Thursday, May 31, 2018

Copeland MP's next "Saturday Chataway" to be held in St Bees on 2nd June

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison will be holding her next "Saturday Chataway" charity coffee morning and opportunity to raise issues with elected representatives at St Bees Village Hall in Finkle Street, St Bees from 10am to noon this coming Saturday, 2nd June.

There will be followed by a community litter pick from 1pm to 3pm.

Details of the "Saturday Chataway" events can be found on Trudy's website here but the current programme after this Saturday is planned to be:

Saturday 7th July, 10am - 12pm. Egremont - Venue to be confirmed
Saturday 4th August, 10am - 12pm, Seascale Library, Seascale
Saturday 1st September, 10m - 12pm, Cleator Moor - Venue to be confirmed
Saturday 6th October, 10am - 12pm, Church Room, Braithwaite
Saturday 3rd November, 10am - 12pm, Richmond Community Centre, Hensingham
Saturday 1st December, 10am - 12pm, Captain Shaw's School, Bootle

On the subject of spoof articles

Two more spoof articles which may amuse you, if you are into such things:

* Black death distances itself from UKIP

* Boris Johnson tricks Russian pranksters

Quote of the day 31st May 2018

"If you don't like obeying our laws then you should get out of our country, Tommy Robinson told."

(Spoof headline on the "News Thump" website.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Murdered" journalist turns up alive ...

Bad news for everyone who groans when you see a post on social media from people who are naïve enough to believe everything that the Russian regime says.

On the same morning that a British citizen and campaigner against corruption in Russia was briefly detained in Spain (but promptly released) when the Russian government made their SIXTH attempt to have him arrested on trumped up charges, another Putin critic who had apparently been murdered turned up alive at a press conference admitting he and the Ukrainians staged the whole thing.

There has been much humorous speculation about how long Arkady Babchenko will stay alive after his wife gets her hands on him (as he apparently omitted to let her in on the news that he was working with Ukrainian security to fake his assassination.)

His actions were supposedly part of a trick to catch people who were really trying to kill him, which appears to have been lifted from the plot of a "Batman" film.

But I can just see what's coming - every time you point to one of the large number of critics of Vladimir Putin who really has died in highly suspicious circumstances, those who are determined to believe that that nice Mr Putin couldn't possibly have done anything naughty

- a belief which has survived him breaking Russia's promises to protect the borders of Ukraine by stealing the Crimea and starting a war, evidence that the Russians really did shoot down Malaysian airliner MH17, the Russian regime bombing hospitals in Syria, attempting to interfere in elections around the world, and murdering or trying to murder people here in Britain -

will be able to say "perhaps they faked their own death like Arkady Babchenko." Aaaargh!

Working Together meeting

I attended the meeting of the "Working Together Steering Group" this evening from 6.00pm to 8.00pm, at the Excellence Suite, ENERGUS, Blackwood Road, Lillyhall.

This is one of a number of working groups which give members of the community and stakeholders in our health service the opportunity to work together on how to improve local health services.

The "Working Together Steering Group" which met this evening is particularly concerned with consultant-led maternity and paediatric services and particularly supporting the NHS's work to try and make Option 1 for maternity and paediatrics a reality – that’s consultant–led care at the West Cumberland Hospital and a Short Stay Paediatric Assessment Unit at both hospitals with inpatient services in Carlisle and some overnight beds in Whitehaven for less poorly children.

There are other "Working together" groups supporting other aspects of local NHS services such as community hospitals; a similar group is starting to get under way for Stroke services.

Details of future meetings of these bodies and minutes of past ones can be found on the local NHS website at

http://www.northcumbriaccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/engagement/co-production-and-the-working-together-group.aspx

Wednesday music spot: Mozart's The Queen of the Night aria (The Magic Flute)

One of the most beautiful arias ever written for the human voice with some of the most shocking lyrics ever written.

Quote of the day 30th May 2018

“The Russian government is looking very closely right now at the reaction to the Salisbury attack and seeing whether the British government will do more then expel a few diplomats.

If they don’t replicate the US oligarchs sanctions list then there is a great risk for anyone in the UK who is at odds with the Russian government.”


Bill Browder, British businessman and Putin critic, interview with City AM shortly after the Salisbury poisonings.

Mr Browder has campaigned for more effective sanctions against corrupt Russian oligarchs and their money, measures such as the US "Magnitsky Act" which is named after his lawyer who died in Russian custody in highly suspicious circumstances in 2009 after exposing a corruption ring and being arrested.

This morning Spanish police briefly arrested Mr Browder, supposedly on a Russian Interpol arrest warrant. Shortly afterwards the Spanish authorities told The Associated Press and Reuters news agencies that Browder was not under arrest, had been released from a station in Madrid, and appeared to have been picked up on an expired warrant.

Browder says that he was released following the intervention of the General Secretary of Interpol, who told the Spanish authorities not to honour the Russian notice. He added that this is the SIXTH attempt by the Russian regime to "abuse" the Interpol process to go after him.

A spokesperson at the Interpol Press office told CBS News this morning that

"Browder has never been put on a Interpol Red notice, there have been requests made in the past, but he has never been on any Interpol Red Notice."

The spokesperson denied that Browder was even in the agency's data base. That is consistent with what Mr Browder is saying, because Interpol previously stated in October last year that they had deleted his details at the same time as advising member states to ignore Russia's previous (e.g. fifth)  attempt to use the agency to go after him, which used a legal device called a "diffusion notice" in an attempt to get round the fact that Interpol HQ keeps refusing to act on Russia's blatantly stitched up warrants for his arrest. Interpol said on that occasion that

"A diffusion notice recently circulated in relation to Mr. Browder was found to be non-compliant following a review by the General Secretariat,”

and they added that

"All information in relation to this request has been deleted from Interpol’s databases and all Interpol member countries informed accordingly."

