Tuesday, November 24, 2020

David McKee on why the campaign to overturn Brexit failed

We are now six weeks from the end of the Brexit transition period. Britain has already left the EU - in a few weeks time the transition period within which we continued to trade as though we were still part of the body will be over.

At the time of writing Britain and the EU appear to be scrambling to finalise a deal.

David McKee on "The Article" site reflects here on why those who tried to overturn the Bresit referendum and keep Britain in the EU failed to do so. I suspect that in the future it will seem astonishing that they came as close as they did to success.

McKee has written an interesting piece.

Personally I voted Remain but am not a "Remainer" in the terms of this article because I have accepted from the day after the vote that the narrow win for Leave did reflect the balance of views in a bitterly divided nation and that Britain had to cease to be a member state of the EU in accordance with that democratic vote.

In my humble opinion those who waged a three year campaign to try to overturn the Brexit vote behaved very similarly to, and almost as badly as, Donald Trump and his die-hards are behaving now in refusing to accept that Biden won this years' US Presidential election and they lost it.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the people who voted Remain had been willing to fight for a softer Brexit which was completely compatible with the arguments which prominent leavers were expressing up to and including the day of the referendum - but which became "BRINO" and a betrayal to the likes of Nigel Farage the following day - they could have got their way. 

But because they split all over the place - with the most vocal seeking to overturn the referendum entirely - we ended up with years of political deadlock followed by a much harder Brexit than could have been obtained had the majority of "Remainiac" MPs not gone for all or nothing.

Ironically there was almost an unholy alliance between those who tried to stop Brexit altogether and those who wanted a much harder Brexit than Theresa May did, both convinced that if they succeeded in sabotaging her strategy they would get what they wanted, or something closer to what they wanted, instead.

Both were taking an extreme - indeed, in my opinion, irresponsible - risk. The risk taken by the hardline remainers did not come off and they brought about the very outcome they worst feared. The gamble taken by the hardline Brexiteers has brought about the result they wanted - a very hard Brexit. Quite how hard we will find out within six weeks. 

We will also find out whether an old saying is applicable - be careful what you wish for.


Quote of the day 24th November 2020

 


Monday, November 23, 2020

Good news on the Oxford vaccine trial

 

The Prime Minister has welcomed interim data from the Oxford vaccine trial which shows that it is ‘highly effective’ following trials of more than 20,000 people across the world.

  • It is incredibly exciting news that the vaccine being developed in Oxford has proved so effective in trials. 
     
  • There are still further safety checks ahead, but these are fantastic results. 
     
  • The brilliant scientists at the University of Oxford and at AstraZeneca deserve immense praise and we are grateful also to everyone who has volunteered to take part in the trials so far.

Community testing


In addition to his announcements in the Commons about the Covid Winter Plan (see previous post) the Prime Minister also today announced a major new community testing programme for areas that are placed into the ‘very high alert’ category, offering them a route out of the toughest restrictions and helping identify more infections so that we can reduce the spread of the virus.

  • The Liverpool mass community programme has seen over 200,000 people being tested and, alongside economic and social restrictions, has contributed to a substantial fall in coronavirus cases in that area. 
     
  • As we return to a regional tiered system on 2 December, local leaders in areas which are placed in tier 3 will be given additional support to deliver their own extensive community testing programmes, giving those communities a direct route out of the toughest restrictions.
     
  • Backed by an additional £7 billion – taking total support for NHS track and trace to £22 billion – the government will also expand rapid testing to cut the length of time someone has to isolate for if they come into contact with someone testing positive by offering them repeat tests. This will provide certainty, enabling people to go about their lives, and also enable more people to visit their loved ones in care homes, should rapid testing pilots in the next few weeks go well. 
     
  • Britain is not out of the woods yet. The virus is still present in communities across the country, and remains both far more infectious and far more deadly than seasonal flu. But with expansion in testing and vaccines edging closer to deployment, the regional tiered system will help get the virus back under control and keep it there.

The COVID Winter Plan

 

The Covid Winter Plan

  • The second coronavirus peak that we have seen around the world shows us all that we are going to be dealing with the coronavirus for the long-term.
     
  • That is why, during this period of national restrictions, the government has been working on a long-term, balanced approach which protects the NHS, keeps children in school and lets the economy get moving again. At the heart of that long-term and balanced approach is a return to the regional tier system. Adherence to these tiers is how we avoid another national lockdown.
     
