A Midlander's view of Westminster's Brexit permacrisis

  • 12 December 2018
  • From the section England
Image caption The scene outside College Green, Westminster, this week

Perpetual crisis

I took this photo on my way into the BBC's Westminster offices. That's where I am writing this now. I often do the same thing on budget days or on the mornings before state openings, accompanying the images with predictable lines about the media "setting up camp on Westminster's village green".

This time, though, it's different.

That famous green is under a blockade, fenced off apart from one small entrance. The TV outside broadcast gantries look less like a temporary encampment than semi-permanent structures, such is the general air of perpetual crisis now engulfing this place.

Even the pro and anti-Brexit campaigners have grown from what started as a few random hecklers with placards into something much more organised, like an angry football crowd or a political rally.

My impression of a village under siege certainly extends to the Palace of Westminster itself just across the road, where there is currently no Commons majority for anything at all.

Read full article A Midlander's view of Westminster's Brexit permacrisis

Will regulation help shisha lounge fears disappear in puff of smoke?

  • 3 December 2018
  • From the section England
Image caption Could regulation help shisha lounge concerns disappear in a puff of smoke?

Booming business

Shisha lounges are increasingly commonplace signs of our diverse, multicultural society. But they can also make life a misery for nearby residents, according to the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Shabana Mahmood.

Venues are springing up fast, with more than three dozen at the last count around her home city alone. They're also appearing around other towns and cities in the Midlands.

Read full article Will regulation help shisha lounge fears disappear in puff of smoke?

BREAKING NEWS "Fog in the Channel: Continent cut-off"

  • 20 November 2018
  • From the section England
Image copyright Reuters

"I haven't the foggiest"

That's my stock response these days when people ask me, as they do again and again: "Where is this Brexit business going to end-up?"

Read full article BREAKING NEWS "Fog in the Channel: Continent cut-off"

Why Midlands' 'gap tooth high streets' need fillings

  • 12 November 2018
  • From the section England
Closing down sale Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption About 14 shops are closing every day as UK High Streets face their toughest trading climate in five years, a report finds

Fillings for 'gap tooth high streets'

Q: What spells the decline of our high streets?

Read full article Why Midlands' 'gap tooth high streets' need fillings

Sorting out the Budget tricks from Budget treats

  • 30 October 2018
  • From the section England
Image caption Did the Budget mean tricks or treats for the West Midlands?

Forget 'Spreadsheet Phil', meet 'Feelgood Phil'

That's how some sections of the Conservative-supporting press have hailed Mr Hammond's Budget, the first to be presented on a Monday for more than 50 years.

It also broke new ground in a more significant respect. For the past eight years, the chancellor and his predecessor George Osborne have emerged from the door of 11 Downing Street with that red case groaning with the weight of deficit reduction measures which were to become lumped together, by instalments, under the general heading of austerity.

Read full article Sorting out the Budget tricks from Budget treats

Suddenly it's all the Bs: Budget, Brexit and Birmingham

  • 22 October 2018
  • From the section England
Image copyright PA
Image caption The prime minister claimed austerity is over

'People need to know the end is in sight'

That's what Theresa May told the Conservative Party Conference three weeks ago.

But the end of what, exactly?

Read full article Suddenly it's all the Bs: Budget, Brexit and Birmingham

How Brexit could redraw Midlands political battle lines

  • 16 October 2018
  • From the section England
New deal in Europe posters Image copyright Getty Images

"Europe: journey to an unknown destination"

This was the title of the BBC's Reith Lectures delivered in 1972 by the political economist Andrew Schonfield. It helped to set the scene for Britain's entry the following year into what was then the European Economic Community.

Read full article How Brexit could redraw Midlands political battle lines

Changing seasons in politics herald stormy autumn

  • 9 October 2018
  • From the section England
Houses of Parliament Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The MPs have returned to Westminster after their conferences. So what happens now?

Just as the nights draw in and the leaves fall thick and fast, so the party conference season gives way to what's bound to be a stormy autumn now that MPs have returned to Westminster.

Questions galore are blowing in these seasonal winds: will Theresa May do a deal with the EU? What if she doesn't? Even if she does, can she sell it to her own party, let alone Parliament in general and the DUP in particular?

Read full article Changing seasons in politics herald stormy autumn

Theresa May faces roadblocks en route to Birmingham

  • 26 September 2018
  • From the section England
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Theresa May was handed a cough sweet at the 2017 Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

"It'll be good when it's finished"

That's always been the standing joke about Birmingham.

But these days, there's many a true word.... No-one would argue it will be a very good thing indeed when we see an end to the grinding disruption caused by one of the biggest building sites in Europe.

Read full article Theresa May faces roadblocks en route to Birmingham

Questions to the future Prime Minister-in-waiting?

  • 19 September 2018
  • From the section England
Traffic on A38 near The Mailbox
Image caption Clean air or hot air? What will Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn think of Birmingham's proposed clean air zone charges?

"If the government can't deliver an intelligent relationship with Europe it should make way for one that can."

That's the challenge Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn never tires of issuing to Conservative ministers.

Read full article Questions to the future Prime Minister-in-waiting?