Saturday, January 21, 2017

President Trump

The election of a President for the United States of America is a decision for the citizens of that country, not for us.

If I had been a US citizen, I would not have voted for Donald J Trump. But he won legally under the rules, and it is unlikely that anything the Russians may or may not have done created that situation.

Which makes him the duly elected leader of our most important ally and one of our most important trading partners. We do not have to like him but Britain does have to work with him for as long as he holds that office. We need good relationship with the United States of America, which are in the interests of the people of both Britain and the USA.

For the British government to try to work with the US administration is not "sucking up to" Trump, it is protecting British interests.

Super Saturday


Many thanks to all those who came to support Copeland Conservatives today whether from within the constituency, other parts of Cumbria and the North West, or from much further afield.

We had four ministers, fourteen MPs in total, well over a hundred activists campaigning across Copeland in lovely weather in one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country.

From Keswick ...



to Egremont ...






to Millom ...



and around the constituency ...







we had a great day's campaigning, which lived up to the name of Super Saturday.

This election is going to be close. Stories planted in the press by Labour sources to the effect that their canvass returns suggest that they are going to lose and might even come fourth should not be taken entirely at face value. These briefings partly reflect expectations management and partly a civil war in the Labour party between the Corbyn/Momentum faction and their bitter enemies, with each faction trying to take the credit for good results and blame the other for failures.

But these "leaks" are an exaggerated version of what we too are finding on the doorstep - Copeland Labour is losing support because Jeremy Corbyn is not seen as a credible Prime Minister and people are very worried by his views on nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Labour's "Project Fear" tactics have energised some of those who were always going to vote for them, but possibly not enough. Meanwhile Conservative support is holding up.

There really is absolutely everything to play for and every bit of effort, every vote could count.

Music to relax after campaigning part 2) Vivaldi - Concerto for 4 violins in B minor

And here is the Vivaldi original which Bach transposed ...





Music to relax after campaigning part 1) Bach channels Vivaldi

Although this is referred to as Bach's concerto for four harpsichords, and it is indeed a concerto for four harpsichords, what Bach actually wrote here was not an original composition but a masterly transposition of a concerto for four violins by Vivaldi.

Both the Vivaldi original, which had largely been forgotten until Yehudi Menuin brought Vivaldi back into fashion, and this Bach version, are wonderful and I cannot decide which I like more.

The really surprising thing is that for many years both Vivaldi and Bach were almost forgotten and hardly ever played.

I recall a letter in the Times, quite a few years ago, from a distinguished musician, in which he said that when he was a music student he and his contemporaries were told that they would probably never hear any of Antonio Vivaldi's music played but should study him because he was important for his influence on other composers. (Bach was one of those other composers, as this very piece illustrates.)  As I've mentioned Yehudi Menuin, and then Nigel Kennedy brought Vivaldi back into popularity, and the letter concluded with the author saying that he recalled that statement and laughed "every time yet another version of the 'Four Seasons' comes out."

Johann Sebastian Bach too was forgotten for a while: one of the brilliantly done (and more accurate) details in the second season of the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's "Voyager" books was the point where the time travelling heroine of the story meets a nun who had corresponded with Bach, and the nun was astonished that the heroine had heard of him. Just as Menuin resurrected Vivaldi's reputation in the 20th century, Mendelsohn resurrected Bach's in the 19th.

It makes you wonder how many other brilliant works by composers who went out of fashion and were then forgotten, which we would love to listen to if we only knew about them, may be hidden away in libraries somewhere because they have not yet found a Menuin or a Mendelsohn to bring them back. Anyway, here is the Bach version of the piece ...



"Super Saturday" campaiging today



Today is "Super Saturday" because it will be the biggest campaigning day the Conservative Party has ever held in Cumbria.
 
We have MPs and members coming from across the country, many spending hours in their cars to be with us.  If you haven't already committed then please do come along and help turn Copeland blue.
 
With a high response already we are opening up two new campaign centres for the day.  We are asking those members from Westmorland and Lonsdale and along with the members from Barrow and Furness to head to the Conservative Club in Millom.  Those members from Penrith and the Border, Carlisle and Workington we are asking to head towards Keswick Conservative club.  Campaigning is planned and ready to go and we will be kicking off at 10.30am.
 
Please do come along if you can. After a hard day's campaigning there is a buffet and drinks back at the Egremont Conservative Club from 5pm.

Are Labour's "Project Fear" adverts in Copeland a sign of panic?

Labour spent a fortune this week on "wrap-around" adverts for two newspapers in the Copeland constituency presenting a "project Fear" message designed to scare people into voting Labour.

Both Thursday's Whitehaven News and yesterday's News and Star came inside four-page Labour advertising supplements, both designed to look like the paper's normal format but actually consisting of Labour propaganda.

Both supplements were economical with the truth, including allegations about "plans" for cuts to local services which NOBODY is proposing - not the government, not any local party, not the people responsible for running the services.

Could this "Project Fear" campaign by Labour be a sign of panic? A senior Labour source has told the Daily Telegraph here that Jeremy Corbyn’s “incompetence” as a political leader is coming up repeatedly on the doorstep in Copeland and their canvass returns suggest a serious loss of support.

No governing party has gained a seat by winning a parliamentary by-election directly from the main opposition party in my lifetime. The last government gain in a by-election came in 1982 in the closing phases of the Falklands war after the defection of the sitting Labour MP to the SDP. The previous government gain by winning a by-election was in 1960.

So if the Conservatives did win Copeland it would sent a clear signal that Jeremy Corbyn's policies are unacceptable to the voters of West Cumbria.

I do not believe that any party can take the people of Copeland for granted but it is becoming clear that there is everything to play for in the forthcoming by-election.

