Thursday, September 19, 2019

Quote of the day 19th September 2019

There have been a lot of different versions of this saying.

It is not conclusively proved that Henry Ford uttered this one, but it was attributed to him shortly after his death and is known to be consistent with his opinions. There is an assessment of the provenance of the saying at the Quote Investigator site here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tackling Domestic Violence

We are taking tough action on perpetrators of domestic violence by appointing the UK’s first ever Domestic Abuse Commissioner so we can better protect victims of domestic abuse.


  • Domestic abuse is unacceptable and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicola Jacobs, will support victims, reduce harm and improve the lives of those who experience it.


  • The Commissioner will help identify those at risk and will also be able to publish reports that encourage good practice in preventing domestic abuse.

Supporting victims of rape

The Conservative government is ensuring that victims of rape and sexual assault can access the specialist support they need so that they are properly cared for.


  • Our £5 million funding boost will form part of the Rape Victims’ Pledge, providing additional support for victims to make their engagement with the criminal justice system simpler and less distressing.


  • We are increasing the money available by 50 per cent – from £8 million to £12 million per year – for a range of services across the country, so that courageous victims who have come forward get the support they need.

Five years since Indyref

Five years ago Scotland voted on whether or not to remain part of the UK.

The people of Scotland voted to stay, and an opinion poll this week suggested that this is what a larger majority - 59% of Scots still want today.

Jamie Greene, Shadow Transport secretary for Scotland, makes a good point here:

Quote of the day 18th September 2019

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Double standards

The Lib/Dems have been accused by the SNP of double standards for proposing to overturn the results of the Brexit referendum while insisting that the Scottish Independence result should stand.

Kirsty Blackman, the SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster said Swinson was guilty of “utterly grotesque” hypocrisy and acting in a way that was “neither liberal nor democratic".

Of course, when the Lib/Dems and the SNP accuse each other of double standards, both are correct.

The Lib/Dems are guilty of double standards by suggesting that if they win an election this would give them a mandate to overturn the Brexit referendum while refusing to accept that argument when it comes to allowing the SNP to call another independence referendum - they have made clear that if they were in government they would reject any "article 30" request from the Scottish government for another independence referendum.

But the SNP are equally guilty of exactly the same kind of double standards and hypocrisy by supporting tactics to delay and block the result of the UK's referendum on leaving the EU which would have them screaming blue murder if such tactics were deployed against any vote by the Scottish people to leave the UK.

Just imagine if the Scottish people had voted "Yes" in 2014, or were to vote for Independence in any future referendum, and three years later Scotland were still in the UK because unionists were voting to delay, block and sabotage Scottish Independence in the same way that SNP politicians have voted to delay, block and sabotage Brexit. You'd hear the screams of outraged Scottish nationalists from as far away as Cornwall.

Personally I believe that both the vote by the Scottish people in 2014 and the vote by the British people should be respected and implemented, and I would not support any new referendum on either unless there were overwhelming evidence - far stronger than anything which exists to date - that the people of Scotland or the UK had changed their minds.

STOP PRESS - to reinforce that last point a new Survation poll has just revealed that 59% of Scots want Scotland to stay in the UK.

Protecting the public: keeping children safe online

The government has also announced a £30 million funding boost to track dangerous internet abusers so we can keep children safe.


  • We are investing more to equip law enforcement with pioneering new tech to track down more paedophiles and safeguard children who have been abused.

  • As we are taking further steps to combat those who use the internet to prey upon children, we’re also giving the police more resources and recruiting 20,000 more officers to keep our streets safe.

Protecting the public: making the punishment fit the crime

The Conservative government is going further to ensure that those found guilty of heinous crimes such as child sex offences will receive the sentences their actions warrant – using every tool at our disposal to make sure justice is done and the public is kept safe.


  • 14 new offences are being added to the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme to help ensure that the punishment of criminals properly reflects the severity of their crime, and that victims can get their voices heard.


  • Criminals convicted of stalking, harassment, child sexual abuse and other sex offences could see their sentences increased if victims or the public think their punishment is too lenient. 

Quote of the day 17th September 2019

The quote below is often attributed to Sir Winston Churchill. There is no conclusive proof that he ever really said it and the leading expert on Churchill quotes argues that he probably didn't. What evidence does exist is discussed by the Quote Investigator site here.

Whether or not Churchill himself actually used these words, the saying does appear to originate from about 1943, when Churchill and others were trying to inspire people who were going through a hellish war.