  • It would be a mistake to keep the economy on ice and working people in suspended animation – we need to get things moving again. The government understands that national lockdowns are not cost-free. Not only do they have an enormous cost in terms of jobs and small businesses, they have a profound impact on peoples’ mental health and loneliness.
     
  • Only by keeping the virus under control through December, even when national restrictions fall away, can we be able to see friends and family over Christmas in a relatively safe way. As mass testing and vaccines are rolled out through winter and into the spring, the need for even localised restrictions will gradually reduce – and life can begin to return closer to normality.

Using the national lockdown to put us in the best possible position:

  • Preparing to rollout vaccinations as soon as they are found to be safe and effective. Next month, the vaccination programme will begin. The UK government has secured access to 355 million vaccine doses, and the NHS is gearing up to lead a national vaccination programme.
     
  • Making progress on mass testing, to help reduce the need for restrictions as a vaccine is rolled out. Britain now has capacity for 500,000 tests a day, and recently announced the creation of new two mega-labs, that will add a further 600,000 tests a day to the UK’s capacity when they are operation. The government will roll out mass testing to 13 million people before Christmas, allowing us to identify and isolate people who don’t have symptoms but are unwittingly spreading the virus.

Returning to the localised approach: 

  • Ending the national restrictions on 2 December – true to our word. Thanks to the progress we’ve made on vaccines and mass testing, the stay at home order will end, collective worship can resume, and people will no longer be limited to seeing one other person in outdoor public spaces.
     
  • Re-introducing the localised approach after 2 December, in order to keep the virus under control. The virus is still present, and that means we need to keep some level of restrictions on a local level. If these are not in place then it could get out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have an impact. That would put at risk all our work to date. Our principle remains it’s right to target the toughest measures in the areas where the virus is most prevalent.
     
  • Making changes to the previous tiered system:
    • The 10pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10pm and closing time at 11pm. This allows customers to depart in a staggered way and provides greater flexibility.
    • Across all tiers, non-essential retail will be able to remain open and operate in a Covid-Secure way.
    • Gyms will be allowed to remain open.
    • Spectator sport can resume with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.
       
  • Strengthening the tiers in order to keep the virus under control. The scientific advice is also clear that, while the previous tiers reduced the R rate, they were not quite enough to bring R below 1. The tiers therefore need to be toughened in some ways to keep the virus under control:
    • In tier 1, the government will encourage people to minimise travel and reinforce the importance of working from home where possible.
    • In tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal.
    • In tier 3, hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, and indoor entertainment venues must also close.
       
  • Publishing clear indicators to determine which tier an area enters into, and how areas can move between tiers thereafter. These tiers are designed to keep the R below 1 and therefore allow areas to move down the tiers, rather than simply escalate as the epidemic grows. We are publishing clear indicators which will determine the tier each area will go into on 2 December and how areas move between tiers thereafter.
     
  • Prioritising tier 3 areas for mass testing. We know how frustrating it has been for people living in areas which have had some form of restrictions since the summer, and will therefore prioritise tier 3 areas for the rollout of mass testing. Up to 13 million people will be offered two tests each before Christmas.

Helping the NHS to get people treated and cut waiting lists.

One of the many problems COVID-19 has caused has been to disrupt the normal work of the NHS and cause backlogs to build up in many parts of the country. If these are not addressed they will lead to bad patient outcomes up to and including suffering and premature death.

So I was very pleased to read that ahead of the Spending Review on Wednesday, the Chancellor has announced an extra £3 billion for the NHS to tackle a backlog of operations – helping people to receive the medical care they need as soon as possible.

  • Britain's world-class NHS has played a critical role in the response to coronavirus, but we all know how desperately difficult and distressing it’ been for patients who are waiting to have operations and medical treatment during the pandemic.
     
  • That is why the government is providing an extra £3 billion for the NHS. This includes £1 billion to address backlogs – paying for up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations for those who have had their treatment delayed; £1.5 billion to support existing pressures in the NHS; and a £500 million boost to mental health services. We are also investing £325 million in NHS diagnostics next year – helping diagnose patients with cancer and other serious illnesses.
     
  • This substantial package of extra funding will help people receive the medical care they need as soon as possible




Quote of the day 23rd November 2020

 



There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. It is fairly likely that Bertrand Russell considered himself intelligent and indeed, many who knew anything of him, even among those who did not share his views, would have conceded as much. It is far from obvious, however, that he came over as being full of doubt.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Towards a winter plan to protect everyone against COVID-19

 

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will set out a new Covid Winter Plan, under which England will move back into a three-tiered, regional set of restrictions after the present national lockdown ends on 2 December. 


