Sunday, August 25, 2019

England win Third Test with stunning comeback

Congratulations to England on their astonishing comeback in the third Ashes test at Headingley, winning the match by one wicket to level the series at one match won for each side with two matches to go.

If Australia had won they would have made certain of retaining the Ashes by going two-nil up, making it impossible for England to move ahead of them even if they won both the remaining matches.

Up there with the top Ashes comebacks of all time - third Test at Headlingley (from having betting odds of 500:1 against at one point) and fourth at Edgbaston in 1981 by the Brearley/Botham/Willis side.

Quote of the day 25th August 2019

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Music to relax after campaigning: Telemann: Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Trumpet

Well done all those who have been campaigning today or otherwise talking to residents on the doorstep.

I was canvassing with and for the Conservative candidate for the Penrith South by-election for Eden District Council, Helen Fearon. This by-election is taking place in a ward where the margin in May this year was just 14 votes, so everything to play for!

Great response on the doorstep. 

Well done also to Copeland Tories who were out today in Bransty.

For everyone who was campaigning, surveying residents' opinions or otherwise out on the stump today, here is something to relax to: George Philip Telemann's Concerto in D major for Violin, Cello, Trumpet and Strings, TWV 53:D5

Strengthening our NHS

The NHS is always there for us – free at the point of use for everyone in the country – and truly showcases the very best of Britain

That’s why the Prime Minister has made it his immediate task to make sure frontline services have the funding they need, to make a real difference to the lives of NHS staff, and above all, of patients.

It’s time to make sure the NHS receives the funds it needs, to continue being the best healthcare service in the world. Getting our country back on the road to a brighter future by:

  • Upgrading 20 hospitals – ensuring that money for the NHS really does get to the front line. We’ve committed an extra £1.8 billion for the NHS – including £850 million for 20 hospitals – to ensure front-line services have the funding they need, supporting doctors, nurses, and of patients. 
  • Improving treatment for patients by injecting £250 million into artificial intelligence within the NHS. The government is are setting up a National Artificial Intelligence Lab to ensure people with conditions such as cancer and dementia can receive the latest treatments and truly personalised care.

Under the Conservatives we’ve protected our NHS:

  • Providing an extra £33.9 billion cash for the NHS by 2023-24 and ensuring this funding reaches the frontline. The five-year budget settlement is the biggest cash boost for the NHS ever.
  • Making sure out NHS has the staff it needs to continue delivering world class care. We are increasing doctor and nurses training places by a quarter, one of the biggest expansions in NHS history, and are training 15,000 GPs between 2015 and 2020. There are now over 17,550 more doctors than in May 2010, and over 17,000 more nurses on our wards. 

Jeremy Corbyn cannot be trusted to fund the NHS:

  • • Labour offered less money for the NHS. Labour’s manifesto committed 2.2 per cent more a year, which they said would make the NHS ‘the envy of the world’. This is much less than the 3.4 per cent a year.increase which the Conservatives are delivering
  • • The NHS in Wales has been underfunded by Labour. HM Treasury figures show that health spending in England increased by 22.6 per cent between 2010-11 and 2017-18, but only increased by 17.4 per cent in Wales over the same time period. If it had increased at the same rate, NHS Wales would have over £315 million more to spend. 

Our NHS is not for sale.

As the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have repeatedly made clear, the NHS is not on the table in trade talks.

Just as Labour always claims that their opponents will destroy the NHS, those who hate free trade always claim that whatever trade treaty is under consideration will mean selling off the NHS. Both claims have always turned out to be wrong.

Before the vote to leave the EU, the far left and some on the Leave side claimed that the proposed EU and USA trade treaty, TTIP, would mean selling off NHS assets to US companies. That was nonsense then.

Now the Labour party and some ultra-Remainers are recycling the same tired old scaremonger about any UK-USA trade treaty. That is nonsense now.

Quote of the day 24th August 2019

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Thin Blue line, continued

Today Wallingford, the home town of the late PC Mark Harper, paid a special tribute to the policeman who was killed in the line of duty last week, and was remembered in places all around Britain by a minute's silence.

Homes and businesses throughout the town displayed blue ribbons, representing "The Thin Blue Line" as a mark of respect.

Boris meets Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

This week the Prime Minister has met with German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron. He has made clear that

  • Britain will be leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances. No ifs, no buts.
  • We would prefer to leave with a deal and we will work in an energetic and determined way to get that better deal. 
  • This week the Prime Minister has written to Donald Tusk making clear the Government’s position that the backstop must be abolished. 
  • If it is not possible to reach a deal we will have to leave with no deal. The government is are turbocharging preparations, retooling government and making sure all necessary funding is made available. We will be ready by 31 October. 

Why this matters:

Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will implement the decision of the British electorate in the referendum and leave the EU by 31 October. We will get our country back on the road to a brighter future

Hospital Food

Today the government has launched a review into hospital food to make sure a hospital meal helps, not hinders, the patient’s recovery. 

  • Since entering Downing Street the Prime Minister has made it very clear that his government will make sure our world-class NHS has everything it needs to continue providing the very best front-line care. 
  • This root-and-branch review will guarantee hospitals serve nutritional, tasty and fresh meals that will not only aid patient recovery, but also fuel staff and visitors as they care for loved ones and the vulnerable. 
  • Restaurateur Prue Leith CBE will act as an advisor to the review which will establish new national quality standards for the food served to staff, patients and visitors. 

Why this matters:

This review will ensure our NHS remains the standard-bearer for healthy choices, as it works unstintingly to improve the nation’s well-being.

Quote of the day 23rd August 2019

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A minute's silence at 11am tomorrow to honour PC Andrew Harper

Thames Valley Police Force has announced it will be holding a minute's silence at 11am tomorrow (August 23 2019) to pay tribute to their fallen colleague, Andrew Harper, who was killed in the line of duty last week while responding to reports of a burglary near Sulhamstead on the A4

 A statement read:

"We will be holding a one minute silence across the force tomorrow (23/8) at 11am in memory of PC Andrew Harper.

 "Please be aware that these are private events and we kindly ask that the privacy of our officers/staff is respected across the force."

Other police forces (including here in Cumbria) and individuals will be joining in.

The thin blue line - an ex-copper writes

Britain is very fortunate in the quality of the vast majority of our police officers.

Any organisation as large as the police will sometimes make mistakes and the quality of leadership is still paying the price for the consequences of the lamentably successful attempt by Blair's "New Labour" project to introduce politically correct attitudes from the top down into every organisation they could reach.

Nevertheless the dedication and bravery of the vast majority of front-line police officers is amazing and far better than we probably deserve considering how they are all too often treated.

It's not a safe job. May police officers have laid down their lives in the line of duty.

Here in Cumbria we remember PC Bill Barker from Egremont, a hero who lost his life during an episode of flooding while warning motorists that a  bridge was unsafe and fell victim to the very danger he was warning people against.

