Monday, February 06, 2023

Monday music spot: Allegri's Miserere sung by the Tallis Scholars

Further tributes to the late Arthur Lamb, whose funeral took place today

I have previously posted an obit piece in memory of Arthur Lamb, who died on 21st January at the age of 31 years. His funeral took place today in Distington parish church, and I have just arrived home after attending the very well attended and moving commemoration of his life.

This is the moving tribute to him which was posted on Facebook shortly after his death by our mutual friend and colleague, Dr Stephen Haraldsen.


"Ten years ago, in the run up to the 2013 elections to Cumbria County council I was the chairman of Copeland Conservative Association. Back then we weren’t the winners we went on to be, and it wasn’t easy to get candidates. I was getting close to the deadline and I needed one last person to stand.

I went to see a lady, Sheila Edwards, who had been a stalwart of the party for decades. Sheila had an idea. She pulls out the Chester University Conservatives newsletter; Odd thing to find in Whitehaven.

Blanche Lamb, Arthur’s grandmother and close friend of Sheila’s, was clearly very proud of her grandson being an active member of the Conservative party and had shared this with Sheila. “I’m sure he won’t mind” says Sheila.  I suggest dropping him a message, but no, Sheila is already on the phone to Arthur’s parents. Twenty seconds later it’s arranged, and I’m off to meet this young man for the first time.

Arthur was only too happy to help and ever since the two of us have always been up to, or up for, the boring back room work that goes on behind the politics. That was Arthur, never afraid to put the work in.

Arthur went on to succeed me as chairman of Copeland Conservative association, and be my election agent in the 2015 general election. We spent a lot of time together, and were a great team (which is mostly down to Arthur’s skill than mine). Genna and I welcomed Evelyn into the world that year, and I thought I’d see a lot less of Arthur.

Fate had other ideas. In 2017, much to his surprise, Arthur was elected to the county council at the same time as me. I was delighted we would be able to spend time together.  He was an excellent councillor for Cleator Moor East and Frizington, and to the surprise of many, a fantastic speaker in full council. I’ll miss sitting on the back row of group meetings (or texting during the virtual ones) conferring and plotting of the latest question, working out how we would respond to things. 

We didn’t even seem to disagree when it came to politics. Arthur was sharp, clever, sensible and realistic - you couldn’t ask for more.

In 2022, when once again I needed someone to help, we got the band back together with Arthur as my deputy chairman, like 2014, but this time for the Cumbria area. We were doing all the boring back room stuff again, and enjoying it. Only on Thursday night did we have a meeting, and Arthur is still at the top of my messages list, sending me reminders and (sometimes sharp) opinions on what was being said.

I will cherish the memories, from bombing around Copeland electioneering in the bright orange mini (which made him cringe, but loved the power) to then all those times talking through the issues and problems we had to solve. 

In 2019 Genna and I asked Arthur to be godfather to our son John. He was honoured and he was an excellent godfather, most recently coming to see the children on Christmas Eve. Always asking about both of our children, or pestering me to let him know what they might like for Christmas or birthdays. 

Our world was made a batter place for having had Arthur in it, and none of this has mentioned his deep involvement in cricket in the county. We needed Arthur, and more like him.

On Saturday, at the age of 31, Arthur passed away in his sleep.

Our thoughts, prayers and support must be first and foremost to Christopher and Barbara, Arthur’s wonderful parents. Their loss is incalculable.

I miss my friend."


I also wanted to share the following poem which was written and read out at the funeral by Arthur's friend Jason Spires, 

THE LEGEND OF LAMBO


"We didn't know quite where to begin,

The child-like giggle and the cheeky grin,

Good company, courteous, a man of tradition,

Knows every single fielding position.


No job ever goes neglected,

A leading umpire well respected,

Coaching the junior lads and lasses,

Looking cool in photochronic glasses.


Joining in the clubhouse banter,

From behind the bar with a lemon Fanta,

Maintaining patience with merry foolws

Who know not their 'Laws' from their 'Rules.'


Being kind to one and all,

Using his foot to stop the ball,

A canny tweaker hard to hit,

Batting average four and a bit.


A gentleman with a servant heart,

Yet he'll 'kill' you with a single dart,

Loose-fitting 'trackies' rather than shorts,

Surprisingly good at indoor sports.


Batting style remains a mystery,

Offloading books on the Club's long history,

Boundary fielding rather wooden-legged,

Yet lightning quick to not get 'kegged.'


