Clear ‘levelling up’ targets are needed to unite parliament, business, communities and society 

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<p>Boris Johnson promised to ‘level up’ Britain in his 2019 manifesto</p>

Boris Johnson promised to ‘level up’ Britain in his 2019 manifesto

In 2015, the UK played a lead role in creating the UN Sustainable Development Goals and getting them agreed by 184 countries. 

They provided a transformational framework for change, proving that with a common plan, there can be common and collective action.

Now, amid an absolutely pressing need to “level up” Britain, we believe that a similar, galvanising set of targets is needed to unite parliament, business, communities and civil society to work in partnership for the common good of our country. 

And time is of the essence. Covid-19 has levelled down our country and therefore made levelling up not only more urgent, but even harder.

Together as a coalition of purpose-led businesses and universities, together with the Social Mobility Pledge we have drawn up a set of Levelling Up Goals, which we believe will transcend party politics and enable us to agree a set of common challenges for the years ahead. 

They are far from easy. But if we can close those gaps, we can make real positive change across the UK. 

Our Levelling Up Goals include closing the early years development gap by delivering the best possible start for every child; giving young people access to advice and experiences to unlock opportunity throughout their life; opportunities for career advancement for all based on ability and potential, not connections; closing the digital divide and tackling the savings gap that prevents many people from going as far as their talents could take them. 

These goals are intended to set out how the government’s ambition to level up Britain can be achieved. They are the first national set of levelling up targets against which we can begin to apply measurements and chart our progress. 

From mental health to supporting our young people to get their schooling back on track, we must work together to make real progress in the recovery from Covid-19. 

As with the Sustainable Development Goals, everyone has a role to play and now is the time. 

Rt Hon Justine Greening, chairman of the Social Mobility Pledge

Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley and Ilkley.

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, vice-chancellor, York St John University

Professor Nick Petford, vice-chancellor, University of Northampton

Professor Mary Stuart CBE, vice-chancellor, University of Lincoln

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, vice-chancellor and chief executive, University of Northumbria 

Professor Kiran Trehan, pro-vice-chancellor, University of York

Professor Mark Power, registrar and CEO of Liverpool John Moores University

University of Essex, on behalf of Make Happen 

Professor Liz Barnes CBE, vice-chancellor and chief executive, Staffordshire University

Don’t lose hope

I have read some very distressing reports of vaccination stations failing to provide adequate facilities, supplies of vaccine and “glitches” in booking systems.

Well I, and many thousands of people, have been successfully vaccinated due to the brilliant organisational skills and efforts of many hundreds of volunteers and nursing staff.

My appointment was organised through my doctor's surgery, five days later I was vaccinated. From the time I arrived at the vaccination station car park, at a local hotel, to driving away took forty minutes. This included waiting 25 minutes after the injection.

What a marvellous experience. Everyone had a job to do which they did with kindness and efficiency. It amazed me that after so long under the cosh of Covid-19 the people responsible for the administration could still be so upbeat and dedicated to the task.

One sad note, if our government had been as diligent, professional and dedicated in responding to the pandemic when it first descended on Britain we wouldn’t be in this terrible situation now.

Congratulations NHS and volunteers. You are saving many lives, easing worried minds and, above all else, give people of Britain hope that the future does not belong to Covid-19.

Keith Poole

Basingstoke

EU exports

I’d like to know how many of those people complaining about the difficulty of exporting to the EU voted for Brexit. To those that did, did you honestly think nothing would change as a result of leaving the EU? The rules on how the EU deals with imports from third countries were in place long before the referendum. You should have read the small print before you voted. It was all there. All you needed to do was look.

Jack Liebeskind

Cheltenham

Saudi arms sales

The fact that British ministers have refused to join the US in suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in war-torn Yemen is shameful and shows just how far the UK has morally sunk. 

The US president, Joe Biden, announced the suspension last week, meeting a longstanding campaign pledge, and this decision casts an uncomfortable spotlight on the UK government.

The UK government has reportedly licensed the sale of at least £5.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the war began in March 2015, as well as providing training and technical support.

The irony of all this is that the UK is the “penholder” on Yemen at the UN Security Council, which means it has the power to draft resolutions to support efforts to end the conflict. It, therefore, has a special responsibility to do all it can to advance the peace process.

However, while calling for an end to violence, it is simultaneously supplying the weapons necessary to prolong the conflict.

The shameful neglect of this leadership role and continued licensing of arms to facilitate Saudi-led offensives is unsustainable. It is a stance that leaves the UK increasingly isolated on the global stage, with countries including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands already banning the export of arms to Saudi Arabia. 

The UK government now faces a choice: to join Biden and live up to its obligations as UN penholder by ending the UK’s involvement in the Saudi campaign, or to continue to act as both peacekeeper and warmonger, undermining any moral leadership it might claim.

Alex Orr

Edinburgh

Unethical practice

For a long time, I was embarrassed talking to friends from Europe: they all wanted to know why I was so stupid to vote to leave their union. But I was able to explain that I remained a European and like 48 per cent of my compatriots I wasn’t mad and I hadn’t voted to leave. They all commiserated.   

Now I'm more than embarrassed, I'm furious. The government – the one in charge of my country but not one I'm proud to call mine – has threatened to breach an international treaty it freely entered into months earlier. But then it didn't only because events changed. Then they took the high moral ground and criticised the EU for threatening to break another treaty before the EU apologised.  Now the government is threatening to break that same treaty because the EU is being stubborn in not easing the terms of the treaty that the British had willingly entered into. Again.  

On top of that, senior members of the government change their stories and obfuscate – I'm too polite to suggest that they might be lying – on a daily basis. This to their own people: the fishermen, the Northern Irish, the truckers, my family.  

I'm embarrassed because I'm worried that my European friends think that the government is doing it in my name. So I wish to record here that I don't endorse what they do, and nor I believe do many in this country. A democratic mandate doesn't justify repeated unethical practice.  

Tim Sidaway 

Hertfordshire

Trump impeachment trial

Forty-four Republicans voted that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional. Some of them, such as senator for Texas Ted Cruz, say they already know the result: “The result of this trial is preordained, President Trump will be acquitted.” 

This begs the question as to whether Senator Cruz, and the 43 others who believe the trial is unconstitutional, will be impartial in their consideration of the evidence presented. Can they start over and hear the arguments with open minds? It seems very un-senatorial to indicate ahead of a trial your belief in the outcome.  Unconstitutional even. Impeachable? Maybe. No juror (in a real trial) would ever be allowed to indicate on public television his or her view of the guilt or innocence of the defendant ahead of the trial.  

Cruz and company could take an honourable stand now and recuse themselves to allow the remaining senators to do their duty as jurors.

Alison Hackett

Dublin

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