Sunday, September 24, 2017

A595 Liason Group

The A595 Liason group which brings together Cumbria County Councillors and officers and Highways England meets tomorrow morning.

I am looking forward to using this meeting to hear proposals to improve the A595 and to press for them to take place as soon and effectively as possible.

Of Brexit hardliners on both sides, and "Stab in the back" myths ...

The transition from Britain as a member of the European Union to being a country outside that union was always going to be a process, not a simple one-stop change and unwinding 40 years of shared legislation was never going to be simple or quick.

Whether they voted Remain or Leave, people who live in the real world always knew that this process would require messy compromises.

One of the more tiresome aspects of the debate about Brexit in the UK, is that anyone who actually tries to engage with those difficult challenges and compromises necessary to protect Britain's economy and ensure that our relations with the rest of the EU will continue to work properly after we leave the EU is likely to get a barage of mutually inconsistent criticism from the most hardline portion of each side.

First, from the most hardline faction among the Remainers, who don't want Britain to leave at all and for whom no possible set of arrangements under which we cease to be EU members could possibly be satisfactory.

And, at the same time, from the most hardline faction among "Leave" supporters for whom any attempt to maintain a working relationship with our neighbours in Europe is instantly identified as something that both they and a majority of those who took part in the referendum were voting against, any compromise is treachery to the 52% and any deal is a sellout.

This absolutely does not apply to all Remainers or all Leavers and indeed, despite the bile which has been poured on the PM's Florence speech by the ultras on both extremes it does seem to have set out a position which both most Remainers and most Brexit supporters in her own government can go along with.


I am particularly struck, however, by the absolutist positions being taken by some - not all - hardline Brexit supporters whose behaviour I can only describe as doing everything possible to facilitate a future narrative of sell-out and betrayal.

A ludicrous article on the Breitbart website by former UKIP leadership hopeful Raheem Kassam,

 
"How May plans to blame Trump for the failure of Brexit and why the Tory party needs to remove her now"

is an example of the depths of paranoid fantasy to which some of them are descending and the kind of daft accusations being peddled.

To find an equivalent similar example of someone working so hard to prepare the ground for an  accusation of betrayal from before the alleged sell-out even took place you, you have to go back almost a hundred years to the  behaviour of General Ludendorff in the closing stages of the First World War when he was Chief of Staff of the German army

Ludendorff, realising that Germany had lost the war, advised the German government to make peace while German armies still stood everywhere on foreign soil and before their own country had been invaded.


Yet within a year Ludendorff was denying that his army had been beaten and accusing politicians who had actually been followed his own advice to seek an immediate armistice of stabbing Germany's "undefeated" armies in the back.

He is usually attributed with being the principal author of the myth of the "Stab in the back," a legend which bore little relation to the facts but which many Germans found easier to bear than the truth, and which in due time was to be exploited to great effect with horrific results by a group of people even nastier than Ludendorff was.

(Ironically the term was first used in conversation with Ludendorff by a British general who asked him, "Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back" but Ludendorff immediately seized on the expression, repeated it and popularised it.)

Britain's international trade with other EU countries amounts to about 44% of total British trade, give or take what the Office for National Statistics may be up to two percentage points for the so-called Rotterdam Effect. Hence both our trade with the EU and the 56% of our trade which we do with the rest of the world are vital to Britain's wealth, jobs and incomes.

Leaving the EU on terms which do not sabotage the trade position of either side is therefore vital to the interests of both Britain and the EU, and any British PM or Brexit negotiator would be incredibly foolish not to emphasise to the rest of the EU that we want to leave on terms which are in the interests of both.

Anyone who interprets comments from the British government like Theresa May's statement that

"The success of the EU is profoundly in our own national interest"

as an attempt to sabotage Brexit, as Kassim does, rather than something at any sane negotiator would say, is lost to reason, displaying a determination to promote a narrative of betrayal which is Ludendorff - like in proportion, or both.

BBC study suggests well-informed people voted Conservative in 2017 ...

A study by academics commissioned by the BBC found two interesting correlations between sources and quality of people's political knowledge and how they voted in GE2017.

Interestingly, one of these is a message that Conservatives will not be happy about and the other is a message which people on the left won't like.

Both correlations applied to people WITHIN each age range as well as overall, which means that the an obvious explanation which will occur to most people for the first correlation and to people on the left for the second one - that older people are more likely to vote Conservative and use the internet less while younger people use the internet more and were more likely to vote Labour - is not sufficient to explain these results, or at least, cannot be used to dismiss these findings.

The study was commissioned by the BBC from Professors Harold Clarke, Matt Goodwin, Paul Whiteley and Marianne Stewart who are US and UK election experts. The BBC report of their findings is titled How the internet helped Labour at the General Election.

This title comes from their first finding, that people who said they mainly used the internet to learn about politics were more likely to vote Labour and less likely to vote Conservative.

That, obviously is the warning which Tories won't like, and suggests that we need to improve our internet campaigning.

The second finding which was that those who scored well above average in a quiz to test for political knowledge were more than twice as likely to vote Conservative and less likely to vote Labour, while those whose level of political knowledge was well below average were much more likely to vote Labour.




Cue everyone on the right of the political spectrum saying "no surprise there then" and everyone on the left doing a Richard Wilson ...

 

Back in the 19th century - when being a conservative with a small "c" tended to mean things like supporting "rotten boroughs" or that women should not have the right to vote - John Stuart Mill wrote that not all conservatives were stupid but most stupid people were conservatives.

If I wanted to tease my friends on the left - I do have some - I might quote this BBC study as evidence that in the second decade of the 21st century the boot is on the other foot.

In actual fact I have met many well informed and intelligent people on the right, centre and left of the political spectrum, and also many rather less well informed and intelligent people in all parts of that spectrum, and furthermore there is no single monolithic "Tory" or "Socialist" worldview which all the people who support the Conservatives or Labour believe - both garner support from people with an amazingly diverse coalition of ideas.

What this study does do is provide evidence that those people on the left who think they have a monopoly of wisdom are wrong.

Sunday music spot:: VOCES8 sing "Adoramus Te" by Monteverdi


Sunday Music Spot 24th Sept 2017, Thou Visitest the Earth (Greene)


Quote of the day Sunday 24th September 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Saturday music spot: Dixit Dominus (opening) by Handel


A Corbyn victory is neither impossible nor inevitable

Lords Adonis and Finkelstein had an interesting debate a few days ago via the opinion and letters columns in The Times about whether Jeremy Corbyn could be elected Prime Minister.

