Friday, November 22, 2019

Quote of the day 22nd November 2019

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has described the spending plans in the Labour manifesto as "colossal" and their promise to fund it by raising £80 billion from companies and people who earn more then £80,000 a year as "not credible."

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fixing Britain's housing market

Too many people are losing out because Britain does not have enough homes, of the sort people want and need, in the places they want to live,

This is particularly tough on young people and families but it affects people of all ages.

Purist ideological solutions are not the answer because both the market and the state have failed - the market has not delivered enough housing where it is needed but this has a great deal to do with state regulation. Britain's housing market is tightly regulated (as I should know having spent years on planning committees.)

The main reason young people and others on low incomes are being priced out of good options on the housing market is that Britain simply does not have enough homes in the right places. So a majority Conservative government will take the following action:

  • Build one million more homes in the next five years.
  • Strengthen the rights of renters by ending short notice ‘no fault evictions’.
  • Help more people onto the housing ladder by introducing a discount home scheme and by encouraging innovation in the mortgage market.
  • Improve the system for paying your deposit by introducing a deposit passporting scheme.

Helping people with the cost of living

Yesterday, we announced that a Conservative majority government will cut taxes for millions of hard working people.
We will help people with the cost of living with our plans to:
  • Cut taxes for 31 million people by raising the national insurance threshold from £8,632 to £9,500 – meaning a tax cut of approximately £100 for millions of workers.
  • Ultimately raise the threshold to £12,500 for all people which would put almost £500 in people’s pockets.
  • Since 2010 we have already cut income tax for 32 million people by raising the level of personal allowance to £12,500 – meaning a typical basic rate taxpayer now pays £1,205 less tax than in 2010.
This tax cut demonstrates that once we get Brexit done, our priority is helping hard working people on low incomes and improving their lives.

Quote of the day 21st November 2019

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

FIghting crime and protecting the interests of victims of crime

I wrote earlier about how Conservatives will put the victims of crime at the heart of the criminal justice system. A Conservative majority government will deliver on people’s priorities by tackling serious violence, making our communities safer. We’ll give vulnerable victims the support they need to cope and recover by:
  • Supporting rape victims – with a £15 million cash boost to cut delays, speed up charging decisions, and keep more victims engaged with the process until trial.
  • Protecting domestic abuse victims by passing our Domestic Abuse Bill by Spring 2020 and implementing it quickly.
  • Enshrining the rights of victims in law - with a Victims’ Law which that guarantees their rights and the level of support they should receive.
  • Boosting funding for specialist victim services – with a victim surcharge which imposes a levy on convicted offenders based on their sentence, with income contributing to the funding the MoJ provides to victim services.
  • Reforming the parole system – with a root-and-branch review of prisoner release arrangements and reform the parole system to make it more transparent.

Music to relax after campaigning: Vivaldi's "Dixit Dominus"

Putting victims at the heart of the Criminal Justice System

This week the Conservatives set out our plans to put justice for victims back at the heart of the justice system. A Conservative majority will:
  • Change the law so that any adult who commits the crime of killing a child should spend the rest of his or her life behind bars.
We’ll prevent released prisoners from reoffending and further cut crime by:
The rise we’ve seen in serious violence is deeply worrying. It is the Prime Minister’s priority to make our streets safer.

Quote of the day 20th November 2019

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Brexit choice at this election

Since the expression "#GetBrexitDone" seems to trigger a lot of people I have been trying to find a form of words which no reasonable person could object to to describe the Brexit choice at this election.

IF YOU WANT BREXIT TO HAPPEN you should vote Conservative.

Under a majority Conservative government Britain will leave the EU, with a deal, by 31st January.

IF YOU WANT TO STOP BREXIT you should vote Liberal Democrat.

The Lib/Dem policy is to revoke Article 50 and scrap Brexit. 

As their ally, the former Green MP Caroline Lucas put it, this is effectively telling 17.4 million people that the Lib/Dems don't give a f*** about how those people voted but that is their policy.


and have another referendum, you should vote Labour.

