Child Poverty in Thirsk & Malton Constituency
7 June 2022
Six months ago, I wrote asking if Kevin Hollinrake was serious about getting a better deal for children and if he could tell us his plans to address child poverty in his constituency. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, children in the Thirsk & Malton constituency continue to suffer hardship due to the inertia of Hollinrake and this Conservative government.
Recent statistics from End Child Poverty, quoted in a Commons library research briefing, April 2022, show that the number of children living in poverty in Thirsk & Malton has increased by 3.8 percent since 2015. In Thirsk & Malton, 27 percent of children were living in poverty (2019/20); that is 4,318 children, an increase of 666 children in four years.
This data (2019/20) doesn’t include the impact of current pressures on families such as energy bills rising to record levels, the end of the universal credit uplift (taking £20 a week from the poorest families), reduced support for children on free school meals during the school holidays and inflation, forecast to move to 10 percent in coming months, pushing up prices. Without immediate action these pressures will no doubt see more children living in poverty.
Sadly, the government continues to be distracted from their responsibilities and offers little to suggest that it has a coherent policy to address the urgent issue of rising child poverty. Children in Kevin Hollinrake’s constituency deserve better.
One rule for one
30 May 2022
Partygate offers a unique insight into the inner workings of Downing Street. The Sue Gray report opened a Pandora’s box, revealing the unprofessional and unsavoury culture there, a culture that would not be tolerated in any other serious, high-profile workplace in Britain.
It is not just about the drinking, or even the dependency on alcohol at No 10, it is the public trust and credibility in this government that has been severely eroded. That is the real issue. Comments from the Sue Gray report like, “There was excessive alcohol consumption by some individuals. One individual was sick. There was a minor altercation between two other individuals” raise very serious issues about the quality of the work being undertaken in what is supposedly the heart of government. There are accounts of Downing Street staff arriving at work and finding bins overflowing with empty bottles from parties the night before. Red wine had been spilt on walls and over a printer.
It does explain many of the slip shod and ill-considered policies and misjudgements made by the Tory government there, which has led to so many U-turns. The alcohol-fuelled, even drunken culture of Downing Street, condoned, if not encouraged by Boris Johnson, totally undermines the feeble, repetitive mantra that he is focussed on delivering the government’s agenda! Mere empty words…
There have been numerous headlines and articles in the right-wing press about the alleged problems of working from home (WFH). The classic problematic example appears to be Boris Johnson in Downing Street, who claims he is constantly distracted by the need for cheese, and wastes a lot of time making coffee. According to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Government’s efficiency minister, working from home is a bad habit. (However a comment in the MailOnline suggests that the opposition to WFH has “Something to do with far fewer copies of the Daily Mail being purchased by far fewer commuters”)
The solution to the problematic culture of Downing Street, is surely to give the prime minister and his staff, their own offices in Whitehall. (Such offices without fridges for cheese or wine. A tea or coffee urn would provide quick refreshments.) More importantly the new prime minister’s office could have CCTV cameras (like those in Matt Hancock’s Health Minister’s office), so the Queen could keep an eye on him!
All this whole issue does is raise very serious questions about the quality of Johnson’s leadership, his self-esteem and ego are so fragile that he constantly seeks popularity at any cost, and he is so thin skinned he viciously lashes out at any critical media. This desperate need to be liked created an inappropriate and totally unprofessional culture in Downing Street, more like the notorious Bullingdon Club, than the dignified home of the British prime minister. Sue Gray found “multiple examples of a lack of respect and poor treatment” of staff by officials when gatherings took place”.
As always, one rule for the entitled ‘ruling class’, another for us mere plebs.
Food poverty and politics
3 May 2022
Life in North Yorkshire is good for many of us but the proportion of children growing up in poverty has doubled to about one in three. The need for food parcels delivered by the local Hambleton FoodShare continues to rise. Judging by their leaflets the Conservative candidates for the North Yorkshire Council election on 5 May don’t care about hungry children, or don’t know what to do. No plans, targets or even concern are evident.
