Monday, April 23, 2018

Quote of the day 23rd April 2018

"There is no indignity in being afraid to die. But there is a terrible shame in being afraid to live."

(Terry Nation, line spoken by a character called Alydon in the Doctor Who story "The Daleks")

Drop-In public consultation session on North Shore, Whitehaven plans at Tescos this afternoon

Residents of Whitehaven and others with an interest in traffic in the town are reminded that the second of two "Drop-in" public consultation sessions on the proposed highway improvements in the North Shore area will be held this afternoon and evening (Monday 23rd April 2018), from 3pm-7pm at the Tesco Superstore, Bransty Row, Whitehaven, CA28 7XY.

Details of the consultation on Cumbria County Council's proposals to improve road safety and traffic flows in the North Shore/Bransty Row area can be found on the council website at

The proposed scheme includes:
  • introduction of traffic light controls on Bransty Row/North Shore Road junction
  • improved pedestrian crossing points and links between the harbour, the new developments and the town centre's historic core
  • enhancement of the road junction at Tangier Street/George Street to improve traffic flow and facilitate development
  • relocation of southbound bus stop on Bransty Row and northbound bus stop to Tangier Street relocation and tripling of provision for taxis to reflect forecast increased footfall in the area
  • reduction of the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on a section of Bransty Row
  • public realm improvements to enhance the gateway into Whitehaven.

Local residents and anyone with an interest in the proposals are invited to have their say and let  Cumbria County Council know your views.

It is worth adding that there are a number of planned developments in this part of town and it is the opinion of both highway officers and councillors that if those developments go ahead without anything being done to improve this stretch of road, traffic on the key Northern entrance and exit to the centre of Whitehaven will become seriously congested.

There is also a worrying accident rate among road users in this area of the town, particularly for pedestrians, and we want to make the area safer for road users.

I am not going to pretend that I think this scheme is perfect, but it is a considerable improvement on what is there now. The council has to make a decision this year or lose the opportunity to act, because the government has given a substantial but time-limited grant to improve traffic flows and road safety in the area and facilitate economic development. 

Happy St George's Day

Wishing every English person who reads this, and indeed anyone else who reads it, a happy St George's Day (23rd April 2018)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Britain's "First coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution"

Yesterday (Friday 20th April 2018) was, according to the national grid, Britain's first day when no coal was used for power generation since we have had a national grid.

It has been described as Britain's first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution although I put that in inverted commas in the title of this post as we cannot be certain that one of the small number of households with a coal fire used it.

Considering what a warm couple of days we've had, I would not expect that there would have been too much coal burned by anyone other than the National Grid either.

This is actually very good news because in terms of damage to the environment, coal without carbon capture is one of the dirtiest fuels there is.

Music to relax after campaigning: the "Albinoni" Adagio

A lovely piece to relax to for those of you who have been campaigning today.

I have previously posted more than one performances of this piece: for those who have not already seen one of those posts or have forgotten, the rather curious history of this lovely piece of music and the reason why the name of the composer "Albinono" has been placed in inverted commas may be found here.

Quote of the day Saturday 21st April 2018

“The appearance of Anti-Semitism is always an early warning sign of a dangerous dysfunction within a culture, because the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.

“At the end of his life, Moses told the Israelites: don't hate an Egyptian because you were strangers in his land. It's an odd sentence. The Egyptians had oppressed and enslaved the Israelites. So why did Moses say, don't hate?

“Because if the people continued to hate, Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but failed to take Egypt out of the Israelites. They would still be slaves, not physically but mentally. Moses knew that to be free you have to let go of hate. Wherever there is hate, freedom dies. Which is why we, especially leaders, have to take a stand against the corrosive power of hate.

“All it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing. Today I see too many good people doing nothing and I am ashamed.”

(Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK, speaking on BBC Radio 4's "Thought for the day" programme yesterday)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Best and the worst of Cumbria County Council

Yesterday's annual meeting of Cumbria County Council showed the authority at its best and worst.

In the "best" column were the dignified and warm tributes to Cllr John Bell, who finished his term as Chairman of the Council for his work during the 17/18 civic year and to Cllr Elizabeth Mallinson, who was elected to take over from him and became only the third woman to be Chairman of Cumbria County Council since the creation of the authority in the 1970's.

Also the discussion on the Public Health Annual Report, an excellent document which you can read here, an excellent session during which some excellent questions were asked and important points made from all sides of the chamber.

And I was pleased to join in the support from all parties for a motion on reducing plastic waste.

(I thought for a moment that there had been one vote against, until I realised that we were actually voting at that point not for the actual motion itself but on a procedural motion to move to the vote, and the councillor concerned had wanted to speak about the motion itself, which was then carried unanimously a few seconds later. Judging by the reactions around the chamber I was not the only person to have made that mistake.)

