Monday, September 30, 2019

At Conservative Conference Today:




  • Funding for projects in our second Road Investment Strategy. From our £25 billion Road Investment Strategy, this sets out our plans to invest in our strategic road network, addressing congestion, improving millions of journeys and making it easier for people to get from A to B.


  • £220 million to transform bus services across the country. This will include the creation of Britain’s first ever all-electric bus town, expansion of our fleet of low emission busses and a new low-fare high-frequency ‘superbus’ network – allowing passengers more choice and lower prices.


  • £5 billion to support roll-out of full-fibre, 5G and other gigabit capable network. This will help roll out 5G and other gigabit capable networks to the hardest to reach 20 per cent of the country – ensuring the whole country benefits from 21st century connectivity – supporting businesses and families across the UK.






  • We will lay out a bold new approach to create a simpler, faster and more responsive planning process in the Accelerated Planning Green Paper. Reforming the planning system and simplifying the process whilst making sure local residents still have their say over buildings in their community.


  • Families wishing to expand their home will find a more user-friendly approach and a more simple process. We are also making it easier and faster to redevelop disuses commercial buildings and replace them with houses – creating more attractive high streets.






  • Youth unemployment has almost halved since 2010, but there is still more to do. That’s why we will dedicate extra time and resources to young people facing the biggest hurdles to getting a job, including care-leavers and young offenders.


  • We are also investing in cutting-edge technology to help recommend the best jobs and skills training to job seekers and people looking to find better, higher-paid jobs – so that people have every chance to get not just any job, but find their dream job.

Quote of the day 30th September 2019



Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday music spot: "If ye love me" by Thomas Tallis (The Gesualdo Six)

Toynbee on Swinson

I referred in an earlier post to how Brexit has shaken up British politics and produced strange new alliances among former political foes while sundering old friends.

There is another good example in Polly Toynbee's criticism of the "Remain extremism" of Lib/Dem leader Jo Swinson.

It is hardly a surprise that she doesn't agree with Boris Johnson's position but it is interesting that -noting quite correctly that on the issue of Brexit issue the Lib/Dems are not in the centre but at one end of the spectrum - Polly Toynbee describes the stance of the Liberal Democrats as just as much a "startlingly extreme position."

Ms Toynbee criticises the Lib/Dem position on Brexit as

"Revoke now, to hell with the will of the people" and adds that she finds this alarming and that it comes over as a "denial of democracy."

You can read the article in which she makes these points here.

Quote of the day 29th September 2019


Saturday, September 28, 2019

A must-read article about Britain and Ireland

There is an article by Brendan Simms, who is a professor in the history of international relations at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in the New Statesman which in my humble opinion is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to understand the Britain/Ireland aspects of the Brexit process.

Both Brexit supporters and Remainers can learn from what Professor Sims has written: both will find things in it which they like and things which challenge them (and if you don't you have not read it carefully enough.)

It is not very often these days which you read anything which seems to display an empathic understanding of all three of the viewpoints of mainland Britain, Northern Irish and Ireland (26 counties)

In his article,

"From backdoor to backstop: Ireland’s shifting relationship with Britain and Europe."

Professor Simms sets out how since the Middle Ages, successive governments of first England and then Britain have been concerned to prevent Ireland (and indeed Scotland and Wales) being used as a backdoor invasion route against these islands from both hostile European powers and indigenous rebels and pretenders.

If this makes it sound as though he is criticising England or Britain for this, the article didn't come over to me as ignoring English and British concerns. That's because Brendan Simms also points out that they had good reason for those concerns, and he records some of the rebels and European powers who over the last few centuries have threatened or indeed attempted exactly that strategy.

I might add that as some of the foreign regimes involved in those plots, strategies and invasions are still rightly remembered even today both for aggression against all their neighbours and for purges and mass executions against people they didn't like, from burning alive those with the wrong religious views to industrial-scale use of the guillotine against people of the wrong social class or political views, it would have been surprising if any English or British government had not taken action to defend itself and its' people against such attacks. You don't have to excuse or justify for a moment all the actions which have taken place in consequence to recognise this.

Brendan Simms goes on to describe how this background has affected the Brexit process, particularly the policies of the Varadkar government in Ireland and the response to the backstop of politicians in the North of Ireland (particularly the DUP) and on the British mainland.

You don't have to agree with everything he says to realise that Professor Simms has some very significant and important insights into how the "Backstop" is seen in various different parts of the British Isles and about some of the challenges which both Britain and Ireland face going forward.

I would very strongly advise anyone with an open mind and an interest in either British-Irish relations or the future relationship between Britain and Europe (including whether and how Brexit happens) to read this New Statesman article, which you can do here.

