Saturday, January 18, 2020

Cancer Tests save lives

The earlier cancer is caught, the better the outcomes. Both the chances of survival for five years, and quality of life while one is still alive, are far better if cancer is discovered and treated earlier.

That's why cancer screening for both women and men is really important: it needs to be improved and should be taken up.

I was extremely disappointed to learn this weekend that the latest figures for take-up of cervical smear tests in North and West Cumbria is only 80%. 15,964 women who were eligible for a smear test did not have one.

Next week is Cervical cancer prevention week and a number of campaigns are planned to spread awareness and encourage higher takeup.

Every woman who is invited to have a smear cervical smear test would be very well advised to take it up - and already this year one caring business in West Cumbria, the playgroup Tot Spot repeated the offer of free childcare while mums have the test.

The owner of Tot Spot, Angela Greasley, first offered free childcare for the cause in November 2018, after the story of Workington woman Susan Rumney losing her battle with cervical cancer opened her eyes to the danger of ignoring a smear test.

While Tot Spot usually charges £4 for half an hour of care, or £12 for two hours, the offer of free childcare in exchange for attending a smear test is always on the table.

Bernard Wooley RIP

Actor Derek Fowlds, who played the civil servant Bernard Wooley in "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" died yesterday at the age of 82.

He was a wonderful actor and according to those who worked with him, a kind and lovely man.

He had many of the best lines in the show, as in this clip in which he talks about defence capabilities:

He was also a perfect foil for other actors such as Nigel Hawthorne, as in this scene where "Sir Humphry" explains how to get the result you want from an opinion poll:

Derek Fowlds also appeared in "Heartbeat" and the Basil Brush show.

Rest in Peace.

Saturday music spot: The Monkees sing "Last Train to Clarksville"

As a small child I loved the comedy show "The Monkees," which featured a band originally put together for the show, and shown here clowning around in two clips from the show.

I remember watching and listening to this song and scenes like these. However, at the time I had no idea of the hidden bite behind the comedy in the form of the huge significant of the words at the time to contemporary young American men: Clarksville was where many of them had to report on being drafted before being sent to serve in Vietnam.

Hence the line "and I don't know if I'm ever coming home" was a reference to the possibility of being killed in action.

Quote of the day 18th January 2020

Friday, January 17, 2020

Statement from Cumbria NHS confirming Accident & Emergency at WCH stays open

The North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has put out a briefing and media statement explaining that, although they are reviewing how to maintain Accident and Emergency service (A&E) at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) in Whitehaven, there is no question of closing the service at night or at any other time.

Lyn Simpson Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) said, 

“The Trust is committed to the outcome of the public consultation made in March 2017 for a 24/7 Accident & Emergency provision at West Cumberland Hospital.”

The trust has reaffirmed its commitment to the outcome of the public consultation to retain a 24/7 Accident & Emergency provision at West Cumberland Hospital. 

The full statement reads as follows

Media Statement

Prof John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive said, “We do have some forthcoming staffing challenges and so clinical leaders in the team are reviewing our current arrangements.  We will be working with local community groups to find a long term sustainable solution to these challenges that will enable us to keep A&E open 24/7.

“Next month we will be launching engagement activities that we are currently designing with community groups to understand priorities of the community for the £33m capital investment that has been secured for the next phase of the West Cumberland Hospital redevelopment.  This is a significant investment that will enable us to deliver high quality modern health care services for the residents of West Cumbria.”

Lyn Simpson Chief Executive of North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) said, “The Trust is committed to the outcome of the public consultation made in March 2017 for a 24/7 Accident & Emergency provision at West Cumberland Hospital.”

Quote of the day 17th January 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Quote of the day 14th January 2020

“It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.” 

(Resignation statement and apology to the people of Iran from Gelare Jabbari, in an Instagram post, after she left her position as an Iranian State TV anchor on becoming convinced that she was being used to disseminate falsehood and propaganda.)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Copeland Local Committee

As I posted last week, the January meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland will be held at 10.15 am at Cleator Moor Civic Hall on 21st January 2020.

The meeting will be open to the public. The agenda and most of the supporting papers have now gone up on the council website here. (There are two more to follow.)

