Monday, June 18, 2018

Major grass fire near St Bees last week.

Last week firefighters and no fewer than five appliances were called to a grass fire on Beach Road near St Bees.

A large area of grass on a difficult to reach headland on a rural cliff caught fire, and the flame height reached three metres.

Five fire engines were deployed to the incident – from Workington, Whitehaven, Egremont, Frizington and Keswick alongside the wild fire unit.

The fire is believed to have been started by a discarded cigarette. So if you are going for a stroll in the countryside and can't resist lighting up, please be careful how you dispose of used cigarettes and matches.

Quote of the day 18th June 2018

"The British public voted for £350m a week for the NHS. We will deliver that – and more."

(Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt writing about the boost to NHS spending which the government has just announced. You can read the article here.)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Music Spot: "Come Jesus Come" (Bach motet BWV 229)

A video record celebrating the NHS 70 Carlisle parkrun

Ridiculous comeback of the century

Almost every Labour candidate ever has told the electorate that the Conservatives should spend more on the NHS.

There have been a very small number of Labour politicians, of whom the former Labour Health secretary and now Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, is the most prominent, who have said, especially in private or when talking to teachers, policemen, or local government officers, that cuts to the budgets of schools, police services, and local councils governments were exacerbated because of the, quote, "irresponsible" decision to ring-fence and protect the NHS budget.

But I've never seen that view in a Labour leaflet, and most Labour politicians talk at every opportunity about the need to put more money into the health service.

Today Theresa May gave them what they previously said they wanted: an increase of more than 3.5% in real terms, rising  to £20 billion a year by 23/4, in NHS funding.

So what did Labour's Emily Thornberry have to say this morning?

Did she say "I'm delighted that the government have done what we asked for?"

Did she say "The NHS desperately needs more money" (which is what her party had previously been saying) "so we welcome this decision?"

For all I know she may have said more than the BBC quoted her on the radio as saying but I can only tell you what I heard and it was neither of those things.

She was quoted on BBC Radio 4 today as asking where the money is going to come from!

From anyone else in the country that would be a perfectly reasonable question, but from the people who have been screaming for more money for the NHS for approximately seventy years (except when they've been in government themselves) to ask where that money is coming from when the government does what they have been suggesting?

Honestly, that really is ridiculous.

Theresa May announces an extra £20 billion a year for the NHS

Well, you can argue until the cows come home about whether it's a "Brexit dividend" or not, but the important thing is that NHS is going to get the money promised on the side of that bus and a bit more.

My reason for welcoming this is not because I think the message on the bus was right, but because I think our health services do needs the money to cope with increased demand.

Theresa May has announced another £20 billion a year of new money - a 3.6% increase in real terms by 2023/4, slightly more than the £350 million a week on the side of the bus - for the NHS. She writes about it in the Mail on Sunday today, and here is an extract from her article.

"On the day I became Prime Minister, I said my Government would be driven not by the interests of a privileged few but by those of ordinary working people. Nothing matters more to the British people than our NHS. That’s why I will always put it first.

We never know when we, or a loved one, might need the NHS, and we all sleep easier in our beds because it is there for us. World-class medical care, free at the point of use, is part of the social fabric of this country.

This year, as we celebrate its 70th birthday, I am determined to take action to secure our NHS for generations to come. To do so, we will deliver a long-term plan for the NHS, and this week I will be setting out the principles that will guide it. It will be a serious plan for the future, led by the NHS itself, backed by new investment.

The NHS budget today is £14 billion higher than it was eight years ago. Even as we have taken the difficult decisions to repair our economy, we have continued to increase NHS spending. But in the meantime, the demands on the NHS have continued to grow. 

We are living longer and asking more of the NHS. New drugs and treatments are constantly being developed that we rightly expect our NHS to provide for us, but which come at a cost. And too often, our dedicated NHS staff are let down by waste and bureaucracy that drain resources that should go to the front line. Our long-term plan for the NHS will address each of these challenges and give doctors and nurses the resources they need to deliver first-class care.

For too long, Governments have funded the NHS in fits and starts, leaving it unable to plan ahead. I am determined to change that. So tomorrow I will set out a new five-year budget settlement, in return for a plan to deliver our vision of a better NHS.

Under our plan, by 2023-24, the NHS budget will increase compared to today by over £20 billion a year in real terms, which is approximately £600 million a week in cash terms.

When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it came as a shock. I did not know what the impact would be on my life, or whether it would affect my ability to do my job. In that moment, the NHS was there for me, just as it has been for millions of others over seven decades. It helps me every step of the way. With the NHS on my side, I can manage my condition, live a normal life and get on with my job. By delivering a long-term plan for our NHS’s future – and backing it with the money it needs to – we can make sure the NHS continues to be there for all of us. "

Reminder - public workship on Stroke services in two days' time.

No apologies for a repeat post to remind residents of West Cumbria with an interest in health services that the Stroke Services Working Group of North Cumbria NHS's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is holding public workshops about the provision of care for stroke patients, and the next one is in two day's time.

