Thursday, December 13, 2018

Maintaining Britain's world-leading police forces is a priority for the Conservative government which is why the Chancellor and Home Secretary have agreed to a provisional police funding settlement of up to £14bn for next financial year – which up to £970 million more than the previous year and the largest increase in police funding since 2010.

Quote of the year

The best quote I've used in 2018

“One of the most pathetic—and dangerous—signs of our times is the growing number of individuals and groups who believe that no one can possibly disagree with them for any honest reason.”

(Thomas Sowell, American economist.)

This quote is extremely topical in both Britain and the USA in 2018 and especially relevant to all sides in Britain's current Brexit debate.

By all means disagree with those who want to follow a different path but accusing anyone who disagrees with you of being a traitor, or a racist, or an extremist, or dishonest, or saying that everyone withy a different view should be slung out of your party, is unhelpful and harmful.

This applies whether it comes from leavers, remain supporters, from advocates of a hard or soft Brexit, from the left or the right, whether the person making the accusation is a member of the ERG,  a journalist like Janet Daley in the Telegraph, the Chancellor, a backbench MP like Anna Soubry, or from the left of politics who are just as bad.

No specific course of action has a majority in parliament or the country and somebody will have to compromise or Britain faces a very bad outcome. Refusing to recognise that those who support a different path honestly believe they are seeking Britain's best interest is a path to making that necessary compromise impossible.

Quote of the day 13th December 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

May wins confidence vote by 200 to 117.

After huffing and puffing and threatening to blow Theresa May's house in for months, the opponents of her leadership finally managed yesterday to organise 48 letters from Conservative MPs requesting a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative party.

A confidence ballot was duly held this evening and she won it by 200 votes to 117.

Obviously there is a significant minority of Conservative MPs who are not happy but the PM won the backing of more than 60-% of her colleagues.

Compare and contrast with the Labour party where more than 80% of Labour MPs voted that they had no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn (172 votes to 40) but he refused to resign.

In the words of one of the tabloid headlines tomorrow, now let her get on with the job.

Midweek musio spot: "Every valley shall be exalted" (from Handel's Messiah)

Whitehaven relief road consultation: ONE WEEK TO GO

The current public consultation about a possible A595 relief road for Whitehaven finishes one week from today (Wednesday 19th December 2018.)

I believe this has the potential to improve the viability of West Cumberland Hospital and outcomes for patients, as well as having major benefits for the local economy and for the quality of life of residents of the villages in West Cumbria currently affected by rat-running because the A595 is not coping with existing demand.

This is a first stage consultation by Highways England who have not yet defined a route for the proposed new road and they continue to assure me that they are genuinely interested in suggestions from local stakeholders and the public about where the road should go. (I am told by Highways England that there have already been hundreds of positive and constructive points made.)

One of the suggestions which has been discussed between local county councillors and Highways England is the possibility that the relief road could include a specific spur to the hospital. The most likely route - East of Whitehaven from approximately the present Moresby roundabout at the South end of the Distington by-pass to a point between Westlakes and Moor Row - would make this relatively easy to add.

Clearly this would be a huge benefit to ambulances and patients needing to get to WCH in a hurry - and I doubt if I need to spell out to anyone reading this the potential benefit in terms of patient outcomes from that - but it would also make it easier for staff and resources to get to the West Cumberland and thereby improve the viability of the hospital. 

The proposed new relief road is not dependent on Moorside and it is a serious proposal. At the start of this month Transport secretary Chris Grayling came in person to Copeland to kick off the consultation on the proposed Whitehaven Relief Road and announced his "Cast Iron Commitment" to improving Cumbria's Roads as you can read on the government website at

Chris Grayling said:
  • "Investing in Cumbria’s vital transport routes cuts congestion, ensures drivers enjoy faster, safer journeys, and increases the freight capacity needed to drive forward jobs and economic growth." 
  • "This shows our cast-iron commitment to Cumbria, as we deliver the investment needed to provide businesses and commuters with more reliable and resilient journeys." 
  • The Secretary of State for transport also confirmed ongoing discussions with local partners on proposals to progress development of a major programme of upgrades on the Cumbrian Coast rail line to support expected major investments in West Cumbria and the creation of new jobs.

The consultation formally began on Wednesday 7th November 2018 and lasts until 19th December 2018. Consultation survey forms were sent out to residents in the Whitehaven area and for some distance around and I was pleased to learn this week that hundreds have already been returned.

You can also read details of the sort of new road which might come forward and the questions being asked in the consultation, and respond online at

I believe that we need this road and that it would be particularly helpful if as many people as possible responded to the consultation and said so, and if they also included in their response that it would be a very good idea - and very probably save lives - if the relief road included a spur to West Cumberland Hospital.