Bill Browder's treatment by the Putin regime is further evidence that, whether we want a new cold war with Russia or not, we've got one. In every respect short of actually shooting at us the present Russian government is acting like a hostile state.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Mayhem in Italy

I do not pretend to be an expert in Italian politics, let alone Italian constitutional law. It is hard enough to follow and understand the constitution in this country.

Nevertheless it is clear that very unusual things are happening in Italian politics.

There is no exact analogy for what has been happening in Italy in British terms, but here goes.

The Northern League is a right-wing party which is Eurosceptic and sees itself as anti-establishment and although not a perfect parallel it isn't a gross distortion of the truth to compare it to an Italian equivalent of UKIP.

Five Star is an anti-establishment left-wing party, also Eurosceptic: it's not a million miles from the truth to say that if you imagine a Italian Eurosceptic version of Momentum which was an independent party in it's own right.

The recent Italian elections produced a hung parliament in which these two are the largest parties and between them have a majority.

As I posted here a few days ago, it does seem more than a little weird that these two parties decided to agree to try to form a government - roughly the equivalent in British terms of a UK/Momentum coalition - with a little known professor of contract law invited to be Prime Minister.

Unusual as this was, the two parties put this to their members and supporters:44,796 members of the Five Star Movement cast their vote online in a poll on the proposed government agreement, and 42,274, more than 94%, voted in favour. The League held a similar online consultation and 215,000 Italian citizens took part. of whom around 91% supported the proposed government agreement.

This evidence that the proposed government did have the support of the people who elected the parties which would have comprised it makes what has happened next is all the more extraordinary.

The Northern League and Five Star managed to agree on a proposed list of ministers - but the President of Italy, Sergio Matarella, refused to appoint them because he was not prepared to appoint the nominated Finance minister, Paolo Savona, who he allegedly regards as too Eurosceptic because of Savona's previously expressed view that Italy should leave the Euro. 

The League and Five star refused to proceed on the basis of allowing the President a veto over their ministerial choices so President Mattarella asked Carlo Cottarelli who is is a former IMF official to form an interim government, pending fresh elections which will take place next year if he can get the support of parliament or in the autumn if he cannot.

So in British terms, it is as if UKIP and Momentum had combined majority in the House of Commons, and agreed a slate of ministers, but the Queen refused to appoint them because she was not prepared to accept an opponent of the Euro as Chancellor, instead appointed her own Prime Minister who was a former international banker with no political party to support him, and said that there would be fresh elections.

If the Queen were ever daft enough to try something like that here in Britain, the most likely result would be that in the subsequent election for the parties which had been prevented from forming a government would find it easy to campaign on the basis that they had been voted in by the people and robbed of power by an establishment stitch-up. I'd expect both those parties to increase their share of votes and seats, making Italy more likely to go further down the road which President Mattarella was trying to avoid.

Five Star was founded by a comedian but it is the President of Italy who has been acting like one this week. I really don't see how this ends well.

The Truth about Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (a.k.a. Tommy Robinson)

Reporting restrictions have now been lifted about the circumstances in which Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, (who calls himself Tommy Robinson,) a former member of the BNP and co-founder of the English Defence League who has criminal convictions for common assault, intimidation, and mortgage fraud, has been sent to prison for contempt of court.

You can read about the case on the website of local news organisation LeedsLive here.

Here is what her Honour Judge Norton told Yaxley-Lennon last year when she handed him a three month prison sentence, suspended for eighteen months, for contempt of court over his behaviour at a rape trial in Canterbury over which she was presiding and which could have led to a miscarriage of justice in that trial.

"This contempt hearing is not about free speech. 

This is not about freedom of the press. 

This is not about legitimate journalism; this is not about political correctness; this is not about whether one political viewpoint is right or another. 

It is about justice, and it is about ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly. 

It is about ensuring that a jury are not in any way inhibited from carrying out their important function. It is about being innocent until proven guilty.

 It is not about people prejudging a situation and going round to that court and publishing material, whether in print or online, referring to defendants as “Muslim paedophile rapists”. 

A legitimate journalist would not be able to do that and under the strict liability rule there would be no defence to publication in those terms. It is pejorative language which prejudges the case, and it is language and reporting – if reporting indeed is what it is – that could have had the effect of substantially derailing the trial. 

As I have already indicated, because of what I knew was going on I had to take avoiding action to make sure that the integrity of this trial was preserved, that justice was preserved and that the trial could continue to completion without people being intimidated into reaching conclusions about it, or into being affected by “irresponsible and inaccurate reporting”. 

If something of the nature of that which you put out on social media had been put into the mainstream press I would have been faced with applications from the defence advocates concerned, I have no doubt, to either say something specific to the jury, or worse, to abandon the trial and to start again. 

That is the kind of thing that actions such as these can and do have, and that is why you have been dealt with in the way in which you have and why I am dealing with this case with the seriousness which I am.”

She then added that he

"should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought, a further contempt of court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated, and that would be on top of anything else that you were given by any other court.

In short, Mr Yaxley-Lennon, turn up at another court, refer to people as “Muslim paedophiles, Muslim rapists” and so and so forth while trials are ongoing and before there has been a finding by a jury that that is what they are, and you will find yourself inside. Do you understand?
Last week Yaxley-Lennon he did indeed turn up at another court, this time in Leeds, and got himself arrested. The trial judge, Geoffrey Marson QC activated the sentence imposed by Her Honour Judge Norton and added a further ten months for the fresh contempt of court.