It will be held in Cleator Moor Civic Hall and Masonic Centre, Jacktrees Road, Cleator Moor, CA25 5AU from 2pm to 4pm on Tuesday afternoon (19th June 2018.)

This is not a consultation about whether or not a Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit should be set up at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. That public consultation has already taken place, eighteen months ago. Whether such a unit should be created was one of the questions asked during the massive public consultation exercise which took place in late 2016 about the "Success Regime" proposals, and following that consultation the decision was taken by the CCG in March 2017 that such a stroke unit should indeed be set up.

This is a workshop held as part of the "working together" programme of meetings to discuss how health care should be delivered in Cumbria, raise issues of concern with the community and consider how they can be addressed. It will be facilitated by the Stroke Association.

Emerging themes from similar workshops held so far have included:
  • The acute phase of the stroke lasts for a short time and the implication and recovery / living life after stroke lasts much longer
  • Concerns about travel for people in west Cumbria
  • Concerns about people in south Copeland / travel times
  • Acknowledging we deserve a modern service 24/7
  • Opportunity to promote prevention and FAST
  • Opportunity to refresh and develop information for people after a stroke which could be ICC specific
  • Pressures on staff within the system at the moment
  • Organisations like the Stroke Association need more support

Details of "working together" meetings on the subject of stroke care and of the activities of the Stroke Services Working Group can be found on the CCG website here.

Quote of the day 17th June 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

When clever people do stupid things

The post below, with a few minor adjustments like putting in the exact date instead of "yesterday" to avoid confusion, is a repeat of an article first posted twelve years ago which I thought was worth running again.

I'm pleased to say that there has been some movement on the point made at the very end of the article about providing more information on statistics for people involved in court cases. 

In November 2017 a UK Supreme Court judge launched the first of a series of scientific guides for the judiciary

Lord Hughes had overseen a project to help the judiciary deal with scientific evidence in the courtroom. The first primers covered DNA fingerprinting and computer techniques to identify suspects from the manner of their walk. Guides on statistics and the physics of car crashes were to come next and one on "shaken baby syndrome" were planned. 

Memo to self - I must find out whether these subsequent guides were issued and whether they were made available to juries as well as judges. Because they should be.

When Clever People Do Stupid Things

On 17th February 2006 a court quashed the disciplinary action taken by the General Medical Council against Professor Sir Roy Meadow, one of the most distinguished children’s doctors in the country. Professor Meadow had acted as an expert witness in the trials of many women accused of killing their own children. Unfortunately his great knowledge of medicine and convincing air of authority as a witness was matched by a gross ignorance of the principles of statistics which would have been unacceptable in a Lower VI former studying for Maths A-Level.

Professor Meadow convinced first himself, and then the juries, that at least three innocent women who were already suffering the agony of having lost their babies, should be jailed for murdering them. He told the trial of Sally Clark that the chances of her having two children lost to cot deaths through natural causes were one in 73 million, and the trial of Donna Anthony that the chances of her two children having died from natural causes were one in a million.

This evidence was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics: Professor Meadow had assumed that the probability of each cot death was independent and had not taken into account the possibility that there could be a genetic predisposition to a higher risk of such fatalities or that the conditional probability of a further case of sudden infant death in the child of a mother who had already suffered one such death could be a lot higher. Other studies by doctors who do understand the relevant statistical principles suggest the odds in the Sally Clark and Donna Anthony cases were more like one chance in 77.

By overturning the finding that Professor Meadow was guilty of serious professional misconduct, the judge has effectively ruled that it is acceptable for a highly skilled professional who is being paid by the state to give expert evidence in one area of knowledge to neglect the basic mathematical understanding required to understand that knowledge. I think there are three implications for our society of this decision.

1) The stupid mistakes which do the most damage are rarely made by stupid individuals, but by intelligent ones – stupid people are rarely in a position to do as much damage as intelligent people.

2) Our society needs to recognise that expertise in one area often does not translate into expertise in others

3) It is high time we ensured that all lawyers, judges, expert witnesses, and juries had access to some basic training in statistics.

The classic example of a brilliant man who caused a major disaster with a stupid mistake that no stupid person could have made was Admiral Sir George Tryon. He became Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet, then the crack force of the most powerful and professional navy the world had ever seen, and did so purely on ability. His powers of intellect enabled him to best in argument any other officer who ventured to disagree with him. And more than eighty years after the accident in which he died I have met people who still believe that he was not responsible for that accident.

But there is no doubt that Tryon caused the collision which sank his flagship, HMS Victoria, drowned 357 officers and men, and made the world’s most formidable fleet look like idiots, with a basic mathematical error. Tryon was commanding two columns of battleships. Each column was formed in “line ahead” with one ship behind another, and the two columns were heading in the same direction, side by side and six cables or 1,200 yards apart. The turning circle of these ships was 1,600 yards. Tryon ordered the two columns to turn towards each other. Nobody will ever know exactly what he meant to happen, but as one of his officers pointed out, the two columns of battleships would have had to have started with a distance between them more than double that 1,600 yards turning circle to carry out any such manoeuvre safely.