Quote of the day 19th November 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

Boris at the CBI

The Prime Minister attended the CBI Conference today where he set out our offer to businesses. 
Conservatives know that by providing a dynamic economy where businesses and small businesses can thrive, we will attract investment into this country, and generate the money we need to fund our vital public services. That's why today, we announced that a Conservative majority government will:

Winter is icumen in

A very frosty morning today: it took ten minutes to clear the ice off the car windows.

Be careful if you are up and around this morning, watch out for frost and black ice.

I gather that the Met Office expect this evening to be even colder, so that goes double for tomorrow morning.

Quote of the day 18th November 2019

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Quote of the day 17th November 219

All Conservative candidates back the Boris Deal

Every one of the 635 Conservative candidates has signed up to back Boris's deal.

This is a message they will be putting out.

If we get a Conservative majority the deal will be put through parliament and we will leave the EU by 31st January.
We can then move on to the next stage - and also free up parliamentary time to address issues like strengthening our NHS, recruiting 20,000 more police and delivering better funding for schools.

Sunday music spot: Thomas Tallis, "Salvator Mundi"

My piece on Conservative Home about Labour's fantasy broadband plans

Of all the fantasy ideas and "free unicorns" being proposed at this election, in my opinion the biggest unicorn of the lot is Labour’s preposterous and potentially disastrous proposal for the industry I have worked in for more than 30 years.

The party’s promise of free broadband for everyone would be extremely difficult to deliver and the attempt to deliver it would probably be found contrary to both to WTO rules and to EU ones – the latter would still be relevant if, under a Labour Government, Brexit did not take place.

It would cost far more than they suggest and would devastate the industry.

Let me “declare an interest”: I am employed by Openreach, the part of BT which Labour propose to nationalise, I own shares in BT, and I am a member of the BT pension scheme.

However, the views I express both here and on Conservative Home are entirely my own and not necessarily those of BT or Openreach.

I have written a piece for Conservative Home about Labour's proposals, which you can read here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's "Wachet auf"

Successful day's campaigning in Egremont today.
Here's a picture of us campaigning in the town with a beautiful view of the fells behind us.

And here's some music to which to relax after campaigning - an arrangement of "Wake, O Wake" by J.S. Bach.

Supporting local communities

A Conservative majority government will make sure people see real improvements in their local community by:

We have been demonstrating how we’ll unite the country and deliver on people's priorities once we get Brexit done.

Protecting our Planet

Today, the Prime Minister is out and about in the East Midlands spreading the message that once we Get Brexit Done we can get on with national priorities, like the environment. And today, we have announced that a majority Conservative government will:

  • Set up a new £640 million Nature for Climate fund, and triple UK tree-planting rates to an additional 30,000 hectares every year – space for at least 30 million more trees.
  • Establish a £640 million Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans, and support developing countries protect previous marine habitats and restore their potential to tackle climate change.
  • These measures sit alongside our world-leading commitment to go net zero and end our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • But, just as with our planned investment in schools and hospitals, we can only do any of this if we end the gridlock and deadlock in parliament with a Conservative majority Government.

Quote of the day 16th November 2019

One wonders who else made this prayer before the current general election.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Mirehouse Road & St Bees Road Junction

Just to keep everyone up to speed on the junction of St Bees Road and Mirehouse Road on which a number of residents have expressed safety concerns to myself or to Wammo Walmsley.

As I recently posted, it has been agreed that West Cumbria Mining will pay for some significant improvement work to this junction through a planning agreement (known as a Section 106 agreement) on the planning application.

However, an engineering safety audit had already recommended some repainting work on the road markings, and as it was a safety issue, it has been decided not to wait until we get the money from West Cumbria Mining before going ahead with that work.

So if you see the road being repainted, this isn't part of the more substantial works which the Mine application is funding, this is being done by Cumbria County council using the ordinary highways budget.

 I do not have a date yet for the larger reconfiguration which the mine will pay for, but as soon as I have further information I will post it here.

Quote of the day 15th November 2019

"The coming election is momentous for every voter, but for British Jews it contains a particular anguish: the prospect of a prime minister steeped in association with antisemitism. 

"Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has come under formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for institutional racism against Jews. Two Jewish MPs have been bullied out of the party. Mr Corbyn has a long record of embracing antisemites as comrades. 

"We listen to our Jewish friends and see how their pain has been relegated as an issue, pushed aside by arguments about Britain’s European future. 