However, in the "worst" column was some party-political sniping and personal attacks on the subject of schools in Cumbria which added nothing constructive to the debate and appeared to me to be more aimed at gaining electoral advantage for the people making the speeches concerned than doing anything to help the young people who attend schools in the county.

Bit of a waste of effort, though - I doubt if there can have been many floating voters in the chamber and I doubt if the press will report the comments concerned. It would not, however, in my humble opinion, have been likely to impress any ordinary voters who did hear those comments.

Fun fact of the week

Residents of Cumbria taking part in Slimming World weight loss programmes have lost 17.6 tons of body weight between them, according to the report of Cumbria Director of Public Health during the discussion of his annual report at Cumbria County Council yesterday.

This is equivalent to the weight of four adult African Elephants.

Second quote of the day 20th April 2018

"There are two people in this government who believe in global warming: you and me. We are therefore a majority."

(Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to John Selwyn Gummer, now Lord Deben, who quoted her on BBC Radio 4 this morning.)

Quote of the day 20th April 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

UK Inflation rate drops to 2.5%

UK consumer price inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index fell to 2.5% in the 12 months to March, the lowest rate in a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
It fell from 2.7% in February after prices for clothing and footwear, in particular womenswear, rose at a slower rate compared to this time last year.

Midweek Madrigal "I Heard a Voice" sung by the choir of King's College Cambridge

Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council

The Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held tomorrow (Thursday 19th April 2018) at County Hall in Kendal commencing at 10.00 am.

It is expected that the whole meeting will be open to the public.

The full agenda and reports can be found on the County Council website here.

Quote of the day 18th April 2018

"Last night the whips said we would vote for this motion, which is logical given it's the opposition motion. This morning we were told we had to vote against.

"You should not play games with matters of war and peace, which is why a load of us abstained.

This party is becoming a joke."

(Labour MP explaining on Politics Home why he and others declined to obey orders from Jeremy Corbyn's whips to vote against a motion about the airstrikes on the Syrian regime's chemical weapons facilities which had been tabled in Mr Corbyn's own name.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Working Together" steering group meeting.

The next "working together" steering group meeting about delivering healthcare in North, West and East Cumbria, which is not merely open to the public but in which anyone can participate, will be held tomorrow (Wednesday 18th April) from 6pm to 8pm at the Samuel Lindow Building at Westlakes.

More details on my hospitals blog here.


I am aware that there is a vast amount of concern at the moment about potholes throughout Cumbria, the roads having taken a lot of damage from the elements during the harsh weather of the last few months.

You can report a pothole or any other dangerous problem with a road maintained by Cumbria County Council directly to the responsible officers.

either by calling the Highways Hotline number on 0300 3032992,

or on line at

This ensures the fault is logged and a unique reference code generated for that particular defect, it also enables the fault to be tracked.

If you are having trouble doing this or are not seeing a satisfactory response in respect of any road in my division (which covers Bigrigg, Moor Row, St Bees, and the Western half of the Mirehouse area of Whitehaven) please feed free to contact me via email at

Two powerful speeches on Anti-Semitism from Labour MPs

I do not often agree with Labour MPs and it is very rare indeed that I would consider publicising with approval speeches made by parliamentarians from that party. But the debate on Anti-Semitism in parliament today is a special circumstance and the speeches today by Luciana Berger MP and John Mann MP were both particularly powerful and deserve to be widely heard.

If there is anyone who can listen to these speeches by Labour MPs and still think either that there is not a serious problem with Anti-Semitism today both in Britain as a whole and in the Labour party in particular, or continue to imagine that all the concern about Anti-Semitism is a "smear" which has been "weaponised" by opponents of Jeremy Corbyn, their capacity for self-deception is truly amazing.

This is the speech from John Mann M.P.

And this is the speech from Luciana Berger M.P.

The Windrush generation

Following public concern about the recent treatment that members of the "Windrush generation" who arrived in this country from the Caribbean many decades ago and had not sought the paperwork to prove their British status because they had not thought they needed to, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has apologised and taken a number of urgent steps to revolve the issue, which include the following:
  • A new taskforce dedicated to helping those affected 
  • Plans to work with departments across government to gather evidence on behalf of immigrants (documentation for every year is usually expected, such as bank statements or payslips)
  • A pledge that all cases will be resolved in two weeks
  • All fees for new documentation (normally £229) will be waived so people are not "out of pocket"
  • A new website will be set up with information and a direct contact point
The Prime Minister has agreed to meet Caribbean leaders who are in Britain for a Commonwealth meeting this week to discuss the issue.

I don't agree with everything else he wrote on the issue but Stephen Bush pointed out in the New Statesman that the next group of people who may hit a similar problem are the Ugandan Asians who Idi Amin expelled in the early 1970's. I hope the lessons are learned this time so that it can be handled better.

