Friday, March 27, 2015

The footage Labour tried to hide

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes' blog here for a fascinating post called "The Tory Attack Ad Labour tried to block."

It features TV footage first broadcast in 1997. There is a link on Guido's post here  to a Panorama archive page about how the Labour spin machine, and Damien McBride in particular, (remember him?) stopped Panorama from using the same footage in 2007.

Here is the ad



A sample of the Copeland MP's parliamentary language

As the 2010-2015 parliament comes to an end, it's members cease to be MPs and those who are seeking re-election become parliamentary candidates on a par with everyone else who is standing.

One of those stepping down is William Hague who has been Conservative leader, Foreign Secretary and whose final job in government up to and including today was Leader of the House of Commons.

One of William's last actions in that role was to move a motion yesterday providing for a vote on whether the Speaker of the House of Commons should be re-elected to be held by secret ballot.

I find it quite fascinating and more than a little horrifying that this proposal, which to me looks like an eminently sensible way to make the  process more democratic and remove unhealthy influences such as fear of reprisals by a speaker or by the party whips, has been universally interpreted as an attempt to get rid of the present speaker. But that is not the purpose of this post.

What I find of interest and which may be of interest to my fellow electors in the Copeland constituency was an exchange which took place during questions to the Leader of the House about that motion, beginning with a question from the member for this constituency in the 2010-2015 parliament.

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): Does the Leader of the House not deserve better than to allow his political epitaph to be written by a lazy, cowardly, bullying, spiteful, vindictive Prime Minister, who is not fit to lace his shoes?

Mr Hague: Hon. Members have clearly had the thesaurus out this morning to find as many adjectives as possible, but I personally think that it is very important that this issue is decided.
  
Jacob Rees-Mogg: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. What the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed) has just said about the Prime Minister—calling him “vindictive” etc.—cannot be within the bounds of parliamentary discourse. I really object most strongly.
  
Mr Speaker: Order. May I just respond to the hon. Gentleman as follows? My strong sense, and I do take advice on these matters, is that what has been said is a matter of tasteOrder. If I felt the need of the advice of the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), I would seek it, but I am seeking to respond to the point of order. It is a matter of taste; it is not language that I would use, and it is certainly not language that the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) would use. I have responded to him, and I think that we should leave it there.

How very edifying.

And on a separate issue, make sure that Cumbria's NHS Trusts know that you want to keep consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital: #SupportOption1

And then there were three ...


It may surprise some people, though probably not the people who know me well, that I welcome the news that a third candidate has declared this week in the election for Copeland's  first directly elected mayor.

Nominations formally open next week for all four elections - for MP, Mayor, CBC councillors and Town/Parish councillors - and close on 9th April. At this stage in Copeland there are five declared candidates for parliament (Conservative Stephen Haraldsen plus Labour, Green, Lib/Dem and UKIP candidates) and now three for Mayor (myself, Independent candidate Mike Starkie who announced his candidacy on Wednesday, and the Labour candidate backed by Elaine Woodburn and the existing failed administration which the voters rejected last year.)

So why on earth do I welcome more competition?

Because the whole point of having a directly elected mayor is to have someone running the council who has a mandate from all the voters of Copeland and is accountable to all the voters of Copeland. And without a strong field of candidates, that mandate is weakened.

A strong mandate will make it easier for the mayor to champion local causes like the need to keep consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital (#SupportOption1).

A competitive election strengthens that mandate.

The reason I was so horrified by certain recent decisions forced through Copeland Council by the Labour whips was not just the possible personal consequences for me, but that if there was a limited choice of candidates for mayor then the decision taken by the voters last May would have been sabotaged.

Obviously I would not have put my name forward unless I thought I was the best candidate for the job, and I would have withdrawn if I did not still think that. But I am not afraid of healthy competition and whoever does win will have a stronger mandate to deliver the change Copeland needs from having emerged from a genuine  contest.

Hence I am pleased that there are at least three candidates. There may of course be more who emerge between now and 9th April.

If this was a "first past the post" election I would stop there, but it isn't. The ballot paper for Mayor will give each voter the opportunity to cast a "first preference vote" which will be counted first, and a "second preference vote" which might be taken into account but only if the voter's first choice candidate has already lost.

If someone gets a majority of the first preference votes (which in the election for Copeland Mayor is not likely) they will win outright on the first count.

Otherwise the two candidates with most votes go forward to a final round. The second preferences of the people whose first preference votes were cast for eliminated candidates will then be counted and the extra votes for each of the remaining candidates added to their totals, and the candidate whose revised total is higher becomes Mayor.

As we do not yet know whether there will be any more candidates coming forward it would be premature for me to make any definite comments yet about second preference votes, but the shape of the election at this point is becoming clear.

At this point there are two candidates with a positive view of the creation of the post of a mayor for Copeland, and one who was an officer of a trade union which spent it's members money unsuccessfully campaigning against it.

There are two candidates who want to reform Copeland, and one who is backed by the present, failed administration.

I look forward to the debate, which I hope will be positive and constructive, about who has the best ideas for the future of Copeland.

May the best candidate win.

To support consultant-led Maternity services at WCH tweet #SupportOption1

If you think it is essential to keep consultant-led maternity services at the West Cumberland Hospital, and for the NHS trusts to undertake the necessary measures recommended by the assessors to make sure this option works, please show your support by tweeting ‪#‎SupportOption1

Vandals destroy postboxes in Cumbria with explosives

Just when you think the world could not get any weirder, the news comes that vandals have been using explosive devices called crowbangers to wreck post boxes in Cumbria.

This is of course a threat, not just to the integrity of the mail system but to the lives and limbs of post office workers and members of the public using the boxes.

There is a News and Star report on the problem at

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/yobs-blow-up-cumbrian-postboxes-with-crow-scare-bombs-1.1202002#

A Post Office spokesperson said that

“Any customers whose postbox has been affected can post mail at their local Post Office, delivery office or directly to their postman or woman on delivery.”

Anyone with information about the lunatics responsible is very strongly encourages to call Cumbria Police on 101.

