Can May last as PM?

 

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Theresa May faces hard questions. Source: Sky News

Incredible how one year makes a hell of a difference to a person, isn’t it? Theresa May’s sail to the Conservative leadership was on par with a luxury liner gliding the Greek coast. Less than 12 months later, her tenorship has a greater reminiscence of a tug boat in the stormy Irish sea.

When the former resident of 10 Downing Street (Mr Cameron) bailed out of the top job as a result of the EU Referendum, it was a certainty that Mrs May would win. Several years as the Home Secretary had given her good ground for understanding how top level government actually runs. Her supporters claimed she would be a strong leader with a different style to her predecessors – no backhand deals, no political favourites; instead a straight talking, no nonsense woman as leader of the United Kingdom government. She won by default; two candidates were eliminated in the leadership race and two others withdrew.

She boasted in parliament that the Conservative Party did a lot for women – ‘they just keep making us Prime Minister her words were’ to rapturous applause. At the time of her first PMQ’s session, there had been the turmoil in within the Labour Party surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership; Mrs May even ‘joked’ about Corbyn being an unscrupulous boss. The clearest of evidence of what would follow in the 2017 General Election campaign.

The latter half of 2016 was certainly strong for the ‘new iron lady’ – her posture, her body language, her speeches were all strong. The result? Her popularity soared. So what went wrong?

The first of the big U-turns was on the election itself. In the months before, she had continuously claimed an election was not needed. There would be no general election until the end of the parliament. 18th April 2017 – Mrs M stands outside 10 Downing Street and announces a snap general election to be held on June 8th. A clever decision at the time – Labour still in disarray, Theresa May’s popularity very high. It was hers to lose. And she did.

Calling the #GE2017 (at least the first of 2017) had critics frothing at the mouth, accusing her of backtracking and going against her previous promises. She had already vocally criticised the Scottish National Party (SNP) for seeking a second independence referendum, citing that it was not the right time given the brexit negotiations. Mrs May’s argument had weakened; yes, she was holding the election before June 19th when the talks formally begin, however, the SNP argued that the PM had insisted no talks on a new referendum for Scotland could begin until Britain had left the European Union. The air had already began to thicken with the smell of contradictions.

The biggest problem for the PM was the way she handled the campaign. Hers was a very personal affair – ‘me and my team’ was a frequent message. The snipes at Jeremy Corbyn and his team, as well as other political parties, showed how much she had misjudged the public mood to this election. The PM made it clear the election was about giving ‘her’  a mandate for the brexit talks and strengthening her hand by having a greater majority. All that despite already having a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. THere appeared to be a definite shift from the politics of bygone era which Theresa May was clinging on to; there was a feeling that political parties should work together on issues such as brexit, the health system, and infrastructure. Sadly for Mrs May she made the campaign about herself, badgering on about how strong a leader she is compared to others. She made the election result a judgement not on her party and government but on her personally. This clip from Channel 4 News gives a sense of the snipes made in the final week of #GE2017:

The facial expressions, the choice of language. It is all wrong. This is a Prime Minister acting like the school playground bully. The cavalry behind give her support with the boos and hisses.

The Labour Party campaign was far from perfect yet it was certainly more positive with lots of rallies and talk about their funded policies. Mr Corbyn turned the fortune of the party and the heads of his critics. He engaged voters, the young particularly. For the first time in many years, the Labour opposition seemed to be united behind a manifesto; yes, some of the things were eyebrow-raising such as the cost of scrapping tuition fees and funding the re-nationalisation of the railways. But was there slyness and witch-hunting that seemed to dominate the Conservative campaign?

Sure, there were other stumbles too. The U-turn on social care following a wild backlash. It’s claimed her two closest advisers took responsibility for the shambles. But there is only one person who gives the go ahead and chooses what words to speak – the PM. The responsibility falls with her.

She is not a naturally good speaker when it comes to interviews. Mrs May starts one sentence and usually ends with another, interluded by an awkward stumble of words.  When it became apparent that the PM isn’t as good as we may have thought when thrust in front of the cameras, many saw it as a weakness. ‘Ahh that’s the reason why she’s not doing the TV debates’ many will have thought. Coupled with the dredging out of tired soundbites such as “strong and stable”, certainly the attitude of simply repeating words without any real meaning or explanation grated on voters.

