Friday, May 06, 2016

Where the votes came from

Warning - election mechanics post for political anoraks only !

It can be a problem for a political party if its' vote is too evenly spread or too concentrated.

If you vote is very evenly spread indeed there is a real danger of ending up like UKIP at the 2015 general elections - lots and lots of seats where you have enough votes for a good third place and hardly any actual wins. That of course is how they managed to get four million votes with only one seat to show for it.

It can also be a problem to have your vote too concentrated, as is often an issue for the Conservatives in Cumbria, were too many of our votes are in relatively few wards, so that we can often get more votes than Labour in the county in both general and local elections, and yet fewer seats.

(Of course, a Lib/Dem might ask me "why don't you support PR, then" and the answer is because that presents other problems - but certainly not because I imagine "First Past the Post" to be perfect: it certainly isn't.

Sometimes however an even spread of votes works out as this year's PCC election in Cumbria showed: here are the first preference votes by council area for each candidate.

The votes in this election were counted by Local Authority area and the interesting thing is that

1) Peter McCall carried Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden, and came a close second in Barrow, Copeland and South Lakes

2) Reg Watson, the Labour candidate, carried Barrow and Copeland and was a close second in Allerdale and Carlisle, but was a poor third in Eden and South Lakes.

3) Loraine Birchall, the Lib/Dem candidate, carried South Lakeland with the biggest single district vote in the election but was less successful elsewhere.

The key point which this bears out - and it was even more obvious four years ago - is that the best way to get enough votes to win a multi-constituency election like this one is to work to bring out votes in as many parts of the area as possible.

Peter McCall, and before him Richard Rhodes, did not win every area. But they were both the only candidate to be either first or close behind the candidate with most votes in all six districts.

In both elections candidates who did very well indeed in one district but poorly in the rest of the county, or who did well in four of the six districts but very badly in the other two, failed to win.

This is one election in which it really pays to try to work everywhere and speak to as many people as possible. It would, of course, be a good thing for democracy if more candidates operated on that basis.

Congratulations to Peter McCall on his election as Cumbria's PCC

Congratulations to Peter McCall, the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria, on his stunning victory today by an increased majority on a greatly increased turnout.

Peter was nearly ten thousand votes ahead on the first ballot, and after second preferences increased his lead, winning with a majority of nearly eleven thousand.
The second round votes were:

Peter McCall (Conservative) 41,345

Reg Watson (Labour) 30,437

The turnout increased over the county as a whole by a full ten percentage points. I would of course like to see a turnout which was much higher still but at least it was moving in the right direction

Full details of the result are available at…/cumbria-police-and-crime…/

Thanks also to the outgoing PCC, Richard Rhodes, for four years' hard and dedicated work to support policing in our county, keep us all safe and stand up for the victims of crime.

What do "Economists for Brexit" stand for?

Contrary to the impression sometimes given that all serious economic experts support "Remain" there are some prominent economists who favour leaving the EU.

For example. there is a group of eight distinguished economists who describe themselves as

"Economists for Brexit"

They have a website at

However, it is important to understand the basis on which they argue that Britain would be better off outside the EU.

That argument is based on the assumption that Britain would follow a specific set of free-trade, free market policies if we were to leave the EU and if you strongly oppose the idea that the UK should follow those policies you cannot also expect to see the economic gains that "Economists for Brexit" believe those policies would deliver if the UK leaves the European Union.

A simple explanation of what "Economists for Brexit" stands for was given by one of their number. Professor Patrick Minford, in the Sun newspaper here.

Here are three extracts from the article:

"This country is no longer one that specialises in farming or building. We now trade in skills more than we do in things. We have excellent designers, highly skilled intellectuals and we specialise in ideas that are then sent to South America or parts of Asia to be made.

Over time, if we left the EU, it seems likely that we would mostly eliminate manufacturing, leaving mainly industries such as design, marketing and hi-tech. But this shouldn’t scare us.

Britain is good at putting on a suit and selling to other nations."

"Of course leaving the EU will be difficult, and something that needs careful negotiation, but we must completely withdraw to gain these benefits. Naturally, however, it will be unpopular with powerful industries which currently benefit from protection. Many of these have already been vocal and it is important for us to help these industries adjust if we do decide to leave."

  "We need to negotiate a transition period which allows both groups" (British industries and foreign companies which trade with us) "to get used to the change."

To his credit, Professor Minford has been completely honest about the implications of his policy, to the delight of some remain supporters who have been gleefully quoting the line highlighted above - to which Minford himself drew attention in his article by putting it in italics.

My opinion as an economist, is in agreement with that of Open Europe. Like just about every other serious economist - and as I understand it, "Economists for Brexit" don't dispute this - I think that if Britain were to leave the EU and keep the same economic policies, we would be worse off.

I don't think the short term hit caused by disruption or the long hit to growth would be as severe as the Treasury projections suggest, particularly under the EEA model, but if we do not take advantage of Brexit to move to more liberal economic policy, it will make us poorer.

I also think that if after leaving the EU Britain were to adopt radically more liberal economic policies, such as scrapping all external tariffs, there could be a medium to long term boost to growth, although just as I think the treasury has overstated the cost of a "same policies" Brexit, I believe that "Economists for Brexit have overestimated the gains from a "free market" Brexit.

But a bigger question for me is whether there is the political will to pursue those policies.

If you are opposed to the EU on non-economic grounds which are so important to you that you are willing to pay a moderate cost in terms of lower growth and incomes, obviously the rational thing for you to do is to vote "Leave."

Similarly, if want to see a free-trade, free market Britain, and believe that the UK would adopt such policies in the event of a "leave" vote - and you are willing to pay the price described above - e.g. that we would "largely eliminate manufacturing" and, for example. the steel industry would be allowed to close - then you should also vote to Leave.

But if you are not willing to pay that price, you should probably vote "Remain."

Expectations Management

It is sometimes extraordinary how a bad result can be made to appear acceptable if everyone was expecting worse.

