Monday, July 6, 2015

Budget 2015: George Osborne remains The Big Data Chancellor

This Wednesday will be the first opportunity for a Conservative majority government to deliver a full budget announcement since 1997.

George Osborne has waited a long time for this moment, having suffered the friction with his Liberal Democrat colleagues for the last five years, tinkering with his every announcement and proposal.

The Chancellor is well known for his love of science and technology, and more importantly the role these industries will play in driving economic growth for Britain.

Over one year ago he announced a major £42million investment in Big Data research. Earlier in the Spring he announced a further £140million fund supporting research into the Internet of Things, driverless cars and smart cities.

Many politicians talk about technology to make the headlines, few understand its importance and economic potential. Confounding this stereotype, Osborne has repeatedly proven himself to be remarkably in touch with the latest technology trends and providing hard cash to support their development and implementation.

Top of his list needs to be a commitment to closing the digital skills divide through smart city connectivity initiatives. Inequality in Britain has been unacceptably high for decades, with wealthier families often having access to the latest technologies to provide faster learning for their children.

Poor connectivity in British homes means many children from poorer households have no access to the Internet. This scenario denies them access to learning materials, including online seminars and lessons. As they enter their teenage years, this lack of computer literacy puts them at a disadvantage compared with their peers, meaning they find it harder to apply for jobs and build a credible CV.

Britain is home to some of the world’s finest cities, London, Manchester and Birmingham are hubs of technology and business innovation, producing and supporting brilliant careers for the next generation of young people. So Osborne needs to continue his noble Northern Powerhouse initiative, energising our towering metropolises and providing opportunity for all.

Connected cities bring with them faster trading and exchange of information. Improved management of transport, people and services, saving money and creating the kind of working environment that global investors will want to play a part in.

George Osborne has proved he can get the nation’s finances in order, and for that he should be praised. However, phase two of his long-term economic plan should be to ensure the necessary investment in technology infrastructure programmes to give businesses and individuals the support networks they deserve.

The Big Data Chancellor has the vision, now he just needs to put this into practice.

Steven George-Hilley is director of technology at the Parliament Street think tank

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Forget the bacon butty, Ed Miliband has had his chips

Egg balls - bacon sandwich jokes all round

Labour lost this election the moment they elected Ed Miliband as their leader. The bacon sandwich incident, the weird mannerisms and bizarre and confusing policies are just the finale of Labour’s greatest mistake for a generation

The newspapers are stuffed with criticism and negative briefings against Labour leader Ed Miliband, not from the opposition, but from his own side.
The latest round of attacks on Labour’s chaotic election campaign come following a series of questionable policy announcements on the National Health Service (NHS), proposing billions of pounds of extra spending without clear plans for reform.
This diversion of policy is symptomatic of Labour’s failure to establish a legitimate narrative on the economy. Like all parties who are heading for electoral defeat, Labour have reverted to a default position of scaremongering on the issue of healthcare, instead of painting a picture of what life might be like with Ed Miliband in Number 10.
In addition to this foolhardy approach, Labour’s chaotic campaign has focussed on the so-called ‘mansion tax,’ a policy created for the purpose of trapping the Conservatives instead of improving the economy. If implemented, this ludicrous scheme will trigger a major house price re-evaluation that will cost our economy dearly.
The elderly and disabled who had the ignominy to purchase their own home in the capital thirty years ago will be hit by eye-watering bills. Not to mention the many thousands of home owners who will split their houses into two flats or quit the country all together, taking their businesses with them.
On top of that, we know that Labour increase welfare spending, run up more debts and return our country to the mess it was in last time they were in charge.
These polices might have made sense if they were actually winning votes for Labour. But take a look in Scotland where the late arrival of their new leader Jim Murphy appears to be making things worse, not better. Look at Labour’s traditional territories like Heywood and Middleton where UKIP cut deep into their 6,000 majority, reducing it to a meagre 617 votes.
Labour’s chaotic campaign isn’t simply failing in one area and doing well in another, it is proving a disaster in every level of policy, including its leader. Douglas Alexander has led a lacklustre performance whilst US Obama campaign guru David Axelrod posted for a photo op and then left the country.
Even Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is giving his own leader a kicking. Tweeting a photo in a greasy spoon café talking of his ‘bliss’ for finding a café which does proper bacon sandwiches. This deliberate move is designed to undermine the credentials of Ed Miliband, by reminding the British people once again of that awful bacon butty photo.
Meanwhile Lynton Crosby is leading the Conservative campaign with precision and clear messages on the economy and Britain’s future. It is a strategy designed around the slogan of the party’s ‘long-term economic plan’ and it is beginning to stick with voters.
His approach is mirrored by Jim Messina, Obama’s election strategist who is also advising the Conservatives. Messina has previously warned Tory MPs that every day they fail to campaign on the economy is ‘a day wasted’.
The Conservative approach to the economy seems a logical one. For you cannot improve the NHS, schools or create jobs without economic growth. So whatever line of attack Ed Miliband uses, David Cameron and the Conservatives can simply reply that these things cannot be achieved without a long-term economic plan.
It’s not simply that Ed Miliband isn’t fit to be Prime Minister, it is also that he has no credible policies to take our country forward. Labour’s chaotic campaign is muddled on the NHS, and lacking in any direction around the big economic challenges facing the country.
Much has been made of the now infamous Ed Miliband bacon sandwich photos, and some have argued that this unfortunate PR gaffe should not define him. Yet one of the reasons these images have remained politically potent for months on end is that they do indeed define the current leader of the Labour party, and everyone knows it.
Labour lost the election when those chose Ed Miliband as their leader, the chaotic campaign of confusion unravelling before us is simply the finale of a disastrous decision and the public will punish them for it.  
Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank. He is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator @StevenGeorgia