June 9th. Theresa May’s snap election goes against her. Rather than retain the majority she already had, she lost it. Where Labour were already written off, they gained seats. The PM stood outside Downing Street and did not acknowledge the very personal failure she had just endured. Sweeping the issue under the carpet. Voters don’t forget. #GE2017 was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. The mood turned from brexit to the home domestic issues such as security, policing, health services, and so on. Her time as Home Secretary led to the cuts in police forces we see today – Greater Manchester Police confirmed that they do need extra officers to keep the public safe. Voters don’t forget.

When Gordon Brown was PM in 2007, his popularity increased when he dealt with the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport and the foiled attack in London. A matter of weeks in to the top job, there were calls for him to call a snap election and secure a Labour victory. The mood was different in this latest campaign. Three terrorist attacks in just a few months with Mrs May as leader and protector of British citizens. She came under fire for why these attacks could happen on her watch, and subsequently questions about whether her actions in the past had led to a less safe Britain. Voters do not forget.

The ‘coalition of chaos’ that May had warned about if SHE had lost her majority was now the problem on her plate. A strained Theresa May looked very different from the popular and powerful-looking leader who became PM in 2016. She gambled. She lost. Her calls of Corbyn being a puppet propped up by the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon had backfired. Her political attacks and misjudgment of the voter mood had backfired. Her credibility gone.

Within days, the terrible events of the Grenfell Tower fire has become her latest challenge. Forced to run to her car and avoiding questions from the crowd of residents of Kensington and Chelsea showed her weakness. The community affected by the fire, the charities, the victims, the families, the now homeless, they all needed their Prime Minister in a time of despair. Their Queen and Prince William spoke with those directly affected by the fire; the Prime Minister faced a backlash after meeting the emergency services. Only the day after meeting the emergency services did she visit the hospital where few of the victims were being treated.

In contrast, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan were on the scene, hugging victims and listening to what they had to say. This was about measuring the mood of an area that have had their voices unheard for too long. It is right that they want the questions of why this fire happened answered immediately. Their PM bundled away into a car, stern-faced and cold. Again, she misjudged the public mood and anger. They needed their PM to answer and assure them. She acted too late.

A Prime Minister who can misjudge the national feeling on several occasions is one in need of a dire cold shower. The landscape of politics has changed too. Voters are unengaged by political mud slinging and playground taunts. Theresa May had everything she needed on a plate – popularity, majority, credibility. Now, almost all of that had whimpered away. The scene is a Prime Minister who’s mistiming and irreversible mistakes have cost her big time. She could have gone down as one of the greatest PM’s in history if she had played her cards right. But ‘Play Your Cards Right’ is a gameshow and there is always a loser. Her political career will be tarnished by the events of 2017 and anything she does say and do will be judged and alluded to the mistakes she made.

 

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The call for peace

manchester-attack

Source: The Independent 

The last few days have been dreadful. Yet amongst the hatred is a shining light of hope and reassurance. The people of Manchester and far further have come together. Political leaders have stopped the mud-slinging contest of the general election (for now). For me, one of the phrases that has stuck with me comes from Colin Parry OBE. On the topic of terrorism, we need to prevent gaps widening in our society, encourage diversity at a local level, and in response to the calls to ‘throw them out our country’, Mr Parry says no. ‘Throw them in to our peace centre’ he says.

This is a man who has experienced what many of the Manchester victims’ families will be experiencing. It’s difficult for anyone to comprehend the barbaric loss of a child, teenager, young adult, mums and dads, who were simply enjoying life. For Colin Parry, the story is similar. His son, Tim Parry, was one of the victims of the Warrington IRA bomb attack in 1993. His accounts are well documented as are his natural emotional responses in the aftermath of the attack.

The Foundation for Peace, set up by Colin Parry and his wife Wendy, was in response to attempts to bring peace to a troubled Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Since then, there has been an evolution of peace brought to the streets of Northern Ireland; the threat of terrorism has not gone away. For so many young people, the events of the 2000s and 2010s has seen the shift of how terrorist atrocities are carried out. Colin Parry is the embodiment of peace and this is how the foundation describes what it does:

“We do not take sides, we are not aligned to any conflict, we are not faith or political based and we do not pursue causes such as justice or truth.”

At first glance, it may seem undue for such an organisation not to seek the truth. But tackling terrorism and extremists is not about truth. The great work of the Greater Manchester police force will deal with investigating the truth and seeking some sort of comfort and justice for the families affected – notably by unraveling the network of terrorist connections.

