Friday, February 03, 2023

Music to start the weekend: Henry Purcell's Rondeau from Abdelazer

Quote of the day 3rd February 2023

Here is a quote which is true but in exactly the opposite way to what the person saying it meant:


  “Unfortunately we see that the ideology of Nazism in its modern form and manifestation again directly threatens the security of our country.”


This is a translation of the words which  Russian PresidentVladimir Putin used this week at a ceremony in which he laid a wreath at the eternal flame of the memorial complex to the fallen Red Army soldiers in Volgograd, the present name of the city which at the time of the battle they fought in was called Stalingrad.

Comparisons to the Nazis are grossly over-used these days and Putin's speech was certainly an example. But in at least four key respects his illegal invasion of Ukraine and the things he is doing to support that invasion and stay in power are right out of the Nazi playbook.

  • Unprovoked invasion of peaceful neighbours
  • Bombardment of innocent civilian populations
  • Tell all sorts of the most outrageous lies to blame your victims for what you have done to them
  • Lock up or murder anyone who disagrees with you

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Thursday music spot: Andréas Perez-Ursulet with another take on Purcell's Cold Song

Cracking down on crime

Figures released this week show an estimated 136,000 violent offences have been prevented across England and Wales since 2019, through the success of Violence reduction units, as we deliver on our promise to crack down on crime and keep communities safe. 

  • Serious violence is a complex issue – early interventions, which support at-risk children to make the right choices in life, are crucial to tackling youth crime and keeping our communities safer. 
  • That is why the government targeted investment to areas most blighted by violent crime through our Violence Reduction Units, preventing 136,000 violence without injury offences by increasing police patrols in crime hotspots and providing more support to at-risk young people. 
  • The number of children caught up in crime is at a historic low – and Violence Reduction Units, hotspot patrols, and our plans to recruit 20,000 additional police officers will help to build safer communities for future generations. We are well on the way to achieving this as the recent announcement that 17,753 officers since 2019 demonstrates.



Quote of the day 2nd February 2023


 

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Fairer ways for vulnerable victims to give evidence

Yesterday the government announced that thousands of vulnerable victims will be able to avoid courtroom cross-examination by pre-recording their cross-examination, in a move designed to help more victims achieve justice.   

  • Live trial settings can often be very traumatic for victims of crimes including rape and sexual assault – we must do more to support them and ensure they have their voices heard.  
  • That is why the government has made it possible for vulnerable victims to pre-record their cross-examination ahead of trial in every Crown Court in England and Wales. From today, we have increased fees for lawyers taking evidence in this way – and new estimates predict potential tripling in use of video technology, with up to 4,600 victims able pre-record their cross-examination. 
  • The government has have overhauled support for victims of rape and sexual assault, and the expansion of this scheme will ensure more of them have their voices heard and deliver justice for thousands of vulnerable victims. 

Self driving bus service to be launched

Today, the UK government announced the world’s first fully sized, self-driving bus service will launch in Spring, helping to drive economic growth and boost regional connectivity. 

  • Revolutionising public transport and passenger travel is a key part of our commitment to level up communities across our United Kingdom, particularly rural communities with poorer connectivity.  
  • That is why the government is supporting the world’s first fully sized, self-driving bus services with £81 million, alongside industry. The project forms the most advanced set of self-driving passenger operations anywhere in the world, adding tens of billions to our economy and creating thousands of jobs across the United Kingdom. 
  • The support we are providing today will help drive forward our priority to grow the economy and revolutionise public transport across the country.  

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said:

"In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.

The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else."

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:

"Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.

We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector."

Midweek music spot: Jakub Jósef Orlinski sings Purcell's Cold Song

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 1st February 2023


 

Quote of the day 1st February 2023


 

















"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

(George Orwell - picture shows his statue and this quote outside the BBC.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Making sure there cannot be another Grenfell Tower

This week Housing and Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove announced the the government will give housing developers six weeks to sign a contract requiring them to fix unsafe buildings and reimburse taxpayers or face significant consequences – protecting innocent leaseholders from unfair and crippling costs.

