Thursday, August 16, 2018

Quote of the day 16th August 2018

"While it is true that you learn with age, the down side is that what you learn is often what a damn fool you were before."

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quote of the day 14th August 2018

You may have noticed I have been having something of a Thomas Sowell quote week.

No apology for repeating, not for the first time or, probably, the last, one of his insights which I think is particularly powerful in a whole host of spheres, not just economics and politics.

It is very rare indeed- though when such an opportunity does come along, it should be grabbed with both hands - that you can improve something with no negative consequences at all.

Most opportunities to improve one thing come with a cost in terms of something else. The challenge is to ensure that you pick the trade-offs where the benefits outweigh the costs - and do your best to pay attention to limit the damage in those areas where you lose out.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Quote of the day 13th August 2018

“We should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.”

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday music spot: "Cessate, omai cessate" by Vivaldi

Music by Antonio Vivaldi: sung by countertenor Andreas Scholl.

I understand that the words of this lament for unrequited love translate as follows:

"Cease, henceforth cease, cruel memories of despotic love; 
heartless and pitiless, you have turned my happiness into immense sorrow. 

Cease, henceforth cease to tear my breast, to pierce my soul, 
to rob my heart of peace and calm.

Wretched, injured and forsaken you are, my heart, 
if a tyrannical passion can rob you of tranquillity

because a pitiless countenance, a faithless soul, 
harbours and nurtures nothing but cruelty."

Quote of the day 12th August 2018

"Conservatism at its most powerful has been Reagan pulling down walls, Margaret Thatcher espousing single markets, William Hague insisting on human rights or David Cameron bringing in gay marriage. It’s not my creed, but conservatism at its best and most dynamic has long been a marriage of social and economic liberalism. Orbanisation is the death of conservatism."

(David Aaronovitch in an article in The Times on the difference between liberal and authoritarian types of Conservatism. It's behind a paywall but those who have either paid up or registered to receive a number of free articles per week can read it here.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Quote of the day 10th August 2018

"For what it’s worth, I don’t think Boris should face an investigation or be suspended. You’re allowed to debate the burqa and ridicule religion. 

Just think he should, as a senior politician, know that his words carry weight, that he has a responsibility to act with sensitivity. 

Boris is a smart man. He should know his comments may inflame tensions and toxify a serious debate. With little real debate about the burqa, he may have had the right to say what he did but whether it was wise and helpful is another question."

(Salman Anwar, from a very intelligent and balanced piece about "Boris, Burqas, free speech and Islam" which you can read in full here.)

Thursday, August 09, 2018

USA to impose sanctions against Russia over Novichok attack

The USA has announced that it will impose fresh sanctions on Russia by the end of August after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door.

European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office.

Another two residents of the Salisbury area were subsequently taken to hospital after coming into contact with a container of the Novichok nerve agent used in the attack, one of whom, mother of three Dawn Sturgess, died in July as a result. Her partner Charlie Rowley was also taken ill after being exposed to the nerve agent.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it had been determined that Russia “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.”

The sanctions would cover sensitive national-security controlled goods, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call, citing the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act. The sanctions are required under this act because it mandates punishment of countries that use chemical weapons in violation of international law. There would, however, be exemptions for space flight activities, government space cooperation, and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, which would be reviewed on a case by case basis, the official added.

The US government also said that a second batch of “more draconian” sanctions would be imposed after 90 days unless Russia gives “reliable assurances” that it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups. “If those criteria are not met - it is up to Russia to make that decision - a second round of sanctions … will be imposed,” a State Department official said. “They are in general more draconian than the first round.”

A British government spokesman welcomed Washington’s announcement, saying: “The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behaviour will not go unchallenged.”

Quote of the day 9th August 2018

"Here’s a rule of thumb: no one asking a think-tank who its donors are is interested in the answer. The question is not meant to elicit information, but to delegitimise."

(Dan Hannan MEP in an article on declining standards in the legacy media which you can read here.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Midweek music spot: Pachelbel's Canon & Gigue in D major (c. 1700.)

Greg Clark visits Sellafield

Secretary of State Greg Clark visited Sellafield's iconic legacy facilities yesterday.

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was given an insight into the complexities of the Cumbrian nuclear plant.

Mr Clark’s visit included a rare glimpse inside the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP). The open-air pond was originally used to store used nuclear fuel from the Magnox reactors - the UK’s first generation of nuclear power stations that generated low-carbon electricity for more than half a century. Now 66 years old, the FGMSP is one of a number of buildings prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Greg Clark commented:

"Decommissioning is a crucial leg of the nuclear journey and the highly-skilled and committed team at Sellafield are using cutting-edge technology to ensure they meet the highest safety standards and lead the world in decommissioning. This important work is in huge demand around the world and our landmark Nuclear Sector Deal sets out how the government and the sector can work together to target this opportunity."

More information about the visit on the Government website here.

UK manufacturing Exports up by £28.6 Billion

Quote of the day 8th August 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Tom Harris on why he resigned from the Labour party

Former minister Tom Harris did an interesting piece following by an online Q and A on why he resigned from the Labour party which you can read at the Telegraph site here.

The reasons can be summarised in the title of the article:

"I have resigned from Labour because the war is over, and the moderates have lost."

Improvement in life expectancy slows

Throughout the 20th Century and the early years of this one, the UK and many other countries experienced steady improvements in life expectancy at birth.

This has been attributed to better nutrition, healthier habits among the population such as reduced smoking rates and improvements in treating infectious illnesses and conditions like heart disease.

But sine 2011 the progress has slowed, here and abroad, and ONS figures released today suggest that the slowdown is more pronounced in the UK than many similar countries.