If you want to respond to the consultation you can do so using any of the four following methods by 19 December 2018:

  • Online – complete the response form online using the above link
  • Complete the consultation response form in the consultation brochure and return it using the freepost address provided 
  • Email your response to: 
  • Post – write to Highways England at: 

Business Reply Plus Licence Number RTZS–CEET–CSXR WSP
Amber Court
William Armstrong Drive
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear NE4 7YQ

Did I mention that all responses should be returned by Wednesday 19 December 2018?

Quote of the day 12th December 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Employment and Real Wages rising

Office for National Statistics figures released today show that real wages are rising on average and at the best rate for nearly a decade.

Compared with a year earlier, wages excluding bonuses, were up by 3.3% for the three months to October, the biggest rise since November 2008.

Average weekly wages are £495 - the highest since 2011, when adjusted for inflation. The number of people in work rose by 79,000 to 32.48 million, a record high.

That is the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Job vacancies were up by 10,000 on the quarter to a record high of 848,000. More than half, 195,000, of the 329,000 jobs created in the year to October went to people who are no longer economically inactive, who are the main reason for the expansion in the workforce.

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: "Today's statistics show the enduring strength of our jobs market, with wages outpacing inflation for the ninth month in a row and employment at a record high."

December meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee

The next meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee will be held on Tuesday 18th December in Cumbria House Carlisle starting at 10.30 am.

Full details of the agenda and supporting papers can be found here.

The meeting is open to the public for those who are able to spend a working day in Carlisle. I would like to see these meetings live-streamed with recordings also available on the internet so that all residents of Cumbria with access to the internet can also watch the important information presented to us.

I am reading with particular interest the report on Digital records which I had asked for at the previous meeting (Agenda item 11).

The agenda items for discussion are as follows:

1. Apologies for Absence

2. Membership of the Committee

3. Disclosures of Interest

4. Exclusion of Press and Public
(To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any item on the agenda. They won't be)

5. Minutes of the meeting held on 8 October 2018

6. Committee Briefing Report
(To consider a report by the Strategic Policy and Scrutiny Adviser).

7. What Does a Good Life Look Like for People with Learning Difficulties in Cumbria
(To consider a report by Healthwatch Cumbria).

8. HealthCare for the Future Update
(To consider a report by the Chief Operating Officer, NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group).

9. Future of Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Services
(To consider a report by Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust).

10. Potential Merger Between Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS
(To receive an update from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust).

11. Digital Records Update
(To consider reports by the Executive Director of Finance, Estates and Digital, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which outline what progress is being made on digitising records across the system and improving system interoperability, plus a description of how current systems operate across the various NHS organisations in Cumbria and the challenges this creates, financial and otherwise).

12. Date of Future Meeting To note that the next meeting of the Committee will be held on Tuesday 26 February 2018 at 10.30 am at County Offices, Kendal.

Quote of the day 11th December 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

Copeland Highways Working Group

However much the debate on Brexit seems to suck the oxygen out of activity on all other subjects in the House of Commons and the press, the business of running the country and local authorities goes on, and today the Highways Working Group of Cumbria County Council's local area committee for Copeland had a meeting.

This was a private meeting but the minutes will be presented to the Local Committee at its' next meeting on 15th January and will be published with the papers for that meeting.

Some of the key issues coming out of today which are already in the public domain are as follows:

1) Following the public consultation, to which the overwhelming majority of responses were positive, the £ 2 million North Shore scheme to improve safety and traffic flow to the North of Whitehaven Town centre is moving forward and a plan to complete the works will be presented to councillors in the near future. The traffic orders to implement the scheme were approved by local committee in late November.

2) The government has given £12 million of taxpayers' money to Cumbria County council to fix potholes and repair roads. Some of this is being spent centrally and some devolved to local committees and of the latter £844,000 will be spent in Copeland. This will enable a number of road repairs for which a proper job might otherwise have had to wait until 2020 or 2021 to be done this financial year (the target to finish the work is the end of the financial year e.g. 31st March 2019.)

3) There have been a number of studies this year of road speeds and safety on particular roads in Copeland which were causing concern and a number of proposals are now out to preliminary consultation to bring speed limits more into line with what is achievable and safe.

C.S. Lewis on Science, Statism and Liberty

Two or three weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page this link to an article about how C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien "defied the spirit of the age" in the era after World War one which interested a number of my Facebook friends.

The discussion on that previous post included the issue of whether Lewis was anti-science.

I absolutely do not agree that he was, but he was certainly opposed to a certain view of science which he suggested might be called 'scientism.'

I have since obtained and have been reading a copy of the book "Of this and other worlds," a collections of Lewis's writings published posthumously on his behalf by Walter Hooper, which includes the essay "A reply to Professor Haldane" (or rather almost all of it - the last one or two pages are missing.)