Music to relax after campaigning: Pastoral Symphony from Handel's Messiah

Well done to all those who were out campaigning today.

I spent some time in Hillcrest with local CBC councillor Russell Studholme putting out residents' survey forms on behalf of our MP Trudy Harrison and Russell and his fellow Hillcrest councillors.

Here is a bit of relaxing music for all those who have been campaigning, the orchestral "Pifa" overture at the mid point of Part One of Handel's Messiah and which is usually referred to as the "Pastoral Symphony."

October meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee

The Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee will be meeting on Monday 7th October 2019 at the council offices in Cumbria House, Botchergate, Carlisle, starting at 10.30 am. The meeting is expected to last until about half past three and will be open to the public.

The full agenda, including supporting reports can be read on the Cumbria County Council website at


The main items to be considered in the morning session (10.30 am to about 1pm) are

Changes to Mental Health Rehabilitation Services in Cumbria
(a joint report by NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, Chief Officer, Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group and the Chief Operating Officer, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust)

Copeland Same Day Health Centre
(a report by NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group).


The main items to be considered after lunch, probably from about 1.50pm, are:

North Cumbria Podiatry Service 2019
(a report by NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group)

HealthCare for the Future Update
(Also a report by the NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group)

Cancelled Operations
(Two reports, one each from the hospitals trusts serving North and South Cumbria respectively.)

Investing in NHS frontline services - MRI and CT screening machines

The Prime Minister has announced a promise to deliver new funding for frontline NHS state-of-the-art MRI and CT screening machines, so our brilliant NHS staff have the tools they need for quicker cancer diagnosis and higher survival rates.

 

  • Cancer survival rates are now at a record high and this £200 million new NHS funding will help ensure that 55,000 more people survive cancer every year.

 

  • Over 300 diagnostic machines in hospitals across England will bring us closer to our ambition of becoming a global leader in cancer diagnosis, providing the very best care - wherever you live, and whatever your condition.

Quote of the day 28th September 2019

It has often been said that there is many a true word spoken in jest. When you look at British politics at the moment this joke from Groucho Marx sometimes seems to have far too much truth in it:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Helping the victims of the Windrush scandal

The Home Secretary is launching an Advisory Group to help encourage those affected by Windrush to apply to the Taskforce and Compensation Scheme. 

  • The group will bring together community and faith leaders, building trust with those affected so that people of all nationalities can come forward to claim compensation. 
  • The Windrush generation were failed by successive Governments; we must reach all those affected through direct community engagement and give them the compensation they deserve.

Another sign of strange times ...

Either some joker pretending to be former NUM President Arthur Scargill has managed to con The Daily Telegraph, or the letter below which which I'm told was published in that paper yesterday demonstrates that the realignment of politics caused by Brexit has gone even further than I realised ...


Quote of the day 27th September 2019

"It is bad enough that so many people believe things without any evidence. What is worse is that some people have no conception of evidence and regard facts as just someone else's opinion."

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Helping disadvantaged students

The Education Secretary is calling on universities to do more to help disadvantaged students so we can level up opportunity across the country and ensure all young people reach their full potential.
  • More disadvantaged young people are going to university than ever before – but white working class boys are still less likely to go to university and black students are less likely to complete their courses than others. 
  • Universities must up their game to improve access and provide the right support for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete their courses. We will support the Office for Students to make sure that is the case.

Toning it down a bit

Anyone who was following my blog very closely today may have noticed that in the previous post, quoting Stephen Daisley and arguing for a new electtion, I initially included an image which quoted directly the words which Oliver Cromwell used when dismissing the Rump Parliament, but have now removed it, leaving only an indirect reference.

I decided to take my own advice in relation to all the accusations which have been flying around over the past 24 hours in every imaginable direction about the use of inflammatory language.

As I wrote on Twitter earlier today:

"Huge proportion of my news input and twitter feed is people calling out extreme and inflammatory language from their opponents, sometimes in extreme and inflammatory language.

Would it not be a good idea if Brexiteers, Remainers, right left and centre ALL toned it down a bit?" 

Stephen Daisley makes the case for an election

I saw the quote below on Twitter just now. I assumed it would be part of an article calling for an election but it actually turned out to be the conclusion of  this very interesting piece discussing whether Britain is heading for a US style written constitution and politicised Supreme Court.

However, although he does not quite specifically call for a fresh election, the concluding words of the article, below, about the present parliament makes the case for why I believe we need another election as soon as possible.


It is as if he was channelling and in a slightly more democratic way, Cromwell's dismissal of the Rump Parliament!