"For those who insist that Labour is the only alternative to Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, now, it seems, is not the time for Jewish anxiety. But antisemitism is central to a wider debate about the kind of country we want to be. To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government. 

"Which other community’s concerns are disposable in this way? Who would be next?

"Opposition to racism cannot include surrender in the fight against antisemitism. Yet that is what it would mean to back Labour and endorse Mr Corbyn for Downing Street. 

"The path to a more tolerant society must encompass Britain’s Jews with unwavering solidarity. 

We endorse no party. However, we cannot in all conscience urge others to support a political party we ourselves will not. We refuse to vote Labour on 12 December."

Extracts from a letter to the Guardian signed by:

John le Carré (David Cornwell), Fay Weldon, Joanna Lumley, William Boyd, Simon Callow, Antony Beevor, Sathnam Sanghera, Janina Ramirez, Trevor Phillips, Jimmy Wales, Suzannah Lipscomb, Tom Holland, Frederick Forsyth, Peter Frankopan, Ghanem Nuseibeh, Dan Snow, Fiyaz Mughal, Tony Parsons, Dan Jones, Maajid Nawaz, Oz Katerji, Nick Hewer, Ed Husain, Terry Jervis

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Shap by-election today

A reminder to residents of the Shap ward of Eden District Council that there is a by-election today for that ward on EDC.

The Conservative candidate is a keen young person called Sean Quinn who will be a breath of fresh air on the district council.

Quote of the day 14th November 2019

Labour's four day week chaos

The Labour party has unveiled plans  for a 32-hour working week - equivalent to four days.

However, to put it politely, they don't appear to have thought this through.

Labours shadow health spokesman

Yesterday morning Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth appeared to say that Labour proposals for 32 hour working week – equivalent to a four day week – would not apply to the NHS, calling the idea “nonsense.”

Then the Shadow Chancellor said that these proposals would “apply to all” including the NHS, and that Ashworth had only meant the application of this policy to the NHS would “not be an overnight thing.”

This news comes as an independent report shows that more than a thousand residents of Cumbria would have their operations cancelled each year under a Corbyn government as a result of Labour’s plans to remove independent sector hospital capacity from the NHS.

Labour plans for a 32 hour week could not be implemented in the NHS, even over a ten year period,  without exacerbating labour shortages in the NHS which would mean ward, department and hospital closures in areas like Cumbria.
The NHS has been suffering from a national shortage of doctors, nurses and medical professionals for decades, especially in areas like Cumbria. In North, West and East Cumbria as a whole we have a 20% vacancy rate for GPs but it is much worse in some parts of the county.

That’s why the government decided in 2016 to open five new medical schools and increase by 25% the number of doctor training places, but the impact of that will take decades to work through because that’s how long it takes to go from being a medical student to a specialist consultant.

If, as the shadow chancellor says, Labour’s plans for a 32-hour week apply to the NHS, even over a ten year period, this would put even greater stress on the local health service in areas which are already seriously short of professional staff resource. Making that problem even worse would make service closures inevitable in areas like ours.

If Labour’s plans did not apply to public services like the NHS, the people who work in those services would understandably feel cheated and morale would be knocked for six, hitting recruitment and retention.

They have not thought it through. Corbyn’s Labour isn’t competent to run a bath, never mind our NHS.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

29 days to go

There are 29 days to go until election day

The choice is clear in this election which has been called a battle for Britain's soul.

The Conservatives have a positive, dynamic vision for Britain.

A Conservative majority will:
  • Make it easier to see your GP – under a majority Conservative government, there will be 50 million more appointments in GP surgeries, more GPs, more pharmacists and easier ways to book appointments. 
  • Introduce a new visa to attract the best doctors and nurses to work in our NHS and provide high-quality care transforming the experience of patients. 
  • Invest in infrastructure and level up opportunities across the country. 
  • Support our fantastic British drink producers like Scotch whisky distilleries – another example of the Conservatives delivering for the Scotland whilst the SNP are fixated on another independence referendum. 

