Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quote of the day 26th October 2014

"Sir Thomas More's achievement, in being both knighted and canonised, is likely to remain an unbeaten record"

(C Northcote Parkinson, of Parkinson's Law, on the rarity of different types of success)

Of course, More was also beheaded .... 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Clocks go back tonight

Don't forget to put your clocks back an hour this evening, unless your name is Ed Miliband or Nigel Farage.

If your name is Ed Miliband, put your clocks forward 29 years, 364 days, and 23 hours.

If your name is Nigel Farage, put your clocks forward 49 years, 364 days, and 23 hours.

Review of hospital services in West and North Cumbria

The review of maternity services, and the possibility of a disastrous decision to remove consultant-led maternity facilities from West Cumberland Hospital, is just part of an overall review of key services announced yesterday.

I have put a more detailed article about this on my hospitals blog here.

Options for maternity at WCH published

The NHS Trust which manages hospital services in North Cumbria have revealed three options for the future of maternity services.

Two of the proposals by North Cumbria Hospitals NHS Trust involve withdrawing consultant-led services at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

A third would be to retain both the unit in Whitehaven, and that at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

The trust said it did not have a preferred option and promised that - as required by law - there would be no decision without a public consultation.

It is therefore essential that we campaign for the third option - the idea of Mum's in Labour having to travel 40 or more miles on the A595 to the North Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle or FGH in Barros is too ghastly to contemplate.

The plans are part of a review of medical services, which the trust is undertaking in a bid to get out of the special measures it was placed in after high death rates were found following the Keogh review.

In September, thousands of people took part in a rally in Whitehaven to protest about some services being moved to Carlisle and Hexham.

Quote of the day 25th October 2014

“People can learn a lot from one another if their need to be right falls away.” 

K L Jordaan )

Friday, October 24, 2014

Congratulations to Kelly Tolhurst on her selection in Rochester and Strood

Councillor Kelly Tolhurst has been selected by a postal ballot primary of all electors in the Rochester and Strood constituency to be the Conservative candidate in the By-Election on 20th November.


Good luck to Kelly in the election - I am certain she will be a fantastic MP if elected

Is the European Commission in the pay of UKIP ?

You could almost wonder sometimes whether elements of the European Commission past and present are secret agents in the pay of the UK Independence Party.

Barroso's valedictory speech was a gift to UKIP - and welcomed by Nigel Farage as such - but the annoucement this week of adjustments to the amount the EU is demanding from various states, with rebates for some and extra payments demanded from others, was adding injury to insult.

The "Technical Adjustment" requiring Britain to pay more to the Commission as a consequence of the fact that we are recovering better from recession than most of the Eurozone would have been painful enough it had been applied in a way that made sense.

But to demand that Italy and Greece also pay more for the same reason looks very odd.

Quote of the day 24th October 2014

"I am advised by my own chief whip that herding cats is quite difficult."

(John Thurso, a Liberal Democrat MP, telling the Commons yesterday why the House authorities do not propose to use cats to control parliament's mouse problem.) 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Treasury Minister Priti Patel writes about Labour's proposed tax on homes

In the area of Cumbria where I live, properties which change hands for £2 million can reasonably be describe as mansions - though there are so few of them in this county that a tax on such properties would hardly raise enough money to be worth the effort of collecting.

But in some parts of the country, particularly London, house price inflation has put the homes of ordinary working people into the territory which might be caught by Labour's so called "Mansion Tax"

 And if the suggestion by one Labour politician to apply the tax to houses in the North West worth over £400,000 were put into effect, there are plenty of family homes in places like Keswick which are certainly not mansions but would be affected.

This is what Priti Patel has to say on the subject:


'Let's stop calling it a "mansion tax"- these are not mansions, these are family homes' - Tessa Jowell, Labour MP

Ed Miliband's planned tax on the family home will hit hardworking people across the country - as even his own MPs and Peers admit:
  • 'It will impact disastrously on people...particularly pensioners' - Glenda Jackson, Labour MP
  • 'It is misconceived...what it does is create a cliff edge' - Nick Raynsford, Labour MP
  • 'A hopeless and desperate idea' - Lord Noon, Labour Peer
Show YOUR opposition to this latest Labour tax - sign the petition today.

Labour said only 'the most wealthy' would pay their homes tax - but now Ed Balls is saying that everyone who earns £42,000 or more will have to pay up front.

Labour said pensioners would be protected - but Ed Balls admitted this week that pensioners will have to pay the tax after they die.

Labour said only homes worth £2 million would be hit - but already a senior Labour figure has demanded the tax be extended to homes worth £400,000 in the North of England (Claire Reynolds, quoted in The Sunday Express, 10/08/14).

It's clear that hardworking families across the country would be hit by Labour's latest tax.

And it's clearer than ever that a Labour government would mean a return to higher taxes, more debt, and a stalled economy.

Add your name to our petition today and let's stop Labour's plans:



Thank you,
Priti Patel
Treasury Minister

Happy Diwali

A happy Diwali (Festival of Light) today to everyone whose religion or culture includes this celebration.

Quote of the day 23rd October 2014 (Diwali, the Festival of Light)


“Don't curse the darkness but light a candle.” 