Sound and Fury ...

So parliament is sitting again.

Daniel Johnson wrote an piece on "The Article" yesterday,

"MPs are back in Westminster. But what will they actually do?"

On the basis of yesterday it seems to be a very good question.

Despite all the angry rhetoric from all sides no party actually tabled a motion of "No confidence" in the government.

A majority of MPs seem to be happy to hamstring the government and talk about how awful the Prime Minister is but not to actually try to remove him or agree to an election.

In my humble opinion this is actually making what these MPs say they want to avoid - a No-Deal Brexit - more likely rather than less. 

Every time MPs pile humiliation on the government while leaving it in place, they make the other 27 EU member states more likely to despair of ever getting a deal agreed with Britain which can pass through the UK parliament. 

If Britain does ask for an extension it would only take one of the other 27 governments to veto it and the effect of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will almost certainly mean in that situation that Britain leaves the EU with No Deal.

The only way to avoid a full-on constitutional crisis is if Boris comes back from the EU summit in mid October with a deal and parliament then works flat out to pass and implement it. This is also the best way to take a "No Deal" Brexit off the table and the only way to do so without justly infuriating millions of people by repudiating the expressed decision of the electorate, a decision which 85% of MPs were elected while promising to uphold.

I do not see that the antics of some of those MPs who say they want to avoid a no deal Brexit are helping towards that end.

Quote of the day 26th September 2019

“The implications would be swingeing and it would affect everyone.

“It would require the confiscation of all petrol-fuelled cars still on the road, the state rationing of meat, limiting families to one foreign flight every five years, the closure of whole industries.”

(GMB delegate Neil Derrick at Labour conference, speaking against the proposal - which was duly adopted by the Labour party conference - to bring forward the proposed target date for Britain to be Carbon neutral from 2050 to 2030.

GMB general secretary Tim Roache said of the same proposal: “It’s frankly not credible.”)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Midweek music spot: Bach's Violin Concerto in D minor BWV 1052R

Why Conservatives must defend an independent judiciary

If being a Conservative means anything it means support for the rule of law.

Anyone who imagines that you can have a genuinely free society without protecting people's rights through the rule of laws, even if that society holds free elections or organises direct participatory democracy, has not read enough history.

If you want a good object lesson in how a democracy can also be a ghastly, possibly even murderous tyranny if it does not have independent courts and a strong tradition of the rule of law, I suggest you study the history of Ancient Greece, the later Roman Republic, or the French Revolution.

I particularly recommend any good translation of Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War" - my personal copy is the Richard Crawley translation, which is supposed to be one of the better ones, I also understand that historians often speak highly of the Walter Blanco translation.

It is not difficult to imagine how a situation could soon arise in Britain which would cause those who were furious at yesterday's Supreme Court ruling to be very grateful that we have independent courts, while some of those who were rubbing their hands with glee might find that their own plans would be - quite rightly - challenged by Britain's independent courts if they ever got into power.

If Jeremy Corbyn were to become Prime Minister, he would presumably appoint John McDonnell either as Chancellor or to a senior position in the government. Mr McDonnell has said openly that he wants to put his political opponents, particularly Tories, on trial and when asked under what law he replied "I might want to invent it."

If that man ever becomes a minister Britain will need a strong independent judiciary and Supreme Court to stop him using retrospective legislation to lock up anyone he doesn't like.

Labour's conference voted last week not just to abolish Independent schools but to take their assets, financial, land and property, and redistribute them.

Taxation which applies on the same basis to everyone, or compulsory purchase orders in which a fair price is paid are one thing, but that policy would be out-and-out state sponsored theft.

And if Labour is ever in government and adopts a policy of wholesale confiscation against either  private schools or anyone else, Britain will need a strong independent judiciary and Supreme Court to protect the rights of the potential victims of any such policy.

Robert Bolt famously put the reasons why we need laws and independent courts into the mouth of Sir Thomas More in his play "A Man for All Seasons" as the famous "Give the devil benefit of law" speech, and it is as true today as it ever was.

Quote of the day 25th September 2019

"We must all remember that our world-class judiciary always acts free from political motivation or influence and that the rule of law is the basis of our democracy, for all seasons. Personal attacks on judges from any quarter are completely unacceptable."

(Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC, MP, Justice Secretary)

Snap poll for the Telegraph following the Supreme Court ruling

Interesting findings from ComRes in a poll for the Telegraph about where people stand now on Brexit following the Supreme Court Ruling ...


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

After the Supreme Court Ruling

Conservatives and the Conservative government have the highest respect for our judiciary and the independence of our courts.