  • Too many developers, along with product manufacturers and freeholders, have profited from unsafe buildings and have a moral duty to pay for the repair – instead of leaving innocent leaseholders to face the often significant costs.
  • That is why yesterday the government gave developers six weeks to sign a contract requiring them to fix unsafe buildings and reimburse the taxpayer where public funds were used to cover repairs – which is expected to see them commit to more than £2 billion of repairs, with those that fail to sign or comply facing significant consequences. 
  • This new contract will help to restore confidence in the sector and lift a weight off the shoulders of many leaseholders who could otherwise have faced crippling costs for repairs.

Protecting Britain's Environment

Today the government announced a five-year delivery plan to restore nature and improve the quality of our air, waters and land, helping to build a cleaner, greener country for future generations.

  • Our natural environment is fundamental to the health, economy and prosperity of our country, so we must do all we can to protect it.
  • That is why today we announced our five-year delivery plan, which will ensure every household is within 15 minute’s walk of a green space, restore at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats, work with councils to improve air quality, and incentivise farmers to adopt nature-friendly practices. 
  • These steps will help to preserve our environment, increase our access to nature, and make Britain a healthier, greener place to live. 

MoD Defence intelligence summary 31st January 2023


 

Tuesday music spot: "Music for a while" (Henry Purcell) - The King's Singers

Monday, January 30, 2023

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine 30th January 2023


 

Monday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto in C major for two flutes, strings & bass

MoD defence intelligence update on the situation on UKraine 30th January 2023


 

Baker's Law

My last thoughts on the Nadim Zahawi affair. Some people would have criticised the PM whatever he did on this, my opinion is that the best way to ensure that you neither throw innocent people out of the airlock over allegations which might turn out to be untrue or unduly protect those who need to be held accountable over concerns which prove all too well-founded is to have a due process and apply it properly.

That is what Rishi Sunak did by asking Sir Laurie Magnus to investigate the concerns about former Party chairman Nadim Zahawi and acting promptly and decisively when Sir Laurie found that there had been a serious breach of the ministerial code.

It was also right to publish the letter from Sir Laurie and you can read it in full on the government website at

Letter from Sir Laurie Magnus to the Prime Minister, 29 January 2023 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

This letter actually answers most of the questions being asked about the affair.

In many ways it is a great shame to lose someone from the government who had been a very effective minister, and I particularly pay tribute to the great job which Nadhim Zahawi did on the vaccine rollout, but we cannot hope to have a government run on ethical and professional lines if the ministerial code can be ignored with impunity.

Reading the letter from Sir Laurie linked to above it becomes clear that this is a case of Baker's law:









I don't believe that having a disagreement with HMRC over your tax affairs, or even making a mistake about how much is due, should necessarily be grounds for driving someone out of public life PROVIDED that when they become aware of the issue they pay what is due and are open and transparent about it. 

The breach of the ministerial code wasn't the careless error made years before Mr Zahawi became even an MP,  let alone Chancellor, and nor was it a failure to pay up after the issue was raised, which Mr Zahawi did when he settled with HMRC in September 2022. 

The breach of the ministerial code was a failure to meet the standards of prompt declaration of interests and of openness and transparency expected of ministers. In other words it was a classic example of Howard Baker's law quoted above; it was not the original issue which got him but the cover-up.

As I have made clear, I think that in the light of the findings by Sir Laurie, the PM did the right thing by sacking Nadim Zahawi, however much I may regret the loss of an able minister.

But before any more Labour MPs jump on the bandwagon of suggesting Nadhim Zahawi not just have been sacked from the government but should also resign as an MP, perhaps they should remember who else, six months ago, failed to fully complete a declaration of interests form in a timely manner and was found to have breached the MPs code of conduct as a result and had to apologise to the parliamentary standards commissioner.

Standards in public life must be improved in all parties, and not just used as a means of attacking our opponents.

Improving Urgent and Emergency Care

Today, the government published a major plan to improve urgent and emergency care services, as part of the plan to deliver the Prime Minister’s priority to cut waiting times.

The NHS is facing serious challenges as a result of the Covid pandemic and the worst flu season for over a decade. We saw the highest ever number of people attending A&E in December, which combined with high hospital occupancy rates means some patients are facing unacceptable delays. 