Acting as Chair if we sometimes need,

Racing through the agenda at record speed,

Draws an audience when he bats,

Bedtime reading's 'Play Cricket' stats.


Couldn't meet a nicer fellow

Split him open: Blue and Yellow,

The only person county-wide

Who hears 'Duckworth Lewis' and doesn't hide.


Shouting and screaming are not his style,

Tricky decisions made with a smile,

The choice that troubled Arthur the most

Sunday nets or Sunday roast.


Always doing more than his bit

Armed and dangerous with razor-sharp wit,

An over-developed cricketing brain,

His twenty-two paces measure exactly one chain.


Anyone for 'one hand one bounce?'

'Attacking shot!' sure to announce,

Setting a quiz for the Sportsman's Do,

Using last year's still no one knew.


A man possessing many talents

Making the messiests scorecard balance,

Groundwork marking out the crease,

Quick can of pop and a moment's peace.


Arthur our friend, it's been a pleasure,

Fondest memories we have to treasure,

Rumour has it there's a club in heaven

Needing a damn good spinner who bats at eleven."




Rest in Peace, Arthur.

Better walking and cycling routes

Local walking and cycling community groups, and Town and Parish councils in Copeland such as St Bees Parish council, are extremely keen to see better cycling and walking infrastructure. So I am very pleased that today the government launched a £200 million fund to improve walking and cycling routes, making it easier for people to get around their local area safely while growing the economy by boosting high streets and creating skilled jobs. 

  • Walking and cycling has so many benefits – reducing emissions, boosting local economies and creating jobs – but too often people are put off because it’s not convenient or they feel unsafe.
  • That is why today, the government has launched a £200 million fund through Active Travel England that will allow local authorities to apply for money for upgrades to walking and cycling routes – including creating more paths in rural areas and making it safer for children to walk to school.
  • By working with local people to improve transport links in their area, we can boost high streets – creating new, skilled jobs and growing the economy.

Update from NCIC on the fire at WCH

North Cumbria Integrated Care (NCIC) which is the trust responsible for the hospital, have issued a further statement about the fire which took place at West Cumberland Hospital at the weekend, as follows:

On Saturday evening 4th February around 7pm a fire broke out in the portable offices owned by construction company GRAHAM, who are managing the redevelopment at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH).

The Fire service arrived on site shortly after 7pm and the incident was brought to a safe conclusion by around 3am.

Staff at WCH including On call teams, Estates Team, Portering teams and security teams were quick to respond to the incident, ensuring fire protocols were followed and carried out ensuring the safety of our patients and other members of staff. 

The quick response of our own teams meant windows and doors were secured to minimise the amount of smoke present in the main hospital building.

Staff present on the site were kept informed of the evolving situation and were able to then reassure all patients that the fire was contained to the portable offices and would not affect the main site.  No patients were moved or evacuated during the incident. 

The hospital was able to remain open for anyone in need of emergency care as well as maternity care. The teams at WCH liaised with North West Ambulance Service to keep them abreast of the situation and reassure the teams that access to the site was not impeded by the incident. 

The portering teams were able to help manage the flow of traffic to the site.

The portable cabins are a safe distance from the main hospital building as per building and fire regulations in the event of an incident like the one on Saturday.

The Fire service will now work to determine the cause of the fire and GRAHAM will carry out work with a structural engineer to safely remove the damaged cabins from the site.  

GRAHAM will also assess the ongoing construction work at the redevelopment site.

NCIC would like to thank all of our staff who worked together in an efficient manner to manage the incident and keep the safety of our patients and staff as the number one priority.

Mod Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine at 6th February 2023


 

Housing support for those recovering for drug and alcohol addiction

The government has announced a £53 million boost to improve housing support for drug and alcohol recovery, supporting the most vulnerable people in their recovery from addiction.

  • Drug and alcohol addiction ruins lives and breaks up families across the UK every year, creating misery and fuelling crime in our communities.
  • That is why the government has announced £53 million across 28 local authorities to improve the available housing support for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, strengthening our commitment to reducing drug use as part of our 10-year drug strategy. 
  • Tackling drug and alcohol abuse in our communities saves lives which is why we are continuing to drive down drug use across the UK.

Quote of the day 6th February 2023

 "If you end up going after those people who are the most wealthy in society, what you actually end up doing is in fact not even helping those at the bottom end."