He certainly did say things which convey the same message of hope and determination, and it is good advice.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Boris in Brussels

Ahead of his meeting with the President of the European Commission today,  the Prime Minister said that he passionately believes we can get a great new deal for Britain, but we must leave the EU by 31 October.


  • The Prime Minister is seeking a deal which will protect the interests of businesses and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.


  • But if we cannot get a deal – the right deal for both sides – then the UK must implement the referendum result and leave the EU anyway. While it is not the outcome we want, our preparations are by now very extensive and we will be ready to leave.


  • We will then be able to get on with uniting the country and unleashing its talents. We will get on with cutting crime, and investing in hospitals, and in our schools.

A daft pledge

It's Lib/Dem conference this week.

Earlier today the Liberal Democrats tweeted a promise to every teenager in the country “that we will do everything we can to ensure you receive the opportunities we had in the 1970s”


I was a teenager in the 1970's.

Opportunities to enjoy power cuts, the dead unburied, rubbish lying in the streets?

Opportunity to have your healthcare disrupted by industrial action and far worse cuts in NHS spending imposed by the International Monetary Fund thanks to the incompetence of a Labour government than anything which ever happened to the NHS under a Conservative government?

My father was one of those affected - he was phoned on the day he was due to go into Guys hospital for a heart operation that doctors thought was medically urgent, and informed that his operation had been cancelled because show stewards representing porters and cleaners had decided that they knew better than the doctors what an emergency was.

Or perhaps they meant opportunities for learning? They want to offer the educational opportunities which were available to teenagers at a time when there was a two tier system of higher education, in which only about 6% of my age cohort went to the top tier (universities) and fewer than ten percent had the opportunity for any higher education? (It's currently about 50%)

Back to the sixties is not a positive message and whoever wrote that tweet showed a lack of knowledge of history.

It appears to have been a misquote from a speech by Christine Jardine MP at the conference, except that when you listen to the clip she actually says "that you have the opportunities that we've enjoyed since the 1970's."

A much less daft pledge, but if you think about it, a very unambitious one. "We're not going to take away any opportunities which have been in place for the last forty years" is not much of a target.

Quote of the day 16th September 2019

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Maryport and Barrow among the towns to benefit from £95 million for high streets

Maryport and Barrow-in-Furness are among the towns which will benefit from £95 million of taxpayers' money which the Conservative government is allocating to breathe new life into historic buildings on our high streets, keeping these vital places at the heart of our communities.
  • The £95 million funding will be used to revitalise 69 historic high streets across England – the biggest ever single investment into the UK’s built heritage.
  • A map showing the location of all the high streets benefitting from the High Streets heritage Action Fund can be found here: it includes two Cumbrian towns, Maryport and Barrow-in-Furness.
  • We will breathe new life into high streets all over England, benefiting businesses, supporting our much-loved buildings and helping to make our communities more attractive places to live, work and visit.

Music spot for Battle of Britain day: Royal Air Force March

Quote for Battle of Britain day, 15th September 2019

Today is Battle of Britain day: it is the 79th anniversary of a major Lufwaffe offensive which was beaten back with heavy casualties.

We have the freedom to express our views today because of the sacrifice of a few hundred pilots, of whom some British, some were free Poles and others from countries in Europe who still bravely fought on although their homes were under the Nazi jackboot, some were volunteers from all over the world.

We must never forget what they did for us 79 years ago.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday music spot "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Handel's "Solomon"

"Brexit Disaster capitalism" claims debunked

Most people who have been paying any attention to who takes what positions on Brexit are aware that the great majority of large businesses, most very rich people, and most of the City of London were firmly in the Remain corner in 2016.

(That is not necessarily quite as true today, in that plenty of them accept the referendum result. Indeed, many rich people and businesses are now as fed up as much of the rest of Britain with interminable delays and postponements to Brexit and the harm done to business by uncertainty and delay and now, as I quoted from a "City AM" article yesterday, want to get on with it.

But it was true at the time.)

When Jeremy Corbyn and the left suggested that Boris Johnson was promoting Brexit to help "his rich friends" the vast majority of well-informed people thought "What planet are you on?"

For those, however, who are desperate to believe this narrative, a study by a niche online website called "Byline" came as manna from heaven. An article in the "Byline Times" which suggested that there was a major increase in the number of “short” positions taken by UK hedge funds when Boris Johnson ran for Conservative leader was shared tens of thousands of times on social media.