  • Nothing that the Supreme Court said should deter us from getting on and delivering on the will of the people to come out of the EU on 31 October, because that is what the electorate instructed us to do.
  • And we will simultaneously refuse to be deterred from delivering on what will be an exciting and dynamic domestic agenda, intended to make our country even more attractive to live in and to invest in. 
  • We are pushing on with investing in our NHS, reducing violent crime and cutting the cost of living and to do that we will need a Queen’s Speech to set out what we are going to do. 
  • People want to see us delivering a strong domestic agenda and they want to see Brexit delivered by 31 October, and you’ll hear more about some of these plans in Manchester at our party conference next week. 
  • The Liberal Democrats used their conference to say they would revoke Article 50 and Jeremy Corbyn used Labour’s conference to decide not to take a view on Brexit. Conservatives will use our conference to set out our positive vision for the UK after Brexit.

Boris at the UN

At the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister has announced new funding to give millions of girls around the world the chance to go to school and get a quality education.

 

·         The Prime Minister will announce £515 million to help get over 12 million children – half of them girls – into school; this will boost economic growth and improve women’s rights in some of the poorest countries in the world.

 

·         Supporting the empowerment of girls and women is a priority for the Prime Minister, who used his first speech on the steps of Downing Street to underline the pledge he made as Foreign Secretary that all girls should receive 12 years of quality education.

 

Also at UNGA, the International Development Secretary announced new aid to support vulnerable Venezuelans suffering in the wake of their country’s economic collapse.

 

·         We are providing an extra £30 million to help aid organisations in Venezuela deliver life-saving medicine and clean water to those suffering from the dire humanitarian crisis, bringing our total support to £44.5 million.

 

·         The people of Venezuela are needlessly suffering as a direct result of President Maduro’s refusal to accept the scale of his country’s worsening humanitarian crisis – a regime which Jeremy Corbyn has praised.

Second quote of the day 24th September 2019

"If John McDonnell thinks he can pay for all of his fantasy pledges then he is utterly deluded."

(Title of article by John Rentoul, Chief political correspondent of the Independent. You can read the article in full here.)

Healthcare for British Citizens abroad

The Health Secretary has announced that healthcare access for more than 180,000 British nationals living in the EU will be protected when we leave the EU on 31 October, whatever the circumstances.

 

  • We will fund the healthcare for British people who live in EU member states, including pensioners, students and workers, for six months after Brexit if we leave without a deal.

 

  • While we continue to work towards a good deal with the EU, whatever happens we will be ready to come out by 31 October, no ifs, no buts.

First quote of the day 24th September 2019

"Genuinely amused that Labour’s proposed tax threshold for the 45% additional tax rate comes in at £80,000. What do MP’s get paid? £79,468." 

(Quote from an old friend from my University of Bristol days, Gerard Fox @Fox4HailshamNT on Twitter.)

Monday, September 23, 2019

Helping those left stranded by the failure of Thomas Cook

The government has launched the largest repatriation in peacetime history following the collapse of Thomas Cook, helping customers to get home, as well as supporting those staff affected.

 

  • Thomas Cook’s collapse is very sad news for staff and holidaymakers. We are working around the clock to help people and have hired dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge.

 

  • All Thomas Cook customers, wherever they are in the world, will be brought back to the UK on these special free flights or booked onto another scheduled airline at no extra cost. The Business Secretary will also write to insurance companies to task them to process claims quickly.

 

  • The British government will convene a cross-Government taskforce to support employees, as well as closely monitoring the impact of the collapse on local businesses.

Using new technology to fight Climate Change

The Prime Minister announced today that British scientists will be able to access up to £1 billion of UK aid to innovate new technology to help developing countries fight climate change, cementing our position as a global leader in the fight against global warming.

 

  • British scientists and innovators will be able to access up to £1 billion of aid funding to develop and test new technology targeted at tackling climate change in developing countries, including providing affordable access to electricity for some of the one billion people who are still of the grid.

 

  • If we get this right, future generations will look back on climate change as a problem that we solved by determined global action and the prowess of technology.

Aron Eisenberg RIP

Nog, the first Ferengi in Star Fleet, is no more.

Aron Eisenberg, the actor who portrayed Nog in forty episodes of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" has died at the age of 50.

His widow, Malissa Longo, wrote

"It is with extreme regret and sadness to announce that my love and best friend, Aron Eisenberg, passed away earlier today.”

She added "“He was an intelligent, humble, funny, emphatic soul. He sought to live his life with integrity and truth.”

Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day 23rd September 2019

"Pain is universal.

Black, white, rich, poor, Muslim, Christian, gay, heterosexual, it doesn't matter who you are; the pain of losing a child is like ripping out your heart.