As one of my school classmates pointed out on a recent post on this blog, another of our contemporaries at St Albans School, Francis Mason, grew up to become a policeman and died tragically young while bravely trying to prevent a bank robbery.

There is a very good piece in the Spectator by Rory Geoghegan who used to be a policeman but is now head of criminal justice at the Centre for Social Justice about the stresses and strains faced by police officers.

You can read it here.

Review of HS2

Yesterday the government announced and independent review of the HS2 (High Speed Rail phase 2) plan in order to obtain clear advice on the best way forward in respect of this project. 

  • The Prime Minister has been clear that transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, redistribute opportunity and support towns and cities across the UK, but that investments must be subject to continuous assessment of their costs and benefits. 
  •  Douglas Oakervee and his expert panel will consider all the evidence available, and provide us with clear advice on the future of the project. 
  • The final report will be sent by the autumn and inform our decisions on next steps for the project. 

Why this matters:

This review will provide the evidence to ensure Britain is investing in projects that deliver value for money and the best results for people across the country.

Good luck to all students collecting GCSE results today

Best wishes to all the thousands of students who get their GCSE results today.

Congratulations to those who have done well. Hope all of you, whether you have got the results you hoped for or not, find a positive way forward for the future.

Quote of the day 22nd August 2019

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Another Boris critic admits he's got something right ..

This morning my quote for the day was a reference and link to an article by estwhile Boris Johnson critic Bruce Anderson, "Was I wrong about Boris?"

At the end of the day I'm posting a link to an article by another Johnson critic, Charlotte Henry, who has found a subject on which she does agree with him.

It's called "On vaccines, Boris Johnson has hit the nail on the head" and you can follow a link to it by clicking on the title.

Midweek music spot: Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's The Magic Flute


I had heard this piece of music sung on its own many times before I actually went to see the opera "The Magic Flute."
However, my German was not nearly good enough to have picked up what the Queen of the Night is actually saying in this area.

When I did go to see the opera and found out what the words mean, it was, as the author and composer intended, a pretty major shock.

 This very powerful performance has English subtitles. If you already know the story, or are are otherwise not worried about a "spoiler" telling you about a pretty major story development, I can recommend this performance.

If you are not already familiar with the plot of the story and might want to see it at some point in the future without advance knowledge, I would advise against watching the video clip.

Boost for hospices

The Prime Minister has announced a £25 million cash boost for hospices, alleviating the everyday pressures faced on the frontline and ensuring they are able to continue their vital work supporting people at the end of their lives.

  •  This additional funding will protect hospices and palliative care services which support around 200,000 in the UK each year, helping to keep them open and improve the quality of end of life care, ensuring people are able to die as comfortably as possible. 
  •  The money will also support the sector by relieving workforce pressures as well as introducing new services – such as out-of-hours support, respite care and specialist community teams. 

Why this matters

End of life care is vitally important, as our NHS is committed to caring for everyone from cradle to grave. This cash boost will protect hospices and palliative care services so people across the country will have the best, most personalised and dignified choices when they die.

Quote of the day 21st August 2019

"Myself, along with Matthew Parris, Max Hastings and Simon Heffer are proud, stiff-necked characters who would never make concessions to secure consensus and who certainly do not write to be wrong. 

Yet in recent months, there has been agreement, at least on one crucial point: we have vied with each other to pour boiling oil on Boris. We all insisted that a Johnson administration would quickly disintegrate into risibility and chaos, exposing the country to manifold perils. 

Well, that has not happened. It may be that we were all wrong. I had assumed that although Boris wanted the self-aggrandisement of power, he would not move beyond ‘to be’, because he would have no idea what to do. 

That turned out to be nonsense. He had prepared for office. From the first moment, he displayed Montgomery’s favourite attribute: grip."

(Bruce Anderson, from a Spectator article, "Was I wrong about Boris?" Spoiler alerts - he concedes that the answer may well be "Yes.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

More support for Young People's mental health

The government is providing £3.3 million to support more young people with their mental health, as part of our plan to boost frontline NHS services.

  • The government has announved that it will provide £3.3 million to expand 23 local projects across England supporting children and young people’s mental health. 
  •  Thousands of young people will benefit from new mental health support including counselling, mentoring and wellbeing programmes in their communities. 
  •  The projects supported by this money have an emphasis on improving access to support outside of NHS services, including for groups such as LGBT young people or those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. 

Why this matters:

Ensuring young people have access to good mental health support can help them to thrive later in life. That’s why we are transforming local mental health care – backed by an extra £2.3 billion a year through the NHS Long Term Plan.

Borrowdale Road, Mirehouse to close at the end of August for carriageway repairs

As part of Cumbria County Council's action to fix potholes and repair roads in poor condition, there will be repair work coming up later this month in another road in my division.

Borrowdale Road in Mirehouse, Whitehaven will be closed temporarily for about three days from 27th August 2019 to allow Cumbria Highways to carry out carriageway patching works.

The road will be closed from its junction with Skiddaw Street extending in a westerly direction for a distance of about 100 metres.

 Alternative Route

A way for pedestrians and dismounted cyclists will be maintained at all times and a suitable alternative route for vehicles will be signed and available via Derwentwater Road, Meadow Road and Skiddaw Road.

Quote of the day 20th August 2019

"This headline is completely false. And it is scare mongering to suggest that this is government policy.

✅ The State Pension age is 68 which is fair, sustainable and affordable for all generations. 

👍 This Government is helping millions of people enjoy a secure retirement."

The above quote comes from Amber Rudd, responding to reports of  a think-tank recommendation that the retiring age should be raised to 75 which was wrongly presented by left-wing newspapers and some Labour politicians as if it were a Conservative policy.

It is not.

I quoted David Brin the other day - see box below. To have any chance of finding imaginative and original solutions to your problems you will need to consider a wide range of ideas, including some ideas which, when you do look at them, you will conclude are ridiculous.

The idea of raising the retirement age to anything remotely like 75 in the sort of timescale suggested by that think-tank report is a classic example of such a ridiculous idea.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A new police covenant

The Home Secretary has announced measures to crack down on violent crime, and plans for a new police covenant to ensure that the law acts as the deterrent it should be, to keep our streets safe.

  • The government is are accelerating plans to establish a Police Covenant, ensuring that brave officers who serve the county get the support and respect they so richly deserve. 
  • Earlier this week, the government published draft guidance to underpin new knife crime prevention orders, which will give the police an additional power to help steer vulnerable people away from serious violence. 

 Why this matters

This Government will always give the police the support, resources and powers they need – including recruiting 20,000 new officers over the next three years and empowering them to use stop and search.

Vaccination saves lives

Vaccination has been one of the most successful measures to prevent premature death in the history of medicine. That's not just my opinion, it is that of the NHS and most doctors.

It is a tragedy to see that Measles cases are increasing in the UK.