(Rt Hon Tony Blair)

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Fire at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH)

On Saturday evening Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) received notification of a fire on the hospital grounds of West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. 

On arrival the initial Fire and Rescue crews found a three story temporary structure involved in fire. 

The structure which was on fire can be best described as stacked portacabins which were being used by building contractors. 

Cumbria Fire & Rescue Officers identified that the incident required five fire appliances and specialist fire appliances including the aerial ladder platform, the Joint Incident Command Unit and the welfare vehicle also attending the incident to support with firefighting operations.

A Joint Emergency Services meeting took place at midnight last night which included management representatives from West Cumberland Hospital. 

There has been no direct impact on the hospital building from the fire or smoke, and the ‘stay put’ policy for patients remains in place. It is also my understanding that nobody was hurt.

Response to the incident has been led by Cumbria FRS working closely with the NHS and other partner organisations.

Boosting NHS access to the latest innovative medical technology

This week the Conservative government announced a new strategy to boost NHS access to innovative medical technology, using new technology to treat patients and cut NHS backlogs.

  • The UK is a world leader in life sciences research and innovation, we must ensure the British people benefit from the world-leading research that our scientists are delivering.
  • That is why the government has announced our new strategy setting out a blueprint for boosting NHS medical technology focusing on accelerating access to innovative technologies such as the latest home dialysis machines.
  • Using the latest medical technology effectively will be crucial to making the NHS more efficient and cutting waiting times.

Children's social care reforms: Stable homes, built on love

In 2019 the Conservatives made a manifesto pledge to review the children's social care system and make sure that children in care receive the love and support most of us take for granted.

  • Every child deserves to have the best protection possible and every effort must be made to protect any repetition of the kind of horrific abuse seen in the heart-breaking cases of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson.
  • That is why the Conservatives have announced our new ambitious reforms to children’s social care, getting families the early help they need, integrating our child protection system, supporting foster and kinship carers, supporting care leavers, and hiring more social workers.
  • Our strategy will strengthen protections for children, ensuring every child can grow up in a safe and loving environment, giving them the very best start in life.
Our strategy will do this by:
    • Investing £200 million into children’s social care by 2024-5. We have committed to invest £200 million into children’s social care including £45million to trial models of early Family Help and multiagency child protection work in 12 different local areas and £30 million on family finding, befriending and mentoring programmes to find and maintain loving relationships. 
    • The largest investment in foster carers and kinship carers in recent history. Children should have the option to stay with their extended family, or loving foster parents. That is why we are investing £9 million into kinship care training and £25 million into foster carer recruitment and retention, as well as providing an above-inflation increase to the foster carer national minimum allowance boosting it by 12.4 per cent.
    • Boosting social worker recruitment and taking steps to recruit up to 500 more child and family social worker apprentices, giving social services the resources that they need. As part of our work to ensure social services are properly resourced we are boosting social worker recruitment and exploring ways to support the recruitment of up to an additional 500 child and family social worker apprentices nationally. 
    • Introducing new oversight of the finances of children’s homes. We will stop private providers making high profits off the backs of the most vulnerable children in society by introducing a new system to create transparency and drive out cases of price gouging in children’s care.
    • Improving opportunities for care leavers. We are increasing the Care Leaver’s grant from £2,000 to £3,000 and tripling the Care Leaver’s apprenticeship bursaries to £3,000.


          Latest MoD defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine at 5th February 2023


           

          Salvator Mundi - Tallis

          Quote of the day 5th February 2023

           


          Friday, February 03, 2023

          MoD Defence intelligence updates on the situation in Ukraine at 3rd February 2023

          The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.

          The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 3 February 2023. Find out more about the UK government's response at: ukstandswithukraine.campaign.gov.uk 🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine


















          Music to start the weekend: Henry Purcell's Rondeau from Abdelazer

          Quote of the day 3rd February 2023

          Here is a quote which is true but in exactly the opposite way to what the person saying it meant:


            “Unfortunately we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country.”


          This is a translation of the words which  Russian PresidentVladimir Putin used this week at a ceremony in which he laid a wreath at the eternal flame of the memorial complex to the fallen Red Army soldiers in Volgograd, the present name of the city which at the time of the battle they fought in was called Stalingrad.

          Comparisons to the Nazis are grossly over-used these days and Putin's speech was certainly an example. But in at least four key respects his illegal invasion of Ukraine and the things he is doing to support that invasion and stay in power are right out of the Nazi playbook.