Colin Parry is a man who speaks compassionate sense in difficult circumstances. As does Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester. Both appeared on the BBC’s Question Time in the days after the Manchester bomb. It wasn’t about taking sides or showing how political parties will respond. It was about coming together, uniting, and pausing to understand how peace can be achieved.

All panelists on that edition of Question Time were in large agreement. Tackling terror plots requires more than simply shutting Britain’s borders and hoping such cowards don’t find their way in. The police and intelligence services will already be foiling terrorist activity as you read this – and the work they do which we are not fully aware of is something that we should be thankful for.

So how do you stop or flush out terrorist activity? Well it’s difficult. As the panelists on Question Time agreed it comes down to the ‘grassroots’ of communities across the United Kingdom. The terrorist who brought Manchester together in its darkest period was a student at a local university; he lived in Greater Manchester’s suburbs; he was born in the UK just like millions of others. Yet he turned on his own city, targeting the youngest and most innocent.  It is not for me to judge what he did in the weeks, months, possibly years, in the run up to the attack. What is almost certain, however, is that somewhere along the line he was radicalised. His behaviour probably changed, his thoughts and perspective more than likely differed from those he previously had. His brain became washed with this evil. There is no finger pointing to be had either as to who could have stopped him and so on. It simply does not assist the situation at this time.

Britain is now a multicultural, multinational island of communities. Everyone, from religious groups to the average atheist college student, has a duty to be vigilant. It may be difficult to identify a change in someones behaviour which may indicate they are identifying with extremist views. That is where Colin Parry and his peace centre come in.

The Foundation for Peace works on the following stages:

  • Transforming communities
  • Advocacy – training people to raise the difficult issues
  • Sharing experiences – the charity is a safe environment for people to come and share their backgrounds and gain support.
  • Dialogue – a crucial communication link between conflicting parties to help understand eachother and challenge prejudices
  • Conflict resolution – understanding why conflict happens and how it can be dealt with a non-violent way.
  • Leadership – allowing people to take back their skills to their own communities.

The Peace Centre in Warrington exists as a result of bereaved parents who came back from a troubled Northern Ireland full in the knowledge that they could make a difference. The threat of terrorism is very much a different scale to that of when The Foundation for Peace was set up. But that doesn’t mean its values, ethics and purposes should be any different.

The Peace Centre can teach anyone, those who need help or those who simply want to learn. It is not about alienating people, it’s not about making assumptions, it’s not about segregating communities. There may be little comfort for the city of Manchester at present but on this truly awful week, people like Colin Parry and organisations like The Foundation for Peace are needed more than ever.

 

UKIP – Endangered Species?

Here is a controversial thought: The UK Independence Party serve no purpose and may as well use their manifesto booklet to create paper mache hat for Jean-Claude Juncker.

Here’s another: UKIP is proving itself to be a fighting force in the 2017 election and have every chance of securing a majority (or at least a couple of seats.)

Which is more true? As the election campaign 2017 (2K17 as the youthful Lib Dems may say) has shown, there can be ups and lots of downs. The class clown and the butt (or Abut) of jokes has been Diane Abbott. The wishful thinking Shadow Home Secretary showing how politics most definitely is not done.

Paul Nuttall, the leader of UKIP incase you were scratching your head, renamed the Plaid Cymru leader Natalie in a bizarre election debate (her real name being Leanne). Perhaps it demonstrates the far cry the party of purple has come; from one of the most significant politicians in a generation to perhaps the most unprepared.

Nigel Farage was a character. He’s not dead but he very nearly was killed before the polls had even closed at the 2010 general election. Flying a plane with a tail banner, reserved only for the most enthusiastic football fans, which suddenly became caught in the engine, sending the then UKIP leader and his plane down to the ground. Somehow, Theresa May  donning the brown leathers for a trip in the sky is unlikely to appear this time around, however satisfying I think it may be. The message really is about how charismatic Nigel Farage was as a leader of something he passionately believed in.

Whether that something was right or wrong is a matter of opinion. There are those who call UKIP a racist, homophobic, out-of-touch party, and those who say that the party is standing up for the interests of the United Kingdom. Fair enough on both sides. What differs is the type of person who leads that party.