To greatly simplify what they were saying, Lord Adonis argued that some leaders are unelectable, that Jeremy Corbyn is one of them, and that if Labour want to win they should replace him.

Danny Finkelstein argued that the most important driver of electoral success are the state of the economy and perceived economic competence, and that if the economy goes pear-shaped there is a good chance that the government will get the blame and Corbyn or whoever is then leading the Labour party will win by default.

I actually thought most of what they both said was right.

Although large numbers of people in the Labour party and the media seem to think otherwise, the 2017 election did not prove Jeremy Corbyn to be a great electoral asset. Admittedly he outperformed the very low expectations people had of him. Yes, he persuaded millions of people to turn out and vote for him.

However, he was also the main cause of even more millions of people turning out and voting Conservative.

If Labour had had a more credible and less extreme leader, and the Conservatives had still called the 2017 election and fought the same sort of campaign, Labour would have won.

That does not necessarily mean Labour will win whenever the next election comes. All parties will have learned lessons from the 2017 campaign,

There is a good piece in the Guardian which argues that Labour can't take winning the next election for granted.

As is so often the case, the safest rule is that no party can take the voters of Britain for granted.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Theresa May sets out Britain's negotiating position on Brexit

In a major speech in Florence the PM has set out Britain's negotiating position as week seek to build a new relationship with the EU as a neighbour rather than a member.

Here are five images which sum up major themes of the speech and a link to the full text here.


 

 

Richard Bannister RIP

Richard Bannister, who was the son of the former Rector of Whitehaven, Reverend John Bannister, died this month of oesophageal cancer at the age of 30. He had been diagnosed with the disease in April.

Richard was well-known throughout the town. He had strong associations with Whitehaven Rugby League Club, whom he continued to support, and where he undertook a placement whilst studying at Hull University for his degree in sport rehabilitation.

His parents, John and Anne Bannister, said:

“Richard was incredibly brave and courageous in the way in which he responded to his illness and its eventual outcome."

“He was completely devoid of self-pity and only concerned for his family and friends. Our loss is enormous and we are devastated by Richard’s untimely death. However, we will use the example of his courage to face the future without him. We are enormously proud of him and of what he achieved."
 
“We would also like to thank all our friends in Whitehaven for the many messages of love and support at this sad time.”
 
Rest in Peace.

2017 "Pot calling the kettle black award"

There have been some strong candidates for this year's "pot calling the kettle black award."

Jeremy Corbyn had been the favourite after he said that Boris Johnson's article about Brexit was a "lapse of discipline" which would "not have happened" on his team.

This from a man who has lost 95 front benchers in sackings and waves of mass resignations, who was sacking people for voting to stay in the single market one week and threatening to sack others for supporting the Eu withdrawal bill the next.

But in the "Pot calling the kettle black" stakes nobody could possible top the accusation from North Korean president Kim Jong in when he  President Kim called President Trump deranged.

Had that one come from almost any other world leader I suspect that not a few people would have agreed with it, but with the possible exception of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, Kim is probably the head of government who comes nearest to making The Donald look like a great statesman by comparison ...

Of double standards and Judicial murder of those who are different ..

There are two questions which should be asked of any newspaper or politician who has criticised the National Trust's William Bankes exhibition at Kingston Lacy.

1) What do you think about

     * DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State" caliphate) throwing people off five-storey buildings for
        being gay in the fortunately rapidly diminishing area it controls,
     * Other countries like Iran which still apply the death penalty for homosexuality, (there are about
        ten of them,) and
     * Islamist groups like the Taleban who urge that gays should be hanged from the nearest
        lamp-post?

2) If, like the vast majority of people, you think this is a revolting policy amounting to judicial murder when it is applied advocated elsewhere (especially by people you disapprove of) then

     * should we not remember that this country also once had that policy and celebrate the fact that
        Britain has moved on from it?

During the 16th century I understand that the death penalty for homosexuality was passed into law, repealed and reinstated several times before finally being on the statue book from 1563 to 1861. According to the National Trust's historians, during the lifetime of William Bankes who owned Kingston Lacy but was forced to flee into exile for being gay, some fifty-one men were hanged in Britain under that statute.

I believe that people are entitled to privacy around their private lives and that what freely consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is nobody else's business and certainly not that of the state. I think most people in Britain today would agree with this, but it is important to remember that freedom from interference in people's private lives, like most other freedoms worth having, did not always exist and had to be fought for.

I do not wish to defend every aspect of the way the National Trust seems to have handled their actions to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act - for example, under precisely the right to privacy which I referred to above, people should not have to answer questions about their sexual orientation if they find these intrusive or insensitive and the NT appears to have upset some of their own volunteers by not getting this right.

But where the history of a building or artistic collection which the NT is preserving for the nation is very much affected by Britain's past discriminatory laws - which is very much the case at Kingston Lacy - that history should be recorded whether the discrimination was on the grounds of race, religion, or sexuality. It is by remembering the errors of the past that we can best ensure we do not repeat them.

Quote of the day 23rd September 2017

"As I have grown older, I have learned that pleasing everyone is impossible, but annoying everyone is a piece of cake."

(Bill Murray. Except that he used a slightly ruder expression than "annoying everyone.")

Quote of the day 22nd September 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse visits Copeland

Jake Berry MP, minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, came to Whitehaven this week to meet Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and view ongoing work to redevelop the Harbour and Quay.

The £320,000 scheme, of which £272,000 comes from the government's Coastal Communities Fund, involves the demolition of the former Sea Cadets building, and the installation of contemporary seating.






(Jake Berry MP (second from right) at Whitehaven Harbour with Trudy Harrison MP (Second from left) and some of the local leaders they met this week.)

Mr Berry met Trudy and harbour commissioners to view the scheme and they discussed a potential second phase of the development, with plans including a Coastal Activity Centre. The minister also met Britain's Energy Coast chief executive Michael Pemberton to discuss town centre developments in Whitehaven before attending a meeting with members of the nuclear supply chain.

Jake Berry said: "The government since 2015 has committed £1.7 million to coastal community funding.

"I wanted to come here to see the fantastic development at Old New Quay, opening for the first time in over 70 years to the public, and have a chat with the local MP about reopening our coastal facilities and what further exciting things we can do for the town."

"This is a real example of how a relatively small government investment has gone a long way," he said. "New bids for the coastal fund open in January and I'm here with Trudy to see if we can get a really exciting bid coming forward from Whitehaven."