And by the way, this shows yet again that we need our hospitals, so SUPPORT OPTION ONE.

Peter Franklin at ConHome - Politicians should get more sleep

Thought provoking "Heresy of the week" article from Peter Franklin at Conservative Home here about how politicians (and many other people) should get more sleep.

As someone who is sometimes guilty of not taking enough sleep myself I think he has a point. I was never able to track down the quote, which I think was by Winston Churchill, "Never take a major decision when you are tired, ill or drunk" but it is good advice.

And by the way, SUPPORT OPTION ONE.

"SUPPORT OPTION ONE" will be my "Carthago Delenda Est"


The ancient Roman statesman Cato the Elder felt so strongly that Carthage must be destroyed that he ended every speech he made in the Roman senate, regardless of the subject, with words to that effect, sometimes quoted as "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" (Moreover, I consider that Carthage should be destroyed.) but most often as "Cathago Delenda Est."

I feel equally strongly that we must make sure the NHS Trusts adopt the preferred option for maternity services in Cumbria and keep consultant-led maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital.

If we want to keep West Cumbria viable it is vital that all residents make the NHS trusts aware they have to run with this option, which is called option one.

That's why from now on until that option is agreed and confirmed, with all the necessary support to make it work, when I write and article on my blog or on Facebook, when I write a campaign leaflet, I will finish with these words: SUPPORT OPTION ONE!

Quote of the day 28th March 2015

"Ed Miliband is like a plastic bag caught in a tree. No-one knows how he got up there, and no-one can be bothered to get him down."

(Bill Bailey)

Quote of the day 27th March 2015


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maternity services: SUPPORT OPTION ONE

Assessors have recommended that the favoured option for maternity services in Cumbria and North Lancashire includes keeping consultant-led maternity services at West Cumberland Hospitals but we must campaign to make sure it happens.

There are six options: the one which keeps consultant-led maternity at WCH is Option One and we must campaign for this:

SUPPORT OPTION ONE

More details on my hospitals blog at

http://savewestcumbriahospitals.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/support-option-one.html

When a few words say it all ...

Sometimes a throwaway remark or a question of a few words tells you more about what's wrong with an organisation than an essay of a thousand words normally would.

This week I had an example when an officer of Copeland Borough Council asked me a question, and I thought afterwards that the fact that question was asked me this said everything you need to know about what the local Labour party are doing wrong in the way they run Copeland Council.

I had mentioned that if elected as Mayor it would be my intention to appoint an all-party executive to make use of the talents and abilities for all groups in the best interests of the people of Copeland. So that if, as now, there are three groups on CBC, I would offer places on the executive to both the other groups as well as to my own party.

I don't want to get anyone in trouble, so no names, no pack drill, but the officer asked me something along the lines of "Your party rules allow you to do that, then?"

You bet they do. In fact the Conservatives passed the Widdecombe legislation requiring many council committees to have seats for opposition groups reflecting the political composition of the council, although Tony Blair and John Prescott changed the law to exempt Council Cabinets from this requirement.

I thought afterwards, what does it say about the way Labour party rules have affected the running of Copeland Borough Council that an officer should think to ask that question?

Nothing good.

There are four elections on 7th May in Copeland

The four elections on Thursday 7th May will be:

  1) General Election: vote to pick Copeland's next MP

  2) Mayoral Election: vote to pick Copeland's first directly elected Mayor

  3) Borough council election: vote to pick the members of Copeland Borough Council

  4) Town and Parish elections, including the first election to the new Whitehaven Town Council

All of these elections are important, two are new, and all are hard to call.

And it is not enough to cast the right vote in just one or two elections. For example, if we get a good mayor elected who is committed to reform but the present ruling group retain a big majority on the council, that won't entirely block the ability of the new mayor to improve Copeland but it may limit scope for progress. It would be a disaster if Labour won a two-thirds majority on Copeland Council, although I don't believe that is going to happen.

Before moving to Copeland I was a member of the executive of a "hung" council where no party had a majority. Everything I achieved in that situation required cross-party working in the public interest and not just forcing things through on a party vote. I suspect that whoever becomes Copeland's new mayor is going to need that kind of skill, working with members of both political parties and with Independents.

I would relish that challenge, but the more good people get elected the easier it will be for whoever becomes mayor to work with them, so it extremely important to use your votes wisely in all the elections on 7th May.

As Richard III is laid to rest ...

The body which is believed to be that of Richard III is finally to be reburied today after a remarkable degree of pomp and ceremony.

I am definitely not a "Ricardian" but equally he was a human being and it is right that his remains should be treated with respect.

Here is the march which Thomas Purcell wrote two centuries after Richard's time for the funeral of Queen Mary, and which seems appropriate to mark his re-interment.



Quote of the day 26th May 2015


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ici Londres: Dan Hannan MEP on how free markets reduce poverty


Naughty, naughty ...

Someone at the Conservative Campaign Centre (CCC) with a wicked sense of humour has noted that their opposite numbers in the Labour party appear to have forgotten to circulate any pictures of Ed Miliband, since virtually no Labour leaflets issued this year have carried such a picture.

To help out local CLPs who may be short of pictures of their leader, CCC is offering the following stock photographs free of charge ...

If only it were true ...

The "News Thump" site reports that "Ed Miliband rules out serving first term as prime minister ..."

David Cameron rules out VAT Rise

David Cameron has ruled out increasing VAT after the election if the Conservatives are still in power.

Challenged by Ed Miliband in the final Prime Ministers' Questions of this parliament to give a straight answer to a straight question,

"Will he now rule out a rise in VAT?"

The PM agreed that straight questions deserved straight answers, and gave one:

"Yes."



New Opening date and new investment at West Cumberland Hospital

Good news on West Cumberland Hospital

As North Cumbria's acute hospitals emerge from a very difficult week, there is some good news: a date has been set for the opening of the brand new refurbished facilities, and £3.2 million of capital spend has been allocated, including a CT scanner and two mobile x-ray units (These will be delivered after the new power supply has been installed.)

The handover of the new hospital was delayed after a fire in January which destroyed the new energy centre. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the rest of the new hospital was undamaged.
 