  • Everyone’s efforts during the current national restrictions have helped bring the virus back under control, slowed its spread and eased pressures on the NHS. But the virus is still present – and without regional restrictions it could quickly run out of control again. 
     
  • Tomorrow, (Monday 23rd November,) the Prime Minister will address Parliament to confirm that England will move to a tiered approach from 2 December. Whilst some local measures will be similar to those in place previously, the tiers will also be strengthened in some areas in order to safeguard the gains made during the period of national restrictions. 
     
  • On Thursday the government will announce which areas will be placed into which tier. MPs will be able to vote on the tiering system before it comes into force. 
     
  • These restrictions will not last any longer than absolutely necessary, will be regularly reviewed and will balance health considerations with livelihoods and the needs of the economy.   
     
  • The Covid Winter Plan will also set out how people will be able to see their loved ones at Christmas, although sadly it will not be possible for this to be a normal festive period. 
     
  • I am sure everyone hopes that, with the scientific advances that are being made – including in vaccines and mass testing – it will be possible to gradually ease restrictions in the run up to Spring. But none of us can afford to slacken our resolve. We must all remain vigilant and keep following the rules which can keep this virus under control.
  • Wash your Hands, keep 2m of Space, cover your Face.

Protecting the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland

 

Yesterday, the Prime Minister addressed Scottish Conservative Conference – setting out how we all need to work together at this time to protect the health and jobs of people in Scotland.

  • The Prime Minister expressed his thanks to everyone in Scotland for all their efforts over this most extraordinary and trying of years. We must never forget what we have achieved through cooperation – through working across the whole of our United Kingdom. 
     
  • The unparalleled effort that has protected the jobs of over 900,000 Scottish workers through our furlough and self-employed support schemes, and which has helped almost 80,000 Scottish businesses that have been backed by Government grants and loans. And it’s not just the heft of the UK Treasury that has supported us through this pandemic, it has been the collective endeavours of people across the UK. 
     
  • The way the SNP have handled devolution in Scotland has been a disaster – from plummeting education standards, low business confidence and the lowest satisfaction in public services ever – their record is abysmal. At this time there simply no room for division or distraction over the constitution. In order for us to tackle the shared and common threat that is coronavirus, the focus separation must end - and for it to end, so must the division.

Sunday music spot: "But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell" from Handel's Messiah

Nothing like a bit of Handel to cheer one up on a grey November day in the middle of a pandemic.

(Or in any other circumstance when one needs cheering up!)

Quote of the day 22nd November 2020


 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Progress against COVID-19 is not binary

I have been reading today's piece in The Times by Matthew Parris, in which he suggests that talk of "all-out war" against the coronavirus "only scared the nation out of its' wits."

Not sure I'm entirely with him on that part of his analysis. Faced with an outbreak which has so far caused fifty thousand premature deaths in this country alone and might well have killed half a million Britons if we had done nothing about it, a certain amount of fear is an entirely rational response. What's more, if it made people take seriously the need to protect themselves and others and thereby saved lives, a useful one.

Where I think he's on to something is that binary "black versus white" modes of thought may not be the best way to think about the success or otherwise of measures taken against COVID-19 either relating to people and ideas or a completely binary assessment of total success against complete failure. A policy or measure which has not reached  the targets set for it or saved as many lives as had been hoped may still save enough lives to be well worth doing, even though we would be right to ask if it could have been done better.

There is precisely one case - smallpox - of a disease which used to be one of the worlds worst killers being completely eradicated.

There are many more, however - Polio, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, being examples - where the incidence of the disease has been dramatically reduced but not eradicated. These  diseases still "lurk" in Matthew Parris's words about COVID-19 and could start to come back, as Measles has begun to do, if enough people listen to the fatal lunacy of the  Anti-Vaxxers. But for the moment what used to be massive killers have been reduced to a fraction of the menaces they once were.  

Coronaviruses have the capacity to mutate and change. Just as vaccination against the flu has saved millions of lives but has to be repeated at annual intervals with adjusted vaccines to protect against new variants of the disease, it is more likely that we will succeed in getting the deaths and disruption caused by COVDI-19 and its successor variants down to a far less disastrous level than it is that we will succeed totally eradicating this disease. But that is certainly worth doing.

In dealing with diseases we often face an issue which was raised by one of my favourite economists and has often been quoted on this blog:


As with economic choices, so with health ones.

