Showing posts from March, 2007

Why the budget was bad for Copeland

I was very concerned about the effect on working people in Copeland of the scrapping of the 10p starting rate of tax in chancellor Gordon Brown's budget. This will hit many people in Cumbria: Ordinary working people in this constituency are being taxed to pay for a cheap political headline. Fiscal experts agree that because of the abolition of the 10p introductory rate of tax, the budget will leave working people worse off if they have incomes below the median £18,000 a year and do not have dependent children. The overall impact of income tax & National Insurance changes in the budget will cost working families £340 million a year. Everyone earning between about £5,000 and £18,000 p.a. will pay more in income tax as a result of the changes. There are many working men and women in Copeland who do not have children, or whose children have grown up, and who have incomes in the range that mean they will lose out because of the tax changes in the budget, and particularly the aboliti

Should MPs have an extra £10,000 communications allowance?

There is a proposal before the House of Commons that MPs should award themselves and extra £10,000 "communications allowance" for writing to constituents. Greg Hands, Tory MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, makes a very powerful argument on Conservative Home against this proposal. He believes that this would increase the advantage which sitting MPs have in campaigning for re-election. He also points out that MPs already have a postage allowance; the average annual amount claimed in postage is, and I quote, "about £4,000, but some Labour MPs claim far more. Hendon Labour MP Andrew Dismore claimed £25,146 last year, equal to sending 83,000 letters, or 612 for every day Parliament sat last year." There has to be a balance between giving MPs enough secretarial and support to allow them to do their job properly and giving them so much that you give sitting MPs an unfair advantage. Most of the people who have commented on Greg's "Conservative Home" article agree

Further thoughts on the end of the slave trade

It has been impossible to ignore the issue of the slave trade this week. It seemed that every time you switch on the radio, there is either a programme running about it, or adverts for a forthcoming programme. You open a newspaper, and the same applies. It was also the subject for the first question to all four candidates in the Copeland primary. I thought I knew a fair amount about the slave trade and the battles which eventually resulted in its abolition, but I have found out more than a few things which were a surprise to me. Some information was new to me, some of the things I thought I knew were not so; other things I had believed were broadly right but I found on looking into them more deeply that the truth was much more complex than I had realised. The point on which I had, until yesterday evening, been most seriously misinformed was the political allegiance of the MP and campaigner against slavery, William Wilberforce. I had read in several different newspaper articles over th

Copeland selection result

I was re-selected this afternoon to fight the redrawn Copeland seat at the next General Election. I would like to thank all those who supported me at any stage of the process. I'd also like to say a few positive words about the three other candidates in the primary, all of whom impressed me. During the final stage of a parliamentary selection, the candidates spend some time in one another's company in a small room while awaiting their turn to be called to speak, or while waiting for the final reult. It's an unusual situation - in one sense you are all rivals for a position you have usually put a huge effort into trying to win, and yet you usually have many interests and values in common because they are what has led you to seek the opportunity to stand for parliament. I have never had negative feelings about the people against whom I found myself competing for a seat, and have usually formed a very positive view of the knowledge, commitment, and ability of the other people

A Manifesto for Copeland

At 2pm this afternoon there is an "Open Primary" at Calderbridge Village hall to choose the next Conservative parliamentary candidate for Copeland. The four possible candidates are Simon Baker, Thelma Matuk, Judith Pattinson, and myself. So here are a few words about myself, my policies, and why I believe I would be a good candidate to fight the enlarged seat. I lives and work in the Copeland constituency. My family use local schools, roads, and hospital services. I fought Copeland at the 2005 general election. Both before and since that election I have campaigned for better services in the new Copeland constituency, taking up issues including NHS services, roads, and the TV digital switchover. I have campaigned to protect local hospital services, including West Cumberland Hospital, Millom Community Hospital, and Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick. My contributions to the "Save Our Services" campaign to protect all our local hospitals, and the "Don'

