NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 17th March 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
The assault in Nottingham city centre in February and now tragic death this week of 18 year old Mariam Moustafa has been extremely shocking. Mariam was an engineering student at Nottingham College who lived in St Ann’s with her family, who I spent time with yesterday as they grieve and come to terms with this tragic loss.
She was attacked outside the Victoria Centre by what Nottinghamshire Police describe as a ‘group of women’ on the 20th February at 8pm – and it is still incredibly important that anyone who witnessed the incident or who has any further information comes forward to report what they know by calling the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers (anonymously if needs be) on 0800 555 111 quoting incident number 335.
Mariam’s family have raised serious concerns about the response and delays of various agencies in this case and I will be pursuing these issues and raising them with the Coroner. What is particularly worrying about the account I have been told is that members of the public – who had a chance to come to Mariam’s aid – did not do so, and although an ambulance eventually attended, the Police were not called until much later when her family discovered what had happened.
Nottingham is a happy, peaceful and tolerant community and the vast majority of residents will share my revulsion that such a pursuit of a young woman could occur in our busy city centre in this way. I hope that we can learn lessons from this tragedy and most importantly, ensure that justice is done.
- A new Superintendent will be appointed to look after policing in the city and will be starting on 1st April. At the moment Nottinghamshire Police is organised on “thematic” lines – known as uniformed operations, intelligence and investigations – and not geographically. However this is being now altered by new Chief Constable Craig Guilford. The decision was made after a period of consultation both within the Police and with external partners. It is also reported that there are plans to put response vehicles in local stations to enable them to work more closely with local inspectors and to break down the CID into smaller teams. The organisational structure of Nottinghamshire Police has long been a bone of contention but I hope that this new system will ensure we have clear lines of accountability to focus on rapid responses and proactive policing as concerns about crime remain significant.
- Nottingham has won two international awards for ‘connectivity’ and ‘cooperation between businesses’ at fDi European Cities and Regions of the Future Awards. The city was placed ‘top 10 in mid-sized cities for connectivity’ and ‘top 10 in mid-sized cities for business friendliness’. Reasons for them receiving this award included the level of investment into the local transport infrastructure (such as the expansion the tram network) and the way the region’s motorway access ensures easy access to most of the UK.
- Proposals have been submitted as part of a bid to bring part of Channel 4’s operations to Nottingham. The channel is looking to set up a National Headquarters alongside two smaller ‘creative hubs’ in 2019 but has yet to decide on a site. This comes as part of a plan to invest £250m over the next five years in the channel’s Nations & Regions content. Given the emphasis in the ‘creative quarter’ on media and tech development, locating some Channel 4 operations in Nottingham would make absolute sense, especially tapping into the number of media professionals now specialising in this sector locally.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- The deployment of the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury in an attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal has hospitalised not just him and his daughter but also Det Sgt Bailey and 38 other local people who needed checking for traces of the chemical weapon. I cannot help but imagine how we would have reacted in Nottingham if this deadly chemical agent had been released in our city centre, on our local buses or in our shops. When the UK police and security forces, the British Government, the French, Germans and Americans have all concluded that the only viable explanation is the Russian state orchestrated the first chemical attack in Europe since the second world war, we have a duty to speak with one voice against such unacceptable aggression.
The question is now: how can we prevent Russia attacking the UK and others again in future? While constructive questioning of the Government’s response is of course necessary, I feel very strongly that our country needs to set aside partisan politicking at a time of national emergency and when such a potential chemical attack has occurred. MPs are given the heavy responsibility of leading our nation and our first duty must be to defend our citizens. That’s why – despite my many disagreements with the Prime Minister – I back the measures she has taken and the approach of putting to Russia the need for their response, which appallingly was not forthcoming. She was right to expel 23 Russian diplomats which are in reality undisclosed intelligence operatives. We now need firmer action now on the oligarchs and Russian money connected to Putin and what looks increasingly like a rogue regime.