When Farage announced he was stepping down as its leader, following the 2016 EU Referendum, there was a sense of sadness. Never before have I been amused when watching the ten o’clock news, but when Mr Farage turned up, the news turned into a comedy performance. From his facial expressions to his drinking a pint with the crosshatch coat brigade, he was the politician and leader who stood out from the rest.  Though he had fans and his enemies, UKIP sparked debate and conversation about politics.

For UKIP-ers in 2017, the story is bleak. Their only MP decided to sit as an independent MP rather than represent the party. Its current leader (Paul Nuttall incase you’re still scratching that head) lacks that personality and performance that Farage gave when talking about politics. When Mr F got himself into a hole, and there were many, he managed to somehow squirm his way out with a few potent hand gestures and a couple of big words from the Dictionary of the European Commission.

On the other hand, Paul Nuttall’s recent downhill tumble seemed to begin with Hillsborough. A sensitive topic, particularly on his home turf of Merseyside. His claims about being caught up in the disaster were found to be untrue. When a colleague of his said they were responsible for the message about the incident being posted, it was clear that although Nuttall was apologetic he was perhaps an untrustworthy leader.

The issue for me is about passion for politics. There is no doubt that the current UKIP main man has an impressive CV of political involvement. However, watching the interviews, the debates, the talking heads, there is no sense of passion. Where Farage could draw a crowd and speak truly of what he believed in, Nuttall’s polar opposition to the old dog is not engaging. He may not be the greatest public speaker, nor the greatest person to remember names, but the flare and enthusiasm that UKIP and its supporters had during previous campaigns seems to have fizzled away.

Will UKIP become extinct? It could be argued the party had risen from extinct-ness in the latter half of the 2000s. Though the party has been around 1993, its purpose and pledges to create an independent United Kingdom seemed to speak reason to British people by 2010 onwards. Their target? The traditional Labour red seats. And although the land hadn’t been turned purple at the last election, there is no doubt that a successful campaign of taking controls of local councils helped in creating a new political landscape which targeted issues that many traditional Labour voters felt had been ignored – that of immigration. It seemed to be their only pledge, or at least the only one which was reported, and still the other leaders in the 2017 campaign accuse UKIP of using immigration to solve the array of issues in the UK.

The country is at its limit. Once proud, green space is now occupied by new homes. There are still fears, from UKIP’s 55+ demographic (according to YouGov), that immigration is the crippling issue affecting our services. However, immigration is being tackled by the big parties – Labour saying freedom of movement will end once the UK leaves the European Union but still no concrete target on those numbers; the Conservatives also have an immigration pledge but according to one of their senior figures they don’t know when it will be achieved nor how much it will cost.

So, the issue returns back to passion. UKIP’s previous role was to demand an EU Referendum. That has now happened. Supporters appear to have moved on from the UKIP days and its clear their passion was for Nigel Farage and the supposed holy path he walked along. Those actively involved in the campaign remain passionate but from television news reports, there is an element of fear tingling in their eyes.  Mr Nuttall just doesn’t seem to do the job of Farage; he’ll say he’s not a Farage puppet but instead his own man. Yet his messages don’t seem to be sparking the debate that Farage’s once did.

UKIP has been accused of racism and all kinds; something which the party and its former leader say is untrue and a fabrication of media representation. Politics is about voting for policy but also placing faith and trust in the leader who makes those pledges. Sadly for UKIP, the passion once owned by Farage and his fans has dwindled. They may still have a purpose but just to be on the safe side, a purchase of shares in a paper mache company may be advisable.

 

 

MindEd – Making adults aware of Mental Health

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

With almost 900,000 children in the UK coping with a mental health illness, it is startling to find that a third of adults are unsure of signs of mental health, such as depression, amongst children. Now a new service, MindEd, has been launched to help raise awareness for adults in spotting potential symptoms.

A survey, carried out by the groups behind MindEd, of 2,100 adults also found that half would be worried about saying anything if they did suspect there was a problem. Why? Because of the fear of being mistaken.

Other results:
– Two thirds back extra government investment in children’s mental health services

– 69% support the idea that every school should have a dedicated member of staff for children to approach about such issues.

The new MindEd website is funded by the Department of Health and is aimed at those adults who work with children including teachers, social workers and sports coaches.

Dr Raphael Kelvin told the BBC News website that “investing in early intervention is crucial – not doing so comes at the high price for those battling a mental health condition.”