Quote of the day 21st January 2017

“Nobody understands what our position is, even Labour MPs don’t understand what our position is – the truth is we don’t have one and we certainly don’t have an argument on this.”

(Labour MP quoted in the Daily Telegraph yesterday here about the "utter chaos" over Labour's policy on whether trigger Article 50 and start the process of leaving the EU.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Labour in "Utter chaos" over Article 50

One of Labour's own MPs described the party as being in "utter chaos" as Jeremy Corbyn appeared to reverse his position over whether to vote for or against article 50.

Asked whether Labour will back PM Theresa May and support the formal triggering of the process of leaving the EU, Mr Corbyn initially said:

“I’ve made it very clear the Labour Party accepts and respects the decision of British people.
“We will not block Article 50. It means all Labour MPs will be asked to vote in that direction next week, whenever the vote comes up.”

But just hours later, senior aides said that Mr Corbyn had not meant to imply that a three-line whip will be in place next week and instead claimed that a decision has not yet been taken. Other members of the shadow cabinet such as Clive Lewis have indicated that they would defy any instruction to vote to leave the EU.

More details here.

The Conservative position is quite clear. We promised at the 2015 general election to give the British people a vote on whether to stay in the EU, and we have kept that promise. We promised both at that election and during the run-up to the referendum to implement the decision of the British people as expressed in the referendum and we will keep that promise too.

I have no time for Tim Farron and the Lib/Dems who want to ignore the referendum result, but at least they are clear on where they stand. Labour cannot even manage that - they are all over the place and even their own MPs admit it.

Coach Road Whitehaven will be closed for repairs next week

Coach Road in Whitehaven will be closed for resurfacing and repairs from Monday of next week (23rd January 2017) for approximately four days.

This is likely to cause significant traffic disruption in Whitehaven particularly to those trying to get from the town centre to the Valley Park and Mirehouse areas or vice versa and there may also be knock-on effects on Inkerman Terrace and Low Road. If you have to drive through Whitehaven next week, it would probably be a good idea to allow a little longer for your journey.

A signed diversion route will be in operation and traffic marshals will be on site during working hours to advise and assist with any access requirements. Cumbria Highways told the Whitehaven News that access for pedestrians and dismounted cyclists will be maintained throughout.
 
Anyone with enquiries about the work should call the Cumbria Highways Hotline on 0300 3032992.

More details at the Whitehaven News site here.

Jamie Reed finally resigns - by election will be on 23rd February

Jamie Reed, who was MP for Copeland from 2005 until today, and Tristam Hunt who had been MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, both resigned from parliament today.

Reed had announced before Christmas that he planned to go at the end of January but resigned with Hunt today instead so that the two elections can be held together.

Labour says that it will "move the writ" for the two by-elections on Monday so that they can take place on 23rd February.

Progress on Jobs

A reminder: under the Conservatives small and large businesses have created millions of new jobs.

When a country is economically successful, the credit never belongs just to the government but to millions of ordinary people who have worked hard and to the successful businesses through which they have created wealth.

But governments have limitless capacity to foul things up, and if a country is recovering from recession and growing faster than most other comparable nations, then you know that at least the government is not getting in the way!

Here is the record on jobs since 2010:

What the PM actually says in context about hospitals in West Cumbria


Quotes of the day 20th January 2017

"Labour aren't in power"

"They're not even in opposition!"

(From last night's BBC Question Time)


"It should be slowly dawning on Labour that they are being given plenty of rope to hang themselves by this Conservative government – and Jeremy Corbyn seems to be quite happy to pick up the noose."

(Greig Baker, Chief Executive of political intelligence firm GUIDE, on Labour uncut)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Labour financial incompetence causes double whammy for Cumbria

Most of a £15 million EU grant for flood defences, from which Cumbria would have benefitted, will have to be handed back because of Labour incompetence.

The EU Commission had proposed to give Britain 60 million Euros from the EU solidarity fund to help with flood damage and repairs as a result of storms in winter 2015/16 such as Storm Desmond. Some of this money would have come to Cumbria

After allowing for the costs of submitting the application and the clawback as a result of the British rebate, it is estimated that the net value of this to Britain will have been about £15 million pounds.

Unfortunately in 2007, the then Labour government received money from the same fund but misspent it on projects for which it was not eligible, according to the EU. Consequently Britain has been fined £14.5 million by the EU so nearly all of the money will have to be paid back to cover the fine.

Andrew Percy, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: "Consequently, this funding does not offer additional support, but is only eligible to reimburse a small portion of the extensive financial support that has already been given‎ by the Government to the areas affected."

This news follows the incredible decision by Labour-led Cumbria County Council to hand back more than £100,000 of grants which could have been spent on helping community groups improve local transport.

The excuse given is that nobody had applied for the grants, but there are certainly community groups which would have put in applications had they known about them.

Labour incompetence at both national and county level has dealt Cumbria a double whammy. Copeland and the rest of Cumbria deserve better.

British family reaches six living generations

And now for a complete change of subject: with the arrival of baby Finley Mellor on Christmas Day his family are believed to be the first in Britain to have six generations living at the same time.

His great-great-grandparents were unable to get there but the other five generations of the family up to his great-great-great-grandmother were represented in a gathering reported in today's Telegraph here.

A very heart-warming story.

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Harpsichord Concerto


Quote of the day 19th January 2017


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Copeland Labour's latest foray into post-truth politics

As the Prime Minister said, it is now Labour who are the Nasty Party

It would appear sadly likely that the forthcoming by-election in Copeland is going to be characterised by some pretty nasty tactics, particularly on the part of Copeland Labour party, which will not prevent them from accusing everyone else at the top of their voices of every dirty trick in sight.