          • Unprovoked invasion of peaceful neighbours
          • Bombardment of innocent civilian populations
          • Tell all sorts of the most outrageous lies to blame your victims for what you have done to them
          • Lock up or murder anyone who disagrees with you

          Thursday, February 02, 2023

          Thursday music spot: Andréas Perez-Ursulet with another take on Purcell's Cold Song

          Cracking down on crime

          Figures released this week show an estimated 136,000 violent offences have been prevented across England and Wales since 2019, through the success of Violence reduction units, as we deliver on our promise to crack down on crime and keep communities safe. 

          • Serious violence is a complex issue – early interventions, which support at-risk children to make the right choices in life, are crucial to tackling youth crime and keeping our communities safer. 
          • That is why the government targeted investment to areas most blighted by violent crime through our Violence Reduction Units, preventing 136,000 violence without injury offences by increasing police patrols in crime hotspots and providing more support to at-risk young people. 
          • The number of children caught up in crime is at a historic low – and Violence Reduction Units, hotspot patrols, and our plans to recruit 20,000 additional police officers will help to build safer communities for future generations. We are well on the way to achieving this as the recent announcement that 17,753 officers since 2019 demonstrates.



          Quote of the day 2nd February 2023


           

          Wednesday, February 01, 2023

          Fairer ways for vulnerable victims to give evidence

          Yesterday the government announced that thousands of vulnerable victims will be able to avoid courtroom cross-examination by pre-recording their cross-examination, in a move designed to help more victims achieve justice.   

          • Live trial settings can often be very traumatic for victims of crimes including rape and sexual assault – we must do more to support them and ensure they have their voices heard.  
          • That is why the government has made it possible for vulnerable victims to pre-record their cross-examination ahead of trial in every Crown Court in England and Wales. From today, we have increased fees for lawyers taking evidence in this way – and new estimates predict potential tripling in use of video technology, with up to 4,600 victims able pre-record their cross-examination. 
          • The government has have overhauled support for victims of rape and sexual assault, and the expansion of this scheme will ensure more of them have their voices heard and deliver justice for thousands of vulnerable victims. 

          Self driving bus service to be launched

          Today, the UK government announced the world’s first fully sized, self-driving bus service will launch in Spring, helping to drive economic growth and boost regional connectivity. 

          • Revolutionising public transport and passenger travel is a key part of our commitment to level up communities across our United Kingdom, particularly rural communities with poorer connectivity.  
          • That is why the government is supporting the world’s first fully sized, self-driving bus services with £81 million, alongside industry. The project forms the most advanced set of self-driving passenger operations anywhere in the world, adding tens of billions to our economy and creating thousands of jobs across the United Kingdom. 
          • The support we are providing today will help drive forward our priority to grow the economy and revolutionise public transport across the country.  

          Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:

          "In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.

          The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else."

          Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

          "Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.

          We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector."

          Midweek music spot: Jakub Jósef Orlinski sings Purcell's Cold Song

          MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 1st February 2023


           

          Quote of the day 1st February 2023


           

















          "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

          (George Orwell - picture shows his statue and this quote outside the BBC.)

          Tuesday, January 31, 2023

          Making sure there cannot be another Grenfell Tower

          This week Housing and Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove announced the the government will give housing developers six weeks to sign a contract requiring them to fix unsafe buildings and reimburse taxpayers or face significant consequences – protecting innocent leaseholders from unfair and crippling costs.

          • Too many developers, along with product manufacturers and freeholders, have profited from unsafe buildings and have a moral duty to pay for the repair – instead of leaving innocent leaseholders to face the often significant costs.
          • That is why yesterday the government gave developers six weeks to sign a contract requiring them to fix unsafe buildings and reimburse the taxpayer where public funds were used to cover repairs – which is expected to see them commit to more than £2 billion of repairs, with those that fail to sign or comply facing significant consequences. 
          • This new contract will help to restore confidence in the sector and lift a weight off the shoulders of many leaseholders who could otherwise have faced crippling costs for repairs.

          Protecting Britain's Environment

          Today the government announced a five-year delivery plan to restore nature and improve the quality of our air, waters and land, helping to build a cleaner, greener country for future generations.

