Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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GB News to play the national anthem every morning

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GB News has announced it will start broadcasting the national anthem at the beginning of its live programming every day.

The channel has said a rendition of God Save The Queen will air across GB News Television and GB News Radio every day at 5.59am, starting tomorrow (January 18).

Editorial director Michael Booker has said it will be a “welcome addition” to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.

Mr. Booker added:

“We always promised we would celebrate what’s good about our country when we can, and the Queen’s 70-year reign is definitely worth celebrating.

“We’ve chosen an uplifting instrumental version which, for our television viewers, will feature stunning scenes from across the UK.

“We think it’s a lovely way to start the day.”

In the days before BBC News 24, BBC1 closed down overnight with an announcer bidding the nation goodnight over the channel clock. The BBC1 globe symbol would then appear together with a rendition of the National Anthem before fading to black. On the 3 October 1997, God Save The Queen was played this way on BBC1 for the last time.

The GB News announcement comes after Andrew Rosindell MP recently urged the BBC to return to playing the National Anthem on television to increase ‘unity and pride in our nation.’

This was met with support from the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries MP who could be heard saying “fantastic” in the House of Commons and Culture Minister Chris Philp MP who told fellow MPs:

“We fully support the signing of the national anthem and other expressions of patriotism – including the flying of the Union Jack.”

GB News, which launched in June with seven daily shows, has been expanding its output and recently launched a new radio station, GB News Radio.

The channel have also recently acquired several new presenters, including veteran broadcaster Eamonn Holmes who is co-hosting the new show breakfast programme with Isabel Webster.

Alex Philips who hosts ‘We Need To Talk About…’ weekdays between 2pm – 3pm is also a popular rising star on the channel.

An example of BBC1 closedown in 1985:

London named best city in the world for young people to make their name

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The UK capital has come top of another rankings list and this time it’s a world ranking run by Forbes magazine.

Using the Forbes 30 Under 30 lists from Europe, North America, Russia, Asia and Africa, London has been named as the best city in the world to be a young entrepreneur.

Despite the US being the most popular in providing Forbes Under 30 candidates, business comparison platform Bionic found London to be the most popular city for young entrepreneurs to succeed in.

Analysing the rankings Bionic found London was the best city in the world for entrepreneurs and other achievers aged under 30 to set up a new successful business, become inventors, become successful actors and become world-ranked athletes.

The Forbes 30 under 30 rankings looked at the 30 top regional achievers aged under 30 who had either established the most successful businesses or were recognised for notable achievements in their region. London came top with 115 listed. New York came second with 106. San Francisco was third on 88. Then came Moscow (51), Los Angeles (39) and Stockholm (17). Berlin was eighth with 10, behind Toronto on 16.

Meanwhile, best countries in the world for young entrepreneurs to work in were the USA (41 per cent), United Kingdom came a highly respectable second (14 per cent), Russia third (10 per cent), India fourth (7 per cent) and China fifth (2 per cent), according to the Forbes data.

Some other fun facts from the research in Europe found:

  • 37% of young entrepreneurs were female
  • About 62% young entrepreneurs are male
  • 50% of all European young entrepreneurs were from the UK
  • 39% were from London
  • 85>% were university-educated
  • UK and London were the most popular places for every European industry
  • After the UK, Germany was second most popular place for young entrepreneurs (7%), followed by Netherlands and Sweden (4%)
  • Average age for success in Europe is 27 

Well done young Britons!

Naz Panju: Are online lessons going to be a permanent shift at UK universities?

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Students in Manchester protest at the lack of face-to-face teaching with a reference to the £9,250 annual cost of tuition. Photo credit: Naz Pandu.

The Ultimate Corona-Virus Excuse.

By Naz Panju MPhil (cantab).

It has been two years since the pandemic hit us and many businesses and institutions are bracing themselves for further variants and outbreaks.

Indeed, many believe that life will not go back to what it used to be with the virus looking like being part of our lives for the next five years at least.

Alternatives to lockdowns are being considered across the world and there are big calls to ensure schools are not hit with any more closures going forward. The pandemic is here to stay and we must learn to live with it. 

Yet, in many of our most prestigious UK universities we see the continued use of online lectures.

Whilst this started out as the most obvious route to keep universities open, some fear that this is now being braced as a permanent shift and feature in leading UK Universities. It is obviously more cost effective and more convenient for lecturers to record their lecture – they can use it again rather than repeat it across subjects if needed and again the following year too. Not to mention the reduced costs of using lecture rooms, utilities, cleaning bills etc. There seems to be no coherent practice followed amongst universities, each following their own model and students finding out only at the start of each term what they can expect.

Recently Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi cautioned universities against the move to online lectures and this was also supported by MPs such as Robert Halfon. The news was met with relief by many students and parents who have had little option but to accept the status quo or write to the University Vice Chancellors and get standard replies back with no change in sight. 

Students in the UK pay £9250 annual fees – which the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has said remains the highest among industrialised countries.

For many this will be the largest debt of their lives and one which many will never be able to afford to pay back. Further questioning the value for money they are getting when the lectures are then delivered online. Many parents and students are questioning how they can be charged the same amount, for a lower service, for not one, but going into the third year in some instances.

