Showing posts from May, 2007

Book Review: Too Nice to be a Tory by Jo-Anne Nagler

This is an intensely human and funny political autobiography. You don't have to be either a Conservative or a political anorak to enjoy this excellent book. Unfortunately many of the people who would both enjoy and learn something from this book are likely to be put off by the subject matter. They should not be. Jo-Anne Nadler is a witty, charming and intelligent young woman of the late 20th and early 21st century who is normal in every respect except one - an interest in politics which has led her to work both as a Conservative party staffer and as a political journalist. "Too Nice to be a Tory" tells the story of Jo-Anne's her life in politics and the media through the Thatcher, Major, and Blair years up to the election of Michael Howard as Conservative leader. But it talks about it in down-to-earth normal terms rather than political platitudes. This is one of the most human books about politics which I have ever read. Jo-Anne's political views do come through i

Proposed A&E Guidance: Department of Health response

The Department of Health has admitted that a consultation document exists proposing the adoption of guidance that A&E catchment areas should be much larger. However, they claim that this document has been "wrongly interpreted" by the trusts in Surrey which referred to the recommended catchment areas as national guidance. They state that there is "no such official guidance" from the department. The Department of Health spokesman admitted that the recommendations were taken from a report by the Royal College of Surgeons supported by Sir George Alberti, the former director of emergency care. He recently recommended the closure of an A&E department in north London. The remaining two A&Es serving the area will be left with catchment populations of 450,000 each. While I am pleased to learn that the NHS trusts who were quoting this target as national government guidance appear to have misunderstood the status of the report, I make no apology whatsoever for rais

New national A&E guidance could be disastrous for Cumbria

I am deeply alarmed at suggestions that at least some some health authorities have been advised that the catchment area for NHS Accident and Emergency Units should be between 450,000 and half a millon people. If applied in areas like Cumbria the impact of such a policy would be quite disastrous. More details are given on my Hospitals Campaign blog: see link at right.

7,000 need a dentist - and that's the good news

What does this say about Blair's Britain ? On the day we finally learn for certain who Tony Blair's successor as Prime Minister will be, there is a story in the local press that 7,000 people in West Cumbria are waiting for a dentist. They are told that if you want to get one, you have a much better chance if you are willing to travel 40 miles over poor roads to Carlisle or Penrith for treatment. And this is supposed to be good news as it indicates that the problem is getting better - at one stage there were more than 26,000 people in West Cumbria on the waiting list for a dentist. All this eight years after Tony Blair promised in 1999 that, within five years, everyone in Britain would have access to an NHS dentist. I do not decry the efforts the Cumbria NHS Primary Care Trust has made to improve the situation. Nevertheless the fact that a story of how only 7,000 people are waiting for a dentist can be seen as good news is an absolute indictment of the way that a government elec

Innocent until proven guilty ?

Two news stories in the last few days, one in the national and international media, one local to West Cumbria, have illustrated that the more serious a crime which is being investigated, and the greater the threat which someone may pose to vulnerable people, the more important it becomes to avoid destroying the lives of the innocent by broadcasting accusations which may be false. I have two small children. Like, I would imagine, every parent in the country I have been following with horror the story of the little girl who has disappeared in Portugal. It's a cliche that what has happened to the McCann family is every parent's nightmare, but it is true nonetheless. And closer to home, I shuddered like every parent in Whitehaven when I learned that a convicted paedophile who has been released after serving his prison sentence for serial crimes against children was housed within yards of a school and a park. The safety and security of my children is the most important consideration

Brown Bounce, Blair Bounce or Dead-Cat Bounce ?

I am not one of those who argue that opinion polls are worthless, but I do think that newspaper headlines based on them have to be taken with not just a pinch, but a bucketful, of salt. You can usually find something in the small print of almost any poll which either in isolation or by comparison with the previous poll in the sane series can be used to spin any message you want to try to justify. This morning's Times headline is a classic example - it refers to a "bounce for Brown" and says that the prospect of a new man at Number 10 has given the chancellor a "poll boost." Is Conservative support down in this poll ? No. Is there a significant drop in the Conservative lead when people are asked how they would vote in a general election (with Cameron and Brown as party leaders) ? No, Cameron still has a lead of 10%, compared with 11% last month. As it is based on a survey of 1,504 people. this change is not statistically significant. A 10% lead for David Cameron,

Simon Jenkins on the Lib/Dems

Simon Jenkins wrote the following piece in The Guardian yesterday. I disagree with him on only one point - he refers to the Liberal Democrats as nice. Now, some of the Lib/Dems I have met are nice, but like all parties they have their share of MPs, councillors, and activists who are anything but nice. The rudest and most offensive councillor I ever met was a Lib/Dem, who once started throwing gratuitous insults around at a funeral. As Simon Jenkins points out, when Proportional Representation or a close result creates a hung parliament or council, the Lib/Dems are often all over the place trying to decide what to do. This appears to have surprised some people in Scotland and Wales, but it should not have surprised anyone who has had the misfortune to serve on or closely observe a hung council in which the Lib/Dems held the balance of power. The Borough of Copeland is now a Lib/Dem-free-zone at all local levels above parish council - this year they only managed to put up three candidate

