Wednesday, April 21, 2021
“Little by little and without warning, do-gooders and censorship have taken control. Obsessed by their image of upholders of morality, a whole load of people without culture, without experience and without courage are trying to impose their narrow-minded ideas on us. Their sterile, uniform and puerile ideas are seeking to invade humanity.
If we have the misfortune not to think like them, they rush at us with all their dictatorial energy to try to make us be quiet. Humour is quietly disappearing as a result of their moralising speeches, freedom is in its death throes, creation is lifeless and democracy in great danger. In short, it is not good to joke in 2021…”
(Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who has been a singer/songwriter, a model and First Lady of France, launching a tirade against "cancel culture" on Instagram.)
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
The Labour party appears to be unable to fight an election without accusing their opponents of wanting to cut hospitals. Sometimes they raise issues which are genuine concerns: sometimes they are guilty of the worst and most blatant scaremongering, as their egregious by-election campaign in Copeland demonstrated in 2017.
But their candidate in the current Hartlepool by election is atrocious even by the low standards set by Labour in Copeland.
Guido Fawkes reports that Labour’s Hartlepool candidate Dr Paul Williams invited Jonathan Ashworth up to complain about a lack of hip operations in the town.
Williams accurately said this is the result of cuts, but he failed to be so open about who was responsible for them: Paul Williams himself.
In 2013 Dr Williams was a commissioner and co-author of the report that recommended the removal of services – including critical care – from Hartlepool Hospital. The recommendation was adopted in full…
Not satisfied with closing down the hospital’s critical care unit, Williams also recommended slashing the number of planned operations, including hip replacements, despite admitting his proposals would “worry” local people:
You couldn't make it up. Unless you are a Labour candidate writing election material about the NHS in which case you can and will make up whatever you like.
Monday, April 19, 2021
"The miracle of Scottish history is that a country that for centuries so closely resembled Afghanistan in our own time — torn apart by compulsively warring mountain clans and religious fanatics, and subject to recurrent foreign interference — should have transformed itself in the space of a generation into a cradle of the Enlightenment.
As Scott observed in the postscript to “Waverley”: “There is no European nation which, within the course of half a century or little more, has undergone so complete a change as this kingdom of Scotland.”
(Niall Ferguson, from an article "To save the UK, give Scotland the Canada treatment" which you can read in full here.)
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Friday, April 16, 2021
This week the revelations about Greensill have given rise to much discussion about lobbying and the relations between present and former ministers and civil servants and industry.
The public needs to know both that no rules were broken and that the rules themselves are fit for purpose.
Political campaigning for all election including council electios, PCC elections and for the Scottish and Welsh devolved bodies will be suspended tomorrow to mark the funeral of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Our thoughts remain with Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family during this difficult time.
I had the last word yesterday at Cumbria County Council - the last item on the agenda was the slot for speeches by county councillors. I used it to make a speech calling for the statue of the founder of modern vaccination, Edward Jenner, which was originally unveiled in Trafalgar Square by Prince Albert, to be put back there.
His statue was moved to a less prominent position in Kensington Gardens after Prince Albert died as a result of pressure from an unholy alliance between the anti-vaxxers of the day and elements of the military who as the British Medical Journal put it at the time, thought that Trafalgar Square should be reserved for those who took the lives of their fellow men and objected to Edward Jenner being there because he had only saved lives.
This was the text of my speech.
Speech to Full Council 15th April 2021
"Mr Chairman, members, officers and any members of the public still watching.
Councillors will probably be relieved to learn that although I have not changed my view that the A595 urgently needs to be improved, that will be my one mention of that road today.
I want to talk about an issue which links the current pandemic, in particular the vaccination programme which is so vital to our recovery, the fact that so called “cancel culture” is not as new as we may think, and the righting of a wrong against the memory of a great man of science and medicine whose work two centuries ago laid the foundations for the current fight against Coronavirus.
I am, and I hope and presume most members of this council are, among the majority of residents of Cumbria who have had one or more doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. As of Wednesday more than 3.46 million people in our region had received a first dose of an approved vaccine and more than 925 thousand a second dose. All of the top nine categories of vulnerable people were offered a vaccination by Monday of this week, a couple of days ahead of the promised target.
