Showing posts from April, 2007

Vote for the best local candidate on Thursday

Naturally I hope to see Conservatives winning seats in Thursday's local elections. The reason for this is that I think that the election of more Conservative councillors is likely to produce better run councils. Throughout the media, pundits and commentators have written of these elections as a verdict on Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron. Suggestions are already being made of the number of net gains in council seats Daid Cameron needs to make to be perceived as successful. The number of Conservative and Labour candidates elected and defeated will be written up as if the main purpose of the local, Scots, and Welsh elections were a sounding board for the coming general election. However, it isn't. The purpose of the election is to decide which individuals will run local councils, the Scots parliament, and the Welsh assembly for the next few years. Obviously it is entirely legitimate for someone who wishes to demonstrate tbat they are unhappy with, say, inadequate suppor

Incompetent Labour living in a fantasy world ...

If you want proof that the Labour party in Copeland is so complacent and out of touch that they might as well be on another planet, you need look no further than the "Environment" section of their manifesto for the current council election campaign. One entire side of the leaflet is given over to a long list of things which, in the fantasy world inhabited by local Labour politicians, Labour controlled Copeland Council has achieved. Actually, many of them have nothing whatsoever to do with Copeland council. But surely any political party which was even minimally competent would make sure all the things they were boasting of as achievements were actually true? Could any major political party possibly be silly enough to put an election leaflet round claiming credit for an "achievement" which every reasonably well informed person in the area knows has just been abandoned ? Yes, Copeland Labour party is that silly. The first item in their "Environment" list boa


For the past two days the papers have been full of speculation that the police investigating the so-called "Cash for Honours" scandal have recommended that the Prime Minister's chief fundraiser Lord Levy, the Downing Street Director of government relations, Ruth Turner, possibly also the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, should be charged. As far as I can discover, neither the police nor the Crown Prosecution Service have officially confirmed or denied these allegations, and nor should they at this stage. However, it has been made public that on Friday the police submitted ‘a 216 page report with supportive material’ to the Crown Prosecution Service. In a statement, the police said: ‘The Met has had extensive consultation with the CPS during the enquiry and provided them with reports together with over 6,300 documents. To date 136 people have been interviewed as either witnesses or suspects. It is now a matter for the CPS to consider the evidence, advi

Select Committee Nuclear Report

This week the House of Commons had a debate on the subject "New nuclear? Examining the Issues" which was introduced by the Conservative Chairman of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Peter Luff M.P. You can read the full text of the debate in Hansard at the House of Commons website, or on "They work for you" at this URL - This was an excellent debate which showed the House of Commons at its best, and also showed the progress on both the Conservative and Labour sides towards a consensus that new nuclear build has a part to play in a balanced energy policy. Sadly that consensus does not yet extend to the Liberal Democrats or the Scottish Nationalists, which does not bode well for the ability of Scotland to keep the lights on if an unholy alliance of those two parties takes power North of the Border after the Scottish elections in two weeks. This is an extremely important is

Nuclear Autopsy inquiry

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling announced this afternoon in the House of Commons that he is asking the QC who investigated the Alder Hey hospital case to conduct an inquiry into allegations that workers in the nuclear industry had tissue samples taken from their bodies after death. Michael Redfern, who led the Alder Hey Children's Hospital inquiry in Liverpool, has been asked to establish the facts and report to ministers. All the cases where it is alleged that tissue may have been taken without family consent involve people who died in the 1960's and 1970's. According to BNFL tissue sampling began in the 1960s and ceased in 1992. Alistair Darling, who announced the move in an emergency statement to the Commons, said that families of workers at the Sellafield site in Cumbria, and the public, wanted answers to questions raised by the latest disclosure. Mr Darling said most of the workers covered by the revelation worked at Sellafield, but he added that one indi

David Cameron launches Conservative Local Government campaign

David Cameron is launching the Conservative campaign for the 3rd May local elections today. He is expected to say the following. “The mission of the modern Conservative Party is to improve the quality of life for everyone, and local councils have a leading role to play in doing just that. Conservatives are the largest party in local government, and I’m proud of the work they do in towns, cities and rural areas right across the country. From Bradford to Barnet, Dudley to Daventry, and Macclesfield to Medway, Conservative led councils are delivering better services while providing value for money and helping keep the cost of living down through lower council tax. Their achievements show exactly why it’s right to give more power and responsibility to local councils. At the heart of our local election campaign this year is the promotion of civic pride. We believe in social responsibility, in trusting people to do the right thing and giving them real control over their lives. After a decade

Bus stations and Seagulls

You never know what's going to come up on the doorstep when one is fighting a local election on conducting a resident's opinion survey. Of course, the most frequently raised issue of concern at the moment in West Cumbria is the future of our local hospitals. We have been running a petition on this subject which has secured hundreds of signatures. But a number of other issues have also been raised. Two interesting issues were mentioned to myself and my colleagues Alex Carroll and Alan Mossop on the doorstep in Bransty ward at the weekend. More than one person told us they were concerned about the proposed new Bus Station site in Whitehaven. They considered the original bus station site to have been far more suitable than the proposed new one. The other issue concerned seagulls - there are a lot of these birds in Whitehaven at the moment. You always expect some on coasts and around a harbour but the population is such that some are coming further inland. They can be noisy and agg

Do You Need a Postal Vote?