For example, if Labour manages when all the votes are counted to be the first opposition for decades to make a net loss of council seats in a non General-election year, some people appear to be spinning it as an acceptable result for them because it had been widely expected that they might do even worse.

However, not everyone is blinded by expectations. For example, veteran commentator and pollster Peter Kellner says that it was a bad election for Labour based on the results so far.
In an article for Prospect, Kellner, formerly President of YouGov, writes:

“Labour has done badly, albeit not as catastrophically as it feared. It looks like ending up with a net loss of fewer than 50 council seats, not the widely-expected 150. Nevertheless, though Labour has done slightly better than last year, the BBC estimates that its average vote share is four per cent down on 2012. This is bad for a party hoping to regain power nationally at the next general election.

Unless today’s counts give Labour clear net gains, this will be the first time for more than 30 years than an opposition party has lost ground in council elections. Likewise, yesterday’s two parliamentary by-elections, in Ogmore and Sheffield, produced the expected Labour holds, but no surge in the party’s support. By any standard other than the pre-election predictions, yesterday was disastrous for Labour.

In general, it looks as if Labour’s support held up best in the south, and proved increasingly fragile further north ...

Labour’s worst performances last night were in Wales (down eight percentage points since the last equivalent elections in 2011) and Scotland (down nine) ... For Labour to come third in a country it used to dominate is truly startling.”

Quote of the day 6th May 2016

Thursday, May 05, 2016

As the polls close ...

Arrived home a short while ago after spending this evening on GOTV (get out the vote - knocking on the doors of people who canvassed as Conservative and trying to persuade them to turn out if they have not done so already.)

Reception was generally friendly ad a lot of people were coming out to vote without the need of a reminder - the very first house we arrived at the residents were getting into their car holding their polling cards and many of the others we called on had already voted.

Thank you to everyone who turned out to vote today for helping to keep democracy functioning, thanks especially to those who voted Conservative. Good luck to all my Conservative colleagues standing for election.

Have just had time for a cup of tea, am now about to head down to the first stage of the count: "Verification" which means checking that the number of votes in the ballot boxes is in line with the number of people who voted. The main count for Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner election will be tomorrow, but we will learn the turnout this evening.


There are elections today in every part of Britain. Voters are electing the next Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved parliament/assemblies, London mayor and assembly, seats on many local councils, and Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales outside London.

The Spin Doctor's manual: how not to close down a gaffe

As Britain goes to the polls today (polling stations open at 7am)

Quote of the day 5th May 2016

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

With PCC elections tomorrow: what a Police and Crime Commissioner does

Cumbria will elect our second Police and Crime Commissioner tomorrow in succession to Richard Rhodes who is not seeking re-election.

I'd like to put on record my appreciation and thanks for all the work Richard Rhodes has done, particularly on improving victim support.

I have voted by post for Peter McCall, the Conservative candidate, who recently retired from the army after a distinguished 34 year career and who I believe will be a great successor to Richard if he is elected.

Police and Crime commissioners do not control operational policing which is entirely independent of politics and under the control of the Chief Constable Here is a reminder of what is included in the role PCCs do have, and why it is an important job, and why it is worth making the effort to cast a vote tomorrow:

The art of Compromise

In tomorrow's Whitehaven news, of which the early editions was out this evening, I have written an article about how compromise and cross-party working should not be seen as a bad thing.

It is therefore something of an irony that today the government has agreed to compromise on a issue where I have previously written on this blog that I strongly support their previous position - unaccompanied child refugees.

However, it is quite possible to look at what David Cameron announced today and see it as illustrating the point I made in my Whitehaven News article.

Prior to today's announcement the government had not been suggesting that Britain would offer refuge to no child refugees. Last month the government said it would accept up to 3,000 more refugees, mostly vulnerable children, from the Middle East and North Africa by 2020. But they were  were proposing to take them only from the refugee camps in the middle east based on the United Nations at risk register.

The reason for this is to avoid giving desperate families the impression that it is a good idea to entrust the lives of one or more of their children to the people-smugglers. Those who take the risk of trying to cross the seas in the dangerous craft operated by these criminals are being drowned at the rate of about ten per day.

What the government is now saying is that they will consider taking unaccompanied child refugees registered in Italy, Greece, or France before 20th March, that being the date of the EU agreement on refugees with Turkey.

The government said the retrospective nature of the scheme would avoid creating a "perverse incentive" for families to entrust their children to people traffickers.

It would mean the UK can focus on the "most vulnerable children already in Europe without encouraging more to make the journey", Downing Street said.

In David Cameron's words

"I am also talking to Save the Children to see what we can do more, particularly about children who came here before the EU-Turkey deal was signed.

"What I don't want us to do is to take steps that will encourage people to make this dangerous journey because otherwise our actions, however well-meaning they will be, could result in more people dying than more people getting a good life."

Let's hope this compromise can succeed in helping more of those in need without encouraging others to put more children at risk.

David Cameron writes: vote Conservative tomorrow

Tomorrow is your chance to choose the direction of your local area, for the next four years.

Across England, Conservative councils have shown that they can be trusted to spend taxpayers’ money wisely, deliver efficient, effective local public services and keep our streets safer.


So when you wake up tomorrow, vote Conservative to secure a better and brighter future for the next four years.

Thank you for your support as we continue to deliver for the working people of Britain in the months and years ahead.
David Cameron

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

Reminder - elections tomorrow !

Meeting full to overflowing as West Cumbrians came to support our hospital.

The URC Church in Whitehaven was full to overflowing this evening as hundreds attended the NHS "success regime" public meeting to discuss the future shape of health services in West, North and East Cumbria. Every seat both on the ground floor and upstairs was taken and some people had to stand.

