Monday, July 16, 2018

New sponsor and "Substantial capital programme" for Whitehaven Academy

I am delighted to learn that the Cumbria Education Trust (CET) has been confirmed as the new sponsor of Whitehaven Academy.

In a statement, CET said it has been confirmed as the school’s new sponsor by the education secretary Damian Hinds, after its board of trustees passed a resolution to bid to take over at the school.

Lord Agnew, the academies minister, has also confirmed the Department for Education will fund a “substantial capital programme”. The department would not say how much it intends to spend, but the CET says it will see the “majority of the existing school buildings demolished and rebuilt”.

“This agreement will provide a fresh start for everyone associated with Whitehaven Academy and will help ensure students get the education they deserve as part of a strong multi-academy trust,” said Agnew. “

"The academy will be transformed to provide a modern learning environment, and I am confident that the Cumbria Education Trust has the expertise to improve standards for pupils.”

Quote of the day 16th July 2018


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Channel 4 Factcheck evicerates Labour's policy on the NHS.

During last year's General Election the Labour party boasted that they had a "fully costed" plan which included a 2% annual rise in real terms in the NHS budget.

Experts have been saying for some time that none of the parties were proposing to increase NHS spending by enough to cope with the extra demand as people are living longer and new medical techniques give us more opportunities to save lives or improve people's quality of life - at a price.

For example, the British Medical Journal recently published an article arguing that to meet rising demand NHS funding needs to rise by between 3.3 per cent and 5 per cent a year in real terms over the next 15 years.

So the government has produced a new long term plan for the NHS which includes increasing the budget by 3.4% a year in real terms, which would mean £20 billion a year in five year's time.

That's an awful lot of money and from anyone else Labour's initial response - to ask where the money is coming from - would be a fair question. (The government says that some if it will be from the sums we no longer have to pay the EU when we leave and the rest from tax.)

Labour then announced that that this isn't nearly enough extra money - despite it being massively more than Labour themselves promised to spend in their "fully funded" manifesto only last year - and that a Labour government would increase NHS spending by 5% a year in real terms.

To date, when asked how they would fund this further massive increase in NHS spending, Labour merely referred people to the document produced during the last election - which contained proposals to fund the 2% increase in real NHS spending which is much less than what the government is now doing but Labour calls "insufficient" and vastly less than Labour themselves are now promising to spend.

Channel 4 Factcheck points out the problems with Labour's position here.

Saturday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor RV522

The Incredibles 2

This is mainly a political blog and I don't often do film reviews on it, but I will make an exception for "The Incredibles 2" which I went to see last night with members of my family.

Sequels to really great films are rarely in the  same league but we've had a few lately which were - "Jamanji - Welcome to the Jungle" was in my humble opinion even better than the original Jumanji film and "The Incredibles 2" is as funny and touching as the original.

Other than saying that it had my family and many of the rest of the audience killing ourselves with laughter I'm not going to say too much about the film. It starts almost exactly at the point where the first "The Incredibles" film ended 14 years ago and it isn't so much a superhero film as a story which examines, in a very funny way, issues of family life which affect almost all families, from the viewpoint of a family of superheroes.

It's a genuine family film by which I definitely do not mean it's a film mainly for kids - there are lots of jokes in there for mum and dad and a good chunk of the audience were adults. To start to list the real-life situations which are gently parodied in the film and which I recognise only too well from my own life experience as a son, husband or father would, I think, be a "spoiler" which gives too much away about the film, but let's just say there were a lot of them.

If you saw and enjoyed the first Incredibles film, you will enjoy the second one. I can strongly recommend it.

Quote of the day 14th July 2018

A quote within a quote …


H L Mencken got it in many ways right, in one way wrong. On July 26, 1920 the greatest columnist in the history of English language journalism wrote this in The Baltimore Sun:As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

It would be tempting to say that 98 years later, Mencken’s prophecy has been fulfilled; but that would not quite be right. This president is most assuredly not a moron: it’s far more complicated than that.

“Donald Trump doesn’t care to think too much before he speaks and has a habit of saying what he thinks. And the trouble with us, not him, is that what he thinks is what plenty of more genteel and considered folk do actually think, but don’t like to say.”


(Matthew Parris quotes H. L. Mencken in an article in The Times today, link here.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Councillor Hugh McDevitt RIP

Hugh McDevitt, who was a long serving Labour member of both Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council for Denton Holme, has died at the age of 70.

He had represented the area on Carlisle CC since 1995 and on Cumbria County Council since 2005.

Obviously I did not share his politics but he was respected for his hard work for Denton Holme.

Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day Friday 13th July 2018


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Of YouTube and Blogger

There is a function on YouTube which is specifically designed to allows users of the site to share posts to other platforms. One of the platforms supported is Blogger.

I've been using it for years to post my midweek and weekend music slots and "music to relax after campaigning" posts.

But for the past few months I have found that the code which links to the YouTube clip has an annoying habit of suddenly disappearing for no apparent reason - sometimes while preparing the post, which is annoying enough, sometimes between finishing the post and hitting "Publish" and the post appearing on my blog without the clip.

Anyone else having this issue and know how to fix it?

Music to relax after campaigning - La Réjouissance from Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks

A good afternoon's campaigning in Distington today.
So here is a piece of Handel's music for those who were out today in Distington or anywhere else to relax to.

Quote of the day 12th July 2018


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Midweek music spot: Air from Handel's.Water Music

Time to tone down the Brexit rhetoric - on all sides.

This people who have been discussing the PM's plan for Brexit using the language of betrayal, double cross or duplicity need to lie down in a darkened room until they have calmed down.

The same applies to all those who have made personal attacks on those ministers who have resigned from the government - and those who have not - and to those Labour MPs who have made themselves contenders for the "Pot calling the kettle black award" for 2018 by making a huge fuss about two cabinet resignations when their own front bench has suffered more than a hundred resignations under the present Labour leader.















("Dear Pot, thanks for your comments. Yours sincerely, Kettle.")

