Sunday, May 15, 2022

Second quote of the day 15th May 2022

 "We have been reminded in the most brutal way why NATO is so important."

(Annalena Baerbock, German foreign minister, speaking at a NATO press conference just now)

Sunday music spot: Handel's Messiah, Ev'ry valley shall be exalted

Quote of the day 15th May 2022


 

Congratulations to Ukraine on winning Eurovision


 








Slava Ukrayini!

Congratulations to Ukraine on winning Eurovision 2022, and well done to Sam Ryder, the UK entrant, for an excellent performance and second place. (I gather he got more votes than the previous eleven UK entries put together.)

I gather that the number of competition votes cast as a result of the votes from the public in each European country for Ukraine's entry, was 439 out of a possible 468. The largest number of votes cast by each country for the entry which had most votes from that country was twelve, the second largest was ten. To get 439 votes would have to mean that almost every other country gave them either 10 or 12. 


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Defending our country: the nuclear deterrent

This week the government announced that £2 billion of defence contracts have been awarded to support the third phase of our submarine nuclear deterrent programme – ensuring the UK remains at the vanguard of global security while supporting tens of thousands of high-skilled jobs.

  • Our Dreadnought Class of submarines will be crucial to maintaining and safeguarding our national security, with the nuclear deterrent protecting UK citizens from the most extreme threats every day.
  • That is why the government has announced that over £2 billion of defence contracts have been awarded to begin the third major phase of the future submarine nuclear deterrent programme, building the largest submarines in Royal Navy history and supporting around 30,000 jobs across the UK.
  • This investment will boost a key British industry for decades to come, protecting our national security and supporting high-skilled jobs.

Making it easier to rent your home

The government has announced the biggest change to renters law in a generation, improving the lives of renters by driving up standards in the sector and levelling up the country.

  • Too many renters are living in damp, unsafe and cold homes, powerless to put it right, and under the threat of sudden eviction.
  • That is why we announced our Renters Reform Bill, driving up quality for private renters by giving all renters the legal right to a safe and warm home, banning Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, and introducing regular, rigorous inspections and stronger powers to tackle failings by social housing landlords, delivering a New Deal for renters.
  • This will end the injustice faced by too many renters and help level up communities and improve the life chances of people from across the country.

Quote of the day 12th May 2022


 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Northern Ireland and the Protocol

Northern Ireland needs a government to be formed at the Stormont Assembly. And it is clear that it will not get one unless progress is made to make the Northern Ireland trade protocol more workable.

It was never going to be easy for Britain to leave the EU without either re-creating a highly undesirable border on the Island of Ireland or an equally undesirable one within the United Kingdom in the Irish Sea. Indeed, my concerns about the difficulty of doing this was one of the three main reasons I voted Remain.

However, the majority of people voted Leave, and Britain has left the EU. Any deal to do so which had any chance of working was obviously going to have to involve a great deal of compromise, give and take - and to be brutally honest, probably more than a little fudging of the issues - on the part of the UK and Irish governments and the EU, to reflect the concerns of the various communities in Ireland.

It is my impression that the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol which was part of the exit deal contains various bits of language designed to protect the interests of both Unionist and Republican communities which, if interpreted in a hard-line and inflexible manner, are incompatible. It is also my impression that a number of actors, particularly the EU and certain EU member governments - this comment, by the way is not aimed at the Irish government,  but the French one - are interpreting the agreement in a flexible way, and in the process causing all manner of damage to the situation in Ireland.

If interpreted in that way the protocol is unsustainable, and therefore in the long term will not be sustained. I believe that Britain should always seek to live up to agreements that we sign, but we have to negotiate and act within the rules of international law to resolve this situation.

UK Foreign secretary Liz Truss made a statement today on this issue. What's written above is my opinion: what's written below is the view of the UK government. The Foreign Secretary's statement on the situation in Northern Ireland said that.

  • The current EU proposals on the Northern Ireland Protocol fail to sufficiently resolve any of the real issues affecting people in Northern Ireland and in some cases would make things worse. Prices have risen, trade is being badly disrupted, and the people of Northern Ireland are still subject to different laws and taxes to everyone else in the United Kingdom. This situation has left Northern Ireland without an executive and poses a threat to peace and stability.
  • That is why the Foreign Secretary has made it clear the UK will not shy away from taking action to stabilise the situation in Northern Ireland if solutions cannot be found. While our preference has always been for a negotiated solution, the answer cannot be more checks, paperwork and disruption.
  • The UK has worked hard and in good faith with the EU and we will continue to do everything we can to find the best solution for the people of Northern Ireland that protects peace and stability in the region.

Boris in Finland and Sweden

Today the Prime Minister visited Finland and Sweden to discuss the conflict in Ukraine and the security of Europe more broadly.

  • Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the risks posed to European security and the UK is leading the efforts to bolster our collective security.
  • That is why the Prime Minister travelled to Finland and Sweden today, in a meeting of democratic nations to discuss Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and issues such as security which are of importance here and overseas – reiterating countries’ democratic capability to decide on things like NATO membership.
  • We will do everything we can to support Ukraine and work with partners across Europe to defend our collection security.