Quote of the day 17th April 2018

"Those who would turn a blind eye, who would do nothing in pursuit of some moral high ground, should also be held accountable, for once, today as well."

(Chris Leslie MP, Labour, speaking in the House of Commons yesterday)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why a "War Powers" act would be a seriously bad idea.

The government should always be accountable to parliament after the event for everything it does including military action.

There will be some instances where it is practical and desirable for parliament to discuss and determine in advance the principles and objectives of a potential military action.

However, the idea that the executive should always require the prior approval of parliament for any military action in any circumstances is both absurd and dangerous.

To compare Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Foot is grossly unfair to Michael Foot, but this Cummings cartoon first published during the Falklands war and taking the mickey out of Foot makes the point perfectly:

 I share many of the concerns of those who do not want the UK to be involved in Syria's civil war, and I think it was wise of the US, French and British governments that the action they took at the weekend was clearly aimed specifically at chemical warfare facilities and designed to minimise the risk of escalation. As I wrote on Saturday, I think that action of the kind which was actually taken was the least worst of a set of very bad options.

I can respect the view of those who thought that the action should have been put to parliament first, though on balance I don't agree with them. To get parliamentary approval the government might have had to share information which it was prejudicial to the safety of RAF personnel and to the mission's chance of success to put into the public domain - and thereby provide to the Syrian regime's forces - prior to the attack.

I cannot agree with the views of those who think there are no circumstances in which a British government might have to act without prior approval from the House of Commons. There will certainly be some circumstances where there just isn't time or where the process of getting such approval will give too much information to our enemies and put the lives of British servicemen and servicewomen at risk.

The same applies to those who say that Britain should never act without the approval of the United Nations Security council. As former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the House of Commons today, the inevitable consequence of such a policy would be that

“Any tyrant or megalomaniac, if they have support of an amoral state on the UN Security Council, could act with impunity,"

"Far from upholding the international rules based system, it would be dead.”

Guido's quote of the Day

The current quote on Guido Fawkes' parliamentary blog "Order, Order" is by former Labour MP and shadow minister Michael Dugher on how Jeremy Corbyn might have responded to the Nazi threat in 1939:

Suspect Jeremy in 1939 would have argued that the League of Nations needed more time to investigate “alleged” German aggression in Poland and called for the violence “on all sides” to cease.

Quote of the day 16th April 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Second quote for 15th April 2018

Thanks a Million

Quite a milestone for this blog this morning.

At 9.55 am BST the hit counters recorded the one millionth pageview on this weblog since they were set up ten years ago.

That does not quite put this blog into the same league as Political Betting, Guido Fawkes or Iain Dale, but in terms of total visits this site has one of the highest readerships among UK political blogs. It has also lasted much longer than most, especially in terms of longest continuous operation.
This site was set up in February 2005 and has been regularly updated since then with no breaks between updates longer than one gap of a few weeks in 2013 when the Conservative candidates department asked potential candidates for the 2014 (and, in the event, last) European parliament election not to update our websites during a "purdah" period while party members were taking part in a postal ballot to select candidates.

Thanks to all those who have visited this blog over the past thirteen years and I hope you have found it interesting.

Sunday Music spot: Charles Wood, "O thou the central orb"

Silly question of the month

"Why aren't the Board of Deputies" (of British Jews) "protesting outside Tory party HQ?"

(Ken Loach)

Not content with calling for 30 Labour MPs to be deselected for demonstrating against Anti-Semitism, left-wing film director Ken Loach spoke in Canterbury yesterday and, according to Guido Fawkes, LBC has a recording of him having a go at the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Well, Ken, it might just have something to do with the fact that the Leader of the Conservative party hasn't had to apologise for defending any Anti-Semitic murals ...

Quote of the day 15th April 2018

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Second quote of the day 14th April 2018


Between them President Assad and Vladimir Putin have put Western Leaders in an impossible position.

Dan Hannan MEP wrote a few days ago that if we bomb Assad, bad things would happen, if we didn't bomb him bad things will happen, and whichever of those routes we went down, people will point to those things as proof we should have done the other. Dan was right.

Of all the terrible weapons used during the First World War, the one which the surviving veterans of the war found the most inhuman and ghastly was poison gas, and that is why a prohibition against the use of chemical weapons was established which largely held for nearly a hundred years.

I believe that it would be a terrible mistake to allow that prohibition to fall into disuse and that there is no reasonable doubt that the Assad regime really has used them repeatedly against its own citizens including innocent men, women and children. If there were any plausible evidence supporting the narrative from the Russian regime that the Douma gas attack never took place and was fraudulently concocted by Islamists, they would not need to produce ridiculous suggestions like the allegation that the "white helmets" civil defence volunteers are really Al-Quada terrorists and that, knowing this, the UK government has nevertheless been working with them to stage false reports of gas attacks and other atrocities.