You need only look at an issue referred to earlier today on my blog to see an example - Test and Trace.

If you take a positive view, from 5th to 11th November, NHS Test and Trace successfully reached record numbers of people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, which was over 232,000 people, and asked them to self-isolate. A record number of positive cases (156,853) transferred to contact tracers, an increase of 11 per cent compared to the previous week. 

313,771 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive. Of these, where communication details were available, 77.9% were reached within 24 hours and asked to self-isolate. Details of what Test and Trace achieved that week are available here.

Taking a negative view, press reports on the same information concentrated on the fact that only just over 60% of contacts were reached that week taking account of those for whom contact details were not available.

So which is correct - the "glass is half-full" positive view or the "half-empty" negative view?

Well, actually, both.

Of course we need to improve that performance further. That should not be incompatible with recognising the progress made and that with 60% of contacts reached we will prevent a lot of infections and save a lot of lives which would not have been saved if we had no Test and Trace system at all.

Let us be honest with people, in recognising the hard work and achievement of those who have got us this far, in also recognising what we still have to do, and about what we can realistically expect to achieve.

Saturday music spot: "Winter" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons

Test and Trace

Figures released on Thursday show that NHS Test and Trace is reaching a record number of positive cases, and their contacts, as the level of those using the service continues to increase week on week. 

  • From 5 to 11 November, NHS Test and Trace successfully reached over 232,000 people and asked them to self-isolate; with a record number of positive cases (156,853) transferred to contact tracers, an increase of 11 per cent compared to the previous week.
     
  • Through the NHS Test and Trace programme, more than 35 million tests have been processed, nearly 680 test centres set up, testing capacity has been boosted to more than 500,000 a day and more than 2.3 million people have been successfully contacted by contact tracers, so that action can be taken to find who has the virus and to halt its spread. 
     
  • As more and more people use NHS Test and Trace, the government is continually evolving and improving this service, and in doing so, strengthening this valuable tool to stop the transmission of Covid-19 and drive down the R rate.

Daniel Johnson on the latest Home office row

It was former Labour home secretary John Reid who is best known for describing the Home Office as "not fit for purpose" in 2006 although he later said he had been quoting a senior civil servant.  

Under successive Home secretaries of both major parties, male and female genders, and different ethnic origins it has remained a problem department.

I do not condone bullying but this is clearly a very difficult department to run. The only ministers who have even survived as Home Secretary for any length of time, never mind been seen as successful, have either been extremely tough individuals, or had sidekicks who made Dominic Cummings look like Andy Pandy, or both.

There is a thought provoking piece on "The Article" site by Daniel Johnson on the subject here.



Quote of the day 22nd November 2020

 


Friday, November 20, 2020

Extending free flu vaccinations

The last thing we need this winter is for the usual winter flu outbreak to hit the NHS at the same time as we are dealing with wave two of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It probably won't happen because the measures being taken to protect people against COVID-19 are even more effective against influenza - the number of deaths from flu is massively down so far this year.

But it would be reckless to the point of utter stupidity to take that "probably" for granted - if we as a nation took our eye off the ball on flu that would be asking for the nightmare scenario of a simultaneous double hit from flu and coronavirus.

That's why the Health Secretary confirmed today that from 1 December adults aged 50 to 64 will be entitled to a free flu vaccination, as the NHS expands the largest ever flu vaccination programme this winter. The government stated that:

  • "As we face the twin threats of flu and Covid-19 in a winter like no other, getting a flu jab is more important than ever this year.
     
  • That is why the government is extending the offer of a free flu vaccine to those aged 50 to 64, which they can access from their GP or pharmacy, as part of the most comprehensive flu vaccination in our nation’s history this winter, which has seen flu vaccine uptake higher in almost all vulnerable groups compared to this time last year. 
     
  • We are committed to protecting as many people as possible for what will be a challenging winter, by keeping those at risk safe and reducing strain on our NHS in our continued efforts to tackle coronavirus." 

 



Quote of the day 21st November 2020




"You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment"

(Catch phrase written for the late Ian Richardson, as cabinet minister and later PM Francis Urquhart, in the TV adaptation of Michael Dobbs' "House of Cards" novels.)



(This is probably what Matt Hancock should have said when devious BBC journalists who are under the impression that their job is to provide an opposition rather than inform the public asked him a question this morning which he was not allowed to answer but to which it would look bad to say no.)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cumbria County Council - November meeting

Cumbria County Council met today online. This meeting was postponed from two weeks ago when there were IT problems.


