DAVID CAMERON will not be short of advice as he begins the complex negotiations that will culminate in a historic referendum on Britain’s future membership of the European Union. EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, wants the 2017 vote brought forward to curtail the economic uncertainty, while Margaret Thatcher’s one-time Press secretary Sir Bernard Ingham, writing in The Yorkshire Post, suggests that commerce could, in fact, prosper if this country went its own way.
These polarising views come after the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon – Scotland’s First Minister – reiterated her view that a vote to leave the EU should only be binding if this is the majority view in all four nations of the United Kingdom. The demand from Scottish Nationalists for a “double majority” will be a key focus of debate at Westminster following a Queen’s Speech which is set to pave the way for the referendum, and which will now be endorsed by Labour in the wake of Ed Miliband’s demise.
However Mr Cameron should take his time. He needs to secure the best possible deal for Britain, this issue is too important to be left to chance, and that means the Tory leader identifying this country’s priorities – not least on border controls and the welfare entitlements of EU migants – before trying to win over those key allies who might be receptive to Britain’s position.
This task will not be helped by reports that France and Germany are pushing ahead with a “back door” plan for further integation of Eurozone countries within existing treaties, a move which will only embolden Eurosceptics like Nigel Farage. Yet, with weekend election results in Spain and Poland pointing to a significant rise in anti-EU sentiment, Mr Cameron’s hand is a strong one as he prepares to visit five countries in two days. He should not be afraid to use it – prime ministers are traditionally at their strongest, and most influential, in the aftermath of an election win, and Mr Cameron will not be easily forgiven if he squanders this opportunity.
Caught on camera
Police and use of new technology
SOME critics will regard the decision to equip police officers in West Yorkshire with body-worn cameras as further evidence of a breakdown in trust between constables and those that they purport to serve.
However, while this experiment is part of a wider trial that is still in its infancy, early evidence from the United States suggests that the use of such technology can help to solve crime while also preventing disputes between police and the public from escalating.
The latter is particularly important – front line officers need to maximise the amount of time that they spend solving, and preventing, crime rather than becoming embroiled in protracted investigations about their conduct in volatile situations not of their making or choosing. If the £1.93m investment in video cameras brings about the anticipated benefits, it should be viewed as money well spent – even more so if it minimises the need for officers to be equipped with firearms or other means of protecting themselves when on patrol.
However, West Yorkshire Police – and other constabularies – cannot escape the fact that they are under the microscope following a succession of scandals. Trust has been eroded and now is the time for police to look to build bridges with communities Moving forward, budgetary pressures will continue to be a factor, but this – and a greater reliance on new technology – must not stand in the way of police inter-acting with crime victims and the law-abiding public. Policing is invariably at its most effective in areas where officers command the confidence of communities through effective and authoritative communication.
Price of success
Ministers must pass Asda test
IT IS still far too early to proclaim that Britons “have never had it so good”, the proclamation of Harold Macmillan in 1957, but the economy is slowly turning judging by Leeds-based supermarket Asda’s latest Income Tracker which reveals that average families are now £17 a week better off.
Yet, while this is a second boost for the Treasury after Government borrowing fell to its lowest level in seven years, it does reveal that confidence is still fragile judging by the number of people who are taking the opportunity to replenish their savings rather than splashing out on luxuries like a foreign holiday.
It also shows that David Cameron can take nothing for granted – Britain’s recovery is still a sluggish one and it is taking time for Yorkshire to benefit from the economic resurgence now under way in London.