That's the same civil defence volunteers - their official name is "Syria Civil Defence" - who Human Rights Watch describe as their most reliable source of information, as has Amnesty International who also described the "White Helmets" as the "bravest, most heroic people in all of Syria."

However, there are all manner of very good reasons to be extremely careful about any military intervention in Syria, particularly as the certainty of a Russian veto makes it impossible to gain specific UN approval for any such action.
It is by now obvious that the military attacks in the early hours of this morning by the armed forces of the USA, Britain and France were carefully targeted to avoid hitting civilians or Russian or Iranian personnel, to strike specifically the Assad regime's chemical weapon infrastructure, and to do the maximum damage to that infrastructure with minimum loss of life. The attacks went in at 4 a.m. local time when there would have been just about the minimum possible number of people about.

The Pentagon say they are not aware of any civilian casualties and it's a pretty safe bet that there cannot have been any substantial collateral damage because if the Syrians had found any dead or injured civilians, the Russian and Syrian propaganda machines would long since have started screaming their heads off about them.

This appears to have been a very carefully managed strike which responded specifically to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons and was precisely aimed at that regime's means of delivering such attacks in future. The governments of Britain, France and the USA appear to have bent over backwards to avoid killing civilians or Russians, and to minimise the risk of escalating the conflict.

Whatever the British, Russian and French governments had done, millions of people would have said they were wrong. In my humble opinion, of the range of bad and terrible options open to them, this limited and carefully targeted attack against the Syrian regime's chemical weapons infrastructure, designed to significantly damage that infrastructure while minimising loss of life, was probably the least worst option available.

Music to relax after campaigning:The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"

For those who have been out campaigning for the local elections today:

Quote of the day for 14th April 2018

Friday, April 13, 2018

Second quote for 13th April 2018

Quote of the day 13th April 2018

"I have not and will never support him or his bonkers unworkable radically left-wing policies that will bring nothing but ruin to the party (and country if he were ever to win an election which is highly unlikely.)"

Not surprising for a county councillor or parliamentary candidate to express such views about Jeremy Corbyn - if the person expressing them was a Lib/Dem or Tory.

But Squawkbox has an article here including screen shots of the quote above which appears to be from Tony Lywood, a Labour councillor who has since been selected as Labour parliamentary candidate for Copeland ...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quotes of the day 12th April 2018

In memory of the late Bernard Levin

I can still remember large chunks of Bernard Levin articles from around that time well enough to quote from them: besides the article which started with the passage above,

Levin wrote a brilliantly savage piece eviscerating the Apartheid Regime in South Africa over the murder of Steve Biko, and a roll-on-floor-laughing piece parodying the views of a Mr Walker who had been writing to the Guardian ("where else") suggesting that the popularity of the painter John Constable with the middle classes was highly suspect and accusing him of being "firmly  on the side of the ruling classes.

Here is another piece of Levin's writing which was remembered on Twitter yesterday:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Controversial traffic proposal for Beckermet to be dropped

A traffic management scheme for the village of Beckermet in West Cumbria which had previously been put forward by the County Council now looks unlikely to go ahead after further investigation of the issues including a new round of consultations.

A report presented to the county's Highways Working Group for Copeland today by the officers found that there was much more opposition than support for the proposals among those who responded to the consultation, and officers recommended that it should not go ahead.

That recommendation will now be considered at the next meeting of the County Council's local committee for Copeland on 15th May with the support of the Highways Working Group.

Midweek Madrigal: "Hark, All Ye Lovely Saints Above"

Second Quote of the day 11th April 2018

Quote of the day 11th April 2018

"I do love Scotland, but if the love for your country is all you have, you're in a desperate state.

"I dislike people that write England off because they're Scottish."

(Sir Billy Connolly)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Many a true word ...

I am pleased to see that Yulia Skripal is well enough to be discharged from hospital and that her father is no longer on the critical list.

Since it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that someone tried to kill them, any sane person will understand why Ms. Skripal, and Sergei Skripal if and when he becomes well enough to leave hospital might not want her location known.

I find the comments by the Russian Embassy that they would view any possible resettlement as an "abduction" to be extremely childish and further evidence that they have no interest in working responsibly with other countries to rebuild the international bridges which have been greatly damaged by this affair.

It remains highly probable that the Russian state was culpable in the matter of the Salisbury assassination attempt and it is necessary to user proportionate means to make it clear to them that this is not in their interests.