CEO of YouthNet, Emma Thomas, welcomed the new launch but admitted more had to be done to understand young people’s needs. She said that “they need to be given the confidence to distinguish their feelings, so that they feel empowered to seek help.”

My thoughts

In a previous post I admitted I hadn’t come into contact with a young person coping with a mental health illness, despite the startling figures.

I still believe there needs to be an end to stigmas about mental health and allow young people and their families to live their lives normally.

MindEd is a creative, digital platform for adults to recognise the symptoms that children may be coping from a mental health illness and so, in the modern digital age, it is vital these sources are continuously invested in.

Any way of raising awareness of mental health and other social issues is a good thing. In a society where judgements are made instantaneously, it is important to provide a new platform from where everybody can learn about mental health, depression and anxiety, amongst others.

See the MindEd website for more information and guidance: https://www.minded.org.uk/

Immigrants needed for UK

ukborder_0Alongside the UK role in Europe, MP’s affairs and the need for jobs, immigration is high on the list of voters’ agendas in the run up to the next general election. Whilst immigration does have connotations of negativity, grouping all immigrants under one umbrella is simply unrealistic and daringly stereotypical.

The recent news that the UK Border Agency has a 37 year backlog of 500,000 immigration cases to deal with certainly strikes deep into the wounds of those with the belief that all immigrants are bad news. But that simply isn’t the truth. Around the UK there are hundreds of immigrant families who are determined to work and make a success, providing money for their families, paying their taxes, and ensuring their children have a decent education. Furthermore, as the UK’s ageing population grows bigger, the need for immigrants is also vital.

The Office for Budget Responsibility reported that Britain needs 140,000 immigrants per year – equivalent to 6million – to increase the number of people in work and improve public finances. As Britain’s population grows older, the strain on the NHS will inevitably become too much. In order to sustain an already struggling healthcare system, there will need to be tax increases or further public spending cuts totalling £19billion. Granted, some may suggest that the increases in spending for the system is because more immigrants are populating the country. Town populations have risen to bursting points and additional strain on the education, transport and health systems support a developing strain on British services. However, enormous savings can be made from the immigrants who choose to live in the UK.

The Prime Minister admitted that “immigration is a constant drain on public services” however commended those who are willing to “work hard”. Whilst it may seem that Mr Cameron is siding with the public on the immigration issue, it is clear that although he promises to reduce immigration numbers to “tens of thousands” (despite the OBR figures) he and fellow ministers recognise that those who come for improved lives should be welcomed with open arms. And so they should be. There is no more positive representation of Britain than a country that others see as having an excellent education system, healthcare system, democracy and so forth.

There are, however, groups of immigrants who are a so-called “burden” to society. Stereotypes who migrate from Eastern European countries and elsewhere have been described by some writings as “scrounging” off the tax system. The Spectator outlines that official figures show that less than 14,000 Polish immigrants are claiming unemployment benefit. It is clear. Some immigrants do intend on using the UK benefit system to support families in their native countries, but the mass majority do not wait on the state. Furthermore, an interesting point made by The Spectator ‘s Alex Massie is the news that there has been a rising number of French citizens in London. Evidently, taxes being lower, world class education system and flexible labour markets clearly lead a “superior” option of life than in France. If we can welcome 300,000 French citizens then we can welcome citizens of all nationalities.

A recent documentary, fronted by Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer, delved deep into unemployment in the UK showing how some British citizens are reluctant to work for low pay and in jobs that they perhaps do not wish to complete. Those who have settled in Britain from other countries, including Poland and Romania, are enthusiastic and willing to work for low pay (high in comparison to their own residence), and with the government not needing to spend on offering training, it is a major cost-saving exercise.

In whichever news programme you watch or newspaper you read there will always be contrasting views on immigration on what they bring. Whilst The Daily Express and other tabloids provide readings to audiences with the view that everything to do with immigration and that immigrants are the lowest of the low. The truth is, however, immigration is needed to develop UK culture and boost the economy. For instance the new High Speed rail link will inevitably employ many many immigrants as well as home citizens. Why? Years of construction and building a railway line will be difficult, strenuous and involve long and unsocial hours. Workers from other countries will do near enough anything for any money.