This is the wholly avoidable return of a very unpleasant disease which kills children, and it is happening mainly because of a drop in vaccination levels which in turn has been caused mainly by misleading nonsense spread by supporters of the anti-vaccination delusion (and by Russian bots.)

There are some people who for genuine medical reasons should not have particular vaccinations at particular times, If in doubt you should always consult your GP. But for the vast majority of people the benefits of vaccination massively outweigh the trivial risks involved.

That's why the Prime Minister has ordered urgent action to improve the number of children and young people receiving life-saving vaccinations, halting the spread of infectious diseases.

  • There has been a small decline in the uptake of the measles vaccine in recent years, meaning the UK has lost its ‘measles free’ status with the World Health Organisation, three years after we eliminated the virus.
  • The Prime Minister has called for health leaders to renew their efforts to improve uptake and has tasked the Department for Health and Social Care to deliver a comprehensive strategy to address the issue in the Autumn.
  • The government is also calling on social media companies to take decisive action to tackle misleading information online and the Prime Minister has called a summit of social media companies, to ensure they take the necessary steps to remove antivax misinformation.

Why this matters:

As part of the plan to boost frontline NHS services, the government is working with primary and community care providers to halt the spread of infectious treatable diseases in modern-day Britain.

Remembering the William Pit disaster

This week has seen the 72nd anniversary of the terrible disaster at William Pit in Whitehaven which killed 104 miners in August 1947.

The explosion which hit the mine that month also made 89 women widows and left 230 children without a father.

I remember attending the 60th anniversary commemoration in 2007 when four thousand people walked in procession from St Nicholas's gardens to the site of the former mine.

This was very far from being the only terrible disaster to hit Whitehaven during the years of coal mining. It was the worst of fourteen explosions at that mine, but there were also disasters at the other mines in the town, and in particular one at Wellington Pit in 1910 was even worse.

The Whitehaven coal field suffered many disasters and innumerable smaller accidents. It has been estimated that over 1700 men, women, and children lost their lives while mining coal in the Whitehaven collieries.

The saddest spot in Whitehaven is the memorial in St Nicholas' gardens to all the children who died while working in the town's coal mines.

Between 1880 and 1910, over 1000 fatalities occurred every year in British coal mines. An average of four miners were killed and 517 injured every day over that period.

In 1910 the national fatality figure rose to 1818 killed. Of these, 501 died in explosions, 658 through falls of ground, and 286 through haulage accidents.

The explosion of firedamp at Wellington Pit, Whitehaven in 1910, killed 136 men and boys, and remains Cumbria’s worst mining accident.

It is important to remember our history. Not least because if we remember he dangers which have tragically claimed so many lives we are more likely to be on our guard to prevent such tragedies from being unnecessarily repeated.

Quote of the day 19th August 2019

"Protectionism almost always ends up making the protected industry weaker and less able to compete against foreign imports... 

Instead of protectionism, we should call it destructionism."

(Ronald Reagan, 1985)

Reagan also said in one of his last broadcasts as President:

"In recent years, the trade deficit led some misguided politicians to call for protectionism, warning that otherwise we would lose jobs. But they were wrong again. In fact, the United States not only didn’t lose jobs, we created more jobs than all the countries of Western Europe, Canada, and Japan combined. The record is clear that when America’s total trade has increased, American jobs have also increased. And when our total trade has declined, so have the number of jobs.

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.

Yet today protectionism is being used by some American politicians as a cheap form of nationalism, a fig leaf for those unwilling to maintain America’s military strength and who lack the resolve to stand up to real enemies — countries that would use violence against us or our allies. Our peaceful trading partners are not our enemies; they are our allies. We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends — weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world — all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion; it is an American triumph, one we worked hard to achieve, and something central to our vision of a peaceful and prosperous world of freedom."

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The problem with A levels - a former headmaster writes

There is a thought-provoking piece on the CAPX website about the issues with A levels and the focus of higher education in Britain by former Headmaster John Claughton.

Among his concerns are the "rapid, massive, and deeply damaging rise in unconditional offers" and more generally, that the UK post-16 education system is very highly specialised to an extent which he argues is too great.

Claughton writes:

"Another, more worrying trend has emerged in recent years. Although A-levels were invented by universities as the criterion of entry, there has been a rapid, massive, and deeply damaging rise in unconditional offers. In 2019, 38% of all offers made through UCAS took this form, whereas five or six years ago such offers barely existed. This explosive growth merely reflects the need, if not desperation, for universities to fill their spaces. 

So, in too many cases A-level performance has become less significant than the predicted grades which schools put onto UCAS forms. As a former Head, I have put in those grades a thousand times and I know it’s a nonsense."

I heard a speaker from the new regulator interviewed on the radio on this subject while, topically, I was actually driving my daughter to her former school for the last time to pick up her A-level results.

She argued that there is sometimes a case for unconditional offers but there are concerns at the number, on the proportion based on predicted grades rather than those already achieved, and particularly at the way "conditional unconditional offers" are used to get students to go to universities which might otherwise not have been their first choice.

Yes, I know that "conditional unconditional offer" is a tautology, but it refers to a real and very common situation where a university tells an applicant that they can have an unconditional offer provided they accept it quickly and make the university concerned their first choice.

This is an abuse of the system and if it continues some kind of cap on unconditional offers based on predicted grades and a ban on this kind of "conditional unconditional offers" may be necessary.

Claughton also expresses the concern that at a time when in his opinion there is more demand for joint honours and a greater degree of ability to work across different specialties, the level of specialism in UK universities

"is no longer fit for purpose in an increasingly interdisciplinary world."

I'm not as convinced that this accurately describes what's going on in all UK Universities - it certainly doesn't fit the Higher Education establishment which which I am most familiar, the University of Bristol, on which I have served on University Court for a great many years.

However, he does describe a potential problem which needs to be avoided and hence I would recommend his article, which you can read here.

Leave Harry and Meghan alone

It seems impossible at the moment to pick up a national newspaper or spend any significant amount of time on mainstream or social media without finding some childish attack on or ridiculous and highly dubious "story" about Prince Harry or his wife.

Can't believe that I'[m the only person who's fed up with it.

Leave them alone.

Sunday Music Spot: Vivaldi's "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" (1st movement)

Sunday reflection: the fate of Christians in the Middle East

Not all that long ago there were a wide range of religions and cultures in the Middle East.

These included Christian and Jewish communities which had been there for thousands of years.

In the last couple of decades, thanks to the barbarism of DA'ESH (the self-styled "Islamic State" caliphate) and other extremists this is ceasing to be the case.

Five years ago there were more than 15,000 Christians in Mosul, the third largest city in IRaq, and their community had been there for 1,700 years.

Then DA'ESH arrived and gave these who didn't flee three choices - concert to Islam, pay a "Jirga" tax, or die. Most fled. Since the liberation of Mosul Only about forty have returned.