Midweek music spot: Overture to Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld"

Quote of the day 11th May 2022


 











Being on the side of the majority is useful for a politician in a democratic country, but I can see that Marcus Aurelius had a point!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Quote of the day 10th May 2022

"I disagree with many policies of this government, but that doesn't mean I feel the need to disagree with everything. Like many I have become weary of the bad faith attacks, the inability to offer even a soupcon of credit for policy successes, the exhausting criticisms which do nothing for democracy and everything to inflame the cynicism which has become a democratic disease. The truth is that in the whole, and with only a few exceptions, ministers did their best in unenviable circumstances.

And to think otherwise is not a reflection of them, but a truly devastating one of us."

(Matthew Syed, conclusion of an article in the Sunday Times at the weekend - see article posted yesterday evening for more detail and link.)

Monday, May 09, 2022

Monday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto in C major for two flutes

Matthew Syed on how the debate on COVID illustrates the decay of the quality of debate

Sunday Times journalist Matthew Syed, who to the best of my knowledge is not a Conservative and certainly writes plenty of things I disagree with, wrote a very good piece in yesterday's paper about the stage of public debate as illustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the early stages of the pandemic one of my friends posted that whatever any government had done they would be criticised by the relatives of those who died for not having done enough, and by those who lost their jobs or businesses for having imposed restrictions which were too strict. This was to prove only too accurate.

Certainly on social media (particularly Facebook but also the comments section of this blog) I found the government constantly under fire from two diametrically opposed directions: some who thought that the lockdowns and other restrictions on liberty should come sooner and been even stricter, others who thought that those measures were far too strict and amounted to an assault on freedom. Most of the people posting from both those perspectives were willing to respect the opinions of those taking different views: some were not.

The full article is available on the Times website here if you have access, but I have posted below some extracts from what Matthew Syed wrote:

"One leading statistician told me, 'This is the most complex public policy challenge of my lifetime.' 

"In April 2020 I found myself writing 'I do not envy political leaders making such consequential decisions amid such radical uncertainty.'" 

Syed refers to last week's publication of a report by the WHO ranking nations by excess deaths during thhttps://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/now-we-know-our-ministers-did-ok-against-covid-but-i-hear-no-apologies-lhqnzqdtge pandemic, and writes

"The UK is roughly in the middle ... when compared with similar nations: we had 109 excess deaths a year per 100,000 people compared with 133 in Italy, 116 in Germany, and 111 in Spain."

"I suspect these results will not much surprise the British public."

"Early reports of a seemingly higher death rate were not a consequence of unique incompetence in Westminster but the deceptive nature of government statistics in other parts of the world."

"The WHO estimate of the number of UK excess deaths is almost precisely the same as that already produced by the National Audit Office. In India, by contrast, the WHO estimates five million excess deaths while the Indian government continues to pretend that it is closer to 500,000. To put it simply, the British authorities were rather more honest with the public, something that should make us proud.

"But what strikes me most about the last two years is the abject, often irrational  nature of public discourse. At times it was as if social media and some of its mainstream equivalents were observing an entirely different crisis.

"Left-wing pundits glimpsed an evil cabal that failed to lock down in March 2020 because it revelled in the mass deaths of the elderly and vulnerable and perhaps wanted to eliminate them."


I can vouch  both that Matthew Syed is right on this and that such people are utterly impervious to logic. When I asked one person who was making precisely that allegation why on earth a government which had been elected by a voter base very heavily weighted towards the elderly would want to kill off its' own supporters he just doubled down and continued to post similar daft comments. 

Syed also writes

"On the other side were equally rabid critics who argued that, far from locking down too late, the government should never have locked down at all."

"There was  ...  no recognition that it was possible for decent people to disagree in good faith. No, anyone who took a different position had to be stupid, and possibly evil.

"What the COVID era reveals is the shocking decline in the standard and probity of public discourse."

He points out that this was not just social media, adding

"Think back to how television functioned during the pandemic - the constant attempts to ask "gotcha" questions rather than elicit information. This was not because interviewers were superficial but because they had an eye to how the clip might to viral later in the day."

"Yesterday I trawled the internet feeds of those who most aggressively attacked the government, particularly those on the left who condemned the "high" death rates. Do you think they informed their followers that the UK wasn't the worst performer in Europe after all?"

"Not a bit of it."

"I disagree with many policies of this government, but that doesn't mean I feel the need to disagree with everything. Like many I have become weary of the bad faith attacks, the inability to offer even a soupcon of credit for policy successes, the exhausting criticisms which do nothing for democracy and everything to inflame the cynicism which has become a democratic disease. The truth is that in the whole, and with only a few exceptions, ministers did their best in unenviable circumstances.

And to think otherwise is not a reflection of them, but a truly devastating one of us."  

Swimathon 2022 completed

I did manage to complete the Swimathon 5,000 challenge yesterday by swimming 200 lengths of Copeland Pool in two hours, nine minutes and ten seconds.

This was to raise money for two excellent causes: Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

A huge thank-you to all the generous souls who have sponsored me or promised to do so - at the timer of writing there have been online sponsorship donations of £250 via my Justgiving page which the government will supplement with at least £25 of gift aid: three people have also promised to sponsor me when they next see me which should take the amount raised to help people living with cancer past £300.

Here is a picture of my Swimathon 2022 swimming cap and the medal I was awarded for completing the 5,000m challenge.












And here is the link to my Justgiving page: if any more kind souls would like to sponsor me and support these great causes I would be most grateful.

Link to my Justgiving page: click here.

Quote of the day 9th May 2022


 

Sunday, May 08, 2022

FT makes their online Ukraine War coverage free to read

Yes, I know it's an advertising tactic, but I shall be interested to read what they have to say.