In the city where I grew up one of the few points of agreement between the Conservative and Labour activists was that the dirtiest tactics always came from the Liberals (later Liberal Democrats,) and in that part of the world it was true.

Not in Copeland.

Not for the first time Labour in Copeland are running a "Project Fear" campaign, taking a genuine issue and doing their best to frighten people by making it much worse. The wrap-around Labour advert on the outside of this week's "Whitehaven News" is a case in point.

What do you think would be the Labour party's reaction if the Conservatives took, say, some of the things Labour in Copeland have been saying about UKIP which contained words like "UKIP believes XYZ" and the Conservatives reprinted it on our campaign material without the "UKIP believes" bit so as to attribute "XYZ" to the Labour person concerned, as if the UKIP quote was his or her own opinion?

You'd be able to hear the screams of Labour outrage from Millom to Keswick!

Well, that's pretty much exactly what Labour did to the Prime Minister on the front page of the wraparound advert which this week's Whitehaven News comes inside.

The quote in large letters attributed to the PM is not a statement of her own opinions: in context the following words should appear in front of it:

 “…the Success Regime considers a general consensus exists amongst clinicians that ..."

In other words, it's not a statement of her own opinions, it's not even a quote. She was saying what a second group of people had told her a third group thought.

I could say a lot more but I am not going to let a bunch of political charlatans who have been mismanaging West Cumbria for fifty years, and given all politicians in the area a bad name, distract me from a large number of other points which need to be made and things which need to be done.

The Conservatives will reply to this and other Labour smears in due course. In the meantime I would suggest that, with a few honourable exceptions, if a member of Copeland Labour party tells you it's raining, it may be a good idea to look outside and check before going to the trouble of hunting up your umbrella.

This Saturday 21st January is "Super Saturday" for campaigning

 
 
This Saturday has been dubbed "Super Saturday" because it will be the biggest campaigning day the Conservative Party has ever held in Cumbria.
 
We have MPs and members coming from across the country, many spending hours in their cars to be with us.  If you haven't already committed then please do come along and help turn Copeland blue.
 
With a high response already we are opening up two new campaign centres for the day.  We are asking those members from Westmorland and Lonsdale and along with the members from Barrow and Furness to head to the Conservative Club in Millom.  Those members from Penrith and the Border, Carlisle and Workington we are asking to head towards Keswick Conservative club.  Campaigning is planned and ready to go and we will be kicking off at 10.30am.
 
Please do come along if you can.  Please feel free to pass thie information on to anyone who might be interested.
 
After a hard days campaigning there is a buffet and drinks back at the Egremont Con Club from 5pm.
 
Look forward to seeing you on Saturday

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Triple Concerto


UK Unemployment drops 52,000 to 1.6 million

Latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today show that  UK unemployment fell by 52,000 to 1.6 million in the three months to November.

The employment rate was steady at a record 74.5%, while wage growth picked up pace.
Average earnings increased by 2.8% in the year to November, 0.2% up on the previous month.

Quote of the day 18th January 2017


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The PM sets out her priorities on Europe and asks for your views

Today Prime Minister Theresa May made an imnportant speech about Europe (which you can watch directly on a posted put up on this blog earlier today.

In the letter below she writes explaining the twelve priorities the government has set out for negotiating Britain's exit from the European Union, and invites people to take part in a sruvey about the government;s plan, which you can access by clicking on either of the links below.

Here is the text of the PM's letter:

Conservatives
 
"Today I set out the Government’s 12 negotiating objectives for leaving the European Union - part of our plan for Britain, which aims to get the right deal abroad while ensuring a better deal for ordinary working people here at home – and I wanted you to be one of the first to know about it.
            
The referendum last June was a vote to leave the European Union. But it was also a vote for change – to shape a brighter future for our country, to make it stronger and fairer, and to embrace the world. And it is the job of this Conservative Government to deliver it and to get the right deal for Britain as we do.
           
We seek a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing Global Britain and our friends and allies in the European Union. We are leaving the EU, not Europe.
            
Tell me what you think about our plan. 
           
That means taking the opportunity of this great moment of national change to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be. To pursue 12 objectives that amount to one goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.
 
1. Certainty: whenever we can, we will provide it. And we can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.
 
2. Control of our own laws: we will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws. 
           
3. Strengthen the Union: we must strengthen the precious Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom. We will work very carefully to ensure that – as powers are repatriated back to Britain – the right powers are returned to Westminster and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations. We will make sure that no new barriers to living and doing business within our Union are created. 
           
4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland: we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system. 
           
5. Control of immigration: the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain but there must be control.

6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU: we want to guarantee these rights as early as we can. We have told other EU leaders that we can offer EU nationals here this certainty, as long as this is reciprocated for British citizens in EU countries. 
           
7. Protect workers’ rights: as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. 
           
8. Free trade with European markets: as a priority we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and EU member states. It cannot mean membership of the EU’s Single Market. That would mean complying with European Court of Justice rulings, free movement and other EU rules and regulations without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. And because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. If we contribute to some specific EU programmes that we wish to participate in, it will be for us to decide.

9. New trade agreements with other countries: it is time for Britain to become a global trading nation, striking trade agreements around the world. Through the Common Commercial Policy and the Common External Tariff, full Customs Union membership prevents us from doing this – but we do want to have a customs agreement with the EU and have an open mind on how we achieve this end.

10. The best place for science and innovation: we will continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives. 
           
11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism: we want our future relationship with the EU to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and intelligence.

12. A smooth, orderly Brexit: we want to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded. From that point onwards, we expect a phased process of implementation. We will work to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge.
These are our objectives for Brexit. A truly Global Britain - the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but also a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe and embraces the world. A country that gets out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike – a great, global trading nation that is respected around the world and strong, confident and united at home.
            