Jews, Bahai's and those Muslims who belong to the "wrong" traditions, such as Ahmadi Muslims, have also faced persecution.

"Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction" according to a speech made by Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Irbil in  Iraqi Kurdistan in London in May.

"Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom". 

Warda asked Britain's political class,

"Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organised persecution against us?"

A powerful article on the issue can be found here.

Any civilised society should protect freedom of religion (including, for the avoidance of doubt, the right not to believe in any faith, a right which is also in danger in the Middle East, where in some countries being charged with atheism can carry the death penalty.)

There is no easy way to deal with this problem but I believe the West, including Britain, should give a higher priority to putting diplomatic pressure on those states which allow or encourage any form to religious persecution to desist from doing so.

Quote of the day Sunday 18th August 2019

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Alternative Saturday music spot: the Bach version

I have never been able to decide whether I prefer Vivaldi's Concerto for four violins in B minor, (RV 580) as the composer originally wrote it, or the alternative version which Johann Sebastian transcribed into A Minor and set for four harpsichords.

I really like them both. So that you can compare, here is Bach's version, the concerto for 4 harpsichords (BWV 1065.)

Saturday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 violins

This is the piece which Bach subsequently rearranged and transposed for four harpsichords in its original form as composed by Antonio Vivaldi:

Gosforth Show and St Bees Flower show

Spent this morning at the excellent Gosforth Show just off the A595 between Gosforth and Seascale, on the Copeland Conservatives' tombola stall which was raising money both for party funds and for a local charity.

Despite yesterday's vile weather it has been absolutely beautiful in Gosforth and indeed most of West Cumbria today and the field didn't get too sodden so the show is going really well.

On the way home my wife and I called at the St Bees Flower show which is being held in the sports hall at St Bees School.

Two great events both of which are, if you're interested, still open this afternoon.

Quote of the day 17th August 2019

"Those who’ve said privately they could never face making Jeremy Corbyn prime minister should explain how this wheeze is supposed to work.

Are you banking on him not getting a majority after a confidence vote then someone else steps in? And he goes along with that? 

Get real. 

Or do you genuinely want to make him caretaker prime minister but it’s ok because it’s only for a few weeks? 

Except it’s not is it. 

For the 2nd referendum plan to work you have to hope he wins the general election and stays as PM.

And even if you convince yourself it’s worth giving this gaslighting racist regime the keys to Number 10 to stop Brexit, you really expect these serial liar hard left Brexiteers to honour their 2nd referendum pledge as they smash up the country? 

For God’s sake, wake up."

(John Woodcock, Independent MP for Barrow and Furness, who resigned from Labour because he could not stomach supporting Jeremy Corbyn as PM, explains why he still can't stomach the idea as he shreds the proposal for a "government of national unity" headed by Jeremy Corbyn.

There are many things on which I don't agree with John Woodcock but he is both right and brave on this point - a "caretaker" government headed by Jeremy Corbyn would be highly dangerous for Britain, more so than a "no deal" Brexit, and cannot be assumed to be temporary.)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Brendan O'Neill on the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre

Brendan O'Neill has an interesting take on the contemporary relevance of  today's 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre which you can read at Spiked here.

He argues that those in the political elite who are trying to stop Brexit are showing the same contempt for the views of the electorate as a whole as the people who sent in the cavalry showed two centuries ago.

PC Andrew Harper RIP

Andrew Harper, a police constable with Thames Valley police, was murdered while protecting the community last night. A police statement said PC Harper, who was from the Roads Policing Unit based in Abingdon, was "killed while performing his duties."

PC Harper was 28 years old and leaves a widow to whom he had been married for just four weeks.

Ten young men aged between 13 and 30 have been arrested in connection with his death.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted he was "deeply shocked and appalled" by what happened to PC Harper.

Mr Johnson added that the officer's death was "the most powerful reminder that police officers up and down the country put themselves at risk every single day to keep us safe".

Thoughts and prayers will be with his soul and his wife and family today.

Rest in Peace.

An easy scam to spot.

Just had a fraudulent phone call from the world's most dozy crooks, with a recorded voice claiming to be ringing with a message from "British Telecom."

They don't appear to have noticed that British Telecommunications PLC retired that brand name at the start of the 1990's, nearly thirty years ago, in favour of "BT" although the old name is still trademarked so nobody else can legitimately use it.

So if you get a phone call from anyone claiming to be from "British Telecom" hang up at once: it's a scam.

Quote of the day 16th August 2019

"Darwinian adaptation to environment applies not only to nature but also to society. Just as you don’t find eagles living in the ocean or fish living on mountain tops, so you don’t find leftists concentrated where their ideas have to stand the test of performance." 

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ensuring medical supplies

The governments' preferred option is to leave the EU with a deal.

However, whatever happens, there must and will be safe and secure supplies of medicines

That's why the government is establishing an express freight service to ensure the supply of medicines and medical supplies into the country remains uninterrupted, as part of preparations to leave the EU by 31 October whatever the circumstances.

  • The Health Minister is strengthening our preparations for Brexit by October 31 with an express freight service to deliver medicines and medical products into the country within 24-72 hours. 
  • We will ensure that when we leave the EU at the end of October our frontline services are fully prepared, which is why we are bolstering our already extremely resilient contingency plans. 
  • The new freight service will support existing plans such as building buffer stocks of medicines and medical products, procuring additional warehouse capacity and supporting companies to get ready to meet new customs and border requirements. 

Why this matters:

We are making all necessary preparations to make sure we are ready to leave the EU by 31 October, whatever the circumstances, and this new service will ensure frontline medical services are fully prepared.

Congratulations to all students who passed their A-levels

More than three hundred thousand A level students, mostly in their late teens, find out their A level results today.

Congratulations to all those who passed.(I gather the overall pass rate remains the same as last year at 97.6% for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.)

Commiserations to all who did less well than they had hoped.

Best wishes to everyone in both categories as they look to start higher education courses or start their working careers.

Quote of the day 15th August 2019

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Asymmetric Money Illusion

It is more than eighty years since John Maynard Keynes, writing in his seminal book "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money," popularised the term "Money Illusion" which had been coined by Irving Fisher.

It refers to the fallacy of treating the nominal value of a sum of money or level of income as equal to its' purchasing power.

The reality is that in a time of inflation, even relatively low inflation of about 2.8% such as Britain is experiencing at the moment, a fixed income will be depreciating in value.

It is bizarre that there seems to be limited understanding of this, as the childish and idiotic nature of most of the discussion on news programmes today about rail fare increases equal to the RPI demonstrate.

In fact what we have is asymmetric money illusion.

There is virtually no adult in the whole of Britain who is too stupid to realise that if you have inflation and prices are rising, then unless your income rises at least fast enough to keep pace with that inflation you will be worse off in real terms.

What baffles me is that although just about everyone understands this, it seems that even supposedly intelligent and certainly highly paid journalists, and almost everyone they went to for a quote about today's rail fare "increases," seem unable to understand that the same principle works the other way round.

