Showing posts from July, 2005

Are you all right, mate ?

Following on from the first wave of London bombings three weeks ago we have seen the second wave of attacks which mercifully failed and have now been followed by the arrest of all four suspected bombers, and the terrible accidental shooting of an innocent man who was mistaken for a suicide bomber. In the past few days I have signed a book of remembrance commemorating those who died on 7/7 and travelled in London on a Thursday - to see groups of two or three policemen, often carrying machine guns, on what seemed like every street corner. The leader of the investigation into the shooting has criticised the Home office for releasing partial information about the victim and suggested that nobody should rush to judgement until the investigation has established all the facts. That is good advice so I shall make no assumption about how the incident happened. But regardless of how they came to make the mistake, the primary moral responsibility for this tragic error does not lie with the police

Normal service will now be resumed

My usual aim is to update this blog two or three times a week but as we have been frantically trying to pack up all our belongings at both ends of the country in preparation for the move to Whitehaven, I have been too busy to put finger to keyboard for the past fortnight. Time to start blogging again ! We are making progress and looking forward to the move: we will miss friends in both Gosforth and St Albans but we won't be too far away from our friends in Gosforth and of course I will be making regular visits to St Albans while I remain a councillor there. It is sometimes regarded as obligatory for English people to describe any house move as a "nightmare" but it does appear that the bureaucratic problems associated with buying and selling property have intensified. The government are perhaps the worst culprits, but they are not the only people to blame for this - the EU and mortgage lenders also have a lot to answer for. Our first attempt to move to Whitehaven was serio

Ted Heath RIP

Ted Heath, Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974, died yesterday aged 89. For a man with moderate views about most issues, he stirred up a great deal of passionate support and even more passionate oposition. Probably part of the reason for this is the main issue on which he was not moderate, his pro-Europeanism. The man who took Britain into the Common Market would always be something of a hate figure among those who detest everything the European Union stands for. Added to this his animosity towards his successor as Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher, inspired considerable return animosity from the more extreme amongst her self-appointed cheerleaders. Ted was a self-made man of very considerable abilities. He carefully concealed an excellent sense of humour, and he also had, rather less carefully concealed, a private side which took great joy from beautiful music and from activities such as sailing. But he had difficulty suffering gladly those who he considered to be fools - and his ju

Book Review - "How Mumbo Jumbo conquered the World"

Today, all round the world, people have been reading the sixth Harry Potter adventure. I had better make clear that I have nothing but admiration for J.K.Rowling and I consider the Harry Potter series to be a well-crafted and harmless piece of obvious fiction which has brought a great deal of pleasure to children and adults alike. However, it seemed like an apposite day to post my thoughts on Francis Wheen's book, "How Mumbo Jumbo conquered the world." There is no doubt that, despite the huge advances which have been brought by reason and science, an alarming number of people, many of them highly educated, have turned away from reason in favour of new age nonsense or the most simplistic forms of old-established religions. Although Francis Wheen's book has some very serious flaws, it does provoke a great deal of thought about why. Let's get the negative comment out of the way first. Francis Wheen is a Guardian journalist and allows his left-liberal prejudices far t

The right balance on Road Safety

Three items of news in the past few days have made me think about road safety. The first concerns speed cameras - the government has recently refused 500 requests for new cameras. The second concerns use of mobile phones while driving: there has been a study suggesting that those who phone while driving are more likely to have an accident, which may be right, and that the increased risk is just as high for hands-free mobiles as for hand-held ones, which I do not believe. The third is that two council Group Leaders in Copeland and St Albans - of different parties but both people who have worked hard for their respective communities - have been in trouble for speeding. Any discussion on road safety risks getting trapped between the irresistible force of our desire for greater safety and security, and the immovable object of human nature - we can gently nudge people in the direction of safer behaviour but it is impractical to act as if risks can be reduced to zero. People will not obey r