Key things to remember throughout this campaign:
  • The choice at this election is between a majority Conservative government that will end the paralysis and confusion in Parliament, get Brexit done, and let the country move on OR a hung Parliament bringing more confusion and Corbyn in Downing Street. 
  • Only the Conservatives can win a majority – we only need to win nine more seats to end the gridlock in Parliament. 
  • It is most unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn could win a majority but in a hung parliament he would be propped up by the SNP. Under Corbyn 2020 would be lost to the chaos of another two referendums – one on Brexit and another on Scottish independence.

A Conservative Government can unleash Britain’s potential. Investing in our NHS with 40 new hospitals, cutting crime with 20,000 more police, introducing an Australian style points based immigration system, and giving businesses and families the economic certainty they need to plan for the future with confidence.

Good news on jobs

New figures have shown that the number of people in full-time work has hit an all time high, unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in 45 years - and wages have risen ahead of prices for the 20th consecutive month.

By getting Brexit done, a Conservative majority government can move the country forwards and focus on the people’s priorities – investing in our NHS, tackling violent crime, and reducing the cost of living – including through increasing the National Living Wage to £10.50 per hour by 2024.

  • The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1974. The unemployment rate is currently 3.8 per cent –it has not been lower since 1974 (ONS, Labour market statistics, 12 November 2019).​ 
  • Full time employment: At a record high, and up by almost 3 million since 2010. In the three months to September, there were 24,213,000 people working full time that is up from 21,221,000 in period covering February- April 2010 (the last full period that Labour were in power). 
  • Employment: 32.8 million (up 323,000 over the last year and up by 3.7 million since 2010).​
  • Employment rate: 76.0 per cent (up 0.5 points over the past year and up 5.8 points since 2010).​
  • Unemployment: 1.3 million (down 71,500 over the past year and down by 1.20 million since 2010.​ 
  • Wages: Average weekly earnings for employees increased by 3.6 per cent compared with a year earlier – growing by 1.8 per cent after adjusting for inflation – meaning people have more money in their pockets. Wages have increased ahead of prices for 20 months in a row.​ 
  • Youth unemployment: There are 438,000 fewer young people out of work since 2010 – almost halving since 2010.​ 
  • Female employment: There are 1.8 million more women in work since 2010​. 
  • Ethnic minority: The number of people from an ethnic minority in work is at a record high. There are 1.2 million more people from an ethnic minority background in work since January-march 2010, increasing from 2,736,000 to 4,026,000.​ 
  • Disabled: The number of disabled people in work has increased by 1.3 million, and is now at a record high with the number of disabled people out of work at a record low

Quote of the day 13th November 2019

"The behaviour of the hard-Left within the Labour Party - the anti-Semitism, the thuggery, the irrational views on security and international issues, and the lack of realisation that you have to embrace a big tent of people in order to win - certainly makes me despair."

(Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett, now Lord Blunkett, writing in the Daily Telegraph. the full article is behind a paywall but a report including the above quote is available on another paper's website here)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Field Marshall Lord Bramall, RIP

The former D-Day veteran and head of the armed forces Field Marshall Lord Bramall has died at the age of 95.

He joined the Army at the age of 18 and took part in the D-Day landings. He was wounded twice in Normandy but quickly returned to duty. For his bravery he was awarded the military cross in 1945.

He rose through the ranks to commanded UK land forces between 1976 and 1978. He became chief of the general staff - the professional head of the Army - in 1979, and in that capacity he oversaw the 1982 Falklands campaign. Later that year he became chief of the defence staff - e.g. the overall head of the uniformed armed services - holding that post until 1985.

He was made a life peer and went on to have a 26-year career in the House of Lords.

Lord Bramall - known to his family and friends as Dwin, from his first name Edwin - was not afraid to express controversial opinions. He spoke out in the House of Lords against the involvement of the UK in the Iraq war. During a debate in 2004, he said:

"We really should know by now that, unlike naked aggression, terrorism cannot be defeated by massive military means, but by concentrating more on the twin pillars of competent protection and positive diplomacy."

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood has praised Lord Bramall as an "inspirational leader".

Former defence secretary Lord Heseltine called him an "outstanding soldier", adding:

"From his earliest experiences in the liberation of Europe and the D-Day landings, to his distinguished tenure as chief of the defence staff, he was a man who inspired confidence."

"The country has lost a great patriot who deserved better from us." 

Former MP Harvey Proctor paid tribute to Lord Bramall and said the country was

"poorer for his death."