Many question how teaching a degree course can be done effectively using a recorded lecture?

Courses like psychology, Medicine and even Law are being taught online bringing the long-term credibility of these careers into question. Furthermore, would it lead to lower student performance at the end of this fiasco? In an age where the UK is crying out for more apprenticeships and hands on experience to add to our workforce we are backtracking to recorded lectures as a form of delivery with little or no hands on teaching /experience. 

Students go to universities to access world renowned lecturers, state of the art lecture rooms, facilities that are the pride of the UK Higher Education offering. They go to university to make friends, interact with others, debate their ideas in academic settings & build social networks that will serve them through their lives.

But when many courses are resorting to you-tube recorded lectures accessed from students bedrooms and a program that will end with not making friends, little access to their tutors and no social interaction from their courses after two full years at university, then it is easy to see why many are questioning the value for money. And I am not going to even start touching on the impact of mental health on a young person sitting isolated in their halls of residence, dismayed at what their once in a life-time university experience is turning out to be. How long this will go on for?

We then have the case of International students.

If you think £9250 per annum is expensive for a British student, the very same course (you-tube recording and all) costs International students an eye-watering £12250 – £18000 per annum for a science based course.

Many of these students come from families that are not fantastically rich but from families who like their British counterparts are investing in their children. With savings or loans that will take years to pay back if ever. How can we justify giving them a recording of a lecture with very little access to their tutors and little hope of integrating into UK life or making British friends?

Where is the added value of being mentality challenged by your tutors, critical thinking academia brings and debating your viewpoints with your fellow class mates?

What remains the point of coming to the UK to study if it means accessing online lectures from their bedroom with none of these other value added propositions in place?

UK Universities are the pride of our country and an institution we should all be very proud of. We rank amongst the top of the world.

You see this even more obviously when you work with foreign students that can study anywhere in the world but choose to invest in UK universities instead. We need to maintain the sanctity of these institutions and preserve what they offer and stand for. The threat of this new modus operandi fills me with dread as I see not only British students but International students too questioning the value for money and experience they will get if this form of teaching and University experience is normalised. 

With more creative thinking from the greatest minds in our country, is it not time for UK universities to get more creative in their methods of dealing with this pandemic?

Some Universities are completely f2f and have set the example that it is indeed possible. If lecture halls have too many students in them when full, then deliver them in smaller groups with social distancing – maybe even with masked students. Record them at the same time for students that are infected with the virus or are vulnerable as the exception for listening in online. These are just my solutions – our world leading professors and researchers can come up with far more creative ways I would like to think. Yes it costs more, but I cannot think of any institution that is coming out of this pandemic profiting from a lower service for the same money – and UK Universities should not be either. 

This surely cannot be the best of what our world class institutions, the greatest minds in our countries and most reputable institutions have resorted to after this pandemic? 

Naz Panju MPhil (cantab) is Director of BCIE Ltd – Global & Largest Education Recruitment Agency that brings in students from West Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East into the UK, Conservative Friends of Education Head of Policy, National Group Leader Education for Conservative Policy Forum.

To join Conservative Friends of Education: Click here

TV licence fee frozen for two years

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"The BBC must support people at a time when their finances are strained, make savings and efficiencies, and use the billions in public funding it receives to deliver for viewers, listeners and users" - Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. Photo credit: PA Wire/PA Images. Photo: House of Commons

The TV licence fee has been frozen for two years as the government moves to support families in the face of rising living costs.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries today announced the fee will remain at £159 until 2024 and then rise in line with inflation for the following four years.

The plans for the new licence fee settlement cover a period of six years and will take effect from 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2028.

The settlement will give the corporation the financial certainty it needs and a clear funding stream to deliver effectively on the Mission and Public Purposes set out in its Royal Charter while protecting households at a time when many are facing financial pressures.

It means the BBC is expected to receive around £3.7 billion in licence fee funding in 2022 and £23 billion over the duration of the settlement period. The BBC also receives more than £90 million per year from the government to support the BBC World Service.

The Welsh language broadcaster S4C plays a unique role promoting the Welsh language, and supporting our wider public service broadcasting landscape. It will receive a similar settlement and is also allocated an extra £7.5 million a year to develop its digital offering. This will help it reach more Welsh language speakers including younger audiences.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said:

At a time when families are facing a sharp increase in their living costs we simply could not justify asking hard-working households to pay even more for their TV licence.

This is a fair settlement for the BBC and for licence fee payers. The BBC must support people at a time when their finances are strained, make savings and efficiencies, and use the billions in public funding it receives to deliver for viewers, listeners and users.

The BBC’s Royal Charter sets out that the current licence fee model should remain in place until the Charter concludes on 31 December 2027 and the Culture Secretary is required to set out funding for the corporation for the remainder of the period.

The Charter requires the Culture Secretary to assess the BBC’s commercial income and activities and the level of funding required for effective fulfilment of its Mission and Public Purposes.

Following a period of negotiation she has concluded the settlement must shield licence fee payers from the current inflationary pressures for the next two years while providing billions of pounds and secure funding for the BBC for the next six years.