          • Our natural environment is fundamental to the health, economy and prosperity of our country, so we must do all we can to protect it.
          • That is why today we announced our five-year delivery plan, which will ensure every household is within 15 minute’s walk of a green space, restore at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats, work with councils to improve air quality, and incentivise farmers to adopt nature-friendly practices. 
          • These steps will help to preserve our environment, increase our access to nature, and make Britain a healthier, greener place to live. 

          MoD Defence intelligence summary 31st January 2023


           

          Tuesday music spot: "Music for a while" (Henry Purcell) - The King's Singers

          Monday, January 30, 2023

          MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 30th January 2023


           

          Monday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto in C major for two flutes, strings & bass

          MoD defence intelligence update on the situation on UKraine 30th January 2023


           

          Baker's Law

          My last thoughts on the Nadim Zahawi affair. Some people would have criticised the PM whatever he did on this, my opinion is that the best way to ensure that you neither throw innocent people out of the airlock over allegations which might turn out to be untrue or unduly protect those who need to be held accountable over concerns which prove all too well-founded is to have a due process and apply it properly.

          That is what Rishi Sunak did by asking Sir Laurie Magnus to investigate the concerns about former Party chairman Nadim Zahawi and acting promptly and decisively when Sir Laurie found that there had been a serious breach of the ministerial code.

          It was also right to publish the letter from Sir Laurie and you can read it in full on the government website at

          Letter from Sir Laurie Magnus to the Prime Minister, 29 January 2023 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

          This letter actually answers most of the questions being asked about the affair.

          In many ways it is a great shame to lose someone from the government who had been a very effective minister, and I particularly pay tribute to the great job which Nadhim Zahawi did on the vaccine rollout, but we cannot hope to have a government run on ethical and professional lines if the ministerial code can be ignored with impunity.

          Reading the letter from Sir Laurie linked to above it becomes clear that this is a case of Baker's law:









          I don't believe that having a disagreement with HMRC over your tax affairs, or even making a mistake about how much is due, should necessarily be grounds for driving someone out of public life PROVIDED that when they become aware of the issue they pay what is due and are open and transparent about it. 

          The breach of the ministerial code wasn't the careless error made years before Mr Zahawi became even an MP,  let alone Chancellor, and nor was it a failure to pay up after the issue was raised, which Mr Zahawi did when he settled with HMRC in September 2022. 

          The breach of the ministerial code was a failure to meet the standards of prompt declaration of interests and of openness and transparency expected of ministers. In other words it was a classic example of Howard Baker's law quoted above; it was not the original issue which got him but the cover-up.

          As I have made clear, I think that in the light of the findings by Sir Laurie, the PM did the right thing by sacking Nadim Zahawi, however much I may regret the loss of an able minister.

          But before any more Labour MPs jump on the bandwagon of suggesting Nadhim Zahawi not just have been sacked from the government but should also resign as an MP, perhaps they should remember who else, six months ago, failed to fully complete a declaration of interests form in a timely manner and was found to have breached the MPs code of conduct as a result and had to apologise to the parliamentary standards commissioner.

          Standards in public life must be improved in all parties, and not just used as a means of attacking our opponents.

          Improving Urgent and Emergency Care

          Today, the government published a major plan to improve urgent and emergency care services, as part of the plan to deliver the Prime Minister’s priority to cut waiting times.

          The NHS is facing serious challenges as a result of the Covid pandemic and the worst flu season for over a decade. We saw the highest ever number of people attending A&E in December, which combined with high hospital occupancy rates means some patients are facing unacceptable delays. 

          The Conservative government is already working to tackle waiting lists – raising health and social care funding to record levels, investing over £750 million this year to speed up the discharge of medically fit patients, delivering on our elective recovery plan to bust the Covid backlogs, and hiring a record number of doctors and nurses. 

          Today, the government launches an Urgent and Emergency Care Plan to fix A&E and ambulance waiting times over the next two years by: 

          • Increasing capacity with £1 billion for more beds and ambulances; supported by more staff.
          • Reducing pressure on hospitals by speeding up discharge; expanding new, innovative measures to treat patients safely in the community; and enhancing the role of NHS 111.
          • Improving local A&E services by sharing and promoting best practice, so no matter where you live, you can get the care you need.
          • Conservatives are determined to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to put the NHS first and cut waiting lists, with one of the fastest improvements in emergency waiting times in the history of the NHS, making sure people get the care they need easier, faster, and closer to home. 


