No More Women on British Money

Labour Party

It was announced recently by Mervyn King that Winston Churchill will be replacing Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note.  This means that the Queen will be the only woman to appear on British money.

I’m not questioning that Churchill is deserving of the honour, but does it have to be at the expense of the only woman venerated on British money?  It is true that the Queen appears on all the notes, but they forget that she is there because of her royal lineage.  The men on the banknotes – Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and soon, Winston Churchill – are all there because of notable achievements, not because of who their parents were.

It seems that in a country with a parliament that is 57th equal in the world when it comes to female representation; a media where only 1 in 5 experts is a woman; and a business world where female directors represent only 16.7% of the total, that further diminishing the role women play in public life would be a bad idea.  Money plays such a crucial role in our day to day lives and now no single woman will appear on our notes.

Caroline Criado-Perez has started a petition and I urge you call to sign it.  You can do so here.

The BBC World Service is important and should be properly funded

Labour Party

There appears to be no end to our economic woes. Britain’s economy slipped into its second recession since the start of the financial crisis around the turn of the year, and fears of a longer slump have been rising as companies hold back investment. What is more, there has been a sharp deterioration in the outlook for the global economy over the last six weeks.

All this has apparently caused Bank of England governor Mervyn King to back an extra £50bn of quantative easing,

Explaining his position to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, King said, “What has particularly concerned me in the last several months – why I have voted for more easing policy – was my concern about the worsening I see in the position in Asia and other emerging markets, adding “…my colleagues in the United States are more concerned than they were at the beginning of the year about what is happening to the American economy”.

According to the Guardian, Mervyn King went on to say, “We are in the middle of a deep crisis, with enormous challenges to put our own banking system right and challenges for the rest of the world that they are struggling with.”

It is now quite clear  that Britain has not recovered from the 2008/2009 slump that has left many Britons worse off, and fears are rising that another prolonged recession would do lasting damage to the economy.

You would have thought that the Tory-led Coalition Government would realise that it needs all the help it can get to make sure Britain’s interests are recognised in other countries and that the damage caused by the economic crisis is minimised across the world. One way of achieving this aim is through the soft power wielded by the BBC World Service.

The global impact of the World Service was, in fact, graphically illustrated last week when Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi toured the organisation’s offices, meeting many of the broadcasters she listened to while under house arrest  in Rangoon.

Unbelievably, at the end of 2010 the Foreign Office under William Hague decided to slash the World Service budget by around 20%, or £46m a year, by 2014. As a result the BBC in January 2011 confirmed plans to close five of its 32 World Service language services, estimating that audiences will fall by more than 30 million, from 180 million to 150 million a week.

As if this wasn’t enough, the BBC executive who runs the World Service, Peter Horrocks, has recently asked his journalists to come up with schemes to raise money.

This is surely no way to treat the World Service which truly justifies the over used soubriquet “national treasure”. The cut to its funding by the current Tory-led Government was a major misjudgement which totally underestimated importance of the World Service in boosting Britain’s standing abroad, a vital requirement in these perilous economic times.

I recently had an inkling of how the BBC is perceived when a Swedish MEP told me just how honoured and overjoyed he was to be invited on to the BBC “The Record Europe” programme. David Cameron, William Hague and the other luminaries in the Coalition Cabinet would do well to take such views on board. The BBC is the face and voice of the UK across the world and it benefits Britain enormously. It would be a real tragedy if political dogma were allowed to prejudice this huge asset.

Cameron should show less arrogance towards Eurozone leaders

Labour Party

Unwilling and seemingly unable to lift Britain out of our damaging double-dip recession, David Cameron is taking refuge in attacking the Eurozone.

This is not the first time our Tory Prime Minister has lectured, no to say, harangued Eurozone leaders. It is obvious what he is trying to do this time. Cameron is patently trying to deflect attention from the dire condition of the UK economy by violently attacking our European neighbours.

Cameron’s words in the House of Commons yesterday, that Britain is impatient with Eurozone leaders and that they “either had to make up or it’s looking at a potential break-up” demonstrates his inability to understand just how closely the UK economy is tied up with the Eurozone. What happens in Greece and Germany has a massive impact on us.

Mr Cameron would do well to behave in a more acceptable manner to other European leaders. “Cameron should be working hard to get a deal rather than stoking fears of a Euro break-up.” This Labour source quoted in the Evening Standard yesterday hit the nail on the head.

Cameron’s arrogance and unwillingness to engage with European leaders does not even come from a position of strength. Britain is struggling with a double-dip recession thanks to the Tory-led coalition. What is it that makes Cameron believe he can attack the Eurozone when his own and Chancellor George Osborne’s economic competence is so severely lacking?

Meanwhile the Bank of England Chief Mervyn King has forecast an even lower growth rate for this year, down by a third from 1.2 per cent to less than one per cent, 0.8 per cent, to be precise, this year. All we can hope is that the good news yesterday from Ellsmere Port will help raise this figure.

It is becoming ever clearer that the UK   cannot go it alone. Our economy is well and truly tied up with the Eurozone. To believe anything else is to regress to some kind of post imperial cloud-cuckoo land when the EU did not exist and Britain was great.

While the UK is still a leading power in the world, we are also a member of the European Union and the majority of our exports go to Eurozone and other EU countries. To slag off these countries when the UK is faring as badly as we are is sheer folly and does nothing to build future relationships. Cameron, of course, behaves badly towards the EU to appease his feral Eurosceptic backbenchers, the “constituency” who supported him for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

David Cameron would do well to understand that he is Prime Minister of Great Britain as well as Leader of the Conservative Party. Now is the time, Mr Cameron, to put country above party for once.