The mood of the meeting was generally polite and constructive, but thunderous applause every time a speaker from the floor - or sometimes the platform - referred to the need to keep services in West Cumbria, particularly at West Cumberland Hospital, left nobody present in any doubt of the enormously strong public support for our hospital and the demand that we have as many services as possible provided here, as locally as possible.

The NHS Trusts' officials assured us that no final decisions have been taken, that they are considering options and listening at this stage, and that a more detailed consultation will take place later this year.

Tonight's good attendance and the clear signal sent by people present was a valuable first step in the battle to persuade the present leadership of the Cumbrian NHS how much we need to keep local services at our hospital. I did have the impression that they were really listening. But we need to keep up the pressure and continue to show support for our local NHS.


The "success regime" meeting about local health services in West Cumbria in Whitehaven at 7pm this evening has been moved at short notice from the Civic Hall to the United Reformed Church near the marketplace


Whitehaven URC Church 

Address: James St, Whitehaven CA28 7HZ

SUPPORT OUR HOSPITALS TODAY - public meetings on the local NHS begin today

There is a series of extremely important public meetings about health services in Cumbria organised under the so-called "success regime" and starting today. It is vital that as many people as possible attend to support our local hospitals

The dates, times and venues for the meetings are:

TODAY (Wednesday 4th May)
  • 1pm-2:30pm: Guide Hall, St. George's Rd, Millom
  • 7pm-9pm: Solway Hall (Whitehaven Civic Hall), 75 Lowther St, Whitehaven

TOMORROW (Thursday 5th May)
  • 12:30pm-2:30pm: Function Room, Skiddaw Hotel, Main Street, Keswick
  • 6:30pm-8:30pm: Maryport Rugby Club, Mealpot Road, Maryport
  • Tuesday 10th May 7pm-9pm: Samuel King's School, Church Rd, Alston

The events will see presentations from clinicians and health service leaders about what the local NHS are proposing under the banner of what is called the "Success Regime."

Local residents will then have a chance to ask questions and also contribute their own views on the best options for the way health and care services should be run in future.

More on my hospitals blog at

Quote of the day 4th May 2016

Ronald Coase was a Nobel prize winning economist. I have had to remind myself of this excellent advice in my professional life this week.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

FINAL STRETCH as we approach elections on Thursday

The elections for Mayor of London, Police and Crime Commissioners, Scottish and Welsh devolved assemblies and for many local councils are entering the final stretch with elections on Thursday.

Some great campaign sessions in beautiful weather have included campaigning with Peter McCall, Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner in Cumbria in Dalston on Saturday and Whitehaven this evening. Wonderful weather and a friendly reception!

Labour plays the race card in London

There are two forms of political attack which amount to playing the race card.

One is to make reference direct or more often indirect reference to a candidate's race - e.g. making a big point of saying "we need a local candidate" if your opponent isn't white.

Another is to make false accusations of racism.

You would think given their own problems with anti-Semitism that even the Labour party would not have the cheek to accuse someone else of racism but you would be wrong.

The accusation has been put by Labour that the campaign which Zac Goldsmith has run in London, specifically the fact that he has referred to occasions when his Labour opponent Sadiq Khan has shared platforms with extremists, is racist.

This accusation is based on a ridiculous lie - e.g. the preposterous allegation that such a campaign would not have been run against a candidate who was not a Muslim.

For the benefit of anyone who has not noticed, Jeremy Corbyn is a white man, and isn't a Muslim. Like Sadiq Khan, he has shared platforms with extremists. Anyone who hasn't picked up that the Conservatives have not been slow to comment on those links really has not been paying attention.

If Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour party at the time of the 2020 General Election, extremely similar questions to those which are now being asked about Sadiq Khan's links will be asked about Jeremy Corbyn's - in a big way.

Anyone who imagines that the Conservative party will not make an issue of Jeremy Corbyn's links to people who have expressed extreme views, if he is still Labour leader during the next General Election campaign, is living in cloud cuckoo land.

The same will apply if between now and that election Corbyn has been replaced by another candidate to whom similar questions are relevant regardless of the gender, ethnicity, and religion (if any) of that candidate. These questions are not being asked because of Khan's race or religion and they won't be asked because of Corbyn's race or religion. They have been asked of Khan, and will be asked of Corbyn, because they are relevant to the office for which each candidate is or will be standing.

It is Labour, and everyone who has made the false accusation of racism against Zac Goldsmith's campaign, who are playing the race card, not the Conservatives. And they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Congratulations to Leicester City

Leicester city's five-thousand-to-one-against victory in Football's premier league is the sort of extraordinary achievement which legends are made of.

There are plenty of stories in boy's fictions of clubs going in a season from fighting to avoid relegation to winning the league, but not too many instances of such a story becoming reality.

I gather it is nearly forty years since a team which wasn't one of those that had previously won the Premier League has attained that prize - the last time being Nottingham Forest in 1978.

Well done to everyone involved.

May Day Revisited

I have just seen a suggestion to redesignate May Day as International Victims of Communism day.

What an excellent idea. Just as the Nazis and similar totalitarian regimes murdered more than ten million people, and we rightly commemorate the innocent victims of these and other genocides on Holocaust Memorial Day, Communist regimes have also murdered many tens of millions of innocent victims, and these too should be remembered.

Quote of the day 3rd may 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

Elections: Three Days to Go

Just three days to the vital elections for London Mayor, Scottish and Welsh devolved bodies, many local councils and Police and Crime Commissioners.

Whatever your views, don't risk losing your voice. If you have a postal vote and have not yet completed and returned it, do so now.

You can, incidentally, hand in a postal vote on election day (Thursday) at any polling station in the relevant local authority.

And here is a holiday song

While we're on the subject of the Barron Knights, here is a holiday music spot from them: "The Churchill Rap."

Jeremy Corbyn to adopt new Labour theme song (Irony warning)

Jeremy Corbyn has been looking for a new campaign song for the Labour party because "Things can only get better" has too many Blairite associations. The search has not been going well.

