Showing posts from January, 2007

Public meeting tomorrow on health in West Cumbria

There is a public meeting tomorrow (1st February) on health issues in West Cumbria The meeting is to be held in Whitehaven Civic Hall at 7pm. It has been organised by the local NHS trusts to discuss the controversial proposals for CATS (Clinical Assessment Trust and Suport Centres) but will also provide an opportunity to consider general health issues. The meeting is expected to be attended both by Marie Burnham, Cheif Exec of the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals trust, and by Sue Page of the new Cumbria wide PCT. I hope as many as possible of the 4,000 people who recently took part in the "Save our services" march will turn up to let the trusts know how strongly we want to keep our hospital services.

An example of Lib/Dem tactics.

Have you ever wondered why so many Tory and Labour activists detest the Liberal Democrats, and often seem more hostile to the Lib/Dems than each other even though the political difference between Labour and Conservative policies may seem to be greater? It's because of the sharp tactics of many Lib/Dems at local level and here is an example. The Jersey Farm Woodland Park in the parish of Sandridge has been one of the great local successes of the past few years. One of the reasons for this is that it has had enormous support from the community in Sandridge, Jersey Farm, and Marshalwick, including people of all political parties and none. Given this support, you would think that some of the party political point-scoring which has gone on over the past seventeen years about the events leading up to the foundation of the park could be allowed to drop. Instead it has got worse, in the sense that a selective quote which the Liberal Democrats have used for many years to misrepresent th


This week’s Sunday Times contains a news report that police refused to pursue two apparently stolen motorbikes because the riders were not wearing helmets. According to the person who reported the bikes stolen, the mother of the owners, the police told her that if the alleged perpetrators were injured or killed during the chase, they or their relatives could sue the police. If this story is true – and I have trouble believing it but cannot dismiss it out of hand – you could not have a better example of the way we have as a society have lost any sense of proportion while dealing with Health and Safety issues. Not to mention any understanding of personal responsibility. Of course it is the responsibility of the police to consider the safety of everyone involved when chasing suspects. That does include the people being chased – they are innocent until proven guilty. But for heaven’s sake, if these guys had been hurt during a chase because they were not wearing safety helmets, that would b

Remember the Holocaust

This weekend sees the 61st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp, which is also Holocaust Memorial Day. This is a day which officially commemorates all victims of genocide -not just the Jewish, Gypsies, mental patients and others who died at the hands of the Nazi regime, but all others who have been the victims of racially motivated mass murder and "ethnic cleansing" from the Armenians to Dafur. From time to time I meet people who think we make too much of this. I don't think we emphasise it enough. There are at least 88 people in Cumbria who showed this week that they need to have a better understanding of the events which lead to the holocaust - the 88 people who voted BNP in the Brampton by-election for Cumbria County Council on Thursday. Most of the electors who took part in the Brampton by election voted for the excellent Conservative candidate, Laurence Fisher, who was duly elected. Well over 90% of Brampton voters cast their ballots for main


Plans for a new community fire station for Whitehaven on land at the cemetary end Meadow View proved highly controversial when they were discussed at the Bransty and Harbour Community Forum this evening (Tuesday 23rd) at St Gregory’s and St Patrick’s School, Esk Avenue, Whitehaven. The aim of the proposals is to reduce response times for fires in the highest risk areas of Whitehaven. However, members of the public, including rank and file firemen, were most concerned that both travel times from the site for fire engines, and travel times to the site for fire fighters, may actually be worse. Highway Engineers have apparently had an input into the proposals, and have considered the congestion, but looking at the nature of the roads where they are proposing to move the fire station, and the parking and congestion problems, it does look as though residents and firefighters with concerns about this site have a point. The public is now being asked to comment on the proposals and people have

An intolerable failure of duty

I stand by my post at the weekend that Britain has one of the best police forces in the world, but I am absolutely horrified by the failings exposed by the report of the Northern Ireland police ombudsman. It is shocking and intolerable that the former RUC appears to have failed to act to stop killings by UVF members who were also RUC informers. This is not just a dreadful failure to protect the public, it also traduces the honour and reputation of the many decent and honest people who have served in the police in Northern Ireland, including over three hundred who gave their lives to protect the public. The cliche "this must never be allowed to happen again" is often used in public life, but if there ever was a case when it really does apply it is this one.

Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad ...

If there were any remaining doubt that the Labour government has taken leave of their collective senses, their reaction to the "loans for peerages" scandal has dispelled it. And the manner in which their grotesque mishandling of the investigation is blowing up in their faces means that there is less and less doubt that they will lose the next election as they richly deserve. For years the Labour strategy whenever anyone crosses them has been to "shoot the messenger." From the 90-year old grandmother who Labour accused of being racist for complaining about healthcare, the parliamentary standards commissioner who didn't get her contract renewed after asking too many pointed questions in corruption inquiries, to rail crash victims who were accused of political motivation, if you say something New Labour don't like they will spin against you. Sometimes this works for them, sometimes it doesn't, but the fact that they didn't realise this was a really sill

Public Meeting - new Fire Station for Whitehaven

Possible details of a new fire station for Whitehaven will be discussed at next tuesday's meeting of the Bransty and Harbour Community Forum at St Gregory's & St Patrick's School at 7pm.

Hands off Patients Forums

MPs who are interested in defending either local democracy or hospital services should vote against the second reading of the ludicrously misnamed "Local government and Public Involvement Bill" when it comes to the Commons on Monday. As described on the "Save West Cumbria Hospitals" blog (see link at right) this will abolish the 400 patient and public involvement forums. That is one less avenue for people in West Cumbria to stand up and defend our hospitals. I would dearly like to see our MP Jamie Reed, and indeed other Labour MPs who have supported demonstrations in support of hospitals in their consituencies such as Hazel Blears, vote against this bill. But I'm not putting any money on it.

PCSOs are welcome - but not at the expense of police officers

The Cumbrian Police Federation has expressed concern that more Police Community Support Officers in the county may mean fewer fully-trained officers available on the beat. I can see that there is a valuable role for Police Community Support Officers. There are plenty of things they can do to show a presence and collect evidence. Using them to supplement police officers is a good idea; however, using them to replace police officers is a bad one. I have sat through more than one debate on this subject in various council chambers. The most memorable interventions came from Councillor John Newman (father of Paul who blogs under the title "Newmania.") John was always very scathing about any suggestion of replacing fully trained and empowered police officers with PCSOs - one of his milder comments was to describe the latter as fake policemen. The Police Community Support Officers we already have in Cumbria have played a useful role in complementing the work of their other colleague

Oh Goody

Yesterday Britain was hit by real storms which killed ten people and disrupted life for thousands - visiting Manchester for work purposes I had a dire journey there and back, but at least I reached my destination and returned safely: many others had to abandon journeys, were stranded and unable to get home, or both. But much of the media attention was on the Big Brother storm rather than the real ones. I have never watched the programme or taken part in a Big Brother vote, but I seriously considered voting to evict Jade Goody today. There is little doubt that today's vote to remove her will be interpreted around the world as a rejection of racism by British viewers. There is even less doubt that if instead Shilpa Shetty had been thrown off the programme it would have been taken in every other country as proof positive that we are a deeply racist society, and done disproportionate damage to community relations and to Britain's relations with many other countries. In the event

Big Bother

As I have not seen the programme "Big Brother" I do not feel qualified to comment on whether those who are taking part are being racist, though that does not appear to have inhibited some politicans who have not seen it either. However, there is no doubt that the programme has been perceived as racist by the thousands of people who have complained and around the world, especially in India, which means that under the MacPherson report definition of a racist remark or incident there is a problem to be investigated. More to the point, if the quotes attributed to Big Brother participants in the Evening Standard were broadcast on air, they would have been offensive regardless of the skin colour either of the people making the comments or the person they were made about. In a sense the makers of the programme have been hoist with their own petard. If you try to get on a radio phone in or a programme line "Question Time" and make offensive or racist remarks, the broadcaste