The Conservative government is already working to tackle waiting lists – raising health and social care funding to record levels, investing over £750 million this year to speed up the discharge of medically fit patients, delivering on our elective recovery plan to bust the Covid backlogs, and hiring a record number of doctors and nurses. 

Today, the government launches an Urgent and Emergency Care Plan to fix A&E and ambulance waiting times over the next two years by: 

  • Increasing capacity with £1 billion for more beds and ambulances; supported by more staff.
  • Reducing pressure on hospitals by speeding up discharge; expanding new, innovative measures to treat patients safely in the community; and enhancing the role of NHS 111.
  • Improving local A&E services by sharing and promoting best practice, so no matter where you live, you can get the care you need.
  • Conservatives are determined to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to put the NHS first and cut waiting lists, with one of the fastest improvements in emergency waiting times in the history of the NHS, making sure people get the care they need easier, faster, and closer to home. 


Quote of the day 30th January 2023

“Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that there are people opposed to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill who are 'transphobic … deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well' was a deeply cynical attempt to tar her political opponents with the worst kind of brush.”

Leader article in The Scotsman, available here in full:

Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Nicola Sturgeon's disgraceful attack on critics suggest she has lost the plot – Scotsman comment | The Scotsman

Further extracts from the Scotsman Comment piece

Sturgeon’s remarks damage the cause of transgender rights. The case of Isla Bryson, who raped two women while a man and started the transition process before being sentenced, demonstrates a fundamental point – that there is not an absolute right to self-ID.

Instead, it is a qualified right, as in some rare cases, it is not possible to treat a trans woman in exactly the same way as a so-called ‘cis’ woman because of a conflict of rights. In this case, a sex offender's right to be treated as a woman rightly lost out to female prisoners’ right to be protected from such a despicable individual.

Defining the boundaries of these qualifications is crucial to securing improvements in trans rights. The Scottish Government’s failure to do so led directly to the confusion over which prison Bryson should be taken to.

Instead of being the target of disgraceful slurs by the First Minister, the feminists and others who have raised potential problems with self-ID deserve to be given a hearing and taken seriously. There should be a respectful debate involving them and trans rights campaigners to find a mutually acceptable way forward.

No difficult issue was ever solved by hurling abusive remarks.

Sturgeon’s unwarranted, over-the-top attack is also likely to backfire, as public sympathy and support may shift towards those being so unfairly traduced. 

She is entitled to her opinion, but to join the chorus of abuse suggests she has lost the plot. The First Minister should apologise forthwith or questions about her fitness to lead Scotland will multiply.


Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Global Imams' Council response on the shootings in Jerusalem

 


PM reiterates backing for Ukraine

Rishi Sunak has said that the “hearts of the British people” are with Ukraine.

The prime minister also paid tribute to the ongoing bravery of ordinary Ukrainians.

With just weeks to go before the first anniversary of the conflict, Mr Sunak reiterated his pledge that the UK government would stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”.

His renewed support for the people of Ukraine came as he passed a personal message to the Ukrainian ambassador to pass onto to President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine at a fundraiser at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

Part of the auction included a signed photograph of Mr Sunak with the Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, donated by the prime minister.

Speaking at the event he said: “The hearts of the British people are with the brave people of Ukraine as they fight for their freedom. We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine and Russia 29th January 2023

 


Record number of police officers in Cumbria

The number of police officers in post in Cumbria Constabulary is now 1,344 which is the highest it has ever been.

Cumbria's Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner was the first in the country to recruit more officers under the Police Uplift programme, put in place to increase the number of police officers.

Numbers of officers are being increased around the country. As announced on Wednesday, 1,420 new police officers have been recruited in the past three months – and 16,753 since 2019 – as part of that Police Uplift Programme, putting the Conservative government well on track to keep the promise of 20,000 more police in the 2019 Conservative manifesto.



The PM's letter to Nadhim Zahawi

Governments should not "Mark their own homework" in respect of ethical decisions. Accordingly it is right that there should be an independent ethics advisor, that issues should be referred to him or her, and that the advice of the independent ethics advisor should be acted on.