Life expectancy is still going up, but not nearly as fast as it was.

The ONS's analysis found the slowdown in life-expectancy improvement in the UK was most pronounced in women, dropping by 90% from 12.9 weeks per year from 2006 to 2011 to 1.2 weeks from 2011 to 2012 - the biggest reduction in all of the countries it analysed. For men, this was down 76% from 17.3 to 4.2 weeks.

That part of the slowdown which is common among all rich countries may simply indicate that there are limits to how long  taking better care of people can increase life expectancy without some major technological breakthrough.

However, the fact that there is a bigger slowdown in the UK may mean that we need to look at whether we could do better.

I suspect that issues like diet, exercise and healthy weight will and should get a lot more attention.

Quote of the day 7th August 2018

Monday, August 06, 2018

What is Islamophobia?

Both Anti-Semitism and prejudice against Muslims are on the rise. I don't believe any major party can afford to be complacent about either of them.

There is a temptation for some people on each side of politics to brush aside suggestions of one or other problem with "Whataboutery" e.g. instead of investigating whether there is really a problem you just say "whatabout" and point to a real or imagined problem on the other side of the political spectrum.

There can be a very fine line between the actions of a brave and honest person who is calling for or taking action about a genuine injustice and someone who is making a bad situation worse with inflammatory or exaggerated claims which will drag in innocent people as well as the guilty.

And some of the issues involved are incredibly difficult and emotive. For example, we have a real problem of terrorism by Islamist extremists who claim to be acting in the name of Islam. However, blaming all Muslims for such acts of terror is wrong and can stigmatise the innocent and lead to another type of terrorism - attacks on Muslims such as happened at Finsbury Park Mosque.

An even worse difficulty involves grooming and the sexual abuse of children. People of both genders and most racial and ethnic identities have been guilty of this foul crime.

Most child-abusers are not Muslims and most Muslims are not child abusers but in a number of cities the courts have convicted gangs of Muslim men who were.

Anyone who is guilty of this crime should be prosecuted regardless of their religion or the colour of their skin. But anyone who is accused of it is entitled to a fair trial. Getting the balance on this one right is not always easy and, sadly, the British establishment let down many vulnerable women and children down badly in the recent past.

Turning trials into kangaroo courts or subjecting the accused to trial by media is not the answer whether the "journalist" concerned works for the BBC or calls himself Tommy Robinson.

I think we need a clear definition of what we mean by any given form of racism.

In the case of Anti-Semitism there is a widely agreed definition, originally adopted by he EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)which has been adopted by more than 40 countries including the UK and the USA and is generally known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition.

Contrary to what is sometimes suggested, this definition  permits and would not describe as Anti-Semitic severe criticisms of the actions or policies of the State of Israel provided that criticism is based on grounds for which the person making the criticism would also criticise any other country.

How then do we define the equivalent prejudice against Muslims, sometimes called Islamophobia?

The Runnymede trust brought out a definition in 1997 which was highly influential and as follows: their original Islamophobia report states that the term "refers to three phenomena:

• Unfounded hostility towards Islam;
• Practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities;
• Exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs."

They more recently updated this as follows:

"Definition: Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.

This is obviously a short definition. We have also developed a longer-form definition, building on the United Nations definition of racism generally.

Longer definition: Islamophobia is any distinction, exclusion or restriction towards, or preference against, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."

This is a good start but I don't think it is complete or comprehensive.

We need a properly agreed definition of anti-Muslim hatred into which the Muslim community should have a major input just as the Jewish community did with the decision to adopt IHRA working definition of Anti-Semitism.

And just as the IHRA definition allows you to criticise Israel as long as you don't do it in a blatantly unfair or unreasonable way, so the definition of Anti-Muslim prejudice must allow you to disagree with and criticise the religion of Islam as long as you don't do it in a way which stirs up hatred of all Muslims.

Making windows into men's (and women's) souls.

Emphasising her wish to move away from the religious tyranny in which most religious viewpoints in her era had participated and from which all had suffered, Queen Elisabeth the First promised

"I have no desire to make windows into men's souls."

Alas, many who call themselves liberals do not share that view today.

The political hostility that has been aimed at some politicians in various different parts of the political spectrum, not for their political beliefs but for their actual or supposed religious ones is a matter of concern.

To be clear, if a politician who holds a particular religious view also says that if elected to a position of power which enables them to do so they will use the law to impose that religious view by law on everyone else, that is absolutely a matter for legitimate political debate.

In a democracy how you propose to use the authority you are asking the electorate to give you is something which you can and should be asked to explain and those who take a different view are fully entitled to argue against you.

However, if someone holds a particular religious or moral view but does not want to use their position to pass laws which would impose it on everyone else, then in my humble opinion that is a horse of an entirely different colour.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to ask a candidate for office if they would try to change the law on abortion or gay marriage, and if they would, to have further discussion on the subject.

But once a candidate has said that they will not try to impose their views on others, interrogating them further or attacking them about those views is coming close to the sort of behaviour which Queen Elizabeth I described as "making windows into men's souls." Taking over the throne after her sister, brother, and father's reigns had all seen far too many people beheaded or burned at the stake for holding the wrong religious opinions, she was only too aware of the horrors  to which such behaviour could lead.

I don't, incidentally, pretend that Queen Elizabeth the first succeeded in ruling with complete religious toleration - for starters, a Pope who urged her catholic subjects to overthrow her and thereby put them in the position of facing the block in this world should they rebel and hellfire in the next if they did not, made that impossible. But unlike her three predecessors, she made the attempt and was right to do so.

James Bundy, who is Chairman of Conservative Future Scotland, has written a good piece about illiberal liberals which you can read here.