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Al Murray became a political favourite

A recent poll of more than 2,000 people has revealed that comedian Al Murray is increasingly favoured as a potential Prime Minister compared to Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.

When asked ‘Who would make the best Prime Minister?’ 28.7% opted for David Cameron, 26.3% for Al Murray, 14.9% for Ed Miliband, 12.4% for Nigel Farage, 10.5% for Natalie Bennett and 7.2% for Nick Clegg, in a poll carried out by Hotwire, an integrated PR and communications agency.

The polling data underlines the continued distrust by the public in the three main political parties and is a stark reminder that the Westminster elite can no longer take voter support for granted. Whilst nobody seriously believes that the pub landlord will be moving into Downing Street anytime soon, the findings are representative of a wider problem in the political process.

Distrust in politicians is at an all-time high, with the shadow of the MPs’ expenses scandal and a hung Parliament adding to uncertainty. The challenges of the economic crisis, with fears around job security and living standards has helped fuel this apathy amongst the electorate.

But there is light at the end of the political tunnel for MPs who are seeking to rebuild bridges with the public. The explosion of social media platforms means that our elected officials now have the perfect opportunity to engage with voters through a variety of interactive channels. The work of elected members can now be viewed and scrutinised in near real-time, meaning more accountability and transparency.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of elected representatives are in the business of politics for the public good, whatever party they represent. But good intentions is not enough to reverse the tide of apathy which has engulfed our country.

Social media shouldn’t only be a channel for MPs to broadcast the work they do on key issues and in their constituency. It should be used as a platform for open debate and engagement with the issues that matter to the public.

By making use of these channels to answer the questions and solve the big challenges facing the country, MPs have an opportunity to rebuild the trust they once had. Politics is overall a force for good, but those elected by the public have to prove this to voters if they wish to become treasured representatives once again.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why is Ed Miliband refusing to protect working people from strikes?

Strike action is bad for Britain. It disrupts the lives of working people who are struggling to make ends meet, it costs our economy billions of pounds in lost productivity and it sends a message that Britain isn’t open for business.

For many years, the trade union shop stewards have pushed through unnecessary strike action, in the majority of cases intimidating and bullying public sector workers into walking out of their jobs. Such aggressive tactics not only damage Britain’s economy, they devalue the work of millions of decent public sector workers.

In response to this problem, David Cameron and the Conservatives have unveiled sensible plans to curb strike action. The proposal is that all strikes affecting health, transport, fire services or schools would need the backing of 40% of eligible union members.

It’s a policy designed to protect innocent, taxpaying people who may need these critical services. The number, at 40% of membership is actually rather low in my opinion, but it will prevent unwarranted strike action from happening off the cuff, without proper buy-in from the workers it is supposed to represent.

So this strike action proposal is designed not only to protect the public and our critical services, but it is also designed to protect public sector employees from intimidation from bullying from Union barons.

Yet this morning, Ed Miliband on the Andrew Marr Show refused to support the action, claiming that the solution was better dialogue with the unions. This statement once again shows that Ed Miliband is putting his Union paymasters before the needs of the general public.

The reason why is that Ed Miliband simply cannot afford to put the public before his trades union chums. Without their financial support, totalling many millions of pounds, Labour would run out of money.

You cannot have a Prime Minister that puts the needs of unions before the needs of the public. Ed Miliband isn’t simply a threat to our economy, he is a threat to our public services. Electing him in May will mean more strikes, putting lives at risk, devaluing the public sector and sending a signal that Britain is closed for business.