The basic idea is that hedge funds who were also donors to Vote Leave and Boris Johnson's leadership campaign would also profit by a "No Deal" Brexit by investing £8 billion in a bet on a it happening and causing a drop in share prices.

There is one slight problem with their analysis: if you look at the data correctly including both "short" positions which were still active at the time they did the analysis and those which were not, then it appears to Full Fact and a number of other people who have checked it that the supposed "spike" in short positions never happened.

The Byline claim is debunked at the Full Fact website here and in City AM here.

Quote of the day 14th September 2019

"There are two common views among people who wanted to stay in the EU that I think are mistaken.

One is that David Cameron made a foolish and unforgivable mistake in promising the referendum. 

The other is that the result was obtained by a campaign of lies."

"My contentions are that Cameron was forced to promise a referendum by the very democratic pressure that produced the vote to Leave, and that the referendum was about as fair as the rough and tumble of democracy usually is."

"One of the surprising things about the referendum was that we didn’t hear that much about Eurosceptic press barons dominating the debate. This may be because they didn’t. The media landscape in Britain has been utterly transformed by the internet – as I know well, working for the first national newspaper to go online-only."

"If you look at the readership of British newspapers, print and online, not only does The Independent have more readers than The Sun – not many people know that – but the total readerships of newspapers advocating Leave and Remain were about the same."

"All the same, there were claims made in the campaign that were – I prefer not to call them lies – not absolutely evidence-based. The most prominent was the claim by the Leave campaign that the UK sends £350m a week to the EU. We don’t. It’s about half that. The Leave people justified it by saying it would be £350m if we didn’t have the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1985. Their argument is that politicians will be tempted to negotiate the rebate away in future – Tony Blair, for example, allowed it to be diluted when new countries joined the EU in 2004."

"Most journalists reported that it wasn’t true. The trouble is that saying, “It’s not £350m a week it’s £180m a week,” didn’t really help the Remainers. It drove them mad because the Leavers kept on using the £350m, and the Remainers kept saying it wasn’t true, drawing attention to it, and reminding voters that we send a sum of money too big to be understood to the EU every week. Besides, the Remain campaign was putting out leaflets claiming that for every pound we put into the EU we got £10 back. I wouldn’t describe that as absolutely evidence-based either."

"I was a Remainer myself, although a reluctant Remainer (like the Prime Minister), but I don’t accept

 (a) that it was foolish or mistaken to have the referendum, or
 (b) that it was won by lies.

I think the decision to hold a referendum was right, unavoidable and democratic. And I think that the campaign may have been simple-minded and unedifying – although I don’t think it was as dishonest as Donald Trump's presidential campaign – but that is what democracy is like."

(John Rentoul, extracts from an edited version of a talk given at a conference on “Referendums and Democratic Politics” available online on the Independent site here)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Second quote of the day: time to get on with it

Big business and the City of London were, despite the "disaster capitalism" conspiracy theories about rich speculators backing Brexit which some people who don't understand the first thing about the market economy are sharing, (I will respond to those tomorrow,) overwhelmingly pro Remain.

So it is interesting that this appeared in City AM as the opening of one of their opinion pieces today.

"It's time to get on with it.

Every single city figure I speak to about Brexit has just one wish: get it done. That isn't a perspective confined to the square mile either.

A former Credit Suisse Banker who now chairs a company in the North East told me that he asked directors at a recent board meeting how many of them backed Remain. And how many now want to leave, he asked? All hands remained in the air."

You can read the relevant article in full here.

Delivering for the North

The Prime Minister today reaffirmed the Conservative commitment to deliver for the North – unlocking the potential of every region and giving people more of a say over the places where they live.


·      On entering Downing Street, the Prime Minister made it his priority to unlock the potential of every corner of the UK. In a speech in South Yorkshire today, he will reiterate our commitment to driving forward the region’s growth and our commitment to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail, starting with Manchester to Leeds.


·      It is time that we gave more people a say over the places where they live and help them to run things their way.

Quote of the day 13th September 2019

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Orders placed with British yards for type 31 frigates

The Prime Minister has announced that new warships for the Royal Navy will be built in the UK, securing thousands of jobs for people at British shipyards and ensuring the United Kingdom is a global, outward looking nation as we leave the EU.

New Type 31 frigates to be used by the Royal Navy will be built exclusively in the UK, with the first ‘in the water’ by 2023, reinvigorating our Royal Navy fleet and supporting over 2,500 jobs.

We will ensure we have a sustainable skills base for UK shipbuilding so our world-class shipyards are able to compete fairly for all UK Government contracts and around the world.