There is an excellent explanation of the laws involved, why Yaxley-Lennon was sent to prison, and why this does not represent a threat to free speech and British liberties or the imposition of a police state, on the "Secret Barrister" blog here.

Quote of the day 29th May 2018

An important message for school and University students at this time of year.

"In your preparation for your examinations, if you don't revise properly, do you know what will happen? 

YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

(Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in "The Lord of The Rings" in which those four words form one of his most memorable lines)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Bank holiday music spot: Steeleye Span "The Summer Lady"

Of free speech and court reporting restrictions

There have been a number of events in the past two years which have made me seriously wonder whether Britain needs an equivalent of the First Amendment to the US constitution to guarantee the right to free speech.

The arrest a couple of days ago of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, was not one of them.

If you want to have a justice system which conducts fair trials you need to have rules governing people's conduct outside the court building to prevent participants such as witnesses being intimidated. If you have jury trials, you will also sometimes need to impose temporary restrictions on what can be reported to avoid prejudicing actual or potential members of the jury.

Rules like that, which are an essential part of operating on the basis that the accused is innocent until proven guilty have been in place in Britain (and many other countries) for centuries. Almost all serious journalists understand and comply with them.

Note that these rules and court orders made under them DELAY what can be reported until the end of the trial they are intended to ensure is fair and do not constitute a permanent ban on what can be said.

And the last thing which anyone who wants to see justice for the victims of a crime should want is for irresponsible attention-seekers or self-styled "activists" or "reporters" breaking these rules, because if the defence lawyers are handed the opportunity to argue that such actions have prejudiced their clients' right to a fair trial they may be able to get the action quashed or any guilty verdicts and sentences overturned on appeal. Former prosecutor Nazir Afzal has said that this nearly happened because of the actions of far-right activists in the Rochdale "child grooming" case.

Last year in a rape case a Canterbury the judge considered that the actions of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon who was livestreaming events were prejudicial to the right of accused and victims to a fair trial.

She told him


She sentenced him to three months in prison, suspended for eighteen months for contempt of court and gave him some very clear and specific advice that if he turned up at another court behaving in certain ways which might be considered prejudicial to a fair trial for the participants, he would find himself in jail.

Last week Yaxley-Lennon did turn up outside a court in Leeds at which a trial was ongoing, taking and livestreaming pictures, and got himself arrested.

It will become possible for newspapers to describe what happened in more detail when the court case in Leeds concludes. I shall read what they say with interest.

It is, however, reasonable to conclude that Yaxley-Lennon was either deliberately trying to get himself arrested so as to pose as a martyr, or that he has no understanding of the issues involved in running fair trials, and nor do the people who have been demonstrating in London for his release and signing petitions on his behalf.

Proving a point

On Saturday in a piece on whether it is ever a good idea to pre-emptively discount and ignore someone's opinion I wrote

"I have lost count of the number of times I have been on the verge of reaching the conclusion that a particular politician or newspaper columnist was the perfect contrarian indicator who could be relied on to always be wrong - and then they would suddenly come out with something completely sensible."

and

"Just as even a broken clock is right twice a day, any human being who is capable of stringing a sentence together will occasionally produce one which is worth listening to."

Classic example today when I came across the "Zelo Street" blog.

I strongly disagree with 95% of what is written on that blog but when it gets something right it really gets it right.

In particular, the explanation it gives here of why the behaviour of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who calls himself Tommy Robinson) risked prejudicing to the right of victims and accused alike to a fair trial in the court cases he was supposedly "reporting on" is one of the best I have seen.


Quote of the day 28th May 2018



Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity Sunday music spot: "I Saw the Lord" by John Stainer

If it's Trinity Sunday it must be time for Stainer's "I saw the Lord …"

Most of the lyrics of this magnificent Trinity Sunday anthem are taken from the first four verses of chapter six of the Book of Isaiah, describing the vision which the prophet experienced shortly after the death of King Uzziah:

"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 
(2) Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 
(3) And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 
(4) And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke."

Quote of the day 27th May 2018

"The assumption that spending more of the taxpayers' money will make things better has survived all kinds of evidence that it has made things worse." 

(Thomas Sowell, American economist)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

When, if ever, is it safe to discount an opinion?

John Rentoul, the principal political columnist for The Independent and someone for whose views I have a lot of time, has an interesting piece this weekend,

"The top 10 cues to disregard an opinion."

He lists ten words and phrases which are often used by people with closed minds and worldviews, the idea being that if an article or opinion piece has one of these ideas it is not worth listening to.

My initial reaction was sympathetic and there are certainly good points in the article: for example, he rightly says that the expression "trickle-down economics" almost always indicates a "straw man" which has been put up to be knocked down and bears no resemblance to what anyone actually believes.

(A lot of left-wingers think that people who believe in free market solutions support "trickle down economics" but as Dan Hannan argues here this is at best a complete misunderstanding and at worst a gratuitous distortion of what advocates of the market actually believe.)

The trouble is, isn't refusing to pay any attention to any idea which comes from a particular direction just about the perfect exemplar of a closed mind and worldview?

I have lost count of the number of times I have been on the verge of reaching the conclusion that a particular politician or newspaper columnist was the perfect contrarian indicator who could be relied on to always be wrong - and then they would suddenly come out with something completely sensible

If you will forgive a religious metaphor, the late Cardinal Basil Hume once said that "since we are all made in the image of God, and we are all different, each person can tell you something about the nature of God which no-one else can."

Just as even a broken clock is right twice a day, any human being who is capable of stringing a sentence together will occasionally produce one which is worth listening to.

