Showing posts from October, 2005


This week we will learn whether some complex maternity services will be moved from West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven to Carlisle. If it is at all possible to provide these services safely in West Cumbria, the answer must be no, and for a whole host of reasons. There has rightly been very strong opposition to the idea of moving these services with thousands of people signing the “Don’t move our mums” petition. Most people I know assume that it is unlikely that anything so damaging could possibly be allowed to happen, especially in the face of overwhelming public support for keeping maternity services local. A more cynical suggestion has been that this is a straw man put up so that we would be less horrified if something else moves instead. Unfortunately the pressures on the local NHS mean that, although moving services to Carlisle would have serious consequences, rejection of the idea is not as much of a foregone conclusion as we would all like to think. Providing maternity service

The Immortal Memory

Today is the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar – one of the three most decisive and important naval battles of all time, and the most important in the past 2,000 years. Only the battle of Salamis in 480 BC, when Greek city states fought off an invasion by the Persian Empire and thereby ensured the survival both of earloy democracy and the ideas which would develop into science, and Actium in 32 BC which determined who would found the Roman Empire and what course it would take over the following 400 years, were as important. So why is Trafalgar so important ? First, it ensured that Napoleon’s most deadly enemy, Britain, was beyond his power to defeat, and that his power and ambitions would always stop at the water’s edge. Ultimately this was to lead to his defeat – and it made certain that he would not be master of the world. Napoleon was a man of huge abilities and great ruthlessness, and without Trafalgar he might have established a centralised world empire dominated by one


As Conservative MPs vote tomorrow in the first ballot for a new Conservative leader, I commend to them some thoughts by Mark Shields, an American journalist, on the pattern followed by parties which lose elections. He was thinking of the American Democrats (who he usually supports) after George W Bush's re-election, but the comment is every bit as applicable to British Conservatives His suggestion is that parties which lose elections go through four phases: 1) We woz robbed 2) Blame the communications 3) Blame the leader/candidate 4) Find a Winner I've had a bellyful of phases one, two and three. Whether there is any justice in them or not, they don't work. It's bad enough that we have already had eight years of Blair and Brown and face another four or five. The country cannot afford another five years after that of lies, spin, broken promises, wrecked pensions, excessive bureaucracy, bulldozing the North and concreting over the South, no dentists, stealth taxes, and th

A595 De-Trunking - a betrayal of West Cumbria

The government's decision to downgrade the A595 is as disgraceful as it is unfortunate. Only a few months ago - before the general election - government minister Patricia Hewitt promised that all government decisions would be "West Cumbria proofed." This fine sounding promise has fallen at the first hurdle. The most shocking thing about this betrayal is that it isn't really a surprise. Downgrading public services in West Cumbria, especially in the South of Copeland, seems increasingly to be the pattern. De-trunking the A595 south of Calder Bridge may seem perfectly logical when you are applying national criteria while sitting in a government office in London. But if "West Cumbria proofing" meant anything, it should have meant listening to people who know the area. The proposal to de-trunk the A595 was opposed by both Copeland Borough council and Cumbria County council. (There were legitimate arguments about how strong that opposition was, but those of us who

Blackpool Conference Diary

Some notes on the 2005 Conservative Party Conference ... I arrive at the Blackpool conference determined to be on my best behaviour – I don’t want to get the Conservatives the kind of bad publicity that the Labour party got for throwing out 82-year old Walter Wolfgang. I needn’t have worried. I don’t know how badly you would have had to behave to get thrown out of this year’s tory conference, but it would have been difficult. Walter Wolfgang was the constant spectre at the conference as every platform speaker found a reference to him irresistible, from Francis Maude’s opening remarks (“I don’t want to encourage heckling” … laughter … “but if you do we won’t throw you out.”) right through to Michael Howard at the end. For all the flak thrown at David Davis, he probably put this point best: “We do need laws to detail those who represent a genuine terrorist threat – we don’t need laws to detain an 82-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany who has the temerity to disagree with the Foreign Secr