As I wrote on Monday morning, a former World War II hero who know what being shot at for real was like and had become Conservative MP for Winchester after leaving the navy, Rear Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles DSO OBE, once attempted to calm down an earlier angry debate about Europe with the joke,

"Pro bono publico, No bloody panico."

Good advice then. Good advice now.

The Prime minister and the members of her cabinet who support the Chequers proposals have not "betrayed" or "sold out" the 17 million people who voted for Brexit. They are doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances to implement the decision of the 52% who voted Leave in a way which respects the interests of everyone in the country. Whether you agree with them or not, using the language of betrayal to describe the proposals does not move us forward.

Anyone who imagined before or after the referendum vote that unpicking 44 years of integration with the EU could be done quickly and easily with no messy compromises was grossly optimistic to a degree which verges on the delusional. Real life isn't like that. The fact that the PM is grappling with those messy compromises does not mean that she is selling anyone out.

Throughout her tenure of Number 10 Theresa May has attempted to maintain the balance of Brexit supporters and Remain voters within her government. The fact that the great offices of state are now occupied by people who voted Remain is because a Leave supporter who she had appointed to one of the most important offices in the land and allowed to retain that position with enormous patience chose to resign, not because of any kind of remain "coup" as some of the febrile language used in some quarters would have you believe.

Some Brexit supporters have put themselves in the absurd position that one minute they were calling on fellow leavers to resign from the government, and the next minute they were complaining that the government contained too many people who had voted Remain, including the holders of all the top officers of state, a situation which came about precisely because some Leave supporters did resign.

The need to avoid divisive and extreme language applies equally to both sides. It would not help in any way to use inflammatory language about the former ministers who resigned from the government over the past 72 hours.

Britain is leaving the EU and unless there is a unanimous vote by all 27 other member states to defer it, this will happen at the end of March 2019. UK negotiators need to make one last push to negotiate the best deal we can, and it needs to happen now, and anything which undermines that, whichever part of the political spectrum it comes from is against Britain's interests.

Quote of the day 11th July 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lord Carrington RIP

Peter Alexander Rupert Carington, 6th Baron Carrington, died yesterday at the age of 99. He was the last surviving minister to have serve in one of Churchill's cabinets. Inheriting his title at the age of 19 he spent World War II serving with the Grenedier Guards, and in 1945 was awarded the Military Cross while holding the rank of Major.

After the war he took up his seat in the lords and was soon made one of the youngest members of the front bench. His long and distinguished ministerial career was terminated at the outset of the Falklands war, when he became one of the last senior politicians to resign before being pushed to take responsibility for a catastrophic failure in his department. (Though the Franks committee later found that he was not personally at fault.)

He later served as secretary-general of NATO.

He was a gentleman of the old school, a person of great integrity who was in politics out of a sense of public service, and was regarded even by his political opponents as one of the most honourable people in politics, (Here is what the Guardian wrote about him.)

Lord Carrington  had the most extraordinary charm and was very funny, a brilliant anecdotalist with a keen eye for the absurd.

According to the Guardian "Carrington could make wholly inappropriate jokes" and was fortunate to have been a minister at a time before social media and when journalists were more defential and confidences more often respected and hence he could get away with this without his remarks being reported and causing an international incident. Apparently he once passed Margaret Thatcher a note about a foreign dignitary to whom she was offering the benefit of her views which read: “The poor chap’s come 600 miles. Do let him say something.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

"The death of Peter Carrington at the age of 99 marks the end of an era and the loss of a statesman who was respected globally for his remarkable lifetime of public service. 

"There can be few people who have served our country for as long, and with such dedication, as Lord Carrington did - from his gallantry as a tank commander in the Second World War, for which he was awarded the Military Cross, to his service in Government under two monarchs and six prime ministers, dating back to Winston Churchill. 

"He was a much loved and widely respected member of the House of Lords for nearly eight decades, and served with great honour and integrity in Government as foreign secretary, defence secretary, leader of the House of Lords, chairman of the Conservative Party and much more besides. 

"These were qualities that he also brought to bear as a highly esteemed Secretary General of NATO - and, in the week of the NATO summit, I know that my fellow leaders will join me in offering our gratitude for his lifetime of service and our deepest condolences to his family."

Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day 10th July 2018

Monday, July 09, 2018

Music to relax after campaigning: another Andante from Handel's water music

Out on the doorstep this evening campaigning in Bransty ward, Whitehaven. Here is a piece for everyone who has been campaigning today to relax to.

Like the piece I picked as yesterday's Sunday music spot, this is an Andante from Handel's Water Music (there are several).

This performance from the City of London Sinfonia conducted by Richard Hickox, and displayed with dancing sea horses!

Dawn Sturgess RIP

Sadly Dawn Sturgess, one of the two people critically ill in Salisbury hospital after being poisoned with Novichok, in what appears to be collateral damage from the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal, has died.

She leaves three children, and her partner Charlie Rowley is still critically ill in hospital.

The inquiry into the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter is therefore no longer an attempted murder inquiry, but a murder inquiry.

This is a very serious matter. and although there is no proof that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered the attack (though he did say on Russian TV that Skripal would not live to enjoy his thirty pieces of silver) the evidence that either the Russian state or rogue elements associated with the Russian state were responsible for this attack is strong.

Quote of the day 9th July 2018

"Pro bono publico, No bloody panico."


(WWII War hero Rear Admiral Sir Morgan Charles Morgan-Giles DSO OBE DL said this in later life, after he had become Conservative MP for Winchester, encouraging his colleagues not to get into hysterics during a row about - guess what - Europe.

It was good advice then. It is good advice now.)

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Congratulations to the organisers of today's NHS celebration in Whitehaven

Can I congratulations the organisers and all who took part today in the Whitehaven commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the NHS, including an open air service and stalls and music, in St Nicholas's Gardens this afternoon (8th July 2018.)

Excellent refreshments were available in St Nicholas’ Coffee Shop in aid of NHS related charities, and there were health related information stalls and family entertainment, with a brief open air event (he didn't want to call it a service) led by the Revd Robert Jackson.

Well done all involved especially Carole Woodman, of St Bees who organised the event.

On bereavement

Robert Peston spoke on Radio 4 yesterday morning about the grief and anger he felt when his wife died.

