Friday, September 28, 2007

WHERE TO WATCH THE TOWERS COME DOWN TOMORROW

Sellafield will not look the same after tomorrow morning, when the Calder Hall cooling towers are demolished at about 9.00 am.

The A595 (the only main road through the area) will be closed for about 15 minutes while the towers come down. There may be some additional traffic disruption before and after the demolition.

If you are not one of the select few with an official invite, the best place to watch the towers come down is Seascale School. Alive to an opportunity to raise a bit of money for school funds, some canny individual has arranged for people to be able to watch from the school, and I have been told that they are serving breakfast from 7 am.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

David Cameron promises EU Referendum

The following is the text of an article in The Sun by David Cameron promising a referendum on the EU "reform treaty" (e.g. the constitution in all but name) if there is a snap election and the Conservatives win.

Dear Sun readers,

On Monday The Sun’s image of Gordon Brown sticking two fingers up to the British public was provocative. But it was right.

What a difference to Churchill. When he made that salute, it inspired this country to wipe the scourge of fascism from Europe.

But for Gordon Brown, it’s a gesture to the British people saying: “I know best. Your views are irrelevant. Get used to it.”

Make no mistake, that’s the reason he refuses to give the British people a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty — he simply doesn’t trust them. It’s the arrogant belief that he — and only he — has the right to decide what’s best for Britain’s future.

Well, Prime Minister, I’ve news for you. The old politics that you grew up in no longer reflect the new world we live in. It’s a world where people are demanding — and getting — more power and more control over their lives.


Take America. Over there, twice as many people get health information online than from their doctor. And in some towns, you can look at online crime maps before deciding where to buy a property.

And in the UK, the internet has transformed lives. At the click of a button we buy insurance, holidays and access information on just about anything. Gordon Brown just doesn’t get this. With him, freedom and control is fine — but only if he has the freedom to control your life.
Take Citizens Juries. He says he wants to listen to people. But they are just glorified focus-groups, hand-picked and cloaked in secrecy.

Believe me, if they really reflected the will of Britons the message would be loud and clear — we want a referendum.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Giving people freedom and control over their lives is one of the things that makes me a Conservative.

And it is why from the moment the EU Constitution was dreamt up by elites in Brussels, the Conservative Party’s squadron was first in the air, demanding a referendum in this battle for our country’s future.

Since then, we have been keeping up the fight, looking out for the interests of Britain.

There is a second reason why I want a referendum on the treaty. One of the great challenges we face is rolling back the tide of bureaucracy that is drowning our country in regulations and forms. And you can’t do that without targeting one of the main sources of this bureaucracy — Brussels.

Because it is Europe that ties our businesses up in red tape. And it is Europe that ties the hands of our courts. We won’t be able to deal with any of this unless we have a referendum.

The final reason we must have a vote is trust. Gordon Brown talks about “new” politics.
But there’s nothing “new” about breaking your promises to the British public. It’s classic Labour. And it is the cancer that is eating away at trust in politics. Small wonder that so many people don’t believe a word politicians ever say if they break their promises so casually.

If you really want to signal you’re a break from the past, Prime Minister, do the right thing — give the people the referendum you promised.

Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.

No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.

Yours sincerely

David Cameron

Start date for the "Closer to Home" NHS consultation

We were advised yesterday at a meeting of Copeland Borough Council that the formal start of the "Closer to Home" consultation into Hospital and Health services in Cumbria is 27th September, e.g. tomorrow.

This consultation is about proposals which could radically affect healthcare in our area. I very strongly urge anyone who cares about local NHS services to take part in the consultation.

Because the preferred option retains consultant-led Accident and Emergency, and Maternity, units at the successor hospital to the West Cumberland, and does not propose the closure of any community hospitals, it has been generally welcomed. But as the Whitehaven News put it, it is a bit premature to start popping the champagne corks. These proposals need to be examined very carefully.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Do we need our own "First Amendment?"

The first amendment to the US constitution guarantees freedom of speech.

It does occasionally cause problems - for example, it's the reason they have no limits on election spending such as we have. In my opinion the absence of those limits, with the result that fighting elections is far more expensive than it is here, has distorted US democracy so that only the rich and those who have the name recognition required to raise vast sums to campaign, can afford to campaign effectively for high office with any hope of winning. Hence the majority of US politicians are either rich, associated with powerful interest groups, or the children or partners of politicians or celebrities.