I have been to a few council meetings in the last few months where the agenda was a bit light, in some cases so much so that one did wonder whether it would have been better to save public money by cancelling them, but this one is not light in any way shape or form.

The agenda includes the following:

6. Universal Credit

To receive presentations from representatives from the Department of Work and Pensions and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau on the functioning of the Universal Credit system and it's impact on local people.

7. Third Sector Waste

To receive a presentation from the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure

8. Road Safety Update 

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure. The purpose of this report is to raise awareness of the road safety management arrangements and activities that the Cumbria Road Safety Partnership currently has in place.

10. Countryside and Access Team Annual Report

11. 2019/20 Local Committee Devolved Highways Budget

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure. This report presents the Highways Devolved Budget Finance figures including an update on the Highways Revenue and Capital Programme.

12. Draft Highways Capital and Revenue Budgets 2020/2021

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (to follow).

13. Copeland Highways Working Group

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (copy enclosed). This report provides details of the meeting of the Highways Working Group held on 17 December 2019 and presents recommendations for the Local Committee to consider.

14. Millom TRO (Traffic Regulation Order)

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure (to follow).

15. Area Planning Report

To consider a report by the Executive Director – Corporate, Customer and Community Services. This report provides Copeland Local Committee with an update on work and activity undertaken to promote and progress local area planning since its last meeting. It is also to advise Members of the council on the current budget position.

Quote of the day 13th January 2020

"If you don’t believe in free speech for people who you disagree with, and even hate for what they stand for, then you don’t believe in free speech."

(Ricky Gervais on twitter yesterday)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Roger Scruton RIP

The family of Sir Roger Scruton have issued the following statement today:

"Announcement 12th January 2020

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January. He was born on 27th February 1944 and had been fighting cancer for the last 6 months. His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements."

Sir Roger was one of Britain's most distinguished academics. He managed to clear his name last year after being sacked as an unpaid government advisor after the New Statesman selectively quoted an interview he gave the magazine in a way which they subsequently accepted "did not accurately represent his views."

Both the magazine and the government apologised to him.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday music spot: "I Was Glad" by Sir Charles Parry

Quote of the day 12th January 2020

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday music spot: Händel's "Dixit Dominus" first movement

Quote of the day 11th January 2020

"What is ominous is the ease with which some people go from saying that they don't like something to saying that the government should ban it.

When you go down that road, don't expect freedom to survive very long."

(Thomas Sowell)

Friday, January 10, 2020

January meeting of the CCC Copeland local committee

The January meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland will be held at 10.15 am at Cleator Moor Civic Hall on 21st January 2020.

The meeting will be open to the public.

The agenda will become available here early in the week before the meeting (e.g. next week at the time of putting up this post.)

Friday music spot: Gluck - Dance of the Furies

Quote of the day 10th January 2020

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Notes from today's meeting of Cumbria County Council

1) Near the start of the meeting there was a very good presentation by the Chief Constable of Cumbria constabulary.

Her talk was well received and prompted half an hour of questions

2) This was followed by a presentation from the council of children in care.

3) Under questions I asked about the status of proposals under consideration by Durham County Council to introduce fluoridisation, which if it goes ahead will affect not just their own area but parts of several neighbouring authorities, including about 2,345 residents of Cumbria in the Alston area.

The Portfolio Holder replied that Durham County Council has asked the government in mid December for permission to hold a consultation on this issue. At the moment they are awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State for Health, which they hope to receive by the end of January.

There is a legal requirement for a thorough consultation with all the areas affected, which must take place over a period of at least 12 months and is likely to be carried out this Summer.

More details will be published in due course if the Secretary of State gives permission for this issue to be considered.  Watch this space.

4) In accordance with the recommendation from the independent panel, the Labour leader put forward a proposal to increase councillors' allowances by 2% from April. 

(This is in line with the pay offer made to staff. The current rate of inflation is 2.2% on the RPI measure or 1.5% on the CPI measure.)

The proposal was carried on the votes of Labour and Lib/Dem councillors. The Conservative group, including myself, abstained.  

5) At the conclusion of the meeting there were four speeches from members of the council, including one from myself on the importance of working for further improvements to the A595.