One of the sad aspects of the human condition is that the only way to avoid going through the enormous pain which the death of someone you love inflicts is either to die first, before everyone you love does, which usually means dying young, or never to really love anyone else, which is a far worse fate.

However, those who have not yet lost someone they were really close to rarely appreciate how difficult bereavement is to deal with, or how long it lasts. I agree with Robert Peston's comment on the radio that it isn't something you "get over" or which ever entirely heals, you just learn to deal with it - and that can take much longer than those who have not been through it or are experiencing it for the first time expect.

If anyone who is reading this has been recently bereaved and is having trouble coping with it, I would offer the suggestion that you may find it helpful to go and talk to a bereavement counsellor - there are some very good organisation offering this service and it can help just to talk to someone about it.

Sunday music spot reprise: another interpretation of the Andante from Handel's Water Music

Isn't it fascinating how different the same piece of music can make you feel when played in a slightly different way? Although I think both this interpretation and the previous one sound wonderful.

Sunday music spot: Handel's Water Music, Andante from Suite No. 1

Quote of the day 9th July 2018

I am the very model of a modern SJW 
I eulogise the working man, but never ask his point of view. 
I secretly disdain him as a racist bigot through and through 
While gaily chanting slogans that extol 'the many not the few'”.

(Dan Hannan MEP on Twitter, after Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Major General's Song" from the Pirates of Penzance.)

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Service in Whitehaven tomorrow for the NHS's 70th birthday.

Following on from the NHS70 parkruns, the excellent service in Carlisle Cathedral l;ast week and various other events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, there will be a series of events including an open air service at St Nicholas's Gardens in Whitehaven tomorrow (8th July 2018)

Refreshments will be available in St Nicholas’ Coffee Shop in aid of NHS related charities, and there will be health related information stalls and family entertainment, with an open air service at 2pm led by Revd Robert Jackson.

Health campaigner Carole Woodman, of St Bees, has organised the event.

She said: “We focus on the hospital but there are so many services that happen outside the hospital as well. It’s about celebrating all NHS staff.

“Even though we are concerned about services moving there are some good things happening. For example, in September we are going to get year three medical students back again. 

“This is an opportunity for people to come and see some of the things that are happening and celebrate the hard work our NHS staff are doing. 

“It’s a thanksgiving celebration really for Whitehaven and Copeland, and an important event as we look forward to how we want our services to be in the future.”

Saturday music spot: Handels's Hallelujah Chorus

Given the football result this afternoon I could not resist selecting the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah (sung here by the choir of King's College Cambridge) as today's Saturday music spot.

Congratulations to England on their Quarter-final win

England convincingly won against Sweden just now (England 2, Sweden nil) to book their place in the World Cup semi final.

To put this in context for me, when England last reached a World Cup Semi-Final, I was chairman of Eastern Area YCs!

Congratulations to Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane and the team

Quote of the day 7th July 2018


Friday, July 06, 2018

Brexit decision day

It is no surprise that it has taken some time to agree a negotiating position on the terms of Brexit.

Although there was a clear majority to leave the EU in the referendum both the country and the main political parties are deeply split on what Brexit should look like in practice.

More than forty years of integration was never going to be a simple matter to unpick.

The parliamentary arithmetic

The position of parliament is deeply conflicted in that

* Most MPs voted remain but most consider themselves bound by the referendum decision.

* The MPs on the two extremes - those who actually want a "hard Brexit" in which Britain walks away without a deal and those who really do want to ignore the referendum and stop Brexit happening - are both in the minority, There probably are not more than 60 MPs who want to walk away with no deal and probably less than 200 who are keen to defy the referendum result - not more than 250 at most who are actively in the "Stop Brexit" camp. But both these minorities make so much more noise than the majority who want either some form of "soft Brexit" or at least a deal, that you could be forgiven for mistaking their sound and fury of the two extremes for people who have the votes to back it up.

* Most MPs want either some form of "soft Brexit" or at least a deal in which Britain leaves the EU without completely cutting themselves off from our former partners. Granted this covers a wide range of views from the softest of soft Brexiteers to the likes of David Davis (e.g. those who nobody would describe as "soft" Brexit supporters but who do want a deal.) However, almost all these MPs realise that it would not be a good idea to undermine the government's negotiating position, for example by saying openly that they would never vote to leave the EU with no deal in place.

Hence judging exactly what there is a majority for in parliament is difficult. However, I don't think walking away from the talks would have a cat in hell's chance of getting through parliament, and I don't think an attempt to reverse the Article 50 notification could get through either.

Basically the Remainers and Soft Brexit supporters have outnumber the hard Brexit cupporters by ten to one, and those who want or reluctantly accept Brexit supporters outnumber Remainers by a clear margin, so the hardliners on either extreme do not have the votes to get their position through unless someone seriously overplays or otherwise mismanage their hand.

Ironically the greatest chance of either of a "No deal" hard Brexit or no Brexit at all happening would be through gross incompetence on the part of the people who want the opposite.

The most likely way for a "no deal" Brexit to happen would be if the opponents of Brexit won the battle for their "meaningful vote" on the final deal negotiated by the government, there was then a majority vote to reject the final deal,  and then any one of the other 27 EU governments vetoed an extension of the Article 50 notice period, with the result that there is no time to negotiate a new deal before the deadline and the UK crashes out without one.

Similarly the only way I could see Britain not leaving the EU would be if the Brexiteers brought down or completely undermined the government, probably through some sort of botched attempt to get rid of Theresa May, and created such chaos that a vote to cancel the article 50 notification was passed.

Unless the 27 other EU government unanimously agree to extend the Article 50 negotiating period is extended or parliament revokes the Article 50 notification, Britain will automatically leave the EU, with or without a deal, in March 2019, so time to agree a deal is not on our side.