           
So let’s work hard and together let’s make Brexit a success.
           
Thank you for your support,




Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
Theresa May
Prime Minister"
facebook.com/theresamayofficial
 


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

Music to relax after campaigning: The Final Countdown


Watch for yourself: Theresa May's Brexit speech


The PM writes about Mental Health:




Prime Minister Theresa May writes:

"It is a tragic fact that one in ten children in this country has a diagnosable mental health condition.

The long-term effects can be crippling: children with behavioural disorders are four times more likely to be dependent on drugs, six times more likely to die before the age of 30, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

While this government legislated for “parity of esteem” in healthcare - so that whatever your illness, physical or mental, you are treated the same - very often the treatment for those with mental illnesses is inadequate.

For years it has fallen to civil society, charities, and the media to take on the problem.

But it is time for government to do more.

The need is urgent: the number of girls saying they’ve self-harmed has more than trebled in recent years, as just one example.

That’s why I raised mental health during my speech when I arrived at Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister.

And it’s why today I’m announcing a step-change in the way that we deal with these issues.

I want to see mental health addressed not just in our hospitals, but in our classrooms and communities.

I want to see the stigma stripped away so that no-one in this country feels unable to talk about what they’re going through or seek help.

I want to see a focus on prevention as well as treatment, especially since so many adult mental health problems - which one in four of us will suffer from at any one time - begin in childhood.

This is part of a wider approach to tackle the burning injustices we face in society, and to build a stronger, fairer Britain that works for everyone.

For no parent should feel helpless when watching their child suffer. No teacher should feel ill-equipped to deal with a troubled pupil. No teenager should have to leave their local area to seek treatment. No child should ever be left to feel like their life is not worth living.

Mental health problems are everyone’s problem. As a society we must face up to that fact. And the announcements I am making today will ensure we do just that."



Key measures the government is taking:
  • every one of England’s 3,600 secondary schools will be offered mental health ‘first aid’ training for teachers in the next two years
  • new moves to end ‘inappropriate’ placing of under-18s in hospitals, sometimes hundreds of miles from their home
  • an extra £15 million for community clinics and ‘crisis cafes’ as an alternative to going to hospital or seeing a GP
  • a comprehensive review of workplace discrimination by employers against those suffering from depression and other conditions
  • instant ‘digitally-assisted therapy’ as an alternative to waiting weeks for a face-to-face appointment
  • moves to scrap the £300 charge imposed by some GPs for a form to prove patients have mental health conditions

The state of British politics

There is an interesting article on what appears to be the current state of the main British political parties at the Public Policy and the Past blog here.

It's interesting that the author can make such a good argument that the challenges for all four are so difficult.

We shall see - what MacMillan once called "Events, dear boy, events!" can make things harder or easier for any political party or faction.

Quote of the day 17th January 2017


Monday, January 16, 2017

Oxfam and post-truth statistics

Every intelligent and well informed person knows that the world contains some extremely rich individuals and billions of poor individuals, some of whom are very poor indeed.

Every intelligent and well-informed person knows that a relatively small number of rich individuals own a much higher proportion of the world's wealth than many millions of very poor people.

Every well-informed and compassionate person thinks it would be a good thing to do something to help those very poor people and millions of those compassionate people give some of their money to good causes to help achieve that. Three of the world's eight richest people have given particularly enormous amounts of their money to try to help the poor, spread education, and fight disease.

I can see why Oxfam would want to highlight the undoubted fact that there are many poor people in the world who desperately need help and encourage people to do something to provide that help.

What I cannot understand is why they think it helps the world's poor to pump out statistics which, as the IEA correctly points out here, are as misleading as the £350 million a week claim and all the other exaggerated numbers produced by both sides in the recent EU referendum campaign.

It is ludicrous to treat someone who has just graduated from Harvard with a law degree or from Oxford with a qualification likely to prove equally lucrative as one of the world's poorest people.

They don't need to include that sort of distortion in their figures to make the perfectly valid point that there are a lot of very poor people in the world who need our help, so why do it?

Why MCA?

Today or over the next few days members of the Conservative party in Cumbria should receive a ballot paper asking them to vote on whether to set up a Cumbria-Wide Conservative Association.

At the moment there are six Conservative associations in Cumbria, one for each constituency, which vary greatly in strength, numbers, and the level of resources.

It is proposed that these associations and the existing area structure should come together to form a Cumbria-wide body which would co-operate more effectively both in organising election campaigns and running events.

Members in each constituency would retain the right to pick their own council candidates and parliamentary candidates - there is no suggestion that party members in Millom should be able to tell members in Penrith who they can pick to stand to be councillors or MP, or vice versa.

The six existing Conservative Associations have been working towards greater co-operation since shortly after the 2015 general election. When the national party produced a scheme to support pilot "Multi-Constituency Association" schemes (MCAs) we recognised this as a similar idea to what we were already trying to do and applied to be a pilot MCA. This bid was endorsed by representatives of all six associations in Cumbria, it is something that we wanted to do, not something that CCHQ told us to do.

Hence the title of this post, Why MCA? (a reference to a Village People hit ...)



All the association executives of the six existing Conservative associations have voted that in principle we want to give this a try. But the final decision rests with all the individual members in the ballot which has just started. If you are a paid up member of the Conservative party in Cumbria and have not received a ballot paper by the end of this week, please contact your association chairman.

Ballot papers should be returned to the Westmorland and Lonsdale Conservative office in Kendal in the pre-paid envelope provided for the ballot by 1st February.

That should confuse Jamie Reed - one of his final columns in the Whitehaven News claimed that Copeland Conservatives are run from Carlisle.