Saturday music spot: Overture to Mozart's "The Marriage Of Figaro"

Good Luck LIverpool!

Best of  luck to Liverpool today in their Champions League final against defending champions Real Madrid at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

More details at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/44258022.

Quote of the day Saturday 26th May 2018


Friday, May 25, 2018

North Cumbria approved for Integrated Care System pilot.

Health and care leaders in West, North and East Cumbria are celebrating the inclusion of the area in a national pilot which has been described as a "historic step" to link up health and care services and enable them to work together to improve care for patients and communities.

North Cumbria Health and Care System has been confirmed by NHS England as part of the next wave of Integrated Care Systems (ICS). It gives the green light for further integrating some health and care services across artificial organisational boundaries, which is meant to make it easier for teams to work together and reduce the "I can't do that, it's someone else's job" syndrome.

Professor John Howarth said,

In all of my 35 years working in the health service in Cumbria, I’ve dreamt of creating an integrated care model, we can now seize the opportunity to collaborate across the system to improve the wellbeing of our communities.

In this short video Chief Executive Stephen Eames talks about the new system.



Examples of how working as an Integrated Care System will help organisations work together should help improve the care offered to patients include:

➤ A new Delirium Service at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the West Cumberland Hospital.
This helps patients at risk of becoming confused during their stay in hospital which can affect over 40 per cent of hospital inpatients. Delirium is mental confusion which can sometimes occur when people are unwell and has a number of causes such as infections, dehydration and pain; but with the right support it can be managed or even avoided. The service is the first of its kind in the UK and has been co-produced by mental health specialists and clinicians from across the North Cumbria Health and Care System with input from patients and carers. The team has seen over 3000 patients since it launched the service in January.

➤ Home First Teams, which are made up of physiotherapists and occupational therapists from both the community and acute trusts, linking closely with adult social care and the voluntary sector, and are based at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. The teams are based in Accident and Emergency departments, assessing older patients when they arrive to see if they can remain at home with some extra support. Many hospital stays can be safely avoided if the right support is in place at home. 250 admissions have been avoided in the first six months.

➤ A new Advice and Guidance system helping GPs work with hospital consultants has helped prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and referrals. It offers a secure on-line service where GPs can contact secondary care doctors in several clinical specialities for advice about patient care.

Feedback about the service to date has been very positive including one GP who said: “I have had numerous success stories - the quick, helpful advice I have received has really benefited my patients who have received quicker treatment as a result, more relevant tests, less unnecessary testing done in primary care and numerous referrals that I would have made have not been necessary.”

Local clinical and social care teams have also teamed up to offer free health and wellbeing MOTs within communities. The events include check-ups to measure individuals’ physical health and functional fitness and help start conversations about individual needs. The teams can also signpost to local voluntary and third sector support.

A Labour MP writes about the current Labour leadership

I don't often quote or refer to articles by Labour MPs but Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, has written an article called

"The current Labour Leadership is completely outside Labour's mainstream tradition,"

Which I think anyone who is considering voting Labour might do well to read.

Quote of the day 25th May 2018

“I love being a Scot. 
I also value being British. 
I adore the fact that the UK does not force me to choose between the two – nor rank them, nor seek to limit my identity."

(Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Budget Deficit drops £5.7 billion to lowest level since before the 2008 crash.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing that public sector borrowing between April 2017 and March 2018 was £40.5bn which is £5.7 billion less than the previous year, £4.7 billion less than expectations, and the lowest in absolute terms since 2007 (before the crash.)

As a share of GDP the reduction in public borrowing is even more pronounced - borrowing has dropped to 2% of GDP which is the lowest level since 2002.

Other figures released this week shows that inflation continues on a downward trend, dropping to 2.4% in the twelve months to April 2018.


Kinder, Gentler Politics?

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party he promised a new kind of politics, urged Labour members to treat one another and people from other parties with respect and said that there would be "no rudeness from me".

"Cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on with bringing real values back into politics," he said, an admirable sentiment often summarised as a call for "Kinder Gentler Politics."

This is indeed something which would be welcome from all parts of the political spectrum, but the Corbynistas only seem to demand it in practice from their opponents - inside and outside the Labour party.

A few days ago the Chair of Lewisham East Labour party, Ian McKensie, was suspended for posts he had made on social media in 2015 and 2016, when DA'ESH (the self-styled "Islamic State") still controlled significant territory in Syria and Iraq and were treating almost everyone in that territory, particularly women who were not enthusiastic supporters of their twisted perversion of Islam, with abominable cruelty.

During an online debate about whether there was any point in negotiating with DA'ESH, McKenzie referred to the way DA'ESH treated women, including selling them as sex slaves and beheading them, and suggested that given the chance they might treat a prominent female member of Jeremy Corbyn's team in this way. McKenzie (who is seen as an opponent of Corbyn) and his supporters have pointed out that the tweets were intended as a condemnation of DA'ESH and certainly not as support for actually treating any woman in this way.

Those who support the suspension, such as the author of a New Statesman article,

"Why are 'moderates' defending a Labour politician's ISIS sex slave joke about Emily Thornberry?"

argue that it is misogynistic to "Undermine a woman’s political argument not with a counter-argument but with imagery of sexual violence being inflicted on her by bloodthirsty men" and that by posting these tweets McKenzie was "suggesting that this kind of language has a place in modern British politics" and that "rape jokes about women are OK."

Without knowing the full context it is not my place to judge whether that's what he actually did, but I certainly agree with the author of the article that jokes about raping and executing women have no place in British politics - whoever makes them.

And that should apply whether the target is a Labour frontbencher like Emily Thornberry or Diane Abbott, a Conservative frontbencher like Esther McVey or Theresa May, or anyone else.