I think it made sense for the PM to refer the case of former Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi to the ethics advisor and act on his recommendations.

This is the text of the letter which the PM sent this morning to Mr Zahawi after doing so. 


"The Right Honourable Nadhim Zahawi MP

Dear Nadhim,

When I became Prime Minister last year, I pledged that the Government I lead would have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.

That is why, following new information which came to light in recent days regarding your personal financial arrangements and declarations, I asked Sir Laurie Magnus, the Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests, to fully investigate this matter.

You agreed and undertook to cooperate fully with the inquiry.

Following the completion of the Independent Adviser's investigation - the findings of which he has shared with us both - it is clear that there has been a serious breach of the Ministerial Code.

As a result, I have informed you of my decision to remove you from your position in His Majesty's Government.

As you leave, you should be extremely proud of your wide-ranging achievements in government over the last five years.

In particular, your successful oversight of the COVID-19 vaccine procurement and deployment programme which ensured the United Kingdom was at the forefront of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Your role was critical to ensuring our country came through this crisis and saved many lives.

And as the Conservative Party Chairman, you have undertaken significant restructuring to Conservative Campaign Headquarters and readied us for important work in the coming months.

It is also with pride that I, and previous Prime Ministers, have been able to draw upon the services of a Kurdish-born Iraqi refugee at the highest levels of the U.K. Government.

That is something which people up and down this country have rightly valued.

I know I will be able to count on your support from the backbenches as you continue to passionately and determinedly serve your constituents of Stratford-on-Avon and represent the many issues and campaigns you are dedicated to.

Thank you for your service to this and previous governments.


Yours sincerely,

Rishi 

The Right Honourable Rishi Sunak MP"


Come back Catherine Bennett, all is forgiven.

Earlier this month I gave Observer/Guardian journalist Catherine Bennett the  "Nitwit of the week award  for incompetent and inaccurate left-wing journalism" for a piece on the corrupt former MP John Stonehouse which wrongly suggested that he was a Conservative MP, and which had to be swiftly amended when it was correctly pointed out that he had actually been Labour.

Credit where it is due, she has written a piece this weekend which correctly calls out woman-hating misogynists in all parties and specifically including the Labour party.

You can read it by clicking on this link:

Forget Andrew Tate – what about the host of misogynists in Labour’s ranks? | Catherine Bennett | The Guardian

And before anyone accuses Catherine Bennett of being transphobic, or makes the same charge against me for linking to her article, I could not find a word in the article which says anything critical of trans people for being trans people or expresses an opinion for or against proposed Gender Reassignment legislation. Catherine Bennett is calling out people who indulge in hate speech against people with different opinions - waving banners with slogans calling for the decapitation of those they disagree with, for instance, which is almost certainly illegal and a public order offence. And she is calling out certain men, not for the views they hold or disagree with, but for the way they treated women who dared to have different views.

And I have to agree with her criticism of the failure to respond to some of this blatant sexism by the leader of the opposition. As she wrote,

"It was still alarming to see the Labour leadership effectively endorsing such an extreme example. By not condemning his own MPs’ substitution of intimidation for debate, Keir Starmer, though he blithered about “respect and tolerance”, has only invited more of the opposite."

Yesterday Sir Keir said 

“Never again will Labour allow hate to spread unchallenged. We have changed our party and we’ve ready to change Britain.”

If Starmer means that, why has he taken no disciplinary action against Labour MP Lloyd Russel-Moyle for the way he treated Labour and Conservative women MPs in the House of Commons chamber in a debate earlier this month? (That is what Catherine Bennett is referring to in the quote above.)

There is, sadly. misogyny in all parties. And all parties have a duty to call it out and do something about it within their own ranks, not just their opponents'.

Music for Candlemass: When to the temple Mary went (Eccard)



I do love Eccard's anthem about the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. If you only listen to one piece of music this week, make it this one.



Quote of the day 29th January 2023


 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Campaign against Anti-semitism's statement on the attacks in Jerusalem.


 

Clare Drakeford RIP

Condolences to Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales on the tragic news that his wife Clare has suddenly passed away.

Rest in Peace.

