Will Reshoring Boost Britain?

I remember on my first visit to Mumbai in 1983, being taken aside by a shopkeeper who asked me, in a conspiratorial whisper, if I had any Camay soap on my person. It was then explained to me how hard it was for her to get some of the simple luxuries we took for granted in the UK. A decent bar of pure, white soap was just one of them.

Sensing she had a sympathetic, if somewhat baffled listener, she continued to flatter, `Also if you can bring me anything British.’

Going back to my childhood in Kuwait, where everything was imported, the mark of `Made in Great Britain’ as a guarantee of quality was something I was brought up to be proud of. So indeed I flushed. But of course that was during the golden age of the 60s. Since then UK manufacturing has been in relative decline. As a share of real GDP, it has fallen from 30% in 1970 to 12% in 2010.

Last year Nicolas Sarkozy hit a raw nerve when he announced that the UK “has no industry any more”. Maybe unfounded, as we are still seventh in the world, but there was some truth in his jibe. It’s not as clear cut as it used to be since outsourcing of production overseas to save costs. Everyone has been and is doing it. It’s a by-product of globalisation.

This interdependence of economic activities is all very well. We’ve factored in the good bits like cheaper goods, greater choice and not having to maintain dirty, archaic work places. Now what? It’s not just the closing of some of our traditional factories, the forgetting of long-learnt skills, the loss of independence should concern. I was told a few years ago by someone who had a clothes line `it doesn’t really matter where in the world you get things made up, its still manufacturing!’ It’s hard to argue with that. However, the fact remains that something about seeing so much of what we once made here being reproduced at a different quality level half way across the globe doesn’t seem `quite right’ in the way that it did before.

Of course to boost Britain’s manufacturing is now a complex task.  The Institute of Mechanical Engineers believe it will only  happen with `more investment in our transport infrastructure and if incentives are introduced to encourage the creation of new products and markets.’

Thankfully the UK Government is on to this in part with their new initiative named Reshore UK. They have started with setting aside £70m just to recruit trade advisors (the service sector again). Though if we want the textile, software production and call centre companies to say `Sod the higher wages, it’s time to bring our bits and pieces back home,’ would not that money be better spent on the companies themselves ?

Whatever the case, today it seems not only politicians but industry and the public want to see more home based old fashioned  manufacturing. The sort of goods you can assemble here and then physically stick on the back of a lorry and send elsewhere. Or, pack in your British made  Hype  cabin bag and take out on your next trip to India.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The EU Must Question Their Priorities Over Women

It’s every parent’s nightmare, and my heart goes out to the Reids, The Connolleys, the Trups and the Gees, desperately thinking out ways to help their children who ventured abroad. We mothers still regard daughters as childlike, the rest of the world doesn’t.

There is a feeling of total impotence. `Anything can happen to them and I won’t be able to help them.’ And sometimes it does. There are a completely different set of values and laws once you leave UK. It can be brutally brought home.The news the other day that two young women were faultless victims of an acid attack in Zanzibar has been followed up today by the story of another couple, barely a couple of years older, being questioned over suspected drug trafficking. Two cases in one week, similar profiling, different circumstances.

Naive females have always been prime targets, as are innocent girls, but today more than ever. Our safety guards are down. As I raised at the CWO Westminster Forum in June, it’s still predominantly women who are abducted and murdered, stalked, the targets of `cash for crash’ insurance scams. They are also a soft touch for predatory traffickers. Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum Connolly, stopped while trying to board a flight to Madrid, certainly don’t look like typical carriers or hardened drug users.

It makes me wonder whether we have we got our priorities right? Yes, elimination of violence against women has become a major European push in the past couple of years with campaigns run by the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the European Feminist Network WAVE. At the same time they are pushing for quotas on boards to be implemented by 2014. But can we do both at once? Maybe we have focussed too much on emancipation in the boardroom at the risk of protection on the streets. As a result we have brought up a generation of go-getting girls, highly confident in business affairs, but completely oblivious to increased personal risk.

Posted in humanitarian, politics, The EU, womens' issues | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Must Boycot the Latvian Site Ask.Fm.

When I was a child, trolls were toys. They had small plastic bodies and brightly coloured  nylon hair that stood up on end.  They were ugly, but kind of cute. And harmless, though, apparently, if you hid them in people’s drawers (which no kids did) they caused mischief. Today, they’ve come to life on the internet, still `non people’ because they are anonymous and unfeeling.   They stir up trouble between others and enjoy the power and control they have over their victims.

Different to peer group bullies, most trolls just crave a big audience, so their targets are usually people they’ve never met. They frequent blog sites, news sites, discussion forums; the bigger the better. In fact they’ll pop up anywhere they are allowed to make public comments or gain attention.

