NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 11th November 2016
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The property billionaire and reality TV personality Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States, even though he didn’t win the popular vote. But the peculiarities of the US ‘electoral college’ saw him succeed in an extraordinary turn of events on Tuesday night, leaving many people across the world in a state of shock and concern about how unpredictable and radical his policies will be, especially with regards to Mexicans and Muslims. I am also nervous about what this seismic change means for the rest of the world and for the UK, with potentially serious consequences for NATO, in the Middle East, for international trade and much else besides.
I agree with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who correctly reasserted the values which should characterise the nature of our engagement with the new US administration, when she said:
“Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views… I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values. The partnership with the United States is and remains a foundation of German foreign policy.”
I hope our Government will learn from Mrs Merkel’s example. After an electoral shock like this it is natural to try and figure out the reasons behind the change. The election was extremely close – as I say, Hillary Clinton actually won the vote numerically by a couple of hundred thousand votes – and it should be noted that if just 1 person in 100 would have changed their vote from Trump to Clinton the polls would have been proved right and the electoral map would look completely different. This 2% swing would be enough to have given Clinton Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, and 307 Electoral College votes. So before too many commentators on the extremes of politics take much satisfaction at defeat of the liberal democratic candidate, it is worth bearing in mind that only a tiny margin made the difference here.
Looking at the exit polls, there are some clues why Trump was victorious: a chunk of Americans on low incomes moved away from the Democrats towards the Republicans, and Clinton could not rely on the support of minorities or women, as pollsters expected. By contrast, men voted by 58% for Trump.
It has to be hoped that President Trump will moderate some of the views and language used in his campaign – and that the checks and balances in the US system will find a way for reason and decency to come through.
- Child poverty levels across the country remain high – but the issue is brought into stark focus this week by the charity ‘Child Poverty Action Group’ who have released statistics for every parliamentary constituency. The data for Nottingham East (and each local council ward) are below and I thought you would be interested (and quite shocked) to see the specifics. This means that we have over 7,900 children living below the poverty line in Nottingham East, in other words, below the level of 60% of average household income for the UK. I am particularly worried about the changes coming to Universal Credit which will be quite harsh – and leaving some families where people are in-work still facing real pressures.
|Percentage of children in poverty, Oct-Dec 2015||BEFORE HOUSING COSTS||AFTER HOUSING COSTS|
- People might be understandably cautious following the tragic tram incident in Croydon this week. Nottingham’s trams are extremely popular with passengers and (like trams in general) have an excellent safety record. I have sought reassurances about safety on Nottingham’s trams and I am told that there are speed restrictions at bends in the track, points, cross-over points and hills; these are typically 10-15kph and a tram will not derail at this speed. Nottingham’s drivers are trained to act defensively, which means to stop if there are any problems and call the Control Room. Driver training takes place over 8 weeks and starts in the classroom, followed by simulators, training off the public line, and then training on the network with a trainer. The press statement from Nottingham Express Transit following the incident said “Clearly it is far too early to speculate on the Croydon accident whilst investigations into the cause are carried out. The results of those investigations will be shared with all the UK’s light rail operators if any actions are required across the sector.” Obviously, I will keep a close eye on the investigation and any implications for our tram network here in Nottingham.
- Earlier today I called in to Framework’s Service User Forum, which is a regular discussion session where service users for this housing association helping homeless people come together to share ideas and gain a knowledge of how Framework operates. It was good to hear the views and ideas of a number of Framework’s services users, some of whom are facing very severe challenges in terms of housing and benefits.
- The Lloyds Bank in Hyson Green is actually one of the busiest bank branches in the city – so I was happy to visit staff and talk about their engagement with the local neighbourhood earlier today. It was really useful to meet Peter Mabbott, the Local Director of Lloyds Banking Group and to learn more about Lloyds’ role in the communities of Nottingham, as an employer and financial services provider.
- On 19th of November, 7pm, Nottingham Liberal Synagogue is hosting their People’s Concert, featuring rising stars and artists from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, refreshments and an art exhibition. It promises to be a wonderful evening. Tickets start at £7.50, and are available from email@example.com.
- I was informed this week that the Mappleton House care home in Mapperley Park has been rated Inadequate as the result of a recent Care Quality Commission inspection. The full report is here : cqc.org.uk/location/1-157009594. If you have any concerns about this, please let me know and I will make enquiries.
- On Sunday from 10:30am the Nottingham Civic Service of Remembrance will take place at the War Memorial on Victoria Embankment (NG2 2LA). The Lord Mayor and other civic and armed forces representatives will be present.
- Problem between telephone companies have resulted in my constituency office number being unavailable for parts this week – for which many apologies – but please continue to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Although it’s been open for about a year now, it was really nice to have a guided tour of the Hyson Green Library which has taken up new space within the Mary Potter Centre – and apparently quadrupled the number of visitors as a result! The Library Acting Manager Sandra Johnson (pictured with me at the Library below) showed me their facilities and it’s great to see the space being so well used and bringing life into the heart of the Centre generally.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- Leaving the EU and abiding by the referendum result will mean triggering the ‘Article 50’ provision in the Treaty – and the courts have said Parliament must ratify this. Indeed, it is vital that Parliament gets into the detail and crucially makes sure we prepare thoroughly for these negotiations and have the time to get the decision right. With only 24 weeks to go before the end of March timetable set out by the Prime Minister, it is unclear what the Government is aiming for, and with French and German elections likely to make dialogue difficult, I now feel we would be foolish to rush this process on this timetable. Far better if we triggered Article 50 after the summer, not sooner than September, to give us a chance to get the complex plan in place and have a chance at a proper transitional agreement. This is entirely consistent with the outcome of the referendum – and getting a good deal. That’s why I hope any legislation to trigger Article 50 will tackle the issue of when that process starts – it is crucial to whether we have a successful negotiation or an ill-prepared rush to the exit door sacrificing jobs and prosperity along the way. I visited the European Commission, spoke with MEPs and UK civil servants about these issues when I visited Brussels earlier this week – and I also raised this question of the timing of Article 50 in the Commons with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – click here to watch it.
- Last week I mentioned that there were rumours about the shelving of the Midland Mainline train electrification On Monday night, Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan held an adjournment debate with the Transport Minister which I attended – and it soon became clear that, despite the excellent value-for-money case we have for this long overdue upgrade, the Government look set to backtrack on their promise for the works to be completed. This would be a major broken promise, having supposedly ‘unpaused’ the project after an earlier decision to shelve it. At the beginning of the week Ministers dropped a series of commitments to the Great Western rail electrification, so it makes me wonder about whether more bad news could be on the way here. To watch the debate in full, click here.
- On Monday, the Defence Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons on the Government’s plans for the defence estate. People live, work and train on the defence estate, and it makes up almost 2% of the UK’s land mass. It is where equipment is maintained, major exercises are conducted and major operations launched. The Defence Secretary announced that the Government would release 56 sites in the defence estate by 2040, in addition to 35 other sites which it had previously announced plans to dispose of. I will be watching to check that these changes do not cause undue challenges to our Forces families and that the housing built on the land released is genuinely affordable.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
The election of Donald Trump is the big news that will now reverberate across the globe for many months to come – but what do you expect will be the consequences that we should prepare for? Does this seem like a political change distant from our lives in Nottingham, or a major event that we will feel the impact from directly? I’d be interested to get your feedback – and any thoughts about how the UK should approach the new American administration. President Obama continues in office until mid January at which point President-elect Trump takes over. At that point there will have to be a relationship between Britain and the US, but what should be our priorities to press them on? All thoughts gratefully received!