Showing posts from September, 2007


Sellafield will not look the same after tomorrow morning, when the Calder Hall cooling towers are demolished at about 9.00 am. The A595 (the only main road through the area) will be closed for about 15 minutes while the towers come down. There may be some additional traffic disruption before and after the demolition. If you are not one of the select few with an official invite, the best place to watch the towers come down is Seascale School. Alive to an opportunity to raise a bit of money for school funds, some canny individual has arranged for people to be able to watch from the school, and I have been told that they are serving breakfast from 7 am.

David Cameron promises EU Referendum

The following is the text of an article in The Sun by David Cameron promising a referendum on the EU "reform treaty" (e.g. the constitution in all but name) if there is a snap election and the Conservatives win. Dear Sun readers, On Monday The Sun’s image of Gordon Brown sticking two fingers up to the British public was provocative. But it was right. What a difference to Churchill. When he made that salute, it inspired this country to wipe the scourge of fascism from Europe. But for Gordon Brown, it’s a gesture to the British people saying: “I know best. Your views are irrelevant. Get used to it.” Make no mistake, that’s the reason he refuses to give the British people a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty — he simply doesn’t trust them. It’s the arrogant belief that he — and only he — has the right to decide what’s best for Britain’s future. Well, Prime Minister, I’ve news for you. The old politics that you grew up in no longer reflect the new world we live in. It’s a

Start date for the "Closer to Home" NHS consultation

We were advised yesterday at a meeting of Copeland Borough Council that the formal start of the "Closer to Home" consultation into Hospital and Health services in Cumbria is 27th September, e.g. tomorrow. This consultation is about proposals which could radically affect healthcare in our area. I very strongly urge anyone who cares about local NHS services to take part in the consultation. Because the preferred option retains consultant-led Accident and Emergency, and Maternity, units at the successor hospital to the West Cumberland, and does not propose the closure of any community hospitals, it has been generally welcomed. But as the Whitehaven News put it, it is a bit premature to start popping the champagne corks. These proposals need to be examined very carefully.

Do we need our own "First Amendment?"

The first amendment to the US constitution guarantees freedom of speech. It does occasionally cause problems - for example, it's the reason they have no limits on election spending such as we have. In my opinion the absence of those limits, with the result that fighting elections is far more expensive than it is here, has distorted US democracy so that only the rich and those who have the name recognition required to raise vast sums to campaign, can afford to campaign effectively for high office with any hope of winning. Hence the majority of US politicians are either rich, associated with powerful interest groups, or the children or partners of politicians or celebrities. Nevertheless, free speech is one of the necessary conditions of a functioning democracy. Up until now I thought this principle was sufficiently embedded in British law, custom and practice that we did not need any constitutional guaranteed right to free speech. I am starting to change my mind, and what has just h

Harbour Ward Election Result

The result of the Harbour ward by-election was Jeanette Williams (Labour), 463 Brigid Whiteside (Conservative), 337 Bill Pugh (BNP) 245 Labour Hold: majority 126. As I previously indicated, Harbour is a normally safe Labour ward. This represents a closer result than usual as between Conservatives and Labour for this ward. The Conservative campaign team worked extremely hard in the ward and I would like to thank all those who took part in our campaign for the by election. We did entertain hopes of an even better result but this was a respectable performance for Harbour ward. As I predicted, the BNP were in third place.

Harbour Ward polling day

Today is polling day in the Harbour Ward by election. There are three candidates: Brigid Whiteside (Conservative) who is the only candidate who lives in the ward. Brigid previously contested Harbour in May when control of the council was at stake, and came fourth, missing election by 144 votes. Jeanette Williams (Labour) who lives in Distington. Mrs Williams previously contested Bransty ward in May. Bill Pugh (British National Party) who lives in Mirehouse and to the best of my knowledge has not previously stood for election. Polling stations are open from 7 am to 10 pm. Anyone woh has received a postal vote and has not yet posted it off can hand in their postal vote at a polling station. The four polling stations are: St James's Parish Hall, High Street Whitehaven Masonic Hall, Duke Street St Begh's School, Coach Road St Gregory's & St Patrick's School, Esk Avenue.