The FT have made most of their online content about the war in Ukraine available at

 War in Ukraine: free to read | Financial Times (ft.com)

If any other major news outlet publishes content which is usually behind a paywall for free I will post a link on this blog to them too.


Sunday music spot: Joseph Haydn's "Insanae et vanae curae"

A lockdown performance by the choir of Oriel College of Haydn's motet "Insanae et vanae Curae" 

The lyrics can loosely be translated thus: 

‘A crazed and raging passion invades our minds: 
Again and again madness fills the heart, robbed of hope. 
How does it profit you, O mortal man, 
To seek for worldly success, if you take no thought of Heaven? 
Yet if God is for you, all things are are on your side.'

Second quote of the day for 8th May 2022 (VE Day)

"The evil has returned, Again!"

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said today that evil has returned to Ukraine as he gave an emotional address for VE Day, when Europe commemorates the formal surrender of Germany to the Allies in World War Two.

The life that soldiers fought for in that war came to an end on February 24th when Russian forces invaded, he said in a video message.

"The evil has returned. Again!" Zelenskyy said. "In a different form, under different slogans, but for the same purpose."

But he added that he is convinced that Ukraine and its allies will win.

Victory in Europe remembered

 


Quote of the day 8th May 2022


 

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Swimathon 2022

I will be taking part in Swimathon 2022 tomorrow to try to raise money for Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie Cancer care.

This will be the 29th consecutive year I have taken the 5,000 metre challenge: I will be trying to swim that distance by doing 200 lengths of Copeland pool tomorrow afternoon.

I would be very grateful for anyone who is able to sponsor me or any other participant to raise money for these extremely good causes and make a difference to people living with cancer. You can do this via my justgiving page, which can be found by clicking on the link below:

Christopher Whiteside is fundraising for Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie & The Swimathon Foundation (justgiving.com)




Saturday music spot: another version of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (Ukraine Edition)


Following on from yesterday's music spot I was tempted to post the Boris Johnson spoof version of "Always look on the Bright Side of life" - not least because, like the version my friends used to sing at discos, it replaced "Bright side" with my surname.

However, it had too many things in it which I would not want to appear to be supporting.

However, instead here is a version with the original soundtrack but scenes from the war in Ukraine.

Trigger warning - some of these images display a rather dark sense of humour and I would recommend that anyone who is very easily offended does not click on the above clip. 

Quote of the day 7th May 2022


 

Friday, May 06, 2022

Cumberland Council election results summary

Here is a link to the page with the details of the election results for the new Cumberland Council which will meet as a "shadow authority" over the next ten and a bit months and take office on 1st April 2023.

Cumberland Council election - 5 May 2022 | Shadow Authority for Cumberland Council

At that time the existing County and District councils in Cumbria will be abolished and their powers and duties assigned to the two new unitary councils.  Existing county and district councillors will continue to serve until then.

I congratulate all those who were elected to the new councils and wish them well. I would also like to thank all those who voted for me.




Music to start the weekend: "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life"


There was a stage of my life when, whenever I went to a disco, my friends would always request this song, and loudly sing my surname instead of "bright side."

It seems rather appropriate in the present circumstances ...

Quote of the day 6th May 2022


 












"It's the economy, stupid" was one of three themes coined during the 1992 US Presidential election by Bill Clinton's election strategist James Carville to remind the campaign team of which issues to focus on.

The quote is often wrongly attributed to Clinton himself.

Yesterday and today have not been great days for the Conservatives in Cumbria or many other parts of the country. There were probably multiple causes for this: the so-called "partygate" issue did come up on the doorstep but I don't think it was the biggest problem for the Conservatives.

There is little doubt in my mind that the main cause of the Conservatives' difficulties in these local elections has been the serious hit to living standards caused by the rise in the cost of living, particularly but not only the hikes in energy prices.

These increases are by no means all the fault of the present UK government but we have a responsibility to help people to deal with them. The biggest lesson of this week's elections is that voters want more action to address the cost of living. We ignore this at our peril.


Thursday, May 05, 2022

Polls are now open

Polls are now open in local elections in the UK and will remain open until 10pm.

In Northern Ireland, there are elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly: in England, Scotland and Wales there are elections to various local councils. 

In Scotland and Wales there are elections for all local councils. In England there are elections to 146 principal councils (this means a County, City, District, Borough, or Unitary council) and about a thousand parish councils.

These include the new unitary authorities which will replace Cumbria County Council and the six districts in Cumbria on 1st April next year. The new Cumberland Council will replace the existing authorities in the area currently covered by Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland, the new Westmorland and Furness council will replace the current councils in Barrow-in Furness, Eden, and South Lakeland.

There are two other new unitary authorities in Somerset and West Yorkshire being elected for the first time. The creation of these four new unitary councils will mean that figures quoted this evening and tomorrow about how many council seats each party nationally has won or lost in England need to be treated with caution - the four new unitary councils will have significantly fewer councillors than the bodies they replace.

If you have your polling card to hand, it will save you time at the polling station to take it with you and produce it. However, you do not need your polling card to vote.  

Quote of the day 5th May 2022

A thought for every election candidate today.


 

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Second quote of the day, 4th May 2022

"What's wonderful is seeing the same Labour supporters who demanded Boris should resign after eating a piece of cake suddenly - and without any sense of irony or self-awareness - screaming "it was only a curry...there are more important issues...can't you eat at work" etc..."