Trolls are causing untold distress to young people

Trolls are causing untold distress to young people

As the founder of Act Against Bullying I am well aware how difficult trolls are to put out of action. Also that teenagers (who are at a vulnerable age) should be taught urgently how to deal with them and their abusive, ridiculous  behaviour.  Parents should be made aware how to help kids deal with internet abusers. It should be made as precautionary as crossing the road safely, or not getting into a stranger’s car. They must also  be assured that in most cases their children are not to blame if they become targets, they have not encouraged them just by being on the net. But it will take time and more media awareness to get this message across. And time is in short supply.

A week ago 14 year old Hannah Smith committed suicide after months of abuse and vitriol on the Latvian site Ask.Fm. But she wasn’t the first victim, and that is what has shocked the UK. She was the fourth teenager from Britain and Ireland who has suffered this ghastly fate after interacting with this website. While it has a participation and audience of over 60 million users worldwide, it will continue to generates millions of pounds in revenue each year. Therefore it is essential EU users and advertisers boycott the site until forums like these take steps to tackle trolls.

Posted in humanitarian, miscellaneous, The EU | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is the EU ready for Sexual Exploitation?

Opening Pandora's Box on Sexual Exploitation

Are we ready to open the Pandora’s box on all forms of legislation on Sexual Exploitation?

Some things are better left unsaid, is a known fixed expression. Child sexual abuse just one of them.  Up until ten years ago, very little research at all had been done on it.

So it’s hard to know whether the latest revelations of wide-spread sexual exploitation in our society are just an awareness issue, playing catch-up on criminals, or a disturbing development of the human drive, fuelled by modern opportunity, about which we should be alerted and alarmed.

There’s no doubting the link between child sex tourism and the development of the holiday travel industry over the past twenty years: nor the association between grooming of children for criminal purposes and the internet. Child killer Mark Bridger used it to fuel his perversion, which led to the murder of five-year-old April Jones. Stuart Hazell, the killer of 12-year-old Tia Sharp, regularly downloaded child abuse images on his mobile phone.

In fact, there are estimated to be more than one million child abuse images posted online. As fast as they are flagged up and removed, more are uploaded. In an effort to tackle the problem Culture Secretary Maria Miller is today holding a summit of leading ISPs companies. She will call on the likes of Yahoo, Google, Twitter and Facebook to use their technical expertise to ensure the images never appear online in the first place.

At a forum I spoke at last week at the Palace of Westminster organised by the Conservative Women’s Organisation and Sarah Newton, MP for Truro & Falmouth, in whose picturesque constituency a paedophile ring was discovered the day after she was elected,  it was clear that the problem doesn’t just stop there.  Public distaste over the particular methods used by the Asian grooming gang in Yorkshire in 2012 resulting in five convictions for sexual crimes against minors, has raised questions about the newly-defined offense of Sexual Exploitation. While SE also covers the use of a child in prostitution, pornography or pornographic performances, it is not black and white in all cases, especially were luring and grooming are concerned.

What happens for example, when a young person themself posts explicit pictures on the internet to groom and entice (which are then circulated)? Or when an underage teenager sends out `sexts’ because it is the fad to do so. What relevant policies should we be implementing at Government level? And, in this day of gender equality, is sexual exploitation just a case of men or boys manipulating women or girls, or vice versa?

Call it  what you want, there is no doubt the number of these  cases are fast on the rise.  Jane Stacey, Barnardo’s Deputy Chief Executive reported that the number of sexually exploited children known to them had risen by 22 per cent over the previous year. So its on the rise. From my research on cyberbullying through Act Against Bullying I am only too aware of the tragic consequences when it involves the Net. In January a girl of 13 fell to her death from a block of flats as she ‘begged’ a boy on the pavement below to delete a sex video of her on his phone. Or the sad case of Amanda Todd who sent in a copy of her video last year before taking her life;  a recent example of the nastiness of exploitation, blackmail and bullying over the web.

Elimination of violence against women has become a major European push in the past couple of years with campaigns run by the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the European Feminist Network WAVE . We now have a full range of helpful criminal measures in place such as the outlawing of FGM right across Europe, establishing common criteria across all borders and prosecuting sex tourists in Thailand when they return to their home country. Extending the limitation period for victims of child sex abuse to the adult legal age has resulted in successful prosecutions. All these are positive developments.

But there are also concerns that wide-ranging criminal awareness campaigns on exploitation, with its complex implications, could be a tricky area to tread. We even run the risk that in spreading the net ever wider in the hunt for potential abusers, we leave our victims further exposed. In doing so, we run the risk of undermining much of what we have achieved in recent times.