Quote of the day 6th August 2018

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Barry Elliott RIP

Barry David Elliott, a.k.a. Barry Chuckle, died today at the age of 73 after a period of ill health. The news will disappoint the millions of fans of the "Chuckle Brothers," Barry and his brother Paul. What was to be their last project, a 12 - part series called "Chuckle Time" is currently airing on Channel 5 and is due to run until September. Barry and Paul have appeared in a great many TV and stage performances, particularly but not only for children, and given many people a vast amount of pleasure. Rest in Peace.

An American writes on the British character - we don't like being told what to do.

There is an extremely perceptive article in the FT from the paper's outgoing American chief leader writer, Robert Armstrong, who is about to return to the states after spending five years here while doing the job.

It's called

"Why stubbornness is the secret to Britishness"

and in the article Armstrong argues that the defining element which links all the diverse British tribes - from the ERG to Momentum, from the arch-remainers to the SNP, from UKIP to the trade unions - is that

"The residents of these islands do not like being told what to do. They are stubborn, intractable and uppity.The British political classes, along with their opposite numbers in Brussels, have been re-learning this simple point, from Leavers and Remainers alike, since the June 2016 referendum. 

"Once I grasped it, not just Brexit but the whole heaving complexity of British culture, from its ways of talking to its manners to its humour and politics, became just a little bit clearer." 

He gives numerous persuasive examples of who Brits of all kinds believe in

"the right of the individual to decide, to not be ordered about by a music exec in a suit or some equivalent figure. It is no soaring Jeffersonian declaration of the dignity of the individual. Instead it gives voice to the mulish insistence that some things just are not anyone else’s damn business. But it is no less profound for not being a philosophical principle."

He links this into Brexit, for example. as follows:

I cannot help but think, however, that Brexit expresses something that is central to the national character, as best as I can understand it. It was always chancy to assume that the British were going to accept laws imposed on them from abroad — even if they played a large part in making them. 

On a reporting trip through Hampshire, Sussex and Kent on the eve of Brexit, I asked students, teachers, an antique dealer, retirees, a snooker hall operator, farmers, a mechanic, a church warden, cricket players, labourers and assorted passers-by about Brexit. One phrase recurred again and again: 'My head says in but my heart says out.' In the event, the heart won.

Scottish Nationalists hate being described as British, and won't usually engage with any argument about the similarities between the arguments they make on behalf of Scotland and those UKIP make on behalf of Britain. I provoked a minor twitter storm on the subject this weekend by triggering the Cybernats with such a comparison, but they never actually answered the point, they merely kept repeating arguments for IndyRef2 and a Yes vote in a second referendum which with a few words changed could have come straight out of the mouths of a Kipper or European Reform Group (ERG) supporter.

But the comments which Robert Armstrong makes explaining the reasons motivating the vote of the 52% of Brita voted Leave could equally describe many of the 45% of Scots who voted Yes.

Armstrong concludes

"Certainly I admire the uppity side of the national character. It is an important part of my cultural inheritance as an American. The English, perhaps wisely, drove many of the most extreme examples of their own kind off to America in the religious emigrations of the 17th century. Impossible people were planted from Maine down to Georgia. But cussedness — like its upmarket relative, courage — is a morally neutral virtue. It serves bad ends as easily as good, and the art of politics is to channel, rather than obey, the nature of the people."

For anyone who wants to understand the character and motivation of modern Britain, Armstrong's article is a "must read." You can do so here.

Handel's Sarabande

Sunday music spot: Henry Purcell, "Remember not, Lord, our offences"

Quote of the day 5th August 2018

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Does Newton's Third Law apply to politics?

"One of the lessons of history is that Newton’s Third Law applies to politics as well. For every political philosophy there is an opposite force, for every type of leader there is a nemesis."

This is the idea which forms the basis of an interesting article by former Labour party member Jack Wylde, "The Third Law of Politics," which you can read here.

This is not an endorsement in the sense that I don't agree with everything in the article but I found it thought provoking so decided to share the link.

Another day, another Labour resignation

A former minister, Tom Harris, has resigned from the Labour party, saying that 'It's just not the place for me any more.'

There has been a steady drip of Labour resignations in the past year but in my humble opinion this is one of the most significant ones, as Tom Harris, a member of the far from large group of Labour MPs for whom I have much respect, was both one of the more talented and one of the more open minded parliamentarians of his generation.

Mr Harris served as MP for Glasgow Cathcart and then Glasgow South between 2001 and 2015 and as a transport minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from 2006 to 2008, before being swept out of parliament in the 2015 SNP surge. He was exactly the sort of person Labour needed to start making inroads again in Scotland and in the political centre.

He told the Scottish Sunday Herald it was a “personal decision” and he did not plan to join another party. He added,

It felt a wee bit like a bereavement, I felt a bit emotional, but it’s just not the place for me anymore. It’s a personal decision. It’s not a comment on any people who have chosen to remain. This is just what’s right for me. It’s just a personal thing.”

I can recommend Tom Harris' book, "Ten years in the death of the Labour Party."

It is a sad thing not just for Labour but for Britain that in these difficult times when the country needs a strong but responsible opposition to hold the government to account, the principal opposition party is in such a state that someone like Tom Harris who had been a member for 34 years no longer feels at home in the party.

Music to relax after campaigning: Handel's "Sarabande"

We had a great campaigning and survey canvass in Millom today. For all who were out campaigning today, here is a piece of music to relax to.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias, to which almost all human beings are prone, is the tendency to find reasons not to accept evidence or apparent evidence which goes against your pre-existing opinions (or what you desperately want to believe) while uncritically accepting evidence which supports the evidence you want to believe.