(Dan Hodges on Twitter)

I agree with Dan. There should be one law for everyone - and perhaps everyone in politics should look a bit harder at how well their own side has done at respecting it before yelling at their opponents.


Quote of the day for Star Wars day (May 4th) - so this is how liberty dies

"So this is how liberty dies - with thunderous applause." 

Line from Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) spoken by Senator Padme Amidala, played by Natalie Portman.



Today is often humorously described as Star Wars day (on the basis of the pun "May the 4th be with you.") But my quote today from one of the Star Wars films is anything but humorous. 

Not everyone likes the Star Wars prequel trilogy - though it's far more popular than the sequel one - but in my humble opinion the three films, Episodes I to III, and the Clone wars series brilliantly depict the fall of a once-great democracy. A story which has far more relevance to our own day than I like, though this should be seen as a statement of warning of the threats we need to avoid rather than one of despair that we are on the same track as the Republic was in those films.

Here is a Youtube essay on the subject by "Arkan the Amerikan" which I think is very powerful. (Warning - it lasts an hour and eighteen minutes.)


I would argue that Democracy, in many if not all countries, is proving stronger and more resilient than either its' enemies or some pessimists would have you believe.

However, in the face of so many threats to our freedoms, both obvious and more insidious, from open enemies of democracy like Vladimir Putin to those who would limit democracy in the sincere belief that they are preserving it, nobody can afford to be complacent about those threats. If liberty and democracy ever do die in this country, it will indeed be to the sound of thunderous applause.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Action on HRT supply - new taskforce head appointed

It has also been announced today that the Vaccine Taskforce Director General will head a newly formed Hormone Replacement Therapy Taskforce to address issues in the supply chain, leaving no stone unturned to make sure women can access the HRT they need. 

  • Women across the country rely heavily on HRT – and thanks to greater awareness around the menopause demand for HRT has risen by 38 per cent. 
  • That is why the government has acted to appoint Madeline McTernan, Vaccine Taskforce Director General, to harness the lessons from the pandemic to head the newly formed HRT Taskforce, easing supply chain pressures and engaging with suppliers to improve the understanding of what is driving shortages. 
  • This will ensure that HRT – which is a lifeline for many women across the country – is accessible to all women who need to access these vital services.

British troops deployed to support NATO

It has been announced today that 8,000 British troops will deploy across Europe this summer in planned exercises, demonstrating solidarity and strength with our NATO allies in one of the largest shared deployments since the Cold War.

  • The security of Europe has never been more important – and it is only right we use our world class Armed Forces in a show of solidarity and strength with our allies against Russian aggression.
  • That is why around 8,000 British troops will conduct a series of planned exercises across Europe this summer – including the deployment of 120 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles and launching Exercise Arrow aimed specifically at deterring Russian aggression – alongside our NATO allies and the Joint Expeditionary Force in a UK-led security coalition.
  • Britain stands alongside our partners, combining our capabilities and shared values to promote peace and security across Europe, demonstrating our Army’s central role in deterring Russian aggression.

Quote of the day 3rd May 2022

"We need to be more clear-eyed about the dangers posed by the enemies of the nation."

"On the one hand, we might point to the metropolitan left, which harbours unrealistic ideas about immigration and asylum. There are perhaps a couple of billion people on the planet who would come here if they could, often fleeing sectarian conflict. If they were all allowed to come here in the name of compassion, the miracle in which they were seeking to partake would vanish. Nations without borders are not nations.

I disagree with significant details of the Rwanda policy, but I am confident that offshoring of a more humane kind is the only coherent solution to the challenge of mass migration. Asylum and immigration offer huge benefits but only when they are controlled tom ensure assimilation and consent.

On the other hand are the super-rich who accrue wealth by taking advantage of the intricate tapestry of social obligations upon which nations depend, and then illegally offshore their tax liabilities. I would include in this category aggressive tax avoiders."

(Matthew Syed, extracts from an article in this week's Sunday Times about the value of national pride and patriotism)

Monday, May 02, 2022

Quote of the day 2nd May 2022

"It felt like Einstein was being harassed by an intelligent lettuce."

Extract from a comment by "CD13" on the Political Betting website.

Here is the full quote

"I listened to a 'defence expert' who was a real expert on BBC recently. He was giving a very clear and concise explanation of the invasion, and the reasons it had bogged down. He was continually being interrupted by the interviewer with questions he'd just answered and irrelevant ones. She was reading from a crib sheet and not even listening to his answers.

As soon as he reached an interesting point, she'd interrupt with a barmy question of her own. Just let him speak, I found my self saying. It felt like Einstein was being harassed by an intelligent lettuce.

I thought the journalists had learned from the embarrassing debacle of some of the Covid press conferences. Obviously not."

The sinking of the General Belgrano, forty years on

Forty years today on 2nd May 1982, during the Falklands conflict, the Royal navy submarine HMS Conqueror fired three Mk VIII torpedoes at the Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano. Two of them hit the cruiser which sank with the loss of over three hundred lives. (The official Argentine death toll is 323 though it was often alleged by people on both sides of the subsequent controversy that the Argentine authorities understated the casualty figures and that the real number of deaths was higher, with figures up to 368 being quoted.)