The Chequers agreement on Britain's negotiating position

It is in this context that the cabinet met today at Chequers and finally agreed a negotiating position, of which the main details are as follows:
  • The UK would accept continuing "harmonisation" with EU rules on the trade in goods, covering only those necessary to ensure frictionless trade 
  • Parliament would have the final say over how these rules are incorporated into UK law, retaining the right to refuse to do so 
  • There will be different arrangements for trade in services, including financial products, with greater "regulatory flexibility" and "strong reciprocal arrangements" 
  • Freedom of movement as it stands will come to an end but a "mobility framework" will ensure UK and EU citizens can continue to travel to each other's territories and apply for study and work 
  • A new customs arrangement will be phased in, with the goal of "a combined customs territory" 
  • The UK will be able to control its own tariffs and develop an independent trade policy 
  • The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will end but the UK will pay regard to its decisions in areas where common rules were in force. 
Mrs May said this was an "important step" in the process of negotiating the UK's smooth exit from the EU.

 "Of course we still have work to do with the EU in ensuring that we get to that end point in October. But this is good we have come today, following our detailed discussions, to a positive future for the UK," she said.

Reminder: "Saturday Chataway tomorrow in Egremony

The next "Saturday Chataway" and coffee morning for residents of Copeland to talk to their MP Trudy Harrison and elected representatives will take place tomorrow, Saturday, 7th July, at Egremont Methodist Church between 10am and 12 noon.

Councillors of all parties and levels have been invited.

This will be followed by an Egremont community litter pick in the afternoon between 1pm and 3pm.

Quote of the day 6th July


Thursday, July 05, 2018

Cumbria Council tax payers charged £100,000 for old HQ building

Cumbria’s Liberal Democrat and Labour administration on the County Council has spent more than £100,000 maintaining its former headquarters in Carlisle after moving to a new £10.5 million office complex 350 yards away.

Councillor James Airey, leader of the Conservative group on Cumbria County Council, said:

“It is wrong that old headquarters have been left empty for almost two years with council taxpayers left to pick up the bill. 

“To put it in perspective, £100,000 would pay for 2,000 extra pothole repairs. 

“Our Liberal Democrat and Labour council need to follow through quickly on their commitment to find a sustainable solution for their former offices. Every day that this doesn’t happen, the bill for Cumbrians is going up.” 

Under the Freedom of Information Act, Cumbria County Council was asked to provide the costs incurred to-date for maintenance, security and associated expenditure in relation to the Citadel complex (The Courts) in Carlisle following the relocation of council staff to Cumbria House, 117 Botchergate, Carlisle.

Reply: 
Maintenance £14,872
Statutory Serving £15,120
Security £1,119
Electricity £15,547
Gas £12,154
Water £5,007
Business Rates £36,742
TOTAL £100,561

Quote of the day 5th July


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Here we go again ..

When I heard the initial reports of the couple taken ill in Wiltshire I assumed the authorities were just being careful.

Turns out it's just as well they were careful and Porton Down has identified the substance which made the couple ill as Novichok.

Thoughts and prayers are with Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, and the doctors and nurses who are treating them.

I hope the police can find the source - presumably some kind of discarded container - of the agent which made them ill and dispose of it safely before anyone else comes into contact with it.

Music to relax after campaigning: Henry Purcell's Rondeau from Abdelazer

For all those heroes who were telephone canvassing, or otherwise campaigning today, a little something from Purcell:

Next MP/elected representative "Saturday Chataway" to be held 7th July in Egremony Methodist Church at 10am

The next "Saturday Chataway" and coffee morning for residents of Copeland to talk to their MP Trudy Harrison and elected representatives will take place this coming Saturday, 7th July, at Egremont Methodist Church between 10am and 12 noon.

Councillors of all parties and levels have been invited.

This will be followed by an Egremont community litter pick in the afternoon between 1pm and 3pm.

Quote of the day 4th July 2018


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Hell has officially frozen over

England 1, Columbia 1, and England win the penalty shootout …




Well done England!

Hat tip to "Have I got news for you" who tweeted this picture with the caption "Live scenes from Hell as England win penalty shootout."

The Conservative record on Job creation

Fraser Nelson of the Speccie has a good graphic on how the creation of new jobs by businesses under the Conservative government of Theresa May and the Cameron governments compares with their predecessors …

May and Cameron are streets ahead of all their recent predecessors except Blair for job creation in the first two years.

Interesting that job creation has also been outstripping forecasts:


And for those who always respond to such figures with the perfectly fair question about what type of jobs are being created or who come out with their own preconceptions such as that all the new jobs are zero hours contracts, (only a very small proportion are) or all part time (a proportion of the new jobs are, but most of the growth is in full-time employment) here is a breakdown:

The wonders of modern technology ...

There was a bit of delay in blogging this week because the computer on which I write this blog fell over twice yesterday.

I had decided to replace the computer when I made one last attempt to switch it on this morning and this time it worked …

I suspect for many people this will be a familiar story.

I had originally intended to use the following line from "The Pilgrim's regress" by C.S. Lewis as my quote for the day:

"It is the same with all their machines. Their labour-saving devices multiply drudgery; their aphrodisiacs make them impotent: their amusements bore them: their rapid production of food leaves half of them starving, and their devices for saving time have banished leisure from their country."

I changed my mind because on reflection I thought the quote from the same author about pride which I used instead is much more universally true.

Sometimes new machines really do what it says on the tin.

The reverse it true often enough, however, that the line above is amusing ...

Quote of the day 3rd July 2018

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. 

The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. 

If you think you are not conceited, it means that you are very conceited indeed." 

(C.S. Lewis)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Service in Carlisle Catherdral to celebrate 70 years of the NHS

To celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS, a service of thanksgiving and celebration will be held at Carlisle Cathedral this evening (Sunday 1st July 2018.

The celebration will bring together a procession of staff representing the many different elements of the NHS and its partner organisations that work together to deliver health and social care to the people of Cumbria.

The Bishop of Carlisle James Newcome will preach, with readings from NHS staff past and present.

The service will reflect on the history of the NHS, celebrate our staff, and look towards the future.

The Dean of Carlisle, Mark Boyling, said:

It is hard to think of anyone who is not touched in some way by an aspect of the National Health Service. So it is good to be able to invite people from across the county to come to the Cathedral for this special celebration. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Everyone is invited to come along from 5.30pm for tea and coffee, with the service to take place from 6.30-7.30pm.