She believes the settlement strikes the right balance between protecting households and allowing broadcasters to deliver their vital public responsibilities while also encouraging them to make further savings and efficiencies.

Using current economic estimates it is expected that under this settlement the cost of the licence fee will increase by only around £3.50 in 2024 to £162.50. While inflation can change, by the final year of the settlement it is anticipated the licence fee will cost less than £175.

Further government support

The government has committed to support the BBC in what is a fast-changing broadcasting landscape by more than double the borrowing limit of the BBC’s commercial arm to £750 million.

This will enable the BBC to fund a commercial growth strategy which can benefit the creative economy across the UK. The UK’s creative industries are a vital part of the economy and in 2019 contributed £115.9 billion to the country.

Next steps

The licence fee settlement is only one step in the government’s roadmap for reform of the BBC.

Later this year, as part of the Mid-Term Review of the BBC’s Charter, the government will start to consider the overall governance and regulation of the BBC, whether the current arrangements are working effectively and whether reforms are necessary.

Following the BBC’s 10-point action plan on impartiality and editorial standards in response to the Serota Review, the Mid-Term Review will also look at whether the plan has contributed to improving the internal governance of the organisation.

Looking further into the future and, in light of the huge changes in the broadcasting landscape over the past decade with the arrival of streaming and video on demand, the government will also separately consider whether the licence fee will remain a viable funding model for the BBC. No decision on the future of the licence fee has been made.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace: The situation in Ukraine

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Image of the Secretary of State for Defence The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, seen here in Olsztyn, Poland. Photographer: PO Phot Dave Jenkins. UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021 - MOD News Licence Conservative Post.

By Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace.

Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace discusses NATO, Ukraine and Russia.

I have lost count of how many times recently I have to had to explain the meaning of the English term “straw man” to my European allies.

That is because the best living, breathing “straw man” at the moment is the Kremlin’s claim to be under threat from NATO. In recent weeks the Russian Defence Minister’s comment that the US is “preparing a provocation with chemical components in eastern Ukraine” has made that “straw man” even bigger.

It is obviously the Kremlin’s desire that we all engage with this bogus allegation, instead of challenging the real agenda of the President of the Russian Federation. An examination of the facts rapidly puts a match to the allegations against NATO.

First, NATO is, to its core, defensive in nature. At the heart of the organisation is Article 5 that obliges all members to come to the aid of a fellow member if it is under attack. No ifs and no buts. Mutual self-defence is NATO’s cornerstone. This obligation protects us all. Allies from as far apart as Turkey and Norway; or as close as Latvia and Poland all benefit from the pact and are obliged to respond. It is a truly defensive alliance.

Second, former Soviet states have not been expanded ‘into’ by NATO, but joined at their own request. The Kremlin attempts to present NATO as a Western plot to encroach upon its territory, but in reality the growth in Alliance membership is the natural response of those states to its own malign activities and threats.

Third, the allegation that NATO is seeking to encircle the Russian Federation is without foundation. Only five of the thirty allies neighbour Russia, with just 1/16th of its borders abutted by NATO. If the definition of being surrounded is 6% of your perimeter being blocked then no doubt the brave men who fought at Arnhem or Leningrad in the Second World War would have something strong to say about it.

It is not the disposition of NATO forces but the appeal of its values that actually threatens the Kremlin. Just as we know that its actions are really about what President Putin’s interpretation of history is and his unfinished ambitions for Ukraine.

We know that because last summer he published, via the official Government website, his own article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”. I urge you to read it, if you have time, because while it is comprehensive on his arguments it is short on accuracy and long on contradictions.

We should all worry because what flows from the pen of President Putin himself is a seven-thousand-word essay that puts ethnonationalism at the heart of his ambitions. Not the narrative now being peddled. Not the straw man of NATO encroachment. It provides the skewed and selective reasoning to justify, at best, the subjugation of Ukraine and at worse the forced unification of that sovereign country.

President Putin’s article completely ignores the wishes of the citizens of Ukraine, while evoking that same type of ethnonationalism which played out across Europe for centuries and still has the potential to awaken the same destructive forces of ancient hatred. Readers will not only be shocked at the tone of the article but they will also be surprised at how little NATO is mentioned. After all, is NATO ‘expansionism’ not the fountain of all the Kremlin’s concerns? In fact, just a single paragraph is devoted to NATO.

The essay makes in it three claims. One: that the West seeks to use division to “rule” Russia. Two: that anything other than a single nation of Great Russia, Little Russia and White Russia (Velikorussians, Malorussians, Belorussians) in the image advanced in the 17th Century is an artificial construct and defies the desires of a single people, with a single language and church. Third, that anyone who disagrees does so out of a hatred or phobia of Russia.

We can dispense with the first allegation. No one wants to rule Russia. It is stating the obvious that just like any other state it is for the citizens of a country to determine their own future. Russia’s own lessons from such conflicts as Chechnya must surely be that ethnic and sectarian conflicts cost thousands of innocent lives with the protagonists getting bogged down in decades of strife.