Music to relax after a council meeting: Mozart's Piano Concerto No.21 ("Elvira Madigan") 2nd Movement

Quote of the day 9th January 2020

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Tuesday music spot: Bach's Variations on "Wachet Auf", No. 1

Cognitive diversity

There was an interesting weekend essay by Matthew Syed in The Times a couple of days ago about  cognitive diversity with the title

"The truth is that great minds don't think alike."

The point he was making is that if you are assembling a team of people to do a job then in the vast majority of  cases - with a few exceptions such as a relay racing team - the way to get the most effective team is to include a mix of different abilities and skills.

The essay gives as an example of when this approach was used particularly successfully of the Bletchley Park codebreaking team which broke the Enigma codes. As well as great mathematical minds like Alan Turing the team at Bletchley was deliberately set up to include other type of thinkers, both men and women, and people with non-mathematical skills including people with skills such as doing crosswords. This intellectually diverse team was better able to crack the codes and get inside the heads of the German Enigma operators by coming at the problem from different angles.

I presume this is what the PM's senior advisor, Dominic Cummings meant when he suggested that Number Ten wants to recruit - "super-talented weirdos" - a strategy which will of course work better if it means moving away from a stereotype of what kind of person they do and do not want to recruit than it will if it means replacing one stereotype with a different one.

The comment from Thomas Sowell about asking academics how many Conservatives there are in their sociology department which was my quote of the day yesterday morning will usually have been interpreted as a joke or as a dig at the left. But actually it makes a serious point. Diversity of ideas is a great strength in most teams.

Quote of the day 7th January 2020

"Hand on heart, did we deserve to win the general election? 

"Probably not, so the British public got it right."

(Sadiq Khan, Labour Mayor of London. I don't often agree with Mayor Khan, but I'm certainly not going to argue with him on this one.)

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Twelfth Night music spot: "Three Kings" from King's

Today is Twelfth Night, the last of the twelve days of Christmas, as the church starts to look to Epiphany, the arrival of the Magi (also known as the Wise Men, or in mythology the Three Kings.)

So what more appropriate piece for the last music spot of this Christmas season than "Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar" sung by the choir of King's college Cambridge?

Swimathon 2020

I have signed up for Swimathon 2020, to swim 5000 metres at Copeland pool in Hensingham.

Swimathon is the world's largest swimming charity fundraising event. Between 27th and 29th March, I will be one of more than 21,000 swimmers who head down to their local pool, or one of more than 600 swimming pools around the UK which are taking part, to raise money for two incredibly important charities.

I have taken part in the Swimathon every year since 1994 to help a wide variety of important causes, but there is none more important than helping people living with cancer.

Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity is dedicated to saving lives through funding research to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Cancer Research UK are the only charity fighting over 200 cancer types but don't receive any government funding for their work, so their progress is all thanks to the support of people like you.

Marie Curie provides expert care, guidance and support for people living with any terminal illness, and their families. Around 2,100 Marie Curie Nurses work day and night, in people’s homes all over the UK, providing hands-on care to people when they need it most.

Together those who take part in and support events like Swimathon 2020 can make a difference.

Please sponsor me or other participants to help find more effective cures for cancer and to help people who are living with the condition.

My Swimathon 2020 fundraising page is here.

Thank you again to everyone who has sponsored me for past Swimathon events (and the person who has already sponsored me for 2020 in the short time between my putting up my JustGiving page and writing this post!) and thank you in advance to everyone who sponsors me or other participants this year and in the future.

Quote of the day 5th January 2020

Thursday, January 02, 2020

2020 New Year's Honours list

I don't know how I managed to miss it, but in addition to the Cumbrians I have already mentioned, Gina Tiller, who was Chair of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust until last year, was also awarded the MBE in the 2020 New Year's Honours list.