MoD Defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine at 28 January 2023

Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 28 January 2023

More details of UK government action to support Ukraine at: ow.ly/Asl850MCFwW 🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦


















Campaigning in West Lancashire

I joined one of the two teams out in West Lancashire today campaigning for Mike Prendergast (the tall chap just right of centre in the top picture below) who is Conservative candidate in the by-election on 9th February.

I was out in Parbold and getting a friendly reception on the doorstep: here are some pictures of the teams who were out today. (Before anyone accuses me of trying to suggest we had more people out than we did, the top picture is Mike with the Young Conservative contingent, the third one is everyone who met at the Conservative constituency officer in Ormskirk, so yes, some people are in both pictures.)
















































































Thanks to all the residents of West Lancashire to took time to talk to us about their concerns and issues: good luck to Mike in the election.

Saying of the day 28th January 2023

"There are many different kinds of intelligence.

Wisdom is knowing which of these is the best one to deploy in a particular situation." 


(This is a saying rather than a quote as this one comes from me.)

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor



A nice piece of Bach to relax to after campaigning in the West Lancashire by-election: see subsequent post.


Friday, January 27, 2023

A comment for Holocaust Memorial day from UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

 


MoD Defence intelligence update summary on 27th January 2023

One of the things which has cheapened the quality of debate on social media (and other places) is the number of people whose first response to any opinion or statement they disagree with is to call the person who made that statement a liar. 

I got so fed up with the over-use of that allegation in the comments section of this blog that I banned such comments for a time.

Here the MoD gives a master class in how to cast doubt on someone's credibility without resorting to such crude tactics:


 

Music for Holocaust memorial day - "Requiem Aeternam" from the Mozart Requiem mass

Light the Darkness

Candle lit at 4pm today to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

We will not forget.

#HolocaustMemorialDay, #HMD2023 and #LightTheDarkness.



Boosting productivity and growth

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is setting out a plan to boost productivity and grow the economy - building on the freedoms which Brexit provides and improving the livelihoods of British people. 

  • The government has steadied the ship and are on our way to reducing inflation. Now we must start to look to the future and grow the economy to create better paid jobs.
  • That is why in a speech today, the Chancellor is setting out plans to boost productivity and grow our economy, and caution against an attitude of declinism about Britain. He will set out how we will focus on key industries such as digital technology and advanced manufacturing and use our Brexit freedoms to energise our plan - including reforms to Solvency II to unlock £100 billion of investment. 
  • Conservatives are committed to delivering on the people’s priorities – halving inflation, growing the economy and creating better paid jobs for people across the country.

Light the Darkness at 4pm today, to remember.

Light The Darkness by placing a lit candle safely in your windows at 4pm. 

You and your loved ones are encouraged to join Light The Darkness safely at 4pm on Holocaust memorial day today, Friday 27 January, to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against prejudice and hostility in the world today.

Join the conversation on social media by uploading a photo of your candle, using the hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay, #HMD2023 and #LightThe Darkness.



Quote of the day for Holocaust Memorial Day

"What is abnormal is that I am normal. That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life – that is what is abnormal."

(Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Supporting Britain's farmers

Today the government set out detailed plans for the nation's farming sector, supporting farmers to produce food sustainably while protecting nature.

  • Farmers are at the heart of our economy – producing our food and conserving the land it comes from – so we must help to ensure that their practices are both environmentally and financially sustainable.
  • That is why today the government announced that the roll out of the Sustainable Farming Incentive will be accelerated, providing funding for farmers for managing hedges for wildlife, planting nectar-rich wildflowers, and managing crop pests without using harmful insecticides.
  • This will ensure that farmers are financially supported as they protect our environment, while making our food production more sustainable.

Joan Smith asks why the courts and media have such problems with the pronouns for the Clydebank rapist

Joan Smith has an article on Unherd which takes a clear position about the individual who was originally known as Adam Graham, and who while living and and identifying as a man, raped two women. On Wednesday a jury returned guilty verdicts against this individual for both crimes. 

Between being charged with these offences and being found guilty, the individual started the process of legally transitioning to female gender and now seeks to be known as Isla Bryson.