A report to the NHS trust board, which met yesterday, stated that phase one of the project now looks set to be completed in October

More details on the News and Star website at http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/…/new-date-set-for-whitehaven-…

When is a gaffe not a gaffe?

There is a very old joke about the fact that if the media and a politician's enemies and rivals refer to him as having made a "gaffe," it nearly always means he has been caught telling the truth.

When I heard that David Cameron had ruled out serving a third term as PM if he is re-elected on 7th May, my immediate thought was that this might have been better left unsaid. This opinion was shared by virtually the whole of the political and journalistic class, with John Rentoul almost the only exception. (he saw it as "Vote Dave, Get Boris"). The MP for Copeland was one of many to poke fun at the PM for what he said.

Mind you, nobody thought Maggie Thather's "I want to go on and on" comment was a good idea either.

Yet here is the interesting thing. Could this be one of the issues where everyone else has a different view from those involved in politics and journalism?

The BBC reported at first that comments from members of the public were almost unanimously in support of David Cameron saying that two terms would be enough. Later in the day the comments were less unanimous (probably the very fact that people were reported as agreeing with a Conservative leader prompted those on the left to whom such an outcome is unacceptable to call in) but still on balance in favour.

The sort of comments people were making were that the only recent leaders to serve more than two terms - Mrs Thatcher and Tony Blair - both went on for too long, that nobody in their right mind would want to do the job of Prime Minister for more than ten years, and it was nice to see a senior politician give a straight answer to a question instead of ducking it.

All of which it is very difficult to argue with.

Maybe - just maybe - the electorate are a lot more perceptive than received wisdom among politicians and hacks gives them credit for?

How not to oppose UKIP

I think it will be obvious to anyone who has spent more than five minutes reading this blog that I do not have a lot of time for the UK Independence Party or for their leader Nigel Farage.

Heaven knows that the pressure to explain your views in 10-second soundbites has been driving all parties towards overly simplistic solutions to complex problems, but UKIP's policies are oversimplified in the extreme and I find some of the comments from some of their candidates and officials to be at best foolish and at worst unpleasant.

I have a simple response to this - I will not be voting for them.

As UKIP has started shedding candidates and MEPs at a rate of knots over allegations of expenses-fiddling and racism, it had appeared that many other people were reaching the same conclusion.

How utterly daft then, that at the very moment that UKIP appeared to be on the verge of imploding, a bunch of intellectually-challenged bullies decided to turn Nigel Farage into a victim by staging a protest at the pub where he was eating Sunday lunch with his family.

By all means criticise Farage's foolish policies, but his wife and kids should be off limits. And I don't buy the argument that the protesters didn't notice that his family were there - there are photos of them surrounding his car and anyway they should have thought to check.

An attempt to justify the protest here by one of the organisers, a gentleman called Dan Glass, gives me the impression that Mr Glass is one of the few people in Britain who is even less in touch with reality than Mr Farage.

The Huffington post here shows up how badly the protest backfired.

Quote of the day 25th March 2015

"Vote Tory, get Broadband

Vote Labour, get Miliband."

(Boris Johnson)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

David Cameron writes ...


Prime Minister and Conservative leader David Cameron writes:



"Since 2010, we've been working through our long-term economic plan to turn Britain around.
It hasn't been easy – we inherited a country on the brink of bankruptcy – and I know many of you will have made huge personal sacrifices to support our plan to mend the broken economy and secure a brighter future for this great nation.

But it's been worth it. That plan is working. Day by day, month by month, Britain's getting stronger: jobs are on the rise, the deficit's down, the economy's growing and wages are going further.

And there's more good news for family budgets, with the inflation figures announced today at a record low of zero per cent.

At a time when the world economy is increasingly unstable, these latest figures are a reminder that we're on the right track – and that doing things differently would put it all at risk.

It's a reminder that only the Conservatives have a plan to build a stronger economy, improve living standards and make families across Britain more financially secure.

We want to help hardworking people keep more of the money they earn. It is individuals – not governments – who know best how to spend their money.

That's why, in Government, we've cut income tax for 26 million by raising the personal allowance to over £10,000 – and we will go further in the next Parliament.

That's why we've frozen fuel duty for the longest time in 20 years, saving a typical family £10 each time they fill up.

That's why we've secured the biggest ever cash rise in the state pension, which will be £950 higher than it was in 2010.

That's why we're introducing tax-free childcare – helping out parents with hefty childcare bills. That's why we provided funding to freeze council tax bills, putting more money in hardworking taxpayers' pockets.

Don't just take me by my word. Judge me by my record in Government: we've delivered 2 million quality apprenticeships in the past five years, and will deliver 3 million more in the next five – giving young people the skills to go out and get a well-paid job.

We're backing business, industry and enterprise – creating 1,000 jobs a day and driving down unemployment - now at its lowest level since 2008.

We're getting Britain building again, helping young people to own their own home. We've already announced 200,000 cut-price homes for first-time buyers under 40. And we will now help first-time buyers save for a deposit.

A strong economy is the backbone of a strong nation. And a strong nation is built on people who work hard and want to get on life.

Mums and dads working round the clock to put food on the table and do the best they can for their children; grandparents who've saved hard all their lives to support their loved ones in times of need; sons and daughters who want to get on with their lives, get a job, get a home, and make something of themselves.

A Conservative Government after May 8 will carry on working through our plan to secure a brighter future for you, your family and for Britain.

Step by step, milestone after milestone. Last week it was a record increase in the minimum wage, today it's the rate of inflation. This Government has a long-term plan – and we're determined to make it work for you."



David Cameron

Another Labour fox not just shot but incinerated

Bit difficult to argue that there is a "Cost of Living Crisis" when the country's inflation rate has just dropped to zero because the prices of fuel and food have fallen.

Ed Miliband's loss is Britain's gain, however.

Zero Inflation

Reuters are reporting here that the rate of CPI inflation in the UK fell to zero for February.

This is the first time this measure has reached zero since it was introduced in 1988.