"He will be remembered as a military leader of enormous stature, courage and ability,"

added Mr Proctor.

Paying tribute to Lord Bramall, the current chief of the defence staff General Sir Nick Carter said his "many admirers" would be "deeply saddened" to hear of his death.

"He was a remarkable soldier who served our country with great bravery and dedication over many decades, inspiring his many subordinates, and overseeing significant change as a chief of staff that we still benefit from today," he said.

Neil Hudson selected as Conservative candidate for Penrith & the Border

Congratulations to Neil Hudson, on the left in the photograph below taken while we were out campaigning in Shap for council candidate Sean Quinn in this Thursday's Eden District Council by-election, and who has been adopted as the Conservative candidate to be MP for Penrith and the Border.

(Above left to right: Neil Hudson, myself, my wife Brigid, Penrith and the Border Conservative chairman Cllr Helen Fearon)

Following his selection, Neil said:

“The issues facing rural communities are of particular concern to me. “Penrith and the Border is a vast and sparsely populated constituency.

"Communities need effective linkages and I will champion these issues including improving road access and conditions like the A66, improving train links, protecting rural bus services from Lib Dem/Labour Council cuts and improving digital connectivity.

“I will fight to protect services vital to rural areas such as post offices, banking services and telephone boxes. "I will stand up for constituents struggling to find a place on the housing ladder.

"I will do everything I can to boost the economy, whilst protecting our beautiful and fragile environment.

“The Conservative Party is the party of opportunity. I am passionate about the life chances of our young people and want to help a society where any child can achieve their dream no matter what their background.”

Quote of the day 12th November 2019

"Gyimah could do with a little help with his interview technique. 

Come on, I say conspiratorially, trying to out-charm the arch charmer. I know and you know that Jo Swinson doesn’t have a prayer of becoming the prime minister so her going around saying that she does makes her sound a bit ridiculous. 

If the Lib Dems are serious about stopping Brexit, then they are going to have to come to some sort of deal with Labour. But Gyimah just smiles and shakes his head. The Lib Dems are going to win the election and Swinson will be prime minister. 

The plan A is to have no plan B. There is no plan B because plan A is going to work. It is written in the stars. 

It is also quite mad."

(The Guardian's sketchwriter John Crace takes on Lib/Dem defector Sam Gyimah, in an article called "Sam Gyimah continues down Lib Dem path of fairytales and unicorns.")

Monday, November 11, 2019

Brian Mawhinney RIP

Brian Mawhinney, Lord Mawhinney, who was chairman of the Conservative party and Transport secretary under John Major, making him the first Ulsterman to join the cabinet in 59 years, has died at the age of 79.

After leaving politics he became Chairman of the Football League.

I knew him slightly when he was MP for Peterborough and I was active in the Eastern Area of the Conservative party. He was a very straightforward person in his approach to politics but was often capable of greater subtlety than people expected of him, for example in his sense of humour.

He was a loyal colleague and a doughty fighter for the things he believed in. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

November meeting of CCC Copeland Local Committee

The County Council's Local Committee for Copeland will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, 12th November 2019, at 11.15 am in the Millom Network Centre, Salthouse Road, Millom, LA18 5AB.

The agenda and reports can be found on the county council website here.

This agenda is however incomplete in one respect.

Under item 4, public participation, three requests for public participation were notified to the council before the deadline but after the agenda was published, and these will be heard, in turn, under this agenda item.

Those three items are:

1) David Forster will speak about the highways implications of the access which has been proposed through Bay Vista for a number of recent planning applications to Copeland BC:

2) Dr Clare Hale on behalf of St Bees Parish Council, will ask the local committee to reconsider a the decision to drop a proposal to extend double yellow lines at High House Road St Bees near Fleatham Croft

3) Andy Burn will ask for support for the Millom Community Running/Cycle track.

Backing our armed forces

Today, the Conservatives introduced an armed forces package which will support military personnel, veterans and their families and recognise the sacrifice they have made for their country. The measures include:
  • Wraparound childcare for armed forces families, a guaranteed job interview for veterans, a proposed tax cut for every business that employs an ex member of the armed forces – as well as a railcard for veterans.
  • We’re also making a manifesto commitment to protect our armed forces from vexatious legal claims by ending the unfair trials of people who served their country.
  • We all know which side Jeremy Corbyn is on when it comes to the Armed Forces – and his chaotic plans for two referendums next year, on Brexit and Scottish independence, means he won’t have time to focus on giving our Armed Forces the support and resources they deserve.