As a Cumbria county councillor, I realise there may be some disappointment in the county that the bid went to Babcock rather than the rival BAE systems consortium. However I see on the BBC website that although much of the work will obviously go to Rosyth, some of the it may be shared around the UK by the winning consortium, possibly including participants in the rival UK bids. So there may yet be opportunities for Cumbria.

Egremont, Flimby and Kendal to beneft from government flood protection initiative.

Great news: Cumbria and Lancashire to received some of the largest amounts of funding from a government flood protection initiative with £22.8m now available to support anti-flood projects in Kendal, Egremont, Flimby and Preston and South Ribble.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers announced the new round of flood defence investment on Tuesday for communities across Yorkshire, Cumbria, the North East and the South East of England. She said:

“I am delighted to announce over £60m of additional funding to better protect communities which are vulnerable to flooding, particularly across parts of northern England. Events this summer have shown that investing in flood risk management is more important than ever, and this funding builds on our long-standing £2.6 billion commitment to better protect 300,000 homes from flooding and coastal erosion over six years.” 

More details on the News and Star website here.

Quote of the day 12th September 2019

“They want us to negotiate a ‘credible’ deal and then they will campaign against it in a referendum? 

That is mad. 

How can we negotiate with people like that?”

(EU source quoted in The Times, referring to Labour Brexit policy.)

The same report said that EU officials were reportedly "tearing their hair out" and "horrified" over Labour's "magical thinking" and the possibility of having to negotiate with any Labour government putting forward the policy described by Emily Thornberry on BBC Question Time last week here:

I've not agreed with everything the EU have said over the last few years about the UK's negotiating positions but I think they have a point this time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Midweek music spot: Papageno & Papagena duet from Mozart's Magic Flute

With English and German (and sometimes French) subtitles:

Ben Kelly on British and Scottish nationalists

One of the most extraordinary ironies of current British politics is that there are in these islands two strong forms of nationalism which make practically identical arguments for the geographical unit on whose behalf they seek independence but each of whom, in the great majority of cases, vehemently reject the same arguments when applied to a different geography within the British isles.

The arguments in favour of Britain leaving the European Union are, in my humble opinion, virtually identical to those for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom except that, also in my humble opinion, the evidence for the former is a little stronger.

Similarly the arguments against Britain leaving the EU are extremely similar to those for Scotland remaining part of the Union except that in my opinion the evidence for the latter case is stronger.

I can understand people in Scotland who voted "No" and "Remain" (which as these two positions won in Scotland is probably the largest group of Scots.)

I can understand those who voted "Yes" and "Leave" and this equally logical position is actually held by a larger proportion of Scots than the SNP leadership currently want people to believe. I suspect that the SNP leadership's pro-EU stance is entirely tactical: most of them don't actually give a damn about Brexit, but it makes a really good stick to beat the unionists with.

If Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues really thought through, took seriously and consistently applied the arguments they use against Brexit it is very difficult to see how they could be such enthusiastic supporters of Scottish independence.

I can certainly understand those who believe in democracy and consider that the results of both the EU referendum and the first Scottish Independence referendum should be respected.

I can also see how it might be possible for a person who thought there were decent arguments both for and against Brexit and also for and against Scottish Independence might arrive at the position that there was a narrow balance of argument in favour of one but against the other.

What I cannot for the life of me understand is how so many apparently sane people could adopt as an article of faith either the conviction that anything other than total independence from Brussels is slavery but London having a substantial element of control over the affairs of Scotland is fine, or vice versa, that anything other than total independence from London is slavery but Brussels having a substantial element of control over the affairs of Scotland is fine,

The extreme example of this extraordinary piece of cognitive dissonance is those who suggest for one single millisecond that the difficulties which the UK are having with Brexit is an argument for Scottish independence from Britain.

Anyone who suggests that is quite literally arguing, in effect,

"Breaking up a 43-year old union which takes 18% of Scottish exports is going really badly, so instead let's break up a 300-year old and much deeper union which takes 60%."

(In terms of inter-country trade by Scotland. exports to the rest of the UK account for 60% of overall Scottish exports, exports to EU countries other than the UK account for 18% and non-EU exports 22%. Source: a Scottish government website. In other words, effectively the SNP's own figures.) 

It's a bit like saying "Sawing off my own left arm is proving really painful, so I'm going to saw off my right arm and both legs instead."

Let's take an example. Suppose Scotland gets independence and applies successfully to join the EU. The rest of the UK then signs a trade deal with Trump's America which the EU doesn't like.

