Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Vaccination update


 










Happy birthday to Her Majesty

 H.M. the Queen is 95 years old today.

Happy birthday, your majesty.


Midweek music spot: Franz Xaver Mozart - Piano Quartet

No, the Christian names are not a typo. 

Franz Xaver Mozart was the youngest child of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

He was a very good composer but unfortunately for his reputation he went through his life with his music constantly being compared to that of his late father - and being compared to W A Mozart would be a challenge for anyone. 

But as I think this piano quartet demonstrates, F X Mozart was quite capable of writing some pretty good music in his own right.

The Overseas Operations Bill

Today the Overseas Operations Bill returns to the House of Commons for its final stages of debate. The Bill will deliver on protection for service personnel and veterans from endless legal cycles and repeated investigations.

  • Our Armed Forces put themselves in harm’s way day in, day out, to keep our country safe – so it is only right that we protect them from vexatious claims and repeated investigations. 
  • This is not about putting our armed forces above the law, but about giving British soldiers, sailors and air force people a similar rights not to be placed in "double jeopardy" by being investigated for the same allegations again and again, which civilians take for granted, and about introducing a reasonable time limit to claims similar to the "statute of limitations" principle in the laws of many countries including Britain.
     
  • The Overseas Operations Bill will prevent the legal pursuit of our troops where there is no new evidence, by introducing a new five year limit on the time in which troops can be subject to civil legal claims, helping to stop unfounded investigations. 
     
  • The government will introduce separate legislation to address the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible - and in a way that focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of reinvestigations into the Troubles in Northern Ireland delivering on our commitments to Northern Ireland veterans.
     
  • By terminating the cycle of reinvestigations and claims that often plague our veterans, we can repay the extraordinary commitment and courage shown by the men and women who defend our nation, as part of our continued commitment to make the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran. 

The future of British football (after the six UK clubs pulled out of the European Super League)

It is welcome news that six premier league clubs involved from the UK have now decided to withdraw from the European Super League. 

Lot of people who understand football far better than I would claim to have presented a convincing case that a "closed shop" of the existing richest clubs who can never be promoted or relegated and do not face competition from outside their own group would have been very bad for the game.

The government remains committed to the fan-led review of football chaired by Tracey Crouch of football and will work hard to protect the integrity of "the beautiful game."

  •  As the Prime Minister has said, football is in our national DNA. We invented it, we helped export it around the world, and it has been a central part of British life for over a century.
     
  • While we welcome the decision of these clubs involved to withdraw from the competition, we remain convinced of the need for reform. Our fan-led review, chaired by Tracey Crouch MP, will look at everything we can do as a government to support all football clubs across the country, from governance reform to competition laws and the mechanisms which allow football to take place – so we can ensure this never happens again.
     
  • Football is for the fans, and the government is on their side – and their voices must always be heard when it comes to the future of our national game.

Tackling climate change

Today Britain will enshrine into law the world’s most ambitious climate change target, which will accelerate our efforts to meet our commitment of Net Zero by 2050, as we continue to raise the bar on tackling climate change -  championing innovation and green jobs as we build back better. 

  • The UK is already leading the world in tackling climate change and setting ambitious targets – but we want to continue to raise the bar and set an example to other countries. 
     
  • That is why, as part of the UK’s sixth Carbon Budget, we will set into law the world’s most ambitious climate change target – to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, bringing us more than three-quarters of the way towards being Net Zero by 2050 - fueling new technologies, green innovation and creating jobs in the progress. 
     
  • We want to see world leaders follow Britain's example and match our ambition in the run up to COP 26, as we can only build back better, and greener, and protect our plant if we come together to take action.

Quote of the day 21st April 2021

“Little by little and without warning, do-gooders and censorship have taken control. Obsessed by their image of upholders of morality, a whole load of people without culture, without experience and without courage are trying to impose their narrow-minded ideas on us. Their sterile, uniform and puerile ideas are seeking to invade humanity. 

If we have the misfortune not to think like them, they rush at us with all their dictatorial energy to try to make us be quiet. Humour is quietly disappearing as a result of their moralising speeches, freedom is in its death throes, creation is lifeless and democracy in great danger. In short, it is not good to joke in 2021…”


(Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who has been a singer/songwriter, a model and First Lady of France, launching a tirade against "cancel culture" on Instagram.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Vaccination update

 









Latest figures - As of 20 April, 

43,457,910 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given in the UK.





Labour's Hartlepool hospital hypocrite

The Labour party appears to be unable to fight an election without accusing their opponents of wanting to cut hospitals. Sometimes they raise issues which are genuine concerns: sometimes they are guilty of the worst and most blatant scaremongering, as their egregious by-election campaign in Copeland demonstrated in 2017.