In that essay Lewis makes a very entertaining and interesting reply to those who accused him of traducing science.

I have also found a very interesting series of three essays posted on the "Front Porch Republic" blog by David Theroux about Lewis's views on Liberty and the evils of Statism which I think will be of particular interest to anyone with an interest in the importance of freedom.

The first of those essays, which begins to explain why Lewis was sceptical of overmighty governments, can be found here and the second, which particularly deals with moral relativism, here.

The third essay, linked to here, quotes extensively from Lewis's reply to Haldane and a number of other relevant essays by Lewis with provocative titles like "Willing slaves of the Welfare State."
and I recommend all three essays as a powerful and interesting read.

For anyone interested in the other point of view or who wants to understand Lewis's response by reading the piece which he was responding to, I have also found a web page which quotes in full both Haldane's original article "Auld Hornie FRS," a critique of Lewis' writings to which Lewis's "reply to Professor Haldane" was a reply, and a second Haldane article criticising Lewis which it's target probably never saw.

You can find that web page here.

Fraser Nelson on the Brexit vote postponement ...

"This might not be as mad as it sounds. If the E.U. grants the UK what it grants all of its trading partners - a genuine break clause, an ‘eject’ button that can be pushed by No10 or plt - she’d probably get her deal through."

(Quote from Fraser Nelson of the Spectator on the decision to defer the "meaningful vote" which parliament had been due to take tomorrow)

I don't know whether there is any chance of the EU council agreeing to that - the comments which EU spokespeople have made today suggest the odds are not good. However, if there is any chance at all Theresa May had to go for it. If the PM believes, as I'm certain she does, that Britain must cease to be a member state of the EU but a "no deal" hard Brexit would be a very damaging way of doing this, then she, and more importantly the country, has nothing to lose from exploring that option.

Quote of the day 10th December 2018

"Virtually no idea is too ridiculous to be accepted, even by very intelligent and highly-educated people, if it provides a way for them to feel special and important." 

(Thomas Sowell, American economist.)

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Schrodinger's Brexit

It has occurred to me today that there is a remarkable parallel between the decision which MPs have to take on Tuesday when deciding whether to vote for the May deal, and Schrodinger's "thought experiment" of the cat in the impenetrable box.

The problem faced by MPs is that nobody knows for certain - indeed, I am tempted to agree with those who argue that nobody has the least idea - what we will end up with if the deal is voted down.

I also think that a very good point was made by Anand Menon in his excellent article

"Disagree with May’s Brexit deal? Fine, but be honest about the alternatives,"

in which he points out that although the PM's proposed withdrawal agreement has many flaws, almost all of those in right, left, pro Brexit and anti-Brexit sides either have no credible alternative or are not being frank, open and realistic about the consequences of those alternatives.

For anyone who is not familiar with Schrodinger's cat, the idea is that we imagine a sealed box supplied with oxygen, cat food and water, which is impenetrable to any scanning device or form of light or radiation which might tell us what is inside, and into which we put what was, before the box was sealed, a live cat.

Also within the box is a mechanism which uses a purely random and unpredictable method to decide whether to release a poison which will quickly and painlessly kill the cat.

Schrodinger argued that if we have no means of knowing until we open the box whether the cat is alive or dead, there is a sense in which, until we actually do open it, the cat is both alive and dead as there is the potential for both states. The cat exists as a sort of wave form or probability pattern until the box is opened and the wave form "collapses" into a deal or living cat.

I have some difficulty with the idea that a cat can be both alive and dead but I have no difficulty with Schrodinger's Brexit

- E.g. we don't know until the outcome is determined whether if May's deal is voted down it will be the Brexiteers or the Remainers whose dreams are dead because there is the potential for both outcomes.

We do know, however, is that if May's deal goes down there will be one of four outcomes (I'm ignoring the question of whether there is another referendum or a general elections because these are process issues - people are putting both forward in the hope of getting the outcome they want but it is far from certain that either would solve the Brexit problem.)

Those four outcomes are

1) If parliament doesn't pass anything else by 29th March, under Article 50 Britain leaves the EU with no deal on 29th March 2019.

2) There is another round of negotiations with the EU after which a revised version of the May deal, or something similar to it, is put to parliament again and this time it passes.

3) There is a "softer" Brexit than May's deal, at least for the short term, based on EFTA or EEA membership, something similar to Norway's relationship with the EU, hence this is often referred to as the "Norway option." N.B. It is far from certain that this option is actually available.

4) Britain doesn't leave the EU after all.

Voting down the May deal is putting Brexit into the box. Only after that vote will we find out which of those four outcomes is the result. It could be a harder Brexit, a softer Brexit, or no Brexit at all.

What the outcome certainly won't be is an outcome that pleases everyone - that's not just a thought experiment, it's a cloud-cuckoo-land fantasy.