Trudy Harrison added:

"The port of Whitehaven has such a historical importance and it is right and proper it is getting this investment.

"This is essential infrastructure which will then enable further facilities, particularly around the tourism industry, to support our economy."

She said the meeting with Britain's Energy Coast, which hopes to transform Whitehaven's former bus depot site and the derelict bus station opposite into offices, a hotel and leisure and residential spaces, was to "learn about new projects happening in the area".

The supply chain meeting allowed Mr Berry to meet with nuclear industry representatives.

He said: "We are talking about how Cumbria, Whitehaven and Copeland, the true north, people at the heart of the northern powerhouse is absolutely vital.

"We are talking about the government's commitment to continue with the nuclear industry in this area. It is absolutely vital for Cumbria, which is putting the power into the northern powerhouse to know it has government support.

"It isn't just about tourism, it's ensuring this town remains at the heart of Cumbria's nuclear industry, which has an extremely bright future and is of vital importance to the northern powerhouse."

(See also report in the News and Star.)

The joys of Cumbrian weather ...

The lady behind me in the checkout queue at Iceland this evening suggested that today's weather in Whitehaven had been like "All four seasons in one day."

She added that the variability of our weather was one of the "Joys of Cumbria."

For the avoidance of doubt, I don't think she meant it as an ironic comment and I am not repeating it as one.

Certainly one of the things about the fantastic scenery of Cumbria is that it has a different beauty in each of the very different weather conditions we can experience.

British, Irish, or both

Fintan O'Toole has a piece in the New York review of Books on "Brexit's Irish Question" which can be read here.

I spent much of the EU referendum period as a floating voter, and when after weeks of careful consideration I came off the fence and decided to vote Remain, one of the three main reasons for that decision was the difficulty of finding a solution to the issue of Britain's border with Ireland after leaving the EU which does not undermine the agreement which brought peace to Ireland, sabotage the economy of both parts of the island, or create a massive loophole which may fatally undermine any attempt to "take back control" of Britain's borders.

O'Toole's article is extremely good about how dramatically Ireland has moved forward in the last thirty years, about how enabling communities in Northern Ireland to think of themselves as "Irish, British or both" was central to the peace process and about the enormous difficulty of policing any recreated "hard border" between the two parts of the island of Ireland.

As he rightly says, that border

"meanders for 310 miles and is not a natural boundary. It was never planned as a logical dividing line, still less the edge of a vast 27-state union"

but comprises the squiggly edges of a group of six Irish counties which had a protestant majority in 1921.  And most important of all "It cannot be securely policed."

He is absolutely right about this.

Any attempt to put up a hard border in Ireland would fail unless you were daft enough to try to create something like the Berlin wall, but even a more proportionate attempt would have dire consequences for the economies and people on both sides of the border.

I would ask anyone who reads his article to pay attention to these parts of his article which richly deserve consideration and not to be too upset by his comments about England outside London - I do mean England, not Britain - and about "Leave" supporters in particular which are rather less well-founded.

Nor is he entirely fair to the present British government, which fully understands how difficult this question will be to resolve and is working with the Irish government and the EU to try to find a solution.

But most of the points he makes about Ireland are well made and deserve a hearing.

But it is utterly vital that Britain manages to agree a mutually acceptable deal with Ireland and the rest of the EU which protects the interests of those on both sides of the Irish border, and all parties will have to be prepared to compromise.

The people negotiating our exit from the EU have come under fire from "stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off" headbangers" on both sides of the argument - extremist "Remain" supporters who think there is a chance that Britain might actually not leave and denounce anyone who is trying to make our exit work, and equally extreme Brexit supporters who are itching for the chance to denounce any compromise as a betrayal of the 52% of the electorate who voted Leave.

Ireland is only one of the difficult areas where the zealots on both sides of the debate are making it all the harder to get a sensible deal which works in the interests of all the people of Britain.

Quote of the day 21st September 2017

I've just seen a post on Twitter to the effect that on this day in 1780 Benedict Arnold committed treason.

From the British perspective of course, 21st September 1780 was the day he stopped committing treasons. Although I am reminded of this excellent quote from John Harington ...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Midweek music spot: Thomas Arne, "Rise, Glory, Rise"


Maternity at West Cumberland Hospital referred to Independent Panel

Following the "call in" at the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has referred the "success regime" proposals for maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) asking them to conduct an initial review and report back to him by 4th October on whether a full review is needed.

The progress of the call-in had been discussed when "lead members" of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee (including myself) met the Clinical Commissioning Group last week.

At that stage the formal reference to the IRP had not been officially announced but the CCG did give us an assurance which we were allowed to repeat in the public domain that they have not started the clock on the 12 month assessment period referred to in the decision, that they will not do so until the call-in process has officially concluded, and that if that 12 month assessment happens after the review it will not be started without a public announcement to that effect.

This week Jeremy Hunt has written to Cllr Claire Driver, chair of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee, with an update on the progress of the call-in..

He said in the letter: "I am today writing to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) asking them to undertake an initial assessment of your referral.
 
"Should the IRP advise me that a full review is necessary, you will have your chance to present your case to them in full.

"I have asked the panel to report to me no later than Wednesday, October 4."

While the community and the NHS await news of the decision, so-called "co-production" meetings - set up as a platform for the community and health chiefs to collaborate on  how to improve and protect services, have been taking place.

Stephen Eames, chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both WCH and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, had been expecting news on the referral.

However he stressed that the trust have already made good progress on recruitment at WCH, particularly in paediatrics. This is a key area for consultant-led maternity services, as a paediatrician is needed on site in order to retain the Special Care Baby Unit - vital in dealing with babies born prematurely or with complications.

"We are almost up to full complement in paediatrics," said Mr Eames.

See News and Star article at

http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/Jeremy-Hunt-orders-maternity-review-4829e4b1-c0b3-448c-a585-b9e3bb6c34f9-ds

Quote of the day 20th September 2017

I don't often agree with Donald J Trump, but this comment he has made about the role of Socialist policies in creating the current human and economic disaster in Venezuela is the exception that proves the rule:





"The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been badly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Time to move on from silly claims made by both sides during the referendum

As I pointed out repeatedly at the time, with some honourable exceptions both sides talked an amazing amount of rubbish during the EU referendum.