(Brother AndrewGod's Smuggler)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The UKIP Paradox

Hat Tip to Political Betting for pointing out at a paradox in the opinion polls - at the same time that hte UK Independence party is doing very well in the polls, support for British membership of the EU is polling at a record high level.

They are probably right that part of this may be a ripple from the Scottish Indyref and that part can be explained because the rise in UKIP is having a polarising effect - they are about as "Marmite" (love them or hate them) as a broadly mainstream party can get.

If there is a referendum, I don't think either side can take the result for granted. As with Scotland, the battle will narrow as we get close to the event, and unless one side really blows it - as the "Yes" camp did in the AV referendum and the "No" side got uncomfortably close to doing in the Indyref  before pulling their socks up in the final month - I would expect an IN-OUT referendum to present a nerve-wracking possibility of going either way.

I still think we should hold one. First, because for all the faults of democracy it is a better way to run a country than any other, and there are times when you should trust the people to make the decision. My parents' generation were given a vote on whether to join the "Common Market" but nobody has ever asked the British electorate whether they want to be part of the European Union and they were cheated out of a referendum on Lisbon by Gordon Brown.

And second because I am fed up to the back teeth with the damage which uncertainty on the question of whether Britain should be part of the EU is doing. I want it settled one way or the other for a generation, and the only way to do that is to appeal to the final authority in Britain, which is the British people themselves, to take a decision. And then both sides should respect that result, whatever it is.

Quote of the day 22nd October 2014

"The Government have provided investment to develop facilities further, particularly facilities for surgical procedures, in the hospital and the local area. With that investment, there is a strong future for local hospital services. 

It is important that local clinical commissioners continue to engage with staff at the trust, and particularly with local patients. After all, if we want a health service that is fit for purpose in Cumbria and elsewhere, it has to be based on the needs of local patients. It is to them, more than anybody else, that local commissioners need to listen."

(Daniel Poulter MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, winding up the debate in the House of Commons this Monday about the future of West Cumberland Hospital.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

House of Commons debate about West Cumberland Hospital

There was a "adjournment debate" in parliament yesterday about West Cumberland Hospital. This is a means of getting a short debate, often attended only by the Speaker or Deputy Speaker in the chair, the MP or MPs who raised the issue and by the minister who is replying, about an issue of constituency or other concern.

I know there is - rightly - a huge amount of concern in West Cumbria about our local hospital. I thought it was worth publicising the full text of the debate, so I have posted it on my hospitals blog and you can read it here.

Adrian Davis-Johnston's "I Won't Survive" parody in support of #WeNeedWestCumberlandHospital

Adrian Davis-Johnston, a great guy who I knew a few years ago when he was involved in various campaigns in Copeland, has published a very clever Youtube parody of Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" in support of the campaign to protect services at WCH. ((Hashtag #WeNeedWestCumberlandHospital)

The nearest alternative hospitals to WCH such as the North Cumberland Informary at Carlisle or FGH at Barrow are respectively an hour away from Whitehaven or Millom on terrible roads, and more like ninety minutes away from much of South Copeland. Given the importance of getting people to treatment quickly, any reduction in major trauma, maternity or other emergency services at the West Cumberland could have a dire impact on West Cumbria.

This is Adrian's take on the consequences if we lose services at WCH

Total Recall

One of the many proofs that, if there is a God, He has a sense of irony came when the lead actor from the original "Total Recall" film became governor of California in a recall election, replacing a previous governor who had become very unpopular.

A number of US states have recall laws, generally, as in California, they are used from time to time but not every five minutes, which is probably a good sign, as it means that they can be used to give elected politicians an additional reason to listen to the electorate without making the state ungovernable (or at least, not more ungovernable than it already is!)

Today British MPs are debating the "Recall of MPs" bill, and if you think that sounds like a conflict of interest you have a point.

The bill proposes that, if an MP is given a prison sentence of up to 12 months or a ban from the Commons lasting more than 21 sitting days, a petition could be set up calling for a recall election. The petition would be open for eight weeks and, if by then 10% of eligible voters have signed it, the seat would be declared vacant and a by-election called.

What some people might see as a catch is that bans from the Commons are only imposed by a Committee of MPs - so you can argue that this law gives too much power to MPs and makes the legislation too difficult to trigger.

David Cameron has described the powers in the bill as the "minimum acceptable" and promised to look carefully at any amendments. His spokesman said he was "very keen" for the debate "to be as wide as possible".

Backbencher Zak Goldsmith is planning to move an amendment which would allow MPs to be recalled if 5% of voters in a constituency sign a "notice of intent to recall" and 20% then sign a "recall petition".

 I know not all the readers of this blog share my belief that there is a lot to be said for representative democracy as extolled by Edmund Burke, but if you are going to have representative democracy at all you need, at the same time, to be able to help the electorate deal with those who abuse their position without making it impossible for MPs to make brave stands on issues where they may be unpopular for reasons which do them credit.

I don't necessarily agree that this applies to the Goldsmith proposals, but Nick Clegg does have a point about the need to avoid the type of recall system which might, quote,

"give a field day to very-well-funded vested interests who do not like what someone has done on gay marriage or the environment or abortion or fox hunting to basically hound MPs they don't like".