Although the dates suggest that most of the heavy lifting in ending Britain’s second wave of COVID came from the lockdown which is gradually now ending, academic studies have suggested that the vaccination programme has already saved ten thousand lives and it will undoubtedly save many more – it is also vital to our route out of lockdown.
To have developed a vaccine so quickly against a virus which nobody in Britain had heard of fifteen months ago and use it to protect so many millions of people is an incredible achievement for the scientists of all countries who have been involved and all the NHS staff and everyone else who has contributed to the programme
A phrase often wrongly attributed to Shakespeare or Newton, and Newton did use it but it actually goes back to St. Bernard of Chartres in the 12th Century, is that those who achieve great things often stood on the shoulders of giants. The first set of shoulders which those who have brought off the incredible vaccination programme were standing on were those of an 18th century English doctor called Edward Jenner.
Edward Jenner was not the first person to invent any form of vaccination – an earlier procedure against smallpox called variolation goes back to fifteenth-century China. This involved injecting dead smallpox residue into the body – it did provide some protection but at a very heavy price: it carried a 2% risk of killing the person vaccinated and also a risk that the person injected could become a carrier of smallpox.
Jenner was however the first person to produce a safe and effective vaccine – he scientifically tested the popular theory that people who had been exposed to a similar mild disease, cowpox did not get smallpox, proved that it was based in fact, and devised a successful vaccination procedure for smallpox based on injecting dead cowpox residue. This was effective, carried a vastly lower risk of death – about one in half a million – and could not make the person injected into a carrier.
Jenner’s vaccination faced ridicule and opposition from the equivalents in his age of today’s Anti-Vaxxers – but it worked, it was gradually increasingly adopted throughout the world, and it eventually led to the complete eradication of smallpox by 1980. It is estimated that Edward Jenner’s vaccination saved 300 million lives – which means that he probably saved more human lives than anyone else in history.
A bronze statue to Edward Jenner was originally unveiled in Trafalgar Square by Prince Albert on 17th May 1858. This was opposed by the anti-vaxxers of the time and also by some military men because at that time Trafalgar Square was reserved for memorials for military figures. That latter tradition was, of course, abandoned some time ago.
As I have said, the practices of cancel culture such as attacks on statues are not limited to our own century, and opponents of vaccination made several attempts to have the statue taken down. While Prince Albert lived the government rightly stood firm against this, but after Albert died the opponents managed in 1862 to get the statue moved to a less prominent position in Kensington Gardens.
Mr Chairman, this is the year to correct that disgraceful injustice to a truly great man and by correcting it, make the point of how much we owe to those who have worked in medicine and by the use of vaccination and other techniques protected us from the scourge of disease. The idea of reserving Trafalgar square for military memorials has long been abandoned and no longer applies.
Our generation has particular cause to be grateful to Edward Jenner because as the father of modern scientific vaccination he started the process which at this very moment is not just saving so many people from death and illness but also paving the way to the end of lockdown and giving us our lives back.
It is time to put Edward Jenner’s memorial back in Trafalgar Square.
I am talking to colleagues about the possibility of a national petition to call for this and I hope that if and when that petition is put forward that everyone listening will be able to support it.
Thank you for listening to me and, Mr Chairman, for giving me the opportunity to pay tribute to a great man who saved hundreds of millions of lives and deserves to be far better remembered."
I considered and rejected this as my quote for today, not because it doesn't describe something that often happens but because I think it is wrong to suggest that it only happens to stupid people/
Laughter is infectious and hearing other people laugh often makes us laugh with them.
And humour works differently for different people, so the fact that you don't always get every joke at the same time as everyone else does not necessarily prove that you are stupid.
Indeed, having enough self-knowledge to be able to laugh at yourself is a sign of intelligence. So someone who laughs three times at a joke - the first time because everyone else is laughing, the second time when they actually get the joke and the third time at himself or herself for laughing before getting the joke - probably isn't stupid.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Today's Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council (about to start at 10am on 15th April 2021) will include the election of the council leader and the Chair and Vice chair of the council.
The meeting will take place online and this link should enable you to watch and listen to the meeting:
The agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website at:
There was an excellent and very comprehensive piece in the FT on Tuesday about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic based on excess death figures. You can read it here.