The list of Cumbrians honoured includes:
  • Paul Foster, departing head of Sellafield, CBE for "services to business" 
  • John Hudson, BAE Systems, CBE for "services to the Royal Navy and to Naval Shipbuilding and Design." 
  • Sascha Hilary Wells-Munro of Kendal, OBE "for services to the NHS and patient safety." 
  • Ben Stokes of Cockermouth and the England cricket team, OBE "for Services to Sport." 
  • Professor John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive of the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust and local GP, MBE for "services to General Practice." 
  • Gina Tiller, former Chair of NCUH, MBE "for services to healthcare in Cumbria." 
  • Elizabeth Cornford of Grange-over-Sands, MBE "for services to Young People." 
  • John Butler of Ulverston, MBE, "for services to Further Education." 
  • Mark McCree of Kendal, British Empire Medal (BEM) "for services to Public Libraries." 
  • John Shakeshaft of Ulverston, BEM "for services to Young People in Ulverston." 
  • Cassandra Rees of Greenheys, BEM "for services to the Community in Cumbria."

Thursday Carol: In The Bleak Midwinter, Gustav Holst version

Yesterday's carol was "In the Bleak mid-winter" set to music by Harold Darke.

But there is an equally lovely version set to music by Gustav Holst …

Quote of the day 2nd January 2020

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

1.6 million and counting

One the first day of the new year and the new decade the number of page views on this blog has passed the 1.6 million mark,

Thank you to everyone who visited during the last fifteen years and I hope you found it interesting.

All the best to all of you for future and I hope you will find this blog interesting in the new decade too.

Predictions for 2020

It seems to be fashionable at this season to make predictions for what is going to happen in the new year, So here is my thoughts on what will happen over the next twelve months.

1) Britain will leave the EU, with a withdrawal agreement, on 31st January 2020

2) The relationship between the UK and Scottish governments will continue to be difficult

3) Reform of local government including greater devolution will be taken more seriously and begin to make more progress

4) There will be more investment in the NHS and in Britain's transport infrastructure, including and especially in the North.

5) Negotiations between Britain and the EU on a new Trade deal will be noisy, controversial and difficult, but a deal will eventually be struck, probably in the early hours of the morning and the very last possible day to do so, by the end of the year.

A Carol for the New Year: In the Bleak Midwinter (Darke)

It is still the Christmas season for another five days, so here is a New Year's day carol:

"In the Bleak Mid-winter" set to music by Harold Darke, sung by King's Cambridge.

First post of the new decade: Quote of the day for 1st January 2020

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My last post of 2019: Ring Out Wild Bells

Winners and Losers of 2019

As we come to the end of a year in which it has more than once been the case that people with opposite opinions have voted the same way, each gambling that blocking the "centre" position will break things their way, it is worth seeing who called it right.

It' wasn't always the side who one would have expected. I am reminded of a statement by Lord Melbourne:


Boris Johnson

He pretends to be a clown but he is nobody's fool. I think it is time to recognise that the PM is a far smarter political operator than any of his enemies or some of his friends give him credit for.

Yes, he's been lucky, especially in his political opponents. But he made some of his own luck - and exploited with ruthless effectiveness what was gifted to him.


Jeremy Corbyn

And thank God for the good sense of the British electorate in making it so.


The ERG and supporters of a hard (not "no deal") Brexit.

I remain convinced that the ERG and those who voted against the Theresa May deal because they wanted a harder Brexit were taking a huge risk of ending up with no Brexit at all. They got what they wanted for three reasons

1) Boris Johnson

2) In the end, amazingly to some of us, the hard Brexit supporters turned out to be more pragmatic and have better judgement than the ultra-Remainders and Soft Brexit supporters and to have a better idea of when to declare victory and take what was on the table. To be precise, Boris Johnson did, and they had the sense to follow him.

3) The proponents of a "soft Brexit" or no Brexit at all turned out to be more divided and far more incompetent than the supporters of a hard Brexit.



The outcome of the 2017 general election handed the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland what amounted to a veto over the policies of the UK government. For two years they were in an immensely strong position in parliament.

But although I think the DUP deserve a massively more sympathetic hearing than they ever get from  the mainstream British press or political class, most of whom understand Ireland even less well than they understand quantum physics (e.g. not at all), the fact remains that the DUP massively overplayed their hand.
A government which was effectively at their mercy has transformed into one which does not need them in the slightest and is nearly as fed up with the DUP as they are with Boris Johnson. This is not healthy, but I don't see it being put right any time soon.

JO SWINSON  and the Liberal Democrats.

The joke has been made so many times as to become a cliché that the leader of the "Liberal Democrats" pursued a policy which was neither liberal nor democratic.