If it is too easy to trigger a recall election at the drop of a hat, it will be used all too often against MPs precisely because they have done their jobs properly, rather than because they have betrayed the public's trust (though of course that is not how the petition organisers will present it.)

However, if you are going to require a large number of signatures - something like the 20% of the electorate in the Goldsmith proposals, or I would prefer 25% - then you are only going to get a recall election set up if the MP really has done something which merits putting the case to the whole electorate.

An intelligent Labour view on the need to reform EU immigration law

When someone links to a view expressed by a member of an opposing political party, it usually means that the person linked to has gone off-message and attacked their own side. I'll admit that I sometimes link to people who have done this. As Ted Heath once said,

"I do not often attack the Labour party - they do it so well themselves."

However, the piece I'm linking to in this post is not an example.

Kevin Meagher has an article on "Labour Uncut" this week about the current EU migration rules, which is partly a response to the valedictory speech yesterday from outgoing EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso. The article is called

 "Blind Defenders of Free Movement sound like US gun nuts."

It is a refreshingly bipartisan (from a British viewpoint) and thought-provoking argument that the modern impact of EU freedom of movement rules is having a much wider and more dramatic impact than was originally intended and that these rules should be reformed.

As he argues convincingly,

"Just like US gun nuts defending their “right to bear arms,” there is a qualitative difference between the original intention and the modern manifestation of this “freedom”. Just as a single-shot musket is not the same thing as an automatic assault rifle, the pace and volume of migration in the EU over the last decade is not what the signatories of the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act intended, or envisioned ever happening.

Our EU partners need to be reminded of this and David Cameron is absolutely right to seek to do so. And a Labour government will face exactly the same dilemmas, so there is little for Ed Miliband to gain by seeing Cameron fail in his bid to restore some sanity to the free movement regime."

You can read the whole article here.

Trafalgar Day

I try not to re-use material on this blog too often, but today, the 209th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, I will make an exception. it's important to understand our history and Trafalgar is a key part of that history. I'm don't think I can improve on what I wrote nine years ago for the 200th anniversary in 2005, so here is that article again.


The Immortal Memory

Today is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar – one of the three most decisive and important naval battles of all time, and the most important in the past 2,000 years. Only the battle of Salamis in 480 BC, when Greek city states fought off an invasion by the Persian Empire and thereby ensured the survival both of early democracy and the ideas which would develop into science, and Actium in 32 BC which determined who would found the Roman Empire and what course it would take over the following 400 years, were as important.

So why is Trafalgar so important ? First, it ensured that Napoleon’s most deadly enemy, Britain, was beyond his power to defeat, and that his power and ambitions would always stop at the water’s edge. Ultimately this was to lead to his defeat – and it made certain that he would not be master of the world. Napoleon was a man of huge abilities and great ruthlessness, and without Trafalgar he might have established a centralised world empire dominated by one man. A history which included such a world empire is not one which any wise person would prefer to our own.

Second, Trafalgar ensured British domination of the seas for well over a hundred years. That power was used to abolish the slave trade, to establish a world economy, and to limit the ability of the old powers of Europe to crush emerging nationalist or independence movements in many parts of the world. I would not pretend that everything Britain did during the 19th century was good, but without the Royal Navy the abolition of slavery and the independence of Greece and most of Latin America would have been much harder to achieve.

Trafalgar was a victory for British sailors who lived, worked and fought in conditions which to us would have been dreadful hardship. Books, films and TV programmes like “Master and Commander” and the Hornblower series can give us some faint conception of what it was like for 600 to a thousand men to live crammed into a creaky, leaky, cold wooden ship about 200 feet long: visits to HMS Victory or the Endeavour replica which visited Whitehaven recently can give a slightly better one.

But I doubt if anyone except veterans of modern wars, and perhaps not even them, can fully appreciate what it was like when those confined spaces were filled with the deafening roar and blinding smoke from cannons, where cannonballs, musket shot and wood splinters cut men down by the dozen, and when agonising death or crippling wounds could come at any moment to anyone on board. Our generation, living relatively safe, secure and comfortable lives for reasons which are in no small way due to the sacrifice of the sailors who fought at Trafalgar and other battles, can only wonder at how much we owe to the Royal Navy.

The Navy drinks to Nelson and the heroes of Trafalgar with the words “The Immortal Memory.”

Let us also remember that the navy which defended us 200 years ago may be needed at any time in the future. Our nation’s prosperity and our ability to feed our people depends on trade routes all over the world, to a greater degree than any other country. We need a strong navy now as much as we needed one 200 years ago. The history of our politicians in supporting the navy (or indeed the other services) is not as glorious as the history of our sailors, soldiers and airmen in defending our islands with whatever tools they have been given. Let all those who aspire to positions of authority in our country remember that.

I usually write in this blog about the present and the future, about current issues that affect ordinary people’s lives. Today I have made an exception and written about the past, and perhaps in terms which may seem a bit old-fashioned, even Blimpish to some people. Well, maybe, but anniversaries like today’s do not come around that often. And if we want to have the best possible future, we must not forget the lessons of our past.