"Proportionate" in this context means proportionate both to the offence and to the strength of the evidence. Nobody is proposing to start World War III over this or over what has happened in Syria (on which more in the near future) and nor should they, but diplomatic and economic measures such as the expulsion of Russian "diplomats" who are actually spies and the imposition of sanctions against Russian "dirty money" were and are appropriate responses to the Salisbury attack.

Meanwhile the "NewsThump" satirical website have a spoof article here about those on social media who have been coming out to bat for the Kremlin which reminds me of the saying that many a true word is spoken in jest ...

More details of the North Shore proposed improvements in Whitehaven

Details of the consultation on Cumbria County Council proposals to improve road safety and traffic flows in the North Shore/Bransty Row area can be found on the council website at

the first of two drop-in session is open now (afternoon of Tuesday 10th April 2018) at Wetherspoons Bransty Arch, 5 Bransty Row, Whitehaven, CA28 7XEuntil 6pm today.

The second session will be held on Monday 23rd April, from 3pm-7pm at the Tesco Superstore, Bransty Row, Whitehaven, CA28 7XY.

The proposed scheme includes:
  • introduction of traffic light controls on Bransty Row/North Shore Road junction
  • improved pedestrian crossing points and links between the harbour, the new developments and the town centre's historic core
  • enhancement of the road junction at Tangier Street/George Street to improve traffic flow and facilitate development
  • relocation of southbound bus stop on Bransty Row and northbound bus stop to Tangier Street relocation and tripling of provision for taxis to reflect forecast increased footfall in the area
  • reduction of the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on a section of Bransty Row
  • public realm improvements to enhance the gateway into Whitehaven.

Local residents and anyone with an interest in the proposals are invited to have their say and discuss the scheme with Cumbria County Council.

Unintentional Joke of the day

Apparently on learning that Labour shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner MP had raised the question of whether the Good Friday Agreement should be seen as a "shibboleth," Tony Blair said

"I don't know how anyone can say that."

If you want to know why that is funny, and have a bible to hand, look up Judges, Chapter 12, verses one to six.


Actually that's just been topped for unintentional humour by the Labour party spokesman who confirmed this afternoon that Gardiner will be staying in his job despite his open disagreement with what passes for Labour polity on Brexit, as follows:

They really are not even bothering to pretend to tell the truth, are they?

"Barry Gardiner fully supports that position."


There is a recording on the BBC website, which you can find and listen to here, of Barry Gardiner explaining in the clearest possible, if rather rude, language why he thinks the first of those tests is rubbish. (He uses an Anglo-Saxon expression for "rubbish.")

Quote of the day 10th April 201

Monday, April 09, 2018

Campaigning in the Furness Peninsular ward of SLDC

Took a trip to the south of the county this afternoon and evening to join the team canvassing for the excellent Conservative candidates in  Furness Peninsular ward:

James Airey
Caroline Airey
Andrew Butcher.

Delighted to see a good team out this evening and to get a good response on the doorstep.

There has been some speculation recently about whether particular parties were having trouble getting people to stand as candidates.

I think all the parties could do with more people willing to stand in many parts of the country. However the Conservatives in Cumbria have not done too badly in finding candidates in the 2018 local elections.

The "Statement of persons nominated" documents came out today in South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) and the Conservatives are the only party who have nominated a full slate of 51 candidates for the 51 council seats available.

Details of who is standing in SLDC this year are available at

The other authority in Cumbria with council elections this year is Carlisle City Council where two parties - the Conservatives and Labour - are contesting all the seats up for election. There is also a patchwork sprinkling of Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Green and Independent council candidates in some wards. Details of this year's council candidates in Carlisle can be found at:

North Shore scheme consultation begins

The government has made several million pounds available to improve traffic flows and safety  in the "North Shore" area near Bransty Row.

The money is time-limited - if it is not spent in a couple of years it will be lost, so the County Council cannot faff around on this: we have to agree a scheme which the public can get behind, and implement it.

A consultation has started today (Monday 9th April 2018) for four weeks.

Two Drop-in sessions will take place as follows:

* Tuesday 10th April, 2.00–6.00 pm at Wetherspoons Bransty Arch and;

* Monday 23rd April, 3.00–7.00 pm at Tesco Superstore, Bransty Row.

Copies of the Plan will also be on display in Whitehaven Library for the four week consultation.

Quote of the day 9th April 2018

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sunday Music spot: Pachelbel's Canon

Remembering a Hero - Miroslav Liskutin RIP

World War II Spitfire pilot Mirslav Liskutin has died at the age of 98.

Our friends in Europe sometimes accuse Britain of being obsessed with the World War II era. There is a degree of justice in this charge but for a whole host of reasons looking back on a heroic age which is still just within memory but is gradually passing into history is wholly understandable in the present climate.

As Nick Cohen wrote yesterday in a review of the film "Entebbe" (which has persuaded me that I will have to watch it), "we now live in a world without heroes" and it is as though everyone who at first appears to be a hero turns out to have feet of clay.