But their candidate in the current Hartlepool by election is atrocious even by the low standards set by Labour in Copeland.

Guido Fawkes reports that  Labour’s Hartlepool candidate Dr Paul Williams invited Jonathan Ashworth up to complain about a lack of hip operations in the town. 

Williams accurately said this is the result of cuts, but he failed to be so open about who was responsible for them: Paul Williams himself. 

In 2013 Dr Williams was a commissioner and co-author of the report that recommended the removal of services – including critical care – from Hartlepool Hospital. The recommendation was adopted in full…

Not satisfied with closing down the hospital’s critical care unit, Williams also recommended slashing the number of planned operations, including hip replacements, despite admitting his proposals would “worry” local people:

You couldn't make it up. Unless you are a Labour candidate writing election material about the NHS in which case you can and will make up whatever you like.


Tuesday music spot: VIvaldi Gloria, first movement

Flexible apprenticeships

A consultation has launched today on plans to create new flexible apprenticeships – opening up even more careers to apprentices as we build back better from the pandemic and create new jobs.

  • Everyone should be able to get the experience and knowledge they need to get the job they want, while making sure employers have the talented workforce they need.
     
  • That is why the government has today launched a consultation on flexi-job apprenticeships, which will boost opportunities in sectors like the creative industries where employment is often flexible or short term - creating even more chances for people to experience the life changing opportunity an apprenticeship can bring as we build back better from the pandemic.
     
  • This will help create more opportunities for people across the country, giving them the hope, skills and experience to progress their career and drive our recovery from the pandemic as we build back better.

The new football super-league

Today, the Prime Minister was due to chair a meeting of senior football officials and fans’ representatives to discuss the proposed European Super League – maintaining that all measures are on the table. The government is determined to  do whatever it takes to protect the integrity of the game of football.

  • As the PM has set out today, football is in our national DNA. We invented it, we helped export it around the world, and it has been a central part of British life for over a century. 
     
  • That is why the government has reiterated our full backing to the football authorities as they consider a range of sanctions and measures to stop these tone deaf plans that go against the very spirit of the game. 
     
  • Alongside the work of the football authorities, a fan-led review of football, chaired by Tracey Crouch MP, has been set up to look at everything the Government does to support these clubs, from governance reform to competition law and the mechanisms that allow football to take place. The government intends to take any reasonable and practical measures possible to stop the European Super League going ahead. 
     
  • The government is and must be on the side of fans - and their voices must be heard when it comes to the future of our national game. It starts with fans, and it ends with fans.

Quote of the day 20th April 2021

"Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war" 

 (Possibly the last line spoken onscreen by the late Alan Rickman, from the film "Eye in the Sky")

Monday, April 19, 2021

The proposed European football super league

I have rarely seen such a display of consensus over the entire spectrum of political and non-political perspectives on social media as there was yesterday in opposition to the proposed new football "super league."

The Prime Minister has condemned plans for a football European Super League, and urged clubs to listen to their fans and communities before taking any further steps.

  • Plans for a European Super League could be very damaging for football, and the government will support football authorities in taking action. 
     
  • The new league could potentially do significant damage to the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. 
     
  • The clubs involved must engage with their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps in this direction.

Protecting the vulnerable online

Today the Home Secretary is calling on technology companies such as Facebook to take more action to protect people using their platforms, especially children.

  • An estimated three quarters of a million individuals across the globe are estimated to be looking to connect with children for sexual purposes online at any one time – we have a moral duty to act and protect children online. 
     
  • But sadly, at a time when we need to be taking more action, Facebook are pursuing end-to-end encryption plans that place the good work and progress achieved so far in jeopardy. This is not acceptable – we cannot allow a situation where law enforcement’s ability to tackle abhorrent criminal acts and protect victims is severely hampered. 
     
  • The UK government is urging Facebook and other technology companies to deepen their engagement with governments here and around the world to embed the safety of the public in their system designs. The safety and protection of our children depends on it.

New mortgage scheme launched for first-time buyers

Today sees the launch of a new 95 per cent government-backed mortgage scheme, helping first-time buyers get their feet on the property ladder in an easy and affordable way, to level up the country.

  • For too many people, no matter how hard they work, home ownership can seem out of reach – one of the biggest divides in our country has been between those can afford their own home, and those who cannot. 
     
  • That is why the government is launching a new 95 per cent mortgage scheme - allowing first time buyers or current homeowners to purchase a home with only a 5 per cent deposit on a house worth up to £600,000 – providing an affordable route to home ownership.
     