It is worth saying that the underlying rate is still probably about 1-2% because the fact that the inflation rate has fallen to zero in the twelve months to February includes the effect of a very large drop in fuel prices which will probably turn out to be a one-off combined with well-above average  harvests which have driven down the price of food.

Nevertheless, provided that the inflation rate does not drop into significant negative territory - I suppose we would then have to start calling it the deflation rate - and since it is not associated with a collapse in demand (as deflation often was in the past, leading to recession) this means that we have price stability, which is a good thing for an economy and for most of the people of the UK.

The Beeb also now have the story here.

Kelvin MacKenzie does a U-Turn

If you were to ask me what I would least expect former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie to write in the Guardian, or anywhere else, "Vote Ed Miliband" would win and what he actually has written  here would come a close second.

However, what he has written is worth reading.

I do not believe uncontrolled immigration is sustainable, or that everyone who raises concerns on the subject is a racist: I know that many members of ethnic minorities strongly support immigration control because they know only too well who will be the first to suffer if mishandling this issue leads to a loss of social cohesion.

I also think some of the things the coalition has done to close loopholes - such as shut down hundreds of bogus colleges which were basically Visa factories - were long overdue.

Nevertheless there are two sides to the immigration debate and we are in danger of going from not listening to one side, in the manner exemplified at the last election when Gordon Brown called Mrs Duffy a bigot for raising the issue, to not listening to the other side.

Kelvin's article is a welcome antidote to that.

Quote of the day Tuesday March 24th 2015



Monday, March 23, 2015

If the boot were on the other foot ...

How ballistic would the Guardian, the BBC, and every female Labour politician from Harriet Harman down go if a white male Tory PPC behaved towards a female Asian Labour MP the way Labour candidate John Clarke has behaved towards his Conservative opponent Priti Patel?

See link at

http://www.sunnation.co.uk/tory-mp-priti-patel-trolled-on-twitter-by-labour-rival-john-clarke/

WCH and Cumberland Infirmary stood down from "Major Incident" status

The Cumbrian NHS Trusts said today that the bed shortage crisis at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle has passed.

An internal major incident was declared at the two hospitals last week when they reached capacity.

All non-elective surgery was cancelled and some patients had to be treated outside the county. The trust which runs the cottage hospitals in Workington, Cockermouth, Maryport and Keswick opened extra beds in Maryport to help with the crisis.

A hospitals spokesman said: “Thanks to the collective efforts of all partners working together, the trust has now been able to successfully reduce the need to maintain escalation beds which was putting a major strain on staff and the ability to safely run services.

“Our focus now is on making sure that we learn from the events of the past week and also that partners continue to work effectively together so that all patients get the right care, at the right time and in the right place.”

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Acute hospitals, said:

“Patient care and safety has been our prime concern throughout this incident and we very grateful for everyone’s efforts over the past few days in resolving the immediate pressures facing hospital services.

“The pressures seen in recent weeks are a reflection of the scale and nature of much wider challenges across the entire health and social care system in north Cumbria and we continue to work collectively to ensure that any patients waiting unnecessarily in an acute hospital bed, are moved to the right care setting sooner rather than later.

“We would like to thank all staff for their effort and commitment during these particularly challenging times and also thank patients and the public for their co-operation.”

45 days to go and everything to play for

There are 45 days until Election Day - and it is still too close to call.
 
 
 
On Wednesday, the Chancellor delivered his sixth Budget – cutting income tax, helping savers, controlling spending, starting to reduce our debt and investing across the UK to secure a better future for you, your family and our country. The Budget shows that our plan is working – with the deficit down, growth up, jobs up, living standards rising, and debt starting to fall as a share of the economy. Against the odds, and the opposition, Britain is walking tall again, delivering financial security and peace of mind to Britain’s families. In this Budget we are:
 
·        Cutting income taxes for 27 million hardworking people, and cancelling the planned rise in fuel duty – the longest freeze for over 20 years.
·        A new Help to Buy ISA for first time buyers – so if you save up to £12,000 towards a deposit on a home, the government will contribute up to £3,000.
·        Helping savers with a new Personal Savings Allowance, abolishing savings tax altogether for 17 million people to create tax free banking for almost the entire population.
·        Committing to run a budget surplus and keep our debt share falling.
·        Backing business and skills that will create full employment, and supporting pubs and brewers by cutting tax on beer and cider.
·        Investing across the UK for a truly national recovery.
 
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has confirmed that families are set to be £900 better off in 2015 than they were in 2010.
 
In 2010, we inherited an economy on its knees, reeling from Labour’s Great Recession that made our country poorer and hit family budgets across the UK. Confirmation from the IFS that families are set to be better off now than they were in 2010 is good news for hardworking taxpayers – it is more evidence that our long-term economic plan is delivering for Britain’s families. The job of repairing our economy may not be done but Britain is on the right track and we must not turn back
 
The choice has never been clearer: either sticking to the economic plan that’s delivering for families or returning to the economic chaos of the past. A vote for Labour or any other party would mean Ed Miliband in Number 10, propped up by the SNP, with the same old policies that got us into a mess before. The only way to get the competence of a strong Conservative team, working through this plan is to vote Conservative on 7th May.

Second quote of the day

 
"You wait 529 years for a horse and four come at once."

(Robert Hardman in the Daily Mail, referring to the funeral of Richard III and the battlefield line put into his mouth by Shakespeare)

Quote of the day 23rd March 2015

'If you hold the balance, then you hold the power.'

(Alex Salmond on Andrew Marr's Show yesterday)


The Conservative line on this (and let's be completely frank here, I'm not just sharing this because CCC are asking people to, but because I agree with the message and because the video clip is quite amusing) is given below:





Alex Salmond has just made clear why the SNP want to prop up Ed Miliband as Prime Minister:
 
'If you hold the balance, then you hold the power.' (Alex Salmond on The Marr Show, 22/03/15)

A deal between Labour and the SNP would give Alex Salmond the veto over every Budget, every law, every vote - he would, in his own words, 'call the tune'.

We have to stop this. Please watch this important video and share it with everyone you know:

Video - click to play

A deal with the SNP - the party who want to break up Britain - is the only way Ed Miliband can get into power.