And because we won't find out what's in the box until after we open it and long after the votes have been case on Tuesday, we don't know whether Brexiteers who vote against May's deal are killing Brexit, or whether Remainers who vote against the deal are bringing about a hard Brexit.

If the May deal is voted down, however, there is, however, a strong possibility that when the box is opened and Schrodinger's Brexit "collapses" into a single outcome, one of those two things will have happened. 

Saturday music spot: Village People "YMCA"

Quote of the day 8th December 2018

Friday, December 07, 2018

Tabula Rasa

Many a true word is spoken in jest.

The folks at Reactions have managed to express an important truth concerning what we know for certain about what happens next if the PM loses the Withdrawal Agreement vote without using a single word.

You can find out here.

Government announces nearly a billion pounds for NHS improvements

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that 75 hospital and community health projects will receive between them £963 million investment of taxpayers' money to improve services. and facilities

The extra funding to upgrade facilities will mean that more people can be treated and more can be done to prevent ill-health in the first place.

Projects that will receive a share of the funding include: a new emergency department in Walsall a multimillion-pound eye care facility in London a major expansion of mental health services in Newcastle, Gateshead and Liverpool

Almost £800 million of the funding will go to projects outside London in order to improve access to care across the country.

The investment comes ahead of the launch of the government’s long-term plan for the NHS. The long-term plan is the biggest ever funding increase for the NHS and will see its budget increase by £20.5 billion every year by 2023 to 2024.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

"We want even more patients to receive world-class care in world-class NHS facilities and this near billion-pound boost – one of the most substantial capital funding commitments ever made – means that the NHS can do just that for years to come. 

This will not only support dedicated staff through the redevelopment and modernisation of buildings, but it will allow additional services to launch for the first time, improving patients’ access to care in their local area as part of our long-term plan for the NHS."

Quote of the day 7th December 2018

"It seems that nothing like a majority of MPs are ready to be rational. The referendum might have been won on an anti-immigration message but the MPs forming" (Theresa May's) "majority are much more exercised by sovereignty, whether the place of Northern Ireland within the union or Britain’s unilateral ability to break free of the transitional arrangements.

"Diehard Remain MPs believe, on skimpy evidence, that a fresh referendum will result in a reversal of the decision.

"Diehard Leave MPs believe, on even skimpier evidence, that there is time to renegotiate a better deal (they argue among themselves what that better deal might look like) or that leaving without a deal would be just fine.

"Labour believes it can use the chaos either to take power or massively to improve its chances of taking power soon.

"Everyone is preparing to play ducks and drakes with the nation’s future rather than take the safe option."

(Alistair Meeks, from an article on the Political Betting site which you can read in full here.)

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Trudy Harrison MP speaks in Parliament on Rail Strikes

Trudy Harrison MP writes:

"Yesterday, I sought the help of the Prime Minister to put an end to the unnecessary rail strike action - we have assurances that the guards will remain on the Cumbrian Coastal Line. The strikes cause misery and inconvenience to passengers and businesses are suffering in the run up to Christmas."

You can see her question at PMQs and Theresa May's answer on the Copeland Conservatives Facebook page here.

Rory Stewart at the Spectator Debate

Rory Stewart, Cumbria MP and Prisons minister, recently took part in a Spectator debate with Dominic Raab about the May Deal.

By all accounts, even most of those who disagreed with Rory - who I'm told were the vast majority of the 600 people there - were impressed by his brave and effective defence of the proposed Withdrawal agreement.

Andrew Willshire, who describes himself as feeling like a member of an endangered species as a Brexit supporter who also backs the deal, has written an interesting piece about his conclusions from the debate which you can read in full here.

Andrew argues that, quote

"I want to ask Conservative MPs to think carefully before discarding Theresa May’s deal. There are those who, like Raab, will argue that the disruption will be only minor and can be mitigated; those who argue, above all, that the gains will be worth the uncertainty. 

But put yourself in the shoes of the mother who goes to the pharmacy and discovers there’s no insulin for her diabetic child. That may well only be the case for a week while alternatives are sourced, but imagine that week for that mother. 

"Consider the workers at a car plant that closes for even just three months while components are sourced elsewhere. The uncertainty, the insufficient savings to pay unexpected bills, the lack of prospective alternative employment in their town utilising their skills and their experience."

"You can be sure that every single catastrophe that befalls an individual in the post-Brexit period will be blamed on the Tory government that let it happen – or indeed argued in its favour. The gains will be small and will accrue gradually across a dispersed group of people, the losses will be immediate, personal and deeply felt." 

"Now imagine looking a close friend in the eye when they have lost their job. Maybe they voted to remain, wanting only to get on with their lives. Will you tell them that it’s worth it?"