Nevertheless, free speech is one of the necessary conditions of a functioning democracy. Up until now I thought this principle was sufficiently embedded in British law, custom and practice that we did not need any constitutional guaranteed right to free speech. I am starting to change my mind, and what has just happened to a number of leading bloggers is one of the reasons.

I disagree with much of what Tim Ireland writes. Nevertheless, his arguments usually add something to debate even when I don't share his views, and he is also often very funny and entertaining.

I have no doubt that because of Tim's "Bloggerheads" site many people who otherwise would have been too disillusioned with politics to take any interest have followed some of the things going on in our country. It has to be a good thing for democracy that a wider range of people get engaged, even if only to the extent of reading and sharing views in the internet, with the issues of the day.

So I was appalled to read that not just Tim Ireland's blog, but those of Craig Murray, Boris Johnson MP, Clive Summerfield, and Bob Piper have been shut down because Tim and the former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, wrote some critical comments about a wealthy Uzbehk businessman to which he took exception.

According to an email from Craig Murray which has been quoted on Iain Dale's Diary, nothing has been tested in court, but lawyers (Schillings) acting for the businessman concerned sent letters to the web server who hosted his blog accusing his comments of being defamatory, and making similar objections to posts on Tim Ireland's blog.

The server hosts, services management company Fasthosts shut down the server at the first sign of trouble. This did not just affect Tim Ireland and Craig Murray, who had made the comments to which exception was taken. It also took down the blogs of Boris Johnson MP, Bob Piper, Clive Summerfield, and others who were in no way parties to the dispute.

British democracy has been robust enough to allow Tim Ireland's blog to say some exceptionally rude things about the present and former Prime Ministers, other bloggers, and a great many other people, and we accept it as part of free speech. To discover that a weathly foreign businessman who wants to buy a football club can get that voice shut down so easily is a nasty shock.

It's bad enough that Tim and Craig have had their blogs shut down without the chance to defend their comments in court. It is even worse that a number of other prominent bloggers, including an MP and leading candidate for Mayor of London, have had their blogs taken down by "collateral damage."

Indeed it is an interesting question whether sabotaging Boris in this way, just before the final decision on who should be the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, is or should be against electoral law.

As it happens, because he is an MP, Boris Johnson has the power to take an extremely effective form of retribution, against which Schillings and their client have no defence whatsoever, and I hope he is seriously considering making use of it.

Comments made by an MP in the course of his duties are protected by parliamentary privilege. They are not just immune from libel or slander actions: the press have the right to report anything said in parliament, and any attempt to take action against someone reporting comments made in the House of Commons would put Schillings and their client themselves on the wrong side of the law - they would be committing the offence of contempt of parliament.

Boris might therefore like to consider obtaining a list from Craig Murray of all his concerns about the gentleman responsible for this situation, and then raise them all, or any that Boris considers relevant to the question of whether he is a fit and proper person to own Arsenal FC, in the House of Commons under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

(A PQ along the lines of "Does the minister consider that any of the following concerns raised by our former ambassador to Uzbekhistan have any relevance to the ownership of Arsenal Football Club?" should do it.")

Go on Boris - and after every newspaper and blogger is then free to repeat those allegations with no possible comeback, the next wealthy businesmen who is tempted to use his money to try to suppress free speech might think twice.

But it is only happenstance that one of the victims this time is an MP.

David Cameron has suggested replacing the Human rights act with a British Bill of Rights. I think it needs to include our version of the First Amendment - a guarantee of Free Speech within the law.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Harbour Ward Election Result

The result of the Harbour ward by-election was

Jeanette Williams (Labour), 463
Brigid Whiteside (Conservative), 337
Bill Pugh (BNP) 245

Labour Hold: majority 126.

As I previously indicated, Harbour is a normally safe Labour ward. This represents a closer result than usual as between Conservatives and Labour for this ward.

The Conservative campaign team worked extremely hard in the ward and I would like to thank all those who took part in our campaign for the by election. We did entertain hopes of an even better result but this was a respectable performance for Harbour ward.

As I predicted, the BNP were in third place.