Here is a letter which the Chairman of the Conservative Party has sent today to the Leader of the Labour party about comments suggesting hanging the Prime Minister made by an aide to Ian Lavery MP, the current Chairman of the Labour party. It will be interesting to see what, if any action is taken.


GDPR comes into effect tomorrow

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into effect tomorrow (25th May 2018) throughout the European Union, including Britain (which has not yet left the EU.)

This measure replaces and strengthens existing measures such as the UK data protection act

It includes information stored in written form on physical media such as paper (e.g. notebooks, card indices) as well as information stored electronically (e.g. in a computer).

GDPR is designed to give individuals more control over how their personal information is stored, controlled and used.

Personal data for this purpose includes anything which is specific to an individual where that individual can be identified.

If you live or work in an EU member state and hold information about people, you need to ensure that you are compliant with GDPR (the potential fines for non-compliance are eye-watering.)

As a first step to anyone readiug this who has not already checked whether they are operating within the new law as it applies from tomorrow, here is a link to an idiot's guide to the GDPR.

Quote of the day 24th May 2018


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

If you thought British politics is getting strange ...

Have you been following what has been going on in Italy?

As far as I can work out the nearest parallel in British terms to what has just happened in Italy would be if a government were being formed by a coalition of Momentum and UKIP, and they invited a little known professor of Contract Law, who was not an MP, did not stand in the recent election and had never held elected office to be proposed as Italy's next Prime Minister ...

Remembering Manchester Arena

At 2.30pm this afternoon everyone at the conference I was attending today observed a minute's silence in memory of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack, one year ago today.

This was also observed by members and staff of Cumbria County Council and many other organisations and individuals up and down the country.

Quote of the day 22nd May 2018


Monday, May 21, 2018

GDPR

I shall be doing a GDPR training course today. That means "General Data Protection Regulations" and the regulations concerned come into effect on Friday.

If you're experience has been anything like mine, it probably seems like every voluntary organisation you are a member of is worried about whether it can communicate with its members and what data it can hold about them, and is frantically trying to get permission to do so, and almost every company you have ever dealt with is contacting you to ask permission to continue to do so.

It is often said that many a true word is spoken in jest and there seems to be an awful lot of truth in jokes like a spoof article on the NewsThump site,

"New law designed to stop you receiving unwanted email generating terabytes of unwanted email"

which begins

"The new General Data Protection Regulation laws designed to stop everyone receiving unwanted email have resulted in the generation of billions of terabytes of unwanted email as every company ever is emailing you to tell you about it."

Apart from the minor detail that the main aim of the GDPR is supposed to be to give individuals and residents more control over their own data and not just to stop unwanted emails this allegedly "spoof" article is pretty much dead right.

Another joke I saw yesterday on Twitter

"He's making a list
He's checking it twice
He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice
Santa Claus is in contravention of article 4 of the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679."



I'm trying to work out how much of the worry by various organisations is overblown. Half the responses to the tweet I have just quoted said things like

"No it's fine as long as he stores it properly and has a good retention schedule and documents it all properly."

and

"If all letters to Santa are now written on a pre-designed form, paper or electronic, with a double tick box, he should be okay."

And yes, this is an EU regulation but we have not left yet so it still applies to us.

I just hope the new rules are implemented with common sense. I know, that would be a first wouldn't it ....

Quote of the day 21st May 2018



Sunday, May 20, 2018

Remembering the Unknown Warrior

In this 100th anniversary year of the end of the Great War, the new Duchess of Sussex has sent the bouquet she carried at her wedding yesterday to rest on the tomb of the unknown warrior at Westminster Abbey.

I am told that since Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) every bride at a British royal wedding has done this, but I think it is a very touching gesture.


Sunday music spot: extracts from Haydn's "The Creation"

Here is a selection of solos and chorus from Haydn's magnificent oratorio "The Creation" performed by the St Peters Singers of Leeds during a tour of Mallorca in 2009.

Kudos to Simon Lindley, who can be seen conducting and who moved from St Albans Cathedral and St Albans School to be organist of Leeds Parish church in 1975. Simon Lindley was in the 1970's, and evidently still is, almost the only prominent choir leader who always insists on using the correct words for the concluding chorus in this recording, "The Heavens are telling the glory of God."

Almost everyone else singing this piece in English uses a terrible libretto in which the second line is just plain wrong. While the music to "The Creation" is divine, the entire oratorio suffers badly from having been incompetently translated from the original English into German by a diplomat who was an amateur linguist, and then badly translated back.

One of the worst examples is the second line of "The Heavens are Telling" in which the subject and object of the phrase were accidentally transposed in the course of translating the words of Psalm 19 from English to German and back again!

Psalm 19 verse one in the King James Bible reads "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."

The libretto sung in the clip below fits this to the music as "The heavens are telling the glory of God; the firmament displays His wondrous handiwork" which works beautifully and is equivalent in meaning. You can get copies of the music which have this libretto, and Simon Lindley always did - apparently he still does.

Unfortunately nobody else seems to bother. Almost every performance of this piece in English directed by anyone other than Simon Lindley which I have ever heard used an egregious libretto in which the second line was "The wonder of his work displays the firmament" which is absolute gibberish and leaves me fuming at the incompetent translation rather than enjoying the music.

THIS version gets it right ...

Quote of the day Sunday 20th May 2018

"The Social Media Chauvinists" ... "combine belligerent nationalism with online invective and intimidation. The category is not limited to obscure keyboard warriors; it includes elected Nationalists for whom abusing the enemy – they do not see mere opponents – is intrinsic to their politics.