Caroline Lucas of the Greens on the Lib/Dems

It did not take long before the members of the new "Remain Alliance" between the Lib/Dems, the Greens and the Welsh nationalists were sniping at each other.

In an interview on 9th November, Caroline Lucas, formerly the Green party's one MP and their joint leader, had this to say about the Lib/Dem policy on Brexit:

"Position of Revoke, at that point I just felt, this is just taking party interest above national interest to such an unforgivable degree to be honest. 

I think, you know, er, if you wanted to send a message to 17.4 million people that you don't give a f*** about what they've just said, then why don't you just say so?"

I don't always agree with Caroline Lucas but I think she had a point there. I'm sure meetings of the "Remain Alliance" will be lively.

Armistice day 2019

At 11am today it will be exactly a hundred years since people in Britain and free countries around the world first observed two minutes of silence at 11am on the 11th of November, the anniversary of the point when the guns finally fell silent in the bloodiest war in history up to that time, in memory of those who gave their lives for their country in what was then known as the Great War.

Since then the scope of remembrance has been expanded to cover all those who died in that war and, tragically, those which have taken place since.

While the main acts of remembrance in this country now take place on Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to 11th November, which this year was yesterday, many people also observe a silence at 11am on the 11th of November, and I will be one of those who do that this year.

Quote of the day for Armistice day

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday evening music spot: Gluck's "Dance of The Furies" (Orphée et Euridice)

Excellent turnout at Remembrance Sunday commemorations

Excellent turnout today at the parade and act of Remembrance in Whitehaven.

Good to see so many people turn out to honour those who gave their lives defending our country and to remember both them and all the other people who were killed during the terrible wars we commemorate today.

One other very positive take from today. Despite the fact that we are in the middle of a general election campaign, I was able to have friendly conversations today with people from all the major political parties and with colleagues who are independents, and none of us had any trouble setting aside partisan politics for the day.

British public life used to be very good at setting aside partisan disputes and party politics when they are not appropriate, and today was a timely and important reminder that this vital aspect of our British traditions is not entirely forgotten. Long may that remain the case.

That was the Whitehaven commemoration: will be off to Moor Row this afternoon.


Now back from the Moor Row act of remembrance, also very moving, also very well attended.

Remembrance Sunday: The Last Post

Remembrance Sunday

Today, 10th November 2019, is Remembrance Sunday: tomorrow is Armistice Day, the 101st anniversary of the day the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War.

I will not be making any party political posts today, or tomorrow until after 11 am. To the best of my knowledge none of the political parties are campaigning today.

Instead I will be attending various commemorative events covering areas of my county division. Apologies for the fact that I will not be able to get to them all but I cannot be in two places at once.

Today is a day for remembering all those who have lost their lives in war, particularly those who fought to defend our country but also all the innocent civilians and victims or war and atrocity.

We remember the cost of war today as we have done ever since the end of the massive conflict which is usually known today by the name I gave it above, the First World War, but was known to those who lived through it as The Great War.

Many of those who died in that war have their names recorded on a war memorial. But in the case of the town my grandfather came from, a Lancashire town called Darwen which is just south of Blackburn, that community lost so many people that this is the inscription the citizens of the town placed on the memorial to their dead which was put up shortly after the end of the war. This war memorial is in Bold Venture Park, a few minutes' walk from my grandfather's house.

Yes, more than twelve hundred dead from one small town. It does not bear thinking about. Darwen came off particularly badly but every town and village in Britain bore its share of pain and loss.

My grandfather's younger brother Robert - Private Robert Whiteside, 18th Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers - is one of those whose names would have been on that memorial had there not been too many names to fit on it. He was killed at the age of eighteen, just six weeks before the end of the war.

Here is a picture of the memorial itself. A beautiful place yet this memorial commemorates such a vast tragedy.

The sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for this country should never be forgotten. Nor should we forget any of the others who have died in war.

Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day for Remembrance Sunday

Saturday, November 09, 2019

The Jewish Chronicle's trumpet call against Corbyn

I am advised that the Jewish Chronicle is the world’s oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper, founded in 1841, and that until this week it had never taken sides in a general election.

That has now changed.

The JC (as Jews affectionately call it) devoted its entire front page on Thursday to a leading article under the banner headline: “To all our fellow British citizens.”

The paper appealed to non-Jews not to vote Labour for as long as it is led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The front page version of the leader, published by the JC on social media in an image obviously designed to be shared, is here
This is only the latest illustration of the most serious concerns among the Jewish community about the direction in which the Labour party has moved under Jeremy Corbyn.

Ian Austin, whose parents were refugees from the holocaust, and was one of two former Labour MPs who were yesterday urging traditional Labour voters to lend the Conservatives their votes in the 2019 general election, made absolutely clear that Anti-Semitism was one of his reasons for doing so, though he was also concerned about the fitness of the Labour leader to be PM.

“Jeremy Corbyn is an extremist,” he said. “To lead our country, you’ve got to be able to say you love Britain and I do not think he is a patriot. He has sided with our country’s enemies, whether that’s supporting the IRA or saying Hamas and Hezbollah are his friends.”

Notes from the November meeting of Full Council

Highlights and lowlights from the meeting of Cumbria County Council on 7th November 2019.

The meeting began with the council standing for a minute's silence in memory of my predecessor as County Councillor for Egremont North and St Bees division, Henry Wormstrup, who died a couple of weeks ago.

During the time reserved for questions from members of the council, the meeting was suspended for ten minutes because an independent councillor from Carlisle insisted on reading a pre-prepared speech rather than asking a question. 

When it was reconvened I asked the leader of the council, in the absence of the highways portfolio holder, if they would review the policy of the council in terms of whether we could obtain more action to improve roads, like the A595 and A66, which are managed by Highways England by being 
more pro-active in putting forward shovel-ready schemes to improve these roads.

The response of the Leader of the council was essentially to complain about the fact that I ask questions like this at every council meeting.

If he thinks that's going to stop me he has another think coming.

Councillors were then asked to approve a "Youth Justice Strategy" the full draft of which was not included in the council papers as circulated in hard copy and which most of us had not seen., although we did see a report about it.

The document was approved given that those members of all parties who actually had seen it praised it as a good document and that we were given assurances that this would not happen again.

Trudy Harrison re-adopted

Trudy Harrison who was Conservative MP for Copeland in the last parliament has been readopted this morning as the Conservative candidate for Copeland.

Cllr Andy Pratt proposed and I seconded that Trudy should be re-adopted to stand again and this was unanimously approved in a secret ballot of the executive.

We then attended a successful community coffee morning in Gosforth and went on to campaign in Seascale. Despite the cold, lots of people were eager to talk to us on the doorstep and it was evident that Trudy has a strong personal vote.

Conservative campaign launched

This week the Prime Minister launched our General Election Campaign. 

We will unleash the potential of this country and get Brexit done.

We will make 2020 about the people of this country and not its politicians – rather than wasting 2020 on having two chaotic referendums on Scotland and Europe.

The parliament which has just been dissolved was stuck in a rut because there was no majority to get anything done – a majority Conservative government can get Brexit done, enable the country to move on and get Parliament working for you.

If we get Brexit done we can make this country the greatest place to live, to start a family, the greatest place to send your kids to school, to start a business, the place that leads the world in clean green technology.

A hung Parliament means more of the same confusion, more delay and more of the indecision which voters are sick of. Conservatives need to win just 9 seats more than in 2017 to win a majority, break the deadlock in Parliament, Get Brexit Done, move the country on and unleash Britain’s potential.

Only the Conservatives can get Brexit done and get on with our project of sensible moderate, but tax cutting, one nation conservatism, spreading opportunity and hope across the whole UK. Let’s unleash the potential of this country.

Quote of the day 9th November 2019

Friday, November 08, 2019

Nick Robinson interviews the SNP's Ian Blackford

Nick Robinson is one of those interviewers who asks intelligent and difficult questions to politicians of all parties.