At least four of Tryon’s officers, including the captain of his flagship, HMS Victoria, which was leading one column, the fleet’s second in command in HMS Camperdown at the head of the other column, and two staff officers who queried the orders, realised that they were likely to result in the collision of the leading ships.

Faced with an apparently suicidal order, these officers reacted in different ways. The only person to come well out of the disaster, Commander Thomas Hawkins-Smith, initially pointed out the problem and then queried the order twice. Tryon at first accepted the point, but unfortunately he then apparently forgot that he had done so, brushing objections aside.

The captain of HMS Victoria is on record as saying that “Open criticism of one’s superior is not consistent with true discipline” and said nothing to Tryon until a collision was inevitable. However, he probably saved lives by asking for and getting permission to put the engines into reverse and by closing the ship’s watertight doors.

The Second-in Command, Admiral Markham in the Camperdown, saw the problem but didn’t know what to do, and while he was trying to make up his mind the entire fleet was heading for the Syrian coast on which they would all go aground unless something was done. While he was dithering, Tryon sent the signal “Why did you not obey my order?” and then Markham followed Tryon’s instructions, with the inevitable consequence that the Victoria and Camperdown collided. Ironically, just after the collision, Tryon was handed a note with Markham’s reply, “Because I did not quite understand your signal.”

Admiral Tryon appears to have realised his mistake just too late – his voice was almost a whisper as he gave permission to put the engines “full astern” to slow down the ship. In his last minutes he made no attempt to deflect responsibility for the disaster: his last recorded words were “It is all my fault.”

Tryon made no attempt to save himself and went down with the ship.

Admiral Tryon and Professor Meadow had in common that both were brilliant men at the head of their respective professions and internationally respected in their fields. Both made basic mathematical errors with grave consequences. Professor Meadow wrecked three lives where Admiral Tryon ended more than three hundred. But there are lessons we need to learn from both.

The first is that the more eminent you are the more you need to listen to others. If George Tryon or Roy Meadow had been less eminent, both they and others might have been less inclined to assume they were always right.

The second is that we should be much more careful about assuming that knowledge in one field carries over into another. Angela Cannings, one of the innocent women who was wrongly convicted on Professor Meadow’s evidence, was surely right when she said in February 2006 of expert witnesses that “It’s when they are approached about areas outside their expertise that they should look up and say ‘Sorry, I can’t deal with this’ and step back.”

That principle has much wider application. Let me give just one example. I am an economist by profession and a regular churchgoer. I have heard priests and bishops give sermons in which they talked about spiritual matters, theology or human motivation and I immediately recognise that they are vastly better informed than I about such subjects and I have things to learn from them.

However, when the subject turns to matters on which I have professional knowledge, it readily becomes apparent that neither theological college nor biblical study gives any insight into such matters as the relative merits of competing economic theories or tax rates. It pains me to say it, but when bishops for whom as pastors and theologians I have immense respect are invited to talk about government economic policy they often reveal themselves to be as misguided outside their field of expertise as Sir Roy Meadow was outside his.

I have also heard bishops say very intelligent things about politics and economics. But nine times out of ten, when this happens the idea or concern which is being raised has been put as a question. In other words, the most intelligent contributions often come from a speaker who is acutely aware of the limits of his or her expertise.

The same applies when politicians talk about football, or when successful football managers are invited by the media to talk about business, or when TV soap stars talk about politics, or successful authors are invited to talk about the law. In a democracy we are all entitled to a view about any subject but we should avoid the trap of assuming that an expert in one subject is certain to have valuable insights into another.

My final comment is that, to avoid the risk of sending more innocent people to prison, we must significantly raise the level of statistical expertise available to the courts. Expert witnesses who think they understand maths but don’t are not a problem unique to cases of cot death. Another example is genetic fingerprinting. This is an immensely powerful tool and there is no doubt whatsoever that it has sent many guilty people to justice. But statements of probability in relation to genetic evidence can sound more powerful than they really are unless there is corroborative evidence.

Let’s give an example. Supposing there is a crime for which there are no surviving witnesses, and the police have recovered genetic material which they are absolutely confident belongs to the perpetrator. They trawl through the genetic database and find a villain whose DNA has a sufficiently good match that only one person in five million would have a fit as good or better. They haul the suspect in, and find that he could have been in the right place at the right time and has no convincing alibi.

I hope and believe that most British police forces would do more work than this before bringing a prosecution, but let’s suppose for the sake of argument that we have a rare sloppy example, and they don’t. You are on the jury – you are told that the accused had the opportunity to commit the crime and that genetic fingerprinting suggests it is five million to one that he did it. Do you find him guilty?

If you said yes, I hope you’re not on the jury should I ever be wrongly accused of anything. Five million to one odds means there are about eleven people in Britain with an equivalent match, including about three or four adult males of an age to be strong and fit. I would want to have far more evidence against the accused than just the genetic fit statistics before I would be confident that we had correctly identified the culprit. Genetic fingerprinting evidence is only sufficient to be confident that we were convicting the guilty person if we have the evidence to rule out all other potential suspects with an equally good genetic fit, and that usually means that genetic fingerprinting on its own is not enough.