          Quote of the day 30th January 2023

          “Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that there are people opposed to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill who are 'transphobic … deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well' was a deeply cynical attempt to tar her political opponents with the worst kind of brush.”

          Leader article in The Scotsman, available here in full:

          Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Nicola Sturgeon's disgraceful attack on critics suggest she has lost the plot – Scotsman comment | The Scotsman

          Further extracts from the Scotsman Comment piece

          Sturgeon’s remarks damage the cause of transgender rights. The case of Isla Bryson, who raped two women while a man and started the transition process before being sentenced, demonstrates a fundamental point – that there is not an absolute right to self-ID.

          Instead, it is a qualified right, as in some rare cases, it is not possible to treat a trans woman in exactly the same way as a so-called ‘cis’ woman because of a conflict of rights. In this case, a sex offender's right to be treated as a woman rightly lost out to female prisoners’ right to be protected from such a despicable individual.

          Defining the boundaries of these qualifications is crucial to securing improvements in trans rights. The Scottish Government’s failure to do so led directly to the confusion over which prison Bryson should be taken to.

          Instead of being the target of disgraceful slurs by the First Minister, the feminists and others who have raised potential problems with self-ID deserve to be given a hearing and taken seriously. There should be a respectful debate involving them and trans rights campaigners to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

          No difficult issue was ever solved by hurling abusive remarks.

          Sturgeon’s unwarranted, over-the-top attack is also likely to backfire, as public sympathy and support may shift towards those being so unfairly traduced. 

          She is entitled to her opinion, but to join the chorus of abuse suggests she has lost the plot. The First Minister should apologise forthwith or questions about her fitness to lead Scotland will multiply.


          Sunday, January 29, 2023

          The Global Imams' Council response on the shootings in Jerusalem

           


          PM reiterates backing for Ukraine

          Rishi Sunak has said that the “hearts of the British people” are with Ukraine.

          The prime minister also paid tribute to the ongoing bravery of ordinary Ukrainians.

          With just weeks to go before the first anniversary of the conflict, Mr Sunak reiterated his pledge that the UK government would stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.

          His renewed support for the people of Ukraine came as he passed a personal message to the Ukrainian ambassador to pass onto to President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine at a fundraiser at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

          Part of the auction included a signed photograph of Mr Sunak with the Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, donated by the prime minister.

          Speaking at the event he said: “The hearts of the British people are with the brave people of Ukraine as they fight for their freedom. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

          MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine and Russia 29th January 2023

           


          Record number of police officers in Cumbria

          The number of police officers in post in Cumbria Constabulary is now 1,344 which is the highest it has ever been.

          Cumbria's Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner was the first in the country to recruit more officers under the Police Uplift programme, put in place to increase the number of police officers.

          Numbers of officers are being increased around the country. As announced on Wednesday, 1,420 new police officers have been recruited in the past three months – and 16,753 since 2019 – as part of that Police Uplift Programme, putting the Conservative government well on track to keep the promise of 20,000 more police in the 2019 Conservative manifesto.



          The PM's letter to Nadhim Zahawi

          Governments should not "Mark their own homework" in respect of ethical decisions. Accordingly it is right that there should be an independent ethics advisor, that issues should be referred to him or her, and that the advice of the independent ethics advisor should be acted on.

          I think it made sense for the PM to refer the case of former Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi to the ethics advisor and act on his recommendations.

          This is the text of the letter which the PM sent this morning to Mr Zahawi after doing so. 


          "The Right Honourable Nadhim Zahawi MP

          Dear Nadhim,

          When I became Prime Minister last year, I pledged that the Government I lead would have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.

          That is why, following new information which came to light in recent days regarding your personal financial arrangements and declarations, I asked Sir Laurie Magnus, the Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests, to fully investigate this matter.

          You agreed and undertook to cooperate fully with the inquiry.

          Following the completion of the Independent Adviser's investigation - the findings of which he has shared with us both - it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code.

          As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty's Government.

          As you leave, you should be extremely proud of your wide-ranging achievements in government over the last five years.

          In particular, your successful oversight of the COVID-19 vaccine procurement and deployment programme which ensured the United Kingdom was at the forefront of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

          Your role was critical to ensuring our country came through this crisis and saved many lives.

          And as the Conservative Party Chairman, you have undertaken significant restructuring to Conservative Campaign Headquarters and readied us for important work in the coming months.