As recently retired Police Borough Commander Dominic Clout made clear at the Forum, while paedophile rings and abductions were always high priority, anything murkier or domestically related wasn’t even on the police radar three years back.

`We have to ask ourselves,’ he said `Are we ready for this?’

Opening the Pandora’s box of potentially `criminal’ activity involved in what is and what is not deliberate abuse could be a deep one.

With the new scientific studies carried out via the EU in the last decade estimating that 10% to 20% of people in Europe are sexually assaulted during their childhood, it sounds as if that lid has already been prized open.

Posted in humanitarian, miscellaneous, politics, The EU, womens' issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s Common Sense Approach to a Recent EU Policy Must Be Good News For The Future

First published on British Influence In Europe Forum on 30th May 2013

The fact that MEPs voted on a reform recently and got the result they did was good news for any future relationship between the UK and the EU.

The case in point was the proposed legislation for the offshore drilling industry prompted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which killed 11 and injured 16. This tragic incident also caused the largest accidental marine oil spill in the world.

With exploration extending further and deeper to meet green energy demands, there has been speculation that a similar accident to the one off the Louisiana coast could indeed occur in EU waters, where an offshore industry has flourished since the 1970s.

That would be catastrophic, and must be avoided at all costs. With an opportunity knocks approach, to ‘protecting public health and the natural environment Europe wide’, the Commission was swift on the case requiring all oil and gas companies to submit emergency response forms to them before being granted a licence to drill. They also pressed hard for an additional law to take the form of a regulation binding upon all country members.

However, the UK has maintained an exemplary safety record in this area. It upholds higher standards than the norm. So much so, the planned one size fits all approach was not only condescending: it could even have led to a reduction in safety standards, not the intended opposite.

As it transpired, common sense prevailed and rather than a direct effect regulation, the recommendations will now be at the discretion of member nations. No doubt the leader of the Conservative group, Vicky Ford, who has put so much effort into this particular issue, will have been delighted with the result.

Critics have raised concerns since that this reduced ruling will have the effect of allowing some nations to relax their policies, which may indeed be the case. While compulsory legislative controls are undoubtedly seen as interventionist, tighter laws have also been deemed necessary in bringing about change in many areas. For example, as a result of the interfering EU, we now enjoy cleaner drinking water, finer bathing beaches, and fresher air.

So our membership and compliance, some argue, has forced us Brits to confront many unpleasant truths and uneconomic necessities. Would we have tackled with such alacrity many of these issues had they not been a part of the environmental demands of the Lisbon treaty?

To all intents, they are right. Whether credited or not to the Commission, this green and pleasant land has benefited greatly in habitat terms, no matter how browned off we feel about how we got there. So whether a Europhile or a Eurosceptic, a Referendum supporter or somebody who is ‘disinterested’ by EU affairs, it is hard not to agree that our relationship within the European trading bloc has forced on us enjoyment of a better quality of life, environmentally speaking.

However, the debate which raged around the offshore safety area, driven robustly forward by the UK was a valid one. We didn’t actually need a new binding rule. With the UK and its North Sea neighbours Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway producing 90% of the European gas and oil, and all of them already operating gold-plated standards of safety, full regulation on top of that was wasteful and unnecessary.

Dismantling a fully functioning regime built on decades of experience, and replacing it with an inferior model, for the sake of the 10 per cent, was an example of the sort of behaviour leading more and more Europeans in recent times to question the sanity of the Commission. It is a clear example of when the EU is not as effective at managing policy areas as nation states themselves. Reaching a compromise that no-one finds satisfactory, because it is trying to please all, just doesn’t always work.

But, with more negotiations over the UK-EU relationship in the pipeline, the bigger picture to be drawn from the outcome of the offshore debate has to be one of optimism.

If the European Union is to move forward from the bureaucratic, inward-looking institution it is accused of having become, we have to do more of this. To develop the world’s most dynamic and competitive economy, we are going to have to re-examine uni-fit policies that don’t work for us, our European nation allies, or the Union as an entity.

And this is one area in which the UK could definitely be more proactive.

Posted in environment, politics, The EU | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

`Why turn up at the EU party when guests have already started to leave?’

The debate over leaving the EU has wound up to fever pitch. Always a-simmering, it’s boiled up intensely following the rising of UKIP — the party which wants Britain to pull out of the EU right now—and other reported recent events such as Iceland’s back footing on its candidacy following its national election of parties opposed to the EU, the recent report from the Washington-based Pew Research Centre warning of diminishing EU member state support from 60% in 2012 to 45%, and, sensing the time is right, the steeling up of Euro scepticism amongst Conservative backbenchers and ministers.