If we want to avoid such miscarriages of justice, we need to provide lawyers and judges with more training in statistics – and perhaps also provide more support for Juries. How about a handbook, “Probability for Jurors” ? You read it here first. 

Saturday music spot: Handel's:"The flocks shall leave the mountain"

Trio "The Flocks shall leave the mountain" from the opera "Acis and Galatea" by G. F. Handel.

The shepherd Acis (Tenor) and the nymph Galatea (Soprano) are singing their love to each other when the monster Polyphemus, (Bass) who had also wished to woo Galatea, overhears their song and is not very pleased …

Quote of the day 16th June 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

Visa restrictions on recruitment of foreign doctors and nurses relaxed

As predicted, doctors and nurses coming from abroad to work in the NHS will no longer be affected by the cap on so-called "Type 2" Visas.

This is a limit on the number of skilled workers from outside the EU who can be given Visas to come to the UK in any one year. When it was first introduced in 2011 ago the cap was rarely reached but recently it has been hit and one of the consequences has been to impede the recruitment of foreign doctors and nurses for the NHS, which has been a problem in many parts of the NHS including here in Cumbria.

Following lobbying from many parts of the country including a combined approach from all six MPs representing Cumbria, Home Secretary Sajid Javid agreed to look at the type 2 cap again and this week it has been announced that the government is changing the rules so that medical staff coming to work in the NHS will no longer be included in the cap.

This is great news which will make it easier to recruit the skilled professionals which hospitals like West Cumberland Hospital need.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

"I recognise the pressures faced by the NHS and other sectors in recent months. Doctors and nurses play a vital role in society and at this time we need more in the UK. That is why I have reviewed our skilled worker visa route."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the change as "excellent news."

Speaking at the NHS Confederation's annual conference in Manchester, he said that training places for doctors, nurses and midwives were up by 25%.

But he added: "In the period between now and when those training places convert into fully trained clinicians, the government should be flexible on visas. And that is why it is extremely welcome that today the prime minister has announced that doctors and nurses will be removed from the tier 2 visa caps."

June meeting of Cumbria County Council

The June meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held at 10am in County Hall, Kendal on Thursday 21st June 2018.

For those residents of the county whose travel and work position allows them to attend, the meeting is open to the public.

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

The main items for consideration are:

  • Minutes of the County cabinet meeting held on 26th April
  • Revenue and capital budget monitoring report
  • Treasury Management annual report
  • Scrutiny update report
  • Appointments to committees (the committees concerned this time are the Cumbria Police and Crime panel and the Health and Wellbeing board.)
  • Constitution review group report
  • Questions.

Eid Mubarak

To all those celebrating Eid al-Fitr and the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan: Peace to you and your families.

Quote of the day 15th June 2018

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Six types of "Useful Idtot"

There have always been a depressing number of people who are willing to take the side in debate, not just of a country other than their own, but of regimes which have been disastrous failures, cruel tyrannies, or usually both.

Sometimes, as currently applies to Putin 's Russia, the regime concerned has gone to some lengths to gain the support of those people, mostly on the UKIP right or Corbynista left, who have fallen for their propaganda.

Other failed or tyrannical regimes, such as the disastrous Chavez and Maduro administrations which have presided over complete catastrophe in Venezuela, have hardly had to lift a finger to gain the adherence of naïve idealists from all over the world. In this case the people concerned have mostly been left-wingers who desperately wanted to convince themselves that a socialist regime could be successful. Gilbert and Sullivan put into the mouth of "The Mikado" the description of the kind of person who was anxious to be fooled by such regimes, as follows:

James Bloodworth has a great piece at the Unherd site about "The six types of useful idiot,"

in which he suggests that the categories in which such people can be considered include:

  • The Seeker
  • The Utopian
  • The Power-worshipper
  • The Relativist
  • The Stability-fetishist
  • The Nostalgist.

Here's a challenge - would anyone reading this like to make suggestions in the comments to see who can come up with the best allocation to these categories of Jeremy Corbyn, Seumus Milne, Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, Craig Murray and George Galloway. Bonus point if you can come up with at least one well known British apologist for Putin, Assad, Venezuela or Iran in each of the six categories.

James adds that this list is by no means exhaustive, but

"most bouts of useful idiocy can be understood with reference to at least one of these roughly drawn ‘types’. 

"Although, of course, many who are susceptible to one category are often also drawn to another. 

"I suspect many readers will wonder whether any of this matters – isn’t it obvious that such people are foolish and irresponsible? Does it really need pointing out? 

The only persuasive answer to this objection is to say that it isn’t as obvious as it ought to be. There are still those left-wing politicians and activists who, to paraphrase Orwell, will flock to anything emitting a whiff of revolution 'like bluebottles to a dead cat'”.

You can read the full article here.