This action effectively took the Argentine navy, which up to that point had been a significant threat to the British task force, out of the war: Argentine surface and submarine naval forces retired to their territorial waters and made no further attempts to interfere in British operations to recover the Falkland Islands. This effectively doomed the Argentine garrison, though liberating the islands did not seem as easy or straightforward at the time as the scale of the British victory can make it appear in hindsight.

As Mrs Thatcher was subsequently to point out, only in Britain could a government face lasting criticism for an operation during a military conflict which removed a major enemy unit with no casualties on our own side and made it significantly easier to win that conflict.

Documents subsequently released demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that subsequent allegations that the sinking was a war crime are without any valid basis in international law and are rooted in a misunderstanding of the facts.

In fact the only war crime in connection with the sinking was committed by the Argentine air force.

Much was made of the fact that the Belgrano was outside the "Total Exclusion Zone" at the time of the attack, but this zone was mainly a warning to neutral shipping. The British government had given clear warning on 23rd April 1982, more than a week before the attack on the Belgrano, that Argentine naval and air units operating in the vicinity of the Falklands Islands could and would be attacked if they were perceived as a threat to British forces, regardless of whether they were inside or outside the Zone or its predecessor. 

Interviews with senior Argentine navel personnel published by Martin Middlebrook in his book "Argentine fight for the Falklands" make clear that they understood this. Rear Admiral Allara, commander of the Argentine naval task force of which Belgrano was part, said: 

“After that message of 23 April, the entire South Atlantic was an operational theatre for both sides."

Of the allegations made in the years after the conflict by he so-called "peace movement" and by campaigners such as the late Tam Dalyell, they were correct on only one major point of contention, which was that the British government knew from intercepted signals exactly what orders had been given to the ARA General Belgrano and the rest of the Argentine Navy. 

The British authorities did not want to confirm this for reasons which should be completely obvious to anyone with a higher IQ than a cabbage - the last thing you want your actual and potential enemies to know, if it is true, is that you have cracked their codes and intercepted their messages. But documents now released under the 30-year rule indicate that UK signals intelligence had done precisely that.

Unfortunately for anyone who wanted to prove Britain guilty of a war crime, far from having ordered the Belgrano to sail for home, the message which Britain had intercepted ordered the Belgrano to sail to a destination inside the "Total Exclusion Zone" and attack the British task force. 

On the 1st of May 1982, Admiral Juan Lombardo had ordered the Belgrano and all Argentine naval units to seek out the British task force around the Falklands, and to launch a “massive attack” the following day. GCHQ intercepted and decoded that signal.

Regardless of the direction in which she happened to be steaming at the time of the attack, that cruiser was a threat to British lives and the people who ordered the attack on the Belgrano gave that order precisely because they had certain knowledge that she had been ordered to attack the task force and posed such a threat.

It is only fair to point out that even if the Dalyell and others had been right and the Argentine Junta really had ordered that Belgrano to return to base, and Britain had known this, the attack would still have been legal under international law and the UN charter. As an article in the New York International Law Review which came to that conclusion explained it,

"For the purpose of evaluating the legality of the Conqueror’s action, however, it is irrelevant. Even if the Belgrano flotilla had been ordered to withdraw, there is no suggestion that it had surrendered. Under international law, a military unit, even one that is retreating, is not entitled to safe conduct until it surrenders. It is the position of the U.S. government, for instance, that “the law of war permits the attack on enemy combatants and enemy equipment at any time, wherever located, whether advancing, retreating, or standing still.”"

The timing of events and the subsequent diplomatic positions of both governments involved does not support the suggestion that the attack was an attempt to derail the Belaunde peace plan, as Lawrence Freedman shows in the Official History of the Falklands Campaign which dismisses any such idea. Mrs Thatcher and the UK government did not see the plan until after the sinking of the Belgrano, but were subsequently supportive of it: it was the Argentine Junta which refused to consider it.   

After the Belgrano went down the British government ordered HMS Conqueror not to attack any Argentine vessel which appeared to be searching for or picking up survivors - an instruction which was. of course, scrupulously obeyed - and permitted the Argentines to send aircraft to search for survivors.

This restraint was not rewarded: the one real war crime in connection with the Belgrano sinking is that Argentine Neptune aircraft engaged in the search for survivors also used their EW capabilities to search for the British task force and passed back intelligence about the location of Royal Navy vessels. This intelligence may well have contributed to the loss of HMS Sheffield two days after that of the the Belgrano. This was a breach by Argentina of the Geneva Convention, which forbids aircraft involved in rescue missions from also taking part in offensive operations.

Mrs Thatcher always said that when the facts about the decision to attack the Belgrano came out she would be vindicated. There will always be some die-hards among both Argentine nationalists and the British people whom no evidence could convince, but most people capable of taking anything remotely resembling an impartial view will come to the conclusion that the evidence does indeed vindicate her actions.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Music to relax after campaigning: WA Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 - Andante

Putting more police on our streets

The latest figures for police numbers confirm that the government is on track to meet the Conservative manifesto promise to recruit 20,000 more police. More than 13,500 extra police officers have been hired across England and Wales in the UK's largest police uplift programme, cutting crime and keeping communities safe.

  • This Government was elected in 2019, having made a promise to to recruit 20,000 extra police officers during the lifetime of this parliament to cut crime and keep communities safe.
  • New figures published yesterday reveal we are on track to meet this manifesto pledge, with an additional 13,576 police officers patrolling our streets, protecting the public and bearing down on antisocial behaviour and violent crime. 
  • This demonstrates the importance of a Conservative Government – delivering on the British people's priorities and keeping our communities safe.