As for Ukraine, Russia itself recognised the sovereignty of it as an independent country and guaranteed its territorial integrity, not just by signing the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 but also its Friendship Treaty with Ukraine itself in 1997. Yet it is the Kremlin not the West that set about magnifying divisions in that country and several others in the Europe. It has been well documented the numerous efforts of the GRU and other Russian agencies to interfere in democratic elections and domestic disputes is well documented. The divide and rule cap sits prettiest on Moscow’s head not NATO’s.

Probably the most important and strongly believed claim that Ukraine is Russia and Russia is Ukraine is not quite as presented. Ukraine has been separate from Russia for far longer in its history than it was ever united. Secondly the charge that all peoples in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are descendants of the ‘Ancient Rus’ and are therefore somehow all Russians. But in reality, according to historian Professor Andrew Wilson in his excellent essay for RUSI entitled “Russia and Ukraine: ‘One People’ as Putin Claims?” they are at best “kin but not the same people”. In the same way Britain around 900AD consisted of Mercia, Wessex, York, Strathclyde and other pre-modern kingdoms, but it was a civic nation of many peoples, origins and ethnicities that eventually formed the United Kingdom.

If you start and stop your view of Russian history between 1654 and 1917 then you can fabricate a case for a more expansive Russia, perhaps along the lines of the motto of the Russian Tsar before the Russian Empire “Sovereign of all of Rus: the Great, the Little, and the White” – Russia, Ukraine and Belarus respectively. And crucially you must also forget the before and after in history. You must ignore the existence of the Soviet Union, breaking of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty, and the occupation of Crimea. Far more than footnotes in history, I am sure you will agree.

Ironically, President Putin himself admits in his essay that “things change: countries and communities are no exception. Of course, some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment. How should we treat that? There is only one answer: with respect!” However, he then goes on to discard some of those “historical circumstances” to fit his own claims.

Dubious to say the least, and not in anyway a perspective that justifies both the occupation of Crimea (in the same way Russia occupied Crimea in 1783 in defiance of the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji in 1774) or any further invasion of modern Ukraine, as an independent sovereign country.

The last charge against the West by many in the Russian Government is that those who disagree with the Kremlin are somehow Russophobes. Leaving aside that GRU officers deployed nerve agents on British streets or that cyber hacking and targeted assassinations emanate from the Russian state, nothing could be further than the truth.

Russia and the UK share a deep and often mutually beneficial history. Our allegiances helped to finally defeat Napoleon and later Hitler. Outside of conflict, across the centuries we shared technology, medicine and culture. During the 18th Century Russia and Britain were deeply tied. Between 1704 to 1854, from age of Peter the Great through Catherine the Great and well into the 19th Century the British were to be found as admirals, generals, surgeons, and architects at the highest level of the Russian Court. The father of the Russian Navy – one Samuel Greig – was born in Inverkeithing in Fife.

That shared admiration is still true today. The British Government is not in dispute with Russia and the Russian people – far from it – but it does take issue with the malign activity of the Kremlin.

So, if one cold January or February night Russian Military forces once more cross into sovereign Ukraine, ignore the ‘straw man’ narratives and ‘false flag’ stories of NATO aggression and remember the President of Russia’s own words in that essay from last summer. Remember it and ask yourself what it means, not just for Ukraine, but for all of us in Europe. What it means the next time…

New research demonstrates the value of defence in boosting UK prosperity

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Photo: SAC Iwan Lewis RAF – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

BAE Systems supported 143,000 British jobs and contributed £10.1 billion to the UK’s GDP in 2020. The engineering giant spent £3.8 billion with 5,000 UK suppliers, invested £1.1 billion and exported £3.9 billion of goods and services.

  • contributed £10.1 billion to the UK’s GDP in 2020, contributing a total of £350 for every £100 supported across the UK’s economy
  • exported £3.9bn of goods and services, equivalent to 0.7% of UK exports that year and contributed £2 billion to the UK’s balance of payments
  • supported 143,000 full time jobs across the UK including 35,300 at BAE Systems itself. Of these 72% of employees work in engineering roles
  • spent £3.8 billion with 5,000 UK suppliers, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs
  • made a total tax contribution of £2.7 billion including more than £700 million paid directly by the Company
  • invested £1.1 billion in technology, research and development on behalf of customers and partners
  • was highly productive – with each employee contributing £83,000 to the UK economy – 29% higher than the national average
  • supported deprived areas – employing 14,700 full time workers and spending £700 million with supplier companies in the bottom fifth of the government’s Indices for Deprivation for each of England, Scotland and Wales in 2020

Research by Oxford Economics has revealed the extent to which BAE Systems contributes to the UK economy through jobs, research & development and national supply chains.

In addition to developing skills and technologies critical for the defence of the nation, the research highlights that BAE Systems’ operations are helping to drive increased productivity and support the Government’s levelling up agenda. 

The company’s significant UK footprint across more than 50 sites and extensive supply chain mean that in 2020, it supported 143,000 jobs across the country and contributed more than £10 billion to UK GDP, equivalent to 0.5% of the domestic economy. 

Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive said:

In every region of the UK, Defence is driving prosperity, protecting the economy, providing jobs and building skills. Our sector not only supports our national defence and security, but also provides unparalleled economic value which drives the UK’s prosperity. The investment we make in highly skilled jobs, research & development and our extensive supply chain supports thousands of companies and tens of thousands of people and the communities in which they live.

Jeremy Quin MP, Minister for Defence Procurement said:

“In every region of the UK, Defence is driving prosperity, protecting the economy, providing jobs and building skills. BAE Systems is a leading light in that progress, helping us level up the country by supporting tens of thousands of jobs as we build back better from COVID-19. Through the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, we are deepening the relationship between government, industry and academia to bolster British innovation.”

Data published in the ‘BAE Systems’ contribution to the UK economy’ report, shows that in addition to the Company’s own 35,300 highly skilled UK employees, nearly 59,000 jobs are supported across the supply chain with more than 49,000 jobs supported through employee and supplier spending. 

The Company has 5,000 UK suppliers from Scotland to the south west of England who benefitted from £3.8 billion worth of spend in 2020.

With more than 40% of its employees based in the UK’s most deprived local authorities, BAE Systems also spent £700 million with companies in these areas, making a significant impact to the local communities where it operates and playing a key role in ‘levelling up’. 

More than two-thirds of the Company’s UK employees are in engineering-related roles and the research found that the highly skilled and technical nature of their work results in an average productivity of £83,000 per employee. That’s 17% higher than the UK manufacturing sector and almost 30% higher than the average across the whole economy. 

To ensure a robust pipeline of talent for the future, the Company invested £93 million in skills, training and development activities in 2020. That included more than 2,000 apprentices and nearly 600 graduates in training across a wide range of roles from electronics and electrical, structural, software and research engineers, to manufacturing, operations and project management.

Continuing its support for young people, BAE Systems will this year recruit almost 1,700 apprentices and graduates across the country – 25% up on last year and the largest intake it has offered in a single year. As well as investing in people, BAE Systems continues to invest in research and development, self-funding more than £100 million of research in the UK and being the ninth largest patent applicant in the UK.

The Company also delivered more than £1.1 billion of research activity on behalf of the UK Government, helping the country to drive technological innovation. 

The global nature of BAE Systems, which has operations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and the US means that the Company was able to export £3.9 billion worth of goods and services from the UK – equivalent to 0.7% of all UK exports in 2020.

To find out more click here.

British Army soldiers make United States Signal Corps history

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Photo credit: British Army

For the first time ever, the United States Signal Corps Regimental Association (SCRA) has awarded three British Army soldiers with the coveted Bronze Order of Mercury award.

In a ground-breaking event, SCRA formally recognised three Royal Signals soldiers as the first ever British Army recipients of the Bronze Order of Mercury at Blandford Camp, Dorset.

In a small ceremony Major Michael O’Hara, Warrant Officer Class 2 Christopher McGuire and Staff Sergeant Colin Jowett were congratulated for their integrity, moral character and professionalism whilst contributing significantly to the U.S. Signal Corps and the shared signal community.

The soldiers were selected in part for their long history of contribution and excellence in service to the Royal Signals. All recipients were engaged in coalition operations or worked directly with U.S. forces, integrating communications, and enabling the vital link between forces. 

Staff Sergeant Colin Jowett, serving with 13 Signal Regiment based at the home of the Royal Corps of Signals was one of those honoured by the Americans:

“To be recognised with such a prestigious award like the Bronze Order of Mercury was an honour and a complete surprise, I can’t thank the U.S. Signal Corps Regimental Association enough.” \\

Photo credit: British Army

Acknowledged for his work as a Legacy Blue System Engineer on a project to introduce a new Battlefield Management Application to Tri-Service Communications, he said:

“It took about 6 months from planning to execution during lockdown; we got the application to a point that it was used on Coalition Warrior Interoperability eXperiment 21, NATOs largest Interoperability exercise, and tested extensively on Joint Warrior Assessment 21.

“I had never been given any kind of commendation during 23 years of service and all I was doing was trying to help make something new work. I enjoyed the challenges with the new technology and the collaborative remote working with Elbit Israel who had designed the application we were working on.”

Each service person not only worked at the edge of the tactical and strategic spaces, pioneering new technologies and innovation, but each also gave back to the Royal Signals and U.S. Signal Corps both as formal instructors at the Initial Trade Training establishment, 11 (Royal School of Signals) Signal Regiment, and by providing direct training and mentorship to the services they were deployed with. 

Since the award’s inception in 1989 less than one percent of U.S. regimental members have received this honour. The award is typically bestowed by a member of the SCRA, a member of distinction of the Signal Regiment, or a previous recipient of the award.

The Royal Signals are leaders in IT, Cyber and Telecommunications, providing battle winning communications to every part of the Army. Founded in 1920 the Corps has deployed on every operation the Army has been involved in.

Photo credit: British Army

Source: British Army

COP President Alok Sharma visits Egypt and UAE to build on momentum from COP26

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COP President Alok Sharma in Egypt with Ambassador Gareth Bayley for discussions on the climate agenda in the year ahead and on the road to #COP27. Photo credit: UK Gov / Alok Sharma

COP President Alok Sharma has concluded a constructive visit to Egypt and will now travel to the United Arab Emirates, with the countries hosting the next two UN Climate Summits.