Highlights of the meeting:

1) Fire tender Saved. In response to a question from me, it was confirmed that the Frizington Full Size fire tender is safe for now. Three smaller "Rapid response Vehicles" (RRVs ) have been deployed successfully in areas where they had local support. But in Copeland where local Firefighters, parish councils and the Copeland Local committee wanted to retain the full size fire tender at Frizington, it has been confirmed that we will keep that tender at least for the next few years.

2) Councillors accepted a recommendation from the Independent panel that there should be no change in councillors' allowances. It is not yet clear what effect the pandemic is having on the time required of councillors - my impression is that instead of spending a lot of time in and travelling to physical meetings we are now spending as much if not more time in virtual ones online - but this would be entirely the wrong time to pay ourselves any pay rise when so many of the people we represent have not only not had a pa rise but have lost their jobs, are on furlough, or are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

3) Following the excellent news that the A595 at Grizebeck is to be upgraded, I made a speech suggesting that to move forward the needs of the community on that road we hold a session to consider how the road from Carlisle to Barrow works as a whole system.

:

Lowlights

4) The County Council has withdrawn from Britain's Energy Coast (BEC.) Whatever we may so about what this company has and has not achieved, we need more co-operation between the participants in this organisation - which up to now were the County Council, Allerdale and Copeland Borough Councils, and Sellafield - and not less.

5) The leader of the council refused to give a direct answer to the Chair of Copeland Local Committee of the County Council who asked if the local committee could take up an invitation to the County Council to discuss Managing Radioactive Waste.

Whatever you think of the nuclear industry, the fact is that it exists and has existed, as a result of that we have hundreds of tons of radioactive waste in this country, most of it right here in Copeland at Sellafield or LLWR. All the anti-nuclear slogans in the world will not somehow magic that nuclear waste out of existence, it already exists and we ought to be reviewing the safest way to store it. Refusing to talk to other interested parties is the worst possible form of sticking your head, ostrich-like, in the sand.

6) The ugly issue of Anti-Semitism was again discussed.

Like every form of racism, Anti-Semitism has no place in Britain. No ifs, no buts.

Sadly no political party can afford to be complacent about Anti-Semitism, or prejudice against Muslims, or any other form of racism or bigotry. Most people in all the major parties are strongly opposed to racism. But there are a few who have been guilty of it - are more who failed to support again about it.

I will return to this difficult issue when I have composed a form of words which is clearly fair and balanced and will not appear to be using the important issue of fighting racism to score party-political points - but see today's "Quote of the Day."

Enhancing Britain's defence

It is often used to be said "the first responsibility of government is the defence of the realm."

Perhaps since the end of the Cold War we don't hear the subject discussed often enough.

But the world is not and has never been a completely safe place and from time to timewe need to stop and ask ourselves whether our country's defences are strong enough.


That's why, today, the Prime Minister outlines the largest boost to our nation’s defence in the last 30 years, investing an extra £24 billion in our national security - creating thousands of jobs across the UK.

  • As a nation we face an international situation that is more perilous and more intensely competitive than at any time since the Cold War. Britain must continue to be true to our history and stand alongside our allies - to achieve this we need to upgrade our capabilities across the board.
     
  • This commitment is the largest investment in our nation’s defence since the end of the Cold War, giving Britain's defence budget an extra £24.1 billion over the next four years. This both delivers and surpasses the Conservative manifesto commitment to exceed the NATO defence spending target of 2 per cent of GDP - by providing an extra £16.5 billion in funding above our 2019 commitment.
     
  • This funding will help us build back better from coronavirus by creating 10,000 new jobs a year, revitalising British shipbuilding and ensure that the United Kingdom is a global, outward-looking nation now we have left the EU. It also sends a clear message to our allies that they can always count on the UK.
     
  • This funding will also make it possible to invest in cutting-edge technology, positioning the UK as a global leader in cyber, space and shipbuilding. To support these advancements the Prime Minister also announces today: 

    • A new agency dedicated to Artificial Intelligence.
       
    • The creation of a National Cyber Force, to protect our people from harm.
       
    • A new ‘Space Command’, with the first rocket launched from Scotland by 2022.
       
    • A commitment to finance the UK’s order of 8 Type 26 and 5 Type 31 frigates, which are currently being constructed on the Clyde, creating thousands of jobs.
       