That's because it is true.

Stephen Bush has put forward the most credible explanation for her disastrous decision to tell 17.4 million people that she didn't give a damn what they voted for - that she was expecting Labour to move to an all-out remain position and needed to outflank them, and Boris Johnson to go for a no-deal position which would have made Leave far more frightening. In the event Boris got a deal where Corbyn stayed on the fence, leaving Jo Swinson stranded on an extreme position.

The only sad thing about her losing her seat is that she lost it to the party which is arguably the most destructive force in 21st century British politics. 


Whether they were former Conservatives, Labour, Green or Lib/Dem, those who decided to save the electorate from itself and set themselves up to stop Brexit were putting themselves against the British voters. This rarely ends well, and it didn't end well for them.

They made it worse for themselves because the opponents of Brexit were hopelessly divided, hence the inability of the last House of Commons to pass almost anything positive - they knew what they were against but there never seemed to be a majority in that house for any practical course of action which was actually on the table, unless they put in some "poison pill" like the Letwin amendment.

They also greatly overestimated their support among the public - as they found out at 10pm on 12th December.

And finally:

You will notice that I have said nothing about the North of England, made only one passing reference to Scotland, and have not yet commented on the future of the Labour and Conservative parties.

The Brexit story, the future of the Labour and Conservative parties, and of Scotland, are tales which are not yet finished.

If the Labour party has the sense to take defeat in 2019 as the signal to reject Corbynism and move back to the centre, that defeat could for them be a blessing in excellent disguise.

Alternatively, if the Conservatives can deliver on our promises to the North, deliver a Brexit which people see as successful, and deliver our promises for the NHS, we could be in power into the 2030's.

If Conservatives are foolish enough to imagine that we won big because people love us, rather than being angry with the establishment over Brexit and having decided that they would rather say off their own right arms with a rusty hacksaw than make Jeremy Corbyn PM, this victory could turn to ashes faster than anyone expects.

We have an urgent repair job to do on the Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK. I don't know what's going to happen next, but Scotland is going to be one of the re-elected government's biggest challenges.

All that is for the future. Welcome to the 2020's!

The Economist on the difference between lying, mistakes, falsehoods and nonsense.

There is an excellent article by the Economist on calling out politicians and others who say things which are not true - and when we should accuse them of lying, talking nonsense, exaggerating, misleading people, or making a mistake.

If you are registered to read the Economist online, you can find a text version here.

There is also a very good video version featuring Lane Greene, the Economist's language correspondent who I presume to have been the main author of the article, with similar but not quite identical script and this is available to watch via twitter here

or on YouTube, which will play if you click on the window below -

As they rightly say (in the print version)

"Journalists should be tough when powerful people say untrue things. When those statements first hit the headlines, “false” packs plenty of punch. Reporters should demand to know the reason for the false statements."

But, to quote the video version, after encouraging people to use words like "nonsense" and "exaggeration" where those are more appropriate, Lane Green argues that:

"Using these exact terms will only make it more effective when we catch powerful people red-handed in a true, no-doubt-about-it, lie."

RPI versus CPI

There is no perfect measure of inflation.

I was challenged the other day for quoting the Retail Price Index (RPI) which was described as a "discredited measure."

I don't accept that but I do accept that it might have been helpful to quote both the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and RPI measures and I have gone back and changed the post concerned to do so.

There are various ways to measure inflation and about the only thing which most economists and statisticians agree on is that no one measure is ideal for every purpose.

In my professional work I would usually look at all the main measures to get the best picture of what is going on and then use whichever seemed most relevant to the specific target group.

There is considerable disagreement among economists and statisticians about whether the RPI or the CPI is the better measure of inflation. But many would concur with the view which the distinguished economist and statistician Simon Briscoe of the gave in a note produced for the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) meeting held on 13 June 2018, as follows:

"There are many different purposes for a price index. No one price index fulfils any one of those stated purposes perfectly. No one index is perfect for all purposes. Considering the purpose of the price index is the obvious starting point for analysing its appropriateness."

I think that the RPI should be a tool in the locker, but the RPI advisory committee which ran for forty years until Gordon Brown's unwise decision to scrap it should be re-created, so that proper governance is in place which might have prevented the problems which the House of Lords recommended in January this year should be fixed.