It is what makes changing people's minds by argument so difficult.

Comments are allowed on this post - put up specifically to allow anyone who wants to make a constructive comment on the issues raised by today's "Quote of the day."

Quote of the day 4th August 2018

Although Bill Murray has a point in this amusing quote ...

Being serious, I don't think that's the best way to express the argument.

I would rather suggest that it completely impossible to win an argument with anyone, smart in other respects or stupid, who has such a strong case of confirmation bias that they are completely incapable of taking on board evidence which supports a view that they don't want to believe.

Contrary to my normal practice, I am not allowing comments on this thread because if I did some twit would use the comment facility to accuse other people of being stupid, thereby proving that he or she is the stupid one and adding nothing to the argument. But I will put up another post on which I do allow comments, about confirmation bias.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Sun Says editorial on the Yaxley-Lennon case

The Sun Newspaper comes in for a lot of flak. Some of it is justified.

But they do sometimes get it right, and I was pleased to see their editorial yesterday about Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who calls himself Tommy Robinson). Their political editor was sharing this on social media so I presume they don't mind people re-publishing it.

Quote of the day 3rd August 2018

"In the UK, a constitutional expert is a historian who has given their phone number to a journalist." 

(Professor Vernon Bogdanor, quoted by W Elliot Bulmer on twitter)

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Hosepipe ban cancelled

The Hosepipe ban in the North West which had been due to start on Sunday 5th August 2018 has been cancelled by United Utilities because the rain over the past week has sufficiently refilled the reservoirs.

The United Utilities statement continues as follows:

"The slightly cooler temperatures and recent rainfall have eased the demand for water and together with our customers’ water saving efforts means we do not need to introduce any restrictions at this time.

"Dr Martin Padley, our Water Services Director, said: “We would like to thank all of our customers who have helped in recent weeks by saving water wherever they can around the home and in the garden. 

“Our leakage teams are working 24 hours a day to find and repair as many leaks as possible and we have been moving water around our network. We have also been making operational interventions such as installation of new pumping stations, pumping between reservoirs, bringing ground water sources into use and prioritising maintenance to help ensure supplies have not been interrupted during the prolonged hot spell.

“Given the improved position, helped by recent rainfall, we do not want to inconvenience customers unnecessarily at this time. However, the long range forecast from the Met Office is one of relatively dry weather into the autumn, so future restrictions are still a possibility if more rain doesn’t arrive. 

“In the meantime, we are continuing to step up our own response and over the coming weeks you will see our teams out and about, bringing additional water supplies on line and fixing even more leaks.  We are working closely with the Environment Agency in monitoring the water resources situation and we still urge our customers to please help us by using water wisely where they can.”  

Thanks again for your support. We have lots of hints and tips on saving water and you can order free water saving gadgets too.

If you spot a leak in the road or street, report it and we’ll sort it."

CBI Chief and Jeremy Hunt warn Brussels on need to compromise

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI, has warned the EU that both sides, not just Britain, need to compromise to avoid damage of the two sides fail to agree a sensible basis for trade after Brexit.

Speaking to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, she warned EU negotiators they should consider "the impact a Brexit no deal would have on European economies".

Ms Fairbairn suggested that the scenario where the UK leaves the Brussels bloc without an agreement could affect 1.2million jobs in Europe. She added that it was time the EU opened its eyes and realised the harm disruption to trade could do would affect both sides of the Channel. She said:

"People always talk about the port of Dover collapsing, but the same thing would happen at Calais in France where almost the entire traffic is towards the UK.

"Same goes for Dutch and German ports."

She also said that some of the more alarmist claims about shortages of food and medicine in the event of a no deal scenario were "exaggerations". But she argued it was only fair that the Government would warn UK businesses to prepare for all scenarios, highlighting many small-to-medium businesses in the country are completely unprepared.

Whilst she accused the UK's hard Brexiteers of "cherry-picking" in the Brexit negotiations, Ms Fairbairn called on the Brussels negotiators to finally give in and "make some concessions".

The UK's new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday that a messy divorce with the EU would be "geostrategic mistake". However, he vowed the UK will continue to prosper whatever the outcome of the Brexit talks.

Mr Hunt said:

“Britain will prosper and succeed whatever the outcome of these talks because we're that kind of country.

"But we would much rather a future when we look at all the instability in the world, all the pressures, all the unpredictability where people who share values are standing together shoulder to shoulder."

He also wrote: “We want the EU to prosper but there is a real risk of a messy divorce which would be a geostrategic mistake. 

"Let’s have a pragmatic solution to allow the deep and special friendship between UK and EU to continue.” 

At a news conference in Vienna, he said:

“This is not Project Fear, this is project reality. 

“We have to make a decision on Britain's future relationship with the EU by the end of this year and we have to be very honest with ourselves about the choices that we face. 

“We need to have these frank discussions because time is very, very short and we are clear that what we want is a friendship.”

Continuing delays on the A595 near Bigrigg

Highways England advises road users to expect more worse-than-normal delays on the A595 between Whitehaven and Egremont as work continues in the Bigrigg area with temporary traffic signals in place.

This will apply from 8am to 4.30pm today.

There are also roadworks and traffic signals on the A595 in Whitehaven so the road is likely to be seriously disrupted all day for a good distance North of Sellafield.

In today's Evening Standard

Following the discovery of an archive of Monty Python material the Evening Standard cartoonist has this take …

Glenda Leake RIP

Mrs Glenda Leake - just "Glenda" to everyone in Whitehaven who knew her, which is most of the town - died on 27th July after a series of illnesses.