David Cameron on the case for an EU Treaty Referendum

Together we can make Gordon Brown listen At the last General Election, Gordon Brown promised us a referendum on the EU Constitution but now he is breaking that promise. He claims we don't need one because the new document is called a "Treaty" rather than a "Constitution". But it doesn't really matter what people call it. The fact is that the new Treaty is basically the same as the Constitution and it means giving away more powers to the EU. It would create a new EU president and lead to the loss of at least 60 of our national vetoes. It gives the EU the power to make treaties and introduces a new ratchet clause that would make it easier for the EU to taken on even more powers in the future. Just before becoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "the manifesto is what we put to the public. We've got to honour that manifesto. That is an issue of trust for me with the electorate." That manifesto included the promise of a referendum and it is up to

Harbour ward by-election - lifts to the polls

If you are a Harbour ward resident and need a lift to the polling station, please contact us on 07961 436493. The same polling stations will be in use as at the May elections: St Gregory's & St Patrick's School, Esk Avenue St Begh's school, Coach Road Whitehaven Masonic Hall, Duke street St James's Parish Hall, Whitehaven High Street. Polls are open from 7am to 10pm this Thursday.

Sunday spot: "I can resist anything except Temptation"

"I can resist anything except temptation" (Oscar Wilde) A group of clergy were discussing which biblical quotations were the greatest help to them in avoiding sin. A fiery young deacon, just out of his theological college, quoted Romans 6, Verse 23: "For sin pays a wage, and that wage is Death, but God gives freely, and his gift is eternal life, in union with Jesus Christ our Lord." A recently ordained lady curate, while accepting that the passage from Romans reminds us of something very important, preferred passages which concentrated more on the infinite love and compassion of God, and cited John, Chapter 14, verse 15: "If you love me, you will obey my commands, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforter, who will be with you for ever - the spirit of truth." An elderly canon, who had been listening in silence, congratulated the previous speakers on being able to quote such beautiful and high-minded passages as a way to avoid sin. &

Harbour Ward by election

Indications are that the Harbour ward by-election for Copeland Borough Council this coming Thursday (20th September) may be extremely close and every vote could count. This is normally a fairly safe Labour ward, but our canvass returns suggest that there may only a few votes between the Conservative and Labour candidates. The BNP appear to be well behind in third place. However, these findings have to be taken with considerable caution. If you are a Harbour ward elector, your vote could make all the difference. Polls are open from 7 am to 10pm on Thursday, at the normal polling stations: St Gregory's & St Patrick's School, St Begh's school, St James's parish hall, and Whitehaven Masonic Hall.

Why did the chicken cross the road ?

A selection of imagined answers: Primary School Teacher: "To get to the other side" Plato: "For the greater good" Aristotle: "It is in the nature of chickens to cross roads" Einstein: "Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends on your frame of reference" Gordon Brown: "Under New Labour, 78% more chickens will cross 95% more roads than ever before." Karl Marx: "It was a historical inevitability." Bill Clinton: "Whether the chicken crossed the road depends what your definition of the word 'crossed' is." Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland: "It is blatant hypocrisy for the tories to suggest that the chicken crossed the road, and I demand a debate with David Cameron about it." Martin Luther King Jnr: "I have a dream, of a world where chickens will be able to cross roads without having their motives called into question." Colonel Sanders: "I missed one?&quo

Read the Whitehaven News today

The front page of today's Whitehaven News is largely given over to details of the consultation "Closer to home" about the future of the NHS in Cumbria. The headline concentrates on the good news - that the preferred option recommends retention of consultant-lead Accident & Emergency, Maternity, and Paediatric services at the West Cumberland Hospital and ultimately at the new hospital proposed to replace it. But as the paper's leading article points out, it is way too early to start celebrating or popping the champagne corks. The consultation also appears to propose a significantly smaller hospital, with substantially fewer beds and fewer services. The move of complex surgery to Carlisle, which has already taken place without consultation, would be confirmed. It is not yet clear what level of Intensive Care will be provided or how many beds in the ITU (Intensive Care Unit). Elderly care after 72 hours seems likely to be removed - some of this will be taken up be bo

The ship that shot itself ...

