Friday, January 20, 2017

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.

48 hours to save Britain's Free Press

Two days left in the consultation on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

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

It may seem strange to some people that with a parliamentary-by-election due shortly in my own constituency - and believe me, I have been kept very busy as a result - I am writing so much about a national consultation most people have probably never heard of.

Well, that's because I believe that Section 40 would seriously damage Britain's democracy by emasculating press freedom.

I am not a cheerleader for Britain's newspapers - they don't always get it right and some things they have written have been disgraceful. As I have said before, 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. 
Section 40 will crucify the ability of local newspapers like the Whitehaven News or the Keswick Reminder to report anything controversial because if someone does not like a report they write and sues them, they may have to pay the complainant's costs even if they win and their article was found to be truthful and in the public interest. That cannot be right.

 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 free press that can challenge powerful interests, I strongly recommend that you do so, and ask the government not to implement Section 40.

Music spot for the Sunday after Epiphany: Eccard's "When to the temple Mary went"


Quotes of the day 8th January 2017

A history of quotes indicating Labour's health scares over the decades. I think this may previously have appeared in Private Eye. Whenever they are in opposition and especially when there is an election coming you can guarantee that Labour and their allies will start accusing their opponents of plotting to destroy the NHS.

The possibility that intelligent voters or those with a memory longer than that of a gnat might have noticed that the same problems - and sometimes much worse ones - happen when Labour is in government never seems to occur to them ..

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Review of "All Out War" by Tim Shipman

In between political campaigning in Copeland - we are not formally in election mode yet because Jamie Reed has not actually resigned and triggered the by-election, which he has said he will do at the end of January, but you would hardly know that from the amount of campaign activity - I have been reading Tim Shipman's book about the EU referendum,

"All Out War: how Brexit sank Britain's Political Class."

This immensely readable and very well informed account of the referendum campaign has been described as "the first draft of history" and I suspect it will be an essential first source for future historians for as long as there are historians to whom the history of 21st century Britain is important.

I strongly recommend this book.

One can't help getting the impression from reading this book that "Shippers" who is the Political Editor of the Sunday Times has quite a lot of personal empathy for many of the key figures on all sides of the campaign and managed to get access to and perspectives from virtually all the important players. However, he does not spare any of them from scrutiny of the extraordinary errors all sides made.

I write "all sides" rather than "both sides" because there were in practice many more than the two sides you might have expected: because both "Leave" and "Remain" were coalitions of rival forces which at certain stages, as this book very effectively documents, were directing their fire at rival factions supporting the same outcome rather than against those who wanted a different one.

For anyone who is a partisan supporter of any of the factions in this story and who reads it hoping to find an analysis he or she agrees with, there are very likely to be things which will infuriate you. Although Tim Shipman says that his use of the term "Paleosceptics" to describe certain opponents of the EU merely means that they had been opposed to British membership for a long time, I am not sure it comes over like that.

He says other things which will be equally annoying to other tribes of outer, to Cameroons and to other groups of remainers.

Reading his detailed and unsparing account of the vicious battles between the rival "out" organisations, which often made a chimp's tea party look well-behaved and mature, you wonder how on earth such a disparate group of feuding factions could possibly have won and succeeded in changing the direction of this great nation.

However, when you read the sections of the book about the Remain campaign and the things which went wrong for them, you wonder how on earth Remain came as close to winning as to get 48% of the vote.

And my answer to that question is that it wasn't actually either of the campaigns which ultimately decided which way the country should go, but the people of Britain.

Another good campaigning day today in Copeland

Here are some several dozen Conservative activists who were out campaigning today in Copeland:



Most were from Cumbria, including a contingent from the constituency, but we were also grateful for the support of several people from other parts of the country some of whom had very long journeys.

Both of Cumbria's government ministers - Rory Stewart MP and Oliver Henley - were campaigning with us today along with Regional Chairman Sir Robert Atkins, Andrew Stephenson MP, Guy Opperman MP and several other parliamentarians today and over the past couple of days. I know how long a trek it is to Robert Jenrick MP's Newark constituency as I went down there to campaign in his by-election so appreciate him making the same trip yesterday in the opposite direction along with fellow by-election victor Dr Caroline Johnson!