In my view the vast majority of transgender people deserve support and dignity. But convicted rapists and proven sexual predators, whatever their gender and self-identification, deserve a place in a prison cell - and should be imprisoned where they can neither be victimised themselves nor further victimise others. 

We send people to prison as punishment and to protect society, not to but them where they may be harmed by other prisoners, and that applies whatever their gender. Many women prisoners are highly vulnerable individuals, and for the protection of the vulnerable, convicted rapists with male bodies do not belong in a women's prison. Nor should they ever be allowed in women-only spaces - though in some cases for their own protection they may also be held separately from male prisoners.

To me the main issue raised by this case is how we treat trans people like human beings without undermining essential protections for which women have fought for decades. But the extent to which 21st century society has difficulty thinking straight about the transgender issue, and the extent to which many people are terrified to say or write what they think, is illustrated by the issue of pronouns, which Joan Smith addresses in her article.

It will probably not have escaped the attention of most readers of this blog post that I have carefully avoided using any pronouns for the Clydesdale rapist.

Joan Smith's article addresses the dilemma, and makes clear where she stands on it:

"The judges’ bench book, which consists of guidance rather than law, says it is a matter of ‘common courtesy’ to use the personal pronoun and name that a person prefers. Many women and some lawyers, however, think it is ridiculous — and insulting to rape victims — to enforce a pretence that a male defendant is female."

You can read the full article by clicking on this link:

Why can't the media get the Clydebank rapist's pronouns right? - The Post (unherd.com)

Another Luke Skywalker Tribute - this time with the Jennifer Saunders version of "Holding Out for a Hero" from Shrek 2



Following on from yesterday's midweek music spot, I had to add this alternative Luke Skywalker tribute with "Holding out for a hero," but this time the music is the Jennifer Saunders version from Shrek II (and any lingering doubt that the hero figure is Luke Skywalker is removed.)  

Tanks a lot, continued

Yesterday the Prime Minister spoke to the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Italy and welcomed the decision by allies to send battle tanks to Ukraine - standing with our Ukrainian partners as they repel Putin’s illegal invasion. 

  • It is clear that Russia is now on the back foot in Ukraine, providing a window of opportunity for international partners to accelerate efforts to secure lasting peace in Europe.
  • That is why yesterday the Prime Minister spoke to world leaders, welcoming the decision by the United States and Germany to follow our lead in sending battle tanks to Ukraine, and calling on allies to intensify their support in the coming weeks and months.
  • Following Britain's decision to send a squadron's worth of Challenger II Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) to equip the Ukrainian army, with the USA's commitment to send 31 M1 Abrams MBTs, Germany's has now agreed both to send 14, another squadron's worth of their own Leopard II MBTs and give permission to other European nations such as Poland and Finland to send some of theirs. 
  • The Germans are suggesting that they will work with other European countries to send enough MBTs for a couple of battalions of Leopard II tanks, e.g. about ninety MBTs. With the British and US tanks, it looks like Ukraine will get enough modern western MBTs to equip an armoured brigade of three battalions.
  • In the first instance this will probably have the battlefield effect of giving the Ukrainian army the ability to make rapid counter-attacks to offensives from the invading Russian forces: a counter attack from an armoured brigade should be able to ruin the whole day for an advancing Russian force.
  • To make these tanks effective on the battlefield Western nations will have to help Ukraine put logistics support in place and train the Ukrainian troops: this is likely to take months rather than weeks, though hopefully not so many months that they won't be able to deploy these units in spring this year.
  • This collective action will act as a catalyst to securing peace in Europe, helping to end Putin’s illegal war and prevent a further loss of innocent lives. 

Latest MoD Defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine at 26th January 2023


 

Police numbers update

As mentioned yesterday, Now stats show more than 16,700 extra police officers have been hired across England and Wales as part of our 20,000 new police officer commitment, helping to cut crime and keep communities safe. 

  • The Conservatives were elected in 2019 on a promise to the British people to recruit 20,000 extra police officers – cutting crime and making our streets safer.  
  • That is why yesterday we welcomed figures revealing that 1,420 new police officers have been recruited in the past three months – and 16,753 since 2019 – as part of our Police Uplift Programme, and a record number of officers have been recruited from an ethnic minority background.
  • This demonstrates the importance of a Conservative Government – cracking down on crime and making our communities safer.   


