Showing posts from February, 2007

Winston on Democracy

I was in Bolton today for the Conservative Party's North West conference, which was a positive and useful exercise. On the way back I listened to a Radio 4 programme presented by John Cole about the 1945 General election. One item from the broadcast which particularly impressed me was an account by a cabinet office official who had to take Winston Churchill some early results. (I didn't catch the name but checking against Martin Gilbert's biography of Churchill on my arrival at home I presume it must have been Captain Pim, the head of the Map Room staff.) Churchill was actually in the bath when the results came through. Ten Conservative seats had fallen to Labour. It was obvious from these early results that there was a massive swing against the Conservative/Liberal National government and that Churchill had lost the election. According to tonight's Radio 4 broadcast, after having heard the results, Churchill pondered for a few moments and then stuck out his chin and sa

Single Farm payment - will Labour be late again ?

It has been suggested on "Political Betting" that Ministers have asked the Treasury to set aside £ 305 million to pay fines which the EU is expected to impose for late payments to farmers of the Single Farm Payment money. This is, of course, the money which was paid extremely late last year, causing many farmers in Cumbria and elsewhere considerable hardship. Apparently it is expected that for the second year running British farmers will fail to receive their payments by the legal deadline. If this is true, what on earth does it say about the New Labour government's attitudes to farmers, the countryside, and taxpayers' money, that they find it easier to budget for fines to the EU for late payment than to pay the money to farmers on time ? It certainly helps explain why we have to pay such ridiculous amounts of tax without receiving a proportionate improvement in public services. Nobody likes paying tax, but I mind paying taxes to support our local schools and hospital

What a disgrace

Two shameful acts of desecration in Whitehaven over the past seven days. Last week some cretin threw paint over the door and steps of St James' church, Whitehaven. This week we have an even more shameful act of vandalism. The cemetery in Low Road was attacked: headstones were knocked over, ornaments and lamps shattered, and a number of graves, including one belonging to a six-month old baby, were smashed. We all have a responsibility to stop this kind of disgrace. Only people with no true sense of community could carry out such actions. And yet Whitehaven has one of the strongest feelings of community spirit which I have ever encountered. We must make sure that sense of community is passed on to the next generation..

Rail Freight Proposal refused.

Update on my last post - following a long and very thorough debate, the proposals for a massive freight terminal and distribution depot at Park Street were refused unanimously by the Planning Referrals Committee. Interesting to compare the public attendance at this planning meeting - which had to be moved to a theater - with the budget meeting of the council two days later. The ratio of attendance by members of the public at the two meetings was about three hundred at the planning meeting compared with six people, two of them former councillors and one a councillor's spouse, to hear the budget and set. A ratio of fifty to one. Why is it that hundreds of people will turn out to listen to speeches on planning applications, where the budget meeting which is normally regarded as the most important meeting of the year attracts an attendance in single figures? Can't be the question of whether there are political speeches - there were plenty on both evenings. Can't be the fact t

Live Webcast of Rail Freight Terminal decision

There will be a live webcast at 7pm on Monday 19th February of the planning committee which is due to finally determine the planning application for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange and distribution centre near Park Street. For details of how to watch it see Last November we had a three hour meeting in front of hundreds of people in order not to take a decision on this application. The decision was deferred last time because the government's Highways agency had not arrived at a view on the impact of the proposal on local trunk roads. They have now recommended refusal. So has the County Council as Highway authority for the non-trunk roads, and the council's professional planning officers. I have to be careful what I write about the merit of the proposals in order to avoid creating any appearance of bias which could be used to seek a judicial review of the decision. However I trust nobody will object to me saying that I really hope that after months of ana