  • Alongside other schemes to get people on the housing ladder - including Help to Buy, Shared Ownership and the First Homes Scheme - we are helping turn ‘Generation Rent’ into ‘Generation Buy' as we level up and build back better.

Quote of the day 19th April 2021

"The miracle of Scottish history is that a country that for centuries so closely resembled Afghanistan in our own time — torn apart by compulsively warring mountain clans and religious fanatics, and subject to recurrent foreign interference — should have transformed itself in the space of a generation into a cradle of the Enlightenment. 

As Scott observed in the postscript to “Waverley”: “There is no European nation which, within the course of half a century or little more, has undergone so complete a change as this kingdom of Scotland.”


(Niall Ferguson, from an article "To save the UK, give Scotland the Canada treatment" which you can read in full here.)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Preparing for the safe return of large events

Today a live gig was added to the programme of trials for the safe return of large audiences, taking us one step closer to a summer of live events that we can all enjoy.

  • Through the Events Research Programme, the government is  piloting events to help shape Britain's approach to how we allow the safe return of large audiences at venues and events in the future. 
     
  • A live gig at Sefton Park has now been added to this programme, and with attendee testing and controlled settings, this pilot will further trial approaches to managing and mitigating transmission risks at outdoor events, building on the evidence collected at other events including today’s FA Cup semi-final fixture at Wembley, with the evidence used to support the phased return of fuller audiences to venues and events.
     
  • These pilots are taking us one step closer to the return of large audiences at live events as we gradually get closer to enjoying the big events we have missed over the past year.

Quote of the day 18th April 2021

 


Sunday music spot; Mozart's "Sanctus" from the short mass in D Major (KV 194)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Vaccination update

 42,110,495 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered in the United Kingdom.

+604,727 doses in the latest 24hr period.

32,693,527 people have received their first dose, with 9,416,968 of those having a second dose (fully vaccinated).



Saturday music spot: Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp (2nd movement)

In this performance the Flautist is Anna Komarova.

The child prodigy playing the harp so beautifully is Alisa Sadikova.

Quote of the day 17th April 2021

A minute's silence at 3pm today

There will be a national minute's silence at 3pm today, at the start of his funeral, to mark the passing of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Government, Industry, lobbying and transparency

This week the revelations about Greensill have given rise to much discussion about lobbying and the relations between present and former ministers and civil servants and industry.

The public needs to know both that no rules were broken and that the rules themselves are fit for purpose.

That is why, earlier this week, the government announced an independent review into supply chain finance to better understand how businesses engage with Government and ensure best practice is being followed. 

  • Since 2010, the government has taken a number of actions to improve  transparency and openness in how it works. These have included extensive transparency publications on contracts, spending and meetings, and a statutory register of consultant lobbyists.            
     
  • To ensure the highest standards in public life, the government will go even further by reviewing and improving business appointment rules, enhancing transparency and improving the procurement process.
     
  • An independent review will examine the development of supply chain finance, including the role of Greensill, and how business representatives engaged with government.

No campaigning tomorrow

Political campaigning for all election including council electios, PCC elections and for the Scottish and Welsh devolved bodies will be suspended tomorrow to mark the funeral of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

Our thoughts remain with Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family during this difficult time. 

Music to start the weekend: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata

My speech about Edward Jenner at yesterday's full council meeting

 I had the last word yesterday at Cumbria County Council - the last item on the agenda was the slot for speeches by county councillors. I used it to make a speech calling for the statue of the founder of modern vaccination, Edward Jenner, which was originally unveiled in Trafalgar Square by Prince Albert, to be put back there.

His statue was moved to a less prominent position in Kensington Gardens after Prince Albert died as a result of pressure from an unholy alliance between the anti-vaxxers of the day and elements of the military who as the British Medical Journal put it at the time, thought that Trafalgar Square should be reserved for those who took the lives of their fellow men and objected to Edward Jenner being there because he had only saved lives.

This was the text of my speech.

Speech to Full Council 15th April 2021

"Mr Chairman, members, officers and any members of the public still watching.

Councillors will probably be relieved to learn that although I have not changed my view that the A595 urgently needs to be improved, that will be my one mention of that road today.

I want to talk about an issue which links the current pandemic, in particular the vaccination programme which is so vital to our recovery, the fact that so called “cancel culture” is not as new as we may think, and the righting of a wrong against the memory of a great man of science and medicine whose work two centuries ago laid the foundations for the current fight against Coronavirus.