More details here.



For those in West Cumbria who are not able to get to Carlisle today, there will also be a celebration of 70 years of the NHS at St Nicholas's in the centre of Whitehaven from 12 noon to 4pm next Sunday, 8th July, with an open-air service at 2pm.

Sunday Music Spot: "Locus iste" by Anton Bruckner

Congratulations to the Reverend Alison Riley

who was ordained this morning at St James' Church, Whitehaven  by the Bishop of Carlisle.

Quote of the day 1st July 2018


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Armed forces Day

This has been armed forces week, and today is Armed Forces day when we remember the work and sacrifices of the Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Air Force, and all the other supporting services.

Without them our country would within living memory have been conquered by the Nazis who were responsible for the murder or violent death of about fifty million people and would have killed far more if they had won.

Thank you to all the brave men and women of our armed forces for all you do to defend our country and help those here and abroad facing dangers or disasters.

Saturday music spot: "Minuet" from Handel's Water Music

Quote of the day 30th June 2018


Friday, June 29, 2018

July meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee to discuss cancelled operations.

One of my particular interests in improving the NHS is how we can cut the number of cancelled operations.

Cancelled operations are a triple whammy which is bad news for everyone. They are terribly distressing for the patient and his or her family, bad for staff morale, and represent a waste of resources which has a most unhelpful on the finances of the NHS.

So I am very pleased that the issue of cancelled operations is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee on Monday 9th July 2018.

I have written a piece about the specific issue of cancelled operations on my hospitals blog here and a more general piece about the meeting and the rest of the agenda here.

Music to relax after campaigning: Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony last movement

It is suggested that this final part of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony represents shepherds giving thanks after the passage of a storm.

"Hand of God" discovered near Hadrian's Wall.

Despite coming up during the World Cup this is nothing to do with Argentina's football team. It is a relic of what was probably both the largest military campaign, and the worst massacre, in the history of the British Isles.

Between 208 AD and 2010 AD the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus personally led about 50,000 troops into Scotland on a punitive mission, claiming that Scottish tribes had reneged on a peace agreement. Roman historians recorded that there had been a big increase in Caledonian raids into the Roman province of Britain: the Scottish side of the story might have portrayed a different tale but has not come down to us. This is an example of history being written by the victors (or at least, the survivors.)

The contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio puts into the mouth of the Roman Emperor a speech to his troops which is tantamount to ordering genocide. Parts of this speech appears to have been lifted from Homer's account of the fall of Troy which was about as far in the past in Cassius Dio's time as he is looking back from ours. However, given the ancient Roman propensity for extreme violence towards peoples they considered rebels or traitors, it may not be far from the truth of the orders he gave. According to Cassius Dio, the Emperor instructed his troops to leave nobody alive, not even the children in their mother's wombs, and that "The whole people must be wiped out of existence."

No credible figures are available for the number of casualties on either side, but given that the death tolls which we do have for other campaigns in which Roman armies were given those kind of orders were sometimes measured in the hundreds of thousands, as in the destruction of Carthage, Julius Caesar's massacre of the Rhineland Tribes, and in putting down the first and second Jewish revolts, it is entirely possible that the death toll may have been even worse than in William the Conqueror's harrowing of the north.

A bronze hand, representing the hand of the god Jupiter Dolichenus, which was recently discovered near Hadrian's Wall was probably ritually buried by one of the Roman commanders who took part in Septimius's invasion of Scotland in thanksgiving for victory, or for the survival of himself and his unit.

This relic of one of the largest and bloodiest campaigns in Roman History is now on display at the Museum on the site of the former Virolanda fort on  Hadrian's Wall near Hexham.

Quote of the day 29th June 2018

"Being lectured on party unity – especially regarding Brexit – by Jeremy Corbyn is like taking advice on harmony and non-violence from Tom and Jerry."

(Guido Fawkes blog, from a piece on this week's PMQs which you can read here.)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Robots are revolting

Had an encounter with a rebellious left-wing machine this evening.

The automated checkout teller at a certain supermarket in Whitehaven didn't like my Conservative party bag.

It kept calling it an "Unidentified object in bagging area" and, when I touched the "I'm using my own bag" option it refused to recognise the bag and summoned a shop assistant. Then did so again after she confirmed that the object in the bagging area really was a bag.

Obviously Labour are doing well among the robots. What a good thing they don't have votes yet.

Quote of the day 28th June 2018


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Midweek music spot: "Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks

As the heatwave continues, the hot weather inevitably reminds me of some of the music I associate with hot summer days, such as "Sunny afternoon" by The Kinks:

Prince William's message in the Book of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, wrote a powerful message in the Book of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust Memorial Museum, during his current visit to the Middle East.



"It has been a profoundly moving experience to visit Yad Vashem today. It is almost impossible to comprehend this appalling event in history.

Every name, photograph and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the unimaginable human cost of the Holocaust and the immense loss suffered by the Jewish people. The story of the Holocaust is one of darkness and despair, questioning humanity itself. But the actions of those few who took great risks to help others are a reminder of the human capacity for love and hope.

I am honoured that my own great grandmother is one of these righteous among the nations. We must never forget the Holocaust – the murder of 6 million men, women and children, simply because they were Jewish.

We all have a responsibility to remember and to teach future generations about the horrors of the past so that they can never reoccur. May the millions of Jewish people remembered by Yad Vashem never be forgotten."

Quote of the day 27th June 2018

"The strongest argument for socialism is that it sounds good. The strongest argument against socialism is that it doesn't work. But those who live by words will always have a soft spot in their hearts for socialism because it sounds so good."

(Thomas Sowell, American economist)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jaguar to invest £20 billion in Britain

Those companies who wish to invest somewhere other than Britain or think about doing so have every right to follow such a course and no true Conservative should make rude remarks about them for doing so.

But it is worth noting that not every business takes that view. Amid all the doom, gloom, sound and fury it appears t have been missed that Jaguar Land Rover are investing £20 billion over the next five years on their plants making cars and engines in Britain.