Local doctors set out hospital blueprint

I was most interested to see the blueprint set out this week by consultants at West Cumberland Hospital for the facilities they say West Cumbrian patients need for safe and adequate health services in the future. After kicking off a "Great Debate" the Primary Care Trust (PCT) is writing a so called ‘Grand Plan’ for local health services. However, doctors at WCH say there are certain essential requirements which they are concerned must be included. Otherwise, they believe “the delivery of safe emergency care cannot be guaranteed at WCH”. The consultants want the public to be aware of these issues ready for when the health plan goes out for yet another consultation in early June. Prior to publication of the "Grand Plan", the consultants feel that Cumbria Primary Care Trust and North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust should commit themselves to: - A core of consultants based at WCH in medicine/elderly care, surgery, orthopaedics, obstetrics/gynaecology, paediatrics, emerge

Chris Whiteside in Swimathon 2007

I have just completed this year's Swimathon at Westminster Lodge pool. At the time I checked the Swimathon website to decide where to do the swim this year, no pools in Cumbria appeared. I am not certain whether this was because none were taking part or because they were not listed on the website; I have since learned of other pools which only appeared on the website at a comparatively late stage. Next year we will have to see if we can do anything to ensure that there are participating pools in Cumbria, as there have been in the past, and that they appear on the Swimathon Website in good time. Anyway, I managed to complete the swim of 5,000 metres (150 lengths of Westminster Lodge) in one hour, fifty two minutes and thirty-five seconds. This is rather slower than the sort of time I used to take to complete the distance in my thirties but I'm reasonably happy with that time. Regardless of one's age I think one is entitled to some satisfaction at the an achievement of swimmi

David Cameron on the NHS

"It used to be said that Labour were the party of the NHS. Not any more. Labour are the party that is undermining the health service. "There's a simple reason why. It isn't that they don't care. But it is because of their values and philosophy: Labour's mania for controlling and directing things from the centre; Labour's pessimism about human nature; Labour's belief that if people aren't told what to do, they'll do the wrong thing. Labour just doesn't trust people."

Blair's "Seven Mortal Sins"

In today's Sunday Times the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, accuses Tony Blair of personal responsibility for the collapse of trust between politicians and the public through lack of interest in ethical conduct. He accused Blair of having "failed on ethical standards." He lists seven "mortal sins" which illustrated how the prime minister has "fallen well short of the standard he set for himself." Far from keeping his promise to be "purer than pure" Sir Alistair argues that Tony Blair has "degraded politics." The seven mortal sins listed by Sir Alistair are 1) The "Cash for Honours" scandal, which was the result of a personal decision by Tony Blair to take secret loans, ignoring the fact that this went against the spirit of his own much trumpeted legislation 2) The Iraq war, where "the way the arguments were presented to the public undermined trust on a key issue where the li

TV Digital Switchover dates announced

The exact dates when the analogue TV signals will be turned off in the Whitehaven Television area have now been announced. The Whitehaven TV area covers most of Copeland, with the exception of areas around Lowca, St Bees, and in the south of the borough. Any terrestial TV taking it's signal from the Bigrigg transmitter or one of those parented on it such as Gosforth will be affected when the TV signal switches over from Analogue to Digital this autumn. It has now been confirmed that BBC2 will switch over from analogue to Digital signals in the Whitehaven area on 17th October 2007. Over the following month everyone will be able to check that their digital eqipment such as set-top boxes actually works - if you can receive BBC2 after 17th October, your digital equipment is working. The other terrestial channels will switch over to digital, and the analogue signal will be switched off, on 14th November. From 14th November, no Television or TV equipment which is not digital capable will

Do you want to help select the next conservative candidate for Copeland?

The next conservative candidate for Copeland will be chosen by local residents at a "Primary" election at Calderbridge village hall at 2pm on Sunday, March 25th. Anyone who is on the electoral roll for the new Copeland constituency, including the Keswick area, can come to the selection and vote, provided they have first registered with North Cumbria Conservatives office in Carlisle. Tel: 01228 521192 Email:

Have you had difficulty leaving a comment ?