"Mrs May’s deal deserves to be backed because it achieves the aim of leaving the EU while minimising the risk of sudden economic shocks."

Quote of the day 6th December 2018

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Be careful what you wish for

A few days ago a Labour MP had to resign from Jeremy Corbyn's front bench after she allegedly threw a bucket of water at a journalist.

While I would not for a moment encourage anyone to literally pour water on anyone, it seems to me that it is a large proportion of MPs who might benefit if someone metaphorically threw a bucked of cold water over them - if it got them to calm down and reduce the hysteria which is impeding the chance to get a sensible decision on Brexit.

It appear clear that there is no majority for any positive outcome at the moment, only majorities to criticise of reject things.

I'm fairly certain that there is not a majority who want a hard "No Deal" Brexit, thought this has to be a far more likely outcome than the number of MPs who support it might suggest because it is the default position which Article 50 will impose if nothing else is agreed by 29th March 2019.

I very much doubt that there is a majority for another referendum, although there will continue to be a lot of noise from those who back the idea.

Nor do I think that a majority of MPs will vote to cancel Brexit altogether. Most MPs personally voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, and many of these would probably still do so if they were taking that vote again, but too many of them were elected in 2017 on a promise to respect the referendum result for me to think it likely that they will break that promise. But I'm not nearly as certain of that today as I was a week ago.

The old adage "Be careful what you wish for" has never been more applicable than it currently s in respect of Brexit.

Nobody, but nobody, knows for certain what will be the ultimate outcome if Theresa May's proposed Withdrawal agreement is voted own next week. I think there is precisely one thing of which we can be certain: if the deal goes down in defeat and the ultimate outcome is significantly different, some of the MPs who killed it will end up with an outcome which they like much, much less.

You only need to look at two articles which have appeared in the past 48 hours in the same magazine responding to votes in the House of Commons this week in which two of the most senior political journalists writing for that magazine and draw radically different conclusions - let's be frank, diametrically opposite ones - about what is likely to happen if the PM's deal is voted down.

The New Statesman's political correspondent Patrick Maguire has an article today called

"Despite Commons defeats for Theresa May the odds of a No-deal Brexit are still rising,"

In which he argues that Britain will still leave the EU on 29th March "with or more likely without a deal."

He may be very well be right, and if he is and Britain does leave without a deal, every singly Labour MP, Lib/Dem or SNP member of parliament who has voted against the deal will have personally helped to cause a result which most of them think will be disastrous.

In the same magazine the political editor, George Eaton, has written

"Tory Brexiteers are deluded if they believe that they have a better option than Theresa May's deal,"

and  he argues that  there is no parliamentary majority for a harder Brexit, that Leavers’ "true quarrel is not with the Prime Minister but with reality."

He thinks that parliament will stop a no-deal Brexit and writes that

"The denouement of the Brexit epic finds Remainers and Leavers joined in strange unity. 

Both have vowed to defeat Theresa May’s deal next Tuesday; both insist that this will serve their interests. 

Leavers hope to advance an alternative plan (or embrace the apocalypse of no-deal), 

Remainers hope to secure a second referendum, a general election or a Norway-style agreement.

They cannot both be right."

(My underline and larger lettering)

I don't know whether Patrick Maguire or George Eaton is right about whether this week's vote made a hard Brexit more or less likely,

I am absolutely certain that George Eaton is right that if the May deal is blocked by parliament, some of the people who blocked it will cause a result they regard as much worse.

Midweek Music Spot: Gluck's Dance of the Furies

Moving the economy forward

Today the PM reminded parliament of what has been achieved in the last eight years.

Under the Conservatives businesses have created jobs and wages have begun to rise. Thanks to our balanced approach to the economy:

  • More people are in work than ever before with 3.3 million jobs created. 
  • Youth unemployment has almost halved (ONS, Labour Market Statistics, Data series: MFZ2; MFY7, 16 October 2018). 
  • Wages are growing faster than they have for nearly a decade (ONS, UK Labour Market, 13 November 2018). 
  • We are giving the NHS the biggest single cash boost in peacetime history (DHSC, Press Release, 19 June 2018). 
  • We have introduced the National Living Wage and taken millions of people out of paying tax.

On the exodus from UKIP

Will the last even remotely sane person to resign from UKIP please turn out the lights?

Quote of the day 5th December 2018

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

NHS submission on the proposed A595 relief road

The senior leadership of the NHS in North Cumbria has sent in a very positive response to the A595 consultation, supporting the proposed Whitehaven Relief road

Such a road would be a huge benefit to ambulances and patients needing to get to West Cumberland Hospital in a hurry, especially if the proposal included a spur to WCH. This could greatly assist patient outcomes as I have previously noted. It would also make it easier for staff and resources to get to the West Cumberland and thereby improve the viability of the hospital. 