National Holocaust Memorial

The Prime Minister has announced plans to introduce legislation to pave the way for a new National Holocaust Memorial, standing next to the Palace of Westminster which contains the Houses of Parliament.

The Memorial will honour the memory of the millions so cruelly murdered and preserve the testimonies of brave survivors.

Quote of the day 26th January 2023

 












The quote, "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to leave our children: one of these is roots, the other, wings." usually without the reference to a wise woman, has been variously attributed to Goethe, Henry Ward Beecher, Ronald Reagan and various other people. 

The Quote Investigator website suggested that the most credible source for the origin of the saying is the "Wise woman" quoted in Hodding Carter's book, "Where main street meets the river" as cited in the image above.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Police numbers

Figures released today show that police forces around the country have already recruited 16,753 new police officers for England and Wales, making great progress towards the commitment in the Conservative manifesto to deliver 20,000 new officers. 

MoD defence intelligence update summary on the situation in Ukraine at 25th January 2023

 


Midweek music spot: "I Need a Hero" with "The Rescue," The Mandalorian Season 2 Finale

With the start of "The Mandalorian" Season three getting closer and closer at 1st March 2023, I thought this version of Bonnie Tyler's "I need a hero" showing the rescuers rescued at the conclusion of the finale of Season two might be an appropriate music spot for today. 

Note that this clip is a fairly major spoiler if you have not watched the Mando season 2 finale yet and might at some stage want to do so.

Cracking down on crime, protecting women and girls

Today at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), the Prime Minister reaffirmed our commitment to cracking down on crime and tackling violence against women and girls, as we build a safer society for future generations.  

  • The Prime Minister promised to deliver on the people’s priorities and to keep people safe. 
  • That is why we have taken action to crack down on crime and get rid of dangerous criminals – giving police greater powers to bring perpetrators to justice, bringing forward tougher sentences for the most violent criminals, and delivering on our commitment to recruit 20,000 new police officers.  

Decarbonising Britain's roads

Today the government announced £30 million in future roads funding to decarbonise our roads, using new technology to cut carbon emissions, improve regional connectivity, and create well paid jobs for the future.

  • The UK is a world leader in technology and innovation and we must use that strength to drive decarbonisation and the next generation of high tech jobs that go alongside it.
  • That is why the government is investing £30 million into seven new regional projects across the UK, from Lancashire to Devon, through the Live Labs 2: Decarbonising Local Roads competition, supporting green infrastructure projects tackling the long-term decarbonisation of highways, including streetlights.
  • Through innovation and investment Conservatives are creating good, well paid jobs for the future across the UK – as we accelerate the road to net zero.

Removing barriers to trade

This week the International Trade Secretary announced we are cutting trade barriers, supporting the Prime Minister’s promise to grow the economy and deliver more jobs, higher pay, and better lives.

  • We are a trading nation at heart and by tradition, so we know that backing British businesses and promoting free trade is the surest way to prosperity that the world has.
  • That is why the government is removing 100 unnecessary trade barriers, growing UK exports every year so we are exporting over a trillion pounds of goods and services a year by 2030, making the UK the top investment destination in Europe, sealing high quality deals with India and CPTPP, and defending free trade to make the world more secure. 
  • Backing British businesses at home and overseas will bring in investment to left-behind communities, delivering more jobs, higher pay, and better lives.

Quote of the day 25th January 2023


 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Light the Darkness: this Friday is Holocaust Memorial Day

Each year people from across the UK take part in a national moment for Holocaust Memorial Day.

At 4pm on 27 January 2023, the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, people across the nation will light candles and put them safely in their windows to:

  • remember those who were murdered for who they were
  • stand against prejudice and hatred today

Iconic buildings and landmarks will light up in purple during this powerful national moment of commemoration and solidarity.

There will also be a national online commemoration ceremony at 7pm on Thursday 26th January for which you can register here.


Sanctioning Iran

Following the judicial murder of dual British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari (the accusation of judicial murder represents my words, not those of the government, but they have condemned it in almost equally strong terms) and egregious human rights violations against their own citizens, the UK government yesterday, announced further coordinated sanctions on key Iranian officials, targeting some of the most senior members of the Iranian regime.