Many of the MPs favour establishing certainty on an EU referendum by way of a Private Members Bill which means entering quick sharp into today’s ballot at Westminster. Although 20 MPs  in total get the chance to bring forward a bill, only the top six drawn are guaranteed the chance of having a full day set aside for its second reading. As  a numbers game, and, with so many determined to drive forward down this route, it’s quite likely that the EU Ref will get that first available slot on Friday 5 July.

Of course the Prime Minister has set out his view clearly – if he is Prime Minister, there will definitely be an in-out referendum in the next Parliament. Additionally, he has super proclaimed his position—deftly too—from way across the Atlantic. While I sense he may not actually have felt it too deeply (and why should he?) Barrack Obama agreed publicly with David Cameron from the White House podium on his stance on  EU renegotiation.  He said something to the effect that it is better to try and save a once-good relationship if there is any chance in doing so, than break up cold and clean.

Of course the States is well and truly into the EU at the moment. It has indeed much to gain from the new EU-US agreement in prospect; around Euros 95 billion a year to be precise. Much of this predicted saving will be from massively reduced bureaucracy and legislation connected with their existing trade. And then of course the Union will inspire  extra exports from both sides. The relationship means a huge boost for EU citizens. As far as the UK is concerned, it is calculated we  stand to gain £10 billion a year. That is, if we indeed remain a member.

And so, stay or leave? Comparing our country’s membership with being at one of those over-hyped flops where you can’t wait to get out and move on but are too polite to do so, there is always also that nagging doubt. `Just after you left, the Americans showed up. It really got going. You shouldn’t have left so early.’

Posted in politics, The EU | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What we can learn from Nigel Farage and it’s not about European Immigration

Despite being involved with politics since 1994, and drawing a salary for some years from the EP, Nigel Farage, by his own admission, is not a career politician. Therefore this charismatic self-publicist with patriotic fervour, UKIPs leader who is currently causing waves in Government is as much about refashioning cigarette smoking as tossing French chefs out of the country in favour of reinstalling Lyons tea houses on the corners of British streets.

His party’s exemplary wins in last week’s county council elections and well-documented rise in popularity does have something to tell us. The best bit for CCHQ must be that, despite economic misery for many, at least much of the country is still well and truly right-leaning.

Farage is absolutely spot on when he delivers the no-brainer that there is general discontent out there in the electorate. But to head from doorstep to doorstep teasing voters with a Christmas list of quick fixes to complex problems is not only cruel and unfair, but also a tad irresponsible.

So is the response by so many back benchers to chase after Nigel Farage like a runaway bride the right one? Let’s look at the facts.

The results of the county council elections were not good for the Tories, but not a total wash-out either. The Conservatives do still top the polls generally and to lose seats as we have done comes as no surprise, being mid-term, restabilising a massive deficit and with the minisculest of miniscule tweaks in the economy?

The facts are that the last week’s county council turnout was particularly poor, which means that UKIPs positive results should be factored in like a sharp rise in the stock market on light volume.

No consideration has been given by UKIP to the agreements we have signed with Europe. Like them or not, our responsibilities to oblige by them or renegotiate with decency form surely the fundamental basis of conservative values, which UKIP now seems to want to monopolise.

Plus, despite our right wing anger and outrage, cooler heads know that most important elections are won on centre ground.

While tearing up Treaties and indulging in delusions of quick fixes when people are hurting and fed up can be seen as exciting, swashbuckling can  bear sinister consequences. You only have  to reflect on 1939 and the charismatic populist leadership of the time  to know that is a dangerous route to march.

However, it’s not Nigel Farage’s policies that people are voting for, its him. Why? He has the pleasant, familiar manner of someone you share a `remember when?…’ moment with. It’s usually only the pleasant stuff.

He is also in the rare position of  being a high profile party leader afforded international media coverage, but having the perfect let-out when it comes to carrying out promises. So of course he can voice fears on immigration and dislike of Europe with no fear of being held to account by reality. He can make the bullets for other people to fire.

However, there is something that Nigel Farage can help us with, and that’s his vocal delivery. With the self-confident, cheery allure of someone who has nothing to lose, he can avoid the standard patter and key messages he knows irritates the hell out of the ordinary people—the PC language; the plastic, carefully crafted party messages. ‘Lessons have been learnt’, or the Del-boy style `tax cuts for millyonaires’, the `strivers’, `fairness’ and `do the right thing’ language which  is a bit of a turn off for the people in the street who he claims with  surety  to represent.

So while Conservatives we are obliged to keep on message, to communicate in unison, to get our success message across better than we have done before, maybe right now it’s time to review our motivational prose as much as our  style. Yes, we can!

Posted in miscellaneous, motivation, politics, The EU | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment