Showing posts from July, 2007

A dreadful proposal is rejected

I am pleased to hear confirmation that the terrible proposal for a single Unitary Authority for the whole of Cumbria will not go ahead. The area is far too large, diverse, and poorly serviced by communications links for it to work. I greatly regret the amount of Taxpayer's money which has been spent proposing or opposing this dreadful idea. This has been a preposterous waste of public resources, which would have been better spent on improving services.

We need concerted action on flooding

Even before this week's floods I had raised the issue of flood protection and drainage in the council chamber at Copeland and the disastrous events of the last few days only serve to re-emphasise the point. I strongly support the call by David Cameron for an immediate inquiry into the widespread flooding, and also his comments urging improved concerted action from the Government to combat the crisis. After visiting flood victims in his own Witney constituency, David stressed the need for a better strategic response from Whitehall, plus a new advanced planning and protection system for vulnerable areas. As heavy rainfall continued to threaten central and western areas of England, and wider flooding alerts went out in the Thames and Severn valleys, Mr Cameron declared: "We need concerted action from the Government, we need to look at how they deal with floods, and also the co-ordination of the emergency response." He stated: "We have pushed the Government for an inquir

Loans for Peerages

When the fuss over the "Loans for Peerages" police investigation has been given a chance to subside, tempers have cooled, and it is possible to discuss it without the appearance of political points being scored, both the issue itself and the issues arising out of the police investigation will need further investigation. Even though the CPS has decided not to bring charges, the whole affair has shown the funding of most political parties in an unflattering light. We need much clearer and more transparent rules about where parties get their money from. David Cameron's proposals are a good start. And second, we need to look at how the police and CPS can investigate allegations of improper behaviour in the higher reaches of government without allegations of either witch-hunts or cover-up. The war of spin which appears to have taken place between the government spin machine and the police has brought the law, as well as politics, into disrepute. We need to find a better way of

My Contact Details

I was concerned to see a comment left two days ago on one of my earlier posts from someone who said they were waiting for me to contact them about a planning issue. I have been double checking my email messages, Voicemail, and then searching the house for any notes of telephone messages or "snail mail" letters which might have gone missing. I wish to respond promptly to any resident of the Copeland constituency who wants to contact me about a local or personal issue. If anyone reading this has tried to contact me and not heard back, please try again. The best email address to use for me is My telephone number is available on Directory Inquiries, and my address and phone number are available at the Copeland Council website. Unfortunately I recieve literally hundreds of messages every week from fraudsters, hackers sending messages which might disrupt or steal personal data from my computer, pornographers, and people who are trying to sell me worthl

The Politics of Envy

Last week the Leader of Copeland Council, Cllr. Elaine Woodburn, made comments in public about the pay rise awarded to nuclear industry workers - e.g. about 24% of the working population of the area she is paid to represent - which were foolish beyond belief. At a meeting on nuclear issues she criticised their 4.85% pay rise as too high and repeatedly used the word "obscene". Regardless of the merits of the case, this is political stupidity of an extreme order. Apart from seriously annoying 10,000 workers and their families, what will this achieve? The Britisn Nuclear Group can hardly cancel the rise they have agreed to pay, and these comments will merely lower the respect in which local politicians and the council are held. Even in terms of the issue which motivated these remarks - concern for the rest of the local working population, most of whom have not had as large a rise (if any at all) - such comments are not helpful. Since most of the money paid to Sellafield workers

Whitehaven Police Area Consultative Forum

I attended the above meeting this evening. Two main things came out of the discussion. 1) There was a vast amount of debate and local concern about traffic and parking issues in Whitehaven. I have added a number of comments about parking enforcement to those I took away from the Bransty and Harbour Neighbourgood Forum at the beginning of the month to feed to the councillors who are conducting a review of enforecement. There was also some concern about whether the current pattern of double and single yellow lines make sense. 2) The record of Cumbria Constabulary at the moment is one of the best in the country, especially in relation to the clear up rate for crimes. Violent crime figures are down 13% in the West Cumbria police area: Burglary and Anti-Social behaviour figures are also down. ONly thefts of ehicles is rising. I'd be interested in any feedback from readers of this blog as to whether this matches your experience. Even if the overall figures are right this will be scant co

On Opinion Polls

There has been much exitement in the Blogosphere about opinion polls out tomorrow that supposedly show Labour with a 7% lead. It appears that these "two" polls are actually different presentations of the same polling data. There are two equal and opposite mistake that people interested in politics can make with opinion polls. One mistake is to assume that, when poll after poll gives the same message, they're all wrong if it's not what you want to hear. The opposite error is to panic - or be too pleased - as a result of a single poll. Some polls are incompetently run, or slanted, or happen to get wrong results - even if polls are perfectly conducted one in twenty will produce results outside the margin of error, which means quite a way off. Let's be clear about what this means. All polls have a margin of error. For a voting intention survey with a sample size of a thousand voters, what statisticians call the 95% confidence limit is about 3 percentage points for eac