At noon today, like millions of people in Britain and also many in other countries, I observed a 2 minutes silence in memory of the innocent victims of the bombings which took place a week ago today. Horrifying though the attacks were, it is very impressive how calmly and responsibly the overwhelming majority of people have behaved. London's transport infrastructure was very close to being back to normal within two working days. There was more disruption on Tuesday when police found and carried out a controlled explosion on a car which had been left, apparently by the bombers, near to the rail link at Luton, but everyone took it calmly and patiently. None of the main political parties has used the opportunity to score cheap political points: Michael Howard went out of his way to praise the Prime Minister's response to the bombings, and Charles Clarke had the honesty to admit that Identity Cards would not have prevented this attack. Everyone has been at pains to point out that t

Yesterday's bomb attacks in London

So far the manner in which everyone has reacted to yesterday's atrocity does them great credit. The emergency plan appears to have worked as well as anyone dared hope, and this together with the lack of panic, undoubtedly reduced the number of lives lost. London's transport network appears to be getting back to normal remarkably rapidly. Public comments about what has happened have been measured and responsible, and almost everyone seems to have avoided the temptation to make political capital or to over-react. It is still too early to say for certain exactly who perpetrated these mass murders, although the modus operandi does appear to fit with an al-Qaeda attack and an extreme islamic website has claimed responsibility on behalf of al-Qaeda. If the murderers were acting in the name of Islam, it is important to emphasise that the vast majority of Muslims are totally appalled by these bombs and condemn them as strongly as everyone else. That point has been made by the Prime Min

Today we are all British

I am still trying to digest news of the atrocious terrorist events of this morning. I cannot recall another occasion when I have agreed with everything said by both Tony Blair and Ken Livingston, but today I have. Today we are all British. As Ken Livingston said while on his way back to London from Singapore, this was not an attack on Presidents or Prime ministers, it was mass murder of ordinary Londoners. It was not ideology or perverted faith, it was an attempt to kill people regardless of their age, gender, race, or religion. And it will not achieve anything whatsoever. We should not respond with anger or hate, and we will not do so. We should not lash out in ways which might catch the innocent as well as the guilty, and we will not do so. But the people who did this must be brought to justice, and will be.

Price of Freedom part II: Jedi Jamie gets it wrong

Introducing his maiden speech, Copeland's new MP Jamie Reed described himself as the first Jedi member of parliament. Not surprisingly, the response to this in the Cumbrian newspapers drowned out everything else he said - and "May the Farce be with you" pretty well summed up the general reaction. However, this was not the most important thing about his speech. A few weeks ago, candidate Jamie Reed was asked his views about the Racial and Religous hatred bill which had been put forward in the last parliament. In one of his most intelligent contributions to the election debate, and one of very few in which he went even slightly off-message, Jamie expressed his reservations about the bil and said it was a good thing it had been dropped. After the election the bill was brought back, zombie like from the grave and two weeks ago in my post "Local hospitals and the price of freedom", I expressed the hope that Jamie Reed would have the courage of his convictions and vot

Thoughts on Live 8

It is obvious that the "Live 8" concert has captured the imagination of many peope and will be considered a huge success. Clearly many people want to see something done about the problems of Africa and this is welcome. Some of the ideas which have been promoted in the name of Live 8 and associated campaigns such as "Make Poverty history" do make sense and will help some of the most impoverished people in the world if they are implemented. However, it is important that we don't assume that the problems of Africa can be solved just be saying we care about them, and not all the suggestions of all those who call themselves anti-poverty campaigners are helpful. If we don't want babies to starve in Africa, we need to use our brains as well as our emotions. Certainly where governments of rich nations give aid to those in the third world, it would be better to give grants than loans, and conversion of government loans into grants, including those from inter-governme

Carnival day in Whitehaven

We've now been in Whitehaven on two consecutive Saturdays when successful events were going on. Last weekend the Maritime festival was such a huge success that other Cumbrian towns such as Barrow are casting envious eyes and wondering how Whitehaven can be so successful. This weekend it was the Whitehaven Carnival. Another good day.