Harbour Ward polling day

Today is polling day in the Harbour Ward by election.

There are three candidates:

Brigid Whiteside (Conservative) who is the only candidate who lives in the ward. Brigid previously contested Harbour in May when control of the council was at stake, and came fourth, missing election by 144 votes.


Jeanette Williams (Labour) who lives in Distington. Mrs Williams previously contested Bransty ward in May.


Bill Pugh (British National Party) who lives in Mirehouse and to the best of my knowledge has not previously stood for election.


Polling stations are open from 7 am to 10 pm. Anyone woh has received a postal vote and has not yet posted it off can hand in their postal vote at a polling station. The four polling stations are:

St James's Parish Hall, High Street
Whitehaven Masonic Hall, Duke Street
St Begh's School, Coach Road
St Gregory's & St Patrick's School, Esk Avenue.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

David Cameron on the case for an EU Treaty Referendum

Together we can make Gordon Brown listen

At the last General Election, Gordon Brown promised us a referendum on the EU Constitution but now he is breaking that promise.

He claims we don't need one because the new document is called a "Treaty" rather than a "Constitution". But it doesn't really matter what people call it. The fact is that the new Treaty is basically the same as the Constitution and it means giving away more powers to the EU.

It would create a new EU president and lead to the loss of at least 60 of our national vetoes. It gives the EU the power to make treaties and introduces a new ratchet clause that would make it easier for the EU to taken on even more powers in the future.

Just before becoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "the manifesto is what we put to the public. We've got to honour that manifesto. That is an issue of trust for me with the electorate." That manifesto included the promise of a referendum and it is up to all of us to make sure that he honours that pledge.

The campaign for a referendum is supported by people from all parties - in fact more than eight out of ten of Labour's own voters want a referendum.

If you would like to play your part in making sure that Gordon Brown keeps his promise, then I hope you will offer your support to the cross-party "I want a referendum" campaign by signing their online petition at www.iwantareferendum.com

Better ask your friends and colleagues to sign up.

Together we can make Gordon Brown listen.

David Cameron MP

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Harbour ward by-election - lifts to the polls

If you are a Harbour ward resident and need a lift to the polling station, please contact us on 07961 436493.

The same polling stations will be in use as at the May elections:

St Gregory's & St Patrick's School, Esk Avenue
St Begh's school, Coach Road
Whitehaven Masonic Hall, Duke street
St James's Parish Hall, Whitehaven High Street.

Polls are open from 7am to 10pm this Thursday.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday spot: "I can resist anything except Temptation"

"I can resist anything except temptation" (Oscar Wilde)

A group of clergy were discussing which biblical quotations were the greatest help to them in avoiding sin. A fiery young deacon, just out of his theological college, quoted Romans 6, Verse 23:

"For sin pays a wage, and that wage is Death, but God gives freely, and his gift is eternal life, in union with Jesus Christ our Lord."

A recently ordained lady curate, while accepting that the passage from Romans reminds us of something very important, preferred passages which concentrated more on the infinite love and compassion of God, and cited John, Chapter 14, verse 15:

"If you love me, you will obey my commands, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter, who will be with you for ever - the spirit of truth."

An elderly canon, who had been listening in silence, congratulated the previous speakers on being able to quote such beautiful and high-minded passages as a way to avoid sin.

"But for me," he said, "The words which are of most use in resisting temptation come from Chapter 12 Verse 1 of the letter of Paul to the Hebrews:

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ...."

Harbour Ward by election

Indications are that the Harbour ward by-election for Copeland Borough Council this coming Thursday (20th September) may be extremely close and every vote could count.

This is normally a fairly safe Labour ward, but our canvass returns suggest that there may only a few votes between the Conservative and Labour candidates. The BNP appear to be well behind in third place. However, these findings have to be taken with considerable caution.

If you are a Harbour ward elector, your vote could make all the difference.

Polls are open from 7 am to 10pm on Thursday, at the normal polling stations: St Gregory's & St Patrick's School, St Begh's school, St James's parish hall, and Whitehaven Masonic Hall.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Why did the chicken cross the road ?

A selection of imagined answers:

Primary School Teacher: "To get to the other side"

Plato: "For the greater good"

Aristotle: "It is in the nature of chickens to cross roads"

Einstein: "Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends on your frame of reference"

Gordon Brown: "Under New Labour, 78% more chickens will cross 95% more roads than ever before."