A Quote for Trafalgar day

"England confides that every man will do his duty"

(Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, original form of his "Trafalgar" signal sent 209 years ago today)

"His Lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a quarter to noon, he said, 'Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, ENGLAND CONFIDES THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY' and he added 'You must be quick, for I have one more to make which is for close action.' I replied, 'If your Lordship will permit me to substitute the confides for expects the signal will soon be completed, because the word expects is in the vocabulary, and confides must be spelt,' His Lordship replied, in haste, and with seeming satisfaction, 'That will do, Pasco, make it directly.'

(Lieutenant John Pasco, signals officer on HMS Victory, about how the signal was actually sent.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

David Cameron writes about the next election





There are just 200 days to go until the next General Election - and it is the most important for a generation.

For four years, the British people have worked hard to raise our country out of recession - and we are now growing faster than any other major advanced economy in the world, with record numbers of people in work.

That means more peace of mind for millions of families - more parents being able to provide for their children.

Our long-term economic plan is working - and at the next election, we can either continue on that path or throw it all away.

We have the chance to make Britain even greater: a place where reward truly follows effort; where your destiny is not decided by where you're from, but how much effort you put in; where we remain able to provide for the poorest, the sick, the elderly; where morally, culturally and economically our country stands tall in the world.

A Labour Britain hardly bears thinking about. All Ed Miliband offers is more spending, more borrowing, more debt, more taxes.

So just imagine what would happen: our government racking up more debt; interest rates and mortgage rates going up; businesses crushed under punishing taxes; jobs leaving our shores; a great nation slipping back into decline.

I don't want this to happen - and if you don't either, please donate £20 to our campaign today.

The next election is a straight fight: the Conservatives or Labour. There is no third way - a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour.

We can't throw away the progress we've made. Instead, we've got to continue with the long-term plan that is working.

So please - make a donation today:

Donate 20 pounds today

Thank you,

David Cameron

Quote of the day 20th October 2014

 
“Never assume the obvious is true.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When the things we care about are not what we're good at ...

Adam Gopnic has written and broadcast a "Points of View" article, from which I took my "quote of the day" which can be read on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29657506,
or listened to at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04l3ly6.

The broadcast article is called the "Football Fallacy" - as one part of the article argues that the British are better at watching football than playing it. But the article is actually much more general and wide-ranging in scope. On the internet the text version is called

"Why are our obsessions never the things we're best at?"

His basic argument is that the activities which often most interest or indeed obsess people, and which they think they are good at, are often things which in fact they are rubbish at.

Now I absolutely cannot accept that this is always true, because someone who is obsessed with something often works very hard at it, and there are very few human activities which are not enormously improved by practice. An individual who would otherwise be terrible at an activity but who really, really cares about it and  practices a lot will often do better than someone whose gifts should have made them well above average at the activity concerned but could not care less about it and makes no effort.

Where I think Adam Gopnic is absolutely dead on is that whatever level of attainment has actually been achieved, people who are obsessed with something nearly always think they are better at it than they actually are.

He starts by arguing that the English are obsessed with football, and very good at watching it, but not very good at playing it.

Then he moves on to the French and writing literature. After talking about the French reverence for great literature, he continues,

"To be a writer in France is to be blessed with a reverence that no British or American writer can ever hope to attain except in France. Yet, let us be honest, you probably have not actually read a novel by a working French novelist in a long time ... 

"The French talk spellbindingly about great literature more often than they actually make it."

But if his comments about the English and French are likely to be painful for some readers in those countries, that's nothing to the intellectual ICBM he fires at his fellow Americans:

"No one talks more about democracy, republicanism, self-government and liberty than Americans. But in truth Americans have no special skill at self-government - they are only good at dramatising their struggle for it. In many respects, the United States is the least democratic of the big democratic countries. The entire Constitution, fetishised by Americans to a religious degree, is designed to keep the country from ever actually becoming a representative democracy."

"Americans are not very good at practising democracy - but we are very good at advertising democratic ideas which makes us also imagine, God help us, that we are good at spreading democracy, with the results we know."

Ouch!

I don't go all the way with Mr Gopnic - for the reasons I gave above people are not always terrible at the things they obsess about. But he probably has a point that we should distinguish between being fascinated by something and convincing ourselves that we're brilliant at it.

Quote of the day 19th October 2014

"When I first supported Chelsea, back in 1973 ...  They were thrilling until, loaned to their national sides, they played other countries and you found that they weren't, really. It didn't seem to matter.
 
"Now Chelsea is owned by a billionaire from Russia and made up of several millionaires from Spain and West Africa, with a couple of Englishmen left over to cower on the sidelines ... This strikes me as a completely positive change, making them much more exciting to watch - but some of the local flavour is gone, including the peculiar local flavour of not being very good."

(Adam Gopnic writing about the changes in his local football team, in an article on the BBC website at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-29657506 about the fact that the things people are obsessed with are often not the things they are good at. See next post for comments on this article. He's just as rude about the Americans and French performance on the things they think they're good at ..)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Quote of the day 18th October 2014

“Don't wish to be normal. Wish to be yourself. To the hilt. Find out what you're best at, and develop it, and hopscotch your weaknesses. Wish to be great at whatever you are.”
 