Now he will presumably claim we are run from Kendal.

Neither is true: within the Cumbria-Wide Conservative Association individual constituencies will retain their own representatives, and keep their own funds and other assets as well as being able to select their own candidates. But making it easier for Conservatives in different parts of the county to co-operate more effectively is exactly what the proposal for a Cumbria-Wide Conservative Association is about.

Jeremy Corbyn makes "secret" trip to Copeland ...

Jeremy Corbyn was in Copeland yesterday in what a Labour MP described as a "secret" visit.

According to this article in the Huffington Post, Corbyn came up here by train on Sunday to meet Labour activists but, unlike deputy leader Tom Watson and various Shadow Cabinet ministers, he didn’t meet the public or go canvassing on the doorstep.

Told about this by the Huffington post, one Labour MP responded

“He was in Copeland? Come or don’t come, don’t come in secret! It will give rocket boosters to the sense that he knows he is sabotaging the campaign with his personal musings on civil nuclear [power].”

Appearing on Television Corbyn equivocated on whether he would back the new nuclear plant or not, saying 

“I don’t know what the circumstances will be at that time. I want to see...”

He also got the name of the proposed new nuclear plant in the constituency wrong, describing it as Moorfield rather than Moorside ...

Music to relax after campaigning II - with the voice it was written for

I don't want to take anything away from the superb performance of the Phantom theme which I just posted, but the "Phantom of the Opera" music by Andrew Lloyd Weber always makes me think of the performances by the woman who first performed it.

Lloyd Weber, who of course later married Sarah Brightman, subsequently said that he was falling in love with her at the time they were working together to produce the British stage version of this opera. Perhaps that is one of the reasons there is something particularly special in her performances of the Phantom of the Opera songs, such as this trailer ....



Music to relax after campaignimg: the Phantom of the Opera theme

A superb rendition of the Phantom of the Opera theme by Sierra Boggess as Christine and Ramin Karimloo as the phantom, performed at the Royal Albert Hall on 2nd October 2012 at the Classic BRIT Awards.

 

Quote of the day 16th January 2017




Sunday, January 15, 2017

PM's Mental Health Plan welcomed

A prominent local politician has backed plans to roll out mental health support for schoolchildren across Cumbria.

 Copeland Conservative group leader, David Moore, joined education secretary, Justine Greening, in welcoming new measures which will see mental health services for children and young people transformed.
 

Prime Minister Theresa May recently pledged to end the mental health stigma after research showed that more than half of mental health problems start by the time someone reaches the age of 14.
 

As part of the new proposals outlined by Mrs May, every school in the UK will be offered mental health first aid training to increase awareness around mental health and help to tackle the unacceptable stigma around the issue.
 

Mr Moore said: "These new proposals will ensure children and young people in Copeland receive the compassion, care and the treatment they deserve.
 

"Mental healthcare will be improved in schools, workplaces and universities and those suffering from mental illness will be able to access the right care for their needs, whilst we tackle the injustices people with mental health problems face."
 

Mrs Greening added: "We want every young person in Cumbria to grow up feeling confident about themselves and their future."

Details in the North West Evening Mail here

Sunday music spot: "Lord let me know mine end" by Maurice Greene


Andrew Neil interviews Max Mosley on Press Regulation

I have now had a chance to watch the interview of Max Mosley by Andrew Neil which was broadcast this morning on the Sunday Politics show, and have posted it below.

The word "fascist" is one of the most over-used insults in British politics, but one of several extraordinary things which comes out of this interview is that the family trust which is largely funding IMPRESS, the state-approved press regulator, was previously run by a real one - Max Mosley's father was the founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists.

But the killer question Andrew Neil put and to which Mosley had no answer, some 12 minutes into this clip was

"What would happen to the boss of OFCOM,  for example, which regulates broadcasters, if it described Channel 4 News as 'Marxist Scum'?"

The trouble is that too many senior members of the IMPRESS board and code committee have said things like that about the newspapers for the body to have enough credibility to be fit for purpose as an impartial regulator.

See what  you think ...


Another reason to love Her Majesty ...

Just picked up on social media something I had not previously known about the Queen.

She was an army driver during the war (that bit I did know) but despite being very fit and healthy for a ninety-year old, she does not usually drive very much now.

But when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was then Crown Prince but became King shortly afterwards came to Balmoral during an official visit to Britain in 1995, Her Majesty insisted on driving him personally ....

Since women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia (and more than 20 years later this is, sadly, still the case) I don't think there is much doubt that the Queen was making a point ...

(Source, the book,  "Ever the Diplomat", by Sherard Cowper-Coles, a British ambassador, and the relevant story is quoted on Quora about half way down  this thread)

Mayor Starkie says don't delay by-election

Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie has called on the Labour party not to delay the by-election due when Jamie Reed steps down as MP for Copeland and the end of this month.

The Labour MP is due to take a job at Sellafield at the start of February - days before the "Success Regime" publishes the results of the NHS consultation and a few weeks before they announce what they propose to do.

Traditionally the party which an outgoing MP represented decides when to "move the writ" and set in process the by-election for their replacement. So this means it would normally be Labour which decides when the election should be held.

According to the  News and Star Labour MP Andrew Gwynne, who is running Labour’s by-election campaign, has suggested that May 4 could be their preferred polling date.
Mr Gwynne is reported as saying:

“We’re planning for that as it’s better to plan for a long campaign and be pleasantly surprised than plan for a short campaign and then realise you’ve got to stretch your resources out for several months."

However Mr Starkie is reported in the same article to have said he would be extremely disappointed if the by-election is pushed into May.

"Irrespective of whatever anyone's political persuasion is in Copeland, this borough and its constituents need to be fully represented in the House of Commons and this by-election should take place no later than March 9th.