Serious consideration was given to Spitting image's The Chicken Song but after careful consideration Labour's NEC resolved that this could not be adopted because the line "and behead an eskimo" might be taken as support for aggressive imperialist actions towards native Inuit people ...

A number of comrades proposed an anthem called "The Red Flag on High" but after the NEC looked "The Flag on high" up on wikipedia the people who suggested that idea are now suspended from the Labour party, with half the shadow cabinet threatening to resign if they are not expelled and the other half complaining that this is all a deliberate misunderstanding by embittered Blairites ...

So Comrade Jeremy is now proposing a traditional song which all members of the Labour party should be able to relate to ...

Peter McCall, Conservative PCC candidate, on listening to the public

Quote of the day 2nd May 2016

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Diane Abbott continues the Labour tradition of car crash interviews

Sunday Music spot - given the weather there was only one choice

Given the utterly filthy weather today in West Cumbria, the only possible choice for my Sunday music slot was - Handel's Water Music!

Here is one of my favourite tunes from Handel's masterpiece: an andante, performed by the LSO

May Day

Today, the first of May, is sometimes known as May day, an expression with three meanings

1) An ancient holiday commemorated throughout Northern Europe as a celebration of Spring

2) International labour day, also known as Labour day, which in the words of Wikipedia is a

"celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement, anarchists, socialists, and communists"

3) an internationally recognised distress signal.

The New Scientist magazine used to run brilliant cartoon strips. For a couple of decades about the time of my childhood they ran a series called "Grimbledon Down" set in a fictional government research institute, and in my early adulthood they had a cartoon series called "Albert the Experimental Rat."

One year in the 90's at the beginning of May, at a time when Labour had been out of power for a long time and looked likely to stay that way, (it might have been something like May 1992, shortly after John Major was re-elected,) the "Albert the Experimental Rat" cartoon strip was called "May Day" and remembering it now just goes to show how much things change.

Against a back drop of morris men dancing round a maypole, Albert the rat was shown saying in the first panels something like

"May day - an ancient festival ...

where the British enjoy arcane rituals ...

and pay homage to ancient and long-discredited powers ...."

And the final panel, against a background purporting to be "Ye Anglo Saxon Chronicle" with the headline "Wilson declares May Day bank holiday" had Albert the rat concluding

"such as Labour governments."

It was very funny at the time. But there is a serious point to remembering it.

Nothing lasts for ever, especially not in politics. A political trend can last for a couple of decades, but sooner or later people will want a change.

That cartoon came out at a time when it looked like Labour might never get back into power and people were wrongly predicting that Britain had become an effective one-party state. Yet in fact about five years afterwards, Labour had one of the biggest landslide wins in British political history and were in power for the following thirteen years.

For much of that thirteen year period it looked for a while like the Conservatives might never return to power and some people wrote press articles arguing that the Tories had joined the Liberal democrats in the dustbin of history.

They too were proved doubly wrong when the following government was a Conservative and Lib/Dem coalition.

At the moment we are back in an era when the Labour party seems determined to destroy itself.

Conservatives should not assume that Labour will succeed in doing that. Or that the Labour party, even while displaying the serious faults which are only too apparent at the moment, could not get back into power given an unfortunate combination of "events, dear boy, events" such as another recession (there will be another world recession sooner or later no matter what policies Britain follows) especially if the Conservatives tear themselves apart.

Nothing in politics is certain and nothing in human affairs lasts for ever.

Public Meeting re Whitehaven Issues

There are a number of important public meetings coming up affecting people in West Cumbria.

I have already mentioned the NHS "success regime" meetings about our local health service (the Whitehaven one is at 7pm in the Civic on Wednesday 4th May, more details at

The Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie has also set up a meeting at 6pm on May 18th to discuss a number of local issues including the parking problems in Whitehaven. The meeting will be held in Mirehouse Labour Club, and will invite representatives of Sellafield Ltd, Cumbria County Council and Whitehaven Town Council to attend to answer residents' questions.

A number of issues are up for discussion at the May 18 meeting, which starts at 6pm, but Mr Starkie said parking is likely to be high on people's agenda.

He said: "I am fully aware of the high level of public discord on this issue and will invite along to the meeting a number of key stakeholders who are working with Copeland Council to address this."

Also on Mr Starkie's agenda will be other Whitehaven-related matters, including the Moorside nuclear power station development - and its associated accommodation and transport links - and the West Cumberland Hospital.

Elections: Four days to go

Four days  from today there will be elections affecting almost all voters in England, Scotland and Wales for

Police and Crime Commissioners in England
Many local councils
Mayor and Assembly in London
Scottish parliament
Welsh assembly

Whatever your view, use your vote on Thursday 5th May

Quote of the day 1st May 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A truth that's told with bad intent

For the second time in a few weeks I find myself quoting the word of William Blake

And the truth which rather too many people have been telling with bad intent, mostly on the hard left, but I have found one or two people on the right doing it as well (though not anybody holding elected office in the Conservative party) is this:

"Being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic."

The trouble is that this truth is being used too often to give people who really are anti-Semitic a pass and let them get away with what amounts to the beginnings of re-heated Nazism.

Here is the internationally agreed definition of anti-Semitism (recognised by the UK college of policing, the US State Department, and the EU ...

If you disagree with the policies of the government of Israel on exactly the same basis that you would disagree with the policies of any other government or party, that isn't racist at all.

To take a simple example, if you think Donald Trump is a berk to propose building a massive wall on the US/Mexican border, and Nigel Lawson was seriously misguided to suggest we might build one on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, then it is not racist or anti-Semitic in any way shape or form to make similar criticisms of Israel's "West Bank Barrier."

On the other hand, if you support Trump's "build a wall" policy and agreed with Nigel Lawson that there would be no problem in setting up border posts cutting the island of Ireland in two following a Brexit vote, but have been denouncing Israel for their border wall, you might usefully ask yourself why you are criticising Israel for a policy similar to one you support for others.