Except for the now-acknowledged criminal dishonest prime minister, the person most able to alleviate many of the causes of hardship is the part-time US permanent resident chancellor. Tragically, Mr Sunak does not appear to care; he opposed funding meals for the worst-off children during school holidays. Dishonesty and callous disregard for others is endemic within the Conservative Party. With few exceptions, people who should know better are failing to take the required action. Their passivity or acquiescence is reminiscent of those involved in the rise of totalitarianism in the 1920s and 1930s.
The wisdom of an African proverb is chilling: “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” The increasing numbers of children growing up hungry and in poverty are learning that no one in authority cares enough to prevent their plight, that law breaking, lying and callous self-interest are to be applauded or at least condoned.
Do the candidates have the wisdom and integrity to provide the required radical change of leadership if elected? Does the electorate care?
Boris Johnson must go
26 April 2022
There are some claiming that now is not the time to end Boris Johnson’s premiership. This is definitely THE time. Why?
The fact that the Metropolitan Police have issued 50 FPNs to those attending parties in Downing Street, including Boris Johnson, is confirmation that the prime minister lied to parliament and the people of this country. He allowed those working for him to repeatedly break the rules he had set out to the nation. Boris Johnson must go.
In these challenging times we need a prime minister that upholds The Seven Principles of Public Life (the Nolan Principles) namely holders of public office should be selfless, act with integrity, be objective, be accountable, open, honest and show leadership by actively promoting and robustly supporting the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
Our MP, Kevin Hollinrake, continues to defy the evidence and slavishly support Boris Johnson. He will not call on him to stand down. If, like me, you feel this is unacceptable please use the local elections, 5 May, to show that the Conservatives are unelectable with Boris Johnson as their leader.
B A Southwell
Thirsk and Malton MP out of step with his constituents?
13 April 2022
On the BBC Radio 4 Today program programme on Saturday morning (9 April) Kevin Hollinrake defended the tax affairs of the chancellor Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty. During the interview, the presenter Nick Robinson asked Hollinrake what the people in Thirsk market would say about the Sunak family tax arrangements if he was to go there and ask them. Hollinrake said that he thought that Labour activists would object but the general public would not.
As it happened, I was preparing to join a Labour campaign stall in Easingwold artisan market that very morning, a similar market town to Thirsk (both in Hollinrake’s constituency). We took the opportunity to ask the people in the market whether or not they did mind.
It turns out that they did. Forty people said that they were not comfortable, six said that they were, two were neutral on the matter. That is 83 percent of random passers by objecting.
I suggest that it is unwise for Hollinrake to invent his constituents opinions on this matter and I am disturbed that he uses ‘Labour activists’ as a pejorative term for people who may be critical of Sunak’s actions, especially so as Hollinrake is by definition a ‘Conservative activist’. It appears that the current Conservative approach to the public is to ‘brook no dissent’. There are elections in North Yorkshire on 5 May, perhaps that is the opportunity for people to express their opinions.
British manufacturing and Ukraine
29 March 2022
Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko was a guest on Question Time. It was very disappointing to hear her explain that Marks & Spencer’s are continuing to sell products in Russia. This means that Marks & Spencer’s are continuing to profit out of genocide being committed against citizens of Ukraine.
Marks & Spencer’s used to champion manufacturing in the UK producing garments in factories such as S R Gents. But just like many other corporate companies, investment banks and entrepreneurs they all fell for the lucrative investment opportunities that China was offering.
China offered British investors free rent and rates on factories, discounts on electricity and a guarantee of huge profits for the shareholders of companies that invested. They also garneted those entrepreneurs would become millionaires or even billionaires. This was achieved by using British investments funds to subsidise exports back to the UK in some instances up to 90 percent.
British manufacturing never stood a chance. On a personal note, 30 years ago I had a small manufacturing unit, as the imports flooded in from China, I found that their products were being sold in retail outlets such as Marks & Spencer’s for less than I could buy fabrics. One of the worst days of my life was to explain to hard working British workers that we had to close, as we could no longer compete in our own marketplace.