Karl Marx: "It was a historical inevitability."

Bill Clinton: "Whether the chicken crossed the road depends what your definition of the word 'crossed' is."

Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland: "It is blatant hypocrisy for the tories to suggest that the chicken crossed the road, and I demand a debate with David Cameron about it."

Martin Luther King Jnr: "I have a dream, of a world where chickens will be able to cross roads without having their motives called into question."

Colonel Sanders: "I missed one?"

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Read the Whitehaven News today

The front page of today's Whitehaven News is largely given over to details of the consultation "Closer to home" about the future of the NHS in Cumbria.

The headline concentrates on the good news - that the preferred option recommends retention of consultant-lead Accident & Emergency, Maternity, and Paediatric services at the West Cumberland Hospital and ultimately at the new hospital proposed to replace it.

But as the paper's leading article points out, it is way too early to start celebrating or popping the champagne corks.

The consultation also appears to propose a significantly smaller hospital, with substantially fewer beds and fewer services. The move of complex surgery to Carlisle, which has already taken place without consultation, would be confirmed. It is not yet clear what level of Intensive Care will be provided or how many beds in the ITU (Intensive Care Unit). Elderly care after 72 hours seems likely to be removed - some of this will be taken up be boosting the role of Community Hospitals like Millom and Keswick, but as it also appears to be proposed to reduce the number of beds at Community Hospitals by at least a quarter overall, I am concerned about whether all the pictures of the jigsaw fit together.

Overall there seems to be some good news but still some major causes for concern.

I would strongly recommend that anyone in Cumbria who cares about our local NHS should get hold of a copy of the "Closer to Home" consultation document when it comes out in about two weeks, read it very carefully, and respond.

The ship that shot itself ...

I was indebted to The Times letters page today for the amusing story of HMAS Duchess, which during an exercise managed to shoot her A gun with her B gun. We can laugh at the incident because mercifully nobody was hurt - the ship sent off the memorable signal "Have shot myself."

Followers of naval trivia may be aware of the similar story involving HMS Trinidad. While escorting arctic convoy PQ13 in March 1942, this Fiji class light cruiser fired a torpedo which followed a circular course - probably the gyro had jammed in extremly cold conditions - and came back to hit the Trinidad herself. Sadly this story is not so amusing as 18 brave men were killed. Trinidad managed to get to Murmansk for initial repairs, but on the return voyage she was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers, one of which scored a hit near the previous torpedo damage and she had to be abandoned.

Postal vote deadline for Harbour ward by-election

Copeland Council's election office has confirmed that they will honour the postal vote application deadline given in the notice of poll, which is 5pm today (thursday).

If you are a Harbour ward voter and will be away or unable for any other reason to vote in person on 20th September, please apply to the elections office as soon as possible. Their telephone number is 598531.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another hospital U-Turn from Jedi Jamie

An astonishing item in the North West Evening Mail reveals that Jamie Reed MP has reversed his position about local hospitals in West Cumbria yet again.

When he first stood for election as the Labour candidate in Copeland, he claimed to believe that there was no threat to local hospitals. In April 2005, during the last General Election campaign, he was quoted on the front page of the "Whitehaven News" stating that

"There is no threat whatsoever to West Cumberland Hospital."

In November 2006 when asked on TV's "The Politics Show" if he could guarantee the future of West Cumberland Hospital, Jamie Reed said that he did not think anyone could give such a guarantee.

And then in the House of Commons on 24th July this year he said the following:

"Ever since I can remember, the people of West Cumbria have had to fend off one threat or another to the services provided by their hospital. For more than 20 years now, The Whitehaven News has reported on what has appeared to be a perpetual threat to our hospital services."

So having completely reversed his position from saying two years ago that there is no threat to our hospital services to saying six weeks ago that there has been a threat to them for 20 years, what did he say last week?

He accused David Cameron of making a "sick joke" by suggesting that there is a possibility of service closures at West Cumberland Hospital when he himself had stated in the House of Commons just five weeks previously that there is precisely such a threat.

Does the man imagine that everyone in his constituency who cares about local health services is the kind of gullible twit who doesn't notice all these U-turns?