If you will be away or otherwise unable to vote in person for your local council on 3rd May, you have until noon next Wednesday (18th April) to get the application form to the electoral registration office at your local borough council office. Remember that all previously existing postal votes were cancelled last year. I know that many residents of Copeland Borough who had previously had postal votes received a letter advisitng them of this, and with the letter came a form to apply again. I certainly had this letter myself, but today I spoke to someone who never received hers. If you have not applied for a postal vote within the past six months, you no longer have one, and need to apply again by noon on Wednesday if you want to vote by post.

No more Magna Carta?

Dan Keiran is about to bring out a book called "I fought the law" from which there was an extract in last week's Sunday Times. His basic argument is that all sorts of behaviour which British people would expect to be legal because we fondly believe that we live in a free country have been criminalised over the past few years. Now it is easy to ridicule or criticise Dan Keiran because he is not always as good as he should be at getting his detailed facts right. While browsing in a bookshop I picked up his previous book, which is called "Crap Towns." (Apologies for the bad language, but it's his not mine.) After reading the first two pages I put it down in disgust with the strong opinion that if those pages were representative, the adjective was better applied to the quality of Mr Keiran's research rather than the towns he wrote about. Certainly any numerate and computer-literate person could have established in twenty minutes on the internet that some of

What Doctors think of the Labour government

I am indebted to Iain Dale's diary for the news that a poll out this morning shows that if there were a general election today only 7 per cent of doctors would vote Labour. Conservatives would be supported by 43% of doctors (up 16% on 2005) and the LibDems by 15% (up 4%). Labour are down from 24% in 2005. The poll also found a lack of support for Chancellor Gordon Brown leading the NHS as Prime Minister. Asked "Would the NHS provide a better service under Gordon Brown?", 6% said 'yes', 61% said 'no' and 32% said they were unsure. Just 2% of doctors described their level of morale at work as excellent, with 54% saying it was poor or terrible. This is the verdict of people who are intimately informed about the working of the NHS under a party that came to power promising "24 hours to save the NHS."

Balls talks ... Arrant Nonsense

Few things have illustrated as clearly what is wrong with New Labour as their reaction when The Times eventually managed to use Labour's own Freedom of Information legislation to see the advice given to Gordon Brown before his disastrous decision to abolish the Dividend Tax credit on pension funds and thereby raid pension funds to the tune of £5 billion a year. By now this has taken £50 billion from pension savings directly and between another £25 billion and £50 billion indirectly through knock-on effects such as reduced incentives to save, consequent closure of many final salary pension schemes either to new members or even sometimes existing ones, and reduced asset prices. It is interesting to see how clearly the risk of such a sequence of events was foreseen by the treasury. Their advice to Brown warned of the possibility that Pensions would be cut Fund values would fall by up to £50 billion Council tax would rise to pay for local authority pension fund defecits Schemes would b

Wishing you a Merry Easter

Today is Easter Sunday. For those in Western countries who do not believe in the Christian message, today is just a holiday, and I wish any such person reading this a good one. For those who do believe or have an open mind on the subject, it is the day when we remember a message of hope and love which could triumph even over death and disaster. May the love of the risen Jesus be with you today and always.

Candidates for Copeland Borough Council

The following people are standing in the elections for Copeland Borough Council on 3rd May. I have listed for each ward the number of councillors to be elected, and then the candidates in alphabetical order with the town or village where they live, and party affiliation. Addresses are given based on electoral registration details given on the nomination papers as reported to the Whitehaven News - I understand one or two of these addresses may be out of date by election day as a small number of candidates are moving house (but only within the Copeland area.) ARLECDON (1 seat): C Ross, from Kirkland, (Labour); Marie Simpson, from Arlecdon, (Conservative); Graham Sunderland, from Arlecdon, (Independent). Note - Arlecdon ward also includes Keekle BECKERMET (2 seats): Yvonne Clarkson, Calderbridge, (Conservative); John Jackson, Frizington, (Conservative); John Woolley, Whitehaven, (Labour). BOOTLE (1): Keith Hitchen, Holmrook, (Conservative) ELECTED UNOPPOSED BRANSTY (3): Alex Caroll, White

Brown's Pensions Disaster

It should have been obvious to everyone at the time that Gordon Brown's abolition of the Dividend Tax credit for Pension funds, which increased the tax on pension funds by £5 billion a year, was likely to have dire consequences. Obviously the first of these is a cumulative £50 billion directly grabbed in extra tax, but it has also been suggested that the impact on pension funds, including money which has not been invested in them because people know it would be grabbed in tax, and the overall impact of lower asset prices as this policy is one of the reasons UK stocks and shares have underperformed our international rivals, may be closer to £100 million. It has been obvious for several years that this is one of the main reasons why, in the words of Labour MP Frank Field, this government inherited one of the strongest positions on pensions in Europe but now has one of the weakest. In my view this was the worst single mistake in economic policy since Churchill put Britain back on the

Farm payment money may be late again

Environment secretary David Milliband admitted last year that not all the Single Farm Payment money due to farmers this year can be guaranteed to arrive by the due date of June 2007. We are told that £300 million has been budgeted for late payment fines. I would be interested to hear from any farmers, especially in Copeland, who may be reading this about whether the money has reached you on time. I know that many local farmers had to borrow money last year because the payment was so late. Meanwhile a report by an all-party committee of MPs has suggested that the previous Environment secretary (and current Foreign Secretary), Margaret Beckett, should have been sacked for incompetence over her failure to get to grips with the issue last year. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee of the House of Commons has just published a damning report into the failure of the Rural Payments Agency (RPE) and Department of the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to pay farmers their