If you use only RPI then I think there is a risk that you will overestimate the level of inflation, except during severe recessions.

If you use only CPI then I think there is a risk that you will underestimate the underlying level, and you may miss one warning indicator, the two diverging, which can indicate an unbalanced economy.,

You'll also miss a good recession indicator warning - when RPI goes lower than CPI.

Incidentally there are also governance issues with the CPI.

I am sympathetic to the view that the current policy of governments of all parties to "cherry pick" which index to use by uprating charges in line with RPI but using CPI to index payments, while helpful to the national finances, looks unfair to those who have to pay the former and receive the latter. We need a more consistent policy.

There ARE some economists who don't like RPI at all and would scrap it, but I think the recommendation which the House of Lords took in January 2019 - keep it as one of a package of measures but fix the issues they highlighted - is a more balanced view.

Quote of the day 31st December 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019

Domestic abuse is wrong whoever does it

Levels of domestic abuse in Copeland and in Cumbria as a whole are shocking and have been for some time.

That would be true even just based on the figures for recorded incidents but it is suspected that for every reported case there are many instances for which no complaint is made.

The stereotypical case, which does represent the most common type of abuse, is men attacking their female partners, which is of course completely intolerable behaviour, but the most recent figures show a substantial amount of violence by women against men and within same-sex relationships and this is also totally unacceptable.

It does not help matters that the media does not always take violence against men seriously and sometimes publishes incredibly unhelpful stories. I recall being incensed when one national newspaper ran a disgraceful front page headline accusing two actors who played on-screen tough guys of being "big girls' blouses" in real life over suggestions that their female partners had assaulted them. This sort of thing is not just victim-blaming, but downright dangerous.

If the stories were accurate, both men could probably have put the women concerned in hospital had they hit back. If the paper had meant to imply that they were somehow less masculine because they didn't do so it is difficult to see how the headline would have been different.

Here in Cumbria, new figures released by the Office for National Statistics show a horrifying rise of 113% in domestic violence reports in the county. Between 2016/17 there were 2,703 domestic abuse-related crimes recorded by police. This figure jumped to 5,764, more than doubling, by 2018/19.

Cumbria Police released figures showing they have recorded 7,402 incidents of domestic abuse in 2019 to date.

Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said:

“Domestic violence has to be one of the most unpleasant things the police have to deal with. For anyone who has to endure it, at any time of the year, it’s an awful thing.

“I would just say to people, you do not have to endure domestic violence of any sort. Please get in touch with the police and they will take it extremely seriously." 

Detective Chief Inspector Dan St Quintin, who is leading a campaign to encourage victims to come forward, said:

“We are finding that there is an increase in male victims of domestic abuse coming forward and reporting abuse there is a great support group that works out of Safety Net in Carlisle and they run a group for men and that is really supportive, and there is other across the county.

“It’s a myth that it is just a male on female thing, we find that there are more and more male victims coming forward, although the proportion of female victims to male victims is roughly 70 per cent female to 30 per cent male.

“We get reports now from same-sex relationships, it isn’t a heterosexual thing, domestic abuse happens in all relationships. "

It is of course possible that some of the rise in these statistics represents an increased willingness to report domestic abuse, which would be a good, thing, rather than a rise in actual violence. The one thing we can say for certain is that it is much too high.

Monday music spot: "While shepherds watched" to Lyngham

Quote of the day 30th December 2019

"I think I know why reasonable argument is no longer possible. It's social media. When you had to express your displeasure in the past you wrote a letter and you enclosed your address so that someone could reply. This meant you had to watch your language and your manners. Not any more. Now your can hide behind a blanket of anonymity and say anything you like."

(Jeremy Clarkson, writing in the Sunday Times yesterday about the effect of anonymous social media posts on the level of courtesy and constructive engagement in modern public discourse.)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Blair's legacy

An interesting piece by Philip Thompson on Political Betting about Blair's legacy here.

And a warning to all political parties, especially when messing about with the constitution:

1) Be careful what you wish for

2) Beware the law of unintended consequences
3) These warnings particularly apply when setting up one-sided changes to the constitution. Changes which you think will give you an unfair advantage can have precisely the opposite long-term effect ...