As I have also noted, the proposed new relief road is not dependent on Moorside. When the transport secretary came to Whitehaven to kick off the consultation on the proposed Whitehaven Relief Road he reiterated his "Cast Iron Commitment" to improving Cumbria's Roads as you can read on the government website at

Chris Grayling added:
  • "Investing in Cumbria’s vital transport routes cuts congestion, ensures drivers enjoy faster, safer journeys, and increases the freight capacity needed to drive forward jobs and economic growth." 
  • "This shows our cast-iron commitment to Cumbria, as we deliver the investment needed to provide businesses and commuters with more reliable and resilient journeys." 
  • The Secretary of State for transport also confirmed ongoing discussions with local partners on proposals to progress development of a major programme of upgrades on the Cumbrian Coast rail line to support expected major investments in West Cumbria and the creation of new jobs.

The consultation lasts until 19th December 2018. Consultation survey forms were sent out to residents in the Whitehaven area and for some distance around and hundreds have already been returned but the more views we get submitted the better.

You can also read details of the sort of new road which might come forward and the questions being asked in the consultation, and respond online at

I believe that we need this road. If you have not already done so, please consider responding to the consultation and said so, and perhaps including in their response that it would be a good idea if the relief road included a spur to West Cumberland Hospital.

If you want to respond to the consultation you can do so using any of the four following methods by 19 December 2018:

  • Online – complete the response form online using the above link
  • Complete the consultation response form in the consultation brochure and return it using the freepost address provided 
  • Email your response to: 
  • Post – write to Highways England at: 

Business Reply Plus Licence Number RTZS–CEET–CSXR WSP
Amber Court
William Armstrong Drive
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear NE4 7YQ

All responses should be returned by 19 December 2018. 

Bob Dole's tribute to George Bush

I was moved to see former Senator Bob Dole, who is now 95, standing in his wheelchair to salute the coffin of George HW Bush.

Both men were World War II veterans. Bob Dole saluted with his left hand because he had lost most of the use of the right arm when injured during the war.
It was all the more moving because they were former rivals: both men had dreamed of being President of their country and sought nomination in 1988, George Bush's success meaning the end of that dream for Bob Dole.

It was once possible for people to be rivals for high office without becoming enemies. It still should be.

Andrew Gimson on the Cox Counterblast

The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, gave a masterclass in parliament yesterday.

There is a good report of it by Andrew Gimson on Conservative Home here.

Quote of the day 4th December

Monday, December 03, 2018

Stephen Booth on the Backstop

Stephen Booth, director of Policy and Research at Open Europe, has a piece at Conservative Home here about the May deal which includes the following:

"While the UK has secured many advantages, some aspects of the backstop are certainly hard to swallow. 

But the EU has also paid a high price for its insistence on a backstop. 

The UK’s commitments to maintain EU standards are far weaker than many member states would want and there is real concern in some capitals that the UK can use the backstop to secure privileged access to the Single Market in goods with very few obligations and, over time, at a competitive advantage. This is why, despite the lack of a firm time limit in the backstop, the EU is very unlikely to want to live with the arrangement indefinitely."

On publishing legal advice

I rather agree with this comment on twitter today by Francis Elliot; (@Eliotttimes)

"Let’s get this right. MPs want the government to publish in pitiless detail each and every legal weakness in its negotiating stance. Hmm. Doesn’t seem all that smart. Unless they want the negotiation to fail. Fine. So say so."

The law of unintended consequences strikes again ...

I have written before about the outrageous SNP policy that Scottish Universities charge fees to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland - whose parents pay taxes which, through the Barnett Formula, help fund those universities - while students from Scotland or other EU countries do not.

The injustice to students from the rest of the UK is obvious but the law of unintended consequences is coming home to roost and this is causing problems for young people in Scotland too.

"Straight A" students from Scotland are being rejected by Scottish Universities in favour of students from RUK and Non-EU countries.

Under the SNP-run Scottish government's current funding system the Scottish Funding Council determines the number of places available for students from Scotland and the EU based on the amount of funding available. Universities are free to set the number of students taken in from England and other countries who pay fees.

An analysis of places available through the clearing process earlier this year revealed that Glasgow University had 29 courses available to hopefuls from elsewhere in the UK but only five for Scottish students. Applicants to Aberdeen University from England could pick from a list of 390 courses but none was available to Scottish school leavers.

As all-to-often happens, badly-thought through policies are hurting the very people they are meant to help.

Quote of the day 3rd December 2018

"I must be missing something because unlike Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, I can’t actually see much wrong with the agreement. 

It seems to me to be the kind of deal that a 52/48 referendum result requires." 

"The great economist JK Galbraith described politics as being the art of choosing between the unpalatable and the disastrous. We can only hope that parliament chooses wisely."