    • A further commitment to build Britain's next generation warships – the Type 32 – here in the UK
       
  • This is our chance to end the era of retreat, transform our Armed Forces and bolster our global influence. The returns of this investment will go far beyond our Armed Forces, creating thousands of jobs, reinforcing the Union and levelling up our country

Quote of the day 19th November 2021

This is the first and may well be the last time I ever have a "quote from the day" from this particular source, but credit where credit is due: 


“Jeremy has to make a full apology. No ifs, no buts, no caveats, no qualifying sentences. He has to admit he got it wrong. 

“There is no place for anti-Semitism, no place for any form of discrimination in our society.

“And if people are in any doubt about where he stands he has got to make it absolutely clear he will have no truck with anti-Semitism at any time in the future. 

 “You see Jeremy said the problem had been exaggerated but I say if there is even one case of anti-Semitism you have got to deal with it”

(Gordon Brown, former Labour PM, on GMB this week, calling on former Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to make a full apology and admit he got it wrong on Anti-Semitism before he is again allowed to sit as a Labour MP.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

MIdweek "Building Bach better" slot: Violin Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052R)

Helping victims of Rape and Domestic Abuse

The government will provide an extra £17 million of taxpayers' money to support and protect victims of rape and domestic abuse this winter, ensuring that support is always available to people who suffer from these heinous crimes.

  • There has been a deeply concerning rise in people reaching out to domestic abuse charities during the pandemic, and our message to victims of during this unprecedented time is clear: you are not alone.
     
  • So the government will provide nearly £11 million of taxpayers' money to support a range of services offering practical and emotional help, allowing organisations to recruit more staff and adapt to offering remote support during the winter. A further £7 million will be invested on a range of innovative programmes aimed at perpetrators, and which are designed to prevent domestic abuse from happening in the first place.
     
  • This funding will make sure that vital help is always available for those who need it, while tackling the root causes of violent behaviour that can bring so much harm.

A ten point plan for a "Green Industrial Revolution"

 

Today, the Prime Minister has outlined his ten-point plan to bring about a green industrial revolution, creating 250,000 jobs and helping us to build back better and greener after coronavirus. Here is a statement of what the government hopes to achieve.

  • Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, we have not lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up and create jobs across the country.
     
  • That’s why the Prime Minister has set out his blueprint for a green industrial revolution, covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies, to allow us to end our contribution to climate change by 2050, while creating and supporting up to 250,000 highly-skilled jobs across the whole UK. 
     
  • In order to deliver on the plan and create jobs, we will mobilise £12 billion, including an extra £200 million to support carbon capture, up to £500 million to trial hydrogen in homes, £525 million to develop large and small-scale nuclear plants and £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of chargepoints for electric vehicles. 
     
  • At the centre of this blueprint are the UK’s industrial heartlands, including in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, Scotland and Wales, which will drive forward the green industrial revolution and build green jobs and industries of the future.
     
  • Our green industrial revolution will be powered by companies and technologies from all across the UK, delivering on our promise to level up and create jobs as we build back better and greener after coronavirus.

The Prime Minister’s ten points, which are built around the UK’s strengths, are:

  1. Offshore wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs.
     
  2. Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
     
  3. Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs.
     
  4. Electric vehicles: Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles.
     
  5. Public transport, cycling and walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future. 
     
  6. Jet Zero and greener maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonise industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships.
     
  7. Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
     
  8. Carbon capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today.
     
  9. Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs.
     
  10. Innovation and finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global centre of green finance.

Devolution

Leaked comments from a private meeting have been quoted in a selective way by the media which gives a misleading impression on the Prime Minister's views on devolution.

The Prime Minister is a strong supporter of devolution, but not when it is used by separatists or nationalists to break up the United Kingdom.

  • The Prime Minister has always supported devolution. What he has criticised is not the principle of local decision-making but the way some people have used it to try to create division between the different parts of the UK.
     
  • Devolution is great - but not when it is used by separatists and nationalists in an attempt to break up the United Kingdom.



Quote of the day 18th November 2020

 


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Towards a Covid-19 Vaccine

As soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is proven to be safe and effective we will be ready to start providing it in Britain, starting with the most vulnerable.

That's why the government has secured access to 5 million doses of Moderna’s promising vaccine, following initial data showing that it is nearly 95 per cent effective in protecting against coronavirus, with no safety issues yet identified.

  • This deal means there are now agreements in place with 7 different developers and Britain has secured 355 million vaccine doses, putting us at the front of the international pack on a per capita basis. 
     
  • If the Moderna vaccine passes all the rigorous safety checks and is proved effective, it could be delivered as early as Spring 2021 with the potential for the government to procure more doses next year. 
     