It's time Jamie Reed made up his mind whether to be the kind of strong local voice who stands up for services in Copeland or a party hack who attacks anything his opponents say even if it is pretty much the same as what he was saying a few weeks before. It is doubly ironic that he uses the words "No one can believe a word he says about the NHS."

If Jedi Jamie said that the grass outside West Cumberland Hospital was green I would advise people to check Marie Burnham hasn't gone out with a spray can and painted it red.

POSTAL VOTE DEADLINE

There seems to be some confusion about the deadline for postal votes for the Harbour Ward by-election.

The documents issued to political parties with the nomination papers for the by-election included a timetable. This referred to the close of applications for postal votes, including amendments to details of existing ones, as being 5pm on Thursday. We duly repeated this information in Conservative literature.

In last week's Whitehaven News the elections manager at Copeland Borough Council is quoted as saying that "If anyone in Harbour ward has difficulty in getting to the poll we can provide a postal vote as long as they contact my office before Thursday September 6 by telephoning 01946 597531."

However, I was told today that there is a deadline of 11 am tomorrow (Wednesday) for applications and that the reference to 5pm on Thursday refers to the date by which the new list of postal votes will be compiled.

I don't think this can be right, and am in the process of checking. However, if anyone reading this is a resident of Harbour ward who wants to apply for a postal vote for the by-election on 20th September, it would probably be a good idea to phone Whitehaven 597531 before 11 am on 5th September so that there is no doubt about whether you applied in time.

POSTSCRIPT - The elections office has now confirmed that they will honour the postal vote application deadline in the original notice of poll, which is 5pm on Thursday 6th September. However, anyone who needs a postal vote and does not yet have one would be well advised to apply as soon as possible

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Harbour Ward by-election

There will be a by-election for the Harbour ward of Copeland Borough Council on Thursday 20th September. Polling stations are open from 7 am to 10 pm.

The candidates are:

Brigid Whiteside (Conservative)
Jeanette Williams (Labour)
Bill Pugh (British National Party)

We were initially told in the notice of poll that anyone who will be away or is otherwise unable to vote in person can apply to the elections office at Copeland Borough Council up to Thursday September 6th - e.g. this Thursday - by telephoning 01946 598531. I was at one point told that the deadline to contact the office to ask for a postal vote was actually 11 am on Wednesday 5th September, e.g. Wednesday. It has since been confirmed that the original deadline in the notice of poll will be honoured. If you want a postal vote I suggest you ring the elections office as soon as possible.


The Conservative candidate, Brigid Whiteside, is both the only candidate who lives in the ward, and the only candidate who has previously shown an interest in representing Harbour ward. Brigid has worked in International Trade Finance but is currently taking a career break while her children are small.

As a local mother, Brigid strongly supports the “Don’t Move Our Mums” campaign and wants to defend local hospital services. Her other concerns in Harbour include traffic and parking, refuse collection, and keeping the town a nice place to live.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Something they've not banned yet ... or have they?

I've just returned from a short family holiday in Norfolk. (We usually take our holidays in Cumbria, but from time to time it is a good thing to have a change.)

While there I saw a lady steering a cabin cruiser (top speed about 6 mph) with one hand while talking into a hand-held mobile phone held in the other.

My first reaction was to laugh, and think flippantly "My word, is there something you are still legally allowed to drive while talking into a hand-held mobile? It should be banned at once!"

My second reaction was that using a hand-held mobile phone while responsible for steering a vessel with a mass of several tonnes on a crowded public waterway isn't a terribly good idea, and if you cause an accident while doing so the police probably could find an existing law to prosecute you.

Just as the authorities could and did prosecute people for driving without due care and attention if they were seen driving while speaking into a hand held mobile phone before the practice was explictly made illegal.

So my mental joke gives rise to an important question. Is it better to have highly specific laws, and try to cover every imaginable circumstance that you might want to ban? Or is it better to try to frame laws which cover basic principles like "It is illegal to operate any vehicle or machine in a negligent way which generates a material risk of accidents likely to cause injury to people or damage to property" - and then risk the situation that there is too much room for different interpretations of the law leading to inconsistent enforcement and potential injustice.

I don't think that relying solely on either approach is likely to be satisfactory.