After Brexit the government explained that it wished to support British manufacturing. In order to meet such commitments I suggest that the government impose import duties on countries such as China that subsidise exports to the UK. All that British manufacturers are looking for is a level playing field.
China may financially support Russia and are considering giving military assistance. We need to stop the genocide being committed against citizens of Ukraine. The government has sanctioned Russian Oligarchs. But does the British government need to go further and sanction British investors that invest in Russia and China?
UK ties with Putin’s regime
5 March 2022
As we all witness, with horror, Putin’s nakedly evil attacks upon Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens, it is beyond time that the UK squarely faces up to the significant and shameful role our country has played – for decades – in enabling and serving elites with ties to Putin’s regime.
The City of London remains a global money-laundering capital, providing financial and professional services for Russian elites (including those linked to Putin’s oppressive regime) and thereby playing a central, pernicious role in enabling Russian aggression. There are significant failures of implementation of the law as well as blatant exploitation of loopholes by professional enablers meaning that – in reality – very little has been done to prevent kleptocratic wealth and political agendas from entering the UK.
There are also strong links between the Conservative Party and Russian finance. Russian donors – including those with alleged links to the Putin regime – have gifted £1.93m to the Conservative Party and associations since 2019. There is a clear and grotesque conflict of interest here.
The Conservative government has also voluntarily granted clients of one of Moscow’s biggest banks a month-long exception from the enforcement of an assets freeze, giving clients (including individuals and entities who may have links to the Russian state) a deliberate, sizeable window of opportunity to close transactions and move assets. The government has, furthermore, withheld salient information about Russian oligarchs and other entities that it intends to sanction, and this behaviour is clearly not consistent with a government that truly wishes to hold Kremlin-linked individuals to account nor one that seriously denounces ongoing atrocities in Ukraine.
Furthermore, the UK must immediately open its borders to Ukrainian refugees and immediately waive all restrictions for Ukrainian nationals who are seeking sanctuary from Putin’s tyranny. The current visa policy the government holds on civilians fleeing a war zone is morally indefensible, not to mention totally at odds with the government’s apparent support for Ukraine and her citizens in this war.
If we truly believe ourselves to be a freedom-loving, compassionate and humane society, the UK must no longer be used as a safe haven for Russian blood money, and we must immediately welcome and protect civilians fleeing death and destruction.
The UK government can and must do more; actions, not words.
Wypowiedź ZPWB, CIO wobec inwazji Rosyjskiej na Ukrainę
4 March 2022
Jako organizacja zrzeszająca organizacje Polskie w Wielkiej Brytanii, ZPWB wyraża solidarność i wsparcie dla całej ludności Ukrainy w zmaganiach o wolność i niepodległość. Ludność Ukrainy, w tym też i Polacy tam zamieszkali, cierpi i walczy z najazdem z Rosji, tak jak i Polska nieraz musiała to robić. Módlmy się o pokój i wspierajmy naszych sąsiadów na każdy sposób, na jaki możemy, i nalegajmy na nasze brytyjskie środowisko, aby robiło to samo.
Szereg organizacji już prowadzi akcję zbierania środków na pomoc. Polecamy szczególnie inicjatywy wspierające organizacje w Polsce pomagające uciekinierom,
Prezes i powiernicy Zjednoczenia Polskiego w Wielkiej Brytanii, CIO,
Statement of Federation of Poles in GB CIO on Russian invasion of Ukraine
As an organisation which amalgamates Polish organisations in Great Britain, the Federation of Poles in Great Britain expresses solidarity and support for the whole population of Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and independence. The people of Ukraine, including also Poles living there, suffer and struggle with the Russian invasion, just as Poland has done in the past. We pray for peace and support our neighbours in every way possible, and we urge our British neighbours to do likewise.
Several organisations are already conducting campaigns collecting material aid. We especially recommend initiatives which support organisations in Poland helping refugees.
