Showing posts from November, 2005


I was very pleased to hear that Kerry Maxwell, Chief Executive of the Whitehaven Community Trust, has been awarded the title of Cumbria’s Woman of the year. The Whitehaven Community trust has helped hundreds of potentially vulnerable young people with training, jobs, and housing. Because of that assistance, young men and women who might have become drop-outs, criminals and convicts been able to earn a valued place in society. The trust has also played an important role in the regeneration of Whitehaven. The award is very well deserved.


It was obvious during the last election that Labour was facing both ways on Nuclear power and either the anti-nuclear lobby, or the industry and communities like West Cumbria, would have to be betrayed after the election if Labour won. It is becoming apparent that it does seem to be the luddite wing of the environmental movement who are about to feel Tony’s knife between the shoulder blades. Of course, I am not saying environmentalists generally: many key thinkers in the “Green movement” including the founder of the Gaia hypothesis have recently come round to the view that nuclear power should form part of a balanced strategy to protect our environment. Ironically, the best sign of this is not the open statements from the government. This morning on the “Today” programme the secretary of state for trade and industry claimed that the only thing the Prime Minister has decided is that we have to take a decision. Conservatives were telling him that five years ago! No, the clearest sign tha


As this blog is meant to be suitable for a family readership I cannot use the form of words that would give full force to my disgust at the latest piece of sabotage from the Chancellor on pensions. Every time I think that even Gordon Brown could not possibly do more damage to the hopes of everyone except the super-rich for a comfortable retirement he proves me wrong with yet another damaging and irresponsible action. Future historians will have some difficulty assessing the Brown economic legacy. Within weeks of his appointment as chancellor, he made both the best economic decision for eighteen years and the worst one for more than seventy. Devolving responsibility for interest rates to the Bank of England’s Monetary policy committee was the best decision since the abolition of exchange controls in 1979 and ensured that the four years of stable non-inflationary growth which we had enjoyed under Kenneth Clarke has been extended until now. However, Brown’s five-billion pounds a year raid


If the Times Newspaper report today (21st November) is to be believed, the Prime Minister is adopting a policy on Nuclear Power remarkably similar to the line for which Conservatives have been arguing. Our policy at the last election was to commission a review of energy supply, to report within a year of the election. At the time Labour’s official policy showed far less urgency, but now we are told that the government will set up a review to report within a year. In his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, David Willetts, the new Conservative Spokesman on Trade and Industry (including Energy), said that we must make the case for Civil nuclear power. As he said in his speech, "We face a growing crisis because we aren't building enough power stations. In fact if we have a cold winter there is a real threat of the lights going out in our offices and factories: and all because the Government doesn't reward investment in the future. With one exception: Ministers do have


(AND HOW A WEEK IS A LONG TIME IN POLITICS …) Last week one of Tony Blair’s main arguments for his policy on terrorism was the support it had from many senior police officers. Yesterday he ignored the arguments of the police and many others by pressing ahead with the implementation of the Licensing Act. A week is a long time in politics ... Up until recently I supported a less restrictive licensing regime, and I still do support some of the things the legislation is supposed to be about, like more freedom for elected local authorities to set appropriate licensing arrangements for their own areas. But as John Maynard Keynes said, when the facts change, I change my mind. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of alcohol related deaths in this country rose by 18.4% from 5,525 to 6,544. That’s more deaths than hospital acquired infections or road accidents. It is an order of magnitude more deaths than the controversial estimates for passive smoking and two orders of magnitude more than the deat


I am very disappointed to learn that threats to the services provided by Millom Community Hospital have re-surfaced. Last year when local health trusts began to review the provision of Community hospitals there were suggestions that this might affect the future of Millom Hospital. Millom Town council called a well-attended public meeting chaired by the then Mayor, Ray Cole. At that meeting the Chief Executive of the Primary Care trusts, Nigel Woodcock, stated and then specifically confirmed in response to a question from me, that there were no plans to close Millom Community Hospital. The large number of local residents present understood this, quite reasonably, to be a clear signal that their hospital was safe. However, having local hospital services is not just a matter of having a building in the area which is called a hospital. It is also important to protect the actual facilities and care which the hospital provides. Local NHS trusts have said that they are considering the possibi


There have been fierce arguments in parliament about the government’s terrorism bill. That is as it should be. There are valid arguments on both sides. Defenders and supporters of the bill, and of giving the state power to hold suspects for 90-days without charge, have put their case in strong language, and up to a point this too is right – both lives and liberties are at stake. But Labour MP Kitty Usher goes completely over the top in today’s Guardian when she suggests that the Conservative, Lib/Dem and Labour MPs who opposed it will have “blood on their hands” if the bombers get through. That is not the language of democratic debate – in fact, it is the language of terrorism because it uses fear to try to bully people into giving support. Let us be absolutely clear – the people who bear 100% of the moral responsibility for the murders on 7/7 were the terrorists who exploded the bombs and those who helped them plan and execute them. If there are any more explosions, the blame will not


The sorry saga of inadequate dental service coverage in Cumbria continues to get worse. A few days ago, 8.500 NHS patients in the Penrith area learned they would have to choose between going private and looking for another dentist. Now the dental service helpline, Dental Direct is being overwhelmed and people are being asked not to ring it. The switchboard crashed yesterday, and even without that, they have only four operators and had over 1,000 calls on Wednesday. Not that this service is usually able to say much more than ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ when you do get through. All too often you find that none of the dental practices in the county are taking on new NHS patients, so they have to offer to take your details and get back to you if anything comes up. If you ask about any practices taking private patients you’re told “We’re an NHS facility, we can’t help you with that.” One of the Eastern European dentists who was recently recruited to come and work in the NHS is reported


No charges have been brought, so none of us except the individuals involved can be certain exactly what happened between the actor Ross Kemp and his wife, Sun editor Rebekah Wade, or between his onscreen “brother” Steve McFadden and ex-partner Angela Bostock. But we can be certain that jokes which trivialise domestic violence, or worse, make fun of those who are on the receiving end of it, are as intolerable as the violence itself, not least because they make more violence likely. For that reason, I am horrified by the irresponsible front page of the Mirror newspaper today (4th November). The paper suggests in language more appropriate to a “Batman” comic than a newspaper for grown ups, that both Eastenders actors had been physically attacked by their wife and ex-partner respectively, and then asked if, unlike the “hard-man” characters they portray, the actors were really “Big girl’s blouses.” The attitudes portrayed on that front page are an insult to both men and women. In the past