I was indebted to The Times letters page today for the amusing story of HMAS Duchess, which during an exercise managed to shoot her A gun with her B gun. We can laugh at the incident because mercifully nobody was hurt - the ship sent off the memorable signal "Have shot myself." Followers of naval trivia may be aware of the similar story involving HMS Trinidad. While escorting arctic convoy PQ13 in March 1942, this Fiji class light cruiser fired a torpedo which followed a circular course - probably the gyro had jammed in extremly cold conditions - and came back to hit the Trinidad herself. Sadly this story is not so amusing as 18 brave men were killed. Trinidad managed to get to Murmansk for initial repairs, but on the return voyage she was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers, one of which scored a hit near the previous torpedo damage and she had to be abandoned.

Postal vote deadline for Harbour ward by-election

Copeland Council's election office has confirmed that they will honour the postal vote application deadline given in the notice of poll, which is 5pm today (thursday). If you are a Harbour ward voter and will be away or unable for any other reason to vote in person on 20th September, please apply to the elections office as soon as possible. Their telephone number is 598531.

Another hospital U-Turn from Jedi Jamie

An astonishing item in the North West Evening Mail reveals that Jamie Reed MP has reversed his position about local hospitals in West Cumbria yet again. When he first stood for election as the Labour candidate in Copeland, he claimed to believe that there was no threat to local hospitals. In April 2005, during the last General Election campaign, he was quoted on the front page of the "Whitehaven News" stating that "There is no threat whatsoever to West Cumberland Hospital." In November 2006 when asked on TV's "The Politics Show" if he could guarantee the future of West Cumberland Hospital, Jamie Reed said that he did not think anyone could give such a guarantee. And then in the House of Commons on 24th July this year he said the following: "Ever since I can remember, the people of West Cumbria have had to fend off one threat or another to the services provided by their hospital. For more than 20 years now, The Whitehaven News has reported on what


There seems to be some confusion about the deadline for postal votes for the Harbour Ward by-election. The documents issued to political parties with the nomination papers for the by-election included a timetable. This referred to the close of applications for postal votes, including amendments to details of existing ones, as being 5pm on Thursday. We duly repeated this information in Conservative literature. In last week's Whitehaven News the elections manager at Copeland Borough Council is quoted as saying that "If anyone in Harbour ward has difficulty in getting to the poll we can provide a postal vote as long as they contact my office before Thursday September 6 by telephoning 01946 597531." However, I was told today that there is a deadline of 11 am tomorrow (Wednesday) for applications and that the reference to 5pm on Thursday refers to the date by which the new list of postal votes will be compiled. I don't think this can be right, and am in the process of chec

Harbour Ward by-election

There will be a by-election for the Harbour ward of Copeland Borough Council on Thursday 20th September. Polling stations are open from 7 am to 10 pm. The candidates are: Brigid Whiteside (Conservative) Jeanette Williams (Labour) Bill Pugh (British National Party) We were initially told in the notice of poll that anyone who will be away or is otherwise unable to vote in person can apply to the elections office at Copeland Borough Council up to Thursday September 6th - e.g. this Thursday - by telephoning 01946 598531. I was at one point told that the deadline to contact the office to ask for a postal vote was actually 11 am on Wednesday 5th September, e.g. Wednesday. It has since been confirmed that the original deadline in the notice of poll will be honoured. If you want a postal vote I suggest you ring the elections office as soon as possible. The Conservative candidate, Brigid Whiteside, is both the only candidate who lives in the ward, and the only candidate who has previously shown

Something they've not banned yet ... or have they?

I've just returned from a short family holiday in Norfolk. (We usually take our holidays in Cumbria, but from time to time it is a good thing to have a change.) While there I saw a lady steering a cabin cruiser (top speed about 6 mph) with one hand while talking into a hand-held mobile phone held in the other. My first reaction was to laugh, and think flippantly "My word, is there something you are still legally allowed to drive while talking into a hand-held mobile? It should be banned at once!" My second reaction was that using a hand-held mobile phone while responsible for steering a vessel with a mass of several tonnes on a crowded public waterway isn't a terribly good idea, and if you cause an accident while doing so the police probably could find an existing law to prosecute you. Just as the authorities could and did prosecute people for driving without due care and attention if they were seen driving while speaking into a hand held mobile phone before the pract