And ordinary families would pay the price with higher taxes, more debt and weaker defences as the SNP try to scrap Trident, our independent nuclear deterrent.

Help stop it by watching and sharing this video today - and by voting Conservative in May.

Thanks,

Conservative Campaign HQ

Donate today
Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Regenerating West Cumbria

Last week chancellor George Osborne said that Manchester would be able to keep the business rates from new development.

I welcome this, and think it should be extended.

Stephen Haraldsen, the Conservative candidate to be MP for Copeland, and myself as the Conservative candidate to be Mayor of Copeland, have jointly written to the Chancellor asking that Copeland BC be similarly allowed to keep the business rates from New Nuclear Build.

That would enable Copeland to tackle some of the serious infrastructure issues which need to be resolved to regenerate our area and will particularly be needed if, as we hope, Nuclear New Build at Sellafield goes ahead. Transport and particularly the A595, parking facilities and the local health economy all need to be addressed - and not by ripping off the motorist.

Congratulations to Whitehaven Lions on today's Swimarathon

Congratulations to Whitehaven & District Lions on a well organised and very successful "Swimarathon" at Whitehaven Pool this morning.

Each team taking part was raising money for two good causes: one nominated by the team and also the "James Burn Wish to Walk" campaign, which has been successful in raising the money to send him for his operation. James was there today and we wish him well.

Very warmest congratulations to everyone involved.

My son and I were very pleased to have the chance to take part: we completed 50 laps of the pool (100 lengths, e.g. 2.5 kilometres) in the hour available. Our other charity was the Pride of Cumbria Air Ambulance.

Next month on 19th April we will be taking part in a similar but even bigger challenge, the national Swimathon 2015 in aid of Marie Curie Cancer care.

Link below to my sponsorship page for Swimathon 2015:

See More

Labour rule out attempting to form a government (says the Daily Mash)

A great spoof article on the Daily Mash site, "Miliband rules out forming a government."

At least, I think it's a spoof.

Actually, although the possibility of a Labour majority government is terrifying enough, I find even more alarming the possibility of a Labour minority government dependent on the SNP and Greens for support. Nevertheless this article is quite amusing ...

Cumbria NHS beds shortage easing, says local NHS Trust

Hat tip to "@myhitehaven" on Twitter and the News and Star for the information that the Cumbria NHS authorities say the bed shortage is easing.

North Cumbrian University Hospitals NHS Trust - which runs The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and Whitehaven's West Cumberland Hospital - declared an emergency on Thursday after running out of beds. Some patients had to be transferred to hospitals 75 miles away.

But the NHS group that controls much of the county's health spending - the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - said the pressure on hospital beds has improved during the last 24 hours as officials worked to improve "patient flow" through the hospitals. A statement issued today said officials were still working to reduce the strain on the Trust’s ability to safely carry out its normal routine business while at capacity because patients were not "flowing through the system".

The statement said:

"All efforts are focussed on making sure this can happen as quickly as possible so that hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven can get back to routine business.

"Health and social partners are working to make sure patients who do not need to be in an acute hospital bed, are safely discharged to a more appropriate care setting or home with the right package of care.

"As usual, services are extremely busy over the weekend and the local health economy is calling on the public to play their part and use services appropriately."

The CCG urged people to:

* Think twice before using A&E or calling 999;

* To think about using other NHS services such as walk-in centres and pharmacies or call Cumbria Health on Call (out of hours) on 03000 247247 for advice on alternative urgent services available

 * Stay away from hospital if they have any symptoms of sickness or diarrhoea.

A CCG spokesperson added:

“A tremendous effort has been made by all partners so that the Cumbrian health system can provide support and assistance during this incident and these efforts have shown the robustness of the system in coping in times such as these.

"However, this does not mean we are complacent and we will continue to work together to ensure the situation continues to improve.”

Please God this prediction does not come true

Iain Dale's latest seat by seat election prediction here is for the Conservatives and Labour to be on a dead heat with 275 MPs each, not enough Lib/Dem seats to form a coalition with either of those parties, and 42 SNP MPs.

I do hope this one does not come true, that would be a recipe for complete paralysis and probably a second general election in 2015, though that is much harder to arrange because of the fixed term parliament act.

But essentially the election is not pre-ordained, voters can choose how they vote.

Quote of the day 22nd March 2015


Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Swimarathon" and Swimathon 2015

My son John and myself are gluttons for punishment this year. We are taking part in not one, but two Swimathons.
 
Tomorrow is the Whitehaven and District Lions club "Swimarathon" where people swim for an hour in teams to raise money for
 
1) a cause chosen by themselves, which in our case is the Pride of Cumbria Air Ambulance, and
 
2) the Whitehaven Lions contribution to the "James Burns Wish to Walk" campaign (which I was delighted to see has been successful)
 
And then on 19th April we will both be taking part in Swimathon 2015 in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care. I will be swimming 5,000 metres for the twenty-second consecutive year. My son is going for a slightly easier but still substantial challenge.

Marie Curie is the leading charity providing care and support to over 40,000 people with a terminal illness and their families across the UK.

A £5 donation will pay for 20 bereavement booklets for young people who’ve lost someone close to them. And £35 will pay for a slide sheet, used by Marie Curie Nurses to move terminally ill people safely in bed.

I will put up a link to my son's giving page for Swimathon 2015 later, but you can sponsor me online with the money going straight to Marie Curie cancer care on my Swimathon 2015 giving page at:

http://my.swimathon.org/sponsor/chriswhiteside1

Mental Illusion

I was travelling around the Copeland constituency and Borough today doing various things as part of the campaigns for the election of the next MP, Mayor, and councillors.

On the way home after my last stop I was driving through unlit sections of the A595 and was struck by two illusions. Neither was dangerous, both were interesting. I've titled this post with a reference to mental illusion because I'm convinced that each of these events was a cerebral phenomenon rather than an optical one.