(Lois McMaster BujoldLabyrinth)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Looking out for the disabled

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lord Freud has apologised unreservedly for comments he made about employing disabled workers. He was right to do so.


But we should also recognise that Lord Freud, who does not claim a ministerial salary, has been a passionate advocate of getting disabled people back into work, particularly those with mental health problems, although as he himself has admitted he should not have accepted the premise of the question asked at the party conference event and his words have offended many people.

Conservatives have a proud record of helping disabled people:

· The number of disabled people in employment is up 116,000 this year alone, meaning many more disabled people have the security of a job because of our long-term economic plan.

· Conservative MPs forced through Parliament, against the then Labour Government’s opposition, the Autism Act 2009, the first piece of legislation on a specific disability in British history.

· It was John Major and William Hague who delivered the first Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, giving disabled people legal protection against discrimination at work and in the provision of services.

There is a very interesting article by Lord Tebbit in the Daily Telegraph on the subject of Labour's ambush of Lord Freud which you can read can read here at

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100289522/ed-milibands-hypocrisy-over-lord-freud-is-an-attempt-to-cover-his-own-inadequacy/

Lord Tebbit does not think paying disabled people less than the minimum wage is the best solution to the problem that the minimum wage can price them out of work, but he realises that this a very real issue which those who genuinely care about the needs of disabled people should want to address. As he puts it

"To say that someone is 'not worth £6 an hour' was clumsy and open to willful misunderstanding. My wife was capable of earning her pay as an experienced nurse until the sadistic criminals of IRA/Sinn Fein crippled her. She is worth no less today, but she could not justify a pay rate of £6 an hour.
What was put to Lord Freud was the suggestion that rather than denying work to people either mentally or physically impaired, we should consider paying them less than the minimum wage.
In my view that would undermine the whole concept of a minimum wage. Better by far to look at the possibility of finding assistants to such people who could raise their productivity. They could be paid not by the employer, but by a welfare agency. Or we could seek out niche jobs where they could be as good, if not better than, other workers.
Years ago when I was Secretary of State for Employment we found that some learning-disabled people really enjoyed repetitive work such as singling and potting-on seedlings. Many youngsters who might otherwise have been condemned to a life of unemployment came to know the dignity and fellowship of work in such work.
In other words, Lord Freud was mulling over how to help such people, just as I did in my time. His error was not to assume that an undercover, eavesdropping Labour Party employee would be listening, not to help the disabled but to help Mr Miliband.
That was what led to the sickening display of hypocrisy and the exploitation of the difficulties of disabled people in an effort to cover up Mr Miliband's inadequacies in his own job."

As is often the case, Norman Tebbit is absolutely right.

Here is a memory aid ...

Conservative Campaign HQ would like to remind everyone of a few salient facts.



Everyone knows that reducing the deficit and dealing with our debts is the key to a stronger, healthier economy.

Everyone, that is, except for Ed Miliband - who 'forgot' to mention the deficit in his hour-long speech at Labour conference.

Watch this film then share it with everyone you know to remind them that you can't trust Labour with the economy:

Play the film

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Thank you,

Conservative Campaign HQ

Donate today

Whitehaven News calls for Elaine Woodburn to resign over Pow Beck

Here are some extracts from The Whitehaven News leader article this week calling on the Leader of Copeland Borough Council, Elaine Woodburn, to resign over the council's handling of the Pow Beck fiasco.


"POW BECK - WHY HEADS MUST ROLL


COPELAND Borough Council has attempted to dupe the public over its failings in the Pow Beck Stadium fiasco.
When the multi-million-pound scheme collapsed in 2012 – costing not only public money but also Whitehaven the chance of hosting the Rugby World Cup – people wanted answers. Last week, they thought they finally had them.
It turns out, however, that the council’s review of the debacle published last week didn’t even scratch the surface of what went wrong.
When the scheme collapsed, a review was quickly ordered and consultant Rob Blanden was drafted in to contribute his over 20 years of experience.
A lot of what Mr Blanden found – and reported in his first draft – was damning; systematic failings, lack of clarity at various levels and too much focus on the politics of the plans.
However, the final version – reported in good faith by The Whitehaven News last week – bore little resemblance to the original. Mr Blanden had been explicit in his criticisms. But by the time the report reached the public – via us – it had been so wrapped up in council speak and shrouded in vague terminology of “continuity risks”, “strategic projects”, “governance structures” and “stakeholder analysis” that it made it difficult to pin down what had gone wrong and why.
Credit to Sean Duffy for persevering. He believed there was more to this report than meets the eye. He was right – and his work has resulted in the “draft” version coming to light. Copeland had hoped it would not.
The whole tone of Mr Blanden’s views had been watered down and presented by Copeland as a positive model for improvement. We had been spun.
This is just another sorry chapter in the whole Pow Beck fiasco. When the scheme collapsed in 2012, The Whitehaven News suggested Paul Walker and council leader Elaine Woodburn should resign. We repeat our call this week."


You can read the full article here at 

"http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk/home/pow-beck-why-heads-must-roll-1.1167592"

Theresa May writes on plans to tackle crime





People who work hard and do the right thing deserve to feel safe in their homes and in their communities.