Despite the damp weather we had a great day's campaigning with a friendly reaction on the doorstep and thousands more leaflets delivered.

Music to relax after campaigning: Libera sing "Time" by Robert Prizeman


Quote of the day 7th January 2017

Michael Gove on what would happen to investigative journalism if newspapers knew that anyone who sued a paper over a story could expect to have their legal costs paid by the newspaper, even if the paper won the case and the story was proved to be accurate and in the public interest.



That will happen if Section 40 of the Crime and Courts act 2013 is brought into effect. If you don't think it is fair or right to punish good newspapers as well as irresponsible ones and truthful journalists along with those who have brought the press into disrepute, make your views known by responding online to the government consultation here before 5pm on Tuesday 10th January 2017.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Copeland Campaign continues

We've had more support yesterday and today, more people out campaigning in Copeland. Thanks to all the visitors, some of whom travelled a long way, and to the local people who turned out, especially those who continued working in nasty weather today!

Here are some of the team in Cleator Moor on Thursday:

Another big campaign day tomorrow, meeting at Egremont Conservative Club from 10.30 am

The case against Section 40 in six words

TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT.

Four days 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 don't believe that all the people who want to bring section 40 into effect are evil: some of them simply thing that the present situation fails to provide  ordinary people, particularly those who cannot afford expensive legal representation, with an affordable right of redress if the press write something which isn't true about them.

Our newspapers do sometimes get it wrong and I think it would be a very good thing if IPSOS, the regulatory body which most of the press is signed up to, introduced a system of low-cost arbitration.

But section 40 is not the right way to get the press to do this because it will punish the innocent along with the guilty and penalise accurate press reports as well as false ones.

If you want to take action against bad journalists the way to do it is not to bankrupt or emasculate good ones. Which is what section 40 will do if it is activated.

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 free press that can challenge powerful interests, I strongly recommend that you do so, and ask the government not to implement Section 40.

Labour begs voters to ignore the fact that their leader's policies would wreck Copeland's economy

If it were not a matter as serious as the alternative Prime Minister, in line to be offered to the electorate by Britain's principal opposition party, supporting policies which would
  • wreck Britain's energy policy,
  • sabotage Britain's defence,
  • and put more than ten thousand people in Copeland on the dole,
a story in the Daily Mirror, Labour chiefs urge voters to ignore Jeremy Corbyn's nuclear views would be hysterically funny.

The local Labour party in Copeland have noticed that they are going into a by-election, which is likely to be close, with a party leader who wants to close down the industry which employs a quarter of the local working population.

Counting the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, other nuclear facilities such as the Low Level Waste repository at Drigg, and their supply chains, it is usually estimated that something over 16,000 people are employed in the civil nuclear industry in West Cumbria, most of them in Copeland though there are some in the Workington and Barrow-in-Furness constituencies.

And there are also a number of people in the constituency, mostly at the southern end in the Millom area, employed at BAE Barrow on the Trident and successor nuclear submarine programmes.

So Jeremy Corbyn's anti-nuclear policies would devastate the economy of Copeland.

The Daily Mirror article says that

"Senior Labour figures fear the Conservatives will highlight Mr Corbyn's lifelong opposition to nuclear power and weapons."

Quick on the uptake, aren't they? Of course, the fact that we have just put 25,000 newspapers round the constituency with

"Labour puts Sellafield jobs at risk"

in inch high letters on the front page might just have given them a clue.

As I am quoted in the relevant article in that newspaper  I have been receiving complaints, some of them too ridiculous to deserve a response, from furious Labour councillors. They would be better advised to direct their efforts at persuading their leader to change his position.

The idea being pushed by Labour campaigners in Copeland, that you can elect a Prime Minister who is personally against nuclear power, without it having a negative impact on the nuclear industry, is straight out of cloud-cuckoo-land.