In the Commons I raised with the Prime Minister the need for the United Nations to initiate some thinking about reform of the Security Council, because it is not acceptable for a Permanent Member (Russia) to be able to sit pretty, thumb its nose and veto actions when they themselves have culpability. After the illegal annexation of Crimea, the killing of Litvinenko, the support for chemical attacks by Assad in Syria, the pattern of thuggish behaviour from Russia needs a strong response. They are trying to undermine our democracy and take advantage of our open freedom of debate, flooding twitter with ‘bots’ and trolls and planting seeds of cynicism via Russia Today TV. I am clear that their actions are unacceptable and we should show a united resolve to stand up to such behaviour.
- On Tuesday the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered his ‘Spring Statement’ on the public finances to MPs. As expected, the Statement was light on big ideas or new policy initiatives – but the underlying economic picture remains dispiriting, with the unprecedentedly low medium-term GDP forecasts made last Autumn essentially unchanged, and growth projected to be a fifth lower than the Eurozone average between now and 2020. Equally, real wages are still lower than they were when Labour left office in 2010, and disposable income growth looks to average a measly 0.4 percent per year, a long way behind other developed economies. In this light, I think the Chancellor’s announcements betrayed a deeply complacent approach to the needs of our public services, offering nothing to hold back the wave of austerity that will hit if we get the hard Brexit which seems to be his Government’s preference. Laughably, Mr Hammond said he could see a flicker of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ – but as I told him in the Commons, this isn’t daylight at all, but the Brexit Train hurtling headlong towards our schools and hospitals. He surely knows this already, but we must not allow it to create the economic carnage that Treasury officials themselves say is looming.
- On Wednesday and Thursday, MPs secured a general debate on the Europe and Brexit. I was particularly struck on Thursday afternoon when the senior Tory Brexiteer John Redwood angrily insisted that a no deal scenario would be “absolutely fine” for Britain. Exactly what it is about an eight percent hit to growth and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs that leaves Mr Redwood so sanguine, I’m not sure – but I think his constituents in Wokingham (who voted to Remain) would very much like an answer, especially should he get his way.But as I argued immediately afterwards, John Redwood isn’t actually alone in his opinions. An awful lot of Tory MPs do hold this bizarre view of the world in which British strength can only be realised if we unshackle ourselves from our friends and nearest trading partners and ‘go it alone’. But isolating ourselves in the delusion we don’t need the rest of the world is a recipe for disaster. A ‘no deal’ Brexit would hurt businesses and people in Nottingham, and in every way make us less independent, not more. It’s vital that we stop it from happening.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I often ask about national or international matters in these emails. But today I thought it would be to get your point of view on the car parking situation across neighbourhoods in Nottingham East.
Yesterday I spent time with several residents on Cragdale Road in the Dales estate in Sherwood. Ever since the workplace parking levy came into effect, many of the NHS workers at the City Hospital site have chosen to find parking outside the hospital campus and on neighbouring streets. What used to be fairly empty and free-flowing streets have now become quite clogged up with long term car parking, which isn’t just unsightly but also presenting an obstacle on some pavements etc. The original solution on some of the local roads was to put down a single yellow line with a ‘no parking between 12noon and 1pm’ restriction – which has certainly stopped people leaving cars there all day. But because not all streets were covered by this the city council are now consulting on ‘residents parking permits’ which of course comes with a fee. I tend to sympathise with the residents who like their existing yellow line solution; it’s simple, light-touch, cost-free and simple to enforce (with only a one hour window for traffic wardens needing to visit). I can’t see why this cannot be preserved as the most appropriate solution.
But I’d be interested to know what you think. Would you see more advantages to a residents’ permit scheme than a yellow line? Have you got a particular problem in your neighbourhood or found a reasonable solution? Given that car ownership is much higher these days, do we need to accept that there will be more congestion? And how on earth will we cope with the advent of electric vehicles which need charging overnight?
Before I am flooded with emails on this I should say two things: first, MPs don’t make decisions on local traffic regulations – that’s a matter for elected local councillors – and second, I sympathise enormously with our local councillors who have shrinking resources available to help solve parking problems. There won’t always be solutions, but I’d still like to know what you think.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East