 (Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson writing in the News Statesman here.)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Stewart MacDonald on Russia's aggression against the Ukraine

In the course of 24 hours I have found myself agreeing with Nigel Farage about the disastrous course being taken by his successor as leader of UKIP, with former Labour home secretary about the May deal (see tomorrow's quote of the day) and with the SNP defence spokesman's statement that Russia's aggression against Ukraine in the Sea of Azov should worry all who are concerned for democracy.

Even more unusual for me to agree with the SNP than with almost any other democratic party, but Stewart MacDonald is right to take a strong line on the Putin regime's irresponsible aggression.

You can read MacDonald's piece on the subject in The Scotsman here.

Britain and the West need to stand up and take a robust stance against Putin's aggression.

Crying "Wolf" too early is most dangerous when there really is a wolf.

Tim Montgomerie and Michael Gove both argued strongly for Leave during the EU referendum. Neither thinks that the May deal, and the backstop in particular are ideal (neither do I.)

But both think that the deal should be accepted now to get the process of Brexit underway and deliver a major part of what the "Leave" side campaigned for.

Tim Montgomerie has an article explaining his position on the CAPX site here.

Michael Gove has written in the Mail here.

I think the most important point he makes is that, as perhaps the foremost critic of those on the "Remain" side who cried wolf by predicting disaster if there was a leave vote in what he thought at the time was Project Fear, he thinks that the warnings of disruption and dislocation if there is a "No Deal" Brexit are genuine: this time the wolf is there.

Don't forget, as some of the "true believers" on the Brexit side have, that the Leave campaign never sought a mandate for e "No Deal" or as the hardliners now disingenuously call it, a "WTO" Brexit. They said they were confident Britain would, while not remaining part of the single market, be able to strike a deal which gave us access to it.

Until a few months ago hardly anyone was seriously suggesting that Britain leaving the EU without a deal was a serious possibility. (David Davis as Brexit secretary said it was most unlikely.) 

This is what Michael Gove has to say about what happens if the May deal is not agreed,

"If we don’t accept this deal, I believe we enter dangerous waters. 

We risk a softer Brexit, no Brexit at all, or no deal. 

Compared to the PM’s deal, a softer Brexit — such as the Norway option which some of my colleagues advocate — would mean less freedom to decide our laws, less control over our borders and we would still be sending significant sums to Brussels every year. It’s better than EU membership, but worse than this deal. 

I also know some of my colleagues would prefer a clean break — that we should walk away from the negotiating table and move towards a relationship based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. I respect their position but I can’t share it. 

Lying behind their view is a fair point — the economy could adjust to WTO rules and succeed over time. Many other countries around the world trade with the EU on this basis, so there is no reason the UK couldn’t as well. While higher tariffs aren’t desirable, they needn’t be catastrophic. 

This is all true, but tariffs aren’t the whole story. 

Over the past 40 years of membership, the EU has extended its reach into the functioning of our economy and society in countless ways — indeed, this is one of the strongest arguments for getting out. 

From how we regulate chemicals to how we track movements of animals and animal products; from licences that let hauliers operate to arrangements which allow organic food to be sold — these are just a handful of the ways in which we rely on EU systems and processes. While we may want to unwind all these arrangements, it is simply not possible do so overnight in an orderly fashion without ructions and repercussions. 

So it is undeniable that no deal would cause considerable dislocation and disruption in the short term.

I know some of my colleagues think these warnings are Project Fear Mark Two. 

Well, during the referendum campaign, there was no greater opponent of Project Fear than me. I called out those economists — ‘experts’ if you will — who tell us they know best but get it consistently wrong. 

My comments were misquoted and criticised at the time and have continued to attract ire since. But the central point was proven right — after the leave vote, the sky did not fall in, the economy did not shrink, jobs were not lost. Quite the opposite. 

However, if those who orchestrated Project Fear last time round were the boys who cried wolf, let’s not forget how that story ended. Too many false warnings meant that when the real threat came it wasn’t heeded."

Sunday music spot: VOCES8 sing "The Sound of Silence" (Paul Simon)

Even a broken clock is right twice a day

I do not very often agree with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, but I do have some sympathy with the point he has apparently made about a planned rally in Whitehall on Sunday a week today which would feature English Defence League founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name of Tommy Robinson, with the current UKIP leader marching alongside him.

Nigel Farage is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying
"I know if that happens that is the day UKIP becomes the BNP."

The paper also describes Mr Farage as suggesting that his successor is turning UKIP into a poisonous cult.

No argument from me on that one.

Quote of the day 2nd December 2018

“When the word moderation becomes a dirty word we have some soul searching to do.” 