Silence to remember the victims of Grenfell Tower

Taking part in a minute's silence at 12 noon today in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower a year ago.

David Aaronovitch on Free Speech

David Aaronovitch, now a Times journalist, who back in my student days was the Communist president of the National Union of Students, (though he was described at the time by a Conservative member of the NUS executive and future tory MP as a "Communist to the right of Ted Heath") has become chairman of "Index on Censorship," the free speech advocacy organisation.

In an article in The Times he asks

"Why is it that some of the people who should be most protective of free speech and actual open debate are now almost hostile to it in practice?"

There is an increasing and worrying tendency on both right and left to support free speech only for those you agree with. Aaronovitch thinks this is coming particularly from the left, and who am I to argue, though I do not think any part of the political spectrum can afford to be complacent about this.

When people on the left attack free speech they usually make the utterly inaccurate argument that the idea "free speech" is being used to defend attempts by the far right, or by right-wing, rich, straight white men, to offend everyone else.

But when you allow people to ban free speech the people it is used against are never limited to one part of the spectrum. I've seen a college Jewish society banned in the name of anti-racism.

Recent victims of attempts to use the "safe space" argument to restrict people's ability to express their views or take part in events have included gay left-winger Peter Tatchell and feminists like Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel, Sarah Ditum and Maryam Namazie. In case you are not familiar with those people, not one of them conforms to even a majority, let alone all, of the five criteria of being a right-wing, rich, straight white man, and every one of those five criteria fails to describe at least one of those individuals.

You can read David Aaronovitch's article about the subject here (there is a paywall but The Times allows non-subscribers who are registered with them a certain number of free reads per week.)

I've quoted Nick Cohen before and make no apology for doing so again:

Quote of the day 14th June 2018

"Only the SNP could give an unplanned walk-out all the spontaneity of a North Korean military parade."

(Stephen Daisley, from an article on the SNP's walkout at Westminster yesterday, which you can read in full here.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Telegraph reports that Sajid Javid will move on Visas for Doctors and Nurses

Very pleased to learn this evening that the Telegraph is reporting Home Secretary Sajid Javid will relax the cap on so-called "Type 2" visas so that it will no longer prevent foreign doctors and nurses from outside the EU from being given Visas to come and work in the NHS.

If the report is correct there will also be Visas for another 8,000 skilled workers coming to work in the UK in other areas besides the NHS.

Extremely good news if this report is correct: Cumbria's NHS has been affected by the Type 2 Visa cap and our health service both here and in many other parts of the country needs those medical professionals to care for our patients and protect our services.

Corbyn reaches his hundredth resignation

There has been a lot of discussion about "Tory Splits" on Europe but the reality is that the fault lines on Europe go through most of the parties, including Conservative, Labour and the SNP rather than between them.

The Conservatives have divisions on Europe but managed to keep the show on the road this week and avoid losing any votes in the House of Commons.

Yes, the government had to make some concessions. You know what? Given that the country is pretty evenly divided on the issue and the Brexit vote wasn't an overwhelming margin like 70:30 but a knife-edge 52:48 I think it is actually right that there should be a degree of compromise with both sides trying to see the other's points of view.

Let's just consider for a moment the splits on the Labour side.

Where the largest Conservative rebellion was 3 MPs, the largest Labour one featured 90 Labour MPs in two opposite directions - a three line whip has been set to abstain on whether to remove from the EU withdrawal bill a House of Lords amendment supporting European Economic Area (EEA) membership. Instead of abstaining, 75 Labour MPs voted to keep that amendment and 15 voted to scrap it.

Must confess I have more sympathy for the Labour 90 MPs who actually voted for a position in either direction than with those who obeyed orders to sit on their hands and do nothing.

And six of those 90 MPs had been members of the Labour frontbench team and resigned from it to be free to vote for or against the amendment.

This takes the number of resignations from Jeremy Corbyn's frontbench team past the 100 mark   which is really quite an extraordinary number. I doubt if any British party leader in recent parliamentary history has suffered remotely such a large number of resignations. Guido Fawkes has a list of 103 resignations from Corbyn's team (some of which could be considered sackings) here.

Second Midweek music spot: The G&S Pirate King's song

The SNP's latest attack of "Grievo-Max"

The SNP manufactured a row at Westminster this afternoon and stormed out after their Westminster leader deliberately got himself suspended for a day by speaker John Bercow.

In the process they abandoned the opportunity to pursue their motion calling for a debate on how Brexit will affect Scotland, which is what the row was supposedly about and which they would otherwise probably have got.

The SNP's behaviour has been called "Grievo-Max" (a play on "Devo-Max" for maximum devolution) because they are always seeking a grievance.

I was going to write a slightly longer piece on this, but frankly I could not improve on an excellent article by Iain Martin,

Why the SNP is revolting

which I would encourage anyone with an interest in the subject to read.

Midweek music spot: Arcangelo Corelli's Concerto Grosso No. 2 in F Major

Quote of the day 13th June 2018

"It's a really strong set of employment figures. It looks like that's set to continue."