Under Labour, that wasn't the case. Police officers were wrapped in red tape, unable to do their job - and people didn't feel safe on the streets.

So since the last election, we've been working through our action plan to tackle crime: freeing the police to do their job, giving them the powers they need, and protecting communities with tougher sentences for criminals.

And our plan is working, with crime down by more than a fifth since the election:

Graphic - safer, more secure communities

But we need to keep going - and we need everyone to get behind our plan. So please add your name today to show you're backing our plan.

With your support, we can keep making our streets and our communities safer. So please sign your name today:


Button - I'll back the plan to tackle crime

Thanks,



Theresa May
Home Secretary

Quote of the day 17th October 2014

“Tolerance never exists without negative judgment. It is the sentiment of having a negative opinion about something yet still putting up with it.”
 
Criss Jami )

Thursday, October 16, 2014

DON'T MOVE OUR MUMS

I am very concerned to learn in today's Whitehaven News that the future of the maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital is under review again.

One of the most difficult decisions of my life concerned a proposal to merge two maternity units when I was a Health Authority member.

The proposal was backed very strongly by all three consultant obstetricians at the hospital and they made me realise that the arguments about how to provide safe an sustainable care can be much more complex and difficult than they at first appear. But in that case the two hospitals concerned were ten miles apart and connected by some of the best roads in the country.

West Cumberland and the nearest alternative maternity hospitals are forty miles and at least an hour's drive apart, sometimes rather longer, on some of the most difficult main roads on the country.

I believe that taking maternity away from WCH is not a runner for that reason. The trust must find a way to continue to provide safe maternity cover locally in West Cumbria.

The Whitehaven News reports next month an independent team of experts is coming to West Cumberland Hospital to look at the maternity department, speak to staff and then compile a report for health bosses to consider.

More details on my hospitals blog at
http://savewestcumbriahospitals.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/dont-move-our-mums.html

or you can read the Whitehaven News or go to their website.

I hope they get full support from the local community for their "Don't Move Our Mums" campaign.

A Freudian slip ...

I don't support the idea of not paying disabled people the minimum wage, and it was right that Lord Freud apologised for some unfortunate remarks on the subject.

But there have been some interesting reactions to the ambush against him which the Labour party pulled at PMQs yesterday with the aid of someone's covert recording..

On the BBC Radio 4 "PM" program this afternoon today there was a debate on the subject of parties making covert recordings of one anothers' gatherings to try to embarrass people who were discussing ideas too far outside the box. You can hear the debate 40 minutes into the broadcast here.

It is not really healthy for democracy or debate if people cannot try to discuss the issues in what is supposed to be an informal debate without some amateur witchfinder-general clutching a recording device and looking for any opportunity to twist something you say into a PR disaster. And sadly people on all sides of the political spectrum are far too ready to do just that.

Guido meanwhile points out here that some of the charities which attacked Lord Freud today were supporting very similar proposals not long ago ...

Ester McVey writes on the largest fall in unemployment since records began

Every Labour government in history has increased unemployment.

Almost every government in which the Conservatives have taken part - including the present government - has reduced unemployment.

Yesterday's figures showed a big fall in unemployment, and Employment minister Esther McVey writes ...





"The biggest annual fall in unemployment since records began - and a record number of people now in work.

Yesterday's jobs figures show more and more people with the security of a good job and a regular pay packet.

Ed Miliband predicted our plan would lead to the loss of a million jobs - and now can't understand why unemployment is falling.

Well, it's simple. The Conservatives are backing small businesses and enterprise with lower jobs taxes and better infrastructure, while reforming welfare so work always pays.

And across the country, business owners are working hard to build something of their own and create jobs for others.

Our long-term economic plan is building a stronger, healthier economy - and everyone needs to know this week's important news. Please share this graphic on Facebook and Twitter:

Graphic - the biggest annual fall in unemployment since records began

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But there is still more to do - and there are risks in the global economy which could threaten Britain. So it is vital we carry on working through the plan which is creating jobs and securing a better future for Britain.

Thanks,

Esther McVey
Minister of State for Employment"

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Quote of the day 16th October 2014

“Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.”

(Timothy Keller)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Quote of the day 15th October 2014

“People have a hard time accepting free-market economics for the same reason they have a hard time accepting evolution: it is counterintuitive. 

Life looks intelligently designed, so our natural inclination is to infer that there must be an intelligent designer--a God. 

Similarly, the economy looks designed, so our natural inclination is to infer that we need a designer--a government. In fact, emergence and complexity theory explains how the principles of self-organization and emergence cause complex systems to arise from simple systems without a top-down designer.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Quote of the day 14th October 2014

"The parallels between UKIP and the Tea Party are not perfect ...

"But they are close enought to be worrying to anybody who cares about the future of British politics.

"The Impact of the Tea Party in America has been overwhelmingly negative. For all its' reasonable anger at America's dysfunctional political system, it has made that system worse ...

"The Tea Party has  ... made it almost impossible for politicians to address America's problems, with its' high octane rhetoric about sending immigrants back over the border and antics such as Senator Ted Cruz's attempt to shut down the government.

