country back together and move forward.

All 635 Conservative candidates will back the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – that’s the deal, by the way, that we were told he’d never get. We will re-introduce the Withdrawal Agreement by Christmas and leave the EU in January.

Just think what we could achieve then. We’d be able to refocus the efforts and energy of Government and Parliament on the ambitious agenda the Prime Minister presented in our manifesto. On levelling up education funding, helping families onto the housing ladder, supporting local businesses and boosting the number of nurses in our NHS.

A vote for any other party is a vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten, leading a chaotic, Remain alliance propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. His promise to respect the referendum result in tatters. His flimsy commitment to the Union predictably abandoned at the first sniff of power. 2020 squandered to two divisive referendums.

Voting Conservative is the only way to end the paralysis that has characterised the last three and a half years and restore faith in the democratic system we all live by. Voters told us what they wanted in 2016. It’s a shocking indictment of contemporary politics that we are the only major party prepared to deliver it.

But the threat of Corbyn goes beyond the damage he would do to public faith in democracy. It goes beyond, even, the economic damage he would inflict on hardworking families and vital public services. Corbyn would fail in Government’s primary responsibility – which is to keep its people safe.

Whereas Labour’s post war Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, saw NATO as embodying the ‘spiritual union’ of the west, Corbyn has said the peacekeeping alliance should be scrapped. No matter that over the last 70 years it has halted Soviet aggression and helped to prevent a third world war.

He would undermine our armed forced, disempower the police and inflict irreversible damage on our closest security alliances. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has turned its back on the party’s traditional support, mutating into something which an ever-rising number of former Labour MPs feel compelled to urge the British public to vote against. As Ivan Lewis put it last week, it’s not the Labour party of our parents or grandparents. And it’s led by a man entirely unfit to be Prime Minister.

Since becoming Party Chairman, I’ve visited candidates and spoken to constituents up and down the country. The fear people feel at the prospect of a Corbyn premiership is palpable. And we have five days to make sure that doesn’t happen.

We didn’t want this election, but we do need it. And we need to win it. We can’t do that without you.

General elections require a special kind of commitment from members and activists. General elections in deepest winter event more so. I’ve seen first-hand the dedication of our associations and supporters over the past five weeks, but as we enter the final five days we need one last push.

In 2017, 51 MPs were returned with majorities of less than a thousand. That’s 51 results potentially determined by an extra hour on the doorstep, an extra evening delivering or telephone canvassing. In a tight election, these ‘extras‘ makes all the difference. We need just nine more seats to get Brexit done and move our country forward.

So here’s my ask to you. I need you to find the time for just a couple more hours leafletting and on polling day to work with our candidates. Whatever you can give our candidates across the country. When we work together, the Conservative Party can deliver incredible results. Just look at the famous victories of 2015 or 1979.  Those victories were not just delivered by our Party’s leaders or manifestos.

They were delivered by you, our members. Taking the argument to the doorsteps of the UK and making the case for a Conservative majority government. I don’t want any of us on Friday thinking, ‘what more could I have done?’ as we look down the barrel of years more in-fighting, dithering and delay.

Like our candidates, I will be pounding the pavements. Like our councillors, I will be wearing my knuckles out knocking on doors. Like our association chairmen, I will be making sure that come December 13th we have the majority we need to take our country forward.  I hope you will join me.

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