These are Mr Sharma’s first visits following COP26 in Glasgow, underlining the importance of building strong partnerships with the COP27 and COP28 hosts. This will culminate in a meeting between Egypt, UAE and UK in Abu Dhabi, the first of a series of engagements between the countries ahead of COP27 and COP28.

Whilst in Cairo, Mr Sharma met a wide range of Government Ministers, including Prime Minister Madbouly and Egypt’s COP President-Designate, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Together they issued a UK-Egypt Joint Statement which affirms their joint commitment to accelerating the fight against climate change during this critical decade.

They also agreed to continue building a partnership in 2022 that aligns priorities and plans, secures the legacy of the Glasgow Climate Pact and delivers impact and progress on the Paris Agreement goals, in Sharm el Sheikh at COP27. This means ensuring all parties meet their commitments across mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance.

The COP President also announced the expansion of the UK Government’s ‘Climate Finance Accelerator’ Programme to Egypt. Already successfully operating in six countries, the initiative will provide capacity-building support to promising climate projects in Egypt so that they become more bankable and appealing to investors, and can secure funding more readily.

On his final day in Egypt, Mr Sharma discussed the role of the private sector in building on COP26 to achieve success at COP27, meeting with business leaders pursuing green initiatives in Egypt.

COP President Alok Sharma said:

COP26 was a historic, collective achievement. We kept the goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees in reach and made progress on finance for climate action, adaptation and loss and damage, which will benefit countries across both Africa and the MENA region.

I look forward to working with Egypt and UAE as hosts of COP27 and COP28 respectively on the climate agenda. The UK will give its full support to Egypt in delivering an ambitious COP this November which ensures urgently delivering for those most vulnerable to climate change.

We all need to make further progress in 2022 and especially on delivering the $100 billion of finance and addressing investment needs in the most climate vulnerable countries. This will build on the Glasgow Climate Pact and secure a better future for us all.

An important focus for COP27 and COP28 will be the completion of the first Global Stocktake. This will be a key part of assessing progress made by nations in implementing the Paris Agreement and setting out a clear roadmap towards achieving it. This formally began at COP26 and will conclude at COP28

The UK is keen to share experiences of hosting a large international summit with Egypt and the UAE and the COP President has highlighted the COVID-19 testing procedures for providing a safe experience for all delegates at the recent COP26 gathering and collaboration with civil society.

The COP President will now travel to the United Arab Emirates to see preparations for COP28 that will be staged in 2023 and will meet key government ministers, including the recently appointed Minister of Climate Change and Environment, HE Mariam Al Mheiri and UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change HE Dr. Sultan Al Jaber.

Mr Sharma has been invited to take part in Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which gets underway tomorrow (Monday 17 January). The COP President will be involved in helping the UAE to illustrate its intentions for hosting COP28 and delivering on their climate commitments made over the last 12 months.

Hosting the next two COPs in the Middle East and North Africa will enable the region to showcase to the world their innovative and profitable solutions which include renewable and low carbon energy, zero emissions transport, the role of nature based solutions and the role of smart agriculture.

For example, the UAE continues to break records by reducing the costs of solar energy year after year and is delivering energy security through nuclear energy, all of which makes clean energy a more affordable option than fossil fuels.

British Ambassador to Egypt, Gareth Bayley said:

I am delighted that Mr Sharma has visited Egypt so soon after COP26. The strong bilateral relationship between the UK and Egypt will help sustain global momentum on climate change. I am particularly pleased that Mr Sharma launched our ‘Climate Finance Accelerator’ programme, which I hope will generate a series of inspiring low carbon investment opportunities in Egypt. It is this combination of public and private sector action which will help us avert a climate disaster.

Local delivery is central to the CFA approach and the Embassy team is looking forward to working with the local delivery partners once they have been appointed.

British Ambassador to the UAE, Patrick Moody said:

The visit of COP26 President Alok Sharma to the UAE reinforces the commitments that the UK and UAE have made to address global challenges. Climate change is a central pillar of the UK and UAE bilateral partnership and was a key ambition of the ‘Partnership for The Future’ that was launched in London by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in September 2021.

Together, we are already delivering solutions to achieve ‘net zero’ through bilateral trade and investment in clean growth and technology. Our two countries will continue to cooperate as current COP President and future hosts of this critical international forum to make sure that the global community delivers on the ambitious commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow.

NHS launches landmark mental health campaign with ‘Help!’ from The Beatles

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Today, the NHS will launch a new landmark campaign using the iconic Beatles song ‘Help!” to get the nation taking better care of their mental health.

Backed by some of the UK’s biggest artists, the campaign will encourage people struggling with their mental health to seek support.

‘Help!’, written by John Lennon in 1964, was credited by the superstar songwriter as one of his most honest and genuine songs and with lyrics like ‘Help me if you can I’m feeling down’, the song is the ideal soundtrack to get others thinking about their mental wellbeing.