I gather that one or two people have had difficulty leaving comments on my West Cumbria Hospitals blog or using the email link to contact me. If you have had any such difficulty, with that blog or this one, please drop me an email by typing the following address into your email programme - and please start the email title with "Communications Problem"

80% of bets to win the next election are on the Tories ...

The latest opinion polls have been good news for David Cameron, although I am always careful never to read too much into any one individual opinion poll. Interestingly, in recent history two predictors of who is going to win the next election which have performed better than opinion polls asking people how they personally will vote have been 1) Polls asking people which party they think will win, regardless of their own vote, and 2) Bets placed by punters on which party they think will win. Bearing in mind that who people think will win an election is more likely to reflect what will actually happen than who they say they personally will vote for, a press release from William Hill is more good news for David Cameron's Conservatives. Graham Sharpe of William Hill said: "There has been no serious money for Labour to win the next General Election for months. Since Tony Blair announced he was going to stand down probably eighty per cent of the Election bets we have taken have bee

CATS consultation open until Friday this week !

The CATS consultation is open for another two days: Reponses to the consultation should be submitted by 5pm on Friday 9th March. Details are available on the internet at and you can respond online. They can be sent in online by visiting the above consultation website, or by post to Freepost RRHA-BEGG-LSLE CATS public consultation Room 3 Preston Business Centre Watling Street Road Fulwood, Preston PR2 8DY. If you care about the hospital services at West Cumberland hospital in Whitehaven, Millom Community Hospital, or Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital (aka Keswick Hospital), this affects you.

A vote for the Lib/Dems is a vote for Gordon Brown ...

The Lib/Dems appear to be in meltdown about whether Sir Ming Campbell's speech with its "Five Tests" for Labour was really setting out the terms for the Liberals to prop up the Labour government in the event of a hung parliament. But unless the briefing to that effect by a senior Lib/Dem official is clearly, explicitly, and convincingly denied, we can now take it that the Liberal Democrats would first attempt to reach an accomodation with Gordon Brown and the Labour party if no party has a majority at the next general election. There are two important consequences which follow from this. 1) Lib/Dem claims to be the "real opposition" are nonsense 2) Anyone who wants to cast his or her vote for a change in government cannot rely on getting it from the Liberals. It is now clearer than ever if you want to protest against the Labour government you can do so by voting for any other party, but if you want to remove the Labour government, your best chance of doing so is

The Education Lottery

For years one of the killer criticisms which those who were unhappy with a public service could deploy was the word "lottery." If you were unhappy with geographical variation in service you would refer to a "postcode lottery." If you felt that the quality of service provision offered to different people varied substantially on an arbitraty basis, you would refer to this as a "lottery". Last week a Labour education authority, Brighton council, agreed to introduce a real lottery to allocate scarce school places. If any councillor or MP were mad enough to propose that we could allocate school places by auctioning them off to the children whose parents made the highest bid, that proposal would rightly be condemned on all sides as a massive injustice. Yet how is it any better to allocate places on the random chance of an arbitrary lot, rather than the irrelevant consideration of whose parents have more money?

Time to split the Law Officers' roles

Last night the attorney general has obtained an injunction against the BBC to stop it broadcasting an item about the cash-for-honours investigation. Even though I am inclined to believe his explanation that he was acting at the request of the police, and that he has done nothing wrong on this occasion, I cannot be the only person who is deeply uncomfortable with a judicial process which works in this way. Essentially the attorney general, a minister appointed by Tony Blair, went to court to get an injuction to prevent the BBC reporting details of the police investigation into whether money changed hands in exchange for honours, which if true would reflect extremely badly on - Tony Blair. I don't believe that any reasonalbe person can argue that there is neither a conflict of interest nor the appearance of a conflict of interest strong enough to bring the system into disrepute. This country's top legal positions and the government's law officers have traditionally had multip