(Andrew Wishart, an economist at Capital Economics, on the UK Employment figures issued by ONS on 12th June 2018, which showed

  • From the Labour Force Survey, between November 2017 to January 2018 and February to April 2018, the number of people in work rose, the number of unemployed people fell and the number of economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64 years also dropped.
  • There were 32.39 million people in work, 146,000 more than for November 2017 to January 2018 and 440,000 more than a year earlier.
  • The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 years who were in work) was 75.6%, higher than for a year earlier (74.8%) and the joint highest since comparable records began in 1971.
  • There were 1.42 million unemployed people, (not in work but seeking and available to work), 38,000 fewer than for November 2017 to January 2018 which is down 115,000 on the position a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate (the proportion of people in work plus unemployed people, who were unemployed) was 4.2%, down from 4.6% from a year earlier and the joint lowest since 1975.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stroke Care: public workshop in Cleator Moor on Tuesday

The Stroke Services Working Group of North Cumbria NHS's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is holding a number of public workshops about the provision of care for stroke patients.

The next one is in Cleator Moor Civic Hall and Masonic Centre, Jacktrees Road, Cleator Moor, CA25 5AU from 2pm to 4pm on Tuesday 19th June 2018.

This is not a consultation about whether or not a Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit should be set up at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. That public consultation has already taken place, eighteen months ago. That was one of the questions asked during the massive public consultation exercise which took place in late 2016 about all the "Success Regime" proposals, and following that consultation the decision was taken by the CCG in March 2017 that such a stroke unit should indeed be set up.

This is a workshop held as part of the "working together" programme of meetings to discuss issues of concern with the community and how they can be addressed. It will be facilitated by the Stroke Association.

Emerging themes from similar workshops held so far have included:

  • The acute phase of the stroke lasts for a short time and the implication and recovery / living life after stroke lasts much longer
  • Concerns about travel for people in west Cumbria
  • Concerns about people in south Copeland / travel times
  • Acknowledging we deserve a modern service 24/7
  • Opportunity to promote prevention and FAST
  • Opportunity to refresh and develop information for people after a stroke which could be ICC specific
  • Pressures on staff within the system at the moment
  • Organisations like the Stroke Association need more support

Details of "working together" meetings on the subject of stroke care and of the activities of the Stroke Services Working Group can be found on the CCG website here.

The nonsense from Yaxley-Lennon supporters continues

There are good reasons to ask whether Britain needs more protections for freedom of speech similar to the First Amendment to the constitution of the USA.

The arrest and prison sentence for former BNP member, former co-founder of the English defence league and convicted fraudster  Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson and pleaded guilty on two occasions to charges of contempt of court, is not one of them.

But it is an indication that we need to think further about how whether delaying the publication of information which is sub judice and might prejudice a trial can work in the age of the internet.

Most people in Britain, if they had paid any attention at all to Yaxley-Lennon's arrest, stopped doing so when it came out that he had pleaded guilty. However, to the hard right and to those who are very hostile to muslims, he is now a martyr and a hero - an outcome which I strongly suspect he deliberately got himself arrested to bring about.

And both in Britain and on the internet world wide, his supporters are sharing all sorts of nonsense.

Take this picture, taken by Martin Rickett in 2005, of vast crowds in Liverpool celebrating their local football team's performance in the Champion's league that year.

But according to various headbangers who have been circulating Rickett's picture on social media in the last week,

"The left want this picture taken down because it shows the whole of London calling for Tommy Robinson to be released so please don't retweet it."

Wrong city, wrong year, wrong subject.

And what's this "the left?"

You mean people like that well known left-wing Conservative MEP, free-marketer and Brexit supporter Dan Hannan, who made a valiant attempt in the Washington Examiner at

to explain to Conservatives in the USA that Yaxley-Lennon is not some kind of hero and what has happened to him is not an attack on free speech.

Certainly, most of the left in Britain do seem to think Yaxley-Lennon is, in the words of Guardian journalist Owen Jones - "no martyr to freedom of speech," possibly the only thing he and Dan have ever agreed about.

Adam Wagner, also in the Guardian, suggested that Yaxley-Lennon's case shows that alt-right tactics are in use here in the UK.

I previously quoted what I still regard as a good article on the "Secret Barrister" blog about the Yaxley-Lennon case: another perspective can be found on the "Law and Lawyers" blog here.

We have to think again about how to prevent juries from being prejudiced in a world where people tweeting from other countries can flood social media with allegations, and hence reporting restrictions may silence the truth while failing to prevent leaving conspiracy theorists (and worse) from sending their version of events around the world unchallenged.

That is basically what happened during the weekend when HH Judge Marson's temporary reporting restrictions on the sentence he gave Yaxley-Lennon were in place.

A few days later the judge dropped the restriction at the request of two mainstream media outlets (The Independent and LeedsLive), but by then the damage was done.