"Social Media Chauvinists whip up cybernat pile-ons, keep the worst of the grassroots ginned up and target journalists and critics sceptical of the regime. They have constructed their own reality from an echo chamber of antagonistic bloggers and unhinged conspiracy theorists. Their indoor voice is a howl and paranoia their idea of equanimity; they are often to be found in a tizz over British-branded foodstuffs and unpatriotic weather maps.

"An accident of birth denied them their destiny as UKIP councillors forced to resign over a Facebook post about golliwogs."

(Stephen Daisley: extract from an article about the warring tribes of the SNP called

Sturgeon under Siege.


The article also includes the following assessment of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's position:


"After 11 years of defying political gravity, the SNP has hit the ground with an almighty thud. Internal skirmishes are manageable but not when they are accompanied by a spectrum of policy headaches. Nicola Sturgeon is sinking in quicksand but all around her are even more perilous pockets of it.

"The First Minister is in an impossible position. If she caves in to the Separatist Spoilers, she will return to the second referendum the country is exhausted of hearing about. If she stands her ground, she risks provoking open conflict within the movement and may not be able to rely on the loyalty of some on her own benches.

"Sturgeon has painted herself into a corner inhabited by a majority of her card-carrying members – but only a fringe of the broader population. Whichever way she moves, messiness is guaranteed."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Appointments to the House of Lords

Theresa May put forward a shirt list of nominees to the House of Lords yesterday: there were nine Conservatives, three Labour, and one DUP nominations for peerages, thirteen in total.

This takes the total number of peerages created since she became PM in 2016 to 24, but as the membership of the House of Lords has been reduced by 35 resignations and deaths since last year's general election, it represents a net reduction of 22 seats in the upper house.

Interesting to compare the numbers of peers created under her three predecessors between 1997 and 2016 (I've not included David Cameron's resignation honours list below to avoid a double count. Source for the information is a report from the House of Lords library available online here.)

Tony Blair (May 1997–June 2007)

Peerages created:
Conservative 62
Labour 162
Liberal Democrat 54
Independent/Crossbench/other 96  

Total 374

Gordon Brown (June 2007–May 2010)

Peerages created:
Conservative 4
Labour 11
Liberal Democrat 2
Independent/Crossbench/other 17  

Total 34

David Cameron (May 2010–January 2016)

Peerages created
Conservative 109
Labour 55
Liberal Democrat 51
Independent/Crossbench/other 29    

Total 244

Saturday music spot: Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks

As for some reason there seems to be a lot of attention on the Royal Family this weekend, today's music spot is the glorious suite Handel wrote for the Royal Fireworks, as performed at the 2012 Proms Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Congratulations to Harry and Meghan

Congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy marriage to prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding today and on their creation as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Quote of the day 19th May 2018

"The size of the House is falling, and our aim is to continue that progress."

"The relatively modest size of today's list when compared with those under several previous prime ministers has demonstrated a welcome commitment to that pledge."

(Lord Fowler, Speaker of the House of Lords, welcoming the "restraint" by the Prime Minister in keeping the numbers of new peers on the latest list to thirteen (nine Conservative, three Labour and one DUP) when 35 peers had either retired or died since the 2017 general election, so this represent a net reduction of more than 20 peers compared with eleven months ago.

There had been calls to limit the size of the House of Lords, which had increased considerably under the previous three Prime Ministers and has 130 more members than the House of Commons.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cumbria Health Scrutiny Variation sub-committee - Monday 21st May 2018

There will be a meeting of the Variation Sub-commitee of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee at 2pm next Monday (21st May) to consider one issue: the proposal from the NHS Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust to close specialist dental services at the Flatt Walks clinic in Whitehaven and relocate patients and activity to Cleator Moor health centre.

The role of this committee, which consists of six councillors, three district councillors and three county councillors with one of the six representing each district in Cumbria, is to decide whether this constitutes a "substantial service change" which would trigger a greater requirement for public consultation.

The meeting will take place in Committee Room 2 at County Hall in Kendal and will be open to the public.

The agenda of the meeting and details of the proposal, including the results of a consultation with patients, can be found here.

Share of workers on low pay falls to lowest since 1982

The Resolution Foundation has released figures showing that low pay in the UK - defined as those who are paid less than two-thirds of the median wage - has fallen to 18.2% of the work force, the lowest since 1982. (Blue line on the graph below.)

The number of people who have been lifted out of low pay by that definition in the past year is 230,000. The Resolution Foundation suggest that this is mainly due to the National Living Wage.

Quote of the day Friday 18th May 2018


Thursday, May 17, 2018

A balanced account of the terrible happenings in Gaza

To listen to some people's account of the dreadful events in Gaza - accounts which come dangerously close to, and in some cases reach, the international definition of anti-Semitism by subjecting the state of Israel to  a stricter moral standard than anyone else or unreasonably comparing Jewish people to Nazis - you would think that everything which has happened is Israel's fault (except for what is Donald Trump's.)

To listen to other accounts you might imagine that the government of Israel has handled everything perfectly and all the bloodshed is Hamas's fault.

The truth, lies, as you might expect, somewhere between these two extremes.

I certainly don't think that either the Trump administration or the government of Israel has handled the situation well but there is no doubt that among the peaceful demonstrators were armed members of Hamas - which is classed as a terrorist organisation for good reasons by the governments of the USA, Britain and the EU - who were determined to cause trouble and willing to die and cause the deaths of others doing it.

Hamas themselves say that fifty of the 62 people who died were their members.

The best attempt I have seen to put together an impartial account of what happened which tries to be fair to both sides is an article in The Tablet called

"Thirteen inconvenient truths about what has been happening in Gaza"

which you can read here.