"The lesson of the rise of the Tea Party is clear: for all the superficial appeal of its' anti-Washington rhetoric it makes dysfunctional politics more dysfunctional and sensible reform all but impossible. The British need to study the US example before it is too late."

(Adrian Wooldridge writing in The Sunday Times this week.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Myths, Lisbon, and the betrayal which never was

Anyone who has been looking at my "quotes of the day" over the past few days will have spotted a theme - about the number of things people believe which range from those which appear strange to others to those which are completely off the wall.

I had a collision with the reality of how much some people's thought processes differ from mine about a decade ago, when in conversation with a highly intelligent work colleague who I would not otherwise regard as paranoid or unbalanced I discovered that he believed that NASA had faked the moon landings.

Like "Capricorn One" except that in that film the US administration decided that to have any chance of keeping such a fake secret they would have to kill the "astronauts" and make it look like an accident.

Now to me the idea that a secret conspiracy known to the number of people who would have to be "in" on something as big as a faked moon mission could possibly fail to leak is so patently absurd that I cannot imagine any US administration daring to try such an enormous hoax, but not everyone sees it that way.

Ironically when I read David Aaronovitch's book on conspiracy theories, I discovered that the same experience that had prompted me to read it - my conversation with a normally perceptive work colleague who thought the moon landings were fakes -  was also what had started him on the road which led him to write it (he had had a conversation with one of his work colleagues who also held that view.)

Unfortunately people are very prone to believing what they want to believe.

And a classic example is those who want to believe that David Cameron is guilty of the same kind of failure to keep his word over the question of a referendum on Lisbon that Blair, Brown and Clegg really were.

Most of that segment of the journalistic and political classes who have a political position want to believe that David Cameron broke an election promise over this, Labour and Lib/Dem people want to think this because they don't want to recognise that David Cameron has a better record of keeping their word than their own party leadership: Kippers, unusually, want to think the same as Labour and Lib/Dems on this issue because they want to believe that none of the three main party leaders can be trusted.

The irony is that every promise about Europe on which David Cameron has fought an election has been kept  and that the fact so many people are under the false impression that he broke a "cast iron" pledge on the subject of Lisbon is an indirect consequence of his trying to stick to the promises on which he and the Conservatives fought the 2005 election long after others would have abandoned those promises.

Let's consider his record.


PROMISE ONE - 2005 GE promise to support a Referendum on the "Constitutional Treaty"

All three parties promised this during the 2005 General Election.

Conservative record - promise kept by DC and almost all Conservative MPs
Labour and Lib/Dem record - the spirit of this promise was certainly broken.

The original "Constitutional Treaty" was of course voted down in referenda in France and Holland a few weeks after the 2005 British Election.

That should have killed it, but 95% of the provisions of the treaty came back as the "Lisbon Treaty" and this time only Ireland had the honesty to put it back to the people as a referendum.

The overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs kept their election promise by voting to put Lisbon to a referendum. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs,with a handful of honourable exceptions such as Frank Field, broke their election promise by voting against this. The Lib/Dems broke their election promise by abstaining the in Commons and voting against in the Lords.


PROMISE TWO - Conservative Leadership election promise to pull Conservative MEPs out of the Federalist PPP.

David Cameron  record - promise kept.

David Cameron and his European allies have had a huge amount of flak from the other parties and the Euro establishment, some of it incredibly nasty (we're talking allegations of antisemitism and nazi sympathies here) because he kept the promise he made when standing to be Conservative leader that if he won he would ensure that Tory Euro-MPs would ally with more Eurosceptic colleagues rather than continue to sit with the pro-federalist Christian Democrat grouping, the European People's Party or PPP.

But he did keep that promise and after this year's European elections the new group which David Cameron and his Polish counterparts managed to form, the "European Conservatives and Reformists" or ECR group, overtook the Liberals to become the third largest group in the European Parliament.


PROMISE THREE - 2007 pledge to suspend ratification of Lisbon pending a referendum if DC came to power prior to ratification

This is the one that a lot of people argue - wrongly in my opinion - was broken.

The key point about this pledge was that it was given when we thought there might be a 2007 election. When Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair as PM there was a summer of speculation that Brown might call a General election that autumn to seek a new mandate. Brown did not kill that speculation until just after the autumn 2007 Conservative conference.

If Brown had indeed called a 2007 election, and David Cameron had won it, he would have been in a position to block ratification of the Lisbon treaty while he called a referendum. The other parties, half the rest of Europe, and the Euro-establishment would have gone absolutely bananas but AT THAT TIME he could have done it.

And that remained his position until a few days after the treaty was finally ratified, two years after the pledge was first made, but about a year before he became Prime Minister.

The key point is that the promise was made at a time when there was a realistic possibility that it could be implemented and dropped when that ceased to be the case.

This policy was expressed a lot of times in different words. The in which I have quoted it above is the form in which I heard him give it in front of TV cameras: the 2009 Conservative European manifesto stated

"We pledge that if the Lisbon Treaty is not in force in the event of the election of a Conservative Government this year or next, we will hold a referendum on it, urge its rejection, and – if successful – reverse Britain’s ratification.

In this form of words that promise was neither broken nor kept as the qualification did not apply - the treaty was ratified before DC came to power.