If inflation as measured by the RPI (Retail Price Index) is 2.8% (which it is) and average wage increases are keeping pace with this (which they currently are: average weekly wages are up by 3.9% on a year earlier, although some people are doing better than this and others less well) then a price increase in cash terms equal to the 2.8% increase in the RPI will, for an average person, mean no change in real terms.

And therefore the 2.8% cash terms increase, in line with the RPI change, which has been announced this week represents a freeze in the real cost of rail travel to the average person. The discussion on the BBC and other media channels of this inflation indexing as if it were in any material sense an increase for the average user makes no sense at all.

This is so obvious that I am almost embarrassed to have to point it out.

It is sad that the quality of public debate in this country, even during the "silly season" should be so dumbed down.

New Railcard launched

The government is launching a new ‘16-17 Saver’ railcard which will make it cheaper to travel for over a million teenagers. 

The brand new 16-17 Saver railcard will be launched next week, guaranteeing half-price travel for young people, saving families an average of £186 every year. 
The brand new railcard means that a generation of rail passengers can now benefit from cheaper fares, keeping more money in their pockets and helping them get to school, college and work. 
Railcards enable young people to travel more affordably, boosting education opportunities, communities and businesses. 

Why this matters:

We want to create a railway system that works for hardworking families – and with our record £48 billion investment in the railways, we are focused on providing passengers with the frequent, reliable and affordable journeys they deserve.

Quote of the day 14th August 2019

"These are the kinds of sentiments that have come to be associated with leavers – the idea that the country had been going in the wrong direction, that it had become unrecognisable. But after the referendum, they were suddenly being voiced by remainists. 'It was just so reminiscent of how radical-right voters would think,' says Rob Ford, a political scientist at the University of Manchester who has researched the rise of Ukip. 'And it was remarkable how quickly that mindset descended.'

And so these people, who once dismissed radicals as unreasonable, have themselves become radicalised. They used to pride themselves on their moderation; now, spurred on by rage, they divide the world into enemies and allies. What they are doing is loud, obsessive, tribal, confrontational – politics, in other words."

(Daniel Cohen extract from an article about the similarities between harldine Leavers and hardline Remainers in, of all places, the Guardian, called

"‘Loud, obsessive, tribal’: the radicalisation of remain"

which you can read in full here.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Global Britain

The Foreign Secretary has set out his plans for a truly global future after Britain leaves the European Union on 31 October.

  • After Brexit the Conservatives have no intention of retreating into "little England isolation but intent to take opportunities to deepen our partnerships around the world. 
  • In his first fortnight as Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab has met the foreign ministers of 22 countries, who have spoken of their ambition to strengthen their ties with us. 
  • The Foreign Secretary highlighted the United States’ readiness to sign a deal – which would boost business and enhance consumer choice on both sides of the Atlantic. 
  • We will also work with Canada to boost investment, ensure a smooth transition on our trade and promote global values. 
  • And we will bolster our commitment to the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions, developing stronger trade, and working together to ensure stability.

Employment figures

Latest figures continue to show that there are a record number of people in work, including a record number of women and disabled people, and wages are growing at their fastest pace in 11 years as Conservative policies are providing a solid foundation on which to build Britain’s economic future.

With the number of people in work at its highest on record, more people than ever before have the economic independence that a job brings and can reach their full potential.

But we must do more to deliver a strong economy to fund the public services we all rely on.

Too many communities have been left behind, so we will go further to invest in infrastructure and skills so that everyone has a fair chance to get on in life wherever they live and whatever their background.

Labour's announced policies would damage the economy. Just like the last time they were in power,  they’d leave us with more debt, higher taxes and fewer jobs, hitting ordinary working people and hurting the people they claim to help.

Key statistics
  • Wages: Average weekly earnings for employees increased by 3.9 per cent compared with a year earlier. 
  • Employment: 32.81 million (up 425,000 over the last year and up by 3.76 million since 2010).
  • Employment rate: 76.1 per cent (up 0.6 points over the past year and up 5.9 points since 2010).
  • Unemployment: 1.33 million (down 33,000 over the past year and down by 1.18 million since 2010). 
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9 per cent (down 0.1 points over the past year and down 4.1 points since 2010) –halving since 2010 (8.0 per cent). 
  • Youth unemployment: There are 437,000 fewer young people out of work since 2010 – almost halving since 2010. 
  • Disabled people: The number of disabled people in work is at a record high of 4.1 million. There are over 1 million more disabled people in work since 2014. 
  • BAME employment: 3.9 million (up 1.1 million since 2010).

Cracking down on crime in prisons

Sending people to prison is supposed to stop people committing crime, not create more opportunities for it. So today Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a crackdown on crime in prisons, taking action on issues which matter to voters so the public can see justice being done, punishment being served, and so that they feel protected. 

  • The Conservative government will target all types of crime in prisons with cutting-edge technology to clamp down on drugs, weapons and mobile phones with a £100 million boost. 
  • We’re also creating 10,000 new prison places and have ordered an urgent review into the prison sentences of violent and sexual offenders to properly protect the public from the most dangerous criminals. 
  • Today’s announcement forms part of a wider package of measures to ensure we’re tough on crime and to protect the public, including the Prime Minister’s commitment to recruit 20,000 additional police officers and enhance stop and search powers. 

Why this matters:

Conservatives, like the public, want dangerous criminals kept off our streets, and properly punished for their crimes.

Quote of the day 13th August 2019

Monday, August 12, 2019

Protecting the public from crime

The Prime Minister has ordered an urgent review into the prison sentences of violent and sexual offenders to ensure the public are properly protected from the most dangerous criminals. 
  • The review – beginning immediately – will focus on violent and sexual offenders, assessing if their sentences truly reflect the severity of their crimes. 
  • It will look at whether we need to change the law so they cannot be let out if they have not served their full time. 
  • Finally, it will examine how we can break the vicious cycle whereby prolific, repeat offenders go from crime to prison to crime again and to more and more serious offences. 

Why this matters

This review forms part of our efforts to crack down on crime, recruiting 20,000 new police officers, creating 10,000 new prison places and increasing stop and search powers. We, like the public, want dangerous criminals kept off our streets, and properly punished for their crimes.

This follows on from yesterday's statement in which the Prime Minister announced new measures to crack down on crime and reverse the balance of fear, creating 10,000 new prison places and enhancing stop and search powers to make our streets safer. 
  • We will create 10,000 new prison places by building new modern, efficient prisons which will provide better opportunities to reform criminals, meaning less re-offending and a lower burden on the taxpayer. 
  • We will enhance stop and search powers, giving the police our full support in combatting the scourge of serious violence and keeping people safe. 
  • We will publish draft guidance on measures in the Offensive Weapons Act – paving the way for new criminal offences that will help to stop knives and dangerous acids making their way onto our streets.