The truth about most issues was available to find if you took the trouble, and there were some people both for and against leaving the EU who did make an effort to get their facts right, there were far too many on both sides who were far too ready to put out statements which were at best misleading or exaggerated and at worst complete rubbish.

This post about the nonsense from both sides includes an index of links to the "Worst of both worlds" series of posts I published here during the referendum campaign each of which called out one of the most egregious misleading or just plain wrong statements from each side.

Sadly the silly comments still continue. Today my twitter timeline has been full of tweets from "Leave" supporters quoting a study of UN manufacturing data which showed that the British economy has overtaken France to become the eighth largest manufacturing nation in the world, see article here.

Since we have not actually left the EU yet, this would not have provided conclusive evidence of the success of Brexit even if it had been based on post-referendum data. But in fact anyone who bothered to read more than three paragraphs into the press report they were all linking to should have noticed that the study was based on 2015 data - e.g. the year before the referendum.

Give me strength!

Some of the gloom-mongering by Remain supporters has been equally silly.

It really is time for both sides to move on, quietly drop the things they said during the campaign which anyone with a three-figure IQ knows was daft, and start making the real arguments.

Boris Johnson was ill-advised to repeat the £350 million figure and although the wording of his article was far more nuanced and closer to the truth than the words on the side of the Vote Leave red bus, it still wasn't quite right. His article said

Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million per week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS…”

People like Guido Fawkes who have been claiming that "Boris's article wasn't wrong" overlook that the amount actually paid to the EU is net of the Maggie Thatcher rebate. The figures for the UK contribution as at 2014 were as follows:



The "Gross contribution" line at the top of the above table is purely notional. The actual gross contribution Britain was really paying, before you take account of money coming back, was the second line because the rebate comes off first.

Hence £276 million a week is the figure which would accurately have slotted into the form of words Boris Johnson's article used.

I must confess that I would love to see the head of the UK statistical service start writing to other politicians who quote rubbish statistics and not just Boris Johnson.

Perhaps, for instance, he could write to Jeremy Corbyn pointing out that the number of students from underprivileged backgrounds going to University has increased and not, as JC said, decreased.

Quoting ridiculous numbers is not the preserve of any part of Britain's political culture but we really need to make more effort to get it right.

Suffragette Millicent Fawcett statue gets planning approval.

I am pleased to learn that the proposed statue in parliament square of Millicent Fawcett, the suffragette leader, has been given planning approval this evening. (Link here.)

Fawcett was a truly remarkable lady who dedicated her life to campaigning through peaceful democratic means for women to get the vote, the right to own property and control over their own lives from 1866, when she was aged of 19, until women finally did get the vote sixty-two years later in 1928, the year before she died.

There is an excellent article which Lord Danny Finkelstein wrote in the Times on 4th April about this extraordinary woman and why she richly deserves to be remembered in this way, and it is still available on The Times website here.

Quote of the day 19th September 2017


Monday, September 18, 2017

Hannah Flint on what it is like to be the child of a politician

It hasn't happened so much while my children were at secondary school, but while they were at primary school my son and daughter caught a certain amount of flak because I was the local Conservative parliamentary candidate.

At least that was from the other children, not the teachers. I was absolutely horrified when Colonel Bob Stewart MP said that one of the teachers at his son's school had told other children not to talk to young master Stewart because his dad was a Tory MP.

There is an excellent response to this troubling story in the Guardian - yes, they do sometimes print things I can strongly recommend and this is an example - by Hannah Flint, whose mother is a Labour MP.

You can read her piece,

"Yes, I'm the child of an MP. That's no reason to give me abuse"

by clicking here.

St Bees Parish Council - September meeting

St Bees Parish council met this evening.

They have a slot on their agenda to discuss County Council & Highways matters which I always try to attend.

Constructive discussion this evening raising a number of points which I will take back to County Highways.

Theresa May in Canada, working for a trade agreement:



Quote of the day 18th September 2017


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Terror threat level dropped from "critical" to "severe"

Following the arrests in connection with the Parson's Green tube bombing home secretary Amber Rudd has announced that Britain's terror threat level has been dropped back from the highest level, "critical" to the second highest, "severe."

In the wake of the bombing the threat level had been raised to "critical." which meant that another attack could be imminent.

Today (Sunday 17th September), the Home Secretary confirmed the threat level has been lowered back down to severe - meaning that members of the military will return to their original postings.

Over the weekend, military personal were supporting the police - allowing more armed officers to patrol the streets.

Ms Rudd said: "Following the attack in Parsons Green last Friday the police have made good progress with what is an ongoing operation.

"The joint terrorist analysis centre, which reviews the threat level that the UK is under, has decided to lower that level from critical to severe.

"Severe still means that an attack is highly likely so I would urge everybody to continue to be vigilant but not alarmed."

Sunday music spot for Battle of Britain Sunday

As a tribute to the brave men and women of the RAF, today's Sunday music spot is the theme from "633 squadron."

Battle of Britain memorial 2017

As previously posted today is "Battle of Britain Sunday" and there is a service of commemoration for the 76th anniversary of the campaign at Westminster Abbey at 11am this morning.

This commemoration takes place on the nearest Sunday to 15th September this year, because 15th September 1940 is regarded by many historians as the climax of the campaign - it was effectively the German's last major attempt to establish air superiority.

On 14 September, Hitler chaired a meeting of the German high command staff. Recognising that the Luftwaffe had not succeeded in gaining decisive air superiority over the RAF which would have been a necessary condition for a successful invasion of Britain, Hitler reportedly asked "Should we call it off altogether?"

General Hans Jeschonnek, Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, begged for a last chance to defeat the RAF.

The German high command agreed to try to break Britain's will to fight by destroying material infrastructure, the weapons industry, and stocks of fuel and food. On 15 September, two massive waves of German attacks were launched.

Both attacks were decisively repulsed by the RAF, and the Germans lost dozens of aircraft. The exact number given varies according to which source you check but there is no reasonable doubt that the Germans came off worse and lost a lot of aircraft - the consensus view is that about sixty German aircraft were shot down compared to about 26 RAF fighters.

More to the point, nobody on either side with the faintest grip on reality - which didn't include Hermann Göring but did include most of the other senior military commanders advising the Nazi dictator - could dispute that the fight put up by fighter command on 15th September proved that the RAF was very much still in the battle and therefore the crushing victory in the air which Hitler regarded as a necessary condition to attempt an invasion had not been achieved.

Two days after this German defeat Hitler postponed indefinitely preparations for the invasion of Britain. Hence 15 September is commemorated as Battle of Britain Day.