Alex Massie wrote today that Labour is ludicrous but but it's no laughing matter," and Labour's preposterous contortions in Copeland, desperately proclaiming the party to be pro-nuclear when they have an anti-nuclear leader, are a classic example of what he was writing about.

Quote of the day 6th January 2017

"Probably the harshest press regime anywhere in the free world"

That is how Lord Black, Editorial director of the Telegraph, described the press regime Britain will have, if section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 comes into effect.

This would mean that newspapers not signed up to the government-approved regulator will be liable to pay the legal costs of anyone who sues them in libel or privacy cases even if the newspaper is found to have told the truth and was acting in the public interest.

If you don't think this would be a fair or right, take part online in the consultation the government is carrying out until 5pm on Tuesday 10th January 2017 into whether this law should come into force and whether there should be a "second stage" Leveson Inquiry. You can take part online at

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

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Twelfth Night

11.30pm on Twelfth Night and just finished packing the Christmas decorations away for another year.

It was a good Christmas, anyway!

Five days left to protect the freedom of the press

Democracy rests on three pillars:
  • the sovereignty of the people expressed through the ballot box,
  • the rule of law including independent courts,
  • and freedom of speech including a free press.
To have a genuinely free society you need all three of those things.

If you believe in democracy, you should be saying

Article 50, yes please; Section 40, No thanks!

A committed supporter of democracy should say Yes to article 50 because, regardless of the position one took before June 23rd, the decision on whether Britain should stay in the EU was put to the people and the result of a majority vote should be respected.

But if you want to keep a properly functioning democracy, it is quite simply intolerable that newspapers who have decided not to sign up to a state-approved regulator should be put in the position that if they are sued by somebody who does not like an article they write, they can be liable for that person's legal costs even if they prove in court that it was true and in the public interest.

I have linked to several excellent articles in the last few days explaining why Section 40 should not be introduced and there is another powerful article making that case by Fraser Nelson here.

Most of the press have signed up to a regulatory body called IPSOS which is not recognised by the government: hardly any have signed up to IMPRESS, the approved regulator, and for the reasons Alex Wickham laid out here I don't blame them.

It is bad enough that Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 managed to get onto the statute book during the period of extreme concern about the press following the Leveson inquiry and the phone hacking scandal.

It is terrifying that there appears to be a danger that it might actually be implemented. A government consultation on whether to do so closes in five days time, at 5pm on Tuesday 10th January 2017.

It is not necessary to have section 40 to deal with phone hacking, which is already illegal, and those journalists and editors who could be proved in a court of law to have been involved in it went to prison.

The best argument made by the supporters of section 40 in the parliament is that they want ordinary people, particularly those who cannot afford expensive legal representation, to have an affordable right of redress if the press write something which isn't true about them. It would, for instance, solve that problem if IPSOS, the regulatory body which most of the press is signed up to, were to introduce a system of low-cost arbitration. The one point on which I am in agreement with many of those MPs and peers who support section 40 is that it would be a very good thing if IPSOS did this.

The reason that I cannot, however, regard section 40 as an acceptable means of securing press reform is that it will punish the innocent along with the guilty and penalise accurate press reports as well as false ones.

The present government has - rightly - serious concerns about what section 40 might do to genuine investigative journalism and the local press in particular. Former minister John Whittingdale said in October 2015 he was not persuaded that the time was right to bring section 40 into effect."

The present secretary of state Karen Bradley has expressed similar concerns.

Unfortunately the House of Lords - in which the government has no majority - is supporting this measure, and as Roy Greenslade explained here a majority of peers attempted in October 2016 to bring section 40 into effect by the back door, through an amendment which has been called the "Leveson amendment" to a completely separate piece of legislation, the Investigatory Powers Bill.

To deal with the issues raised by this amendment, the government agreed to hold a consultation on  whether to activate article 40 and on whether to hold "Leveson 2" e.g. a second stage inquiry into the functioning of the press.

You can take part in this 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 in which we have a free press that can challenge powerful interests without the risk of being bankrupted by vexatious legal actions, I strongly recommend that you do so, and ask the government not to implement Section 40.