Quote of the day 12th August 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday music spot: "Noble in B Minor" Magnificat (Wakefield Cathedral Choir)

Sunday reflection 11th August 2019

In the present age when some - not all - religious believers are quick to disavow any scientific view that they find inconvenient and the more aggressive atheists are prone to claim that science is on their side, it is easy to see science and religion as opposed.

This is not the only possible view and indeed, for most of the history of science the two were aligned, with religions leaders strongly encouraging the search for scientific knowledge and many of the greatest scientific minds in history, such as Isaac Newton, also being religious believers.

While there have been obvious cases of genuine clashes between science and religion - the Catholic church's battle with Galileo, for instance, or the initial reaction of many religious believers to the theory of evolution - those who seek to present religion and science as opposed have grossly oversimplified some real events such as the murder of Hypatia and completely distorted others.

The classic example of a myth presenting religion as anti-science which is the complete reverse of the truth is the popular idea that the church opposed Columbus's expedition because they thought the earth was flat.

This is completely wrong. Both sides in that disagreement knew perfectly well that the earth is roughly spherical in shape. The disagreement between Christopher Columbus and the panel of experts, some of them clerics, who King Ferdinand appointed to review the proposal for an expedition was not about the shape of the planet but about how big a sphere it is - and furthermore,  on this point, they were right and Columbus was wrong.

Columbus had underestimated the size of the world, and therefore the distance he had to sail to reach India by sailing West from Europe. Those who opposed his expedition did so not because they were anti-science and thought the world flat but because their science was better than his: their idea of the size of the world was much closer to being accurate and they had correctly calculated that the ships available to him in 1492 did not have the range to reach India that way.

Fortunately for Columbus what neither side knew was that there were a couple of continents in the way, which his ships did have the range to reach. When he found them, he mistakenly imagined that he had arrived in the vicinity of India, which is why the archipelago where he made landfall in the Americas is known by the grossly misleading title of the "West Indies" to this day.

At St James' church Whitehaven the Reverend Alison Riley preached a sermon this morning in which she included a quote from Albert Einstein.

I have learned the hard way to check any quote attributed to Einstein as he never said at least three quarters of the things attributed to him, but this quote is an accurate one. In Einstein’s essay “Science and religion,” published in 1954. he wrote

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Einstein, like his work, was a fantastically complex man and he said things which, taken out of context appear to be on both sides of the atheist/religious divide.

One thing which he was quite clear about, however, was that it made him angry when crusaders for either any conventional religion or for militant atheism claimed him as a supporter

One of Britain's leading experts on Einstein, John Brooke of Oxford University, has written that the great scientist's position on God has been widely misrepresented by people on both sides of the atheism/religion divide but he always resisted easy stereotyping on the subject.

"Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him," said Brooke.

"It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions ... but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion." 

Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

The point I am making by quoting Einstein is not that science provides an argument for Christianity, Judaism or any other religion. He would have objected to his statement being used in that way. However, both the scientist and the person of faith can and should be, in their different ways, seekers after truth. And those who genuinely seek after truth do not have to be opponents.

In that sense, to imagine that faith and science must always be on opposite sites is to weaken both.

Quote of the day 11th August 2019

"For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, sniffed, tried, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original." 

(David Brin)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday music spot: Dance of the Furies

Saturday Reflection

"Consider the following hoary clichés:

'Too bad human decency and justice haven't kept pace with our technological progress.' 

''No past era featured as much cruelty and misery as this one.' 

In spite of their vogue, both are patently false.

Over half of those alive on Earth today never saw war, starvation or major civil strife with their own eyes. Most never went more than a day without food. Only a small fraction have seen a city burn, heard the footsteps of a conquering army, or watched an overlord massacre the helpless.

All these events were routine for our ancestors. Of course, hundreds of millions have experienced such things, and the terrors continue. Our consciences, prodded by the relentless power of television, must not cease demanding compassion and vigorous action.

Still, things have changed somewhat since humanity wallowed in horror, during the middle years of the Twentieth Century. The ratio of humans who now live modestly safe and comfortable lives has never been greater.

As for comparing technical and moral advances, there's no contest. For example, while I truly love the Internet, its effects on real life have so far been exaggerated. Telephones and radio had far greater immediate effects when they entered the home. Yes, we have fancier autos and sleeker airplanes. But people still pack their kids in a car and fight traffic to reach the airport in time to meet Grandma's flight from Chicago... as they did when I was seven. Life's tempo has speeded, but the basic rhythm is little different than it was in 1958.

It is our attitudes — toward all sorts of injustices that used to be considered inherent — that underwent a transformation unlike any in history."

(David Brin, text which can be found in "The Future keeps surprising us" (2003) and "The self-preventing prophecy." (1999) 

The latter predicted that a woman or person of colour would preside in the White House long before a human steps on Mars ten years before the inauguration of Barak Obama.)

Traffic lights still out

A number of traffic signals around Cumbria went out at the time of yesterday's power cuts and did not come back on when power was restored.

As of 7.45 am this morning at least four traffic lights in Whitehaven are still out of action, including

the Coach Road/Inkerman Terrace Junction
the entrance to Morrisons/Flatt Walks estate
two Pelican crossings in Strand street near the junctions with Lowther Street and Duke Street

Please take care if you have to drive anywhere this weekend.

Quote of the day 10th August 2019

Friday, August 09, 2019

Be careful if you are travelling this weekend

The weather forecast for this weekend is dire, and Friday evening has already shown that this appears to be accurate.

I understand that Cumbria County Council has extra gully teams on standby do deal with drainage issues and teams with chainsaws available to tackle fallen trees.

Cumbria was also affected by the power cut which hit many parts of the UK this evening due to the failure of two National Grid generators.

A number of traffic lights were out for some time in several areas of Cumbria - they did come back on line immediately when power was restored and the signal contractor had to be called out.

- three traffic signals were out in the Kendal area
- four traffic signals were out in the Barrow in Furness BC area
- ten traffic signals were out in Copeland
- one traffic signal was out in Carlisle
- three traffic signals were out and some homes without power in Penrith.

As at 9pm a number of these signals were still out of action.

Looks like it is not going to be an easy weekend. Take care if you have to travel.

Quote of the day 9th Auugst 2019

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Quote of the day 8th August 2019

Very rare indeed for me to agree with Owen Jones, but this comment which he made on Twitter yesterday is so sensible that I feel obliged to quote it:

"I really am struggling to imagine a better way to increase support for the populist right than "a national unity government" assembled by backroom deals, appointing a Prime Minister most people know nothing about. It would stink of 'Establishment stitch-up' and end in disaster."

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Midweek music spot: Vivaldi Harpsichord Concerto

Caption winner of the week

Had to laugh when I saw this on twitter (the fact that I get the joke undoubtedly dates me!)

A picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger meeting the pope ...

with the caption, "I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle."

(For those not old enough to remember it, this was an iconic line from his film "Terminator Two."