The optical condition which set up both events is that it is a very dark night this evening. There was a moon visible ahead of me for part of the journey, but it was an almost perfect new moon, a very thin crescent which gave very little light. (Ironically much like the pictures others took of the eclipse yesterday which I did not see.) There were few if any stars visible, and the sections of the A595 I was driving on were in the countryside with no street lights, so it was extremely dark.

The first illusion was that on several occasions I fleetingly noticed the impression of a large black rectangular shadow, even darker than the sky, shaped like a bridge or the kind of gantry that motorway overhead signs are hung on. It was as if one was about to drive under such a gantry, but it was only an impression and vanished instantly.

The relevant part of the A595 has a very few long straight sections on which one could safely drive at or close to the national speed limit, but it also has some sharp bends which only a maniac would attempt to take at that kind of speed.

I don't need a satnav to find my way home along the A595, but because it was so dark, I had turned on my Satnav and was using the picture view to give myself a bit of extra warning of sharp bends ahead.

I realised after about the fourth time that I had the impression of a dark shape ahead, that it was almost exactly the same shape as the dark rim of the Satnav - a dark outline surrounding the bright image outlining the shape of the road ahead. The same shape - but much larger.

If the human eye had the ability which some cameras have, to magnify or shrink an image so as to "zoom in" on an area, there would have been a simple optical explanation for what I appeared to be seeing: persistence of vision. E.g. when returning one's gaze to the actual road ahead after a quick glance at it's image on the Satnav, there could be a transitory impression of the dark outline framing that image.

Now here is the interesting thing. Persistence of vision, which is what enables all films and video featuring movement to work, is normally a characteristic of the eye. However, the human eyeball does not have a "zoom" feature: our ability to change the focal length of the eye's lens is used purely for focussing.

But although the mark one eyeball does not have a "zoom feature," the brain does.

The most likely explanation of the illusion would appear to be that as I took occasional glances at the satnav to check for bends in the road ahead, the dark edge of the satnav was somehow retained in some recess of my short-term memory and occasionally briefly created a slight influence on the mental picture in my consciousness while I was looking at the road ahead.

The second "illusion" was an illustration of how much what we think we see is actually "filled in" by the brain.

I was approaching one of the villages in West Cumbria, on a stretch of the road where there was no illumination, and a vehicle came into view ahead of me, moving slightly more slowly. What I could actually see was just its' rear lights and outline: not much more than a shadow. The shape appeared significantly taller than a car, with a round top, and was evidently moving at about ten miles an hour below what would be the speed limit for a car, e.g. at the speed limit for a vehicle towing a trailer.

My mind interpreted this shape as a horse box being towed by a car which was hidden on the other side of it, the image generated in my head was that of a horse box. If I had turned off before reaching the lights of the village, and I had shortly afterwards been asked if I had seen any trailers on the A595 and what kind, I would have answered that I had seen a horse box.

Until the instant that the vehicle perhaps a hundred yards ahead of me reached an area illuminated by powerful street lights and came clearly into view. It was as if someone had flipped a switch and transformed the image in front of me on a projector screen: it wasn't a horse box at all, but a milk transporter.

It was the sort of moment when you experience what is normally hidden from you, namely how much of what we think we see is created by our brains filling in the details.

47 days to go and everything to play for:

A message from CCC:

Quote of the day 21st March 2015


Friday, March 20, 2015

Policies for Copeland - shared services

One thing we can all agree on is that, whoever wins the local and national elections on 7th May, local services will continue to be under massive pressure.

The present government inherited an enormous national debt which was still going up because of a  massive deficit (with found pounds spent for every three coming in) and a country paying more on interest on the debt that the entire education budget.

The measures which have had half the country screaming about austerity have succeeded in reducing the deficit by a third in absolute terms or by half as a share of GDP but that it still too high and means that the national debt is still going up.

It's an argument for another day which of their plans will work, but I want to make the point that Osborne, Balls Alexander and every other political party with the faintest shred of claims to responsibility all agree that the present deficit is still unsustainable and needs to come down further. Which means money is not going to stop being tight and local council budgets will continue to be under massive pressure.

In that context, can Cumbria really afford to have seven major councils (county and six districts)?

I would say certainly not on the basis that all seven try to do everything for themselves. We really do not need seven finance departments, seven legal departments, seven IT departments, seven HR departments, and seven payroll systems, etc, etc, etc.

One possible response to this is to support what are called "Unitary Authorities" where you scrap both the existing county and district councils and set up one or more combined councils which provide all the services currently run at each tier. I absolutely do not rule out the possibility of supporting such a solution on the right basis - if an idea for a "West Cumbria" unitary council and an "East Cumbria" unitary replacing the present councils were to come forward I would probably back it. I didn't and currently still don't support the idea of one unitary council for the whole of Cumbria because I think the area is too geographically big, hard to get round, and diverse for one unitary council to work here. But we have to keep looking at options.

A less radical but potentially very helpful idea at least for the short term would be for councils to share services. There have been some early attempts for Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle to agree on sharing services. I believe this needs to go much further.

There are a lot of services which can be provided more efficiently and cheaply by the councils of Cumbria working together than by all seven doing everything in-house. That way seven councils does not have to mean seven payrolls, seven property teams, seven HR departments and so on. Sone properly this will enable all the councils in Cumbria to work together to provide better services for all our residents and avoid the need to make more painful cuts.

Doing things the old way will no longer work. We need to work smarter and work together.

 

Dan Hannan MEP on the rights and wrongs of Ukraine

Dan Hannan MEP has put out another "Ici Londres" Youtube video making the argument on why we should support self-determination for the people of the Ukraine.

A surprising number of people in the West are all too ready to put all the blame on NATO and/or the EU for the problems in Ukraine. In one of today's papers there is a reference to the West "poking the Russian Bear" as if it was us sending B52 or Vulcan bombers to probe Russian airspace, rather than Putin sending Bear bombers over Cornwall and risking the safety of civilian aircraft. Or as if it had been a Russian airliner, rather than a Malaysian one with largely Westerners on board, shot down with the loss of three hundred innocent civilians including eighty children.

I did for about two seconds consider giving this post the title "Hell has officially frozen over yet again" because a person who was thinking about this in a lazy way, or trying to twist it, might suggest that Dan was defending the EU, which would have been most unusual.