In the past judges have gone to great lengths to prevent juries being presented with things which might interfere with their ability to bring in an impartial verdict, including restrictions on reporting which would have been draconian in the extreme had they been permanent. This has worked in the past because professional journalists understood the system, appreciated that they were only being asked to delay publication until the juries had delivered their verdict and the information was no longer "sub judice" and went along with it.

In an environment where right or left-wing extremists and their followers on social media neither understand or care about the rules, this position is no longer tenable and we need to find new ways of ensuring that accused and victims alike can be assured that there will be a fair trial.

Finkle Street in St Bees will be closed tomorrow

The County Council Highways department has announced that Finkle Street in St Bees will be closed tomorrow (13th June 2018) for utility works (on the Telecommunications network).

If I understand the map which they issued (above) correctly the closure may also affect a substantial part of High House Hill, about halfway to the A595. Those who are familiar with St Bees will know that Finkle street is a short road which runs from the High Street where the Albert Hotel stands on the junction, up the hill past the village hall and the entrance to The Crofts and then merges into High House Hill. The vast majority of the road shown orange above is High House Hill, with only the extreme Western end of the area so marked being Finkle Street.

Anyway I would advise against assuming you will be able to drive through the stretch of road shown orange above tomorrow (Wednesday 13th June!)

Quote of the day 12th June 1018

Monday, June 11, 2018

Parkrun results

Over the UK as a whole during an amazing NHS Parkrun weekend there were 152,011 people who completed the 5,000 metres courses (including those who ran, jogged or walked it) and 15,154 volunteers who helped organise more than 350 NHS Parkrun events.

They'd hoped to have 85,000 people involved so that is an absolutely amazing turnout.

Quote of the Day 11th June 2018

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Pay deal for NHS staff

The NHS unions have voted to accept a pay deal which will now come into effect.

This is what Jeremy Hunt had to say:

Saturday music spot: the Papagena/Papageno duet from the Magic Flute

For those who have never seen Mozart's Magic flute, (and unless you are tone deaf and have no sense of humour, you really, really should!) bird-man Papageno is the hero's sidekick, and this duet is his happy ending near to the conclusion of the opera.

Congratulations to the Organisers, Volunteers, and participants in the NHS70 Parkruns

The 70th birthday celebrations for the NHS began this morning in fine style with NHS70 Parkruns around the country.

This was a Cumbrian initiative which went National: here is Nicola Jackson who had the idea and was the director for this morning's event in Carlisle - one of hundreds of such events around the country.

There were about 360 participants in the Carlisle Parkrun this morning, supported by a large number of wonderful volunteers who prepared and stewarded the event and provided water and cake afterwards!

As I explained in previous posts, the advice was to "Run, jog or walk" according to what is appropriate for your own health, and I had not done any running for forty years - my sport is swimming - so I decided to walk the 5,000 metre course, which took me an hour and three minutes. I finished about two minutes behind one of the local NHS's clinical directors and two minutes ahead of another, both of whom had also decided to walk (no names, no pack drill) though the chairman of the CCG and the County Council's director of public health both managed to run the event!

My wife suggested that if I was going to walk the course I should have put a bag with 200 leaflets on my shoulder and mimed putting one through a letter box every 25 metres and it would have been exactly like the exercise I got most evenings during the three election campaigns which took up the first half of last year (except that Chance Park in Carlisle is a lot flatter than much of Copeland!)

Superb event and congratulations to all those who took part and to Nicola and all the organisers and volunteers.

Quote of the day 9th June 2018

Friday, June 08, 2018

Reminder - ParkRun tomorrow to celebtrate 70 years of the NHS

Don't forget the NHS 70th anniversary Park Run tomorrow, a Cumbria initiative which has gone national.

For more details of the ParkRun events for NHS70, go to the NHS England NHS70 website at

You don't actually have to run (especially if it is still this hot in Cumbria) you can walk, run or just turn up to join the start of the celebrations commemorating 70 years of the NHS.

NHS70 Parkruns in Cumbria are taking place in venues including Carlisle, Penrith and Millom.

Quote of the day 8th June 2018

Hat tip to Matt Haig @matthaig1 who shared this on twitter.
(It can also be found on page 86 of his book, "Notes on a nervous planet.")

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Midweek music spot: the Bach Magnificat in D Major (BWV 243)

A British Muslim raises concerns about Jeremy Corbyn's approach to Muslims and Jews

Hat tip to @MaajidNawaz on twitter for drawing my attention to this piece in the Daily Telegraph today by devout Muslim and former Labour party member Ed Husain.

Husein and Nawaz think the effect of the current Labour leadership's approach to community issues risks setting Muslims and Jews against each other - something which would be bad for Britain as well as both communities.

Quote of the day 6th June 2018

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: 

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.

The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. 

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. 

But this is the year 1944! The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory! 

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory! 

Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

(General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, 6 June 1944, message to the men and women who were about to carry out the D-Day landings 74 years ago today.).

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Walk, jog or run this Saturday to celebrate 70 years of the NHS

The NHS 70th anniversary Park Run this Saturday is a Cumbria initiative which has gone national.