Special music spot: The Dambusters Theme music

In memory of all the brave men of RAF 617 squadron who breached the Mohne and Eder Dams in the early hours of 17th May 1945, seventy five years ago today, especially the fifty three who never came home.

Quote of the day 17th May 2018


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Woman convicted for stealing four candles

The Whitehaven News this week reports that a woman from Cockermouth has been convicted and fined for shoplifting. She tried to steal four candles from a store in Whitehaven.

Yes, I do mean 4 candles, not fork handles ...

Time to ditch the concept of "Cultural appropriation"

The Economist has an excellent article here, subtitled

"When respect for diversity is taken to crazy extremes"

which argues that attempting to show respect for what are labelled "minority cultures" by preventing anyone else from paying them, the sincerest form of flattery is self-defeating and should be binned.

After pointing out the hypocrisy and capacity for inspiring ridicule which results from the inconsistent application of this idea, the magazine's article concludes:

"The remedy for the selective application of the cultural appropriation label is not its expansion—as this would sweep in all manner of innocuous social interactions—but its retirement.

The phrase stigmatises the beneficial cultural exchanges that happen in art, music, dance, cooking and language. The very idea is self-defeating. To declare black culture off-limits to non-blacks, for example, is to segregate it.

The term also fundamentally misunderstands the process by which all cultures form and progress: through creolisation and intermixing. To appropriate the words of John Donne, no culture is an island entirely of itself."

Midweek Madrigal: John Dowland's "Come Again, Sweet love doth now invite"

Quote of the day 16th May 2018


Remembering the Dambusters

75 years ago today, on 16th May 1943, nineteen specially modified Lancaster Bombers of RAF 617 squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, took off to attack the Ruhr dams in Germany.


The attack which followed on the night of 16th/17th May, codenamed Operation Chastise,  using purpose-built "bouncing bombs" developed by Barnes Wallis to breach the Möhne and Edersee Dams, caused catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and seriously disrupted military production for the Nazi war effort.

RAF 617 squadron has been known ever since as "The Dambusters."

It is beyond question that Operation Chastise was a crushing propaganda blow to the Nazi regime, but there has been some controversy about how much damage was actually caused.

James Holland's recent book, Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dams, argues that

"it is time to put the record straight."

He insists that the damage was "absolutely enormous" and it was "an extraordinary achievement."

Every bridge for 30 miles below the breached Mohne dam was destroyed, and buildings were damaged 40 miles away. Twelve war production factories were destroyed, and around 100 more were damaged. Thousands of acres of farmland were ruined. Two hydroelectric power stations were destroyed and several more damaged. Factories and mines were also damaged and destroyed.

Germans instantly referred to it after the raid as the "Mohne catastrophe". Even the cool Speer admitted that it was "a disaster for us for a number of months". German sources attribute a 400,000-tonne drop in coal production in May 1943 to the damage caused.

The fact that a titanic effort was made to repair this damage shows how high a priority the dams were, and it meant resources were shifted from elsewhere. Nowhere was this costlier to the Third Reich than on the beaches of Normandy.

Hitler had ordered the construction of a massive network of defences against an Allied invasion. Now thousands of workers who should have been toiling in France were redirected to the Ruhr to repair the dams. A year later allied troops would have faced far more significant defences had it not been for the Dambusters raid.

No raid mounted by so few aircraft had ever caused such extensive material damage. It did not bring German war production to a permanent halt, but nobody had expected it to.

Historian Dan Snow argues here that

"The most important impact of the Dambusters raid may indeed have been in convincing people on both sides that the Allies were winning, and that, often, is how wars are won and lost."

Eight of 617 squadron's aircraft were lost, 53 of the aircrew were killed and three taken prisoner. Thirty-four of the survivors were decorated, with Gibson awarded the Victoria Cross.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

MPs reject attempt by unelected House to force government to break manifesto promise

The House of Lords has done good work in the past as a revising chamber.

It is an appointed body, not accountable to anyone but whose members have usually shown restraint in the past, whose job is to check legislation passed by the elected chamber. the House of Lords is  not supposed to attempt to frustrate either directly or through wrecking amendments, measures which the electorate have voted for.

Some of the recent House of Lords votes on the legislation implementing the electorate's decision to withdraw from the EU have been pushing the envelope of what is acceptable within the traditional role of the unelected chamber and you don't have to either go along with the more excitable tabloid headlines about "traitors in ermine" of even be a rabid Brexiteer - I voted Remain - to be concerned that the upper house is in danger of going beyond it's reasonable powers.

The behaviour of the House of Lords in respect of Brexit is challenging enough, but on press regulation they have now twice this year attempted to force the government to do something which the governing party had made an election manifesto promise not to.

The 2017 Conservative manifesto promised not to hold a further "Leveson 2" inquiry into the press. In January the House of Lords tried to force the government to break this election promise through amendments to the Data Protection Bill. These were taken out of the bill by the House of Commons a couple of months later.

Last week a group of MPs moved similar amendments to the data protection bill to those previously put forward by the House of Lords, which in my humble opinion would have seriously damaged the ability of the press to write anything controversial or expose wrongdoing. By a slim but clear majority of nine votes, the House of Commons rejected the first of these amendments and a further, particularly damaging proposal was dropped without a vote.

That should have been the end of it, but on Monday the unelected House made yet another attempt to force the government to break its election promises about press regulation, passing a further proposed amendment calling for a new inquiry. In the words of the Guardian,


"Although often described as being equivalent to the abandoned part two of the Leveson inquiry, in reality the proposal debated by parliament would have gone further and considered the use of personal data by newspapers, the role of social media companies, and governance issues at media groups."