I didn't use that title because if you watch and listen to the video below  carefully, Dan isn't defending the EU. He's defending the right of the people of the Ukraine to settle their own destiny and applying exactly the same criteria that he often uses to criticise Brussels and the EU in an objective manner to Moscow and what the Russians regard as their empire.

Watch it and see what you think.


One eclipse I could not see ...

Misty morning in Whitehaven - popped out a couple of times to see if I could spot the eclipse but although people in other parts of Cumbria such as Penrith appear to have seen it, there does not have been anything to see here. Of course, I would not have been looking directly at it if there were ...

300,000 hits and Not Out

This morning this blog passed 300,000 pageviews since the traffic counters went on about eight years ago.

(I have been running the blog for about ten years, which is Methuselah in political blogging terms.)

Thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to read the blog in that time, hope you found it interesting. And thanks to all those who left constructive comments.

Quote of the day Friday 20th March 2015


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hell has officially frozen over again ...

I dare say Ed Balls would complain vigorously if we described this as the most unlikely endorsement a Tory chancellor has ever had, but the following quote certainly does not appear consistent with any argument that yesterday's budget was a disastrously bad one ...
 

Stephen Haraldsen's view on the situation in North Cumbria's hospitals

Stephen Haraldsen, Conservative candidate to be MP for Copeland, has commented on the situation in North Cumbria's hospitals as follows:

"The West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary are having trouble dealing with the volume and complexity of cases at the moment, struggling to get people well and out of hospital.

"Just last week the Government gave the trust an extra £3 million to treat more patients, on top of the extra £47 million they got last year.

"This major incident isn't the hospital's fault, but I hope they can work to sort it out as soon as possible so patients get the treatment they need."

Joint statement from Cumbria NHS on situation in our hospitals

A joint statement has been issued on behalf of the NHS in Cumbria about the issues at the hospitals today.

All non-urgent elective operations have now been cancelled today and tomorrow at both the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

The statement refers to difficulty admitting and discharging patients, long waits in the emergency department and high numbers of patients in acute hospital beds awaiting discharge as the reasons for the crisis. It goes on:

"To help alleviate these pressures, NHS organisations across north Cumbria have jointly agreed to categorise the current situation as an internal major incident, in order for the hospital trust, NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, ambulance services and the local authority to divert resources, to ensure patients get the best possible care."

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said that the declaration is across the trust, but the Carlisle hospital is more acutely affected.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“Our prime concern is making sure we can continue to provide safe care for patients and this becomes increasingly difficult when our hospitals reach capacity.

"Given the continued and significant pressures our teams have faced over recent months, our hospitals are now struggling to admit any more patients until we can get patients flowing through the system and into appropriate community settings or home with the right package of care.”

Dr Hugh Reeve, interim chief clinical officer for NHS Cumbria CCG, said: "Frontline teams are extremely busy and we would urge people to think twice before using A&E services or calling 999 which should only be used for serious life threatening emergencies."

Joanna Forster Adams, director of operations at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said:

 “We have been working closely with all partners in the health and care system as part of the joined up response to this situation for a number of weeks.

"We have taken further actions today to create as much capacity as is safely possible including opening up a small number of additional beds in community hospitals.

"We would like to thank our staff who have been working create additional capacity and support in all our services‎ and would like to thank staff and patients who have been affected by changes in recent weeks.”

A North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust spokesman said:

“The trust is working closely with healthcare partners to manage the issues at North Cumbria Acute Hospital Trusts.

“Patient care and safety is always our priority and we will continue to work with partners to ensure continued focus on safely transporting patients who need to go to hospital.”

Andrew Neil demolishes Caroline Flint over Labour "Back to 30s" claim

Even before the revisions in yesterday's budget removed what faint validity the claim had, Caroline Flint looked pretty silly on the "Sunday Politics" show when she trotted out the Labour argument that the Conservatives want to cut spending to 1930's levels.

Flint was unable to  answer the question of how much (in today's money) the government was spending in the 1930s. It's about a tenth of what the coalition is spending today, vastly less than was proposed in last year's autumn statement, and a lower share of GDP than was proposed in yesterday's budget.


Major internal incident declared at North Cumbria's hospitals

The News and Star website reports this morning that a major internal incident has been declared at north Cumbria's hospitals by the Trust in charge of the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the West Cumberland Hospital.
 
The News & Star has learned that staff were called to a meeting at 3pm yesterday, at which they were told that the hospital is now at "escalation number five", which is an internal major incident.

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust told the News & Star that the declaration is across the trust, but the Carlisle hospital is more acutely affected.

The News and Star says that the hospital simply ran out of beds yesterday afternoon, and had no option but to declare an emergency and call for help from its partner agencies.

A full statement from the trust and HS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group is expected later.

Channel Four factcheck - how Labour was wrong on the economy

Balls misses the ball ...


Channel Four's "Fact check" has just published a piece which draws out how many of the statement made by the Labour leadership in general and Ed Balls in particular have been completely wrong, which you can read at

http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-labour-wrong-economy/20443


As they point out, Balls was wrong with his predictions that the coalition's policies would fail to produce growth, when in fact, quote

"Britain’s economy grew faster than any of the other G7 countries in 2014, according to the IMF."

He was wrong to predict that the coalition's policies would not help businesses to provide more jobs when in fact, quote

"there were more than 1.8 million more people in employment in the last quarter of 2014 than in the first quarter of 2010.

Some 73.2 per cent of the economically active population are in work now compared to 70.2 per cent at the time of the last election.

There is no doubt that this has happened because growth in private sector employment has more than made up for job losses in the public sector.

Since quarter 1 2010, employment in the public sector has fallen by more than 400,000 – but private sector employment has increased by around 2.1 million."

Labour does not understand the economy, and handing them back control of it while we have not recovered from what happened on their watch last time would be a fatal mistake.

Quote of the day 19th March 2015


"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."