During the Battle of Britain the RAF fighter command which had up to about 700 operational fighters available at any one point in time during the campaign was defending Britain's skies against a Luftwaffe force of about 2,550 fighters and bombers.

When Churchill referred to "the few" he was specifically singling out the pilots, both British and foreign volunteers, who flew for the Royal Air force, of whom there are 2,939 on the RAF roll of honour between 10 July and 31 October 1940. About half of these survived the four-month campaign: 544 Fighter Command pilots were killed along with about a thousand pilots and aircrew from other parts of the RAF. 

Volunteers from all over the world came to take part in the battle against fascism and the Royal Air Force roll of honour for the Battle of Britain recognises 595 non-British pilots (out of 2,936) as flying at least one authorised operational sortie with an eligible unit of the RAF or Fleet Air Arm during the period of the campaign. These included 145 Poles, 127 New Zealanders, 112 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovaks, 10 Irish, 32 Australians, 28 Belgians, 25 South Africans, 13 French, 9 Americans, 3 Rhodesians and one each from Jamaica and Palestine.

The War Cabinet created two Polish fighter squadrons, Nos. 302 and 303, in the summer of 1940. These were followed by other national units, including two Czech fighter squadrons. Many of the RAF’s aces were men from the Commonwealth and the highest scoring pilot of the campaign was Josef Frantisek, a Czech pilot flying with No. 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron. No. 303 entered battle on 31 August, at the peak of the Battle of Britain, but quickly became Fighter Command’s highest claiming squadron with 126 kills.

The debt that Britain and the free world owes to the pilots of the RAF and all those who took part in the campaign - the observer corps, air defence gunners, air raid wardens, the plotters, radar and radio operators who guided the RAF planes to intercept the enemy and all the other RAF and other personnel who served in the campaign - is incalculable. We shall not forget them.

Battle of Britain Sunday

Today is Battle of Britain Sunday and it is right that we should remember those who took part in the Battle for Britain's freedom, and that of the world, particularly the RAF fighter pilots from all over the world who fought against four times their numbers.

As Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in perhaps the most famous phrase that master of the English language ever uttered:



Here is a recording of that speech


Quote of the day 17th September 2017

"The most debilitating myth was that the state can perpetually provide a higher standard of living regardless of individual effort.

It can't and it never could."

(Margaret Thatcher)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Saturday music spot - "It might as well rain until September"

The sort of weather we have had this month has inevitably reminded me of this sixties classic written and sung by Carole King.

I gather that she originally wrote this for Bobby Vee, but the demo tape she wrote was Carole King's first big hit and made her a star in her own right.

Bobby Vee had notched up a major hit with Carole King’s and Gerry Goffin’s song "Take Good Care of My Baby" and  "It Might As Well Rain Until September" was intended as a follow-up single for him. Carole recorded a demo version.

Bobby’s people turned down the song and Carole’s demo was released as a single on the Dimension label in 1962 and did very well. Bobby Vee eventually did record the song in 1963 and so did Helen Shapiro in 1964.


Beating the terrorists

Britain’s terror threat level has been raised from severe to critical, indicating a further attack may be imminent, following the Parsons Green tube bombing.

Police arrested an 18-year-old man in Dover this morning in connection with the attack.

This is the statement that the Prime Minister made yesterday following the attack and the decision to raise the terror threat level.



Police have asked people to be vigilant and report any information which might help thwart the terrorists.

Britain must and will rise to this challenge. The terrorists must not and will not win.

Quote of the day 16th September 2017


Friday, September 15, 2017

Trudy Harrison;s surgeries.

Since being elected earlier this year Trudy Harrison, the MP for Copeland, has held 11 "surgery" sessions to meet constituents in various parts of Copeland constituency and had met with a further 47 constituents in their own homes or communities.

She carries out these engagements in accordance with the official security advice given to MPs for their protection and that of their staff.

It is most unfortunate that one of the local newspapers - a paper whose previous work I had often respected and from whom l would have hoped for better - published a headline this week which was very misleading.

Here is Trudy Harrison's response:



       

Time to crack down on abusive behaviour - in politics and in the home.

The level of abuse aimed at people in politics is getting worse and is having very damaging effects.

This week's Whitehaven News had a very unfortunate and unhelpful headline about the fact that the MP for Copeland wisely and responsibly follows the official security advice issued to MPs following the murder of Jo Cox to protect MPs and their staff from the possibility of being attacked while holding surgeries.

This does not mean, as anyone who reads the actual text of the article will realise but the headline did not make clear, that she does not hold surgeries or will not meet members of the public, it means that appointments have to be booked for those surgeries and constituents who do so will then be directed to the meeting place, rather than the general details of  the events being published for any terrorist or dangerous nutter to read on the internet or in the paper.

It dos not matter what part of the political spectrum someone is on, or how strongly you or I may disagree with their views or what they are doing to the country, abuse and actual or threatened violence are not an acceptable means of expressing that disagreement. There is one legitimate means of trying to get rid of someone who you think should not hold an office and that is to vote against them at the next election.

Sadly MPs of all parties have been getting increasing levels of abuse and it is very apparent that this is particularly directed against women MPs.

As Tom Harris writes in today's Telegraph, " We tolerate a peculiarly nasty form of insult when it comes to -women in politics."

He writes:

The rules of this boys’ game are fairly straightforward. First, you wait until an opposing party has the temerity to elect a woman – a woman! – as its leader. Then, after you’ve finished with the obligatory tutting and rolling of the eyes, after you’ve made the inevitable (privately expressed) jokes about periods and shoes and make-up, you start throwing the insults.
Now, here’s the tricky bit: like Just A Minute, the popular Radio 4 game show, you can be disqualified for repetition. The kind of insults you use against the incumbent must be of a different scale of ferocity, of violent imagery, than anything you’ve used on the woman’s predecessors. Current players of this game – Cable, George Osborne, Owen Smith – have really got the hang on this rule: Gordon Brown never had to sit at the dining table with his family and laugh off suggestions that he be murdered, cut up into portions and placed in freezer bags.

As Tom says,

"We need to stop using this kind of language, which is particularly damaging when it emanates from the mouths of those who claim to believe in the need to encourage more women into politics. Theresa May is not fair game for misogyny just because she happens to be doing things to the country with which you disagree."

It's happening to women of all parties and whether the person it is directed against is the present PM, Diane Abbott, Nicola Sturgeon or anyone else, it's got to stop. All parties must crack down on any of their own members who are caught doing it.