Today MPs again rejected these proposals, by a slightly larger majority of 12 votes.

“I support the convention that if something is in the party of government’s manifesto and this house passes it, then the Lords should be very, very careful about sending it back,”

said the culture secretary, Matt Hancock.

There is a good explanation of the case against another press inquiry or further regulation by Emily Dinsmore in Spiked which you can read here.

An appointed upper chamber is increasingly looking like an anomaly in the modern age. I fought the 2010 election on a Conservative manifesto which included proposals to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber.

Had I been elected I would, like the majority of Conservative MPs, have backed the attempt by David Cameron and Nick Clegg to implement this. Unfortunately it was defeated by an "unholy alliance" of Tory rebels and Labour. Ironically a substantial proportion of the rebels who killed the proposals for an elected second chamber were strong Brexit supporters who have found this bad decision coming back to haunt them.

The case for replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber looks even stronger to me today than it did during the 2010-2015 parliament.

UK Employment reaches a new record high

New figures released today by the Office for National Statistics ONS show that there are 32.34 million people in work in the UK, which is a new record high for the employment rate.

Quote of the day 15th May 2018

(A new Leveson-style inquiry into the press) 
would be an analogue inquiry in an increasingly digital age.”

It would also
“rightly be seen as yet another attempt by politicians to meddle in the internal affairs of the news media and ultimately to muzzle free expression”.
“What message are we going to send out - that the free media are enemies of the state?"
“They may be unruly and challenge us in ways that make us uncomfortable but they are not our enemies.”
(Lord Hunt of Wirral, a former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, extracts from his speech against the House of Lords proposal to try again to force the government to hold another inquiry into the press after MPs voted last week not to do so.)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Kinder, Gentler politics - NOT

While I was driving back to Copeland after the Cumbria Health Scrutiny meeting in County Hall, Kendal today, there was a mock "mastermind" quiz of a political journalist on Radio 4 about the new language of the hard left in Britain.

One of the five terms was an expression of praise for Jeremy Corbyn ("The Absolute Boy") and the other four were relatively new insults such as "slug" now in vogue among Corbynistas for various flavours of people whose views differ slightly from theirs. Their other disparaging names for people judged to be insufficiently robust in the left-wing cause are "Centrist dad," "Melt" and "Gammon."

You can tell quite a lot about a group of people if they start adding expressions to the language and if insults outnumber complements by four to one, one of the things it tells you is that whatever "The absolute boy" might prefer these are not practitioners of "kinder gentler politics."

What really struck me was the extent to which this range of terms indicates a range of disdain for everyone else in the political spectrum. You might expect that Conservatives like me might be the main target of Corbynista insults but actually I don't qualify as any of them - but almost everyone else does.

"Gammon" is a word for a working class supporter of Brexit, while "Centrist Dads" who are often Labour voters are the opposite - they are Remain supporters who are worried that Jeremy Corbyn is insufficiently opposed to Brexit.

The insults "Slug" and "Melts" are usually used of Blairites or soft-left Labour supporters who are perceived as trying to sabotage, or not have the courage to forcefully back, the Corbyn project.

If this is what has been added to the English language by the new left, one concludes that these people don't merely dislike Tories, they don't seem to like each other very much either!

"Tea with the Team Event" for new NHS staff on Sunday

This video is about the "Tea with the team" event to make new NHS staff in West Cumbria feel welcome and help them integrate with the local community which was held at the Rosehill Theatre yesterday and was a great success.



Quote of the day 14th May 2018

"If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."

(Simon Kuyper, tips to young graduates in @FTmag, shared by @JonnyGeller)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tessa Jowell RIP

I didn't always agree with Lady Tessa Jowell but she was a very brave and dedicated public servant who spent her life helping others and epitomised the value of respect of people of different views which is in such short supply these days.

I am very sorry to heat that she has lost her battle with brain cancer.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday music spot: Bach "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen"

Quote of the day Sunday 13th May


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday music spot: Arcangelo Corelli: Concerto Grosso

Copeland Local committee meeting 15th May 2018

The Copeland local committee of Cumbria County Council (consisting of all county councillors representing divisions within the Borough of Copeland) will be meeting on Tuesday 15th May at Cleator Moor Civic Hall and Masonic Centre.

The agenda and supporting papers can be found here.

Items for consideration include:


2018/19 LOCAL COMMITTEE DEVOLVED BUDGET - HIGHWAYS

To consider a report from the Executive Director – Economy and Infrastructure
This report presents the Highways Devolved Budget Finance report combined with an update on the Highways Programme, detail of which is contained within the attached appendices.

COPELAND HIGHWAYS WORKING GROUP - 11 APRIL 2018

The major issue arising from this item is a recommendation not to proceed with the Beckermet Experimental Traffic scheme.

AREA MANAGER'S REPORT for COPELAND

To consider a report which brings together information from across the Community teams including Community Development, Libraries, Archives, Public Health and Waste Prevention, and provides Local Committee with an update on the work of each area, identified activity against priorities, highlights current issues and provides an overview of the budget position.

NOMINATIONS - LA GOVERNORS OF LOCAL PRIMARY SCHOOLS

To fill vacancies for eight school governor posts.

At the time the agenda was prepared there were people nominated to fill three of these vacances - on the governing bodies for Bransty and Seascale primary schools and Mayfield school - but there were no nominations yet for the remaining five vacancies on the governing bodies of the following schools:

St Begh's Catholic Junior School
Waberthwaite Church of England Primary School
Ennerdale and Kinniside Church of England Primary School
Lamplugh Church of England School
Valley Primary School.