I will be commenting in a bit more detail after today's council meeting.
It begins as follows:
"The human cost of coronavirus has continued to mount, with more than 136.6m cases confirmed globally and more than 2.9m people known to have died."
The article later explains the basis they have used for comparison:
"There are concerns, however, that reported Covid-19 deaths are not capturing the true impact of coronavirus on mortality around the world. The FT has gathered and analysed data on excess mortality — the numbers of deaths over and above the historical average — across the globe, and has found that numbers of deaths in some countries are more than 50 per cent higher than usual. In many countries, these excess deaths exceed reported numbers of Covid-19 deaths by large margins."
The article includes these charts and tables showing which countries have had the largest number of excess deaths in both absolute terms and per head of population, and how the death rate has varied over time by country compared with the five year average for the relevant time of year as successive waves of the pandemic have hit different countries.
"If Prince Philip had lived to hear the House of Commons tributes to him, he might well have died laughing."
(Title of Commons Sketch article by Tom Peck, suggesting that the late Duke of Edinburgh, who had a great sense of humour, had said that he didn't want any fuss over his death, and was known for his brutal honesty and for saying exactly what he thought, might have been very amused by some of the things which MPs said about him on Monday.)
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
40,496,685 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered in the United Kingdom.
388,808 doses in the latest 24hr period.
32,326,604 people have received at least one dose, of whom 8,170,081 have had both jabs and are now fully vaccinated.
This graphic shows the proportion of people who have had blood clots following one of a number of four other possible events - having the Oxford AstraZeneca jab, taking the birth control pill, smoking, or catching COVID-19.
These percentages are an indication of correlation, not causation. The lower the level of correlation the weaker the argument that there is a causal connection.
But if there is a causal connection - which is not proven - the average person has about 40,000 times more risk of getting blood clots as a catching COVID-19 as they have of getting one as a result of being vaccinated with the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
The Conservative party and most other political parties suspended campaigning as a mark of respect from the sad news of Prince Philip's death for several days.
Campaigning for the local and police and crime commissioner elections has now resumed, but will stop again for the day on Saturday, the day of his funeral.
Monday, April 12, 2021
The April 2021 full council meeting of Cumbria County Council on 15th April 2021 has been designated as the Annual General Meeting and will include the election of the council leader and the Chair and Vice chair of the council.
The meeting will take place online starting at 10am this link should enable you to watch and listen to the meeting:
The agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website at:
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Today is nicknamed "Low Sunday" because the church usually seems very empty compared with Easter Sunday the week before.
Compared with pre-COVID attendances the church was not particularly full, but St James' Whitehaven was as full as I have seen it since the first lockdown.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
As a mark of respect following the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, all political campaigning has been suspended until further notice.
That includes social media posts so I will not be posting anything on this blog or elsewhere on social media which could reasonably be seen as making party-political points.
I will be passing on any important public health information which comes to my attention, and giving details of council meetings in a non-partisan manner. Items which are not party-political, such as music posts and inspirational messages of a non-partisan nature - will continue to appear.
and may everlasting light shine upon them.
You are praised, O God in Sion,
and worshipped in Jerusalem.
Here may prayer, O Lord, for all living things will come before you.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and may everlasting light shine upon them."
1) "He's the money man - except that we haven't got any money."
(The late HRH Prince Philip when George Osborne was being introduced as the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a bemused President of Indonesia, according to a tweet from GO yesterday.).
Another example of the late Prince's humour: when HRH Prince Philip and PM Jean Chrétien met for the first time, they spoke entirely in French.
Chrétien said: "You speak French very well for an Englishman".
Prince Philip replied:
2) "I am NOT an Englishman, and I've been speaking French since before you were born!"
Friday, April 09, 2021
I was very sad to see that Prince Philip has died at the age of 99.
There is likely to be a pause in political campaigning as a gesture of respect. There will be no political posts on this blog until further notice.
Prince Philip served his country for longer than the traditional measure of a human lifetime, first as a naval officer - who fought in World War II against fascism and the Nazis - and then in giving decades of faithful support to Her Majesty the Queen.
Thoughts and prayers are with Her majesty and the royal family at this sad time.
Rest in Peace.