"There is no acceptable reason for it to be held any later," he said.

Is it time to review and cancel the recognition of IMPRESS?

I was out campaigning at the time of Max Mosley's interview with Andrew Neil on the Sunday Politics and am now waiting for it to become available on iPlayer to watch.

However, given the deeply worrying comments by senior officials at IMPRESS as Alex Wickham wrote here, I was increasingly convinced even before today's interview that this body is not fit for purpose as approved press regulator in any self-respecting democracy.

Section 40 certainly should not be brought into effect and ideally should be repealed but I am rapidly moving to the opinion that merely scrapping attempts to pressurise the press to sign up to be regulated by IMPRESS is not good enough - the decision of the Press Recognition Panel should be overturned by the government and IMPRESS de-recognised as a suitable regulator.

Quote of the day 15th January 2017

Chancellor Phillip Hammond's reply to those in Germany who hope that Britain might decide not to leave the EU after all:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Overheard on the train ...

First Commuter
"I gather another Blairite Labour MP has resigned. Apparently this one's going to a museum."

Second Commuter
"To work there, or as an exhibit?"

Third Commuter
"If this keeps up they'll have to put up a sign: will the last Labour MP to resign please turn out the lights!"

Guilty until proved innocent?

I am not a fan of Donald Trump and his press conference the other day was a shambles.

This does not alter the fact that not one scrap of actual proof has been provided to back up the dossier of allegations on what the Russians may or may not have to hold over him.

If anything I'm tempted to ask how you could possibly blackmail a man like Trump anyway - what could the Russians have on him which is that much more embarrassing than accusations, and in some cases facts, which are already out there. If they tried to get Trump to do something by threatening to release something damaging, he'll just give the famous retort that Wellington gave when a former mistress attempted to blackmail him





And if they do publish, he'll just call them liars.

(The only difference is that Trump will probably be even ruder than the Iron Duke)

America's enemies have been handed a victory because the US political establishment has got itself in a twist by taking the dossier seriously. It doesn't matter to those enemies whether the allegations in the document are true if the leak has sown distrust and confusion in Washington DC.

I think we have to recognise that some of the rules have changed but here is one which should not:

AN ACCUSED PERSON SHOULD BE PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.

I would not have a dog put down on the basis of evidence as weak - or should that be non-existent?  as the evidence in the "unverified" dossier published by Buzzfeed.

That's "unverified" as in "we have no idea whether this is true or not but we'll get a lot of publicity for releasing it."

As Jane Martinson writes in the Guardian - no friend of Trump - here, publishing things when you do now know whether they are true devalues good journalism.

If you want to go after Trump there are plenty of things he really has said and done for which he deserves it. Don't dance to a tune which may be a pack of lies prepared by enemies of your country.

Quote of the day 13th January 2016


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn's views on Nuclear Power

You can hear Jeremy Corbyn's views on Nuclear Power, rebroadcast on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning from a 2011 speech by the man himself, at

http://bbc.in/2ja5nyk

This recording will be available for the next 29 days (from 12th January 2017).

If you click on the link above an iPlayer window should open.

Pull the scroll bar along to 2 hours 48 minutes and 12 seconds into the recording during a report on the Copeland by-election (which starts about a minute earlier) and you will hear the man himself making the comment we are now quoting on Conservative leaflets:

"No Nuclear Power, decommission the stations we've got."

Today was a day when the British weather reminded me of the late Sid James ...



Yesterday there was some pretty vile weather in West Cumbria - I got soaked and scratched by a hailstorm while delivering literature - but at one stage today despite warnings of snow and reports of bad conditions inland it was actually quite mild in the Whitehaven and Egremont area and I made the mistake of telling a colleague on the phone that so far we had escaped the worst of it.

If I believed in such things I would be convinced that some spiteful weather imp must have heard me. Shortly before 4pm there was a massive hailstorm in which the hail settled for a while like snow. There was enough ice on the roads that it became impossible for a typical car to climb some of the steeper roads in Whitehaven.

MoD confirms details of the planes for the new carriers

The Ministry of Defence have clarified the details regarding the complement of aircraftto be carried by the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

By the time the carriers are fully operational they will have a large and diverse complement of jets and helicopters.

Merlin helicopters will be the first aircraft to begin flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth, soon followed by Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and F-35 in 2018.

Merlins will start simple flight activities from the deck of the supercarrier later in 2017 and the UK is on target for its new F-35B aircraft to reach initial operating capability by 2018 and expects to have 24 of the jets available for service on the carrier by the year 2023.

According to the Ministry of Defence:

“We are fully committed to both the F-35 and the Queen Elizabeth Carrier programmes -both of which are on track to enter initial maritime operating capability in December 2020 as planned.

We expect Queen Elizabeth carrier to commence sea trials in 2017, and have been clear that UK F-35 aircraft will begin flying from Queen Elizabeth in 2018.”

More details on the UK Defence Journal site here.

Quote of the day 12th January 2016

“I very much welcome the proposal from NuGen and Toshiba to develop a new nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria"

(Theresa May, Conservative leader and Prime Minister)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A day when both Corbyn and Farage sank to new depths of lunacy

It is difficult to find adequate words to express how foolish I regard the positions taken by both Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage today.

Corbyn has not had a good week, with even left-of centre commentators like Phil Collins in the Times and Suzanne Moore in the Guardian decrying his attempted re-launch and writing things like

"Labour's Corbyn reboot shows exactly why he has to go."

On foreign policy it is striking how similar, how naïve, and how potentially disastrous for Britain's security the gullibility of the looney right and the looney left are.