 IIRC these were the first words spoken by the time-travelling killer robot Arnie plays in the film, at a stage when you have been told two travellers have been sent back from the future, but before you know which one has been sent to kill the young John Connor and which to save him.)

Overheard at the West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group

The nuclear industry's local consultation forum, the West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group met yesterday in Cleator Moor.

Two or three comments particularly stuck in my mind. One was the quote

"We're seventy years through this journey: we've got a hundred years left."

This was said during discussion on the report of the working group on the Low Level Waste Repository, but it gives and idea of the sort of timescale some of the nuclear industry's projects are planned in.

Another comment, in a discussion on safety and risk, referred to a particularly serious case where industrial injury was the result not of a radiological hazard but of asbestos. Sites like Sellafield and  the LLWR have to (and do) have to take account of non-nuclear hazards as well as specifically nuclear ones (and the latter were some of the most dangerous.

During a discussion of environmental health there was also the suggestion that to improve tracking of sediments laid down on beaches and estuaries in the Sellafield area, drones could be used to monitor a wide area more quickly and cheaply.

I was very tempted to suggest that this sounded like a good idea but they had better make sure the drones kept well away from any angry seagulls. However, everyone was looking terribly serious so I didn't dare.

Government changes pension rules to help NHS staff

Today the government has given NHS care a boost by overhauling pension rules for staff, so that they are liberated to treat more people, help reduce waiting times and ensure that our funding is reaching the front line. 

Key facts:
  • We are changing pension rules for senior clinicians so that they can take on extra shifts and treat more patients without losing out financially – which will help reduce waiting times. 
  • The new rules will allow top doctors, surgeons, senior nurses and other high-earning clinicians to scale down their pension contributions without losing out on employer contributions. 
  • By getting full flexibility over how much they put in, the new proposals will mean senior staff can run additional clinics, and deliver for more patients nationwide. 

Why this matters:

NHS doctors do extraordinary, life-saving work every day and they should not have to worry about the tax impacts if they choose to go the extra mile by taking on additional work to help patients. These changes will also ensure that the £33.9 billion in NHS funding gets to staff and patients on the front line.

Quote of the day 7th August 2019

"Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them — instead of answering their arguments." 

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Reflections on an Anti-Semitic incident in St Albans

Although my parents were both from the North-West I was born and grew up in St Albans.

St Peter's street is the main street of that city. It is not the sort of place you would expect public disorder on a Sunday afternoon, any more than you would in, say, Lowther Street in Whitehaven, or St Albans Row in Carlisle.

So I am astonished by what happened in St Peter's Street two days ago. (See report here.)

A Jewish family, including two toddlers aged three and two respectively and a one-year old baby in a pram, were minding their own business having a cup of coffee in the seating area outside Costa Coffee at about 2.15 pm on Sunday.

For no apparent reason a stranger, a young man with a brown hair and a beard who was wearing a red t-shirt and a black bag round his neck with sunglasses perched on his head, shoved the baby's pram.  The baby's father stood up and asked why the man had done this, and the reply was anti-semitic abuse.

The man repeated his racially abusive comment, attempted to kick a piece of street furniture towards the Jewish family, and then left. The baby's uncle had whipped his phone out and recorded  much of the incident, with the offending racist expression clearly audible.

Hertfordshire police are investigating and have asked that anyone with information contact them on the non-emergency number 101 quoting crime number 41/70651/19.

The man's face is very clearly visible in the newspaper report which I linked to above and in images of the incident which are circulating on social media. Some of the people who will see those pictures must know who he is. I hope they will contact Hertfordshire police so that the matter can be properly dealt with.
What on earth is Britain coming to when a Jewish family including three small children can't enjoy a quiet cup of coffee without being racially abused in this way?

Quote of the day 6th August 2019

I do not always agree with The Sun's editorial line, but their response to Shadow Chancellor John "Trotfather" McDonnell's attacks on the actual chancellor Sajid Javid is worth repeating as my quote for today ...

Monday, August 05, 2019

Monday music spot: "But who may abide the day of his coming"

Some little local difficulties with an old computer falling over in the heat prevented me from posting music spots on Saturday or Sunday, so here is the piece I had intended to post yesterday.

Andreas Scholl (Countertenor) sings the aria "But who may abide the day of his coming" from Handel's Messiah.

The lyrics are from Malachi Ch 3 Vs 2 and are as follows:

"But who may abide the day of His coming,
and who shall stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a refiner's fire."

Quote of the day 5th August 2019

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Darwen Tower appeal

My father grew up in the Lancashire town of Darwen and loved walking on the hills around the town.

In my own youth no visit to our family in Darwen was complete without a trip up the hill from my grandparents' house in Manor Road up the hill to the Jubilee Tower (built to mark Queen Victoria's Jubilee and to provide employment in the town) which stands on the hill overlooking Darwen and can be seen from many miles around.

One of my cousins has drawn to my attention that the Jubilee Tower (normally known as Darwen Tower) is in serious need of some tender loving care and a letter from Darwen Rotary in the Lancashire Telegraph is appealing for support.

It reads as follows:

"What a delight to see the article on page three of your Friday 26th July edition about the beautiful necklace commemorating Darwen Tower and the description of the iconic monument and its wonderful views.

It is good to see the appreciation of Darwen’s unique and iconic monument and a lovely piece of memorabilia.

I would ask if you would also bring to the notice of all Darreners and everyone else of the woeful condition of the Tower after 120 odd years of exposure to the elements. 

Recent surveys show that it needs a considerable amount of money to restore it to good condition to face many more years of weather and to be there for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

The Tower needs some tender care and attention otherwise there will be nothing for future generations to remember. The Tower was financed when it was built by public subscription and Darwen Rotary are trying to raise £100,000 to help with restoration. 

This will we hope be matched by a lottery bid to raise the full amount needed to complete a full restoration. We are doing quite well having reached just over £60,000 but we need the help of the public to achieve our aim. 

Donations can be made to the Rotary Club of Darwen c/o Gorse Barn, Rock Lane, Tockholes, Darwen, BB3 0LX. 

Thank you for your help 

Julia O’Hara, President Darwen Rotary 
John Jacklin, Treasurer Darwen Rotary"

More money for the NHS

It has been announced this weekend that the government is putting a further £1.8 billion into the NHS - on top of the increase of £20 billion a year over five years already agreed for:
  • Vital new kit for nurses and doctors 
  • Upgrading 20 hospitals across the UK 

Quote of the day 4th August 2019

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Saturday Chataway in Holmrook

We had a successful "Saturday Chataway" organised by Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, this morning giving residents the opportunity to meet and raise concerns with elected representatives at all levels at Holmrook.

County and Borough conncillors for the immediate area and Copeland generally joined Trudy Harrison MP at the Holmrook Reading Rooms to speak with constituents, listen to their concerns and suggestions and assist with any issues. A number of us then joined Trudy to do a residents' survey in Gosforth.