Chairman and trustees of the federation of Poles in great Britain CIO
‘Enemies of the people’
3 March 2022
We are revulsed and horrified by the catastrophe inflicted on Ukrainians by Putin, we applaud the brave defiance of Russians protesting against the invasion. We know that they risk summary justice, brutality, and death. We know that such demonstrations are critical for peaceful regime change.
It is shocking & chilling that while Ukrainian blood is shed our government has legislated to make it a crime for us to protest peacefully. It acts to make it a crime to help refugees. It legislates to disenfranchise two million of the least well off. Most of us did not vote for this government or agree with these policies. The three stated purposes of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 are: “Back our police by equipping officers with the powers and tools they need to keep themselves and all of us safe. Introduce tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes. Improve the efficiency of the court and tribunal system by modernising existing court processes.” No other purposes are stated in the Bill’s main factsheet. Why did “Take Back Control” MPs vote for this? Why have so many MPs taken vast sums of money from Russians linked to Putin?
This throttling of our liberty and expression is aided by Pravda-type media and silence. Some media outrageously attacked our Judiciary, which critically is independent, with the destructive baseless slur of “Enemies of the People.” Hitler and other dictators eliminated the independent Judiciary; are some editors ignorant or wilfully complicit? Why don’t they report, as the ‘Secret Barrister’ does, that many criminal barristers are paid less than the minimum wage?
We know from Russia today and WW2 the destruction and misery caused by powerful, lying, narcissistic sociopaths who suppress protests and opposition. Are government supporters such as councillors, would-be councillors, party members actually secret autocrats or merely complicit “useful stooges”, as Johnson categorised them?
It doesn’t have to be this way. The defiance of the Ukrainians and global solidarity show humanity at its best. Tory MP Dan Poulter showed the way; let’s contact MPs, Councillors and party members and remind them that banning peaceful protest and criminalising Good Samaritans is wrong and dangerous. Those who died, suffered in WW2 or rebuilt afterwards would be disgusted. Let’s not wait until future generations ask why we let autocracy win.
Education Investment Area
1 March 2022
The MP for Thirsk and Malton, Kevin Hollinrake, has recently shared the news that North Yorkshire has been named as an ‘Education Investment Area’ in his government’s plan to level up the north. I suppose that any investment in the education of our young people is good news. It is important though to understand that Education Investment Area status has been given to North Yorkshire because it is one of, “55 cold spots of the country where school outcomes are the weakest”.
The government’s levelling up plan suggests that the solution will be to use the funding awarded to give even more support to Academy Trusts (already 35.4% schools are academy trusts in Thirsk & Malton constituency), increase the number of Free Schools (6th forms) and offer retention payments to keep good teachers in their posts. I’m not convinced that this will do the trick.
This plan does nothing to address the real issues of persistent underfunding since 2010. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has established that, “the cuts to education spending over the last decade are effectively without precedent in post-war UK”. In March 2021, 22 North Yorkshire schools had accumulated deficits totalling £7.5m. The average primary school deficit is £57k and the average secondary school deficit is £596k. Three of the 22 schools have converted to Academy status or closed since March 2021.Going forward 67% of NYCC maintained schools are projecting an in-year deficit in 2021/22 and by 2023/24 (forecast) this will mean 79 schools will be in deficit.
Today after 11 years of Mr Hollinrake’s government children across North Yorkshire and in Thirsk and Malton are not able to access the quality of education they deserve. Will being an Education Investment Area make up for a decade of underfunding by this government? I suggest that we need real change rather than vague promises before even more of our children and young people are unfairly disadvantaged through no fault of their own.
It’s partly the system
23 February 2022
Many are angry and depressed by the dishonesty, corruption, incompetence, and hypocrisy of our national government. Many, including apologists, state that the focus should be on rising hunger, poverty, inequality of opportunity and crises in the NHS and care services. Many are, rightly, concerned by external crises in Afghanistan, Ukraine and the fall-out from Brexit. The behaviour of some MPs is appalling, destructive and frequently useless or self-serving; for example, Owen Patterson and the PM’s attempt to force a rule change. The worst stems from a sense of entitlement and the narcissistic sociopathy of some; however, it is wrong and defeatist to believe that “they are all the same” or that nothing can be done. There are many excellent MPs and candidates who would be excellent given the opportunity. It is significant that MPs representing marginal constituencies are more attentive to the needs and views of their constituents than those with safe seats.