The only difference is that Nigel Farage buys the ludicrous propaganda coming out of Vladimir Putin because he hates the EU so much that to him any enemy of the EU must be a hero and the EU must be the cause of any problem, while Jeremy Corbyn buys the ludicrous propaganda coming out of Vladimir Putin because he hates the West, NATO and the USA in particular so much that to him any enemy of the USA must be a hero.

Putin is not Stalin or Hitler but he is a very dangerous man who only understands strength and who is always quick to take advantage of anything he sees as weakness.

If NATO or the USA had done to any city in the world what Putin's airforce has just done to Aleppo, or had treated any country the way Russia has treated Ukraine, the likes of "Stop the War" wouold have had half a million people marching in London to protest about it.

There have even been a few of the more intelligent and consistent lefties who have.

Yet to Nigel Farage, talking on LBC "the EU is more dangerous than Russia" and any attempt to build up trade links with Eastern Europe or suggest that countries like Poland, Lithuania or Ukraine have any right to the same freedoms we aspire to is "poking the Russian Bear with a stick."

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn has suggested that helping NATO allies in Eastern Europe be ready to defend themselves is 'escalating tensions'.

Both Corbyn and Farage and being very unwise in lining up with the wrong side in what could develop into a new cold war.

Theresa May backs Moorside new nuclear plant in Copeland

Prime Minister Theresa May declared today at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) that the nuclear industry has a ‘crucial role’ in our country’s energy needs and welcomed the proposals from NuGen and Toshiba to develop a new nuclear power plant at Moorside.

NuGen has stated that the new Moorside plant will create up to 21,000 new jobs in the local area.

Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde, raised the issue at PMQs today, making the case for the nuclear industry.

The Prime Minister replied that

"New nuclear does have a crucial role to play in securing our future energy needs"

She added

“I very much welcome the proposal from NuGen and Toshiba to develop a new nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria, and the Department for Business continues to work closely with NuGen and other developers as they bring their proposals forward.”

Responding to the question, Carlisle MP John Stevenson said:

“The nuclear industry is a crucial part of Cumbria’s economy. So many jobs depend on it. Under this Government, we have the chance to expand the industry, get fresh blood and new ideas in to the system.

“This Government is backing the first nuclear power plant in over 20 years, providing secure sources of energy for the next generation, and our commitment – reaffirmed by the Prime Minister today – will trigger big benefits for Cumbrian businesses and ordinary working people.

“I know many people will want to use their vote in the upcoming by-election to back these plans and secure these jobs from the threat posed by Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to them.”

Copeland: our next big campaign day:


Quote of the day 11th January 2016

"I am opposed to fracking and to new nuclear on the basis of the dangers posed to our ecosystems."


(Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party, in his leadership campaign policy document,

"Protecting Our Planet.")

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: "The shepherd's plain life" from Alfred by Arne

The opera "Alfred" is usually remembered today only for the finale - which is "Rule Britannia" - but it contains several other musical gems of which this charming duet is an example.

If you make the mistake of stopping to think about the words they are likely to come over to most people living in the 21st century (including me) as the most egregious reactionary nonsense, but the music is sublime.

 

Copeland campaign continues

Just got back from some leaflet delivery in Bransty this evening, finishing off some bits and pieces left over from delivery sessions earlier in the week.

The rain from earlier in the day had stopped, there was a bright full moon and it was actually quite pleasant.

As of yesterday 31 Conservative MPs had visited Copeland since the present representative announced his intention to resign, some of them more than once, and the number of activists who have been to help us is well into three figures with more expected over the next few weeks.

There is a positive buzz about the Conservative activity in the constituency, even though the forthcoming by-election has not been called and we are technically still in what political parties sometimes call "peacetime" e.g. the period between elections.

Reaction when survey canvassing on the doorstep has been friendly.

Here are some of the people who have been to campaign with us, and yes, some of the people shown are from Copeland and more are from the rest of Cumbria although others have come from all over the country. We are grateful to those who travelled for five minutes, those from the rest of Cumbria who generally had an hour each way to travel, and those from the rest of Britain who often had a very long trip indeed!













I think this article in Conservative Home paints a representative picture of how many people in Whitehaven see the issues in the Copeland constituency. Though as someone who regularly has to travel between Whitehaven to London I agree that the rail fares are expensive but have never paid anything like £322 for a return ticket. Granted, I usually drive to Penrith and catch a train from there.

The forthcoming by-election is shaping up to be one of the most exciting contests for years, and probably an even closer one than the last general election in this seat turned out to be.

Six hours to save Britain's free press


Six hours left in the consultation on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

The consultation closes at 5pm today (Tuesday 10th January 2017).

As I have previously written I am convinced that Section 40 would seriously damage Britain's democracy by emasculating press freedom. This law was put on the statute book following the Leveson Inquiry and the phone hacking scandal, as a result of lobbying by people who believed that more effective remedies were needed against bad behaviour by the press.
 
Section 40 was not initially brought into effect, but the government, which is under pressure from the opposition parties, the House of Lords and some backbenchers to bring section 40 into effect, is about to conclude a consultation on whether or not to do so.

Section 40 means that if a newspaper refuses to sign up to the government-approved regulator - which most of them have refused to sign up to - and somebody does not like a report that such a newspaper writes and sues them, the paper can be ordered to pay the legal costs of both sides even if the paper win and their article was found to be truthful and in the public interest.

This is an attempt to pressure newspapers into signing up for the approved regulator.

Even there were no concerns about if Impress, the government approved regulator other than the fact that it IS government approved, I could understand why good journalists and newspapers who were passionately committed to the concept of free and independent journalism might not want to be subject to it. But there are further concerns. As the articles linked to in some of my previous blog posts on this subject demonstrate, some of the board of Impress have said things which clearly indicate that they are deeply hostile to much of the British press, to a sufficient extent to call into question their ability to act as a neutral arbiter.