  • The horrific violence the Iranian regime is inflicting on its own people is totally unacceptable and is rightly being met with the unified condemnation of the international community. 
  • That is why the UK has announced further sanctions against key Iranian officials including the Commander in Chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ground Forces, the Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the Basij Resistance Force and their Deputy Commander. 
  • In close cooperation with our international partners Britain is sending a clear message through these sanctions that there will be no hiding place for those guilty of the worst human rights violations.

More details of the sanctions imposed yesterday: those targetted include:

  • Kiyumars Heidari, Commander in Chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ground Forces: Heidari has publicly admitted to his and his force’s involvement in the violent response to the November 2019 protests that led to the death of at least hundreds of protesters, and he continues to order the repression of protests today
  • Hossein Nejat, Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Sarallah HQ: Sarallah is the division of the IRGC responsible for the security of Tehran, where we have seen some of the most brutal violence against the Iranian people
  • the Basij Resistance Force: the Basij force within the IRGC are mobilised by the regime leadership to enforce the brutal repression on the streets of Iran
  • Salar Abnoush, Deputy Commander of the Basij: Abnoush has publicly described his command-and-control role over Basij forces and continues to lead their repressive tactics today


Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said:

"Those sanctioned today, from the judicial figures using the death penalty for political ends to the thugs beating protestors on the streets, are at the heart of the regime’s brutal repression of the Iranian people.

The UK and our partners have sent a clear message through these sanctions that there will be no hiding place for those guilty of the worst human rights violations."

The UK has now imposed 50 new sanctions in response to human rights violations by the Iranian regime since Mahsa Amini’s death and will continue to take a wide range of actions to hold the regime to account.

These sanctions impose an asset freeze and UK travel ban on the individuals sanctioned and send a wider signal on the UK’s commitment to backing condemnation with action.

MoD Defence intelligence update summary 24th January 2023

🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦



















Quote of the day 24th January 2023

 "Every age is modern to those who are living in it."

(Justice Benjamin N Cardoso)

"Clear, hold and build" - a strategy to crack down on the gangs

Today the government announced a crackdown against organised criminal gangs, stepping up our action against illegal drugs and violent crime to keep the British people safe.

  • Organised criminal gangs that are perpetrating violent crimes and bringing drugs into the UK are blighting communities across the country and ruining lives.
  • That is why, following a successful trial in West Yorkshire, the government has announced a new strategy to fight organised crime - ‘clear, hold and build’ - for all police forces in England and Wales. 
  • This will see police ruthlessly pursue gang members to clear an area; hold the location so another gang cannot take over; and ultimately build the community into a more prosperous area.
  • This new approach is a key part of our work to deliver on the Prime Minister’s pledge to tackle anti-social behavior as we crack down on violent criminals and bring them to justice, keeping the British people safe.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Monday Parody Song - Weird Al Yankovic's "Ebay" (parody of I want it that way" by the Backstreet Boys)


This video version of Al Yankovic's parody was made with attention to detail worthy of the parody videos which Weird Al himself does. If this doesn't have you rolling on the floor with laughter, you either have never used Ebay or heard the original "I want it that way" song.)






Improving mental health facilities

Today the government announced £150 million investment in new mental health care facilities, providing compassionate care for those who need it whilst easing pressure on emergency departments.  

  • Too often people suffering with their mental health are forced to use A&E when they should be receiving specialist treatment elsewhere. 
  • That is why we are investing £150 million to build 150 new urgent mental health care facilities across England and Wales, including 100 new mental health ambulances to take staff directly to patients, providing compassionate care in a safe environment for those who need it. 
  • These dedicated facilities will ensure patients can get the help they need whilst freeing up staff availability in emergency departments during these challenging winter months. 

Mental health support has all too often been a half-forgotten, second tier service and I am pleased to see the government giving it more attention. 



Latest MoD defence intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine at 23rd January 2023

















 

Quote of the day 23rd January 2023


 










"The game of life is not much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well"

(H. T. Leslie. The painting above is "The Game of Life" by Tito Salomoni)