Building more homes

I have been following with interest the promises by Gordon Brown to dramatically increase the number of houses built. The problem is that he does not show any signs of appreciating that the government's own policies, and misunderstanding about why we have a housing shortage, have made the housing shortage worse in many parts of the country - and that they are trying to put housing in the wrong places. In some areas, such as Cumbria, it is direct government restrictions which are preventing new homes from being built. The North West region Government office in Manchester has imposed a cap of 1,200 new housing units per year to be built in the whole of Cumbria For years, Brown and people influenced by him - including John Prescott, whose housing policies were largely driven by the Treasury - have been acting as if the biggest cause of the shortage of houses were NIMBY councils in the South East being slow to grant planning permission. I would never pretend that NIMBY (Not In My Back

Nuclear Power

I see that the new P.M. has been making a whole series of policy statements, most of which are recapitulations of things that the Labour government has been saying for ten years. The tone of his answer to Jamie Reed at Prime Minister's Questions on the subject of Nuclear Power has been interpreted in some quarters as indicating that Brown is less committed to Nuclear Power than Blair was. Certainly, considering that he was replying to a "question" in which Jamie Reed had thanked him for his "unequivocal support of the industry," I would not use the word "unequivocal" to describe Brown's response. I hope those who infer from this that Brown is less committed to nuclear power are wrong, because I am convinced that the country will not meet our carbon targets without a new generation of nuclear plants forming part of a balanced energy strategy. However, there is another possible explanation for the guarded tone of the P.M.s remarks. It is quite possi

Digital switchover - pennies start to drop

Surveys show that only a minority of households in Whitehaven think they are ready for the Digital TV swithcover, which starts here on 17 October when the BBC2 analogue signal is switched off, and finishes when the other channels follow suit a month later. Actually that may be a good sign - it indicates that a lot of people are aware they have to do something if they want to continue watching television and that they have not done it yet. If 100% of households said they were ready it would probably mean that a lot of them were in for a nasty shock. On the principle that "there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents" I won't name the very large retailer whose Whitehaven branch has finally cottoned on that Digital Switchover is about to hit. Let's just say that it's an organision who really ought to have known better than to have been blithely selling expensive analogue TVs until a few days ago with no indication that they wouldn't work here without a


I notice that in the past few days my spam filters have blocked a number of e-cards. Usually the message header says something like "You've received an ecard from a friend." I don't usually even see such messages: the spam filters stop most of them. But I only open those I do see if I know exactly who a message is from. Otherwise I have to assume that they are part of the huge tide of unsolicited and worthless email sent to me every day, along with the adverts for non-existent jobs, non-existent loans, dates, drugs, software, body modifications, etc. I also have to assume that opening them would risk infecting my computer with a virus. So in the unlikely event that anyone I actually know has sent me a real ecard and is wondering why I have not replied, apologies but I probably have not even seen it. Should anyone wish to send me a real ecard, please make sure that the message says who it is from, or that I know it is coming and can identify it. And if you are receivin

Book Review - Chronicles of a Desperate Dad

I have been reading the book "Chronicles of a Desperate Dad" by Mark Richards, a book about fatherhood in the form of a series of short articles most of which originally appeared in the "Hartlepool Mail". And falling about laughing as I recognise again and again the travails of modern parenthood. Or indeed, parenthood in general. It's not difficult to identify some aspects of our lives in which my generation has it much easier than our own parents, and other aspects, such as the fact that it's much harder to impose any form of discipline in a society which can't tell the difference between discipline and child cruelty, in which we have a much more challenging task. But in many ways the joys and pains of being a parent are pretty much the same. The biggest single regret of my life is that both my parents died before I became a father. Partly I regret it for them: my mum and dad both very much wanted to be grandparents. As my mum said, "you can spoil

Jamie Murray and partner win Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon

I am trying to remember how many times in my lifetime anyone British has won a title at Wimbledon. Apparently Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie won the mixed doubles in 1987. Some dim recess of memory tells me that about ten years before that, the British No 1 Mens tennis player was a nice chap called John Lloyd who was married to the then Ladies world number 1, Chris Evert, and they won the Wimbledon mixed doubles together. I also seem to recall that the previous occasion anyone British won a Wimbledon title, quite a few years before that, was when Virgina Wade won a doubles title towards the end of the era when it wasn't unusual for any Brits to survive the second round. My parents, who met on the tennis court, could probably have given chapter and verse but sadly they are not around to ask. Congratulations to Jamie and his partner Jelena Jankovic on their win: I hope it won't be another 20 years before we can celebrate another home championshop at Wimbledon.