A worm turns

Up until today I had absolutely no time for former “Europe” minister Denis MacShane. I thought he was the worst kind of new Labour robot, a man whose sycophancy for all the works of Tony Blair could not be called toadying without risking a class action from toads, who departed only from the gospel according to St Tony only to follow even more slavishly any and all proposals emanating from Brussels. Well, I still disagree with him on many things, but he’s written an article today in the Telegraph, explaining why he will vote against the government over their latest botched House of Lords reform proposal, which for once makes a great deal of sense. Now personally, I think the House of Lords as it was composed at the time Tony Blair was first elected worked much better as part of a system of checks and balances than its critics usually admit. The trouble with this government’s reforms is that they usually end up appearing modern or democratic but actually increase the power of the executi

Voters think Blair should resign

Interested to see the opinion poll in today's Sunday Times and read that 55% of respondents, including 24% of Labour voters, think Tony Blair should step down now. We've been conducting a survey canvass in marginal areas of Copeland, and we threw in the question "Do you think it would be in Britain's interests if Tony Blair were to resign now as Prime Minister?" So far the "Yes" responses outnumber the "Don't knows" by three to two and we've hardly had any "No" responses. Not a large enough sample yet to prove anything - I shall post results here when we have rather more - but the complacent idea of some New Labour commentators that only the "Westminster Village" is bothered about the scandals surrounding Tony Blair does not match the impression I'm getting on the doorstep. People are saying that it's time for a change.

Quote of the Day

During a discussion on the "Political Betting", a new Labour poster operating under the name "Snowflake" has been trying to make something of the story of Cameron taking pot at Eton twenty-five years ago. Her attempt to suggest from this that he might still be taking rather harder drugs drew the following response from Sean T: "230. Let’s face it, Snowflake, your leader Tony Blair doesn’t need crack to frazzle his brains. He already gets down on his knees to pray with George Bush, for guidance in his holy war on Iraq. Your leader thinks God Speaks To Him, and tells him when to Bomb People. Compared to that, Cameron could be doing methamphetamines every night and still have a more balanced mind." by seanT February 11th, 2007 at 6:04 pm

Quote of the Day: Blair v. Thatcher

David Cameron on Blair's habit of comparing himself to Mrs T: "There's a difference between a conviction politician and one who's about to get a conviction."

A film review to commemorate the end of the slave trade

This year, 2007, sees the 200th anniversary of the vote in the House of Commons to abolish the slave trade. This vote was a huge moral victory for anti-slavery campaigners such as William Wilberforce. And despite the impression which Gordon Brown and John Prescott may have given, the campaigners against slavery represented a wide range of British opinion - Wilberforce was an independent MP but had strong support from Tory prime minister William Pitt (the younger). The 1807 act was pushed through by the "Ministry of All the Talents" coalition government in which Tories and Whigs of various factions took part. Following on from the 1807 vote, Britain pushed at the Vienna peace conference for all the major powers to agree to support the end of the slave trade. And then the Royal Navy forced them to stand by their word. It was our navy who hunted down and arrested slavers all over the world. It took a 30-year naval campaign to do it, but by the end of that time the slave trade ha

Quote of the day - time for the men in white coats

Comment by a Labour backbench MP on the Prime Minister's speech on Friday, quoted in today's Sunday Times. "The man has lost it. If he genuinely believes that this is not doing serious and lasting damage, we don't need the 'men in grey suits' to tell him to quit - we need the men in white coats." There have been a lot of comments and speculation on one side about how much information the police have unearthed in the "Loans for Honours" inquiry. One group of journalists and politicians are speculating and spinning about whether any close colleagues of the Prime Minister are likely to be charged, while the few remaining friends of Tony Blair are engaged in attacking the police, suggesting the whole thing is a storm in a teacup, etc, etc. There are two things about which we can be absolutely certain - the first is that the interview by the police of a serving Prime Minister and the arrest of some of his close colleagues is almost unprecedented in Br