We would then find that most of the very same arguments about the border on the island of Ireland which have caused so much difficulty in the Brexit negotiations, would then equally apply to the border between England and Scotland.

This is one of a number of reasons why it is very probable that at least one EU member state - Spain is the most likely - would veto any application by an independent Scotland to join the EU. But  a Scottish state which was independent of both the UK and the EU would still face the same border issues if it tried to follow an independent trade policy.

There is an interesting opinion piece which Ben Kelly wrote on "The Article" site in mid August,

"Hardline Scot Nats and obsessive Brexiteers are peas in a pod,"

which looks at some of the parallels between these two groups and which you can read here.

Opportunities for Global Talent

The Prime Minister is announcing a new immigration route for talented international students, so that we can attract the brightest and best global talent, opening up opportunities for future breakthroughs in science, technology and research helping us save more lives.

  • International graduates from a trusted UK university or higher education provider will be able to stay in the UK for two years to find work, building on our action to recruit and retain the brightest global talent. 
  • This will open up opportunities for breakthroughs in science, technology and research and other world-leading work that international talent brings to the UK. 
  • We are also launching the world’s largest genetics research project – backed by £200 million funding so we can continue to be world leaders in breakthroughs that help us better treat life-threatening illnesses and save lives.

Quote of the day 11th September 2019

This is a quote from Margaret Thatcher to which I referred at the debate on Climate Change at Cumbria County Council earlier today:

The council passed a motion recognising the seriousness of Climate Change and the need for the country and the county to work towards going carbon neutral.

There was a slight irony in that I quoted the words above, referring only indirectly to who had first said them rather than naming Mrs Thatcher, and was heard in respectful silence.

My colleague Dr Stephen Haraldsen, speaking a few minutes later. also referred to the important speech Mrs Thatcher made thirty years ago about the environment, and did refer to her by name, and was heckled by some Labour councillors.

As he rightly said, Mrs Thatcher was the first major world leader to see the importance of the environment, as Mrs May was the first major world leader to propose that her country commit to going carbon neutral by 2050.

This is not going to be simple and straightforward, and some of the things we have to do will be costly - though there are things we can do, like going over to LED lightbulbs, which will save us money as well as helping save the planet. But if our great-grandchildren are to have a future we need to make sure we tread gently on the earth.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ivan Lewis's speech on Brexit and the election debate 9th September 2019

I don't often agree with, or share here, speeches by MPs elected on a Labour ticket.

But I'll make an exception because two of the most powerful speeches made in the House of Commons over the last few days came from Ian Austin MP and Ivan Lewis MP, both of whom were elected as Labour MPs but have left the party over the policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, policies which have been disastrous for that party and would be disastrous for the country should he ever become Prime Minister.

This is the speech which Ivan Lewis made last night explaining why he was going to vote for a general election and believes that the result of the referendum should be honoured.

World Suicide Prevention day

We observe World Suicide Prevention Day each year on September 10. It’s a growing problem and the numbers tell a shocking story. Every 40 seconds someone takes their own life according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That’s about 800,000 people worldwide every year — although some estimates put that number closer to 1 million. 
Around the world suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 29 and for every suicide that results in death, there are as many as 40 attempted suicides. 
In Britain suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 49.

The figures are shocking here in Cumbria too.
Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy for the individual concerned. It's also a tragedy for those who knew and loved that individual.
This isn't just a problem for high risk groups: there are some categories of people who are particularly at risk of suicide but some preventable suicides happen because those who might have been able to persuade the individual to seek help never imagined it could happen to them.
Yet whoever and wherever you are and whatever challenges you are dealing with, there’s a lot to live for.  Check out more information at National Suicide Prevention Month.

Good news on growth and wages

While it is wise not to place too much reliance on a single month's figures, the numbers for economic growth in the year to July which were published yesterday were encouraging.

The UK's economy grew faster than expected in July, easing fears that Britain could fall into recession. The economy grew 0.3% in July, according to the Office for National Statistics, the UK's official statistics body said, helped by the strong growth in the services sector.

Today we have figures for employment and growth which show

• Wages growing at their fastest pace since 2008
• Unemployment rate at lowest since 1974
• Employment rate at a joint record high

Earnings excluding bonuses grew at an annual pace of 3.8% in the May to July period, down slightly from the previous reading. Including bonuses, wages rose at an annual pace of 4% - the highest rate since mid-2008. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.8%, while the estimated employment rate remained at a record 76.1%.