It is not just that the Battle of Britain was, as Churchill said at the time, our "Finest Hour," and as close as it ever gets in history to a battle between good and evil in which our country fought on the side of good. The story of World War II is full of real and indisputable heroes and Miroslav Liskutin was one of them.

Mr Liskutin was born in the former country of Czechoslovakia in 1919 and joined the Czechoslovak air force as a young man. When his country was occupied by the Nazis he came to the western allies, briefly serving with the French before heading to Britain to continue fighting the Nazis.

He joined the RAF and became a pilot in joined 145 Squadron flying from Catterick. After flying convoy patrols he was sent to 312 (Czech) Squadron taking part in the Dieppe operation and in dive-bombing sorties.

He took part in the air cover provided during the D-Day landings and had the distinction of flying the first allied aircraft to land in France after D-Day. After his plane was damaged by German fire he landed on a strip that had just been laid by the Royal Engineers.

‘They repaired his plane and he was back up again fighting,’ said his son Milos.

After the war he initially went back to Czechoslovakia with his family. But, not finding life under Communism attractive, he came back here to Britain, re-joining the RAF and eventually retiring as Station Commander at RAF Ouston in 1962. After working in civilian avaiation and in Zambia he spent the last part of his life at Fareham.

The Czech government have since recognised his service and he was given the rank of Major General. He died on February 19 this year and his funeral was on March 28. He leaves two sons, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Source here.

A hero from an age of heroes. Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day 8th April 2018

“Let’s get something straight: if someone has actually done something, reporting that action is not 'a smear', it’s 'reporting'.

(Hadley Freeman in a Guardian article which you can read here.)

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Mirror-Image articles from Matthew Parris and Joff Wild

By a strange co-incidence Matthew Parris in the Times today and Joff Wild, who posts on the "Political Betting" website as "Southam Observer" have mirror image articles today.

Matthew Parris has a piece in the Times explaining how, despite being extremely unhappy with the Conservative party over Brexit, he has resolved his "personal political anguish" and decided that

"There has never been a more important time for people like me to stick with the Tories"

His article is called

"The Tory 'lurch to the right' is an illusion"

Which is not quite what Matthew has sometimes appeared to think over the past year or so but it will probably not surprise anyone to learn that I think he is right, particularly when he concludes

"Britain doesn’t want a very right-wing government, so the Tories won’t offer one."

The mirror article from the Labour site is on the Political Betting site here, by Joff Wild who resigned from the Labour party last year. He writes:

"I left the Labour party last year as the anti-Semitism I saw and heard became too much to live with. How could I stick with a party that tolerated it?"

He, has, however, reconsidered his position because it leaves the Labour party in the hands of people he strongly disagrees with and he has decided to rejoin the party to fight for the sort of Labour party he believes in and thinks could be elected.

It is interesting to read the two pieces, by Matthew Parris and Joff Wild side by side. The main difference is that I think Matthew's analysis of the Conservative party, though very cynical, is likely to be correct.  I fear that Joff, by contrast is being hopelessly overoptimistic about the prospects for moderates regaining control of the Labour party.

I would like to see moderates like Joff win out in the Labour party, even though it is not in the interests of my party to have a stronger opposition party which reasonable people would be more likely to vote for, because it is in the interests of British democracy to have a credible opposition. But I fear that all he is doing is giving credibility to a party which has been captured by people who despise everyone with views remotely like his as much as they despise people like me, and who would wreck this country if they ever came to power.

A sad commentary on British politics

I would once have thought it impossible that some of the stories I have seen in the media today could ever again appear in British newspapers. Here are two examples.

For four year while studying for my first degree and then as Treasurer of the Union at the University of Bristol I lived in what is now part of the Bristol West constituency. The idea that the MP for the constituency, whichever party he or she represented, would be criticised by a significant part of the membership of their constituency party for attending a demonstration against Anti-Semitism would have been seen by everyone I was at University with as absolutely bonkers.

Yet here is a report in the FT about how precisely that happened this week: a motion explicitly criticising the MP was passed by a branch and "noted" by the Bristol West constituency Labour party without being voted on while a slightly less extreme motion which implicitly criticised her was narrowly defeated but did get 84 votes.

And here in the Guardian is an incredibly powerful article by Howard Jacobson about Anti-Semitism. Here are a few extracts from his article:

"I still think Britain is a fine country to be a Jew of any complexion in. But it is as though I now live in the shadow of an unseen enemy."

"The incantatory repetition of the charge that Jews cry Anti-Semitism only in order to subvert criticism of Israel or discredit Corbyn is more than fatuous and lazy, and it is more than painful to those many Jews who own an old allegiance to the Labour party and who are not strangers to criticising Israel. It is the deepest imaginable insult."