In this interview with the SNP's Ian Blackford on BBC politics live, Nick demonstrates that the SNP find it much easier recycling Labour scaremongers about imaginary threats to the NHS from a trade deal which does not yet exist than they do defending their record running the Scottish NHS, for which the SNP is responsible, and which has missed eight out of it's ten targets.

Warning: this interview is not for the squeamish.

Quote of the day 8th November 2019

When asked who will pay for Labour’s spending plans, Labour Treasury spokesperson Peter Dowd says:

“The British people will pay.”

This will probably be the one statement from a Labour spokesperson during this election which I agree with.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Midweek music spot: VOCES8: Bring Us, O Lord God (William Harris)

When robust debate becoms abuse

Sometimes two things which are important and indeed essential can also be challenging to reconcile.

An example is the importance of Free Speech, and the fact that we need more civility and tolerance in politics.

I believe that in my adult lifetime the level of freedom of speech within this country and elsewhere has decreased, is decreasing and ought to be increased.

But I also believe that abusive behaviour towards people of different political views is an extremely bad thing, and as Charlotte Henry argued in a recent article, is driving good people out of politics.

It must surely be possible to argue very robustly against opinions or policies you think are wrong, or to make strong fact-based criticism of the record of a party and its leaders at national or local level, without crossing over the line from political criticism to personal abuse.

But I do not think that, as a country, we are doing very well at finding the right place to draw that line.

This is not a party political point: people in every part of the political spectrum need to think more about what they say and write.

Howgill Family Centre

I understand that my fellow County Councillors from Copeland who had submitted a cross-party  call-in of the decision on the contract awards for social care had a lengthy meeting yesterday at which significant progress was made.

It is unlikely to be possible to completely overturn the decision but I understand concessions have been offered which will help Howgill Family Centre and protect the interests of vulnerable children. As soon as a formal statement is made on the issue I will post it here.

Quote of the day 6th November 2019

"It is a horrifying reality that in 2019, Jewish communities across the world live in fear of violent terror attacks. The traumatic scenes outside of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, or the recent attack on the Halle synagogue in Germany, are ones we fear being repeated in the UK.

When a kosher shop became a target in France’s wave of terror attacks in 2015, it struck a raw chord with many in Britain’s Jewish community. I recall the Friday night sabbath dinner conversation —
  • What if I had been one of those hostages? 
  • How worrying that it is only the small English Channel separating us from the wave of terror against Jewish communities in Europe? 

This fear only increased with the stabbings of Jews outside a synagogue in Marseille later that year and the subsequent murders in Paris of Sarah Halimi and Mireille Knoll in further antisemitic incidents.

I recently enrolled my daughter at a nursery school based at a synagogue. Upon visiting the nursery — as much as I wanted to meet the staff, see the space and learn about the daily schedule — the thing I spent the most time checking-out was the security set-up for the building.

From the age of one, my daughter will be attending daycare with a guard at the front door and constant security presence.

That is not the desires of an over-protective parent — it is a necessary precaution of 21st century Jewish life. In this environment, the Jewish community relies on a supportive government who understand and sympathise with these very real security threats — a government that will help overcome any administrative or regulatory hurdles to protecting Jewish community centres, schools and places of worship.

I can recall hearing this support loud and clear from successive political party leaders over the past decades, whether Labour, Conservative or Lib Dems. I have never once heard Jeremy Corbyn utter his commitment.

In fact, when I searched out looking to find and consolation that Jeremy Corbyn might understand the nature of anti-Jewish terrorism, I only found the opposite.

Down the road from my home is a Jewish community building named Balfour House. I recall visiting it as a teenager when taking part in a youth volunteering programme. In 1994, the building was bombed in an antisemitic incident, and one backbench MP spent the subsequent years campaigning for the release of two of the terrorist attackers. His name was Jeremy Corbyn."

(Rob Mindell, extract from an article on the "Medium" website which you can read in full here.)

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Labour scaremongering on the NHS

Labour have been caught out scaremongering about our NHS. 
Labour claim: They say there has been a huge increase in the number of cancelled operations.
Labour’s own Freedom of Information request data show that the number of cancelled operations actually fell by three per cent this year – as Labour's shadow health team were  forced to admit.
Labour claim: Conservatives will sell out NHS in trade deals with the US.
The NHS will never be for sale – Labour have used this scaremongering at every election in living memory.