Our First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system rewards the worst. Leaders of winning parties overestimate their righteousness as Blair did with Iraq, Thatcher with Poll Tax. FPTP encourages divisiveness, discreditation of others and discourages cooperation. Essential, potentially unpopular decisions like Social Care or energy policy get deferred – a gross abdication of responsibility. FPTP drives ideological swings such as that between nationalisation and privatisation or endless NHS reorganisations. A small number of swing voters in marginal constituencies determine the government. Had only 533 people voted differently in 2017, we would have had a majority government instead of a hung parliament.
FPTP is inherently unfair. The Brexit Party had 600,000 votes but no MP. Labour needed over 50,000 votes for an MP, but the Conservatives only 38,000. The SNP only needed 26,000 votes but the Green Party, with 800,000 votes, has only one MP. Many believe their votes do not count. The turnout for elections in which every vote counts, proportional representation (PR), is typically 5–8 percent higher than where FPTP is used.
The Conservative’s 80-seat majority is based on only 43.6 percent of the votes. In 2019 they gained an extra 48 seats with only a 1.2 percent increase in votes.
The most stable states in the world (Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland and Denmark all use PR; the only other European country which uses FPTP is a dictatorship: Belarus. We need PR to improve our lives. Support Make Votes Matter, a UK pressure group.
Government wasted money on PPE
8 February 2022
I was both amazed and appalled today to read that of every £13 that the government spent in 2020 on sourcing PPE, £10 was wasted. This information is contained in the Department of Health’s annual report.
Of course, the early months of the pandemic were when the government was panicking to source personal protective equipment and chose to open up a ‘VIP’ fast-track lane where those who had good contacts with ministers and Conservative MPs could be awarded contracts with minimal scrutiny. The result has been that the sharks moved in and the taxpayer has been taken for a ride.
Like most people, I was aware of the sleaze and that there had been some waste. It was not until today that I became aware that the scale of it was £10 in every £13.
Child poverty in Thirsk and Malton constituency
31 January 2022
In July 2021, I wrote to my MP Kevin Hollinrake, asking if he was serious about getting a better deal for children and if he could tell us his plans to address child poverty in his constituency. The evidence, six months later, is that children in Thirsk and Malton continue to be let down by Hollinrake and this Conservative government.
The Trussell Trust’s most recent report shows that they have seen an 11 percent increase in demand for emergency food parcels compared to the same period in 2019. Of 522 food parcels supplied by the three Trussell Trust foodbanks in Ryedale (April – September 2021), 155 were provided for children. The report states:
“Alarmingly, families with children have been hit the hardest, with food parcels for children increasing at double the rate for adults.”
These figures do not show the impact of the ending of the £20 universal credit (UC) uplift in October 2021, for which Hollinrake voted. The Trussell Trust report commented, “We anticipate that the loss of the UC uplift will cause a sharp spike in demand from October onwards.” There are over 2,300 households with children in Thirsk and Malton claiming UC (December 2021) a figure which has increased since 2015.
So, I ask Hollinrake again, is he serious about getting a better deal for the children in his constituency? If so, can he tell us his plans to address child poverty in Thirsk and Malton?
While the government continues to be distracted from their responsibilities, children rely on foodbanks to have food to eat.
B A Southwell (Ms)
What good is democracy if it is not for all?
20 January 2022
Like many of us, I am proud of the democratic society we live in, but our democracy was dealt a heavy blow this week, as the elections bill was quickly passed by Julian Smith and his colleagues through the House of Commons in just a few short hours.
I appreciate the House of Commons is a bit overwhelmed by other matters at present, but hastily pushing through such a crucial bill is shameful.