Average wages have now been growing faster than inflation for a year, suggesting that for many people their pay packets are finally recovering from the effects of the recession which started in 2008.

MPs block an election again

For a second time the very MPs who have been accusing the government of shutting down democracy were the ones who prevented the House of Commons calling an election. Again most of them did so by abstaining rather than actively voting against an election but under the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) an abstention and a vote against are functionally identical.

Parliament has now been "prorogued" for five weeks and will return in mid-October after party conference season. If the MPs who protested about this really thought that the PM is a "dictator" or that this shutdown was comparable to the Reichstag Fire decrees (which gave Hitler the power to arrest opponents without trial, shut down political parties or newspapers, and take over local governments) they could and presumably would have called an election.

The best explanation I've seen for the outburst of hysteria was given in a piece published by Owen Polley on "The Article" website on 29th August - less than a fortnight ago but how long it seems -

"For Britain's sake, Brexit ultras on both sides need to calm down."

He suggests that opponents of a hard Brexit had been afraid that Boris Johnson might try to force a "no deal" Brexit by proroguing parliament until after 31st October, so that the UK would crash out without a deal and without parliament having any opportunity to do anything about it.

Wrongfooted by a less radical and shorter suspension which did not cover the period when parliament would have to be sitting to pass the legislation required to leave with a deal, Polley argues that Boris Johnson's opponents "unleashed the rhetoric which was prepared" had he proposed a longer suspension of parliament until November, a proposal which would indeed have forced through a "No Deal" outcome without parliamentary scrutiny and of which many of the criticisms which have been said would have been far more justified.

So where do we go from here? As far as I can see the best way to avoid a constitutional crisis and to deliver what the people voted for is to negotiate an acceptable exit deal with the EU which can pass the House of Commons.

Quote of the day 10th September 2019

I don't think the saying alluded to in this quote by Thomas Fuller is literally true: in my experience it is generally darkest around midnight GMT unless the moon is in the sky. Metaphorically, however, it does often seem to apply ...

Monday, September 09, 2019

Protecting Police Officers

Today the Home Secretary will tell the Police Superintendents’ Association that she is making the physical protection of officers her top priority. 
  • Conservatives want a better deal for the police and a worse deal for criminals, that’s why our new Police Covenant will focus on the protection of officers, their health and wellbeing, and support for the families of those injured or killed in the line of duty. 
  • Police officers can only protect us if we protect them, so following our commitment to hire 20,000 new police officers to keep our streets safe, it is only right that we give them the powers and protections they need and deserve. 

Last chance for those MPs who said there has been a "Coup" to call an election

Today I understand that the House of Commons is likely to get a final chance to let the people decide how and when we leave the EU by calling an election on 15th October, before the EU summit.

MPs of all parties, particularly those like Jeremy Corbyn who have complained about attacks on democracy, will have one last chance to put their his case the people in a general election.

Jeremy Corbyn has been offered an election yet must be the first opposition leader in history to turn that offer down – because he doesn’t trust the people and fears he might not win.

In Parliament there is a group of MPs who simply want to wreck the government negotiations and block Brexit. And as Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell highlighted at the weekend they would force this country to accept whatever extension the EU offers, leading to more dither and delay and costing us £250 million per week – the equivalent of a new hospital every seven days.

The Conservatives are unwilling to accept Corbyn’s pointless delay and determined to surmount all the obstacles in our path.

We will work tirelessly within the law for a deal, but whatever happens, we will get ready to come out on 31 October.

Quote of the day 9th September 2019

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sunday music spot: Gustav Holst: "Turn back, O man"

The Rule of Law

There is speculation in some papers that the government might defy the law parliament has just passed.

I don't believe that would be right and I don't believe it will happen. This is a country based on the rule of law.

I think it is essential that Britain leaves the EU this year, preferably on 31st October, and does so in line with democracy and the law.

The one route which would clearly achieve this would be to leave with a deal. I hope that every effort is made to achieve an acceptable deal which can pass the House of Commons so that we can do this.

Incidentally, some people are talking as if the law which parliament has just passed and is expected to get Royal Assent shortly required Boris Johnson to apply for an extension to Article 50 as soon at is it passed.

That is not correct - this isn't what the bill requires.

The new law requires the PM to ask the EU for a further delay to Britain's departure from the EU if he can't get a deal at the EU summit on 17th and 18th October.

If Boris can get a deal, he doesn't have to ask for an extension.