Government of the living dead

I did like David Cameron's phrase that Britain is currently being presided over by a government of the "living dead." The Prime Minister has said for a year that he is going and has finally set that change in motion It is clear that much of the rest of the cabinet has either decided to jump before being sacked, or is likely to be moved or sacked when Brown takes over. As David Cameron said, “We’ve got a Home Secretary splitting his Department in two when he’s already resigned….a Foreign Secretary negotiating a European Treaty she won’t be around to ratify…and a Prime Minister who, even after last weeks drubbing, simply doesn’t understand that it’s over. “Everyone knows who the next Labour leader is. So why does the country have to put up with seven weeks of paralysis?” Mr Cameron also referred to speculation that Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt faces the chop, and scoffed at the way the new Justice Minister Lord Falconer has been publicly “pleading for his job.” As he s

Final summary of local election results

Over the UK as a whole the total changes of seats in the local elections were: Conservatives UP 911 councillors Labour DOWN 504 councillors Lib Dems DOWN 246 councillors In Copeland compared with when the seats were last contested (including last year's by-elections) the results were: Conservatives 19 (up three seats) Labour 31 (down one seat from 2003 position plus Cleator Moor by-election gain) Lib/Dems nil (compared with 2003) Independent 1 (Several independents did not seek re-election) In Allerdale Labour lost their leader for the second election in a row - and this time they lost the deputy leader as well. At this rate I wonder if they will have trouble finding candidates to take the job of Labour leader in Allerdale !

Changeover weekend

This morning's post contained both the first envelope from Copeland council addressed to me as Councillor Whiteside and what I presume will be the last one from St Albans council addressed the same way. A little known fact is that councillors who do not stand for re-election or who are defeated do not formally step down until four days after the election. I presume this was written into the law so that councils can continue to operate, especially if there is a big change, during the period before newly-elected councillors can sign the necessary paperwork to be allowed to start work. So technically my last day as a St Albans Councillor is Bank Holiday Monday and over this long weekend I am a councillor for two areas three hundred miles apart. But only technically. I spoke on the phone to my successor as councillor for Sandridge and Jersey Farm, Frances Leonard, to congratulate her on her crushing victory over the Liberal Democrats, and we have agreed that I will pass over the remain

Copeland Election Results

I'd like to thank all those residents of Bransty ward who took the trouble to vote yesterday, and particularly those who voted for me and for my Conservative colleagues Allan Mossop and Alex Carroll. The Bransty result was: Chris Whiteside (Conservative) 651 (elected) Allan Mossop (Conservative) 636 (elected) Alex Carroll (Conservative) 617 (elected) Jim Hewitson (Labour) 508 Les Hanley (Labour) 453 Jeanette Williams (Labour) 435 Smallest Conservative majority: 109 Two of the three seats in the ward were previously Labour held so this represents a gain of two seats. Overall on Copeland council Conservatives made three gains and no losses, taking two seats from Labour and one from an Independent who had been elected in 2003 as a Lib/Dem. Labour lost two seats to the Conservatives and gained one seat which had been held by an independent who did not seek re-election, a net loss of one seat. The composition of the council, and change comparing each seat with the result when it was las

Copeland elections: count is tomorrow (Friday) morning

Spent today campaigning hard in the Copeland Borough Council elections. I have spent local election day, usually the first Thursday in May, campaigning every year since 1979. And every year from 1985 to last year I then spent that evening at an election count. Copeland Council is not counting the elections here until tomorrow morning and it felt extremely strange to finish the election and go home instead of heading straight to the count. We shall have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out what has happened. But one thing which is already clear is that turnouts are down and are disappointing, despite the superb weather which we enjoyed all day. There are a number of possible explanations for the lower turnout, of which the most obvious is that four years ago was an all-postal election. There are a number of other factors which may need looking into. All will have to be considered in the cold light of day when we see the full results. Well under half those eligible to vote in Copel

Sandridge Election Result

I am delighted to report that the Frances Leonard has held Sandridge and Jersey Farm, which I must now describe as my former council ward in St Albans, by 854 votes against the Lib Dems 329. I am sure Frances will be an excellent councillor and I wish her well. My thanks to all those who helped and supported me as I represented the area for 16 of the past 20 years. Other news sent through to me from friends and former colleagues in St Albans includes that the Conservatives have gained Redbourn ward from the Lib/Dems. One more gain and that council goes to No Overall Control. Postscript added Friday morning: The Conservatives also gained Harpenden East from the Lib/Dems which puts the council back in a situation where the Lib/Dems have 29 seats and the other parties put together have 29 seats.

Bad news and worse news

I am indebted to the North West regional office of Conservative Campaign HQ for the following story ... A Labour ministerial advisor arrives at a campaign meeting at Labour HQ. She sees that everyone is looking very depressed. "Whatever is the matter?" she asks. "We've had some terrible news and some worse news." replies one of the people at the meeting. "Well, let's start with the terrible news - what's that?" "Pakistan has just tested a nuclear weapon at their underground facility, and then India have let off a nuclear weapon at their facility:" comes the reply. "And China has warned both of them that their actions could set off a regional war which might go nuclear." "My word. Whatever is the even worse news?" "Tony has just said he'll announce next week that he's staying as PM until the end of the year."