If you are holding Israel to a much higher standard of behaviour than you would expect of another country, if you think it is OK to hate people just for living in Israel, if you think that every Israeli citizen, or every Jewish citizen of that country, is to blame for the actions of their government, then you are not just being anti-Israel but anti-Semitic and racist.

I have already posted an explanation of why it is anti-Semitism of the most offensive kind to compare the policies of Israel with those of the Nazis. But if you are in any doubt whether something is anti-Semitic, there is a very simple test,

Ask yourself whether a statement, comment or joke about Israel or Jewish people would have been considered racist had it been made about Africa or black people, and if the answer is yes, then that statement, comment or joke is anti-Semitic and racist.

It should be obvious from what I have written that if a senior Conservative were to come out with certain of the things Ken Livingstone has said this week, I would want that person expelled from the party for life, and certainly never again allowed to hold any position of responsibility within the party or supported for election to public office.

Another side of George Osborne

Extracts from the chancellor's speech at a Westminster Correspondents' dinner this week

“The Referendum means we’re all arguing among ourselves. The Canadian model, the Albanian model, the Ukrainian model. And that’s just John Whittingdale’s table.”

Remarking that he had his own diet plan, he explained: “It’s called the 5:2. After two out of every five Budgets I eat some of my own words.”

And on Labour:  “We’re joined by the various factions of the Labour Party. Stephen Kinnock – the united front. Rachel Reeves – the popular front. Emily Thornberry – the unpopular front. And Chris Bryant – the Y-front.”

You can read more at the i website at

Quote of the day 30th April 2016

"This row about Ken Livingstone and Hitler is so unfair. One was a horrible extremist obsessed with Jews. The other was leader of Nazi Germany"
— Ian Austin (@IanAustinMP) on twitter April 29, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

Cameron's compassion will save children's lives: Dubs' compassion will get them drowned

The argument between David Cameron and Lord Dubs is not an argument between someone who cares about helping refugee children and someone who doesn't.

Both believe we should do something to help. Both have offered a means to do so. I have no doubts whatsoever about the sincerity of either.

The difference is that one is offering a solution which really will help, and the other, for the best of motives, is offering a solution which I believe will get more children drowned.

The British government is giving £2.3 billion to help those fleeing war in Syria. We had previously said we will take 20,000 refugees - we have now said we will take a further 3,000 child refugees.
The Royal Navy is to help save the lives of those making the crossing. It’s not just that Britain is giving more than any country in Europe; we’re giving more than the rest of Europe put together.

And I am convinced the government is right to say that the refugees we take should come directly from the Middle East, not from those who have already reached Europe, to stop the rush to the people smugglers who are drowning ten people a day.

Let's reiterate the key point about child refugees. Only last week, the British Government said it would take 3,000. We will take those on the United Nations’ “at risk” register, which includes teenagers at risk of child marriage or sexual exploitation.

That way we help those most in need and reduce rather than increase the perverse incentive for desperate families to trust the lives of their children to people smugglers.

As Fraser Nelson argues in the Telegraph, David Cameron is right and Alf Dubs and the House of Lords are wrong. The government must stand their ground.

Second quote of the day

"In modern politics you are either quick or you are dead

Labour adds a third category: Zombie."

(Labour supporter Philip Collins in today's Times)

Public meetings - a chance to support our hospitals

There is a set of extremely important public meetings about health services in Cumbria organised under the so-called "success regime" and starting next week. It is vital that as many people as possible attend to support our local hospitals

The dates, times and venues for the meetings are:
  • Wednesday 4th May 1pm-2:30pm: Guide Hall, St. George's Rd, Millom
  • Wednesday 4th May 7pm-9pm: Solway Hall (Whitehaven Civic Hall), 75 Lowther St, Whitehaven
  • Thursday 5th May 12:30pm-2:30pm: Function Room, Skiddaw Hotel, Main Street, Keswick
  • Thursday 5th May 6:30pm-8:30pm: Maryport Rugby Club, Mealpot Road, Maryport
  • Tuesday 10th May 7pm-9pm: Samuel King's School, Church Rd, Alston

The events will see presentations from clinicians and health service leaders about what the local NHS are proposing under the banner of what is called the "Success Regime."

Local residents will then have a chance to ask questions and also contribute their own views on the best options for the way health and care services should be run in future.

More on my hospitals blog at

Quote of the day 29th April 2016

What a pity the Bard isn't around to write a play about the history of the Labour party ...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

If we take more Syran refugees, we should take those most in need from the Middle East.

The whose question of how to deal with refugees from the ghastly war in Syria is a complex one, which reminds me of the saying,

"to every difficult problem there is an answer which is simple, clear cut, and completely wrong."

I know there are people - I've met them on the doorstep - who don't want Britain to take a single refugee.

I don't believe that is the majority view - it certainly wasn't for a few weeks after the media had been full of horrible pictures of a dead child washed up on a beach -  but it certainly is the majority view that Britain cannot take everyone who wants to come here.

If your position is somewhere between the simple and clear cut positions of let everyone in or don't let anyone in, you are faced with agonising choices. How many people is our "fair share," who should they be, and who decides.

I actually think the government has got this one absolutely right in that

1) Britain has been more generous than almost anyone else in the aid we give to people in refugee camps in the area from which hopefully they will be able to go home when the fighting is over, and

2) Where we do take refugees, we take them directly from those in the Middle East based on an assessment of need, and not from those who have already reached Europe.

I think they were right to apply that to the 20,000 refugees that the government first said Britain would take. And I think they were right to apply it when they said that Britain would take 3,000 children.

I respect those who support the "Dubs Amendment" which has been backed by the House of Lords to take another 3,000 from Europe but I think they are absolutely wrong. If they want to take more, we should take them from the refugee camps and not from those who have already reached European countries.

There is no simple and perfect answer to this. Some unaccompanied children who have reached  European countries may be at risk from people-traffickers and paedophiles. But the same is true of some orphans of children separated from their parents in the Middle East.