Quote of the day 30th April 2022

 


Friday, April 29, 2022

Aid for Somalia

This week the UK government announced a new £25 million aid package for Somalia to support over a million people battling drought across the country.

  • After three failed rainy seasons, Somalia is facing a humanitarian crisis as half of the population need life-saving aid with the crisis being worsened by inflation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • That is why we have announced a £25 million aid package of food, water, nutrition and emergency health support for Somalia alongside a ground-breaking $1.5 million aid partnership with Qatar. These measures build on the £14.5 million of support we announced earlier this year.
  • The scale of the crisis in Somalia, and the level of human suffering, is truly staggering - we are showing international leadership by providing this support to avert a crisis and save lives.

Tackling terrorism

The UK government has set out plans to further prevent the evolving threat of terrorism as we make sure prisons play their crucial role in stopping those who want to kill and injure in the name of warped ideologies.

  • The threat from terrorism is evolving and several devastating terror attacks have taken place in the UK in recent years – therefore we must adapt our approach in response to Jonathan Hall QC’s report. 
  • That is why we will deliver new measures which will make the referral process for separation centres more robust supported by our new Bill of Rights, give prison governors more leeway to respond to terrorist risks, strengthen training for staff, and invest £1.2 million to target terrorists in prison who should be placed in centres.
  • Tackling radicalisation in prisons is a key priority in our efforts to prevent terrorism and these measures will help the prison service to tackle extremism keeping the British people safe.

Quote of the day 29th April 2022

"A new coal mine isn't the way forward"

Sir Keir Starmer makes clear during a visit to Workington that Labour opposes the proposed Woodhouse Colliery in Whitehaven.

Lest there be any confusion, my quoting this does not in any way indicate agreement.

Andy Pratt, Chairman of Copeland Conservatives, commented that

“Copeland Conservatives are 100 per cent supportive of this development. It will bring significant investment into our area, providing well-paid jobs and opportunities both at the mine directly – during construction and operation – and in the supply chain.

“Furthermore, by accessing a homegrown source of coking coal for the steel-making industry, it will reduce our reliance on imported coal and the damaging environmental impact this has.”

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The final AGM of Cumbria County Council

I attended the last ever Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council today at County Hall in Kendal.

Details of the agenda and supporting documents can be found on the County Council website by following this link:

Agenda for County Council on Thursday, 28th April, 2022, 10.00 am | Cumbria County Council

One particularly important item on the agenda was the annual Public Health report, which was about the COVID-19 pandemic, how it impacted the county and how it was handled. This was a particularly good report and you can read a summary of the agenda item here and the full report at

Public Health Annual Report Appendix.pdf (cumbria.gov.uk)

It made the important point that the pandemic is not over: the vaccination programme is enabling us to lived with COVID-19 without continued lockdowns but we all have to consider how to protect our health and those of our families, loved ones and neighbours.

Quote of the day 28th April 2022


 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Vnuk moter insurance law taken off the UK statute book to save motorists and families money

The EU has a set of motor insurance rules which can and does lead to significant increases in the insurance costs for motorists and families. Yesterday the UK parliament passed a law taking this off the statue book, which should have the effect of  scrapping an annual price hike for motorists, which will help millions of people deal with the cost of living crisis.

  • Now that Britain is no longer an EU member stage we do not have to adopt "one size fits all" EU rules if we don't think they make sense in this country or that they place unnecessary burdens on the British people.
  • So yesterday the government passed a Bill through Parliament removing the EU’s Vnuk motor insurance rules from British law, sparing British motorists a possible £50 annual insurance hike and meaning insurance will not be needed for vehicles driven on private land.
  • This common-sense approach will save drivers money and help with the cost of living.

Britain and Poland sign defence collaboration agreement

Yesterday, we signed a contract launching UK-Poland collaboration on a cutting-edge missile system, strengthening and bolstering European security.

  • Poland and the United Kingdom maintain a wide-ranging and important defence partnership, with our forces operating side by side on land, at sea and in the air as members of NATO.
  • That is why we signed a contract with the Polish Government supporting the early introduction of Poland’s future short-range air defence system, Narew, which is at the forefront of threat detection and deterrence and will lead to even greater alignment between our Armed Forces.
  • This will provide enhanced security and defence development for both NATO countries, bolstering European security.

Jack Denvir RIP

Kells resident and stalwart of many community organisations John (Jack) Buglass Denvir collapsed and died this morning.

This will come as a huge shock to many people who knew Jack, who was active right to the end: at an event he and I attended last night he organised a raffle which raised just over a hundred pounds to send humanitarian aid to refugees from Ukraine in eastern europe.

Jack will leave a huge hole behind him and will be greatly missed.

Rest in Peace

Update on support for Ukraine

 



























Today the UK government announced a boost in humanitarian support to help Ukraine’s hospitals under attack, as well as new trade measures to support Ukraine in this ongoing fight against Putin’s brutal invasion.

  • The UK will continue to do everything in its power to support Ukraine’s fight against Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, which includes deliberate attacks on hospitals and indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
  • That is why we are boosting our humanitarian support to Ukraine, sending new ambulances, fire engines and funding for health experts to better equip the Ukrainian people to deliver vital healthcare. This is on top of new trade measures that will see tariffs on all goods from Ukraine cut to zero, providing much-needed economic support.
  • Britain stands unwaveringly with Ukraine in this ongoing fight and is providing military, humanitarian, and economic support to make sure Putin’s brutal invasion fails and Ukrainian lives are saved.