"Most Jews know what Anti-Semitism is and what it isn’t. Its history is written on the Jewish character in blood. To invent it where it is not would be a sacrilege."

"Saturday Chataway and litter pick a great success today.

The "Saturday Chataway" coffee morning and meeting giving Copeland residents am opportunity to raise issues with Trudy Harrison MP or local councillors this morning at Parton Village Hall was a great success.

County, Borough and Parish Councillors from all parts of the political spectrum party were invited and there was a good attendance.

£50 was also raised for Parton Friendship Club from the donations for coffee and biscuits.

This was followed by a community litter pick this afternoon, in which Trudy, councillors and local residents got busy despite the rain and filled about thirty bin-bags of litter.

The next "Saturday Chataway" will be in Millom on 19th May.

Saturday music spot: The Final Countdown

Most of my favourite music is Baroque, Classical or "English school" church music, as readers of the blog will probably have gathered. But there are a few pieces of popular music which really get to me and Europe's "The final countdown" is one of them ...

Quote of the day 7th April 2018

“Do not adjust your set. Normal service from the BBC means you will hear people you disagree with saying things you don’t like. That’s our job.”

Impartiality is difficult. Perhaps never more so than in recent years when deep divides have opened up over Brexit, Scottish independence and inside both our major parties. We don’t always get it right. However, there is still a powerful case for impartial broadcast journalism that seeks to inform rather than influence, or sway, or respond to commercial imperatives, staffed by people who – regardless of their personal background or private views – are committed to delivering what Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein calls “the best obtainable version of the truth” and offering their audience a free, open and broad debate. The alternative is news that largely broadcasts people you like saying things you agree with.

I say as gently as I can to people on both sides of the Brexit argument – be careful what you wish for.

(Nick Robinson repeats the message he gave a year ago to people on the pro-leave side who think that the BBC is biased against them, but this time aimed at extreme remainders like Andrew Adonis who takes the opposite view and think that the BBC has been taken over by Leave supporters. Adonis has even been calling the BBC the "Brexit Broadcasting Corporation."

You can read Nick Robinson's defence of the principle of impartial journalism in the New Statesman  here, and another article in the same magazine about the row between the BBC and the arch-Remainers here.

Iain Martin has a rather less serious examination here of the Adonis view,

"Revealed: an A to Z guide to the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation,"

FWIW, from my perspective having eventually voted Remain after much agonising and been deeply annoyed by the vast amount of nonsense produced by both sides during the referendum, I think the BBC have been trying fairly hard to give both sides of the argument despite many of it's senior journalists - with some obvious exceptions such as Andrew Neil - being so instinctively pro-Remain that some of them find this difficult.

They have been trying hard enough to present the pro Brexit side of the argument that they have infuriated Remain ultras likes Lord Adonis but I cannot take his argument that the BBC is trying so hard not to be pro-Remain that it has become pro-Leave at all seriously. That isn't how it comes over to me, even though I voted Remain; the words "cloud-cuckoo land" spring to mind.

I think Nick Robinson's defence of the principle of news broadcasters trying to be impartial, rather than having competing news stations for each point of view and everyone turning to the channel which tells them want to hear, makes some valid points.)

Friday, April 06, 2018

"Saturday Chataway" and community litter pick in Parton tomorrow

The next in the series of "Saturday Chataway" coffee morning and meeting where Copeland residents can raise issues with Trudy Harrison MP or local councillors is to be held at Parton Village Hall between10am and 12 noon tomorrow (Saturday 7th April.) Proceeds from the sale of coffee and light refreshments goes to a local charity.

It will be followed by a community litter pick in Parton from 1pm to 3pm

An expert writes on how the Skripals survived

Most of us are not experts on the effects of nerve agents, but having read that the Novichok agent used in the Salisbury attack was one of the most dangerous known, we will have been pleasantly surprised that the affected policeman and the targets all appear to have survived.

Politics Today has published an interesting article by Dan Kaszeta who is a London-based consultant in security and chemical defence. He has 27 years experience in the field, with roles in the US Army, the White House, the US Secret Service, and private industry, called

"Myth busting: why didn't the Skripals die on the spot?"

He explains the difference between how lethal these chemicals are when tested in the laboratory and what happens when somebody tries to use them for real in the rather less precisely controlled world outside a lab.

He concludes

"Having worked in chemical warfare defence for 27 years, the survival of Sergei and Yulia Skripal are no surprise to me."

Quote of the day 6th April 2018

"Free speech is not just being able to say what you want to say, it also means having to hear things you might not want to hear"

(US author Charlie Kirk, @charliekirk11 on Twitter this week.)

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Free school meals

Children in English schools who are in reception and years One and Two are entitled to free school meals and neither the government or anyone else is proposing to change this.