  • But the biggest mistake anyone could make now would be to assume because several possible vaccines look tantalisingly close, that it is safe to slacken our resolve at such a critical moment. Irrespective of whether there is a vaccine on the way or not, we must continue to do everything possible right now to bring the R down – and everyone should continue to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.

Landmark reforms to social housing

Today the government announced landmark reforms to improve social housing in England, giving tenants a greater voice and bringing transformational change for residents – as we deliver on our manifesto pledge to improve the quality of social housing. 

  • The then Prime Minister made a commitment to the Grenfell community that, never again, would the voices of residents go unheard.  Our manifesto pledged to provide greater redress, better regulation and improve the quality of social housing. 
     
  • The new Social Housing White Paper sets out plans to speed up the complaints procedure for residents and to make landlords more accountable. It also includes a new Charter setting out what every social housing resident should expect from their landlord – including to be treated with respect, to be safe in your home, to have a good quality home and neighbourhood, and to have your voice heard by your landlord. 
     
  • Today’s announcement also underlines the Conservative commitment to safer homes, with a consultation seeking the same legal protections on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for social tenants as private renters.   
     
  • These proposals will bring real change for social housing residents, giving them a much stronger voice and re-focusing the sector on its social mission – making a measurable difference to people’s lives.

Moving forward

I have had  a briefing on some of the steps the government is taking this week to move forward in a number of areas, as follows:


"This One Nation Conservative Government is determined to improve opportunities for people across the country, regardless of their background or where they live in the UK. 

We were elected on an ambitious manifesto to unite and level up, investing in education, skills and our NHS, tackling crime and introducing tougher sentencing for those who commit the most heinous crimes – and we will deliver on these promises.

  • The Prime Minister will make a series of critical announcements over the next couple of weeks that will be a clear signal of his ongoing ambitions for the United Kingdom. This will include plans to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to level up opportunity across the country, invest in education, improve skills, create jobs, and build back better and greener from the coronavirus pandemic. 
     
  • Yesterday, the Prime Minister will meet with MPs virtually from the Northern Research Group to listen to their ideas and ensure that Northern MPs understand the Prime Minister’s personal ambition for levelling up the country
     
  • As we enter the third week of the new national restrictions, the Prime Minister will chair key COVID meetings virtually. These will look ahead to the next phase of our fight against the virus as we return to the regionalised approach after the 2nd December, as well as focusing on developments on vaccines and the role of new testing technologies in the government’s strategy to tackle coronavirus. 
     
  • With the spending review on the horizon, the Prime Minister and Chancellor will be making major decisions in the days ahead. At the heart of the spending review the government will ensure that we can build back better from the pandemic
     
  • Crucial talks on Brexit will continue in Brussels this week between Lord Frost and Michel Barnier. We will not accept any proposals in the negotiations that undermine our status as a sovereign, independent country and if the EU do not respect the sovereignty of the UK we will leave on Australian terms and we will prosper. 
     
  • We will also publish our Ten Point Plan, which will set out steps for a green industrial revolution to boost green jobs whilst invigorating plans to achieve net zero by 2050 – following on from yesterday’s announcement."

November meeting of the Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland

The County Council's Local Committee for Copeland will meet online at 10.15 am on Tuesday 24th November online.

Please note that this meeting will be a virtual meeting and therefore will not take place in a physical location. Members of the public can follow the link to view and hear this meeting live:

https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NzY1YjYxNTctM2ViYy00NTc5LWEzZDYtNWNmOTEyYzIxN2E3%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22ac4b077e-a758-4bc5-9465-35c192007704%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%229b542265-4285-4156-861c-234dd34d9141%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d

The agenda and documents for the meeting can be read here.

Quote of the day 17th November 2020


 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Reconvened November meeting of Cumbria County Council

The meeting of Cumbria County Council which was adjourned on Thursday 5th November because of connection problems will reconvene this Thursday, 19th November at 10am.

The agenda is as previously published and can be found here.

This meeting will not be taking place in a physical location but will be held onliney. Members of the public can follow the link below to access the live meeting:-

More on testing

Today the government announced that two new ‘mega labs’ will open early next year, doubling our daily coronavirus testing capacity so that more people can get a test more conveniently than ever before.

  • Since the start of this pandemic, Britain has built a diagnostics industry essentially from scratch that has given us one of the best testing rates in the world and the largest testing capacity in Europe – and we are determined to build on this progress.
     