Quote of the day 26th April 2022


 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Continuing the crackdown on modern slavery

During Theresa May's premiership Britain made huge strides in cracking down on modern slavery, but there is more to do and Conservatives are determined to finish the job. Today the UK government put new measures before Parliament to crack down on modern slavery, harnessing the biggest public procurer in the country to eradicate slavery and human trafficking.

  • The UK government is determined to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from global supply chains, including those of public bodies here in the UK.
  • That is why the government today tabled a landmark amendment to the Health and Care Bill – helping to ensure the NHS, which is the biggest public procurer in the country, is not buying or using goods or services produced by or involving any kind of slave labour.
  • This is a significant step forward in our mission to crack down on the evils of modern slavery wherever it is found – protecting victims and ensuring our procurement processes are a force for good around the world.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine

Yesterday the Prime Minister spoke with the UN Secretary-General, condemning Putin’s blatant aggression against the people of Ukraine and continuing to support humanitarian efforts.

  • Putin continues to wage an illegal war in Ukraine, but is now changing his tactics and besieging Ukrainian cities in the East of Ukraine.
  • Yesterday the Prime Minister spoke with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, ahead of the Secretary-General’s visit to Russia on Tuesday, discussing the devastating attacks by Russian forces on Mariupol and Kherson, highlighting the need for a ceasefire and global solidarity to help Ukraine defend itself.
  • Britain and our partners stand alongside Ukraine – supporting them to defend themselves against Russian aggression and helping to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation for the Ukrainian people.

Reforming football

The government is implementing all the recommendations for the fan-led review into football, and has today announced reforms including a new independent regulator, to put fans at the heart of football. 

  • Football is nothing without its fans and for too long the football authorities have collectively been unable to tackle some of the biggest issues in the game.
  • That is why we conducted the fan-led review promised in our manifesto, chaired by Tracey Crouch. Today we have endorsed every one of its ten strategic recommendations, including: establishing a new regulator, which will have power to investigate and sanction clubs in English football who break financial and other rules; and a new owners test will be introduced to give fans more say in the running of clubs.
  • We are making sure there is a greater role for fans in the day-to-day running of the football clubs they love – protecting clubs and the central role they play as vital assets for their local communities.

ANZAC day 2022 - lest we forget.

One hundred and seven years ago today the Gallipoli landings took place.

The 25th of April is remembered in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC day when the heroes of the Australian and New Zealand regiments who took part in those landings are remembered.

We should never forget their sacrifice, as UK Defence secretary Ben Wallace said today.















We should also remember the other heroes of those landings - from the Irish Regiments from Dublin and Munster, from India, the Gurkha Rifles, the Jewish legion, the Hampshires, and the Lancashire Fusiliers who famously won six Victoria Crosses before breakfast in the action - but for which they and all the units who took part paid a terrible price.

We will remember them.

Quote of the day 25th April 2022


 
















Sunday, April 24, 2022

Freda Hitchen RIP

Freda Hitchen, the wife of Keith Hitchen who is currently chairman of the Copeland local committee of Cumbria County Council and has served the community of West Cumbria for many years in many capacities, passed away yesterday after a long illness.

Thoughts and prayers are with Keith and their family at this sad time.

Rest in Peace.


Helping the poorest countries in the world deal with the impact of the war in Ukraine

This week, Liz Truss, Britain's Foreign Secretary announced the largest ever World Bank financial commitment to low income countries, supporting countries faced with significant economic hardship resulting from Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.  

  • Russia’s bombardment across Ukraine has brought exports from the world’s breadbasket almost entirely to a halt, leading to steep price rises and jeopardising livelihoods across the globe.
  • The cost of living crisis is a world problem, which was already an issue around the planet even before Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine, but the war has made it even worse. It is bad enough in rich countries like Britain, it is worse still for the poorest of the poor in some of the worlds's least affluent countries. 
  • That is why the UK has led by stepping up our support through the World Bank, securing the largest ever financial commitment to low income countries as well as almost $1 billion in loan guarantees, allowing the Bank to lend more to Ukraine without taking resources away from the rest of the world. 
  • Despite Russia’s refusal to take responsibility for its actions, the UK and World Bank partners will continue delivering for and protecting the people of Ukraine and the wider world.  

Support for Ukraine continued

Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke with President Zelenskyy, condemning Russia’s appalling attacks against civilian targets in the Donbas and confirming further defensive military aid.

  • The depravity of Russia’s continued assault against civilian targets in Ukraine is plain for all to see and Britain remains steadfast in our commitment to Ukraine’s fight for freedom. 
  • As I travel round Copeland I have seen a large number of households displaying Ukranian flags or messages of support for the bravery of the defenders of Ukraine, from Mirehouse to Moor Row and from Bigrigg to Bransty. It is clear that the struggle of the people of Ukraine to defend their homeland and freedom has struck a chord with many people up and down the UK.  
  • The Prime Minister spoke with President Zelenskyy again yesterday, confirming more defensive military support to counter Russia’s horrific attacks against innocent civilians in the Donbas, as well as confirming the reopening of the UK’s embassy in Kyiv next week, demonstrating our unwavering support with the Ukrainian people. 
  • The UK and our allies will not watch passively as Putin carries on this onslaught and will continue providing all necessary military and humanitarian support to help Ukraine defend itself. 