I am, and I hope and presume most members of this council are, among the majority of residents of Cumbria who have had one or more doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. As of Wednesday more than 3.46 million people in our region had received a first dose of an approved vaccine and more than 925 thousand a second dose. All of the top nine categories of vulnerable people were offered a vaccination by Monday of this week, a couple of days ahead of the promised target.

Although the dates suggest that most of the heavy lifting in ending Britain’s second wave of COVID came from the lockdown which is gradually now ending, academic studies have suggested that the vaccination programme has already saved ten thousand lives and it will undoubtedly save many more – it is also vital to our route out of lockdown.

To have developed a vaccine so quickly against a virus which nobody in Britain had heard of fifteen months ago and use it to protect so many millions of people is an incredible achievement for the scientists of all countries who have been involved and all the NHS staff and everyone else who has contributed to the programme

A phrase often wrongly attributed to Shakespeare or Newton, and Newton did use it but it actually goes back to St.  Bernard of Chartres in the 12th Century, is that those who achieve great things often stood on the shoulders of giants. The first set of shoulders which those who have brought off the incredible vaccination programme were standing on were those of an 18th century English doctor called Edward Jenner.

Edward Jenner was not the first person to invent any form of vaccination – an earlier procedure against smallpox called variolation goes back to fifteenth-century China. This involved injecting dead smallpox residue into the body – it did provide some protection but at a very heavy price: it carried a 2% risk of killing the person vaccinated and also a risk that the person injected could become a carrier of smallpox.

Jenner was however the first person to produce a safe and effective vaccine – he scientifically tested the popular theory that people who had been exposed to a similar mild disease, cowpox did not get smallpox, proved that it was based in fact, and devised a successful vaccination procedure for smallpox based on  injecting dead cowpox residue. This was effective, carried a vastly lower risk of death – about one in half a million – and could not make the person injected into a carrier.

Jenner’s vaccination faced ridicule and opposition from the equivalents in his age of today’s Anti-Vaxxers – but it worked, it was gradually increasingly adopted throughout the world, and it eventually led to the complete eradication of smallpox by 1980. It is estimated that Edward Jenner’s vaccination saved 300 million lives – which means that he probably saved more human lives than anyone else in history.

A bronze statue to Edward Jenner was originally unveiled in Trafalgar Square by Prince Albert on 17th May 1858. This was opposed by the anti-vaxxers of the time and also by some military men because at that time Trafalgar Square was reserved for memorials for military figures. That latter tradition was, of course, abandoned some time ago.

As I have said, the practices of cancel culture such as attacks on statues are not limited to our own century, and  opponents of vaccination made several attempts to have the statue taken down.   While Prince Albert lived the government rightly stood firm against this, but after Albert died the opponents managed in 1862 to get the statue moved to a less prominent position in Kensington Gardens.

Mr Chairman, this is the year to correct that disgraceful injustice to a truly great man and by correcting it, make the point of how much we owe to those who have worked in medicine and by the use of vaccination and other techniques protected us from the scourge of disease. The idea of reserving Trafalgar square for military memorials has long been abandoned and no longer applies.

Our generation has particular cause to be grateful to Edward Jenner because as the father of modern scientific vaccination he started the process which at this very moment is not just saving so many people from death and illness but also paving the way to the end of lockdown and giving us our lives back.

It is time to put Edward Jenner’s memorial back in Trafalgar Square.

I am talking to colleagues about the possibility of a national petition to call for this and I hope that if and when that petition is put forward that everyone listening will be able to support it.

Thank you for listening to me and, Mr Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to pay tribute to a great man who saved hundreds of millions of lives and deserves to be far better remembered."

A thought on those who laugh three times at a joke

I considered and rejected this as my quote for today, not because it doesn't describe something that often happens but because I think it is wrong to suggest that it only happens to stupid people/














Laughter is infectious and hearing other people laugh often makes us laugh with them. 

And humour works differently for different people, so the fact that you don't always get every joke at the same time as everyone else does not necessarily prove that you are stupid.

Indeed, having enough self-knowledge to be able to laugh at yourself is a sign of intelligence. So someone who laughs three times at a joke - the first time because everyone else is laughing, the second time when they actually get the joke and the third time at himself or herself for laughing before getting the joke - probably isn't stupid.

Quote of the day 16th April 2021


 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Music to relax after a council meeting

Today's Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council

Today's Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council (about to start at 10am on 15th April 2021)  will include the election of the council leader and the Chair and Vice chair of the council.