Matthew Paris on Terrorism in the Times today

Matthew Paris wrote a very convincing article in today's Times - the title was "Evil plotters? More like sad and crackpot" He makes a very convincing argument that the worst mistake we can make in our response to terrorist atacks is to glamorise the people responsible or present those who have tried to attack our society as evil geniuses. Yes, we need to be alert and avoid handing these people any easy wins. They do have one characteristic which makes them more dangerous than some of the opponents we have faced in the past - a willingness to undertake attacks which the perpetrator has no chance of escaping. But at the same time, why make out that all these people are brilliant when some of them are really rather silly? When doctors of engineering and medicine fill a jeep with petrol and gas and crash it into a thick concrete barrier in an apparent attempt to set fire to it, perhaps instead of getting angry or frightened we should ask how these berks managed to obtain thei

Whitehaven Carnival

I attended the superb carnival in Whitehaven town centre today with my family. It was a really excellent event and the most enormous credit is due to the Whitehaven Lions and other groups involved with the organisation and to everyone who took part. I cannot imagine how many thousands of hours of effort must have been put in to prepare the costumes of the hundreds of participants in the procession.

New Shadow Cabinet

David Cameron's new front bench team is as follows. People named in bold attend meetings of the Shadow cabinet. Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Alan Duncan Frontbench team: Mark Prisk, Jonathan Djanogly, Charles Hendry Cabinet Office Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Francis Maude Frontbench team: Greg Clark Children, Schools and Families Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Michael Gove Frontbench team: Nick Gibb, Maria Miller, Tim Loughton Communities and Local Government Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Eric Pickles Frontbench team: Grant Shapps , Alistair Burt, Paul Goodman, Bob Neil, Jacqui Lait Culture, Media & Sport Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt Frontbench team: Hugh Robertson, Ed Vaizey, Tobias Ellwood Defence Shadow Secretary of State for De

Bus Stop Nonsense

If you want a clear example of the was that the smoking ban has produced ridiculous contortions in the bureaucratic mind, the disappearing and reappearing windows of Bus stops in the south of Copeland last week would have provided it. As my colleagues Ray Cole, Alan Jacob, and David Moore explained at a meeting of Copeland Council yesterday, workmen appeared at bus stops in Millom, Gosforth, and Seascale owned by the council and removed approximately half the window panes, leaving people in these shelters vulnerable to the wind and, when it is both windy and raining (a common coincidence in West Cumbria) to the rain. When my colleagues, who represent these areas on the council, asked what was going on they were advised that the window panes were being removed to take the bus shelters outside the smoking legislation. If a space is less than 50% enclosed it is not covered by the ban. The idea of making users of the bus service more vulnerable to wind and rain so that people could also sm

British Muslims condemn terrorist attacks

The Muslim Council of Britain has condemned the terrorist attacks over the last week, and added that it is the duty of all muslims to co-operate with the police. Other Islamic organisations have condemned terrorism and organised events to make clear that the people who tried to explode car bombs in London and Glasgow do not have the support of the Muslim Community. I hope that before long the fact that most Muslims do not support terrorism will be seen as too obvious to be worth mentioning. But up to a year or so ago, terrorist attacks by people claiming to act in the name of Islam were often followed by calls to the British Muslim community to condemn the attacks and make clear that they did not have the support of mainstream Islam. Credit where credit is due: those calls have been acted on.

Who said this ?

I am grateful to a poster called Rob P on Conservative Home for reminding us of the following trenchant criticisms of the then Chancellor Gordon Brown, made two years ago during the debate on the 2005 budget. Read it first, and then see if you can work out who said this. "One thing can be said about the Budget with absolute certainty and conviction. It is not a prudent Budget, and it is not the work of a prudent man. ... It was clear from the statistics given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition that this is not the first time that the Chancellor has been losing control. ... Instead of reflecting, as a sober, responsible and prudent Chancellor would do, on the way in which these favourable outcomes have been achieved, on the risks attached to the policies that have been pursued, on the potential threats to those policies continuing to be successful and on whatever changes might be required—that is the sort of sensible and sophisticated discussion we oug

Thoughts on the Smoking Ban

Last night (Saturday 30th June) I was presiding at a private dinner, at a privately owned venue. The people who had served the meal had withdrawn, and the doors had been closed, so the justification for the legislation - that employees might be affected by secondary smoking - did not apply. Nevertheless, from the following evening onwards event would have been caught by the new ban on smoking. So after the toast to the Queen, I said to the people present that, although I do not smoke myself and do not normally encourage others to do so, I thought it would be very churlish to deprive those members present who do smoke of their last opportunity to do so legally. Several people said to me afterwards that they appreciated the gesture - one or two felt very strongly that it is no business of the government to tell members of private clubs what they should do in private. I support the principle that those who want to breathe clean air should be able to do so but that those who smoke in priv