I always find the start of a new month exciting as it encourages a reflection on the few weeks ahead in terms of what can be achieved. With the exception of April and January that is all there is to consider. In January there is of course the added sense of a whole year ahead and in April the risk that being fooled will play a big part in the day. The proposal by Parliament to discuss the petition which has broken all records “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the European Union” today follows Fridays third vote on the Governments proposed departure and raises all sorts of questions and ideas including comments that it is foolhardy. It is very noticeable that Sussex includes at least four constituencies that have heavily supported the petition and a couple that have been less supportive with the rest somewhere in between. After Bristol West, Brighton Pavilion contains the second largest number of constituents who have signed the petition and Hove is second highest in Sussex and tenth in the country. Brighton Kemptown and Lewes have both had around 15% of their constituents sign the petition and these four along with five other Sussex constituencies are in the top quartile of national signatories. They have all had at least 10% of the residents who have signed the petition. The two constituencies that have so far been far less supportive are Crawley and Bognor, yet both have had well over 5% sign the petition and they are in the third quartile of the UK so still a long way from the most disinterested. Four others are in the second quartile. In total over 200,000 residents of Sussex have a strong interest in remaining in the EU which represents 12% across the whole of our two Counties and Brighton and Hove. In democracy terms, 10% is seen as a critical factor as in settings where MPs have broken laws, the rules require 10% of constituents to enact a by-election. So every MP in Sussex, even Henry Smith and Nick Gibb whose constituencies are the least supportive, need to work very hard to engage with their communities in a way that pays attention to the significant number of people who want us to remain in the EU. Whatever happens in the near future there are many concerns that need addressing on both sides of the EU departure discussion and it is noticeable that most Sussex MPs have voted in a way that supports their political party, rather than these residents in their constituencies whose views are at odds with the outcome of the three year old referendum.
Along with the need for all Sussex MPs to pay attention to the petition mentioned above, there are of course many other matters that are impacting the whole of Sussex at the present time. It is encouraging that the MP for Chichester, Gillian Keegan has recently been appointed by the Government as the Champion for Apprenticeships as she is local to the huge number of small businesses that are located in Sussex. Today Gillian is meeting today with around 150 representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses which hopefully will include some Sussex based companies or business networks. The attempt by the Government to increase the number of apprenticeships has hit something of a brick wall, in large part because of their failure to resolve the apprenticeship levy issues and also because the payments for Further Educational trainers has fallen a long way below the payments for school teachers. Let us hope that the meeting today will provide Gillian with some useful recommendations to take back to the Departments for Education and Business!
Another matter which is vital for our nation to resolve is how policing is being organised. This clearly is a matter that impacts all Sussex residents. Shortly after he retired John Stevens who was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police recommended that the Government set up a Royal Commission to review how the Policing in our nation is carried out. That call was ignored, primarily because the Government argued that the changes involving Police and Crime Commissioners were being implemented. The second serious attempt to call for a Royal Commission was raised last week in Parliament by the MP for Eastbourne, Stephen Lloyd. It is vital that all Sussex MPs who are concerned about policing which clearly includes Tim Loughton who often speaks up about such issues in Parliament will back Stephen’s call. The response from Theresa May was the College of Policing which she introduced to replace its predecessor was the right answer and that there was no need for a Commission. That was clearly a bad answer which needs rejecting.