The meeting will take place online and this link should enable you to watch and listen to the meeting:

https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NDJjMjhiMTktNGFjNi00Yjc5LTg2N2YtZjYyMTgyYWVjMGE3%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22ac4b077e-a758-4bc5-9465-35c192007704%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%2292abf29a-2999-4456-9c44-884bfe2e94a3%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d&btype=a&role=a

The agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website at:

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 15th April, 2021, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council


Care Homes

Yesterday the government launched a five week consultation on making vaccines a condition of deployment for staff in care homes with older adult residents in England – as part of the aim to explore every option to protect the lives of the most vulnerable to the virus.

  • Older people living in care homes continue to be most at risk of suffering the serious consequences of Covid-19, and despite best efforts to protect them, we have seen the grave effect the virus has had on this group.
     
  • With nearly half of all care homes with older adult residents yet to meet SAGE’s recommended vaccine threshold, we have opened a consultation on making vaccines a condition of deployment – which would provide greater protection for staff and residents, helping save lives.
     
  • Vaccines are our best way out of this pandemic, already taking millions of people out of the path of the virus and preventing deaths – and in our duty of care to those most vulnerable, we will not hesitate in considering all options to keep them safe.

A very good article on the impact of the pandemic

There was an excellent and very comprehensive piece in the FT on Tuesday about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic based on excess death figures. You can read it here.

I will be commenting in a bit more detail after today's council meeting.

It begins as follows:

"The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 136.6m cases confirmed globally and more than 2.9m people known to have died."

The article later explains the basis they have used for comparison:

"There are concerns, however, that reported Covid-19 deaths are not capturing the true impact of coronavirus on mortality around the world. The FT has gathered and analysed data on excess mortality — the numbers of deaths over and above the historical average — across the globe, and has found that numbers of deaths in some countries are more than 50 per cent higher than usual. In many countries, these excess deaths exceed reported numbers of Covid-19 deaths by large margins."

The article includes these charts and tables showing which countries have had the largest number of excess deaths in both absolute terms and per head of population, and how the death rate has varied over time by country compared with the five year average for the relevant time of year as successive waves of the pandemic have hit different countries.























It also reports on the efforts being made to vaccinate people around the world and other strategies to control the pandemic. In terms of excess deaths per head of population the FT ranks Britain just outside the twenty worst-hit countries at 21st out of the 48 countries for which they had enough reliable data to calculate excess deaths.

Afghanistan

Yesterday the Foreign and Defence Secretaries confirmed the UK will join the US and our NATO allies in drawing down our forces in Afghanistan over the coming months but will remain steadfastly committed to supporting lasting peace and stability in the region.  

  • Britain stands with NATO and the people of Afghanistan to support a more stable, peaceful future for the country, and will continue to work closely with the US, our allies and partners to ensure the security and stability of the wider region.
     
  • As UK forces are we withdrawn, the government will plan for an orderly departure of our people, which ensures the security of our people currently serving, and will continue to help build up Afghanistan’s capacity for self-governance and will continue with counter-terrorism support to help protect the gains made over the last 20 years.
     
  • Many in our Armed Forces community, both serving and veterans, will have lasting memories of their service in Afghanistan, and as we conclude our military operations there, we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and who will never be forgotten.

Quote of the day 15th April 2021

"If Prince Philip had lived to hear the House of Commons tributes to him, he might well have died laughing."


(Title of Commons Sketch article by Tom Peck, suggesting that the late Duke of Edinburgh, who had a great sense of humour, had said that he didn't want any fuss over his death, and was known for his brutal honesty and for saying exactly what he thought, might have been very amused by some of the things which MPs said about him on Monday.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Vaccination update

40,496,685 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered in the United Kingdom.

388,808 doses in the latest 24hr period.

32,326,604 people have received at least one dose, of whom 8,170,081 have had both jabs and are now fully vaccinated.









On Monday, Britain reached our target to vaccinate the most vulnerable by the 15th of April - meaning that we can now begin to vaccinate those aged over 45 as we continue to progress towards our target of offering all adults across the UK a vaccine by the end of July.

  • We have met our target to vaccinate the most vulnerable by the 15th of April, meaning that all those in the target groups 1-9  have now been offered a life-saving Covid-19 jab, more than 40 million of which have been given in total.
     
  • That is why, in line with JCVI recommendations to vaccinate people by age, invitations to receive a vaccine should be sent to all those aged over 45. If you are over 45 you do not have to wait to get a letter: ring 119 between 7am and 11pm on any day of the week or go on the vaccination booking website.
     
  • Prioritising those at increased risk from the virus will ensure that we save the most lives as we continue to progress towards our target of offering all adults across the UK a vaccine by the end of July.
     