We have heard so much from the Tories about ‘levelling up’ and ‘taking back control’ – we know what ‘take back control’ really means to this government. This is not about empowering people; this is about ensuring they have more control.
At every election, either for our local council or a general election, turnout is always low and there are calls after the process to look at ways to engage more people to take part in an essential and crucial part of our democracy.
The introduction of Voter ID will create severe detriment for many people within our local communities, as it will hinder democratic participation. It will deny thousands of people across our local community the opportunity to vote, who face many challenges through their social and economic background, to obtain the relevant ID needed.
Julian Smith MP and his Conservative comrades will say that this was introduced in reaction to voter fraud – an ‘issue’ that is almost non-existent.
This is about voter suppression and another attack on our democracy by the Conservative Party.
What good is democracy if it is not for all?
Skipton & Ripon Labour Party Representative
The corrosive effect of English nationalism in the Westminster parliament
17 January 2022
As a native of Bessbrook now living in London, I continue to take a keen interest in the political situation in Ireland, north and south. As a result I see little in the Northern Irish media about the corrosive effect of English nationalism in the Westminster parliament. For more than 20 years English nationalism has been on the rise, culminating in the hardest Brexit anyone could have imagined either in Britain or in observing it from abroad.
This trend has all but eliminated well-intentioned ‘one nation Tories’ from parliament and seen the gradual strengthening of the hard right. It has encapsulated the hapless DUP contingent as well and succeeded in putting sovereignty ahead of any other policy option, always. It is now in danger of derailing the Irish Protocol negotiations and in doing so exposing the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to great existential danger.
These people know little about Ireland, north or south. Their interests are singular – England. They will stop at nothing to have their way. Forget that the protocol was a comprise commitment to ‘get Brexit done’, or that the Good Friday Agreement is lodged in the United Nations as a Treaty. It has already been acknowledged by them that international agreements might or could be broken in the ideological quest for absolutist independence based on sovereignty.
Over in London there is scant knowledge that a majority of people in Northern Ireland as represented by Alliance, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and at least half of the Ulster Unionists, as well as many in the business community, wish the protocol to remain and the government to accept the EU proposals for reforms; nor that they wish to keep Northern Ireland in the single market; nor that it is what a majority of its people voted for.
All that these right-wing English nationalists believe is that the DUP and its hangers on are on the side of sovereignty and the maintenance of the union at any price.
They have ever-increasing influence at Westminster. The wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland is certainly not their priority nor is the maintenance of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement – internationally accepted treaty or not.
The only alternative to removing the protocol-related administrative requirements down the Irish Sea and keeping Northern Ireland in the Single Market, which a majority of its people voted for, is the return of a hard border in Ireland.
Latest Downing Street party
12 January 2022
The latest drinks party in the Downing Street garden reportedly attended by both Boris Johnson and his future wife Carrie Symonds when everyone else in the country was in strict lockdown, is absolutely typical of the double standards and hypocrisy of this government and Tory MPs.
It is truly remarkable that Tory MPs are apparently able to keep two seemingly contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. On the one hand they have refused to wear masks in the House of Commons and complained about the way that covid regulations constrain their ‘liberty’ and limit their freedoms. Yet on the other hand they support Home Secretary Priti Patel’s draconian legislation that would greatly restrict peaceful protest and give the police greater powers.
So yet again the government are making clear that in their view, there is one rule for them and another for everyone else. That they are entitled and above the law. Freedom for them and restrictions for everybody else.
Their ‘freedoms’ are what is important to them, the rest of us can go hang! The whole unedifying Owen Paterson saga where Johnson and his subservient Tory minions sought to control the whole judgement process on abuse of power to suit their own interests was absolutely typical.
The British people are growing to realise that frequently Boris Johnson uses a convenient ‘crisis’ to distract attention from his sleaze and corruption, often when Tory ‘freedoms’ are seen as providing another way to further entitlement and wealth.
Another sleaze outbreak appears in the media and we then have endure yet another lecture from Johnson from lectern on why everyone must obey the rules, just to distract us from his latest entitled debacle!