Tom Richmond: May must make positive arguments for changes

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IT’S ironic that Theresa May called an early election in June because she did not want the countdown to the planned poll in 2020 being overshadowed by the denouement of Britain’s negotiations with the EU over Brexit.

Yet, if this year’s Parliament lasts the full five years and the UK, as appears likely, negotiates a phased withdrawal from the Single Market and Customs Union, the build-up to the 2022 election will be dominated by these high stakes – exactly the scenario that the Tory leader wanted to avoid.

It’s clouded further by Labour’s latest flip-flopping. After suggesting that he advocated a clean break from the EU, Jeremy Corbyn’s new policy position appears to be a phased exit.

I, for one, am not sure whether it’s a betrayal of Labour’s Brexit-supporting voters, political opportunism to maximise splits within Mrs May’s party or an inspired piece of pragmatism to ensure Britain’s business and economic interests are protected during this upheaval.

This is key. Brexit was not the defining issue at the last election – it was fairly low down the list of priorities. People were more exercised about standards of living, after a decade of stagnation following the financial crash, and the future of public services.

And while Mrs May polled 42.3 per cent of votes cast, the Tory party’s best return since 1983, and the most votes – 13.6m – since the 1992 election, it came at a huge political cost. Not only did 
she not win the envisaged landslide, but she lost the Commons majority and is now at the mercy of others – and events – when it comes to the passage of legislation.

However the Prime Minister has to find a way to make a positive case for Conservative values in contemporary Britain if her party is to stand any
chance of surviving the forthcoming turmoil. She began this task with modest measures on boardroom pay, much watered down because
 of her political predicament, but she needs to do much more in the coming weeks if she’s to survive for any length of time.

My advice? Ignore Labour’s opportunism, focus on an agenda of compassionate Conservativism and start making positive arguments for change and reform rather than mocking opponents – in short the type of
politics that the country at large
desires. If she does, Brexit might not become all-consuming ahead of the next election.

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NOT content with having a manager already in place to deliver promised public transport improvements in Leeds, West Yorkshire Combined Authority 
is advertising for a co-ordinator who will be paid up to £39,219 out of the public purse.

The advert begins by saying that this is “an important facilitating role to enable the partners (primarily Leeds Council and WYCA, but involving other contacts e.g. Network Rail) to deliver the ambitious programme”.

Not only does the rest of the advertisement consist of public sector jargon and gobbledegook at its very worst, but who is signing off these jobs and are they really necessary when both the Combined Authority and Leeds City Council are very top-heavy with well-paid senior managers who are supposed to be doing this work?

With a devolution deal for Yorkshire now within tantalising reach, my
call last month for an appraisal of these roles to ensure no duplication of effort – or waste – becomes even more imperative. Who is going to implement it?

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AT last some sense from the Government which is looking to fund the installation of “smart bins” that automatically send out text messages asking to be emptied when they are
full.

The hi-tech containers are part of efforts by Therese Coffey, the foward-thinking Environment Minister, to tackle the rubbish and litter that blight urban and rural communities alike.

When she’s done, can she extend such technology to the use of traffic lights so motorists don’t have to sit for an age at junctions when there are no other vehicles in the vicinity?

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WHEN the monthly bank statement didn’t arrive for a second successive month, I had a quiet word with the local postman to see if there were reports of missing mail recently.

He said there were not, but that I was not the first person to query to ask the question after Santander – not content with shutting its local branch and cashpoint – chose to start issuing statements quarterly.

The firm’s Bradford call centre insists customers were informed, but I, for one, received no notification. What a shame it won’t look into the matter further because the onus is on the individual to prove poor service. So much for a near lifetime of loyalty.

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A FRIEND was surprised by a recent job interview that involved candidates naming their heroes - and then explaining why. Imagine their incredulity when those who nominated singer Beyoncé and footballer Steven Gerrard were among those to land graduate training scheme roles. What does this say about recruitment techniques and the state of Britain of today?

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THE BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew made a profound point when in Leeds to mark the 60th anniversary of Test Match Special. He said the radio programme’s remit was to be a conversation and to provide company – even friendship – for its legion of listeners. Hear, hear.