As I have said many times before, I am not the greatest fan of Britain's newspapers - they don't always get it right and some things they have done have been disgraceful. 
 
But most of the worst abuses which inspired and were exposed by the Leveson Inquiry were against the existing law, and those who could be proved in court to have been responsible - including some of the most powerful people in Britain - were convicted and went to jail under pre-Leveson law.
 
I would like to see  IPSOS, the regulatory body which most of the newspapers are signed up, introduce a system of low-cost arbitration.

But section 40 is the wrong way to get this or any other press reform because it will hurt good journalism as well as bad. 

As I have said before and will say again, Section 40 will seriously damage the ability of local newspapers like the North West Evening Mail, News and Star, Whitehaven News or the Keswick Reminder to report anything controversial for fear of malicious legal actions.

 You can take part in the government consultation at

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-leveson-inquiry-and-its-implementation
 
or by sending an Email to:  presspolicy@culture.gov.uk

by 5pm today.

If you care about free speech in this country and have not already done this, please do so.

Quote of the day 10th January 2016


Monday, January 09, 2017

First opinion poll of the year

Earlier on today ICM put out their first poll of the year, conducted for the Guardian.

Top line figures with changes from before Christmas are

CON 42%(+1),
LAB 28%(+1),
UKIP 12%(-2),
LDEM 9% (nc), 
GRN 4%(+1).

No significant change, in other words.

We've all learned to be careful about opinion polls but all of them have been producing results with the Conservatives on around 40% and Labour under 30% for the last six months so this probably gives a reasonable idea of where public support is at the moment.

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4


24 hours to save Britain's free press

Exactly one day left in the consultation on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

The consultation closes at 5pm on Tuesday 10th January 2017.

I believe that Section 40 would seriously damage Britain's democracy by emasculating press freedom. This law was put on the statute book as part of the reaction to the Leveson Inquiry and the phone hacking scandal, as a result of lobbying by people who were upset with the way the press had behaved. It was not initially brought into effect, but the government, which is under enormous pressure from the opposition parties, the House of Lords and some backbenchers to bring section 40 into effect, is consulting on whether or not to do so.

Section 40 means that if a newspaper refuses to sign up to the government-approved regulator, which most of them have, and somebody does not like a report that newspaper writes and sues them, the paper can be ordered to pay the legal costs of both sides even if they win and their article was found to be truthful and in the public interest.

This an attempt to blackmail newspapers into signing up for the approved regulator but I believe it would he a disastrous error.

Even if Impress, the government approved regulator, looked like a body that was fit for purpose, I could understand why a good journalist or paper might not want to be subject to it. But in fact some of the board of Impress have said things which clearly indicate that they are deeply hostile to much of the British press, to a sufficient extent to call into question their ability to act as a neutral arbiter.

As I have said before, I am not a big fan of Britain's newspapers - they don't always get it right and some things they have done have been disgraceful. I would like to see  IPSOS, the regulatory body which most of the newspapers are signed up, introduce a system of low-cost arbitration.

But section 40 is not just the wrong was to get press reform but a counterproductive and disastrous one because it will hammer good journalism as well as bad. 

As I have said before and will say again, Section 40 will crucify the ability of local newspapers like the News and Star, Whitehaven News or the Keswick Reminder to report anything controversial for fear of malicious legal actions.

 You can take part in the government consultation at

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-leveson-inquiry-and-its-implementation

and if you want to live in a country with a genuinely free and independent press that can challenge vested interests or expose wrongdoing, I strongly recommend that you do so, and ask the government not to implement Section 40.

Quote of the day 9th January 2017


Sunday, January 08, 2017

Why Jeremy Corbyn's views on Nuclear Power matter in Copeland

The Labour party in Copeland are frantically trying to disassociate themselves from their party leader's views on nuclear power - even those of them that voted for him to be party leader!

Some of them are even in denial about the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has publicly spoken out against nuclear power. If anyone reading this is in the least doubt. a click on the link in the next paragraph should be enough to prove that he did.

Jeremy Corbyn has described the entire civil nuclear industry as, quote, "dangerous," and came out against new nuclear power plants in his "Protecting our Planet" policy document which he published as part of his campaign to be Labour leader: he stated quite clearly that

"I am opposed to fracking and to new nuclear on the basis of the dangers posed to our ecosystems."

“New nuclear power will mean the continued production of dangerous nuclear waste and an increased risk from radioactive accident and nuclear proliferation.”

Regardless of what the Labour policy book says, if someone with those views becomes Prime Minister it would be just about impossible to raise the finances to build any new nuclear power stations.

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes PM I doubt that the new proposed power station at Moorside near Sellafield will go ahead. That would have catastrophic consequences for the economy of Copeland, as the outgoing MP stated in the resignation letter from Labour's front bench which he tweeted within seconds of Jeremy Corbyn's election as party leader.

Nobody in Copeland who supports the nuclear industry should be in any doubt that if Labour wins the forthcoming by-election, Jeremy Corbyn and his Momentum allies will claim that this was a triumph for the leader and his brand of socialism - with the result that the position of the present party leader, and therefore of opponents of nuclear power, is likely to be strengthened.

If, however, Labour lose the seat, the die-hards around Corbyn will undoubtedly blame everyone but themselves, but in fact it will almost certainly be the Labour leader's policies and approach in general, and his opposition to nuclear power in particular, which cost them the election. Anyone who follows politics and has the most tenuous link with reality will realise this.

That is why I believe that anyone in Copeland who supports nuclear power should use their vote in the manner most likely to bring about the defeat of Labour in the forthcoming by-election.