Since the start of the pandemic some 2.3 million people have come forward for NHS talking therapies, but with new figures out today showing that over 50% of people were concerned about their mental health last year – and around half also experiencing stress, anxiety, low mood or depression, and the majority not seeking professional help – many more could benefit.

The NHS is encouraging anybody experiencing anxiety, depression, or other common mental health concerns to come forward and see how talking therapies can help them.

NHS mental health talking therapies are a confidential service run by fully trained experts and can be accessed by self-referral or through your GP practice.

And thanks to Sony Music and Apple Corps, who have donated the lyrics and melody of the Beatles classic to the campaign, top names from the UK music industry including Craig David, Girls Aloud’s Nicola Roberts, Tom Grennan, Laura Mvula, Ella Henderson and Max George, will launch the campaign with a speaking rendition of the song – encouraging more people to seek ‘Help!’.

Speaking of her experiences, Nicola Roberts of Girls Aloud praised the impact therapy made on her life.

She said:

“I’m someone that has benefited hugely from talking therapy. I think there is such a taboo around it that people almost feel like they’ve failed or they weren’t strong enough to figure out a situation by themselves. But if you’re feeling like you can’t see the wood from the trees or light at the end of the tunnel, it’s imperative to reach out because you can’t always do it alone.

“It’s about saying this is what is happening to me, it’s not my fault, but my happiness matters and I’m going to put my hand up and say I need some help. I wouldn’t be where I am now without therapy”.

Laura Mvula, added:

“Through my own personal experience of when I had therapy on the NHS, it did so much for my emotional well-being just to know that someone was truly caring for me on a regular basis.

“It helped me see that things are temporary and however bad and permanent your situation feels, reaching out and sharing with someone you can trust is so important. It’s okay to ask for help – everybody needs it”.

The all-star campaign, which will run across radio, social media, and on demand, is also being backed by a number of leading charities including Mind, Royal College of Psychiatrists, and AGE UK.

NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said:

“The pandemic has taken a toll on the nation’s mental health, and we know January can be a particularly tough month for many.

“Over a million people already use NHS talking therapies every year, but we know we can help millions more just by telling them it’s there for them and that is exactly what this campaign is all about.

“If you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or are feeling low, it’s important you know you are not alone and that it is okay to get help. No one should suffer in silence.

“NHS staff have pulled out all the stops throughout the pandemic to keep mental health care services open, and it’s fantastic to see some of the biggest names in music back our campaign and encourage people to get the support they need.”

Craig David added:

“I’ve had points in my life where I struggled with my mental health, but what was so important for me was opening up and starting to talk about how I was feeling. I now know that real courage & strength isn’t in trying to do it alone, but instead being able to share our feelings in a safe space with people who can help.”

One of those who has sought treatment in recent years is former police officer Paul, who says, “that it is not an embarrassment to come forward for mental health issues” and urges others to do the same.

Paul, a former police officer and rugby player, has suffered with his mental health since 2009 while serving as a police officer, and was diagnosed with PTSD.

As a six-foot rugby playing detective, he found it very difficult to admit to himself and others and over the next seven years that he needed support and had several breakdowns. In 2016, his poor mental health caused him to retire from the force and finally seek help.

After researching mental health services online, he self-referred himself to the NHS mental health services and undertook cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Of his experiences, Paul said:

“When I first sought help through the NHS services, I felt that someone cared immediately. Just those first conversations over the phone, and when I walked in for my first appointment and was met by the receptionists’ ‘smiley eyes’, I felt comfortable and welcomed and that someone was going to listen.

“It is not an embarrassment to admit you have mental health issues. Even if you feel like you’re on your own, there are people out there who care. By contacting the NHS mental health services like I did, you will be given help and the tools to look after yourself. I urge anyone who is feeling low to ask for help”.

Through the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS is boosting its community mental health services by £2.3 billion a year – improving access to services such as adult talking therapies for millions.

Statistics also show that the NHS is improving access to adult talking therapies, with more than 90% of patients starting treatment within six weeks of making a referral.

To support people with the effects of the pandemic, the NHS is also doing more than ever to deliver faster support – with every area of the country now benefitting from a 24/7 mental health helpline to help people in crisis get urgent care – two years ahead of schedule.

The rollout of local mental health teams in schools has also been accelerated, delivering more support for children and young people than ever before, with around 200 teams now in place for pupils at over 3,000 schools – and NHS services have supported nearly 630,000 children with mental health issues between October 2020 and September 2021.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“The pandemic has affected so many of our lives and has led to many more people needing support for their mental health.

“Anyone from any background can experience anxiety and depression and it’s important that people with these symptoms come forward to seek help.

“This campaign is vitally important and will help even more people get the mental health support they need from our fantastic NHS services.”

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said:

“This campaign could not be coming at a better time. The mental health of many older people has taken a real battering during the pandemic and we hope that this new initiative will encourage everyone who could do with some support to reach out and ask for it. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ as they say – it’s good to talk and there’s no reason for anyone to feel embarrassed or ashamed because they are feeling very low. We’ve all been through a lot these last twenty months, many older people more than most.”