Of teeth, diet, and centuries

While I was in the dentist's chair today my memory was cast back to a forty-year old memory which shows something about the impact of the modern diet against the best of the past.

Towards the end of a summer term in the late Seventies, after the exams had finished, an archaeological excavation was taking place in the site of the former Monastery chapter house at what is now a cathedral adjacent to my old school. The Headmaster (no namby-pamby "headteacher" nonsense back then even from thorough-going liberals such as Mr Kilvington in fact was) said that any sixth former who wanted to spend the last two weeks of the academic year as a volunteer on the dig instead of taking part in the usual low value make-work which tended to characterise the post-exam period could do so.

I was one of around a dozen boys who took up this suggestion, but if memory serves the only one who continued to work on the dig after the end of term when it was my own time I was giving up.

After a few weeks of work we had got below the chapter house floor and reached the level of a number of graves, the contents of which were removed with great respect and care, and subsequently reburied with due ceremony in the Cathedral. Enough of the monastery records had survived Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries that it was possible to be fairly certain of the identities of several of the monks whose mortal remains we were uncovering.

As one well-preserved and large skeleton emerged from the soil, Mr Martin Biddle, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, pointed it out to several of us as Brother Robert, born Robert Breakspear, father of Nicholas Breakspear, a.k.a. Pope Adrian the fourth.

This man had joined the monastery when we was widowed at a relatively young age with two young sons, and signed both his sons up for the church as well - and one of those sons became the only ever English pope. Hence because of his son's eminence he was buried in a place of high honour and he was one of those whose mortal remains the records made it readily possible to identify,

Martin pointed at the almost complete skeleton, and asked us "Do you notice anything interesting?"

None of us did, so he explained "Look at the teeth" and added that this man had been over eighty when he died and had been in the ground for more than eight hundred years.

And after all that time, I can bear witness that every one of his teeth was still in place in his skull.

He had lived the latter half of his long life in the monastery at St Albans, eating good but simple and evidently healthy food.

Obviously the monastic life could be a very healthy one but I just confess to being terribly impressed with how well he had taken care of himself in general and his teeth in particular.

Quote of the day 26th June 2018

“It’s now time for the UK Government to end its costly prevarication on airport expansion and support Heathrow’s plans to ensure Scotland, and the United Kingdom as a whole, can begin to reap the rewards on offer."

(Keith Brown, who was elected this month as Deputy Leader of the SNP and who has been Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work in the SNP government of Scotland since 2016, quoted in the Scottish Government statement backing a third runway at Heathrow after he signed a memorandum of understanding with Heathrow which both sides argued will create up to 16,000 new jobs in Scotland.

Despite the fact that this is and remains the official position of the SNP government in Scotland, the SNP's members of the Westminster parliament abstained yesterday in the House of Commons vote to approve the principle of the expansion, saying that the UK government had "failed to make the case" for Scottish benefits which their own Scottish government says it has secured.)

POSTSCRIPT 27/6/2018 - describing Keith Brown as Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work in the Scottish government, in which capacity he issued the above quote and a post which he still held at the time I wrote the above post, appears to have been the kiss of death. Nicola Sturgeon's reshuffle this week took him out of the Scottish cabinet to concentrate on campaigning in his role as Deputy Leader of the SNP. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Further thoughts on whether Fermi's paradox has been solved ...

My son, who has an interest in science, exclaimed "that's a huger story" when I drew his attention to the Royal Society paper which argues that Fermi's paradox may have been resolved. (see previous post earlier today or a blog post by one of the paper's authors here

The authors think the probability distribution of the number of high-energy civilisations in the universe is very highly skewed indeed.so much so that the mean is 27 million and the median about one!

They are not saying we are alone in the Universe. They are saying we may be. Suggested odds are 30% that we are alone in the visible universe and 53% that we are alone in the Milky Way galaxy. Which is another way of saying that the odds of there being one or more other civilisations in this galaxy are approximately 50:50

I'm a little surprised myself that it has not had more attention. This could have huge implications for the survival of the human race. The authors think that their work, while not by any means indicating we can be complacent about our long term survival, makes the probability of some "Great Filter" which wipes out most civilisations at a stage a little past where we are now that much less. It's probably still a good idea not to elect any persons of poor judgement to positions where they will have their finger on the nuclear button. Oops.

Perhaps the attention of the media is too heavily focussed on little matters like the World Cup, Brexit, and the Heathrow vote. And no, when I describe them as little matters in this context I am not being ironic.


Armed Forces Week

This is armed forces week, and next Saturday will be Armed Forces day when we remember the work and sacrifices of the Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Air Force, and all the other supporting services.

Without them our country would within living memory have been conquered by the Nazis who were responsible for the murder or violent death of about fifty million people and would have killed far more if they had won.

Thank you to all the brave men and women of our armed forces for all you do to defend our country and help those here and abroad facing dangers or disasters.

Has Fermi's Paradox been solved?

A paper for the Royal Society argues that the level of uncertainty about many of the assumptions we have made when trying to calculate the "Drake Equation" and work out how many other planets we would expect to develop intelligent life.

Previous attempts to do this have suggested that there are so many, many stars in the galaxy that even if the probability of a star developing one or more intelligent civilisations is very low, there should still be a fair number of them about, leading to the Fermi Paradox.

We have (perhaps very unwisely) made it likely that any high-energy civilisation within about seventy light-years knows that there is an emerging level one civilisation in the Sol system. If there was a civilisation at a remotely similar tech level to ours at Sirius or any of the other nearby stars the SETI programme would have found them. The Fermi Paradox is that we should have observed evidence of other emerging civilisations, and we haven't.

Hence the "Great Filter" - what stops most stars developing a civilisation which would change it's environment in ways we could observe - and are we past it, or yet to hit it?

The great filter could be anything from the benign - suppose for example that all civilisations wise enough to survive long learn to respect their environment, which might include not doing things like wasting vast amounts of energy beaming powerful signals around the universe or enclosing your star even if you could - to the things we might do to ourselves, e.g. most civilisations might blow themselves up in a nuclear war - to external threats - there might be a psychotic supercivilisation which obliterates any potential rivals, in which case we're probably done for.