Incidentally, if the UK does ask for an extension, it requires a unanimous vote of the other EU member states, and France is currently threatening to veto it on the grounds that nobody has made clear what such an extension is supposed to achieve.

I don't often say this, but I think the French have a point.

The best thing would be to make every effort to get an acceptable deal so we don't have to put a conflict between the rule of democracy and the rule of law to the test.

Quote of the day 8th September 2019

Saturday, September 07, 2019

John Mann to step down as a Labour MP at the election and become government advisor on opposing Anti-Semitism

A lot of MPs of all parties, some of whom - again, of all parties - I think are good people are stepping down at the next election.

Today it was announced that John Mann MP will be one of them. He is also taking up a position as an independent advisor to the government on Anti-Semitism.

There are not many people in politics about whom my opinions have changed as dramatically as my view of John Mann has.

Sadly there are a fair number of people in most parties who have tried to make a career of dredging up dirt on members of rival parties others and launching often spurious ethics complaints or accusations of racism against them. I did originally have the impression that John Mann was one of these.

I have very much revised that opinion in recent years as I have seen him repeatedly call out Anti-Semitism in all parties including his own.

None of the major UK parties is entirely free of Anti-Semitism, Anti-Muslim prejudice or other forms of racism and none can afford to be complacent on the subject.

John Mann told the Jewish Chronicle that he had witnessed open antisemitism as recently as last Thursday when he was with David Delew, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust, and his wife at an outside table at Reubens kosher restaurant in London.

 "It was after the CST's advisory board meeting. I joined Mr and Mrs Delew for a conversation when we were subjected to casual but explicitly antisemitic abuse from four people passing by.

 "It was 'Jew this...Jew that' to two members of the community and myself who were just sitting outside having some food and attempting to chat.

"That's the scale of the problem - it's becoming normalised."

There is a very informative piece in the Jewish Chronicle about John Mann's new role and his concerns about Anti-Semitism which you can read here.

Saturday music spot: "The Phantom Of The Opera" theme song...

Quote of the day 7th September 2019

Friday, September 06, 2019

BBC Question Time: Emily Thornberry's Brexit car crash

Last night on BBC Question time the luckless Emily Thornberry MP was in the difficult position of trying to defend Labour's policy on Brexit.

Questioned by host Fiona Bruce she confirmed that Labour's policy is to negotiate a new exit deal with the EU and then campaign against their own deal in a referendum.

If a member of any other party had told me this was Labour's policy I would not have believed it and would have assumed they were making it up. Watch for yourself - I'm not.

Boris in Scotland

The Prime Minister was in Aberdeenshire today and has announced a £51.4 million boost for Scottish farmers so they can grasp all the opportunities leaving the EU presents with a fairer deal.

  • We are giving Scottish farmers £51.4 million more over the next two years, which, in addition to the £160 million extra announced this week, will ensure funding for farmers is allocated more fairly across the country. 
  • This boost resolves the historic funding gap caused by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy payments which gave Scottish farmers a bad deal.

Cumbria and Lancashire Joint Health Scrutiny

We have struggled a bit to get the Joint Health Scrutiny committee  for Cumbria and Lancashire going, but today we managed to have a really useful meeting. I will post a more detailed write-up here within a few days.

Next Saturday Chataway in Mirehouse tomorrow

The next "Saturday Chataway" organised by Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, to give residents the opportunity to meet and raise concerns with elected representatives at all levels will be held in Mirehouse tomorrow (Saturday 7th September 2019.)

Councillors on all the relevant local authorities for the area have been invited to join Trudy Harrison MP at the Mirehouse Labour Club, Honister Road, Whitehaven tomorrow morning to speak with constituents, listen to their concerns and suggestions and assist with any issues.

Each month, these coffee morning style surgeries raise money for a valued local organisation or charity. The event will be held between 10am – 12pm.

Refreshments will be available.

Quote of the day 6th September 2019

Thursday, September 05, 2019

A Conservatgive gain in Cumbria

Well done to hard working conservative Councillor Helen Fearon who gained the Penrith South seat on Eden District Council in tonight's by election.

Vote shares according to Britain Elects:

CON: 46.3% (+20.7)
IND (Quinn): 39.4% (+39.4)
LAB: 9.6% (-1.9)
PCF: 4.8% (+4.8)

Conservative GAIN from Independent.

Penrith South council by-election

Voting finished at 10pm in the Penrith South by election for a seat on Eden District Council. I was there earlier today campaigning for the Conservative candidate Helen Fearon.