  • Following a successful start last week in Wales, the Moderna vaccine is now being rolled-out in England as of yesterday, meaning the UK now has three safe and effective vaccines being rolled out across the country.

Blood clot risks

This graphic shows the proportion of people who have had blood clots following one of a number of four other possible events - having the Oxford AstraZeneca jab, taking the birth control pill, smoking, or catching COVID-19.

These percentages are an indication of correlation, not causation. The lower the level of correlation the weaker the argument that there is a causal connection.

But if there is a causal connection - which is not proven - the average person has about 40,000 times more risk of getting blood clots as a catching COVID-19 as they have of getting one as a result of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Midweek madrigal: "Come Again, sweet love doth now invite," by John Dowland

University students can return from 17th May

It has been announced that all university students will be able to return to campus from 17th May, ensuring they can they get the world class education they deserve, while also stopping the spread of the virus.

  • It has always been a high priority has to keep young people as safe as possible while ensuring that they continue to receive the high-quality education that they deserve.
     
  • That is why the government announced yesterday that all students will be able to return to university from the 17th of May - and is putting in additional support to ensure this is safe, including twice-weekly testing for all students and staff and a further £15 million in funding for students facing financial hardship.
     
  • Allowing the return of face-to-face teaching will mean that students can get back to normal and continue to access the best possible opportunities as we build back better from the pandemic.

Comeback of the century

"This is completely unacceptable".

(Sir Keir Starmer, then shadow Brexit secretary)

"We've actually cut and pasted this from your own web site"

(Gavin Barwell, then Chief of Staff to PM Theresa May)

Quote of the day 14th April 2021

 


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Campaigning resumes

The Conservative party and most other political parties suspended campaigning as a mark of respect from the sad news of Prince Philip's death for several days.

Campaigning for the local and police and crime commissioner elections has now resumed, but will stop again for the day on Saturday, the day of his funeral.

The path out of lockdown

Yesterday, shops, gyms, hairdressers, pubs and restaurants reopened in a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom. The government and health professionals have urged everyone to continue to behave responsibly as we push on with our vaccination programme.

  • Yesterday Britain reached the second phase of our cautious easing of lockdown restrictions as part of our route back to a more normal way of life.
     
  • This means that non-essential retail, outdoor attractions, indoor leisure facilitates, hospitality venues and self-contained accommodation are now able to open once again, funerals can continue with up to 30 people and the numbers able to attend weddings and receptions has risen to 15.
     
  • Whilst this will be a relief for business owners, and a chance for everyone to get back to doing many of the things they’ve missed, we urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’.

Quote of the day 13th April 2021


 

Vaccination update

Britain has now reached our target of schedule to offer a vaccine to all those in priority groups 1 – 9, meaning the most vulnerable in society have been given precious protection against Covid-19. This allows us to move forwards in our vaccine programme.

  • Ahead of our target date of 15 April, yesterday we hit the significant milestone of offering a vaccine to all those in the priority groups 1 – 9. 
     
  • This means that all adults over 50, the clinically vulnerable and health and social care workers have now been offered a life-saving Covid-19 jab, nearly 40 million of which have been given in total, and we can prepare to move into the next phase of our vaccination programme following advice from the JCVI on how to carry this out. 
     
  • We can all be grateful to everyone involved in the vaccine rollout which has already saved many thousands of lives, and the NHS will continue to progress towards our target of offering all adults a vaccine by the end of July.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Music to relax on a Monday evening: the RAF Central Band play the theme from "633 squadron"

I was just about to arrive at my destination earlier today when Ron Goodwin's theme from "633 squadron" came on the car radio. I really wanted to stop and listen to it but had to go in and fire up the computer and attend an online meeting.

So I'm now listening instead to this particularly good performance of the theme for a fictional RAF squadron played by the real airmen of the RAF central band.
 

PM's tribute to HRH Prince Philip in the House of Commons

 

The Prime Minister made the following tribute in the House of Commons this afternoon:

"Mr Speaker, I beg to move:

That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty expressing the deepest sympathies of this House on the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the heartfelt thanks of this House and this nation for his unfailing dedication to this Country and the Commonwealth, exemplified in his distinguished service in the Royal Navy in the Second World War; his commitment to young people in setting up The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a scheme which has touched the lives of millions across the globe; his early, passionate commitment to the environment; and his unstinting support to Your Majesty throughout his life.

Mr Speaker, it is fitting that on Saturday His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh will be conveyed to his final resting place in a Land Rover, which Prince Philip had designed himself, with a long wheel base and a capacious rear cabin, because that vehicle’s unique and idiosyncratic silhouette reminds the world that he was above all a practical man, who could take something very traditional – whether a machine or indeed a great national institution – and find a way by his own ingenuity to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th or the 21st century.