Richard Dawkins and the Loch Ness Monster

A slightly modified version of a joke told at the start of this morning's sermon by the Team Vicar of St James's Whitehaven ... Professor Richard Dawkins has hired a boat to go fishing on Loch Ness. Suddenly, to his astonishment, he's attacked by the monster. It tosses both Dawkins and his boat up in the air, and prepares to grab him in his jaws when he falls back to the lake. As he flies through the air, Professor Dawkins calls out "God help me." Suddenly the monster freezes, and a sudden breeze lifts him, carries him to shore, and then dies away, depositing him gently on the ground. Then a voice speaks inside his head - "My child, I didn't think you believed in me." "Give me a break, God" says Dawkins. "Two minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness Monster either." In case Richard Dawkin's lawyers are preparing to go after the team vicar, I should explain that he told the joke about "an atheist" - as I thou

Quote of the day - time for MPs to lose their seats

Comment made last night at the Keswick NHS consultation meeting by a local resident who admitted that he had voted Labour in the past. The government isn't listening and it's time for some MPs to lose their seats or they won't listen. We keep electing Labour MPs and they do nothing for us. Our hospitals always seem to be under threat. Both at Whitehaven on Thursday night and at Keswick on Friday night there were serious concerns expressed by local residents about the government's latest NHS proposals and the people who were supposed to be presenting the proposals made little attempt to hide that they share a lot of those concerns. At the Whitehaven meeting there was of course a lot of concern focussed on the impact of CATS on acute hospital services and particularly West Cumberland Hospital. At the Keswick meeting more of the concern was about Cumbria's Community Hospital and particularly the Keswick Hospital (Mary Hewitson Cottage Hospital.) At both meetings reside

Venue for tonight's consultation meeting changed

The venue for tonight's NHS consultation meeting in Keswick has been moved to Keswick School, Vicarage Hill, at 7pm. If you want to tell the Primary Care Trust how much you value Mary Hewitson Cottage Hospital in Keswick, come along and have your say. If you want to send a similar message about West Cumberland Hospital, or Millom Community Hospital and you couldn't get to last night's meeting in Whitehaven, or indeed if you want to say anything about any of the other hospitals in Cumbria which are under threat, come along and have your say.

CATS proposals torn to shreds at public meeting

Hundreds of local residents expressed serious concern about the CATS proposals at tonight's meeting in Whitehaven Civic Hall. These proposals from central government have been criticised by doctors and it was very apparent tonight that even the people who were on the panel to discuss them with the public have serious concerns that the proposals on the table may damage the viablity of local hospitals, if implemented in their present form. Local residents made very clear that our first priority on health in this area is to fight for our local hospitals. Speaker after speaker from the floor expressed concern about or attacked the CTS proposals and expressed frustration that the government appears determined to push the CATS concept through when the national model does not seem right for our area. It would not be too strong a statement to say that the proposals were torn to shreds by the public. A more detailed report is on my Hospitals campaign blog - see link at right.

Reminder - NHS public meeting this evening

If you have concerns about health services in Cumbria, come and have your say at the public meeting in Whitehaven Civic Hall, 7pm this evening (1st February). This is your chance to let Marie Burnham and Sue Page know how strongly you want to keep hospital services in West Cumbria. Do you want to Save West Cumberland Hospital ? Do you want to Save Millom Community Hospital ? Do you want to Save Keswick Hospital ? Do you want to Save Our Services ? Then come along and say so !!!

Quote of the day ...

From a discussion on the "political betting" website about the news that the Prime Minister has been interviewed for a second time by police ... "This just gets more and more delicious, er, sorry, I mean serious. If revenge is a dish best served cold then this gloriously prolonged humiliation of Blair and New Labour is like swimming in a lagoon of mango sorbet." (posted by "SeanT"). Since all this is undoubtedly doing great damage to the reputation of politics in general and interfering with the government of our country I am trying very hard not to enjoy the humiliation of the present government. Had it not been for the way New Labour treated the previous government when they were in opposition, I would find it much easier to resist the temptation to enjoy watching them on the receiving end. But after all the sanctimonious insults that they threw at John Major's government about the need to be whiter than white, I cannot help thinking that Blair and h