Until fairly recently Glenda used to be a regular sight around Whitehaven on her bicycle and she did a range of odd jobs from windows to cleaning for a large segment of the local populace.

She and her husband Harold, who survives her, did an excellent job turning the land around their house which they leased from Copeland BC and had previously been an absolute eyesore into a beautiful garden. (For obvious reasons I'm not going to give the location here.)

In the face of what were often very challenging circumstances she worked extremely hard to make the best of herself. Glenda was one of the bravest and most hard-working people I ever met and an embodiment of what is meant by the expression "the salt of the earth."

Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day 2nd August 2018

"I miss … the old Britain. A country where political discourse was measured and proportionate, petty even. Where every public debate didn’t devolve into existential panic and belligerent name calling. What I miss, in today’s febrile Britain, is the stiff upper lip."

(Ben Judah, in an article on The Atlantic site which you can read here.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Appeal court bails Yaxley-Lennon pending fresh trial

The Court of Appeal has quashed one of two Contempt of Court convictions against which Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who uses the name Tommy Robinson, was appealing and ordered his release on bail pending a fresh trial. He has subsequently been released from prison.

The Appeal Court upheld Yaxley-Lennon's original conviction for contempt of court, for which he was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, in respect of a trial at Canterbury Crown Court in 2017.

However, the court also found that Yaxley-Lennon's second conviction for contempt of court in respect of a trial at Leeds Crown Court earlier this year, when his suspended sentence was activated and he was given a further ten-month sentence because the Leeds judge ruled that he had effectively repeated the offence, was based on a "fundamentally flawed" process and they quashed it.

At the Court of Appeal, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and his colleagues ruled there had been technical flaws by the judge who jailed Yaxley-Lennon and quashed the finding.

In his written judgement, the Lord Chief Justice wrote:

"We are satisfied that the finding of contempt made in Leeds following a fundamentally flawed process, in what we recognise were difficult and unusual circumstances, cannot stand. 

"We will direct that the matter be reheard before a different judge." 

Obviously this is an interesting ruling to say the least and will cause quite a lot of legitimate comment. Let's consider the implications.

Question 1) "Does this mean that Yaxley-Lennon has been cleared?" 

Answer: No. His first conviction was upheld: there will be a fresh trial in respect of the alleged second offence.

Question 2) "Is this a victory for free speech?"

Answer: No, it is nothing to do with free speech. It is, however, a victory for due process.

The trial judge in Canterbury, whose judgement has been upheld by the Court of Appeal, explained exactly why it isn't a free speech issue:

Question 3) "But surely the "Free Tommy" crowd have been vindicated that the process was unfair?" 

Answer: In respect of the hearing at Leeds, and that a proper process was not followed in that hearing, then yes, on that one point and on that point alone, those who objected to the decision to jail Yaxley-Lennon have been vindicated.

I am quite certain that this will have a major impact on how "contempt of court" cases will be handled in future. Ironically that may be Yaxley-Lennon's main legacy.

Question 4) "Doesn't this prove that the establishment was out to get Tommy Robinson?"

Answer: Personally I would argue that it proves the exact opposite. In spite of the fact that the legal establishment has excellent reason to distrust Yaxley-Lennon, the Court of Appeal bent over backwards to listen to his legal team's arguments, and when some of those arguments were found to have a sound basis in law the relevant conviction was quashed and he was released on bail pending a re-trial.

Question 5) "What about his treatment in prison?"

Answer:  What about it? He obviously hasn't been murdered by Muslims during his time inside as some of his Islamophobic supporters predicted he would be.

The fact that they managed to simultaneously argue that the British legal system allows Muslims to commit crimes with impunity and no legal sanction, and that there are so many Muslims in all British prisons that it would be impossible to keep Yaxley-Lennon safe while he was inside was cognitive dissonance when he was imprisoned and it remains cognitive dissonance today.

Question 6) "What happens now?"

Answer:  he goes before another hearing with a fresh judge which will consider whether his conduct at Leeds was contempt of court or not.

"The secret barrister" responds to the appeal court decision here.

Insulin supplies - the facts.

A few days ago the chairman of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Sir Michael Rawlins, spoke in a "personal capacity" to the Pharmaceutical Journal and his interview included the following:

We make no insulin in the UK. We import every drop of it. You can’t transport insulin around ordinarily because it must be temperature-controlled. And there are 3.5 million people [with diabetes, some of whom] rely on insulin, not least the Prime Minister.

This was repeated on social media by the head of operations at Channel 4, doubtless in good faith - if the chairman of the regulatory agency for drugs makes a comment like that even in a personal capacity it's a legitimate news story - and over the weekend a number of people got very heated about it on social media.

In fact Sir Michael was exaggerating when he said that Britain imports every drop of insulin - one of the two suppliers which was being quoted by outraged Brexit supporters as manufacturing insulin here, Wockhardt UK, does indeed produce animal-based insulin at its site in Wrexham. They supply porcine and bovine insulin made in this country, although the former product is in the process of being withdrawn. (The other supplier which some people suggested at the weekend was making insulin here, Lily, told Channel 4 Factcheck that they import it.)

Sir Michael's statement was not quite correct and he was extremely ill-advised to overstate the case and thereby pump yet more anger and hysteria into a debate which was already replete with both, but he wasn't overstating it by much - certainly not by the standards of debates about Brexit.

I've seen an analysis which estimates that Wockhardt UK's insulin accounts for 0.3% of the insulin prescribed in the UK and that the other 99.7% is imported. It certainly appears that more than 99% of insulin used here is indeed imported.

Which raises the question of whether a no-deal Brexit is a threat to insulin supplies.