And if we take unaccompanied children from, say, "the jungle" in France we risk giving an perverse incentive to desperate families in the middle east to pay the people smugglers to get their children to France - a journey on which some of them will die.

If, however, people know that Britain only takes refugees directly from the Middle East, we are reducing the incentive for people to risk their lives, or their children's lives, to the people-traffickers.

Mark Wallace makes the same point on Conservative Home here.

We can argue about how many people Britain should take until the cows come home and there is no right answer. But there is a right answer to where we should take the ones we do take from, and it is directly from the Middle East. That is a policy which will save lives, while the opposite policy, however well intentioned, will cause more deaths.

A historian responds to Livingston

"Ken Livingstone’s characteristically outrageous intervention in the debate over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – denying it existed while simultaneously proving that it does – was wrong on all sorts of levels, but one of them was in his grotesque mangling of the historical record."

That is how historian Andrew Roberts starts a forensic dissection of Ken Livingston's extraordinary remarks about Hitler today at CAPX.

You can read the rest of his response here.

Petition to protect beds at the Mary Hewetson Community hospital in Keswick

I have often written on this blog about West Cumbria Hospital and will be doing so again soon but our community hospitals at Millom and Keswick are also vital for local people.

Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick is a vital local facility for that part of Cumbria and it is very important to retain it.

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart has expressed his “deep concern” at potential threats to hospital beds as the NHS in Cumbria reviews options, saying the Success Regime should play a greater role in delivering services, not a reduced one.

Mr. Stewart has requested an urgent meeting with Sir Neil McKay, of the Success Regime, and Department of Health minister Ben Gummer to discuss the matters and his “unequivocal backing" of community hospitals in Cumbria

A document released by the Success Regime this month highlights the reasons why Cumbria’s health services are suffering, such as the “super-ageing” population, high levels of ill health and mental ill health, high utilisation of care homes and hospitals, recruitment problems, the geography of the county and “varied relationships” between the public and their health providers.

Mr. Stewart welcomed many of the suggestions to come out of the document.

He said: “Many of the suggested recommendations relating to addressing remote healthcare, and ageing demographics, are very welcome.

“However, I am deeply concerned about the perceived threat to our cottage hospitals, which I shall be supporting in the strongest possible terms.

“Our so-called ‘cottage’ hospitals are treasured locally as an absolutely critical pillar of community healthcare. And I believe very strongly that these hospitals have a greater role to play in delivering healthcare in this part of Cumbria, rather than a reduced role, and I can see no advantage in reducing their scope or centralising services elsewhere.”

He added that financial issues did not always have to dictate closure. “We have shown, in the past years, that local services can be retained even in a challenging financial context. We have preserved services from community ambulances, to snowploughs, to cinemas, to fire engines. Arguably, none of these are as precious as our community hospitals, though, and I resolve to fight any threat to our beloved community hospitals, in no uncertain terms,” said Mr. Stewart.

The community hospital options are contained in a “progress report” on the Success Regime. No decisions have yet been taken.

You can sign a petition to protect the Mary Hewetson hospital in Keswick at

Euripides and Ken Livingston ...

Ken Livingston suspended from Labour party for calling Hitler a Zionist

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not casting aspersions on Livingston's mental health. I am suggesting that his comments about Hitler were such a massive failure of judgement that those comments can reasonably be described as "mad" in the vernacular sense of the term, and hence the reference to what Euripides said nearly two and a half thousand years ago.

A week's moratorium on EU referendum posts.

The EU referendum is extremely important but it does not take place until 23rd June.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are elections virtually everywhere in the UK on 5th May, e.g. a week from today.

There are also things going on in West Cumbria in relation to both our local health service and the so-called "success regime" and proposed nuclear industry developments which may have a massive effect on our county.

There will therefore be a short pause in posts on the subject of the EU referendum on this blog while I focus for the next week or so on 1) local issues in Cumbria and 2) issues relating to the May 5th elections.

Local elections - one week to go

One week from today there will be various elections affecting almost all voters in England, Scotland and Wales for

Police and Crime Commissioners in England
Many local councils
Mayor and Assembly in London
Scottish parliament
Welsh assembly

If Conservatives are successful, what our country could have:
  • Strong Conservative councils across England giing value for taxpayers’ money
  • Effective Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales working hard to keep our streets safer
  • Labour out in Wales after 17 long years in office
  • A strong opposition in Scotland, holding the SNP to account
  • A Mayor who will stand up for our capital city to deliver his Action Plan for Greater London

Or we could wake up to something very different. A Labour Party running parts of our country, led by Jeremy Corbyn, a man who wants to:
  • Put up income tax on hardworking families
  • Print money to pay for public services
  • Back unrestricted strikes
  • Abolish our Armed Forces
Whatever your view, use your vote on Thursday 5th May

Theresa May writes on policing in Cumbria

The home secretary writes:

Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales have shown that they are vital to making local communities safer. They have had the power to hire good chief constables and to fire bad ones, they have set policing priorities for the local area and have overseen budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds. And since the last election three and a half years ago, crime is down by more than a quarter.

It’s a serious role and only by voting for Peter McCall in Cumbria can people be sure that it is done well: to work with the Government to cut crime, to spend taxpayers' money wisely, and to keep the local community safe and secure.

So on Thursday 5th May vote for Peter McCall to be your Police and Crime Commissioner for the next four years.
Thank you,

Theresa May
Home Secretary

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

This twitter "celebration" is quite literally balls ...

I was rather baffled this morning to see that my twitter feed today was filling up with messages referring to "Ed Balls Day!" and using the hashtag #EdBallsDay which as of earlier today was the top trend in the UK and had been used over 10,000 times.
Turns out this relates to a Twitter fail five years ago today
Hat tip to Rosina Sini at the BBC for explaining that on 28 April 2011 Ed Balls, who was shadow chancellor at the time, tweeted his own name in error.