Sunday music spot: Joy to the World

Quote of the day 29th December 2019

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday music spot: Angels, from the Realms of Glory

New Years Honours list continued

My previous post mentioned that Cumbrians honoured by Her Majesty in the New Year's honours list included:
  • Paul Foster, departing boss at Sellafield, who has been awarded a CBE for "services to business
  • John Hudson, BAE Systems, has also been made a CBE for "services to the Royal Navy and to Naval Shipbuilding and Design." 
  • Professor John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive of the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust and visionary local health leader - and local GP - has been made an MBE for "services to General Practice."

Other Cumbrians honoured this year include:
  • Ms Sascha Hilary Wells-Munro of Kendal who receives an OBE "for services to the NHS and patient safety." 
  • Mr Ben Stokes of Cockermouth and the Enlgand cricket team receives an OBE "for Services to Sport." 
  • Ms Elizabeth Cornford of Grange-over-Sands has been awarded the MBE "for services to Young People." 
  • Mr John Butler of Ulverston also becomes and MBE, "for services to Further Education." 
  • Mr Mark McCree of Kendal has been awarded the British Empire Medal "for services to Public Libraries." 
  • Mr John Shakeshaft of Ulverston also receives the BEM "for services to Young People in Ulverston." 
  • Ms Cassandra Rees of Greenheys receives a BEM "for services to the Community in Cumbria."

New Year's Honours list 2020

1097 people have been honoured by the Queen in the 2020 New Year's Honours list.

On a first read through I noticed a number of distinguished Cumbrians were honoured

These included

* Paul Foster who has just retired as head of Sellafield, has been awarded a CBE

* John Hudson, BAE Systems, has also been made a CBE

* Professor John Howarth, Deputy Chief Executive of the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust and visionary local health leader, has been made an MBE.

Congratulations to them and to all the people honoured.

In relation to this honours list as a whole,

  • 789 (72%) of the recipients are people who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity. 
  • 556 women are recognised in the List, representing 51% of the total 
  • 9.1% of the successful candidates come from a BAME background 
  • 11% of the successful candidates consider themselves to have a disability (under the Equality Act 2010) 
  • 3.3% of recipients identified as being LGBT+

Quote of the day for 28th December 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Quote of the day for Boxing day 2019

“Only twenty-seven people in Britain can explain why the day after Christmas Day is called Boxing Day, but that doesn't stop millions from marking it by staying home from work. An intriguing side effect of thus having two consecutive public holidays is that no matter what days of the week they fall on, the British can easily justify taking the whole week off."

(Alan Beechey, from "Murdering Ministers: An Oliver Swithin Mystery.")

Music spot for St Stephen's Day (26th December) Good King Wenceslas

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas

No more political posts for a few days, though I shall put up a few uplifting quotations and some of my favourite Christmas music.

I shall sign off with a similar message to the one I have used for the last two or three years:

Warmest good wishes and seasonal greetings to everyone reading this

To everyone reading this who is a Christian, may the spirit of the Christ child, the love of Mary, the faithfulness of Joseph, the joy of the Angels, the wonder of the Shepherds, the wisdom of the Magi, and the Peace of God be with you this Christmastide.

To anyone reading this who follows a faith other than Christianity, may your God be with you at this time.

To everyone reading this including anyone who does not have a religious faith, I wish you peace, health and happiness and hope you are refreshed by a wonderful holiday with the people you love.

And to all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2020.

Christmas Eve music spot: Steeleye Span sing "The Boar's Head Carol"

January meeting of Cumbria County Council

The January meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held at 10 am on Thursday 9th January in the Council Chamber at County Hall in Kendal.

The meeting will be open to the public - or at least, to those members who can afford to take a day off and spend it in Kendal.

The Agenda can be found on the County Council website here.

Items of interest

1) The annual presentation from Cumbria Constabulary

2) A presentation from the "Children in Care Council."

In the interests of transparency I should probably also mention that County Councillor's allowances for the forthcoming year are also on the agenda. The Independent Review Panel is recommending that the basic allowance and most special responsibility allowances be increased by 2%.