Channel 4 factcheck have done an analysis on this - and before anyone else points out that a senior executive at their own news channel was in the firing line on this issue, it is quite clear from the measured nature of their response, including pointing out that the statement their colleague repeated was not, strictly speaking, quite true,  that the fact-checkers at Channel 4 were not influenced by that.

Soon after the referendum in 2016, the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA UK), which represents medical suppliers in the UK, wrote an open letter to the government, warning of the “significant consequences for the NHS medicines supply chain” if Brexit negotiations weren’t handled properly.

However, the current view of the industry is that this issue is being addressed. A spokesperson for HDA UK told Channel 4 FactCheck on Monday that: “we are aware of proposals by the government and manufacturers to develop plans for stockpiling medicines of all types as abuffer stockin the event of ano deal Brexit’.”

He added: “The UK medicines supply chain has an inbuilt resilience and flexibility, which is now being supported by the plans for abuffer stock’”, which he described as “sensible planning”.

Individual suppliers are quoted by Channel 4 factcheck as making similar comments.

After his interview on Friday, Mr Rawlins issued a further statement acknowledging that his comments were made before the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced the government’s contingency plans. Those plans include securing insulin supplies.

Mr Rawlins said that “the Department of Health and Social Care is working to make sure the health sector and industry are prepared and that people’s health will be safeguarded.”

You can read the Channel 4 factcheck article in full here.

Corbyn apologises for hosting event at which Israel was compared to Nazis

Jeremy Corbyn has now apologised for hosting an event at which the main speaker compared Israel to the Nazis.

The event took place on Holocaust Memorial Day 2010.

The Labour leader admitted he had appeared alongside people "whose views I completely reject" as  a backbench MP and apologised for the "concerns and anxiety" caused to the Jewish community.

Expect delays on the A595 between Moor Row and Bigrigg today

Of course, anyone who knows the area would normally expect delays on the A595 as it passes through my division (and in many other places) particularly at rush hour and when the Sellafield shifts change.

Alas, the delays in my patch will be worse than usual today during the off-peak period between 9.30am, and 3.30am as Highways England are doing road stud installation work between Moor Row and Bigrigg and will have "Stop - Go" boards in operation.

Quote of the day 1st August 2018

"It's a superhighway"

(American economist Thomas Sowell responds to the old saying that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Seen on the doorstep in Cleator Moor

A notice by a front door, seen while out doing a resident's opinion survey:

"No Trespassers
Violators will be shot
Survivors will be shot again."

We got the message that the householder was not exactly looking for company ...

Quote of the day 31st July 2018

We are facing nothing less than a crisis in our democracy, based on the systematic manipulation of data to support the relentless targeting of citizens, without their consent, by campaigns of disinformation and messages of hate.”

(Damian Collins MP, Conservative chairman of the House of Commons' all-party Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

He was speaking about the committee's interim report on "Disinformation and Fake News," which calls for updated rules for elections and referenda which take better account of the way social media campaigns now operate and better education about how reliable and truthful online information is - or all too often isn't.)

Monday, July 30, 2018


Tim Montgomerie wrote a good piece on "Unherd" a few weeks ago about the tendency in many parts of the political spectrum to wish not just to defeat but to crush and delegitimise those who disagree with you, a tendency he calls "Hegemonia."

You can see it in those who have been trying to deselect their political opponents whether pro or anti-Brexit. A Labour party with no place for the likes of Frank Field would be much poorer, but a majority of his local party apparently cannot see that.

You can see it in those for whom opponents are to be smeared.

You can see it in those on the leave side for whom any attempt by Theresa May or anyone else to find a compromise which leaves the EU on terms which do not totally ignore the concerns of the 48% who voted differently is "betrayal" or "treason" or a "sell-out"

You can also see it in those on the Remain side for whom the referendum result is not legitimate and must be overturned at any cost.

As Tim asks,

"Can we recognise that attempting to call any and all opponents racists, fascists and bigots – without good cause – is not just offensive but electorally incendiary? 

"And can we be patriotic enough to yearn for minorities to feel that their country’s institutions (whether the US Supreme Court or the BBC or universities) are not closed to them? 

"And can we have the humility to know that victory and vindication are not 100% bedfellows. That political and other opponents who may have lost votes or circulations or professional prestige may still hold useful, insightful opinions and, occasionally, there might be some merit in listening to ‘the defeated’ a bit more carefully – and sometimes changing course as a result?"

I do hope the answer to those questions is yes.

Biggrigg Road closure

Please note that due to drainage works at Pallaflat, Bigrigg, the road will be completely closed from 8am to 5pm for five days starting today (30th July).

Quote of the day 30th July 2018

"One of the scariest aspects of our times is how easy it is for glib loudmouths to turn us against each other, weakening the whole framework of society, on which we all depend."

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Labour accused of training candidates to smear opponents.

A report in the Sunday Times today says that the Labour party has been accused of giving its parliamentary candidates lessons in smearing their political opponents.

Around 60 prospective parliamentary candidates attended an awayday in Nottinghamshire last weekend and were given a seminar on media training, which several sources claim involved a discussion on how to sabotage their rivals.

One attendee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said:

We were told that it was all right to make up stories about our Tory opponents even if they were on the edge of legality. We were basically told we could say what we liked about them as long as it was on the right side of the law.

“I was quite surprised, to say the least, and this certainly isn’t the way the party has previously operated or encouraged us to behave.”

Another source said:

The suggestion was that you could use the media and social media to smear your opponents and that even if you had to later retract your claims the damage would already be done. It was even inferred that you should be prepared to brief against other Labour MPs.

The Labour party denied the allegations.

However, they have "form" for doing this sort of thing. 