He was urged by his aide to search Twitter for articles mentioning his name, but instead of doing a search he tweeted his own name by mistake.

So on 28 April Twitter rejoices in the madness and celebrates Ed Balls.

To paraphrase Michael Heseltine, this twitter event really is complete Balls ...

Quote of the day 28th April 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Peter McCall's priorities for fighting crime in Cumbria

Peter McCall: Do you believe in crime targets?

Peter's response to the question, "Do you believe in crime targets?"

Peter McCall on the role of Police and Crime Commissioners,

I voted today by post for Peter McCall, the Conservative candidate to be Cumbria's second Police and Crime Commissioner. I believe he will be an excellent commissioner if elected.

Here Peter explains how he sees the role of Police and Crime Commissioner

And many a true word is spoken in jest ...

The previous post listed and linked to some spoof posts which were funny.

This is one I'm sharing because it makes in a mildly amusing way a point which is actually true.

On 2nd April - the day after April Fool's Day - NewsThump published an article called

People go back to believing everything they read on the internet.

E.g. the suggestion is that on the first of April people know that there may be joke posts and articles so they actually check things, but the following day they stop doing that and are often far too credulous.

It's meant as a joke but this really is a case of "many a true word is spoken in jest."

Much of this article isn't really a spoof at all, it's very good advice. Particularly the final sentence which reads as follows:

"Internet users are reminded to be careful of what they read – and to remember the important rule that if you can summarise a complex position with a single line of text and an attractive picture, it’s probably not true any day of the year and not just on April the 1st."

Spoof posts of the week, including "Doctor's strike results in Dalek victory ..."

Amusing comic spoofs of news reports this week include

Grim Reaper given final written warning

    (NewsThump say "a Divine Source" told them God is "incandescent with rage" with him)

They also balanced a story that

Obama told America would have been stronger and more influential in British Empire


Brexit campaign tell countries they want to renegotiate with to mind their own business.

Meanwhile at the Daily Mash, stories include

Woodland Sprites demand the return of the changeling calling itself Michael Gove,


Nick Clegg publishes his nectar points statement.

The Evening Harold reports that

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have invited Donald Trump to a wedding at Walder Frey's castle.

But the best spoof news story this week has to be the NewsThump piece,

Doctors' strike results in Daleks conquering the universe from which my favourite lines include

"The industrial action led to unforeseen consequences after Davros escaped from The Crucible and destroyed all other life in the galaxy."

“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that Davros and his legions would escape and ravage every planet in an entire galactic cluster,” said Rassilon, Lord High President of Gallifrey.

“Just because he does it every single year like clockwork is no reason to suspect it might happen again.”

"It is reported some Doctors defied the strike with Colin Baker enduring shouts of ‘Scab’ and ‘Blackleg’ as he entered the Tardis to do his 4.3 million year shift, but he unsurprisingly failed to do anything useful."

Martin Wolf assesses the arguments for Brexit.

The favourite argument used by "leave" supporters to dismiss the arguments of any economic commentator or businessmen in favour of staying in the EU is to suggest that they supported Euro Entry - and where the person did, often on similar grounds to the reason they are now arguing for Remain, that's fair enough - and say "Wrong then, wrong now."

They cannot use that one against Martin Wolf, chief economist at the Financial Times: as I have previously noted here, he was a strong opponent of scrapping the pound in favour of the Euro and has been described as one of the five people who were most influential in saving the pound and keeping Britain out of the Eurozone. So he absolutely is not some kind of  passionate Europhile.

Which makes what he had to say in the FT about the leave arguments all the more powerful. I am still deciding how to vote but I find Martin's arguments extremely important.

In the FT here, Wolf lists what he sees as the ten main arguments put forward by campaigners for Britain to leave the EU as follows:

1) EU membership has brought few benefits
2) EU membership has imposed huge costs
3) There is no status quo - the EU will integrate further and after a Remain vote take more control over the UK
4) The UK should leave because a eurozone break-up would damage the UK economy.
5) The EU is growing more slowly than the rest of the world and this may hold back the UK
6) Membership of the EU prevents the UK from opening up world markets
7) It would be easy to agree on alternatives to EU membership
8) It will be easy for the UK to obtain a good deal from the EU, in their own interest, after a Leave vote. Often this argument is supported on the basis that the rest of the EU runs a trade surplus with the UK, which it will be desperate to keep.
9) It will be easy to reach an agreement on controlling immigration.
10) The uncertainty associated with leaving the EU would be modest.

A shortened form of his response to these points is as follows (Text in italic is the Brexit argument: text in bold is the response.)

"First, membership has brought few benefits. This is false. The Centre for European Reform estimates that it has raised trade with EU members by 55 per cent, increasing productivity and output. Trade creation within the EU has far exceeded diversion of trade from elsewhere."

"Second, membership has imposed huge costs. In fact the net fiscal cost is a mere 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product. Moreover, this could be regained in full only if the UK abandoned altogether its preferential access to the EU market. The UK is also one of the least regulated high-income economies."

"Third, an increasingly integrated eurozone will dictate to the UK. Yet a full political union of the eurozone looks quite unlikely. Its members also differ on many points, which opens up opportunities for UK influence."

"Fourth, the UK should leave because a eurozone break-up would damage the UK economy."

"If the eurozone broke up in a disorderly fashion, the damage to its closest partners might be substantial. Yet the EU will remain the UK’s biggest trading partner indefinitely. Thus the UK would be damaged by a eurozone break-up, whether in the EU or not. Arguing that leaving would shield the UK against such a disaster would be like arguing Canada should leave the North American Free Trade Agreement, to avoid a US financial crisis. It makes no sense."

"Fifth, the UK should leave because the EU is slow-growing. It is plausible that the UK’s trade with the rest of the world will expand relative to trade with its slow-growing neighbours. But reducing access to EU markets deliberately would make sense only if membership prevented the UK from trading with the rest of the world."