Official figures are likely to be doctored to provide numerous readings, yet to me immigration shows how the United Kingdom is a country that welcomes people of all nationalities. Perhaps a tangent, but consider Malala Yousafzai, the teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting education and women’s rights. When she was severely injured it was not Pakistan which treated her. The NHS, described as the best healthcare system in the world, welcomed Malala with open arms for intensive treatment and recovery. A story that inspired all who read about it showed how the UK can positively welcome people of other countries to share in the first-rate services the nation offers. Malala has gone on to inspire the globe at the United Nations to promote the need for education in the countries such as Pakistan. All because of the offerings to her from the UK.

So whilst not everybody will agree with the need for immigration and views do run high on the issue. But if the country wants to grow and recover from the deficit then I’m afraid it’s those who are willing to work longer hours for little pay. For the same reasons British citizens immigrate around the globe, many come to Great Britain for a new life. A clear reflection on the opportunities and amenities that are accessible.

Why the Royals are again uniting Britain

Even the most out of touch individual, someone who takes no interest in news and world events, can’t help but notice a so-called “feel good factor” around Great Britain. The source of this great uniting is The Royal Family; In recent years they really have transformed into a monarchy and unit who are in touch with ordinary people around the globe. In times of a struggling economy, pay cuts and low motivation, The Royal Family have become a source of positivity, aspiration and support for everyday people.

Look back twelve months and notice the major events The Royals have instigated. The nationwide Diamond Jubilee tour saw The Queen visit all corners of the British Isles, seeing the people of towns and villages up and down the land. A real in touch moment for her and The Duke of Edinburgh. Alongside the tour, Buckingham Palace was transformed into a concert venue, with thousands partying down The Mall well into the night. The Thames was transformed into a giant river festival. Barges, rowing boats and even war ships were involved in the astonishing flotilla. Whilst the rain eventually did come down it did not spoil the day. Thousands lined the banks to celebrate a historic moment. On a day of immense pride, The Queen travelled to Westminster Abbey for the service of thanksgiving. ITV’s Mark Austin commented he didn’t believe the crowds would be as big as previous occasions, such as The Royal Weddings and Jubilees, but soon retracted his comments when almost one million people gathered to see Her Majesty on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony. The Jubilee led to thousands of street parties across the land, bringing communities of all ages and beliefs together to celebrate.

A modern and scaled back Royal Family continue to prove popular.

A modern and scaled back Royal Family continue to prove popular.

Before The Diamond Jubilee, events saw another historic occasion. The wedding of Prince William and the now Duchess of Cambridge. A day of personal and emotional achievements for the couple and yet for the thousands who gathered outside the Abbey and on The Mall a similar personal experience. Look back to those who were interviewed. They wanted to share in the delight and happiness of the newly weds. But why? The story was one of true love for William and Catherine Middleton. Together at University, Catherine was an everyday person, from an everyday life, in an everyday village. Suddenly she was whisked into the limelight and became a beacon of transformation and positivity, her story likely to be played out in the years to follow. Never had there been so much excitement from the crowd about a wedding since the last similar size event in 1981 for the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Crowds were welcomed like guests and so the 2011 wedding proved that The Royal Family were and are more popular than ever. And with an ordinary “princess” becoming a member of the family, it brought a new touch and connection to the everyday supporter.

Annual events including Trooping the Colour, State Opening of Parliament, Royal Ascot, Garden Parties and many more all collate one theme. Connection. Her Majesty, Prince Phillip, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, all of the family, are in connection with ordinary folk who come out to celebrate these occasions alongside. In times of sadness and grief, the public support The Royal Family. Recurring infections have seen The Duke of Edinburgh readmitted to hospital on several occasions. Whilst H.M is portrayed as emotional and alone in the media, she has the wealth of support from the public who continue to offer support and messages. The unexplainable rapport is explained no better than The Diamond Jubilee concert; Thousands of well wishers cheered and chanted for Prince Phillip who was in hospital. Nobody can say the public don’t care.

Street parties have united communities around the UK.

Street parties have united communities around the UK.

Today. The imminent arrival of a new Royal family member. The Duchess of Cambridge was taken into hospital, in the early stages of labour. Never has there been so much excitement surrounding a royal occasion. The media have been camped outside St Mary’s for over a week, whilst for months every step of Catherine’s pregnancy has been documented by television cameras and followers. The joy, happiness and overwhelming celebration that a child brings will be experienced by the Royal couple as well as those who have followed every step of the way. These expressions of love and pride have almost certainly been reflected by the media. News programmes are leading with good news for a change, as are newspapers, and social networks are awash with good messages. Again, not just Britain, the world is united at the good fortunes of The Royal Family.