A part of you, blood and flesh, is gone. it is unspeakable and intolerable.

Last week the Guardian published (and then retracted) an article in which it dismissed the loss of the former prime minister David Cameron's eldest son, Ivan, as only 'privileged pain'."

"Well, I don't know about Guardian writers, but I would choose family and health over money every day. I would give away all my privilege and money to have my son back.

I am certainly no apologist for Cameron but to describe the loss of Ivan as privileged pain is grotesque and deeply offensive to the many thousands of us who have lost children of our own."

"There is no privilege in losing a child."

"There is no privilege in holding your dead son in your arms."


(Ben Fogle, extracts from an article in yesterday's Sunday Times in response to the Guardian leader mentioned.)

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday music spot: Evening Hymn, "Te Lucis Anto Terminum" (Balfour Gardiner)

Islamophobia

Prejudice against Muslims is a real and growing issue in Britain and it is unacceptable whoever it comes from.

Sadly no political party is entirely free of racism: none of our major parties can afford to be complacent about Anti-Muslim prejudice any more than they can afford to be complacent about Anti-Semitism.

It was revealed this week that the Conservative party has suspended a number of members who appear to have made or liked posts on social media which exhibited prejudice against Muslims.

That behaviour is not acceptable and has no place in the party, so it was and will remain essential in any such case that firm action was taken and seen to be taken.

Earlier this year the government set out proposals to arrive at a new working definition of Islamophobia.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on the issue, the then Communities secretary James Brokenshire said he welcomed the work undertaken by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims to develop a definition.

He agreed that there does there does need to be a formal definition of Islamophobia. To achieve this the government would appoint 2 expert advisers to lead a new study in close collaboration with the cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. This new work will build on the definitions of Islamophobia currently being considered, including the APPG definition. It will also draw on a wide range of opinions, to ensure that it commands broad support amongst Muslims.

James Brokenshire said:
  • "I am deeply concerned at hatred which is directed against British Muslims and others because of their faith or heritage. This is utterly unacceptable and does not reflect the values of our country."
  • "To get a firmer grip on the nature of this bigotry and division we agree there needs to be a formal definition of Islamophobia to help strengthen our efforts. I know that there are strong feelings on this issue. That’s why I’m announcing the appointment of two experts to work closely with the cross-government Working Group, to thoroughly examine the options available to us that ensures wide-ranging acceptance."
  • "Input from the Working Group is an essential part of informing our approach to combatting religiously motivated hatred, supporting victims and holding perpetrators to account. Their work on this important task will be invaluable."
Formed in 2012, the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group comprises independent experts, academics and Muslim community representatives. It provides crucial advice and challenge to the government, to ensure that policies meet the needs of communities.

Speaking for myself, I am proud of the fact that I successfully proposed, in a non-partisan manner which was able to obtain all-party support, that Cumbria County Council should adopt the IHRA working definition of Anti-Semitism.

I said while proposing that motion that there are other forms of prejudice which are also very worrying and called out prejudice against Muslims as one of them.

I hope that the government's initiative earlier this year will soon enable us to reach a place where there is a broadly accepted working definition of Islamophobia with support from the Muslim community.

When that happens I hope and fully intend to propose that Cumbria County Council adopts this too.

Quote of the day 22nd September 2019

"Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don't know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields."

(Thomas Sowell)


Saturday, September 21, 2019

"The Economist" on Climate change

The Economist this week has a very good summary of the historical evidence about how the very developments which have greatly improved the quality of life for millions of people have also released millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and created a huge challenge for our future.





































The article also discusses possible solutions, pathways for the future and the extent of the challenge of achieving them.

The article may annoy some climate change sceptics by arguing that the case for man-made climate change is proved. Personally I don't think we understand the Earth's fantastically complex ecosystem as well as we think we do, but the trouble is, "Has this been proved?" is not actually the right question.

The question we should actually be asking ourselves is not "Has the case that human actions are affecting the climate been proved beyond reasonable doubt?"

It is "Is there enough evidence that we are affecting the Earth's climate to demonstrate a significant danger that continuing on our present course of action could have catastrophic consequences?"

And, I'm afraid, you don't have to sign up to everything that the climate lobby say, to believe that we fully understand the Earth's ecosystem or to regard the case for man-made climate change as proved to realise that the answer to that question is almost certainly YES.

That's why I believe we have to take action to reduce carbon emissions both in Britain and throughout the world.

The Economist's article is called

"Global warming 101, The past, present and future of climate change/"

It is behind a paywall but if you are not a subscriber you can still register to read five three articles per month.

You can find the article here.