The new paper argues that previous attempts to build Drake-like equations implicitly assumed certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters. The authors examined these parameters, incorporating models of chemical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, and provide evidence that given extant scientific knowledge there are in fact uncertainties about these assumptions which span multiple orders of magnitude. When the model is recast to represent what the authors think are more realistic distributions of uncertainty, they find a substantial possibility of there being no other intelligent life in the part of the universe we can observe. If they are right that appears to resolve the Fermi Paradox.

The paper is called "Dissolving the Fermi Paradox" by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, and Toby Ord and you can find a listing on the Cornell University site for it here.

Quote of the day 25th June 2018


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Well done England

Congratulations to the England football team for their 6:1 victory over Panama in the World Cup.

Fantastic result.

Sunday music spot: "This is the record of John" by Orlando Gibbons

On the day when the church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist this is one of two particularly wonderful pieces of music about him.

(The other is the recit. and aria "Comfort ye" and "Every Valley shall be exalted" from Handel's Messiah. Handel set to music in those works the passage from Isaiah to which John referred when he was asked who explain who he was. in the passage from the Gospels which Gibbons set to music in this anthem.)

Quote of the day 24th June 2018

"There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."

(Sun Tzu, the Art of War)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

We had a "people's vote" two years ago

And the people who are calling for one now don't like the fact that their side - and mine - lost.

Two years ago today we had the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

The campaigns on neither side covered themselves with glory. For the reasons I explained a couple of days ago I don't think it is helpful to throw the accusation of lying at either campaign, but many people on both sides who ought to have known better were certainly guilty of stretching the truth.

There is also reason to think that some people on both sides may have paid less attention than they should have to financial rules, and their is little doubt that Vladimir Putin's operatives attempted to stir the pot, though I don't believe either of those things changed the result.

But we had a vote and it produced a decision, and until and unless much more convincing evidence emerges that either side cheated than anything I have yet seen, we should respect that result.

Those who are calling for a "people's vote" on the final deal have failed to provide an acceptable answer to the question of what should happen if it produces a "no."

There has to be a crystal clear answer to that question before such a referendum is held or we might find that people have voted for the opposite of what they intended.

The one outcome which it is definitely in the UK's power to deliver in the event of a "No vote" and which might be the unintentional result of a "No" vote anyway, is that Britain crashes out of the EU without any deal.

It is very likely that some of the people who are telling pollsters they support a second referendum are hard Brexit supporters who would like precisely that outcome.  But I'm pretty certain that most of the people protesting today for a "People's vote" would not.

I think most of the people who are campaigning for a second referendum think that a "No" vote should mean cancelling Brexit.

This is a strong contender for the most stupid idea put forward during the entire referendum campaign and aftermath, which is a very high bar for stupidity. Whether they intend it or not this would completely sabotage Britain's negotiating position.

If the EU institutions and the other member states know that we will, or even think that we might, hold another referendum on the possibility of cancelling Brexit when we see the final deal on offer, they have a strong incentive to make that deal as awful as possible. If we then ahve a referendum on an awful deal, whichever way that referendum then goes the consequences for this country will be dire.

The only way that it might have been possible to make a referendum on the deal work had article 50 been drafted differently, would be if a "No" vote meant to go back and try to negotiate a different deal. If we had the time, and if it was clear what sort of changes the people who rejected the deal wanted, you might have been able to do that.

But since Article 50 means that Britain leaves the EU two years after giving notice to do so unless the other member states unanimously agree to extend that deadline, the chances that we would have time to renegotiate a better deal are somewhere between slim and none.

The people have voted to leave the EU. It's time to get on with making that result work.

Jesse Norman on Adam Smith

Jesse Norman MP has a superb article in the FT on a transformational thinker who was rightly revered if sometimes misrepresented in previous generations but sadly underestimated and oversimplified in the present era.

I refer of course to Adam Smith, author of "The Wealth of Nations" who is often seen, rightly in my opinion, as the founder of the discipline of Economics.

Smith's views about markets and many other things were generally more nuanced and much more sophisticated than he is usually given credit for by any of his detractors and many of his supporters.

Jesse Norman's article describes Smith's life and his seminal books, and offers a few comments on how he might see our present age.

I particularly liked the point that although markets "are unmatched in their ability to allocate goods and services and encourage innovation and technological improvement"

Smith also argued that

"what matters is not the largely empty rhetoric of  'free markets' but the reality of effective competition."

Norman also draws from Smith the insight that

"Markets constitute a socially constructed and evolving order that exists and must exist not by divine right but because it serves the public good. It follows from this that the modern doctrine of market failure, which derives from academic models assuming perfect competition, needs to be expanded and supplemented. 

The truth is that outside academic models there are few if any genuinely free markets, and the imagined benefits of perfect markets disappear once any imperfections are allowed. Instead, policymakers need to start by asking two much simpler questions: 
  • What is this specific market for? 
  • How is it actually working?" 
You can read Jesse Norman's article in full here.

Embarrasing internet fail of the month ...

You couldn't make this one up.

The Independent has an article on their website,

"11 signs you're a good person."

Most of the eleven things in the article are things that are self-evidently good things to be or do, although in my opinion the checklist does have a weakness that, to paraphrase C.S. :Lewis, it makes it too easy to attribute a good score to oneself on inadequate grounds.

In my opinion most of the items on the list are actions or principle of life which those who are actually very good people implement frequently, good people carry out regularly, and most people other than the 10% of the population who are utterly horrible individuals do or follow at least occasionally. And most of us would least aspire or try to follow them all.

Hence most people will be able to read the list and for the majority of the items on it will be able to think of an occasion in the past year where they've taken an action ticking that box. All but the most self-aware people are likely to give themselves a fairly high score which will not always be appropriate.

But that isn't the classic fail with the article.

Each of the 11 tests is illustrated with a link to a comment on anecdote which amplifies or exemplifies the principle.

Unfortunately one or two of those links don't work or refer to something which has been taken down.

Test six is

"You make sure everyone gets heard."