Minister for Mental Health, Gillian Keegan, said:

“The British people have shown great resilience and support for each other over the last two years, but it’s understandable the pandemic might continue to affect our mental wellbeing with people feeling anxious, low or worried – particularly in the winter months.

“It’s vital we look after our mental health and talking therapies provide great support for anybody experiencing anxiety or depression – you can self-refer or be referred through your GP.

“If you need help, I urge you to reach out for support – the NHS is here to help you 24/7.”

Click here to watch the video.

The Great British News This Week: Top 10 positive news stories from across the UK

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You might not hear about some of these good news items on the BBC or most other news outlets, but remember positive things are happening across the country.

Here are our ten best read news stories from the last seven days (10th – 16th January 2022).

Keep checking in with the Conservative Post to see these positive stories every day – the resurgence of British manufacturing, how our military is flying the flag across the world, positive policy making, our wonderful royals and many other things to be proud of. 

We also have the most wonderful year to look forward to with plans announced this week for The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Make sure you also check out all the Great British events to enjoy this year too in our annual round-up.

Good things are happening! We support you Prime Minister.

10. Government on track to meet its target of recruiting 20,000 more police officers by 2023

More than 11,000 people have already joined the police as part of the recruitment drive, helping to cut crime by 14% (excluding fraud and computer misuse), remove 16,000 knives and dangerous weapons from the streets and tackle the scourge of drugs with the closure of over 1,500 county lines… click here

9. Royal Navy assumes command of key NATO task force

The Royal Navy took charge of NATO’s most important task force with a ceremony aboard aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in Portsmouth this week. For the next 12 months it is responsible for leading the alliance’s Maritime High Readiness Force – an international task group formed to deal with major global events. The most senior sea-going staff in the Royal Navy, Commander UK Strike Force, headed by Rear Admiral Mike Utley, takes charge of the force… click here

8. British marque Lotus reveals best global retail sales for a decade

Norfolk-based Lotus has revealed its best annual global retail sales performance since 2011. The outstanding figures prove worldwide excitement about the brand’s transformation is translating into customers buying cars. Retailers sold 1,710 new cars in 2021, the year the iconic Elise, Exige and Evora ended production. That compares with 1,378 sales in 2020, an increase of 24%… click here

7. UK and Oman kickstart Sovereign Investment Partnership to boost investment links

The UK and Oman have signed a Sovereign Investment Partnership, agreeing to work closer together on increasing high value investment into both countries. The new partnership will strengthen the economic ties between the UK and Oman and identify and support commercial investments in areas such as clean energy and technology, which are already an important part of the UK’s £1 billion-a year trading relationship… click here

6. BAE Systems set to hire almost 1,700 apprentices and graduates across the UK

BAE Systems plc, the British multinational arms, security, and aerospace company is set to hire almost 1,700 apprentices and graduates across the UK in 2022. The creation of more than 900 apprentice and 750 graduate and undergraduate roles is the largest intake of early careers roles the Company has offered in a single year… click here

5. UK Gigafactory gets green light creating 6000 jobs and £2.5 billion investment

The West Midlands Gigafactory joint venture has taken the next step in its journey to deliver a Gigafactory in the West Midlands with planning committees supporting the outline planning application for its site in Coventry and Warwickshire. Production ready from 2025, the 530,000sqm facility will manufacture high-tech lithium-ion batteries for the global automotive and energy storage industries… click here

4. Boris to chair new council with devolved governments

A landmark agreement setting out how the UK and devolved governments will work closely together to deliver for people across the whole of the United Kingdom has been published this week. The Intergovernmental Relations Review sets out new structures as to how the UK government, Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Government and Welsh Government will work to deliver for people across the UK – based upon on the existing values of mutual respect, maintaining trust and positive working… click here

3. UK economy surpassing pre-pandemic levels is ‘testament to the grit and determination of the British people’

According to new figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics, gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have grown by 0.9% in November 2021 and was above its pre-coronavirus pandemic level for the first time, by 0.7%. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the stronger growth was “a testament to the grit and determination of the British people”… click here

2. London freeport logistics park will be biggest in Europe and create another 10,000 jobs

Thames Freeport opened last month drawing £4.5 billion of new investment and creating 21,000 skilled jobs. To meet unprecedented demand for space already at the freeport site, DP World, a leading provider of smart logistics solutions has this week announced it will fast-track the delivery of another speculative 119,000 sq ft green warehouse at London Gateway’s port-centric Logistics Park… click here

1. UK leads Europe and London ranks 4th globally for VC tech investment

The UK is the clear European winner for venture capital tech investment with only the US, China and India receiving more investment globally. In 2021 London tech startups raised a record £18.55 billion, making it the highest city for VC investment in Europe and fourth-highest city globally. Across the UK, £29.4 billion was raised by British startups and scale-ups in 2021. This is double the figure raised in Germany (£14.7 billion) and almost three times that raised by French companies (£9.7 billion)… click here

For last week’s Top Ten Great British news stories (3rd – 9th January 2022) click here.

Please share and keep spreading the good, positive and uplifting news.

If you have some good news please contact us at editor@conservativepost.co.uk

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