The people who think this promise was broken almost always refer to a September 2007 "Sun" article which referred to a cast-iron pledge of a referendum on Lisbon. The article concerned includes the following:

"No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum. Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations."

People who want to argue that David Cameron broke his word nearly always quote the second of those sentences but ignore the first.

I would argue that IN THE 2007 CONTEXT, and specifically including the promise to consult the British people on ratification, this is a promise to hold a referendum on future treaties before ratifying them, NOT a promise to hold a meaningless referendum on past treaties which have already been ratified.

Yes, David Cameron changed his policy when, two years later, the treaty was ratified and it ceased to be meaningful to hold a referendum on a treaty which had already come into effect. This was not a broken election promise because there had not been a General Election in the meantime - which of course is precisely why he never got the chance to implement it.

You think I'm quibbling? OK, try this.

Can any serious commentator make an argument which will hold water for five minutes that it was bad faith or an indication of untrustworthy conduct for David Cameron to change his policy to reflect changing realities, but OK for Nigel Farage to drop all of UKIP's previous party policies and promises during an interview with Andrew Neil like this ...




If you want to disagree with me about whether David Cameron broke his promise, it's a free country and you have the right to do so. But I put it to you that anyone who attacks David Cameron over his Lisbon pledge but doesn't accept that in the clip above Nigel Farage was making exactly the same sort of policy adjustment, (except that he was doing it in a far less competent way), is not exactly being consistent.

For the avoidance of doubt, I'm not criticising Farage for dropping a lot of daft policies. I will admit to laughing at the way he went about it - but we would have laughed at UKIP even more if they had gone into another election with some of those policies. Mind, you, as the saying goes, the trouble with political jokes is that sometimes they get elected ...


PROMISE FOUR - after Lisbon was ratified by Labour without a referendum, David Cameron promised to legislate so this could not happen again and that any future treaty passing power to the EU would be put to the British people in a referendum.

Conservative record - promise kept.

The coalition government has passed the "Triple Lock" legislation which requires that there should be a referendum on any future treaty passing power more powers to the EU.

Even Ed Miliband now says he accepts this, though the wise person will study the fine print of Labour promises very carefully, especially if they try to amend the "Triple Lock" laws.

I can just see a future Labour government trying to use an "In - Out" referendum, which they might win, instead of a referendum on the specific treaty proposed, as a means to get through a treaty ceding more power to the EU which would almost certainly fail in a referendum on the specific proposals. Tony Blair and Nick Clegg have both floated that one in the past.

But my argument stands - every major promise in respect of Europe on which David Cameron has fought an election has been kept.

Quote of the day 13th October 2014

Hat tip to Cllr Matthew Sephton and Tom Hulme for this Best quote from the Clacton by-election:

"Yes I voted UKIP, the Tory MP has done nothing for years" - (Clacton Resident #NoHope)


For anyone reading this from outside the UK who may not realise why this quote is something between shocking and hysterically funny, the UKIP candidate who this voter supported is the same person who had, until he resigned and triggered the by-election to stand as the UKIP candidate, also been the Tory MP the voter accused of having done nothing for years.

There are times when no response seems adequate ...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

British Muslims raise £30,000 for the family of Alan Henning

Most Muslims are ordinary, decent, hardworking and normal people who want nothing to do with Jihadist murderers and are very upset that atrocities like the murders of Lee Rigby, David Haines and Alan Henning have been carried out in their name.

Muslims in his home town of Bolton have now raised £30,000 in his memory.

In a statement released this week the Bolton Council of Mosques said:

"We would now like to support the funds set up to help provide financial support for Alan's family and other ongoing projects to benefit those in need to ensure his legacy continues."

It is people like this, and not the extremists, who represent the vast majority of Muslims.


DC writes - remembering the victims of the Brighton Bombing

Prime Minister David Cameron writes ...




Thirty years ago today, Britain woke up to the news of the Brighton bombing.

On a night of unspeakable horror, IRA terrorists tried to wipe out our country's democratically-elected government.

Five people were murdered that night - Anthony Berry, Roberta Wakeham, Eric Taylor, Muriel Maclean and Jeanne Shattock - and many more suffered appalling injuries, including Lord Tebbit and his wife Margaret.

I will never forget those shocking images as members of the emergency services scrambled over the rubble to rescue those wounded in the blast. But I also remember Margaret Thatcher's defiant response later that day.

She declared Britain will never be cowed by terrorists and said their sickening attempts to destroy our democracy would fail.

It is a message we repeat today as we face down the threat from violent extremism, whether in the skies over Iraq or on the streets of our towns and cities.

As we remember today those killed and injured in Brighton, we must renew our vow that terrorism must never win.

If you would like to leave a message of condolence or reflection about that night thirty years ago, please do so on my Facebook post.

Yours,

David Cameron

Quote of the day 12th October 2014

“Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What even Labour people think of Ed Miliband

A graphic from the Conservative campaign centre with some quotes showing Labour politicians think of Ed Miliband, and a link to an interview of Ed Miliband by Jon Snow. You can get a fair idea of how well Miliband came over in the interview from the fact that the Conservatives are encouraging people to watch it ...






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