Unfortunately when I read the article, in place of a post on AskReddit which was supposed to illustrate test six I found a box with the words,

"This comment has been deleted."

Looks like one of the moderators on AskReddit is not a good person …

Music to relax after campaigning: Praeludium from Grieg's Holberg Suite

Quote of the day 23rd June 2018

"Britain … in the passage of Maastricht and the follow-on treaties, lost the EEC it was comfortable with and found itself faced with the increasingly stark choice of membership of a club it didn’t really want to be part of, or leaving a club it didn’t really want to be outside." 

(David Herdson, article on the "Political Betting" site about the consequences of the Maastricht Treaty and on what might have happened if Britain had vetoed or failed to ratify that treaty, which you can read here.

The latter very nearly happened due to an unholy alliance between the Labour front bench who claimed to want the treaty passed without Britain's opt-outs, e.g. even more integration, and Eurosceptic rebels who claimed to want the whole thing thrown out, e.g. less.

I refer to this as an unholy alliance because both groups voted for things which were the total opposite of what they said they wanted: Eurosceptics voted for the Social Chapter and pro-integrationists voted against ratification.  Had their votes successfully prevented the treaty from being ratified as negotiated one of those groups would have caused the exact opposite of what they pretended to stand for.

John Major lost one of the key ratification votes and had to reverse it the following day by proposing a motion of confidence in the government which also endorsed the government position of opting out of the Social Chapter. Defeat on the motion of confidence would have triggered a general election. If John Major had not been prepared to risk this, or the Eurosceptic rebels had, Britain would probably have failed to ratify the Maastricht treaty and thereby killed it.

I mention this because it demonstrates that the leadership of the Labour party being completely untrustworthy on Europe - neither pro-EU nor anti-EU factions in this country have ever been able to rely on promises from the Labour front bench - is something which long-predates Jeremy Corbyn.)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Why the word "Liar" should not be over-used.

There is a good article here on why the accusation of lying should not be over-used - even when one is very angry with someone.

It is my impression that, when the accusation of lying is thrown about during political debate, nine times out of ten what has actually happened is either that someone has said something which is wrong through a silly mistake or a failure to listen properly rather than a deliberate lie, or that two people have views so diametrically opposed that they cannot understand a sincere person holding the opposite opinion.


Quote of the day 22nd June 2018

"We must never limit our ambitions."

(Councillor Hugo Graham, speech in the chamber of Cumbria County Council, 21st June 2018)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The government is making MORE children, not fewer, eligible for Free School Meals

I was sorry to hear the Labour party at today's meeting of Cumbria County Council repeating exploded myths about free school meals.

There ARE genuine problems with Universal credit.

The false allegation that the present government is reducing the number of children able to claim free school meals is not one of them.

I challenge any Labour county councillor or activist who claims that the Labour speeches made in the Council Chamber at Kendal today were accurate to find one family in Cumbria who have been and remain on Universal credit whose children in year three or above were getting free school meals this year (2017/8) and who lose that entitlement.

(The reason I say "in year three and above" is that all children in English schools who are in reception and years One and Two are entitled to free school meals. Neither the government or anyone else is proposing to change this.)

Under the plans for rollout of Universal Credit the Conservative government is changing planned eligibility for free school meals for children in year three and above in a manner which INCREASES the total number of children who will be eligible for them compared with the previous benefits system and to focus provision more accurately on those most in need.

No child who is currently able to obtain free school meals under Universal Credit will lose that benefit while their family remains on Universal Credit.

Under the old benefits system - as operated during the last Labour government - children are entitled to free school meals if their parents receive an out of work benefit like Jobseekers’ Allowance. They only lose their entitlement once their parent or parents start working 16 hours a week (if there’s one adult in the house), or 24 hours a week (if there are two).

Since 2013, the government has been rolling out Universal Credit, replacing the old benefits system. Some areas, like Croydon, have already switched; others are still waiting.

As an interim measure to ease the transition, the government has relaxed the eligibility rules for those affected by the rollout of Universal Credit so that during that rollout all families receiving Universal Credit are entitled to free school meals, regardless of income or hours worked.

It was never promised that this interim measure would be permanent, and the government recently announced that a means test will be introduced for new claimants. This will be based on the amount earned from work rather than the number of hours worked because this is likely to be a fairer measure of need.

And I repeat, the means test is for new claimants. Those children who get free school meals under the interim rollout arrangements will remain eligible for them rather than be means tested.

It is expected that compared with the old benefit system, by 2022 the test based on money earned will mean that 210k children whose parents are working more than 16/24 hours a week will qualify for free school meals who would not previously have been eligible, while 160k children, mostly those whose parents work fewer hours but earn more than the new financial threshold, will not.

The total number of children who will be eligible in 2022 will be fifty thousand higher than under the old system, and the new system is better targeted on those most in need: the families which gain access to free school meals will be on lower incomes than the families which would have had them under the old system but lose out.

Labour have been, and Labour County Councillors in Cumbria today still were, attempting to make out that the Conservatives are cutting access to free school meals. Labour's shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, originally tried to imply that the Conservatives had taken free school meals away from a million children.

However, in response to Labour's allegations it was pointed out, and not just by Conservatives, that


The quote in the graphic above and indeed almost everything I have written above does NOT come from a government or Conservative party source. The statement immediately above is a direct quote from a Channel 4 Factcheck investigation into the Labour party accusations against the government on this subject, as you can confirm for yourself by following the link here.

Almost everything else I have written in this post can be confirmed from the same source.

An Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report confirms the estimate that 50,000 more children will be eligible for free school meals under the new system than the old one and gives more detail on winners and losers 

160,000 children who would have been eligible for free school meals in 2022 will not be - but 210,000 children who would not have been eligible under the old sytem now will be. A net increase, as the government has said all along, of 50,000.

Here is an IFS graphic showing the winners and losers (and that there are 50,000 more children who gain entitlement to free school meals than lose them.)

You never please everyone when you try to target benefits more accurately - there is an old saying that the government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul while the opposition gets Peter's vote - but as I have written before, please can we try to have a grown-up discussion about the whole picture and not just an exchange of highly selective quotes?