There is a threat to the Union, Gordon, and it’s you

As he comes close to achieving, at least until the next election, his long-term ambition to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown has woken up to the possibility that the UK might break up. So he has issued a ringing call to support the Union. Sadly he does not realise that he is himself a major part of the problem. To paraphrase a comment which a fellow-unionist once made about Ian Paisley, Gordon Brown has been and remains a bigger threat to the union than the SNP, Welsh nats, and the European Union rolled into one. This is not because he is a Scot representing a Scottish seat. Labour, Liberal and Conservative prime ministers in the past have represented Scottish seats without generating a desire for independence on the part of either Scotland or England. It is because he is a control freak, and because he continues to attack any measure which might move us to a proper federal system. All of Britain benefited greatly in the past from the Union. As someone who i

Report back on today's public meeting

Nearly eighty people attended the public meeting this evening in Distington Community Centre about the proposed Wind Farm at Pica. the Bristol based company which has submitted the application were unfortunately unable to send a representative. The proposal is for five wind turbines, each 81 metres tall including the column and blades, and will go before Copeland Borough Council's planning panel in February. The formal consultation period expired late last year but anyone who has strong feelings for or against this proposal can still write to Copeland's Planning department and explain your views, concerns or issues. At the end of the meeting a straw poll was taken which was 55 votes against the application to 10 in favour. (There were also several people present who did not want to register a vote and a number of people who attended most of the meeting but had left before the vote was taken.)

Public Meeting This evening !

The public meeting to discuss revised proposals to build five windmills at Pica is to be held at 7pm this evening (8th January) at Distington Community Centre. There have been several applications to build wind turbines at the Fairfield Farm site over the past 10 years and they have always been extremely controversial. The present set of plans was submitted on 29th September by the company Wind Prospect, which is based in Bristol. Their previous application, for six turbines, was withdrawn.

Render Unto Caesar

I am concerned by reports that education minister Andrew Adonis is considering changes to the rules which would permit "Intelligent Design" (ID) to be described in school philosophy and religious education lessons. There is, fortunately, no suggestion that ID could be covered as part of biology or any other part of the science curriculum. My initial reaction when I first read about the idea of ID was that here you have a philosophical and religious position masquerading as a scientific one. My objection to including it in science teaching is that scientific ideas should be subject to objective testing, verification and should be capable of being falsified if they are contrary to the facts, as Karl Popper described in his masterpiece "The logic of Scientific Discovery." Since I cannot see any way of conclusively falsifying the idea of "Intelligent Design" I cannot see how it belongs in a science class. On further reflection, I am not yet convinced that the

Don't slag off Auntie for getting something right ...

The BBC gets a lot of flak, much of it justified, but I was sorry to see them criticised today for one of the best things they've ever done. It was a good idea a couple of years ago when the Today programme ran a listeners' vote on which law they would like to see passed. I still think it was a good idea even though I didn't happen to agree that the proposed law which won - giving houseowners carte blanche to kill intruders - would be sound legislation, at least in the form that it was drafted. However, the principle was a good one and the result demonstrated legitimate public concern that the system of law and order should be balanced to give the rights of the victim higher priority than those of burglars and vandals. We have to be careful about this. If you give the householder absolute rights and those who they think are intruders no rights at all, you risk creating the situation which happened a few years ago in a southern U.S. state. An innocent tourist who was lost wa

Happy New Year !

I wish everyone reading this a happy, healthy and successful New Year 2007 for yourself and your family. I have only one qualification to that statement: I wish an electorally successful year to anyone reading this who is a Conservative candidate in the elections which take place in May this year or indeed any other election which might be called. I hope any candidate of another party who is reading this will not be offended if I do not wish you success in that area. Health and happiness howevever, I still wish you. Most of all I hope that this year will deliver a secure future for West Cumberland Hospital, Millom Community Hospital, and Keswick Hospital.