Wednesday 14 July 2021
Last Sunday night the fantastic campaign of the England men’s football team came to an end after a floodlit penalty shootout at Wembley stadium. Whilst it’s easy to be frustrated at what might have been, we should instead thank this young and talented team for the great entertainment they have provided over the past month during the Euro 2021 tournament and mark the achievement of making the final of a major competition for the first time since 1966. Also, more than at any time in recent memory, the whole country has got behind this team, recognising the great contributions they have made on an off the pitch. They are heroes as well as being great role models for young people and we should thank them and their manager Gareth Southgate for the positive example they set.
The racial abuse on social media directed at a number of England players following the final was totally unacceptable. It is wrong of people to post such vile comments, but also a failing of companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram not to have done more to remove it. This has happened on multiple occasions over the past year and we should not be required to accept this as a fact of life. Dehumanising hate speech has no place on social media, or anywhere else.
Parliament will soon begin to scrutinise the government’s draft Online Safety Bill, which will require social media companies to effectively enforce their own terms of service, which say that they will remove hate speech from their sites. It is proposed that an independent regulator will be appointed to make sure they do this and will ultimately have the power to fine them up to 10% of their annual revenues if they fail to do so. Experience has proven that we cannot leave important issues like these to the companies themselves, they require independent scrutiny and challenge.
Last week I co-hosted a meeting with the Folkestone Jobs Centre for local businesses looking to find out more about the government’s Kick Start programme. This scheme provides funding to create new 6-month jobs for 16 to 24-year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Nationally, thousands of employers across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, have already applied for funding to take on new people. The funding covers 100% of the national minimum wage, or national living wage, depending on the age of the participant, for 25 hours per week for a total of 6 months work. National insurance and workplace pension contributions are also included in the funding for employers in addition to a grant of £1,500 per job to cover setup costs and employability support. The scheme is open to anyone who starts work on or before 31st December this year. You can find out more online at kickstart.campaign.gov.uk