September meeting of Cumbria County Council

The September meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held next Wednesday, 11th September 2019, in the council chamber at County Hall in Kendal.

The meeting will be open to the public.

The full agenda and supporting documents are available here.

Items for discussion include an annual update from the Corporate parenting board, questions to the council cabinet from members of the council, and a debate on climate change.

Quote of the day 5th September 2019

"The Opposition parties are seeking to overturn the referendum result. They don’t exactly phrase it like that, of course. Instead, they say that they don’t want to leave without a deal. But they know perfectly well that, if you rule out a “no-deal Brexit," you rule out Brexit itself. If "no-deal" is off the table, then all Brussels has to do to keep Britain in the EU is continue to offer intolerable terms."

(Dan Hannan MEP, extract from article in the Washington Examiner which you can read in full here.)

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

How MPs voted on whether to call an election

Tonight all the MPs who have been demanding an election for months and who were describing last week's action to prorogue parliament for five weeks over the conference season had the opportunity to put the matter to the people and call an election.

The very people who have been calling most loudly for an election abstained rather than vote for one.

Here is how the House of Commons divided on the proposal for an election, which needed a two-thirds majority of the House to positively vote for it (an abstention for this purpose is functionally  identical to a vote against.)

Some of those who voted against or did not vote said that they were concerned that the government might set the date of the election after 31st October and thereby cause Britain to crash out without a deal by default.

There is almost certainly an answer to that.

If I were Boris Johnson I would propose a very short bill which suspends the Fixed Term Parliament Act to call one election, and writes into law that that election would be held on 15th October.

That way there would be no question of the election date being moved to sabotage any possibility of a deal; and the election would take place a couple of days before the next EU summit so we would have a new or re-elected government in place which would have the opportunity to attend that summit and try to get an acceptable deal.

It will be interesting to see how MPs vote if such a proposal comes forward.

Danny Finkelstein on an unpalatable choice

Politics is about choices. Sometimes it is about very unpalatable choices where there are no good options and only a choice of evils.

Rarely does someone who thinks they are in that position face them as clear-sightedly and honestly as Danny Finkelstein did in an article in the Times today,

It's behind a paywall but if you register with them you can get one free article a week: I didn't have time to buy the Times today but managed to get to read Danny's piece as my one free article.

I'm not saying I agree with every word of this piece but if you are a subscriber to the Times site or are registered for a free article each week and have not used yours yet, you won't get a better written or more thoughtful piece about the difficult choices our country faces than you will get from Danny here.

Quote of the day 4th September 2019

"Johnson has now asked Parliament to allow an election to take place, seeking a mandate for the plan that he currently cannot enact. This is the essence of British democracy.

"His bid, however, was made harder by one of the rare bits of the constitution that is actually codified: the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. The act, as the name suggests, sought to fix the length of a Parliament—as in the U.S., where presidents and members of congress are elected for fixed periods. If a prime minister wished to dissolve Parliament to hold an election, he or she would need a supermajority, or two-thirds of MPs, to do so. (The opposition Labour Party has declared it will not allow an election until it is sure Johnson cannot pursue a no-deal Brexit. It may decide it can never be sure so will block an election in the hope of simply removing Johnson from power and becoming the government itself. If it can assemble a majority it has the right. Remember, Parliament is sovereign.)

"This piece of constitutional tinkering has played a central role in Britain’s parliamentary chaos over the past three years.

"Previously, prime ministers could make any piece of legislation a confidence measure, by which they meant that the proposal was so important to the government that if it was rejected by the House of Commons, they would either resign to allow a new prime minister to take over—or hold an election to win a majority to enact the law. This had the effect of focusing minds, forcing potential rebels to potentially lose their seats in an election if they decided to vote down the government.

"The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act changed this calculus overnight. MPs could now vote down the government without it collapsing. Lawmakers had a free shot—and they have taken it over and over again against the government when it has come to Brexit.

"The upcoming election—should Johnson be successful in his call for one to be triggered—is the constitutionally correct instrument to solve political impasses. Johnson stands on a platform of Brexit “do or die” by October 31; the opposition Labour Party wants to delay Britain’s exit, negotiate a new deal, and put it back to the people in a second referendum, with the option to scrap Brexit altogether. Almost every other major political party will also seek another referendum. Should either side be able to form a majority after the election, they will have the power to do what they cannot do now."

(Extract from an article by Tom McTague, "British Politics Is in Chaos. The System Is Working." in The Atlantic which you can read in full here)