This compares with the latest inflation figures from ONS of a 2.2% increase on the RPI measure but only 1.5% increase year on year to November on the CPI measure.

Suspect there may be some debate around this ...

Quote of the day for Christmas Eve 2019

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Maya Forstater case is more complex than either side would have you believe

I have stayed out of the argument on Twitter about the Maya Forstater case because I do not believe it is possible to do justice to either side in 280 characters and feelings are running so high on both sides that you cannot get a nuanced argument into the debate.

This was the employment tribunal case which got J.K. Rowling into so much trouble for a tweet which began with the words

"Dress however you please. 
Call yourself whatever you like. 
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. 
Live your best life in peace and security." 

but then went on to refer to the Maya Forstater case in a way which Rowling's supporters took to mean that women should not be sacked for expressing opinions that other people disagree with, and her critics took to be an endorsement of disrespect to trans people.

This legal case has understandably caused great concern to people who believe in free speech. It is, unfortunately, all too easy to take phrases from the legal judgement by Judge James Tayler on the Maya Forstater case which, stripped of their full context, sound outrageous.

Equally, anyone who ploughs through the full 26-page judgement may well come to the conclusion, as I did, that this case is far more complex and difficult than the more outspoken partisans on either side would have you believe. And, in fact, that both the interpretations of J.K. Rowling's tweet
which I gave above can be defended.

As I understand the judgement it did not - as some people seem to think it did - mean that women can now be fired just for criticising self-identification or for objecting to trans women having automatic access to women’s prisons and domestic violence shelters.

The ruling explicitly says that it is “quite possible to accept that trans women are women but still argue that there are certain circumstances in which it would be justified to exclude certain trans women”, for example, from services used by rape victims or potentially traumatised women, just as the law currently allows.

In other words the ruling specifically does not say that you can lose your job for arguing, for instance, that vulnerable women may need protection from some people with male bodies who self-identify as women or that it might not be a good idea to allow convicted rapists with male bodies to serve their sentences in a women's prison because they self-identify as women without any measures to protect the other inmates.

The judge ruled that Forstater's beliefs passed four of the five tests of a protected belief, but failed the fifth test because she refuses to accept the validity of Gender Reassignment Certificates which legally change someone's sex and insists on the right to refer to someone by the gender she thinks appropriate even if that creates an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” for that person.

As I understand the ruling, the problem was demanding the right to treat people in that way, and this, not the opinions expressed, was what failed the test for a protected belief.

One of the few nuanced and balanced pieces on the subject, by Gaby Hinscliffe in the Guardian, can be read here.

As so often in life, the whole truth is more messy and more difficult that the ardent partisans on either side of an argument would have you believe.

Bringing back bursaries

This Conservative Government will back nursing students with a new £5,000 grant – making sure the NHS has the staff it needs to deliver world-class care for you and your family.
  • From September 2020, all new and continuing degree-level nursing, midwifery and many allied health students will benefit from guaranteed additional support of £5,000 a year to help with their living costs. 
  • Additional payments of up to £3,000 will be available for students in regions or specialisms struggling to recruit, or to help students cover childcare costs. 

The NHS is our number one priority - which is why this Conservatives administration will be the first government to legislate to guarantee our multi-year funding increase of £33.9 billion.

Sunday Music Spot: The Shepherds' Farewell, Hector Berlioz

Quote of the day 22nd December 2019

"From a historical point of view, I think when people look back at this period and they examine the extent of the Labour defeat.

"I think people will look back and think, 'hang on - people voted for something in 2016 and then lots of people in the political establishment in Westminster spent three years trying to undo that. What?'

"People thought we would be out the next day. Politicians on both sides, including the then Prime Minister David Cameron stood on platforms and said 'if you vote this way, it will happen.'

"They said there was no going back, and that this wasn't a vote that you can have a second opinion on."

"Lo and behold, three years later people are scratching their heads in the Labour Party, thinking maybe that was a bit of problem that they were trying to undo something that people voted for. 

"There are perfectly legitimate reasons for people to campaign for a second referendum." 

"But, covering it as a story, to me it just seemed like, people voted for that. 

"It’s not your job to undo it!"

(BBC correspondent Laura Kuenssberg on how people looking back in the future may see the last three years.)