(Benjamin Franklin)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A "Political Betting" view of George Osborne

I was interested to read on the excellent Political Betting website a comment on George Osborne by a poster using the name "Fenster" which I suspect may bear more than a little resemblance to how history will judge him:

"Fenster" wrote:

Fenster Posts: 567
edited 8:00PM
                     
"I think Osborne has done a good job over the five years.

If we set aside the left/right politics of it all and accept that we live in a country addicted to debt with an electorate with unreasonable expectations of our public services (me included), then no Chancellor was ever going to eradicate the deficit in five years. It wasn't politically or electorally feasible; not without riots.

He inherited a disastrous set of numbers, I think everybody accepts that, regardless of who was to blame. Then the disaster which befell Greece and the EU within his first few months was probably more damaging (and scarier) than the government let on, so for a Chancellor running the economy it was a fraught task.

Obviously, Chancellor's aren't directly responsible for all the good things that happen just as they aren't to blame for all the bad things that happen, but they do get denigrated when things go wrong so they should get some plaudits as well.

The fact that employment has risen in larger numbers under Osborne than it has under any Chancellor for ages is pretty bloody special. And to create 2.3million private sector jobs in five years, under 'austerity' conditions, is also a great achievement. I think he also deserves credit for the general direction of travel and his efforts to put money back in people's pockets rather than want to spend it for them.

He's made mistakes as one would expect but given the dire circumstances he's done things well. His relationship with Danny Alexander and other Lib Dems has also been highly commendable - to maintain such mature relationships with so many ministers among two different governing parties, during such fraught times, is not to be sniffed at.

It is probably his last budget, but history will be kind to him, I think."

Good news for Copeland's farmers

Good news for farmers in Copeland that they will be able to spread profits over five years: in an occupation where income can very so enormously from one year to the next as a result of good or bad weather affecting harvests, this was long overdue.

Good news for farmers and everyone else that the chancellor has frozen fuel duty again, cancelling an increase due in September under the previous "escalator."

Copeland Local Plan - HAVE YOUR SAY on maps of proposed site allocations

You can view on the Copeland Council website here the council's proposed allocations of land for development in the council's LDF.

(LDF stands for Local Development Framework - that's John Prescott language for what used to be called a Local Plan.)

Information is given by geographical area.

You can also use the CBC website to comment on the proposals (follow the same link above).

George Osborne writes about the budget

Chancellor George Osborne writes:



"Today I set out the last Budget before the election on May 7th, and I have a clear message.

We have got a plan that is working, and a Budget that works for you. Thanks to our long-term economic plan, Britain is now walking tall again:
  • A growing economy
  • A record number of jobs
  • Rising living standards
  • The deficit down
  • And, confirmed today, our national debt starting to fall as a share of the economy
Britain is the comeback country. But we need your help - to support our long-term economic plan please donate today.

Because we now face a critical choice. Do we return to the chaos of the past? Or do we keep on working through the long-term economic plan that is delivering for you?

With this Budget we choose the future:
  • We choose stability - committing to run a budget surplus and keep our debt share falling
  • We choose jobs - backing business and skills that will create full employment, and supporting pubs and brewers by cutting tax on beer and cider
  • We choose the whole nation - investing for a truly national recovery
  • We choose responsibility - helping savers with a new Personal Savings Allowance and abolishing savings tax altogether for 17 million people to create tax-free banking
  • We choose aspiration - with a new Help to Buy ISA for first-time buyers - so if you save up to £12,000 towards a deposit, the government will contribute up to £3,000
  • And we choose families - cutting income taxes for 27 million hardworking people, and cancelling Labour's planned rise in fuel duty
These changes are all part of our long-term economic plan, and it's critical we keep working through it.
There is a simple choice on May 7th: between Labour, propped up by the SNP, who offer the chaos of the past - or the Conservatives, with our long-term economic plan that is working.

We need to choose the future - so please donate to support our campaign.

Yours,

George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer"


Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Budget 2015 - Income tax thresholds raised

 
If you want to make sure income tax cuts benefit the poor and not just the rich, the most effective way to do it is to raise tax thresholds so that workers in the least well paid jobs are taken out of income tax altogether. That is what this government has done, and today's budget included further rises in income tax thresholds. 
 
The last Labour government doubled the income tax rate on the least affluent workers by scrapping the 10p tax rate. This government has eliminated the income tax rate for thousands of the least affluent workers by taking them completely out of the income tax net.

Fifty days to go and everything to play for

It is now just fifty days - seven weeks and one day - until what looks to be possibly the closest General Election of a lifetime and the most important for a generation.

And it is all still looking too close to call.

Today's budget may break the stalemate but at the moment it is impossible to predict whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband will be in number ten as a result of the election in fifty day's time.

What you can be certain about it is that

1) It is very likely that the result will be close, and

2) that means your vote could make all the difference.

Quote of the day 18th March 2015




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Labour's housing record compared with Mrs Thatcher's

Labour's record on affordable housing came under attack recently from their own housing spokesperson on the Greater London Authority.

Tom Copley, Labour’s housing spokesman in the capital, said that Margaret Thatcher’s government had built more council flats and houses in a single year than New Labour’s managed in its entire period in office.
 
This is correct. The official data shows that the Blair and Brown governments built 7,870 council houses (local authority tenure) over the course of 13 years. (If we don’t include 2010 – the year when David Cameron became PM – this number drops to 6,510.) Mr Copley has contrasted this figure with the record of Mrs Thatcher’s government, which never built fewer than 17,710 homes in a year.
 
More details given at the "Full Facts" factcheck site here.
 
If you look at total social housing built including housing association properties, the contrast between Labour and Conservative housebuilding achievement is less dramatic. After an initial drop in affordable housing construction under New Labour they managed to increase the numbers again from 2007 to 2009. At the peak of this mini-boom in 2009, Labour oversaw more affordable completions than in some Conservative years, though not as many as the peak Conservative years. Average affordable home construction rates were still higher over the term of the Thatcher government than New Labour's.
 
Note - figures in this post are not comparable with those in my recent post on how to lie - or tell the truth - with statistics because that post was looking at the graph of total housing starts and completions while this post only refers to homes defined as "affordable."