I don't of course mean that you cannot express disagreement with someone's policies, make fun of a aft argument they have produced or a failure to add up numbers correctly. But we should not be using violent or sexist imagery, let alone threats of violence.

As I mentioned in another post earlier today, the level of  domestic abuse in Copeland is shocking. I don't believe that any other part of Britain should be complacent about this problem either. A single case of domestic assault is one too many.

It is hardly going to help stamp out domestic violence if we allow the language of violent abuse to be used to carry out political discourse.

Report back on Health meetings this week

I attended three health meetings this week.

Lead members of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee met with the Clinical Commissioning Group in Carlisle on Wednesday and with the Morecombe Bay Universities Hospital Trust at Westmorland General Hospital yesterday (Thursday 14th September).

These are part of a series of regular meetings between Health Scrutiny councillors and the providers of NHS healthcare in Cumbria. These meetings are a valuable channel of communication.

To permit a frank exchange of views on both sides the meetings take place under what is sometimes known as "Chatham House Rules" - e.g. the health trusts can tell us what they really think about issues like how much money the NHS needs and how things are actually going - on the understanding that we won't go rushing to the press and use it to score political points. By the same token we can raise the health issues that we are most concerned about and the health trusts know that we are not just scoring points because there is no political mileage for us in doing so.

However this does not mean that the meetings are secret - I wouldn't be in a position to publish this post if they were - the fact that they take place is in the public domain and the list of issues discussed is published in due course.

I don't think I would be breaking any rules if I say that both this week's meetings were useful and constructive and there was a frank but positive exchange of views.

The other health meeting I attended this week was the Copeland Health and Wellbeing forum which brings together Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough Council in their Public Health promotion roles with a large number of private sector and voluntary bodies.

There are far too many such initiatives going on to give full details of them all, but they include

* Well Whitehaven - an initiative centred on Mirehouse ward (though also including a large chunk of Harbour and with impact on neighbouring areas) to support local bottom-up community initiatives to develop more healthy lifestyles

* Stoptober - iff you smoke and are happy with the effect that this has on your body, that is your decision. But if you want to give up, there will be a promotion and support in October to help you to give up smoking in October.

* Alcohol Awareness - there are initiatives in place to encourage those who drink alcohol to do so safely and responsibly

* Falls prevention - an initiative to help people to look at reducing their risk of injury from falls. this will include a "slipper swap" at Whitehaven Library later this month - you can bring an old pair of slippers to Whitehaven Library and they will be replaced with a new pair which will reduce your risk of falling.

* Domestic Violence - review of the position the police statistics for domestic violence in Cumbria generally and in Copeland are absolutely horrifying. Given that most of those who do eventually go to the police say that they didn't do so until after there had been a large number of previous incidents (most often the problem is only reported when a pregnancy changes the situation,) the real incidence of domestic violence including unreported instances may be far worse.  There is no "magic bullet" to solve this but it needs to be addressed.

Quote of the day 15th September 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unemployment falls by 75,000

UK unemployment fell by 75,000 in the three months to July, bringing the jobless rate down to 4.3% from 4.4% in the previous quarter.
 
The rate remains at its lowest since 1975, according to the Office for National Statistics figures.

Matt Hughes, a senior ONS statistician, said: "Another record high employment rate and a record low inactivity rate suggest the labour market continues to be strong.

"In particular, the number of people aged 16 to 64 not in the labour force because they are looking after family or home is the lowest since records began, at less than 2.1 million."

‪Midweek music spot - Never Weather Beaten Sail‬ - Campion version

Another version of  "Never weather beaten sail," this time by Campion ...


Human rights and transgender prisoners

I am all in favour of a more flexible and tolerant approach to transgender people, including taking all reasonable measures to protect transgender prisoners from being abused by other prison inmates, provided that approach is applied with common sense and with consideration for the needs of other vulnerable people.

The case of a prisoner who as Martin Ponting was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1995 for raping two girls while he was a man, raises very troubling issues.

Ponting was initially sent to serve his sentence at the maximum security prison at HMP Whitemoor.

However, this prisoner then adopted the name Jessica Winfield, was given gender reassignment surgery tbrough the NHS, and transferred to the women-only prison, HMP Bronzefield.

Winfield then had to be segregated from other prisoners at HMP Bronzefield, though "a source close to the situation," unquote, told the Independent newspaper that reports in other parts of the press that this was for inappropriate advances to other prisoners were not true.

There would clearly have been safeguarding issues whether Ponting/Winfield had remained at Whitemoor or been moved to Bronzefield. It is the responsibility of the prison service to protect prisoners from each other and in either case it would not have been straightforward to do so.

Nevertheless I do not find it acceptable that a prisoner who has been convicted of sexual offences against women sufficiently serious as to justify a life sentence, should be moved to a women's prison, especially when that prisoner was previously regarded as dangerous enough to require a place in a maximum security prison.

I don't write this because I have a problem with trans people but because I have a problem with someone who has harmed women being put in a women's prison.

Quote of the day Wednesday 13th September 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sunset for Henry VIII

One aspect of the EU Withdrawal bill which has not been given as much publicity as it deserves is that among safeguards to prevent abuse of the powers it gives the government is that the bill has a sunset clause and these powers will expire two years after Britain leaves the EU.

The government has tried to provide assurance that these delegated powers will not be excessive or inappropriate with a number of measures:
  • The bill specifies delegated powers may not be used to impose taxes, create a criminal offence, or repeal the Human Rights Act 1998
  • Most of the delegated legislation will be subject to the "affirmative procedure" which makes it easier for MPs who are unhappy with a proposal to challenge it - although some, including the power to modify exit fees, will not be.
  • The "sunset clause" means powers delegated in the bill expire two years after the UK leaves the European Union - on the current schedule that means they expire in March 2021.
It the bill did not include these provision I would be very unhappy about it - so much so that were I an MP I do not think I could support such a bill without them.
 
However, these restrictions, particularly the first and third, drastically curtail the scope for abuse of the so-called "Henry the Eighth" powers in the bill.
 
As Matthew Parris, who like me voted Remain and who unlike me still hopes to eventually persuade the electorate to cancel Brexit argued in The Times on Saturday, you cannot realistically hope to implement the vast legislative change required to undo 40 years of EU membership without something like this bill.
 