That gift for innovation was apparent from his earliest career in the Navy. When he served in the second world war, he was mentioned in despatches for his “alertness and appreciation of the situation” during the Battle of Cape Matapan, and he played a crucial role in helping to sink two enemy cruisers. But it was later, during the invasion of Sicily, that he was especially remembered by his crewmates for what he did to save their own ship.

In a moment of high danger, at night, when HMS Wallace was vulnerable to being blown up by enemy planes, he improvised a floating decoy – complete with fires to make it look like a stricken British vessel – so that the Wallace was able to slip away, and the enemy took out the decoy.

He was there at Tokyo Bay in 1945, barely 200 yards away from the Japanese surrender on the deck of USS Missouri; but he wasn’t content just to watch history through his binoculars. It seems that he used the lull to get on with repainting the hull of HMS Whelp; and throughout his life – a life that was by necessity wrapped from such a young age in symbol and ceremony – one can see that same instinct, to look for what was most useful, and most practical, and for what would take things forward.

He was one of the first people in this country to use a mobile phone. In the 1970s, he was driving an electric taxi on the streets of London – the fore-runner of the modern low-carbon fleet, and, again, a vehicle of his own specifications. He wasn’t content just to be a carriage driver. He played a large part in pioneering and codifying the sport of competitive carriage driving.

And if it is true that carriage-driving is not a mass-participation sport – not yet – he had other novel ideas that touched the lives of millions, developed their character and confidence, their teamwork and self-reliance. It was amazing and instructive, to listen on Friday to the Cabinet’s tributes to the Duke, and to hear how many were proud to say that they, or their children, had benefited from taking part in his Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes.

I will leave it to the House to speculate as to who claimed to have got a gold award, and who got a bronze. But I believe those ministers spoke for millions of people – across this country and around the world – who felt that the Duke had in some way touched their lives, people whose work he supported in the course of an astonishing 22,219 public engagements, people he encouraged, and, yes, he amused.

It is true that he occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol, and he coined a new word – dontopedalogy – for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth.

And it is also true that among his more parliamentary expressions he commented adversely on the French concept of breakfast, and told a British student in Papua New Guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten, and that the people of the Cayman Islands were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to Russia except that, as he put it, “the bastards murdered half my family”.

But the world did not hold it against him, Mr Speaker. On the contrary, they overwhelmingly understood that he was trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing and forget their nerves; and to this day there is a community in the Pacific islands that venerates Prince Philip as a god, or volcano spirit – a conviction that was actually strengthened when a group came to London to have tea with him in person.

When he spoke so feelingly about the problems of overpopulation, and humanity’s relentless incursion on the natural world, and the consequent destruction of habitat and species, he contrived to be at once politically incorrect and also ahead of his time.

In a quite unparalleled career of advice and encouragement and support, he provided one particular service that I believe the House will know in our hearts was the very greatest of all. In the constant love he gave to Her Majesty the Queen – as her liege man of life and limb, in the words he spoke at the Coronation – he sustained her throughout this extraordinary second Elizabethan age, now the longest reign of any monarch in our history.

It was typical of him that in wooing Her Majesty – famously not short of a jewel or two – he offered jewellery of his own design. He dispensed with the footmen in powdered wigs. He introduced television cameras, and at family picnics in Balmoral he would barbecue the sausages on a large metal contraption that all Prime Ministers must have goggled at for decades, complete with rotisserie and compartments for the sauces, that was – once again, Mr Speaker - a product of his own invention and creation.

Indeed as an advocate of skills and craft and science and technology this country has had no royal champion to match him since Prince Albert, and I know that in due course the House and the country will want to consider a suitable memorial to Prince Philip.

It is with that same spirit of innovation that as co-gerent of the Royal Family, he shaped and protected the monarchy, through all the vicissitudes of the last seven decades, and helped to modernise and continually to adapt an institution that is above politics, that incarnates our history, and that is indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

By his unstinting service to The Queen, the Commonwealth, the armed forces, the environment, to millions of people young and not so young around the world, and to countless other causes, he gave us and he gives us all a model of selflessness, and of putting others before ourselves. And though I expect Mr Speaker, he might be embarrassed or even exasperated to receive these tributes, he made this country a better place, and for that he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come."

Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council

The April 2021 full council meeting of Cumbria County Council on 15th April 2021  has been designated as the Annual General Meeting and will include the election of the council leader and the Chair and Vice chair of the council.