          It is also with pride that I, and previous Prime Ministers, have been able to draw upon the services of a Kurdish-born Iraqi refugee at the highest levels of the U.K. Government.

          That is something which people up and down this country have rightly valued.

          I know I will be able to count on your support from the backbenches as you continue to passionately and determinedly serve your constituents of Stratford-on-Avon and represent the many issues and campaigns you are dedicated to.

          Thank you for your service to this and previous governments.


          Yours sincerely,

          Rishi 

          The Right Honourable Rishi Sunak MP"


          Come back Catherine Bennett, all is forgiven.

          Earlier this month I gave Observer/Guardian journalist Catherine Bennett the  "Nitwit of the week award  for incompetent and inaccurate left-wing journalism" for a piece on the corrupt former MP John Stonehouse which wrongly suggested that he was a Conservative MP, and which had to be swiftly amended when it was correctly pointed out that he had actually been Labour.

          Credit where it is due, she has written a piece this weekend which correctly calls out woman-hating misogynists in all parties and specifically including the Labour party.

          You can read it by clicking on this link:

          Forget Andrew Tate – what about the host of misogynists in Labour’s ranks? | Catherine Bennett | The Guardian

          And before anyone accuses Catherine Bennett of being transphobic, or makes the same charge against me for linking to her article, I could not find a word in the article which says anything critical of trans people for being trans people or expresses an opinion for or against proposed Gender Reassignment legislation. Catherine Bennett is calling out people who indulge in hate speech against people with different opinions - waving banners with slogans calling for the decapitation of those they disagree with, for instance, which is almost certainly illegal and a public order offence. And she is calling out certain men, not for the views they hold or disagree with, but for the way they treated women who dared to have different views.

          And I have to agree with her criticism of the failure to respond to some of this blatant sexism by the leader of the opposition. As she wrote,

          "It was still alarming to see the Labour leadership effectively endorsing such an extreme example. By not condemning his own MPs’ substitution of intimidation for debate, Keir Starmer, though he blithered about “respect and tolerance”, has only invited more of the opposite."

          Yesterday Sir Keir said 

          “Never again will Labour allow hate to spread unchallenged. We have changed our party and we’ve ready to change Britain.”

          If Starmer means that, why has he taken no disciplinary action against Labour MP Lloyd Russel-Moyle for the way he treated Labour and Conservative women MPs in the House of Commons chamber in a debate earlier this month? (That is what Catherine Bennett is referring to in the quote above.)

          There is, sadly. misogyny in all parties. And all parties have a duty to call it out and do something about it within their own ranks, not just their opponents'.

          Music for Candlemass: When to the temple Mary went (Eccard)



          I do love Eccard's anthem about the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. If you only listen to one piece of music this week, make it this one.



          Quote of the day 29th January 2023


           

          Saturday, January 28, 2023

          The Campaign against Anti-semitism's statement on the attacks in Jerusalem.


           

          Clare Drakeford RIP

          Condolences to Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales on the tragic news that his wife Clare has suddenly passed away.

          Rest in Peace.

          MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine at 28 January 2023

          Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 28 January 2023

          More details of UK government action to support Ukraine at: ow.ly/Asl850MCFwW 🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦


















          Campaigning in West Lancashire

          I joined one of the two teams out in West Lancashire today campaigning for Mike Prendergast (the tall chap just right of centre in the top picture below) who is Conservative candidate in the by-election on 9th February.

          I was out in Parbold and getting a friendly reception on the doorstep: here are some pictures of the teams who were out today. (Before anyone accuses me of trying to suggest we had more people out than we did, the top picture is Mike with the Young Conservative contingent, the third one is everyone who met at the Conservative constituency officer in Ormskirk, so yes, some people are in both pictures.)
















































































          Thanks to all the residents of West Lancashire to took time to talk to us about their concerns and issues: good luck to Mike in the election.

          Saying of the day 28th January 2023

          "There are many different kinds of intelligence.

          Wisdom is knowing which of these is the best one to deploy in a particular situation." 


          (This is a saying rather than a quote as this one comes from me.)

          Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor



          A nice piece of Bach to relax to after campaigning in the West Lancashire by-election: see subsequent post.


          Friday, January 27, 2023

          A comment for Holocaust Memorial day from UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

           


          MoD Defence intelligence update summary on 27th January 2023

          One of the things which has cheapened the quality of debate on social media (and other places) is the number of people whose first response to any opinion or statement they disagree with is to call the person who made that statement a liar. 

