Showing posts from April, 2006

We love the Chameleon

Ten years ago Conservative Central Office ran the "Demon Eyes" campaign with the slogan "New Labour New Danger" and various posters and merchandise, including a poster of a laughing Tony Blair with someone else's eyes superimposed. It made a lot of people laugh - especially the badges with flashing eyes - but not the way we wanted. With 20:20 hindsight, this campaign demonstrated that we had no idea how to deal with Tony Blair. This year New Labour, with their usual amazing ability to come up with an even worse version of the mistakes the Conservatives made when we were in government, unveiled their own version of Demon Eyes - a negative campaign against David Cameron called "Dave the Chameleon." It's intended to be subtly damning but just comes over as funny, not least because every significant criticism it makes of David Cameron is far more applicable to Tony Blair. Dave isn't rattled - apparently he asked for a copy of the cartoon for his ki

Patricia in Wonderland

So Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt says that the NHS is having its “best year ever.” Anyone who believes that should be a customer of the health service, not running it. Staff, patients and friends of all the community hospitals in Cumbria, and all the rest of the EIGHTY threatened Community hospitals, may wonder what planet Patricia Hewitt is living on. So will the thousands of people in Cumbria and tens of thousands across the country who have lost their NHS dental place and can’t get another. I don’t think the 6,000 people whose jobs in the NHS have gone, or another 7,000 NHS staff whose jobs are currently at risk, will agree that the NHS is having its best year ever. Neither will women of childbearing age in West Cumbria, or most of the midwives and other staff working in the maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, where there is a possibility that part of the service may move to Carlisle, forcing about 1,000 women a year to travel up to 50 miles to give birth.

Wishing everyone who reads this a happy Easter

I am writing this in the early evening of Maunday Thursday, just at the start of the central weekend of Easter. Like, I suspect, a great many people who have not yet gone on holiday I have been having a thoroughly wretched day: half the company seems to have gone on leave and the rest are frantically trying to complete various projects that have to be done before Easter or before other people disappear for their own holidays and getting anything done seems quite impossible. Just after I finished work for the day, in a thoroughly black mood, my state of mind was lifted when I dropped my car in to a local garage to sort out a minor matter and the people there were so incredibly helpful that I finished on a high note after all. (I can strongly recommend the garage concerned, by the way – it was Coach Road Motors in Whitehaven.) In a funny way this said more to me about the real spirit of Easter than any number of Easter Eggs or fancy clothes – I was feeling down and lifted by the consider

An easy way to help save the planet and save money too ...

If we want a secure future for our grandchildren we urgently need to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere. In the past most of the debate about this has been about global warming, and the scientific evidence that global warming may be extremely damaging is growing steadily stronger. However, there may be an even worse problem associated with the release of carbon into that atmosphere - acidification of the oceans. Some evidence suggests that about 50% of the increased carbon released into the atmosphere in the past century has been absorbed by the sea. So, you ask, is that good news is because it takes some of the carbon out of the global warming equation? Unfortunately not, because this carbon appears to be forming enough acid to shift the pH balance of the oceans. This is extremely bad news for any marine animal with either a skeleton or a shell, and anything which eats those animals. If the seawater is more acidic, it becomes harder for fish to extract the calcium they need f

Time to pay the farmers their due ...

I have been deeply unhappy for some time with the absurdly over-complicated Single Farm Payment and the problems it causes for farmers, especially in the so called “deprived areas” which it further deprives of funds. It seems that this system is too complicated for DEFRA themselves and they are now very behind with paying it. This is causing massive difficulty for many farmers. A few weeks ago I heard agriculture minister Lord Bach on the radio blustering that the money would be paid by the end of March. It has not been. Lord Bach and his boss Margaret Beckett are guilty of arrogance, complacency and incompetence. If ability to do the job had any relevance to holding office in the present Labour government, they would both be sacked tomorrow.

Copeland local election results

Results for three by elections this week for Copeland Council: Gosforth: Conservative 264 Labour 85 Lib/Dem 62 Hensingham: Labour 385 Conservative 207 Lib/Dem 38 Cleator Moor: Labour 307 Independent 191 My congratulations to all those who supported local democracy by taking part in these elections, and I would particularly like to congratulate the successful Conservative candidate in Gosforth, Cllr Alan Jacob, who won with an increased Conservative share of the vote compared with 2003 despite the fact that he faced two opponents rather than one.

Great support for local hospitals campaign

I was very impressed with the spirited support for the combined campaign to support all the Community Hospitals at the weekend. The choice of April 1st for the start of the exercise was deliberate, and made the point that the idea of cutting 118 beds in Cumbria’s community hospitals is so daft that it had to be an April Fool. A chain was built with a ring for each hospital, bearing legends like “SAVE MILLOM COMMUNITY HOSPITAL”, “SAVE KESWICK HOSPITAL” and so on. The growing chain of rings was taken from one hospital to another in turn by various different routes. All three local MPs, Conservative and Labour, supported the campaign – this is too important to be party political. I went to Keswick early on Sunday morning to see of the canoist who was bearing the rings from Keswick hospital down Bassenthwaite to Cockermouth, and then took my family to Millom to to see the classic cars which arrived there at the end of the last leg. Throughout the mood was positive, friendly, and construct

Comeback of the week

My favourite comeback this week came in an email from a listener read out on the Today programme. He was responding to an interview with an MP who was promoting a bill to control the temperature of bath water. This lady wants the law to insist on temperature regulators being fitted to baths in all new houses or when bathrooms are rebuilt. She was also very hot, if you will excuse the pun, on putting the cold water in first when running a bath. No, despite the date this is not an April Fool, and I am not joking: an MP really said that on the Today programme last Wednesday morning. There was a barrage of emails in response. The best was as follows: “My wife has just run a bath and put the hot water in first: is there a confidential government hotline I can ring to grass her up ?”

Pensions Chaos Follow-up

After a strike over pensions which I wrote about earlier this week, and following on from a sequence of revelations which has not enhanced the reputation of politics, MPs have done something which will further reduce the respect in which they are held. They have voted more taxpayer’s money to their own pensions. Many of the people who go into politics have enough ability that they could earn a lot more in other fields. Nevertheless, the sight of people paying themselves more out of public money is not particularly attractive, whether they are MPs voting themselves more salary and pensions or councillors voting themselves more allowances. My personal view is that the remuneration of elected politicians should not be decided by the politicians themselves. Instead the salaries, allowances, and pensions of MPs, MEPs, and councillors should be delegated to an independent panel. This would not be perfect – I have sometimes considered the recommendations of the existing panels to be too gener