You don't actually have to run (especially if it is still this hot in Cumbria) you can walk, run or just turn up to join the start of the celebrations commemorating 70 years of the NHS.

NHS70 events in Cumbria are taking place in venues including Carlisle, Penrith and Millom.

Quote of the day 5th June 2018

Monday, June 04, 2018

Sajid Javid and Number 10 confirm they are looking again at cap on visas for doctors

The NHS in Cumbria is working hard to try to recruit more doctors and nurses and has had issues with an immigration cap on Visas for skilled workers from outside the EU, the so called "Type 2 Visas" issue. They have raised this with politicians of all parties and have had a sympathetic hearing from Cumbrian representatives.

The issue of Type 2 Visa restrictions was taken up with ministers on a cross party basis by Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, working with all the other MPs of all parties representing Cumbria.

Pleased to see that over the weekend home secretary, Sajid Javid, said he was “taking a fresh look” at the policy, suggesting that it might be changed.

Today the prime minister’s official spokesman said that officials were keeping a close eye on NHS applications, which No 10 regards as a high priority in ensuring Britain’s economy has the workers it needs.

“Visa routes are always under review and we are monitoring the situation in relation to visa applications for doctors, including the monthly limits, including through the tier 2 visa route,” he said.

“The government fully recognises the contribution that international professionals make to the UK and we do keep visa routes under review; however it’s important that our immigration system works in the national interest and ensures that employers look first to the resident UK labour market before recruiting from overseas.”

Specifically on the potential shortage of doctors, he added: “There is a review under way and we are monitoring the situation closely.” Last week, the BMJ reported that between December and March more than 1,500 visa applications from doctors with job offers in the UK were refused as a result of the cap on tier 2 visas for workers from outside the European Economic Area.

Reactions to Tracey Ullman's political humour

Interesting thing:

When Tracey Ullman takes the mickey out of Theresa May, Tories laugh along with everyone else.

But when the Tracey Ullman show takes the mickey out of Jeremy Corbyn …

… the Corbynistas fill social media with howls of outrage, complain about BBC bias, and come up with utterly delusional conspiracy theories.

All good humour has at least some truth in it, but is this reaction from the Corbyn acolytes because

1) The second sketch above is painful to Corbyn supporters because it has too much truth in it, or

2) They don't like it because their attitude to Jeremy Corbyn is closer to the way that the followers of a spiritual leader rather than a political one normally regard their leader,

3) They're just not very good at accepting other points of view,

4) All of the above?

Quote of the day 4th June 2018

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

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Saturday music spot: Dominico Scarlatti, "Fandango" for Harpsichord

President Reagan makes the case for Free Trade

Here is a superb speech which President Ronald Reagan made in 1988 making the case for free trade.

It was broadcast thirty years ago and yet every word is relevant today - in fact, it is incredibly prescient in that it could have been written to systematically demolish the ridiculous arguments made for higher tariffs by his present-day successor in the White House.

I particularly like the passages where he says that "Part of the difficulty in accepting the good news about trade is in our words. We too often talk about trade while using the vocabulary of war. In war for one side to win, the other must lose. 

But commerce is not warfare. Trade is an economic alliance that benefits both countries. There are no losers, only winners and trade helps strengthen the free world."

"Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies. They are our allies." 

I can remember that when Reagan was standing for election and indeed for some time afterwards the same sort of people who more recently presented Donald Trump as a dangerous moron were making exactly the same sort of charge against Ronald Reagan.

Every government makes mistakes, but looking back on the legacy of the Reagan era he looks more and more like a great man and one of the best ever US presidents as time passes, particularly in comparison with most of his successors of both parties.

Perhaps, as Bill Maher recognised too late, because the opponents of Ronald Reagan, John McCain, Mitt Romney and George W Bush cried wolf, presenting them as evil idiots who would bring the end of the world, when in Maher's words "they were honourable men who we disagreed with, and we should have kept it that way" they made it easier for a US president to be elected who really is many of the things which they wrongly accused people like Ronald Reagan of being.

If you are tempted by the idea that we should approach trade using the language of conflict, listen to what the Great Communicator had to say about it.

Copeland MP's "Saturday Chataway" and litter pick in St Bees today

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison will be holding her next "Saturday Chataway" charity coffee morning and opportunity to raise issues with elected representatives at St Bees Village Hall in Finkle Street, St Bees from 10am to noon today, Saturday, 2nd June.
There will be followed by a community litter pick from 1pm to 3pm.
Details of the "Saturday Chataway" events can be found on Trudy's website here but the current programme after today is planned to be:
Saturday 7th July, 10am - 12pm. Egremont - Venue to be confirmed
Saturday 4th August, 10am - 12pm, Seascale Library, Seascale
Saturday 1st September, 10m - 12pm, Cleator Moor - Venue to be confirmed
Saturday 6th October, 10am - 12pm, Church Room, Braithwaite
Saturday 3rd November, 10am - 12pm, Richmond Community Centre, Hensingham
Saturday 1st December, 10am - 12pm, Captain Shaw's School, Bootle