          I got so fed up with the over-use of that allegation in the comments section of this blog that I banned such comments for a time.

          Here the MoD gives a master class in how to cast doubt on someone's credibility without resorting to such crude tactics:


           

          Music for Holocaust memorial day - "Requiem Aeternam" from the Mozart Requiem mass

          Light the Darkness

          Candle lit at 4pm today to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

          We will not forget.

          #HolocaustMemorialDay, #HMD2023 and #LightTheDarkness.



          Boosting productivity and growth

          Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is setting out a plan to boost productivity and grow the economy - building on the freedoms which Brexit provides and improving the livelihoods of British people. 

          • The government has steadied the ship and are on our way to reducing inflation. Now we must start to look to the future and grow the economy to create better paid jobs.
          • That is why in a speech today, the Chancellor is setting out plans to boost productivity and grow our economy, and caution against an attitude of declinism about Britain. He will set out how we will focus on key industries such as digital technology and advanced manufacturing and use our Brexit freedoms to energise our plan - including reforms to Solvency II to unlock £100 billion of investment. 
          • Conservatives are committed to delivering on the people’s priorities – halving inflation, growing the economy and creating better paid jobs for people across the country.

          Light the Darkness at 4pm today, to remember.

          Light The Darkness by placing a lit candle safely in your windows at 4pm. 

          You and your loved ones are encouraged to join Light The Darkness safely at 4pm on Holocaust memorial day today, Friday 27 January, to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against prejudice and hostility in the world today.

          Join the conversation on social media by uploading a photo of your candle, using the hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay, #HMD2023 and #LightThe Darkness.



          Quote of the day for Holocaust Memorial Day

          "What is abnormal is that I am normal. That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life – that is what is abnormal."

          (Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust)

          Thursday, January 26, 2023

          Supporting Britain's farmers

          Today the government set out detailed plans for the nation's farming sector, supporting farmers to produce food sustainably while protecting nature.

          • Farmers are at the heart of our economy – producing our food and conserving the land it comes from – so we must help to ensure that their practices are both environmentally and financially sustainable.
          • That is why today the government announced that the roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive will be accelerated, providing funding for farmers for managing hedges for wildlife, planting nectar-rich wildflowers, and managing crop pests without using harmful insecticides.
          • This will ensure that farmers are financially supported as they protect our environment, while making our food production more sustainable.

          Joan Smith asks why the courts and media have such problems with the pronouns for the Clydebank rapist

          Joan Smith has an article on Unherd which takes a clear position about the individual who was originally known as Adam Graham, and who while living and and identifying as a man, raped two women. On Wednesday a jury returned guilty verdicts against this individual for both crimes. 

          Between being charged with these offences and being found guilty, the individual started the process of legally transitioning to female gender and now seeks to be known as Isla Bryson.

          In my view the vast majority of transgender people deserve support and dignity. But convicted rapists and proven sexual predators, whatever their gender and self-identification, deserve a place in a prison cell - and should be imprisoned where they can neither be victimised themselves nor further victimise others. 

          We send people to prison as punishment and to protect society, not to but them where they may be harmed by other prisoners, and that applies whatever their gender. Many women prisoners are highly vulnerable individuals, and for the protection of the vulnerable, convicted rapists with male bodies do not belong in a women's prison. Nor should they ever be allowed in women-only spaces - though in some cases for their own protection they may also be held separately from male prisoners.

          To me the main issue raised by this case is how we treat trans people like human beings without undermining essential protections for which women have fought for decades. But the extent to which 21st century society has difficulty thinking straight about the transgender issue, and the extent to which many people are terrified to say or write what they think, is illustrated by the issue of pronouns, which Joan Smith addresses in her article.

          It will probably not have escaped the attention of most readers of this blog post that I have carefully avoided using any pronouns for the Clydesdale rapist.

          Joan Smith's article addresses the dilemma, and makes clear where she stands on it:

          "The judges’ bench book, which consists of guidance rather than law, says it is a matter of ‘common courtesy’ to use the personal pronoun and name that a person prefers. Many women and some lawyers, however, think it is ridiculous — and insulting to rape victims — to enforce a pretence that a male defendant is female."

          You can read the full article by clicking on this link:

          Why can't the media get the Clydebank rapist's pronouns right? - The Post (unherd.com)