President George HW Bush (1924-2018)

He made that comment many decades ago, long before he became President of the USA, but it seems very apposite on both sides of the Atlantic today.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

George Herbert Walker Bush RIP

George Bush, who died yesterday at the age of 94, was the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1992: before that he had been Vice President for eight years, a congressman, Envoy to Beijing, Director of the CIA and chairman of the Republican party. He was the first sitting vice president elected to the top job since Martin Van Buren succeeded Andrew Jackson in 1837.

His very long career in public service began as a teenager when he joined up on his 18th birthday to fight in World War II and became the US navy's youngest fighter pilot. He was decorated for his war service, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for an incident in which he completed his attack after his plane had been hit and set aflame by Japanese Anti-Aircraft fire.

He was married to Barbara Bush, who died earlier this year, for seventy-three years. They had
six children, one of whom became, of course, the 43rd President of the United States.
Apparently his last words were to tell his son George W Bush "I love you, too."

As his obituary in the Washington Post put it,

"The last veteran of World War II to serve as president, he was a consummate public servant and a statesman who helped guide the nation and the world out of a four-decade Cold War that had carried the threat of nuclear annihilation. His death, at 94 on Nov. 30, also marked the passing of an era.

Although Mr. Bush served as president nearly three decades ago, his values and ethics seem centuries removed from today’s acrid political culture. His currency of personal connection was the handwritten letter — not the social media blast."

Incidentally one of the interesting things about that obituary, when I skimmed the comments underneath it, was that many of the people who had commented and said they didn't vote for George Bush senior were nearly as nice about him as the people who said they had voted for him.

Her Majesty the Queen and the Prime Minister were among those who sent messages of sympathy and tribute.

Rest in Peace,

Saturday music spot: "In native worth and Honour clad" from Haydn's creation

Small Business Saturday

Today is Small Business Saturday

  • · Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, responsible for nearly half of economic output and 60 per cent of private sector employment, employing 16 million people in the UK. 
  • · As we leave the EU, with their hard work and innovation, small businesses will help to propel the UK into a bright future. That is why we are continuing supporting people to start and grow their businesses, as well as increase their productivity. 

The Conservative government is supporting small businesses to start and grow by:

  • · Backing British businesses with a £2.3 billion tax cut. We helped millions of small businesses by bringing forward the planned Business Rates switch from RPI to CPI to April 2018, worth £2.3 billion to businesses over the next five years (HMT, Budget 2017, 22 November 2017). 
  • · Investing £675 million in a Future High Streets Fund and a new High Streets Taskforce. This will support councils to implement plans for the transformation of their high streets. We will also relax town planning rules to support new mixed-use businesses on the high street and the conversion of under-used retail units into offices and homes (HMT, Budget 2018, 20 October 2018). 
  • · Cutting business rates for small retailers by a third for two years for 90 per cent of all shops, pubs and restaurants up to £8,000. Our reforms and reductions to business rates since 2016 will be worth more than £12 billion over the next five years (HMT, Budget 2018, 20 October 2018, link). 
  • · Keeping 3 million small businesses out of VAT altogether. We are maintaining one of the highest VAT thresholds in the world (HMT, Budget 2018, 20 October 2018). 
  • · Backing an additional 10,000 entrepreneurs through Start Up Loans to start their own businesses. We are extending the Start Up Loans programme to 2021, backing up to an additional 10,000 entrepreneurs (HMT, Budget 2018, 20 October 2018). 
  • · Tackling delays in payments to small business to ensure they always get paid on time. We are consulting on unfair payment practices and how they impact on businesses, along with publishing what further steps the Government could take to tackle late payments (DBEIS, Press Release, 4 October 2018). 
  • · Backing businesses for the long term through our modern Industrial Strategy, which is driving technological advances and creating more well-paying jobs around the country. We are investing £7 billion in new public funding for science, research and innovation – the largest increase for 40 years (Prime Minister’s Office, Press Release, 21 May 2018).

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed our recent Budget. National Chairman Mike Cherry said the Budget put the Chancellor ‘firmly on the side of Britain’s small businesses’ (FSB, 29 October 2018).

Theresa May's proposed deal with the EU would help small businesses as it provides certainty, protects jobs and minimises red tape:

  • · The deal agrees a free trade area for goods that will allow products to flow easily across our borders and protect the many skilled jobs right across the country that rely on integrated supply-chains. 
  • · The implementation period will give small businesses certainty as we leave the EU and sufficient time to prepare for our new relationship. 
  • · The deal would secure the ability to strike new trade deals with other countries, opening up new markets and new opportunities for small businesses to export and grow internationally. 
  • · The deal would ensure provisions for visa-free travel for short-term visits, so that businesspeople can travel between the UK and EU. 
  • · New and specific arrangements on digital, including e-commerce, will see the UK and EU working together to reduce barriers, promote a secure online environment and avoid discrimination against digital services.