Sunday music spot to lift spirits on "Low Sunday:" John Stainer's "I Saw the Lord"

The Sunday after Easter is sometimes nicknamed "Low Sunday" as attendance at church may seem lower after peak attendance the previous week. 

So here is a music spot which definately isn't low: Stainer's "musical battle" as Simon Lindley once described it, "I saw the Lord."

Support for Ukraine

This week the Chancellor rallied further economic assistance for Ukraine during IMF Meetings, leading the international response to the devastating invasion of Ukraine.

  • The UK is unwavering in our support to the people of Ukraine and has committed to make over $2 billion of financial, humanitarian and military assistance available to Ukraine.
  • On Thursday, the Chancellor called on international colleagues to step up, deliver and go further and faster in their economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine during this week’s International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington D.C., as he reiterated our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.
  • It is more important than ever that we coordinate our response to Putin’s devastating invasion of Ukraine with international partners – Britain is taking a prominent role in these efforts and doing everything we can to support the people of Ukraine.

Quote of the day 24th April 2022


 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Further sanctions against the Putin regime

This week the UK government announced new sanctions against Putin’s war leaders and further trade sanctions against Russia, ratcheting up the pressure on Putin and his regime.

  • The depravity of Russia’s assault on the people of Ukraine is plain for all to see and the UK is unyielding in our support for Ukraine and in holding Putin and his regime to account.
  • That is why we announced a new round of sanctions targeting both the Generals committing atrocities on the front line, as well as individuals and businesses supporting Putin’s military. We also introduced further trade sanctions against Russia, bringing the total import tariffs and bans on Russian goods to over £1 billion.
  • We are taking every opportunity we can to ratchet up the pressure and isolate the Russian economy, while targeting those with blood on their hands.

Britain and India

This week the Prime Minister reiterated the importance of the UK-India partnership for global peace and security during his visit to New Delhi, delivering a more secure and prosperous future for both our peoples.

  • The world faces growing threats from autocratic states which seek to undermine democracy, choke off free and fair trade and trample on sovereignty.
  • That is why the Prime Minister met Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi this week for high-level talks on defence, diplomacy and trade – including how the UK can work with India to boost security in the Indo-Pacific, as well as new cooperation on clean and renewable energy.
  • The UK’s partnership with India is a beacon in these stormy seas and greater cooperation will deliver a more secure and prosperous future for both our peoples.

Music to relax after campaigning: Jean Sibelius, "Finlandia"


A great day's campaigning today: Out and about this morning in part of my ward, delivering leaflets and meeting the friendly residents of the Mirehouse estate with Trudy Harrison MP, Martin Barbour and Oliver Dorgan: later on Oliver and myself went to support Martin in Distington, part of his patch, and again had a friendly reception.

"Finlandia" was written by Sibelius as part of a series of events marking Finland's resistance to Russian oppression. Finland being a democratic country which has on more than one occasion had to defend itself against aggression from a Russian tyrant, this piece seems particularly appropriate at this time as the brave people of Ukraine are making a similar stand.

Happy St George's Day

 


Quote of the day 23rd April 2021


 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Tackling the backlog of court cases

This week it has been announced the Crown Court will work at full capacity as the government lifts the limit on the number of days it can sit for a second year, which should address and reduce the backlog of cases and help ensure victims get the justice they deserve. 

  • We are tackling the courts backlog caused by the covid-19 pandemic, investing in the criminal justice system and establishing Nightingale courtrooms to increase capacity in our courts.
  • The government has confirmed the lifting of the limit on the number of days the Crown Court can sit for an unlimited number of days in the new financial year, building on a raft of measures to cut backlogs in the courts, including increased spending on criminal legal aid by £135 million annually.
  • Getting the Covid Court Backlog down is a key priority for us as we work to ensure victims and their families get the swift access to justice that they deserve.

Quote of the day 22nd April 2022

 


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Second quote of the day 21st April 2021

 












This was the Scottish government's response after the Auditor general was sharply critical of the lack of proper documentation for a £240m ferry contract.

The ferries are years behind schedule and two-and-a-half times over budget.

A BBC report on the Auditor's recommendations can be found by following this link:

Fuller review into ferries deal needed, MSPs told - BBC News


Climate and sustainability education

 Today the government announced new plans detailing how the UK will lead the way in climate and sustainability education as we work to deliver a greener world for future generations.

  • Britain is leading the world on climate change, setting ambitious targets on net zero and working to ensure all parts of our society are working together to protect the environment.
  • Britain will go another step further by launching a Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy, including the creation of a new GCSE in natural history and carbon literacy training for school staff, ensuring the UK education sector will be a world leader in climate change by 2030.
  • We are delivering a better, safer, greener world for future generations and education is one of our key weapons in this fight, ensuring young people can learn about tackling climate change.

£1 billion of trade announced between Britain and India

Today £1 billion of new commercial deals have been announced as part of the Prime Minister's landmark visit to India, delivering jobs and growth across the UK. 

  • As an independent trading nation Britain able to deepen our partnerships with key trading nations around the world. 
  • This has made possible £1 billion of new investments, creating 11,000 jobs, through a raft of commercial agreements, establishing a new era in the UK and India’s trade, investment and technology partnership, boosting links with one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
  • There are vast possibilities for what the UK and India can achieve together, and our powerhouse partnership is delivering jobs and growth as well as opening exciting opportunities for UK exporters.