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Opinion: Prime Minister Theresa May was wrong to criticise school strikers

PUBLISHED: 17:05 18 February 2019

Young protesters hold up signs during the Youth Strike 4 Climate demonstration outside The Forum in Norwich

Young protesters hold up signs during the Youth Strike 4 Climate demonstration outside The Forum in Norwich

Archant

Editor David Powles analyses some of the key stories of the last fortnight.

Prime Minister Theresa MayPrime Minister Theresa May

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It was an honour to be asked to talk at the latest wellbeing event in Norwich last week, held at The Gin Temple and organised by chef Charlie Hodson. I was followed by Mearl Brown, the father of Cromer teenager Nyall who took his own life in May last year. Mearl spoke with brutal honesty and great bravery about the last few months of his son’s life, the ways in which he wishes he’d have acted differently around him, how they feel the family were let down by the authorities they worked with and the struggles to recover from what happened. His talk was a reminder that mental ill health can affect any family, from any walk of life. It also brought home the fact we have a long way to go before we as a society can claim to be on top of this growing issue. Hopefully our Mental Health Watch campaign has achieved a lot in the last three years, but there’s plenty still to do and Mearl’s talk and subsequent conversation after have got me thinking hard about where we go next with the campaign.

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In a previous job my thoughts on Norwich City regularly troubled the sports pages of this newspaper. Those days are long gone so can I just use this column to say a massive thanks to Daniel Farke, Stuart Webber and co for the current transformation of Norwich City. It’s hard to imagine that it was only a year ago I, like many others, was finding myself having to increasingly justify my Carrow Road season ticket, given the lack of entertainment being served up week in and week out. Now we find ourselves in that glorious position where the first thing many talk about on a Monday morning when they arrive at work is the weekend’s game. I often have to defend the amount of Canaries coverage we run in the paper - but tell me any other thing that impacts the mood of our county more than the fortunes of Norwich City? At times like this even non-football fans enjoy the ride, so let’s hope we don’t have to get off anytime soon.

Teemu Pukki, right, is congratulated by Marco Stiepermann after scoring his 20th league goal of the season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesTeemu Pukki, right, is congratulated by Marco Stiepermann after scoring his 20th league goal of the season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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I’ve no evidence to suggest the government read this newspaper before deciding their policies, but it was refreshing to see an announcement this week of a crackdown on tech companies who fail to take responsibility for the content their sites throw up. Just two weeks ago I wrote about this subject following the death of an 18-year-old from Norwich who had been accessing suicide videos from social media. For those who missed it, the report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee said social media platforms as a whole should comply with a compulsory code of ethics overseen by an independent regulator to tackle harmful or illegal content on their sites. This sounds great on the face of it, but as always the proof is in the pudding. This regulator must be given proper powers or their rulings will matter little to firms with multi-billion budgets to draw from.

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What a PR own goal it was from our prime minister to slate all of those students who went on strike from school last week to protest about concerns over a lack of action on climate change. No matter what their views and whether I agreed with them or not, it was so refreshing to see so many youngsters engage in politics and engaged with how the decisions of policy makers shape their lives. In a time where turnout at elections continues to fall, we need this passion to grow for the good of a democratic society. It would have been much better for Mrs May to recognise this fact, rather than call them out for the so-called scandal of missing one day in the classroom.

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