The meeting will take place online starting at 10am this link should enable you to watch and listen to the meeting:

https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_NDJjMjhiMTktNGFjNi00Yjc5LTg2N2YtZjYyMTgyYWVjMGE3%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22ac4b077e-a758-4bc5-9465-35c192007704%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%2292abf29a-2999-4456-9c44-884bfe2e94a3%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d&btype=a&role=a

The agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website at:

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 15th April, 2021, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council



Quote of the day 12th April 2021


 

Watch out for Ice and Snow this morning

After yesterday's wildly fluctuating weather conditions I had to remove a layer of ice from the windscreen this morning for the first time in several months. Watch out for slippery surfaces if you are travelling.



Sunday, April 11, 2021

Low Sunday

Today is nicknamed "Low Sunday" because the church usually seems very empty compared with Easter Sunday the week before.

Compared with pre-COVID attendances the church was not particularly full, but St James' Whitehaven was as full as I have seen it since the first lockdown.

Sunday music spot: Sanctus from the Mozart Requiem

Quote of the day 11th April 2021


 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Political campaigning suspended

As a mark of respect following the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, all political campaigning has been suspended until further notice.

That includes social media posts so I will not be posting anything on this blog or elsewhere on social media which could reasonably be seen as making party-political points.

I will be passing on any important public health information which comes to my attention, and giving details of council meetings in a non-partisan manner. Items which are not party-political, such as music posts and inspirational messages of a non-partisan nature - will continue to appear.


Music spot for Saturday 10th April 2021: "Requiem Aeternam" from the Mozart requiem

This is the start of Mozart's famous "Requiem Mass." 

The lyrics roughly translate as follows: 

"Grant them eternal rest O Lord,
and may everlasting light shine upon them.
You are praised, O God in Sion,
and worshipped in Jerusalem.
Here may prayer, O Lord, for all living things will come before you.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may everlasting light shine upon them."


Quotes of the day 10th April 2021

1) "He's the money man - except that we haven't got any money."

(The late HRH Prince Philip when George Osborne was being introduced as the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a bemused President of Indonesia, according to a tweet from GO yesterday.). 

Another example of the late Prince's humour: when  HRH Prince Philip and PM Jean Chrétien met for the first time, they spoke entirely in French.

Chrétien said: "You speak French very well for an Englishman".

Prince Philip replied:


2) "I am NOT an Englishman, and I've been speaking French since before you were born!"


Friday, April 09, 2021

Music spot 9th April 2021: March from Purcell's Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary

The First Sea Lord's tribute ...


 

The Chief of Defence Staff's tribute to Prince Philip

 


Prime Minister Boris Johnson pays tribute to Prince Philip


"It was with great sadness that a short time ago I received word from Buckingham Palace that His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has passed away at the age of 99.

Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.

He was the longest serving consort in history,

one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the second world war at Cape Matapan, where he was mentioned in despatches for bravery

and in the invasion of Sicily, where he saved his ship by his quick thinking and from that conflict he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the post war era.

Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.

With his Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people

and at literally tens of thousands of events he fostered their hopes and encouraged their ambitions.

We remember the Duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty The Queen.

Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her “strength and stay”, of more than 70 years.

And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.

Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather.

Speaking on their golden wedding anniversary, Her Majesty said that our country owed her husband “a greater debt than he would ever claim or we shall ever know” and I am sure that estimate is correct.

So we mourn today with Her Majesty The Queen

we offer our condolences to her and to all her family

and we give thanks, as a nation and a Kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh."

(Boris Johnson)

Prince Philip RIP

I was very sad to see that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99.

There is likely to be a pause in political campaigning as a gesture of respect. There will be no political posts on this blog until further notice.

Prince Philip served his country for longer than the traditional measure of a human lifetime, first as a naval officer - who fought in World War II against fascism and the Nazis - and then in giving decades of faithful support to Her Majesty the Queen.

Thoughts and prayers are with Her majesty and the royal family at this sad time.

Rest in Peace.





Investing in British colleges

The government has announced that sixteen colleges across England will benefit from transformative investment to upgrade their facilities, creating more excellent places for people to learn and get the skills they need to secure great jobs.  

  • As we recover from this pandemic, it is vital our colleges continue to be great places to learn with excellent facilities.
     
  • That is why the Prime Minister launched the £1.5 billion Further Education Capital Transformation Fund to rebuild colleges that are modern, fit for purpose and meet the needs of students and the communities they serve. The next sixteen colleges in England most in need to upgrade and revitalise their estates will now receive their funding.
     
  • This will help make sure that every student can access high quality education and training no matter where they live as we build back better and spread opportunity across the country.