Earlier this year a Labour activist, Dan Evans, issued an apology for spreading smears about the Tory Byron Davies during last year’s general election, and paid a "substantial" donation to a charity chosen by the former MP. Mr Davies had been defending the government’s most marginal seat, Gower, which he had won two years earlier with a majority of just 27.

The smears against Byron Davies included baseless slanders that he was under investigation for election fraud, which Mr Evans, pictured with Jeremy Corbyn in the online version of the Sunday Times article, admitted was not true.

In 2009 the then Labour Prime Minister was forced to sack one of his closest advisors, Damien MacBride, for plotting to publish "hugely defamatory" and "obscene" untrue smears about prominent political opponents.

Telling lies to damage your political opponents is wrong whoever does it and whoever it is aimed at. I hope this story is not true and that if it is, Labour thinks better of it.

But I would also suggest that a wise voter should take any derogatory statements made by any Labour supporter about any of their political opponents with a whole truckload of salt.

Sunday music spot: "Lord let me know mine end" (Greene)

Sunday reflection - is it better to avoid "vampires" or avoid being one?

Reflecting that I have heard several times in recent months, most recently on the radio this week, that people can be divided into those you feel energised after talking to and those who leave you feeling as though you have had the energy sucked out of you after a conversation with them.

One speaker on the radio described the latter type of person as "vampires" and suggested that you should try to avoid spending time with such people.

That's one approach.

But actually I can recall different instances in which conversations with the same person have left me energised and perked up or depressed depending on what was going on in their life and how they felt about it, and how they were dealing with it.

Is it possible that when we deal with our problems with humour and a positive attitude, then that is likely to be passed on to the people we are dealing with, and all of us can become a negative influence if we let ourselves get overwhelmed by our problems?

Perhaps rather than avoiding the people we label as "vampires" we should concentrate on being as  positive as we can so that we ourselves become the people who leave others feeling energised and positive.

Quote of the day 29th July 2018

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Saturday music spot: Overture to Thomas Arne's opera "Alfred"

Thomas Arne's masterpiece "Alfred," which was first performed in 1740, contains one movement which is still very well known indeed while the rest of the opera is hardly ever performed and very little known today.

This overture is one of the pieces in the opera which deserves to be heard more often.

(The part of the opera which is most often still heard today is the finale, which is "Rule Britannia.")

Quote of the day 28th July 2018

In his book A History of Warfare (1968), Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: records that 

"Sir Winston Churchill once told me of a reply made by the Duke of Wellington, in his last years, when a friend asked him: 

'If you had your life over again, is there any way in which you could have done better?' 

The old Duke replied: 'Yes, I should have given more praise.'"

Friday, July 27, 2018

Reminder: an opportunity to raise issues with MP/Councillors tomorrow

The next "Saturday Chataway" opportunity for residents of Copeland to meet your MP and elected representatives is tomorrow morning (Saturday 28th July 2018) at Seascale.

Trudy Harrison MP and elected representatives will be at Seascale Library, Gosforth Road, Seascale (CA20 1PN) between 10am and 12 noon. Councillors of all parties and levels have been invited.

This will be followed by a community litter pick in the afternoon from 12.30pm

Planned arrangements for repair of Meadow Road

As I posted a few days ago, Meadow Road which runs through Whitehaven's Mirehouse estate is in a dire condition and Cumbria County Council's local committee has allocated £120,000 in this year's budget for a full repair job, which starts on Monday (30th July) and is expected to last four weeks.

Here is a summary of what is being done and the arrangements being made during the repair works on Meadow road,

The existing surface is a concrete road with bituminous surface treatment. That current bituminous treatment is now severely worn from the Kinniside Avenue Junction to Uldale Road Junction.

Road markings are also worn and faded.

Repair works are to be carried out for approximately one kilometer North-West and North from the Wasdale road junction under an official road closure (anticipated duration of 4 weeks).

On-street parking will be severely restricted during working hours, but will be available to residents overnight and at weekends.

Existing bituminous treatment to be removed back to existing concrete surface. Concrete structural integrity to be assessed, and existing expansion joints in concrete to be re-treated.

All ironwork throughout the site extent to be renewed, and all damaged kerb items to be replaced.

Existing concrete pavement to be overlaid with 50mm of Heavy Duty Bituminous surface course.

New transverse expansion joints to be cut into new surface course corresponding with existing joints.

Road markings to be renewed throughout.

CCC has agreed with Stagecoach to keep the service bus route in operation to minimise disruption to bus users, notices to this effect have been posted at all stops and on busses.

Copeland Borough Council have been informed about the repair work and their refuse vehicles will have access on the scheduled days.

Access for blue light emergency services will be maintained at all times.

Each end of the road closure will be manned during working hours to liaise with customers and advise on access/alternative routes etc.

Secretary of State praises MP's School sponsor campaign

The MP for Copeland has been praised for her ‘passionate campaign’ to secure a new school sponsor for Whitehaven Academy.

Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, commended Trudy Harrison MP for her consistent battle to remove controversial academy trust sponsors, Bright Tribe from Whitehaven Academy after years of neglect and mismanagement.

Cumbria Education Trust was last week confirmed by the Secretary of State as the new sponsor of Whitehaven Academy following a resolution that was passed by CET’s Board of Trustees.

Mrs Harrison expressed her concern at the Department of Education in a Select Committee meeting which saw members grill the Secretary of State on the conditions at the school, which included pupils working in stifling classrooms due to windows being jammed shut in the middle of a heatwave.

Damian Hinds, said: “I know Trudy is passionate about education, ensuring that young people across her constituency get the best start in life. 

“She has been a strong advocate against the running of Whitehaven Academy by the Bright Tribe Trust. Standing up for concerns of the pupils and parents involved. 