And frankly, the government's going to be too busy in the four-year period when it has these powers before the "sunset clause" comes into effect, using them for the legitimate purpose of making Brexit work for which they are needed, to have time to slip much else through with them.

Nevertheless I would like to hear a public debate about whether the proposed two-year sunset clause is the right period of time - is it long enough to get everything through, is it too long - and I hope and suspect there will indeed be such a debate on whether the safeguards on this bill are the right ones.
 
 

EU repeal bill gets second reading

The controversial EU repeal bill cleared it's first hurdle in the House of Commons commons in the early hours of this morning, with MPs voting by 326 to 290 in favour.

Conservative and DUP members of parliament backed the bill, with most Labour, Lib/Dem, and SNP MPs voting against although seven Labour rebels ignored what Labour is demanding of them this week and voted for the bill: they were   Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner and Graham Stringer.

When first mooted this proposed legislation was referred to as the Great Repeal Bill; now known as the EU Withdrawal Bill, the measure will overturn the 1972 European Communities Act which took the UK into the then European Economic Community.

It will also convert all existing EU laws into UK law, to ensure there are no gaps in legislation on the day Britain leaves the EU at the end of March 2019.

Summing up the Commons debate, Justice Secretary David Lidington said that some of the criticism had been "exaggerated up to and beyond the point of hyperbole".

He said the bill would "enable us to have a coherent and functioning statute book" on the day the UK leaves the EU.

The bill is likely to be "one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK", a report by the House of Commons library predicts, with "major swathes of the statute book" needing to be examined to see how they will work after Britain leaves the EUt
.
This is necessary as working out which bits of UK law came from the EU is not at all simple. Indeed, it presents a "unique challenge", a House of Lords committee warned recently, because "the body of EU law is found in a number of different places, and in a number of different forms".

Simply transposing all EU law into UK legislation will not be enough, the government's White Paper on the bill says. Substantial sections of current UK law "will no longer work" on exit, for example because they refer to EU institutions.

Not all of this can be done through the Repeal Bill, so the government plans to create powers to "correct the statute book where necessary" by statutory instrument, which do not require as much  Parliamentary scrutiny.

It is right that this should be controversial because if these powers were prolonged or allowed to be used for purposes other than facilitating Britain's departure from the EU, they would represent a significant increase in power for the Executive compared with the legislature. However, ministers are adamant that there will be limits on these powers to prevent that.

In practical terms it would appear very difficult to imagine how the process of leaving the EU can be managed any other way - see next post.

Quote of the day 12th September 2017

 "I would quite happily never have a constitutional referendum in my lifetime on anything ever again".

(Ruth Davidson MSP, Scottish Conservative leader)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Rule Britannia - Last Night of the Proms 2009

A reminder of what the "Last night of the Proms" was like before what flag you waved came to be regrettably seen by some people as a means to put yourself on the opposite side from those who take a different view about Brexit ...


Sunday music spot: Allegri's "Miserere" sung by King's, Cambridge


Labouir "dirty tricks department"

Fraser Watt - who is a Young Labour activist for London - appears to have been a busy bee.

See this link:

https://twitter.com/i/moments/905903801470558208

It would appear that he has been pushing socialist ideas and is an officer of the youth wing of the Labour party under his real name while also posing as a founder of "Activate" which is supposedly a Tory youth organisation - though it was never an official Conservative body - and in that capacity calling for Theresa May to resign and be replaced by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

If "Activate" was really founded by Tories - and the jury is still out on that - it would appear that Corbynistas have been responsible for some if not most of the material it has been putting.

It is certain that some journalists and political websites have been at best too credulous in accepting "Activate" messages as being from a Conservative organisation when it was never an official part of the Conservative party and at least some of those messages were actually part of a Labour "false flag" operation to smear Conservatives.

When the line changes ...

Less that three months ago Jeremy Corbyn sacked three pro-EU shadow ministers for voting to stay in the EU single market.

It is now suggested that he may sack shadow ministers who refuse to oppose Brexit by refusing to vote against the withdrawal bill.

It reminds me of a story told about just about every totalitarian regime in the 20th century. This is the version which was told in Soviet Russia under Stalin:

Three new inmates arrive in a Labour camp in Siberia and ask each other why they are there.

"Because yesterday I was criticising Comrade Popov" said the first. "What about you?"

"Because today I was praising Comrade Popov," said the second. They look at the third.

"I am Comrade Popov!" he replies.

Quote of the day 10th September 2017


Saturday, September 09, 2017

In memory of the late Revd. David Dixon: VOCES8 sing "Lux Aeterna"

Here is a recording of Voces8 singing "Lux Aeterna" which is a setting of "Nimrod" from Sir Edward Elgar's Enigma variations.

Announcing the piece, which Voces8 performed at a concert in Kendal this evening, a member of the group who grew up in Cumbria dedicated the performance to the late Reverend Canon David Dixon from Millom, who died this week.

It was a fantastic performance and a very moving tribute to a man who will be greatly missed.

You can read here on the North West Evening Mail website an article about a book which Canon Dixon write about his childhood in Thwaites, near Millom, in the 1930's.

Rest in Peace



Bye-bye Blowers - "There goes a legend."

England beat the West Indies by nine wickets in the third test at Lords today, and with the match also took the series.

Memorable as any victory against the West Indies at cricket is, the match will also be remembered for the final session of commentary from a one-man cricket institution, "Blowers" or to give him his full name Henry Blofeld who retired today at the age of 77 after forty seven years on air.

Here are a few memorable "Blowers" lines from the commentary box at TMS:
 
"It's a catch he would have caught 99 times times out of 1,000."

"If the tension here was a block of Cheddar cheese, you could cut it with a knife."

"Flintoff starts in, his shadow beside him. Where else would it be?"

"Ashley Giles trundles in to bowl rather like a wheelie bin."

Taking over at the end of Henry Blofeld's his last stint, Ed Smith said "There goes a legend."

Quite.

Quote of the day 9th September 2017


Friday, September 08, 2017

"Don't Know" seem to be the hardest words ...

Yougov have just released the results of a survey in which one of the questions was whether respondents had a plan to deal with a Zombie Apocalypse.

A surprising fraction of the population said that they had.

Stephen Bush in an article in the New Statesman,

"A new poll shows that men are more frightened of saying 'Don't know' than of zombies"

makes an amusing argument, but one with more than a hint of truth, that

"as far as men are concerned, the hardest words to use are 'I don’t know'.

There is actually a rational reason to be more frightened of having to say "I don't know" than of zombies.