So why have the family proved so popular in recent years? You could stem back to the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Strong criticism of The Royal Family, in particular The Queen, was rife, because of the responses (or lack of them) to the death of the Princess. An emotional Queen made a heartfelt statement from the balcony of Buckingham Palace, once returning to a grief-stricken London. Criticised for not supporting her public led to anger. However, Margaret Rhodes, one of The Queen’s closest friends, stated that she left London because of the overwhelming concern she had for her grandchildren, Prince William and Harry. The Queen did win back the affection of the public, by coming out to view the floral tribute that surrounded the Buckingham Palace gates. You could say that these darkest days of Her Majesty’s reign transformed her from a monarch to an ordinary Grandmother, responsible for the care of her Grandchildren following the death of their mother.

The death of Princess Diana led to a turnaround for the Royals.

The death of Princess Diana led to a turnaround for the Royals.

It took tragic circumstances to turn around the face of The Royal Family. Overwhelming sympathy from the public for two young boys who had lost their mother has continued well into the 21st century. The Queen is now in touch with her thousands of supporters across the UK and around the globe. The rise of social networks and popular film culture have led to new depictions of the monarch and her family. The 2006 film, The Queen, starring Dame Helen Mirren, was an instant hit, portraying in tiny detail the days before and after the death of Diana. Perhaps an important medium to reach the mass audiences. On Facebook The Queen has her own account, whilst unusually humourous parody accounts exist on Twitter. There is room for everyone to enjoy The Royal Family in whatever form they like.

The Queen, as head of the state and undoubtedly the head of the family, has become somewhat more relaxed and publicly more expressive. In 2012, her cameo appearance in a James Bond Sketch, during the London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, proved a hit with viewers on TV and online. Danny Boyle, creative director of the Opening Ceremony, said The Queen had been positive towards the idea. In the weeks prior to the birth of her third Great-Grandchild, Her Majesty responded quite humorously to a young girl asking when the baby was due. In a natural response, The Queen said “I don’t think I mind, I would very much like it to arrive. I’m going on holiday.” The comments prompted laughter from the crowd and The Queen herself, yet secretly you and I know she has been anxiously waiting.

Whatever you might think of The Royal Family, love them or loathe them, it can’t be ignored the impact they have on ordinary lives. For the veterans Her Majesty meets on Maundy Thursday to the little girl who asked her about the royal baby, anyone who has the opportunity to come into contact with Her Majesty and The Royal Family cherish their experiences for a very long time. A transformed, modern and “down to earth” family have transformed the public attitude to the monarch and her family. A real testament to a united Britain.

Why Costa is the real winner at Media City

A refreshing backdrop for Media City UK.

A refreshing backdrop for Media City UK.

It has been just over two years since the start of the march to the Media City UK in Salford. The first BBC departments moved from London to the North West in February 2010, followed by the remaining departments in the following months and years. The BBC move is complete and Media City now homes ITV Granada, The University of Salford, children’s programmes and soon the new Coronation Street. But from what I can gather, a chain of a popular coffee shop franchise is the real winner.

Whenever you think of Media City, you don’t automatically consider the huge scale the project has actually been. Many might think the ‘beeb’ paid a few builders to erect some fancy buildings and moved in within a few months. Wrong. The site, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, had been derelict since the closure of the dockyards in the early 1980’s. Peel Holdings bought the plot of land and did no more. In 2003, the BBC announced it was considering moving crucial departments away from London to Manchester. Talks began about constructing a new “media village” in collaboration with ITV Granada, the North West’s strand of ITV. A number of possible new sites were considered, but it was Salford Quays was chosen. The area, over years, has seen considerable development; The Lowry Centre, office blocks and museums had already started to revive the former industrial setting.

The move to Salford was confirmed in 2006. Around 1,800 jobs would be relocated, according to the then BBC Director General, Mark Thompson. Construction on the new site began in 2007, with the announcement in the same year that departments including BBC Sport, CBBC, Radio Five Live and BBC Breakfast would all make the journey to the northern capital.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the attractive site. Media City UK boasts buildings that house the production departments of key BBC programmes, whilst The Studios contain several high definition studios and the BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra. Other buildings include modern apartments, flexible office space for media and creative industries and The Orange Tower which houses The University of Salford and ITV. The site is very impressive. The architecture and abstract design of the buildings is quite an eye-opener. The ‘airy’ and open feel of the village is very different to the brick and mortar that once occupied Oxford Road in the heart of Manchester. The “media village” feels iconic and a part of new media history. But it is easy to see why people don’t appreciate the site.