Ed Miliband’s economic plan is one for more welfare, more spending and a Prime Minister in the pockets of the Unions. That’s not a Britain that will survive and thrive in the modern competitive world and proves that Labour is a threat to our long-term economic future.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The magnificent poppy tribute at the Tower of London is as remarkable as it is chilling, a fitting tribute to commemorate those who gave their lives defending Britain in the First World War. The 888,246 ceramic poppies filling Tower's moat are a reminder not only of the huge human cost in this terrible conflict, but also of the blood spilt in defence of the freedoms we enjoy today.
Already, many millions of people from Britain and around the world have flocked to pay their respects at this stunningly impressive memorial, which has given us all an insight into the sacrifices made by our forefathers, reminding us never to forget their memory.
For many Britons, as we approach Armistice Day, we all enter a period of quiet reflection, symbolised by wearing a poppy as a mark of respect. Having volunteered several times to support the Royal British Legion selling poppies at tube stations around London, I have seen first-hand the generosity people show towards this noble cause.
It isn’t simply the large amounts of money people are willing to give, it’s the enthusiasm they show when they offer it. This experience alone should tell you how strongly the public feel about those who paid the ultimate price, underlining why this time of year is so important to our national identity, history and future.
So it was with great sadness that I learned that The Guardian’s ‘art critic’ Jonathan Jones had used hisrecent column to brand this much-loved memorial as ‘toothless,’ and ‘inward looking’, calling for the ceramic poppies to be replaced with bones and branding it a ‘UKIP-style’ memorial.
Jones’s article was the journalistic equivalent of urinating on the Cenotaph, deliberately politicising a memorial in the most hurtful way possible and showing a complete lack of understanding of the pain suffered by the families of lost servicemen and women. It was as ignorant as it was offensive, the type of content which only a left-winger, with a complete lack of understanding of human feelings and an assumption of superiority could produce.
One suspects that a certain amount of snobbery led him to issue such crass comments, designed to undermine the many millions of ‘commoners’ who had expressed their delight at the memorial. The sneering tone of the article suggests that the author considers himself a superior intellect, tasked with informing the public that the iconic display they are so proud of isn’t really art at all.
But then again, perhaps this is just another example of a left-wing commentator who confuses commemoration of Briton’s war heroes with glorification of war. Quite how anyone could make this mistake is a complete mystery, and adds further suspicion to the notion that these disrespectful comments were the result of a need to issue a put-down to the masses with the argument of legitimate art criticism used as a smokescreen.
Last year, when my family attended the annual service at the Centopath in memory of a friend who died in Afghanistan at the age of just 23, we were confronted by a left-wing protestor waving a cardboard sign and shouting at us. The misspelt anti-war message on his handmade placard was as out of touch with reality as it was offensive to the spirit of the ceremony.
Many people were shocked; one even burst into tears.
This incident reminded me that the left will always see the armed forces as a symbol of the glorification of war, regardless of reality. They cannot comprehend that these men and women put their lives at risk for our safety and security because they love our country. The selflessness and sacrifice of our military personnel stands in stark contrast to the egotistical and selfish world of men like The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones. (His article has won massive approval from the readers with well over 12,000 shares on social media.)
So, no matter how cruelly the left mock our armed forces, we must continue to support them in every way we can and protect everything that symbolises their memory.
One day, the likes of Jonathan Jones may realise that their hurtful and insulting comments can only be made because of the freedoms secured by the sacrifices of our soldiers: something perfectly understood by the many millions of people who continue to visit the Tower of London poppy memorial and hold the memory of our heroes dear.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hopeless Labour vulnerable to both UKIP and Tories

The news in the Mail on Sunday that UKIP has reached 25 percent in the opinion polls, after getting its first MP into Parliament, will send shock waves through the Westminster elite.
But in truth, UKIP’s day of reckoning was notable not for the widely anticipated Carswell Clacton victory but for the party’s remarkable performance in the Labour seat of Heywood and Middleton. 