Under the plans for rollout of Universal Credit the Conservative government is changing planned eligibility for free school meals for children in year three and above in a manner which INCREASES the total number of children who will be eligible for them compared with the previous benefits system and to focus provision more accurately on those most in need.

No child who is currently able to obtain free school meals under Universal Credit will lose that benefit.

Under the old benefits system - as operated during the last Labour government - children are entitled to free school meals if their parents receive an out of work benefit like Jobseekers’ Allowance. They only lose their entitlement once their parent or parents start working 16 hours a week (if there’s one adult in the house), or 24 hours a week (if there are two).

Since 2013, the government has been rolling out Universal Credit, replacing the old benefits system. Some areas, like Croydon, have already switched; others are still waiting.

As an interim measure to ease the transition, the government has relaxed the eligibility rules for those affected by the rollout of Universal Credit so that during that rollout all families receiving Universal Credit are entitled to free school meals, regardless of income or hours worked.

It was never promised that this interim measure would be permanent, and the government recently announced that a means test will be introduced for new claimants. This will be based on the amount earned from work rather than the number of hours worked because this is likely to be a fairer measure of need.

And I repeat, the means test is for new claimants and those children who get free school meals under the interim rollout arrangements will remain eligible for them rather than be means tested.

It is expected that compared with the old benefit system, by 2022 the test based on money earned will mean that 210k children whose parents are working more than 16/24 hours a week will qualify for free school meals who would not previously have been eligible, while 160k children, mostly those whose parents work fewer hours but earn more than the new financial threshold, will not.

The total number of children who will be eligible in 2022 will be fifty thousand higher than under the old system, and the new system is better targeted on those most in need: the families which gain access to free school meals will be on lower incomes than the families which would have had them under the old system but lose out.

Labour have been and still are attempting to make out that the Conservatives are cutting access to free school meals. Labour's shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, originally tried to imply that the Conservatives had taken free school meals away from a million children.

However, in response to Labour's allegations it was pointed out, and not just by Conservatives, that

The quote in the graphic above and indeed almost everything I have written above does NOT come from a government or Conservative party source. The statement immediately above is a direct quote from a Channel 4 Factcheck investigation into the Labour party accusations against the government on this subject, as you can confirm for yourself by following the link here.

Almost everything else I have written in this post can be confirmed from the same source.

Following the publication of a IFS report - which confirms the estimate that 50,000 more children will be eligible for free school meals under the new system than the old one but gives more detail on winners and losers - Labour's shadow education secretary has been attacking the government using a different selective presentation of the facts.

Now she has been pointing out that 160,000 children who would have been eligible for free school meals in 2022 will not be - but ignoring the fact that 210,000 children who would not have been eligible now will be. A net increase, as the government has said all along, of 50,000.

ADDED 6/4/2018

Here is an IFS graphic showing the winners and losers (and that there are 50,000 more children who gain entitlement to free school meals than lose them.)

You never please everyone when you try to target benefits more accurately - there is an old saying that the government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul while the opposition gets Peter's vote - but please, can we try to have a grown-up discussion about the whole picture and not just an exchange of highly selective quotes?

Quote of the day 5th April 2018

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A victory against fake news:

Interesting to read above about a case of Labour-inspired "fake news" being disproved.

Sadly there is still plenty of "fake news" around and we all need to be much more careful to check things before we share them.

The late Bob Monkhouse used to tell a joke to the effect that the only time politicians tell the truth is when they are calling each other liars.

It's very funny line but in my experience was the exact opposite of reality. Most people involved in politics tell the truth most of the time, but the greatest scepticism is called for when they are talking about their opponents.

If I had been writing this a couple of years ago I would have said that most people involved in politics tell the truth nearly all the time, except when talking about their opponents. Whether it is people foolishly repeating untrue stories which they assume to be true, or that people are not as bothered about getting their facts right as they used to be, I think there has been a noticeable decline in the accuracy of statements about politics over the last two or three years.

It would be fair to say that there are too many people in all political parties who are, putting this very politely, not careful enough to get their facts right when speaking about their opponents.

I think we all need to check the things we are told more carefully rather than take them on trust.

Quote of the day 4th April 2018

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Income tax threshold to rise again

This week the tax-free personal allowance will increase from £11,500 to £11,850 - meaning people can keep more of what they earn.

A typical basic rate taxpayer will pay £1,075 less income tax in 2018-19 than they did in 2010-11.

Quote of the day 3rd April 2018

Monday, April 02, 2018

A resignation letter which is a sad reflection of the times

Andrew Deaner, a Cardiologist who is Head of the London School of Medicine and Medical Specialities, has announced on social media that he is resigning from the Labour party.

This is his letter of resignation.