Each month, these coffee morning style surgeries raise money for a valued local organisation or charity. The events will be held between 10am – 12 noon, generally on the first Saturday in the month.

Quote of the day 3rd August 2019

Friday, August 02, 2019

Truth in politics - a counter-intuitive view

In this post I am going to put forward two apparently contradictory arguments

1) The effort people at every level and every part of the political spectrum make to ensure that the statements they make are fair and accurate has decreased, is decreasing, and ought to be increased.

2) People are far too ready to accuse others of lying on inadequate grounds: calling someone a liar is not something which should ever be done lightly and it too often has been.

A person hearing those two opinions might respond with a comment like "If you think too many people are telling lies, why don't you want us to call them out on it?"

My reply would be that if the problem is too many false statement flying around, and you want to do something about it, setting yourself up as a judge of the honesty of others is not always the best strategy, and it certainly isn't a good idea to do it without making sure your own accusations are fair. and just.

In my humble opinion the apparent increase in people accusing one another of lying is both a consequence and a driver of the increase in people making untrue statements.

Those who perceive a steady flow of lies from people who hold different opinions will inevitably be tempted to call them out.

Unfortunately this can be very counterproductive. I know from bitter experience that anyone involved in politics who is remotely prominent can expect to have untrue things said about them, and one of those is that you will be accused of lying when you're not.

This inevitably devalues the impact of any accusation of lying.

I don't imagine there will be too many politicians or journalists who become liars on the basis of "as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb," e.g. they are going to be accused of lying whatever they say so why bother with the truth.

But if everyone is accused of lying, the people who really are spectacularly untruthful, or those who make particular efforts to ensure that their statements conform to the facts, don't stand out so much.

Let's take an example of an event in British politics which was characterised by an egregious number of false statements on just about all sides, and frequent accusations of lying.

Both sides in the EU referendum campaign threw an awful lot of false or misleading allegations around. I criticised a lot of those statements on this blog at the time in a series of twelve posts entitled "The worst of both worlds."

Both sides were accused of lying on a frequent basis.

However, it was my honest impression, and this broadly applies to both sides, that of all the accusations of lying that were made during the campaign

1) Around half the statements during the campaign which I saw someone describe as a "lie" were, to the best of my knowledge or opinion, correct. Far from being lies or even falsehoods they were either facts which were correct or opinions which I agreed with.

2) Of those statements which were accused of being lies which I personally thought were indeed wrong, something like 80% were matters of opinion rather than fact. A reasonable person could have held those views and it is entirely possible, if not probable, that the people who had expressed those opinions genuinely believed what they were saying.

They may in my humble opinion have been wrong but they were entitled to their views and were not liars.

3) In about 10% of the instances where someone was accused of lying during the campaign - and again, this applies to both sides - the statement complained about really could objectively be described as either false or misleading in terms of actual facts.

4) Even these cases were often, like the egregious £350 million figure on the bus,  highly misleading, e.g. "A truth that's told with bad intent" rather than a direct lie. And it is also possible that some of the people who made incorrect statements had made a genuine mistake.

So at least 90% of the accusations of lying which were made during the EU referendum campaign were, in my humble opinion, unjust.

An allegation of lying makes it very difficult to continue a conversation. Unless the person so accused manages to prove themselves innocent and the allegation is withdrawn, or they admit at least a mistake and apologise, you no longer have the common ground and trust which makes discussion possible. Such allegations should never be made lightly, and the fact that you disagree, no matter how strongly, with what someone has said is not sufficient evidence to justify an accusation of bad faith.

In conclusion,

1) It is worth pointing out that even the least truthful politicians and journalists in democratic countries - for some reason a gentleman with flaming hair and a penchant for outrageous tweets springs to mind - tell the truth far more often than the leaders of dictatorships or theocracies. If Putin, Assad or Xi says one thing and the leader of any genuine democracy says something different, assume the democratic leader - in this case even if it's Trump - is more likely to be telling the truth and you'll be right nine times out of ten.

2) However, the standard of truthfulness in public life has declined and needs to be improved. No party has been immune to this decline or has a monopoly on honesty.

3) Shouting "liar" at anyone who says something you do not agree with, no matter how much you want to believe they are lying, is not a solution to this problem. If you have proof that someone has said something wrong, produce it.

Next "Saturday Chataway" in Holmrook tomorrow

The next "Saturday Chataway" organised by Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, to give residents the opportunity to meet and raise concerns with elected representatives at all levels will be held in Holmrook tomorrow (Saturday 3rd August 2019.)

Councillors of all parties on the relevant local authorities for the area have been invited to join Trudy Harrison MP at the Holmrook Reading Rooms on Saturday to speak with constituents, listen to their concerns and suggestions and assist with any issues.

Each month, these coffee morning style surgeries raise money for a valued local organisation or charity. The event will be held between 10am – 12pm.

Refreshments will be available.

Quotes of the day 2nd August 2019

Two extracts from a very interesting article in The Times this week by former Labour politician and head of the Equalities Commission Trevor Phillips,

"Right-on brigade exposes its own prejudices."

It is behind a paywall but you can register to receive a certain number of free articles per week, and if you want to read the article in full on those terms you can do so here.

Trevor Phillips writes:

"It’s forbidden for Labour Party members like me to describe Johnson as anything other than a racist and an Islamophobe, but while he is guilty of many distasteful acts I think I can say with certainty he is neither of those things.

In fact, it’s this kind of brainless tribalism that has got us into our current mess."

"The left-leaning bias against Johnson is most striking in the reaction to his cabinet appointments. A different prime minister would have been basking in the approval of the right-on brigade for having appointed more people of colour to the cabinet in 24 hours than all his predecessors managed in the past 300 years.

But the gracelessness of modern politics is such that the very people who threw parties at the election of Barack Obama now complain about Johnson’s minority ministers.

They sneer that the first non-white chancellor, Sajid Javid, is a “coconut” (brown outside, white inside), that the first ethnic minority woman to lead the Home Office is a dumb “snake”, and that the first black chairman of the Conservative Party is an “Uncle Tom”. This, of course, is a measure of their racism, not the prime minister’s."

"Morrison’s critics" (This is a reference to a comment which Toni Morrison made about Bill Clinton) "were so deafened by the sound of their own outrage that they didn’t hear what she was actually saying: at last, a white man had been given a glimpse of what it can feel like to be a prominent black man. As she put it “he was being treated like a black man on the street, already guilty”.

This thought came back to me as I read reams of so-called “analysis” of our new prime minister.

People, many of whom admitted to never having been in the same room as the man, opined that, though on the surface charismatic and shrewd, he was lazy, egotistical and a third-rate intellect, and underneath it all upper-class, opportunistic and evil.

Morrison’s point was that Clinton was the first white leader to face the treatment that black leaders had come to expect — a relentless focus on their character as a way of never having to argue with them about their beliefs."