The purple avengers managed to tear apart a six thousand majority, leaving Labour’s candidate with an embarrassingly slim victory of 617 votes. Such a staggering achievement underlines the threat Nigel Farage’s army of defectors poses to the lacklustre Ed Miliband and his blurred and unconvincing vision for the British people.
In truth, ever since the Labour party sent the talented David Miliband packing, and elected his inferior brother Ed as their leader, they have been heading for certain defeat.
The party has morphed into a party of anger and of envy, with malicious policies designed to divide society instead of bringing it together. When working people were looking for a party to support their dreams and aspirations, Labour ignored their pleas. Under Ed Miliband, the party’s priorities have been directed towards winning votes from those who refuse to work.
The challenges engulfing the hapless Ed Miliband are much more fundamental than failing to deliver coherent policy. The professional media operation from the Blair years is now extinct, replaced with a team of advisers who clearly have never had a proper job or worked in the real world.
Labour cannot be expected to produce serious policies with such an inexperienced team at the core of the party, a serious issue which will leave them vulnerable to attack from a watertight Tory warship, with Lynton Crosby at the helm.
To date, Labour’s biggest strategic error has been to ignore the needs of working people, instead favouring a focus on making life better for benefits claimants and the workshy. Nobody can deny that the party has some keen academics in its inner circle, but that is unfortunately part of the reason why they have lost touch with working people.
None of them have the faintest idea what it’s like to earn a low salary and raise a family on a limited income. How could they? These men and women may well be very academically intelligent and excellent at policy development, but they have proved beyond doubt that they know nothing about the fears and concerns of working class people. 
It is this arrogance that has allowed the party to find itself on the wrong side of the immigration debate. For many years now, Labour’s argument if anyone questioned high levels of immigrants coming into Britain was to brand them "racist". It’s a great word to use if you’d like to close down a debate, and Labour have used it against the Conservatives to score political points, with little care for how they are devaluing the word.
For many working people, who have legitimate concerns about our country’s immigration laws and the impact on public services such as the NHS, Labour isn’t listening to them. Moreover, under Ed Miliband, unlimited immigration is apparently a good thing, and anyone who disagrees is a racist.
With such an insulting, immature and out of touch approach to a serious debate, it is easy to see why working class voters are looking to other parties. 
As well as alienating working people, Labour’s culture of political correctness has had other, far more serious consequences. It was of course under the leadership of a Labour Council in Rotherham that large groups of Asian men were able to gang rape and sexually assault children for many years, some as young as 12, without fear of the consequences.
When investigated by child protection expert Professor Alexis Jay, the Police, social workers and Council officials said they felt powerless to intervene for fear of being branded racist. Through cynical politics, Labour had created a climate where paedophiles were free to abuse children, and accuse anyone who tried to stop them of racial discrimination.
With David Cameron and the Conservatives pledging to raise the tax-free allowance from £10,500 to £12,500 by 2020, Labour have already found themselves outwitted in the battle for hardworking people.
This policy, delivered alongside a pledge to reduce welfare spending, sends a clear message that the Conservative Party is on the side of hardworking people and not those who refuse to work. Labour’s obsession with standing up for the welfare generation has left the party out of touch with the hard working public who play by the rules.
Without this core, election winning base of support, Ed Miliband will never become Prime Minister and Labour will never win the election. Abandoning hardworking people is an electoral sin too grievous to forgive, and voters will deliver that message loud and clear come polling day next year.
Follow Steven George-Hilley on Twitter @stevengeorgia

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Police Federation guilty as charged over Plebgate

The recent news that Home Secretary Theresa May has ended public funding to the Police Federation is long overdue and will strike a chord with the British public who have become increasingly suspicious of the organisation’s political motives and honesty.
It is a genuine tragedy that a fundamentally respectable organisation with a sensible brief to represent and serve the needs of 125,000 rank-and-file officers who work hard to keep law and order on our streets should find itself in such a dire place. But action needed to be taken.
Much of the organisation’s current problems stem from the painfully politically motivated campaign it ran against the Conservatives during the Plebgate saga. From the over-the-top demonstrations with officers in custom made ‘PC Pleb’ apparel to Police Officers sent to jail for lying about Andrew Mitchell, this whole affair stinks of corruption and a conspiracy to stitch up a Cabinet Minister.
We have now learned that, according to an official letter of complaint, armed Police were involved in repeatedly denying Mr Mitchell access through the main gate despite Number 10 security officers saying there was “no just reason" he should have been prevented from entering Downing Street on his bike.
For many, already deeply suspicious of the accounts of the officers involved in the incident, this revelation simply adds fuel to the fire that this was a calculated stitch-up.
From the shocked crowds of people that didn’t exist, the CCTV that contradicted the Police version of events, to the fraudulent email, there appears to be no area of the Police’s story that stands up to scrutiny.
Shockingly, further research conducted by the Parliament Street think revealed that many Police Officers who have previously faked official records such as Police logs have been allowed to keep their jobs. These findings point to a much deeper problem at the heart of the Police force which trivialises serious misconduct and turns a blind eye to officers who are clearly lying and bringing the integrity of the Police into disrepute.
The most painful thing about this whole sorry business is that before the Home Secretary slashed the Police Federation’s funding, we were actually paying for this corrupt organisation to trash the name of an innocent public servant. That is £320,000 of hard earned public money being channelled to an organisation so riddled with corruption it beggars belief.
However, the organisation has recently come under new leadership with the appointment of Steve White as its chairman. In his first interview with The Guardian, he said, "Rebuilding the level of trust the police service has with the public" was vital because it had been "so severely damaged" by national stories such as "Plebgate".
This is of course a monumental challenge, but one that can be achieved through a series of simple first steps.
So, if Steve White really does want to put an end to the Plebgate saga and ensure that the Police Federation has a chance to move on and restore its credibility there is one key issue he needs to tackle from the outset....