"Sixth, membership of the EU prevents the UK from opening up world markets. Yet the EU was a moving force in three successful global trade negotiations: the Kennedy, Tokyo and Uruguay rounds.  The clout of the EU gives it far greater capacity to open up the markets of, say, China, India or the US than the UK could do on its own."

"Seventh, it would be easy to agree on alternatives to EU membership."

Wolf points out, however, that those recommending leaving have no agreed position. Reviewing the various options he concludes that "In all, the more sovereignty the UK wishes to regain, the less preferential access it retains. This trade-off cannot be fudged."

"Eighth, it will be easy for the UK to obtain whatever it wants from the EU."

"This is naive. Divorces are rarely harmonious. Moreover, countries with big surpluses with the UK (notably Germany) would continue to sell their goods to the UK, even if Brexit led to a small rise in the import tariff. The share of UK trade done with the rest of the EU is also far greater than the share of EU trade done with the UK. Thus the idea that a departing UK could dictate terms is a fantasy."

"Ninth, it will be easy to reach an agreement on controlling immigration. But if the UK wanted to retain preferential access to EU markets it would be required to retain labour mobility."

"Tenth, the uncertainty associated with leaving the EU would be modest. In fact, the uncertainties would be pervasive: we do not know what the UK government negotiating an exit would want; we do not know what the rest of the EU would offer; we do not know how long negotiations would last; and we do not know what the outcome would be."

You can read Martin Wolf's arguments in full on the FT website here and whether you are supporting Leave, Remain or are undecided, I strongly recommend you do so.

Quote of the day 27th April 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Shadow Chancellor's PPS resigns after admitting extraordinary Facebook Posts

Until today Labour MP Naz Shah was PPS to the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

However, it has now transpired that in social media posts in 2014, a few months before her election as an MP, she had

* Apparently suggested that the entire Jewish population of Israel should be deported to the USA
   (source Guido Fawkes here, see also Jewish Chronicle here)

* Used language like "The Jews are rallying" to encourage people to take an anti-Israel position
   (source Guido Fawkes here)

* Compared Israel to Hitler (see here)

She has now resigned as PPS to the Shadow Chancellor and issued the following apology

If a Conservative MP had said something like this the calls from Labour for him or her to resign would have been deafening.

It will be interesting to see what action Labour takes.

Who are the real voices of Leave?

It isn't impossible to find people making an intelligent, optimistic, free-market case for a Britain which would be open to trade with the whole world rather than a haven for Xenophobic little Englanders.

The trouble is that you do have to go out and look for them.

Writing as a professional economist - e.g. someone with two degrees in the discipline who has used the skills I acquired with those degrees for the majority of my professional life - I was not expecting the debate about the economic advantages of Leave versus Remain to be the walkover for the latter which it has been to date.

The economic case about the risks of Brexit put by George Osborne and the Treasury is not without substance or supporting arguments, and it is silly and childish to dismiss their case as pure scaremongering but that does NOT mean there are no counterarguments and personally I think they have overstated a legitimate case.

But it is most depressing that there has been almost no publicity given to the views of one of Britain's most distinguished living economists, Professor Patrick Minford, who I know does support "leave."

I'm not sure whether I am more disappointed with those pro-Brexit news outlets who have made no attempt to cover the fact that a very strong majority of serious economic commentators believe that Brexit would make Britain poorer, or with the BBC and pro-remain media who have suggested that there is unanimity among such commentators in support of that view.

Both are wrong - there is certainly a heavy majority among financial institutions and economists that leaving the EU would cause an economic shock, but that believe is not universal. If you look carefully you can find views such as those expressed here or here by Professor Minford taking a different view.

However, I have also read that Professor Minford is not at all happy about the way that the official "leave" campaigners have put the case and I do not blame him. As I understand his argument from the pitifully simplified versions which have come through the media, his point is that to get the benefits of leave Britain would need to use the freedom that this would bring to adopt free trade policies, drop tariff and similar barriers and let people buy things at the worlds cheapest market rates - even if that means some industries (e.g. steel) would find things difficult.

There is actually a strong argument for this but it is not the one being made. So we have to ask, what would happen if Britain votes to leave, does the country really support the policies which would be needed to make an exit strategy work?

In the past couple of days both Andrew Stuttaford at the National Review and Ben Kelly who runs a pro-Brexit blog called the Sceptic Isle have argued that Leave needs a plan and an exit Strategy, probably along the lines of the Leave Alliance's Flexcit proposal.

But meanwhile distinguished leave supporters like Charles Moore of the Spectator have been pushing the absurd idea that the Leave campaign would be wrong to lay out a plan for Britain's future.

So which is the real voice of Leave? I don't know, and if I did it would be much easier to decide how to vote. But unless those Leave supporters who do have a constructive plan manage to get it to the attention of the British voter before June 23rd, I doubt their side will carry the day - or deserve to.

Quote of the day 26th Apriol 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ten days to the PCC, council, Scottish, Welsh and London elections

There are just 10 days until voters go to the polls across the UK. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party are relying on support from the trade unions for their final push.
Will you help us get the message out? Donate today and we will put your money towards calls, letters and leaflets to ensure voters go to the polls. But we have to decide how many people we’re able to contact by 9am tomorrow.

With your vote on Friday 6th May, this is what our country could have:
  • Strong Conservative councils across England continuing to deliver value for taxpayers’ money
  • Effective Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales working hard to keep our streets safer
  • Labour out in Wales after 17 long years in office
  • A strong opposition in Scotland, holding the SNP to account
  • A Mayor who will stand up for our capital city to deliver his Action Plan for Greater London
Or we could wake up to something very different. A Labour Party running parts of our country, led by a man who wants to:
  • Put up income tax on hardworking families
  • Print money to pay for public services
  • Back unrestricted strikes
  • Abolish our Armed Forces

Thank you for your support,
The Conservative Party

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