  • Now the government is to create two new ‘mega labs’ in Leamington Spa and in Scotland, with each capable of providing 300,000 daily coronavirus test results, and will also help to future-proof our national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics and improving care for other diseases.
     
  • These ‘mega labs’ are not only essential in our fight to beat coronavirus, but will also help us to build back better so that we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale.

University Admissions

The Education Secretary has announced plans to review the university admission system to ensure the system is fair – helping Britain to level up and spread opportunity across the nation. 

  • Under the new proposals, students would only receive offers from universities after they have received their grades, instead of before. The current reliance on inaccurate predicted grades routinely lets down too many of our brightest students.
     
  • By moving to a system that relies on real grades, we can end this unfairness and ensure we have a system that helps young people into the best universities. It will also end the damaging use of unconditional offers which remove the motivation to work hard at school.
     
  • It has been a challenging time for the education sector, but we will not allow coronavirus to get in our way of levelling the playing field and empowering students to have the very best opportunities to succeed.

Testing to keep Care Homes safe

Trialling mass testing in a number of care homes began today, in the hope of allowing families to be together with their loved ones.

  • We all know how difficult it has been for families and friends who haven’t been able to see their loved ones during the pandemic. 
  • Last week, the government published updated guidance on how care homes care safely allow visits while national restrictions are in place, and, from today, launches testing pilots at 30 care homes, to allow specific family and friends to undertake indoor visits to residents.
     
  • We all want to bring an end to the pain of separation and help care homes bring families and loved ones together. The launch of visitor testing is a crucial step to making that happen.

Monday "Building Bach better" slot: Concerto for two violins in D minor

Protecting Britain's Parks and Landscapes

The Prime Minister has announced plans to create new national parks and increase protections for iconic landscapes, helping to deliver our manifesto commitment to protect the UK’s green spaces.

  • As we build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic, we are determined to protect and restore our natural environment and diverse ecosystems – which are treasured by so many of us. 
     
  • Britain’s iconic landscapes are part of the fabric of our national identity – by starting the process for designating more of our beautiful and iconic landscapes as National Parks and AONBs, we will help expand and protect precious wildlife habitats and, vitally, increase people’s access to our treasured landscapes. 
     
  • With the natural world under threat, it’s more important than ever that we act now to enhance our natural environment and protect our precious wildlife and biodiversity.

Quote of the day 16th November 2020


 

Des O'Connor RIP

Des O'Connor has died at the age of 88, after a fall at his home in Buckinghamshire.

Desmond Bernard O'Connor was born on 12 January 1932 in Stepney, East London, the son of a Jewish cleaner and an Irish dustman. He contracted rickets while he was a child which resulted in him having callipers on his legs until he was seven. He was also badly injured in a car accident and spent some time in an iron lung which disrupted his primary school education.

Despite all this, after starting his career with National Service and being a Butlins Redcoat after the war,  he became a highly successful entertainer and an almost ever-present face on UK television, he held the record for more mainstream appearances on the small screen than any other performer. O'Connor, also carved out a successful career as a singer including four Top 10 hits and more than 30 albums. 

Des O'Connor once said that all he did was walk on to the stage, chat to the audience and sing a few songs. It was a formula that made him one of Britain's best-known stars, an old-fashioned showman who could turn his hand to almost anything - fronting his variety programme, hosting chat shows or presiding over the quiz Countdown. 

Almost inevitably the TV obituaries have featured some of the good natured joking between O'Connor and two other entertainers of his generation, Morecambe and Wise, who were constantly making jokes at his expense - jokes, it has to be said, which he always was the first to laugh with. He got his "revenge" in one edition of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show, after the actors' union Equity had successfully blocked a scene in which Eric and Ernie would have supposedly been shot by a "German firing squad" consisting of four of Britain's most powerful trade union leaders (because the four union general secretaries concerned did not have Equity cards) so Des O'Connor got to command the firing squad instead. 

My late mother commented after the broadcast that the grin on O'Connor's face was a sight to behold - but it was all in fun. According to one of the obituaries I have read, Des O'Connor actually wrote many of the jokes which Morecambe and Wise delivered about him; they had all been great friends since their early days in show business.

He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours. He was married four times and had five children.

I usually end obit posts with "Rest in Peace" unless another ending seems more appropriate. In Des O'Connor's case I can just imagine Eric Morecambe's voice saying, in a line which Des O'Connor might well have drafted himself. something like "And if he doesn't the rest of us certainly will."