Zombies do not exist, but situations in which one may be asked a question to which the honest answer is "I don't know" do.

Quote of the day 8th September 2017


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Who are the real "fascists"?

Among the democratic rights hard fought for by the people of this country are freedom of speech and freedom of association.

Every political party has and should have the right to hold a conference. Those of a different political persuasion have the right, should they so desire, to held a peaceful demonstration outside to promote their own views. Prior to 2015 the presence of people holding such alternative views outside Conservative conference was almost always within the limits of lawful free speech.

Conservative conference 2015 was a rather different matter and some people went over the top.

Judging by the Manchester Evening News which reports that those attending this year's Conservative conference in the city "can expect a rough welcome" we may be about to see something similar again.

Of course, some of those who were protesting just made themselves look silly - as when a friend of mine born and bred in Salford and who has been elected by the people of that City as one of their councillors was told to "go home" by people with Southern accents.

Nevertheless, there may be some this time, as there were in 2015, who need to understand the distinction between peacefully promoting your own views outside a conference, which is a democratic right, and trying to intimidate, threaten or disrupt it, which is attempting to deprive others of their democratic rights.

Although we can bet that "fascist" will probably be close behind "Tory scum" among the charming epithets thrown at representatives at the conference - and others such as cleaners, caterers, electricians, stall-holders and journalists - it is actually the people who cross the line between peaceful protest on the one hand and intimidation and disruption on the other, who are the real fascists.

I can tell you something else. That sort of protest will only strengthen the resolve of every Conservative attending the conference. And being treated like that will not make the large numbers of non-Conservatives attending - guests, stall-holders, cleaners and other staff of the organisations within the conference perimeter - any more likely to vote for the left either.

New Shipbuilding strategy announced


Quote of the day 7th September 2017

"The SNP have pinched so many Tory policies that their programme for government should be called 'Something borrowed, something blue.'"

(Ruth Davidson MSP as quoted by Stephen Daisley)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

How many MPs does Britain need?

Before the Great Reform Act of the 1830s the boundaries for parliamentary elections were not revised for centuries, with the result that there were constituencies known as "rotten boroughs" which had once been populous but now had virtually no electors - one had disappeared under the sea - while huge new towns and cities had no representation.

To try to ensure this was never allowed to happen again, an independent Boundary Commission was established, which still exists, and a tradition was set up which lasted for decades until Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband broke it in the 2010-2015 parliament that all parties would support that commission's recommendation.

This is an issue, because the present boundaries are based on information which will be 20 years old come the next general election if the current parliament goes it's full term. If a boundary review is not passed in this parliament or in the near future British democracy will be in danger of taking the road back to rotten boroughs.

The longer the boundaries are left with no update the harder it will be to put right because the more sitting MPs will have a vested interest in not correcting it.

There was also a long-standing Conservative manifesto commitment adopted by David Cameron to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and implementing this was enshrined in Boundary review legislation under the Coalition.

Unfortunately, following the row over failure to reform the House of Lords, when an elected second chamber was blocked by an unholy alliance of rebel Tory backwoodsmen and the Labour party (who pretended to be in favour of reform but actually stopped it), Nick Clegg took his revenge by joining with Ed Miliband to vote down the boundary review.

A subsequent boundary review which, had it gone through and the 2015 parliament run its full duration, would have cut the 2020 parliament to 600 MPs, was on its way through the system when the 2017 election was called.

If I were an MP and thought there was a cat in hell's chance of getting a boundary review which implemented the promise to cut the number of MPs through the House of Commons, I would consider myself honour bound to vote for it.

But with no Conservative majority, and the DUP not committed under the Confidence and Supply agreement to back boundary changes, it is unlikely that a boundary review based on 600 MPs will pass the Commons for the same reason that a cut in the number of councillors did not pass Copeland Council last week. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

It appears unlikely that Labour, or the Lib/Dems, or the DUP would support a boundary review on the basis of the current law and a cut in the number of MPs. I do not know the SNP position but they do not have a record of being helpful to Conservative-led governments.

This presents the government with a difficult dilemma. On the one hand they were probably tempted - I certainly would be - to try to stick to their guns and make an effort to get the present boundary review through. However, this carries the very real risk of getting nothing through at all and putting Britain on the road back to Rotten Boroughs.

The alternative - which it sounds like they have decided to adopt - is to abandon the attempt to cut the number of MPs and pass a law instructing the Boundary Commission to start again on the basis of the present size of the House of Commons, 650 MPs. This would need primary legislation but it is almost certainly possible to get both that legislation, and a 650 seat boundary review, through the Commons and the Lords.

I don't think this will be a popular move, and regret the need for it, but being pragmatic, better to try to keep the electoral boundaries up to date on the current basis, and at least get that through, than try to get both a cut in the number of MPs and a set of up-to-date boundaries but lose both.

Midweek music spot; Holst's "Turn Back O Man"


Cumbria County Council September meeting

Returned home a short while ago after the September meeting of the County Council.

(Didn't come straight home - I spent some time working at county hall before making the drive back through the lakes as I had to  catch up on some issues relating to my job.)

An interesting meeting which approved the Minerals plan and received important reports on the Youth Offender service and "corporate parenting" (e.g. the council's responsibilities towards children)

Perhaps the most contentious part of the meeting was the half hour allocated for questions from members of the council to the Leader and Cabinet,

I asked the portfolio holder for Highways about the Strategic road network in the West of the county - particularly the A595 but also other roads such as the A596, A590 and A5092.

I asked if he would agree with me that the capacity of these roads is well below the demand, with serious adverse impacts on both the economy of the entire West coast and the quality of life for residents in practically every town and village along and near them, and that it should be one of the most important priorities for the council to improve them, both in the sections we are responsible for and working with other agencies such as Highways England on the stretches they manage.

I'm not going to try to quote his reply in full but I think it would be fair to precis it as "yes".

To some people on the West coast this may seem like an exchange of obvious comments but I thought it important to keep up the pressure for action on the A595 and other key roads in the area and there is nothing like bringing up a problem at every meeting of a public body to focus minds.

An old Russian anecdote

Hat tip to Cathy Young on twitter for this old but very apposite Russian joke about the problem with Soviet Communism ...

Second quote of the day 6th September 2017

A quote in the Telegraph from former Labour MP Tom Harris on Labour's Brexit contortions,

"If Labour votes against the Repeal Bill it's because it's decided to foil Brexit."


Quote of the day 6th September 2017