Some residents have objected to the site being built, whilst others have relished in its good fortune. Some jobs have been created over the years including in the construction of the site, whilst inside the companies that now occupy the buildings, jobs have been offered for local residents and apprenticeship schemes to aid to the young members of the Salford community. However, a recent committee hearing told how just 39 new recruits out of 350 jobs going were from the Salford area. Whilst this news may cause an upset between the media complex and local residents, it is clear that Media City is more than just a hub housing some of the nations best known programmes. It is a vital organ for the regenerated Salford community. Since it’s construction and opening, Media City has brought a new wave of tourists to the former docks; the sector seeing a boost in visitors for the seventh consecutive year. But whilst the construction has been fairly speedy, the cost of relocating existing staff has angered licence fee payers.

The recent closure of the BBC’s iconic Television Centre was reported as being a part of huge savings for corporation. Departments including BBC News and radio moved to the New Broadcasting House in Central London, whilst other departments had moved to Salford, Glasgow and Cardiff, amongst other areas. The Public Accounts Committee recently grilled BBC executives about the cost of the relocation for the core departments. The top bosses at the beeb continue to insist that the entire project came in under budget, but there are still questions over the relocation packages offered to staff, some of which had to move home from London to the Northern region. BBC trustee Anthony Fry admitted that there would be “raised eyebrows” over the pay of £1million to just 11 staff, whilst the cost of relocation for around 900 staff had nearly toppled £25million. Whilst it may have been a cheaper option to move North, it is clear that the cost to the licence fee payer is great and it’s unlikely that the packages paid out will be repaid in a couple of years.

Tony Morris and Lucy Meacock look above Media City in the Granada Reports studio.

Tony Morris and Lucy Meacock look above Media City in the Granada Reports studio.

But what about programmes themselves. Do they feel any different? No. Whilst ITV’s Granada Reports is now broadcast from a new state of the art studio in The Orange Tower, the programme still feels like it should – a regional news programme, with a live backdrop of the piazza and canal at Media City. Production at ITV is completed on the seven floors that the corporation occupies in the building, so content is unlikely to feel any different. Even the new Coronation Street set, currently being built within the complex is an exact replica of the former set in Quay Street. Viewers won’t notice a difference. Over at the BBC, just a few hundred yards away, the story is very much the same. BBC Sport broadcasts from a new newsroom with no onscreen indication that it is close to Manchester city centre. Nor does Match of the Day, broadcast from Quay House, which feels more like an evolution of the previous theme. CBBC and Cbeebies feel identical to the previous studios, as does BBC Breakfast which could still be confused as to being in London. As for radio, surely nobody would notice the difference? For viewers, content remains the same, high quality broadcasts that have always been provided. The base for the actual production teams is now just in a new location. Costing less than operating from the heart of London. Good move.

The BBC has made a good deal in suggesting a “media village” collaboration because it’s one of a kind in the UK. The cost has run into millions and to the average viewer they won’t even notice the difference. Bu the setting, atmosphere and entire surroundings of Media City feel pleasant and vibrant. Media and creativity at its highest level. The build probably has been worth it. Even on my first visit I was taken back by the grand scale of the buildings and the knowledge of what was being produced and what will be produced in the future. Media City is more than what meets the eye. It is a community bridge and an environment for learning and development. What is certain is that thousands of tourists will continue to flock, year in year out, to visit the complex.

Costa Coffee hosts tourists and staff alike.

Costa Coffee hosts tourists and staff alike.

But out of all of the names who are on site, there is only one winner. Costa Coffee. A small branch squeezed between the BBC buildings and The Studios. For the visitors, studio audiences and tourists, the branch is ideal for a snack or drink to break the day. For the staff of Media City, including journalists, presenters and production staff, the shop is a way of getting out of the office for a light refreshment. And on the odd occasion, you may just spot some famous faces having a coffee before filming. An ideal location for an ideal chain to bring tourists, enthusiasts and professionals all into one place. A mirror reflection of what Media City UK stands for.