“It is thanks to her campaigning that the school is now going to be taken over by the Cumbria Education Trust ensuring a bright future ahead.”

Trudy Harrison added that “This has been a team effort over many months, and it’s testament to the relentless support and information from parents in particular that we have successfully secured the most comprehensive re-brokerage in the DfE’s history.

“This means that Whitehaven Academy will benefit from short term remedial works over the summer and by the end of 2020, a brand new school. But more than that, it means that the Academy will have a local sponsor, with a track record of transformation who will be easily accessible and accountable.

“A full complement of sixth form subjects will be possible because of a collaboration with Workington Academy and specialist teachers – for me, this package is crucial."

Mrs Harrison also said that,

“Head teacher Warren Turner has worked tirelessly in very difficult circumstances, as have all staff, their dedication and commitment has been significant in securing a new sponsor and I’m really looking forward to the future for Whitehaven Academy with Cumbria Education Trust’s management."

Quote of the day 27th July 2018

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"Saturday Chataway" this coming Saturday (28th July) in Seascale

The next "Saturday Chataway" opportunity for residents of Copeland to meet your MP and elected representatives is this Saturday (28th July 2018) at Seascale.

MP Trudy Harrison and elected representatives will be at Seascale Library, Gosforth Road, Seascale (CA20 1PN) between 10am and 12 noon. Councillors of all parties and levels have been invited.

This will be followed by a community litter pick in the afternoon from 12.30pm

Mary Ellis RIP

Mary Ellis, who flew over a thousand aircraft of 67 different types during World War II while serving as a pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary, has died at the age of 101.

As Mary Wilkins she blazed a trail for female aviators as one of the first women to fly Spitfires, heavy bombers and jet aircraft. She delivered planes from factories to airfields from 1941 to the end of the Second World War.

The use of women pilots to deliver aircraft ran into a certain amount of prejudice at the time. At one RAF base, the ground crew refused to believe she was the pilot of the Wellington bomber she had just landed. "They actually went inside the aeroplane and searched it," she recalled.

The job of flying a wide range of aircraft was not without dangers and nearly one in 10 of the ATA's 168 female members were killed during the war, including aviation pioneer Amy Johnson.

Mary herself survived being shot at by friendly fire near Bournemouth and a crash-landing when the undercarriage on the Spitfire she was transporting jammed.

Mary's friend Dora Lang died in a crash in 1944. "I missed her terribly", she recalled. "And for two days I was not allowed to fly - I didn't want to. But after that one realised, well, there is a war on, we must get on with our jobs. And we did."

When the ATA was disbanded in 1945, Mary Wilkins was seconded to the RAF, where she became one of the first women to fly Britain's first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor. She went on to become manager of Sandown Airport on the Isle of Wight in the 1950s and 1960s, hiring a former ATA colleague, Vera Strodl, as chief flying instructor.

She married Don Ellis, a fellow pilot, in 1961.

Mary Ellis was given the freedom of the Isle of Wight in January this year. Isle of Wight Council leader Dave Stewart described her a "national, international and Island heroine".

He added "She is one of the last of the finest generation who did so much to guarantee our freedom 70 years ago."

Rest in Peace.

Labour MP for Peterborough to stand trial

The Labour MP for Peterborough, Fiona Onasanya, who took the seat from the Conservatives last year by just 607 votes, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with perverting the course of justice on July 12th and will now stand trial with her brother Festus. The case is scheduled  for the Old Bailey on 13th August.

They are accused of conspiring to evade speeding points - a similar charge to the one which ended the political career of former Lib/Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne.

Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce were both sentenced to eight months in prison for perverting the course of justice after it emerged that Pryce had taken the speeding points after Huhne tripped a speed camera while driving too fast. They each served two months before being released on licence. Pryce's friend Constance Briscoe was subsequently sentenced to sixteen months in prison and sacked as a judge for making false statements to police in relation to the Huhne and Pryce case and submitting false documents to the trial.

If convicted and jailed Onasanya would be subject to the Recall act 2015 which means that if 10% of her constituents signed a petition to that effect she would be removed from her position and a by-election for the Peterborough constituency would follow.

Time to update the Treason act of 1531.

I agree with Policy Exchange who argue, in a new report, that the Treason Act of 1531 is out of date and should be replaced by a new law worded to fit the situation where treason no longer means backing the wrong side in an attempt to change the ruling dynasty. The existing law was written in the age when, as John Harington wrote in his immortal joke,

When that joke was made, "Treason" usually meant attempting to replace the current monarch with another - and of course, if such an attempt succeeded, accusing the new King or Queen and his or her supporters of treason was not conducive to your life expectancy.

The last serious attempt to change the dynasty through rebellion in this country for which the old  definition of treason could reasonably be (and was) applied was defeated 272 years ago at the battle of Culloden. From the American war of Independence onwards - and that too is well over two centuries ago - the old idea of what treason is has looked increasingly outdated.

The need for an updated treason law was highlighted this week by the decision not to object to the suspects accused of being the two remaining members of the DA'ESH murder cell known as "The Beatles" being tried in the USA.

The individuals claim that they have been stripped of their British citizenship, and if this is true, treason would have been the wrong charge anyway had they been tried in this country - though if these suspects are who they are accused of being, they could be charged with the murders of aid workers Alan Hemming, David Haines and Peter Kassig and all the other innocent people killed by the notorious DA'ESH death squad.

Sooner or later the British courts are going to have to deal with a modern terrorist for whom an updated version of treason is the most appropriate charge. It would be as well to have a law which meets the needs of justice in the 21st century, rather than one drafted in the sixteenth, on the statute book for when that happens.