Showing posts from 2008

David Cameron's New Year Message

In my New Year message three years ago, I said that I wanted the modern Conservative Party to be a voice for change, optimism and hope. What was true in the good times is even truer now that times are tough, and getting tougher. People are looking to us for hope in these dark days, and we must be ready to offer it: hard-edged hope, built on a clear-sighted analysis of what has gone wrong and how we can put it right. That provides this Party with three important tasks for 2009. First, we must show that we have learned the lessons of Labour’s Debt Crisis and will never let it happen again. Second, we must offer constructive and positive ideas to help keep people in work and in their homes, and make sure the recession is as short, shallow and painless as possible. But third and perhaps most important of all, we must set out our positive vision of change: to describe the new economy and the new society that we want to build once the recession is over and the recovery underway. Labour

Daft plans to stop doctors from dispensing dropped

I was very pleased to learn shortly before Christmas that the government has dropped plans to restrict the ability of GP practices to dispense medicines. This could have had dire effects on a number of local GP practices such as the Seascale medical centre, who might well have had to close their Bootle branch. An extract from Hansard which quotes the annoucement in the Commons is given on my hospitals & health blog (see link at right.)

Tidings for a modern Christmas

Some alternative Christmas tunes (alternative suggestions welcome) From "God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen" God help you, British Businessmen, Let nothing you dismay, Remember Gord our saviour needs you lots of tax to pay, To clear off all the billions he's borrowing today, (Chorus) But to Business no comfort and joy, Comfort and joy, But to Business no comfort and joy. From Gord our boss in Downing Street, A Civil Servant came, To CBI and FSB brought tidings just the same, If you don't pass on cuts in VAT, we'll make you feel our pain, (Chorus) But to Business no comfort and joy, (etc) They thought they'd ended Boom and Bust, and put it down to Gord, Of praise for anybody else, NewLab had not one word, But when in time Recession hit, a different tune was heard, (Chorus) But to Business no comfort and joy, (etc) They blamed it on the Bankers and they blamed it on the Yanks, And ev'ryone but Gordon when the Economy tanks! For sorting out the mess they still e

An ecumenical Christmas Prayer

During a lovely service on Christmas morning at St James' Whitehaven which I attended with my family, I was struck by something which Canon Kelly did during the intercessions and which ought to be done more often. While praying for "all Christian leaders" he specifically mentioned not just the Archbishop of Canterbury but also the Pope and the Moderator of the Free Church Council. Christian churches ought to make a point of praying for each other than is sometimes the case, and I was pleased to see this gesture, especially appropriate at Christmas.

Christmas messages

A very happy Christmas, and a prosperous, successful, and healthy New Year 2009 to everyone reading this blog. We have been delivering a "Christmas Card" newsletter from the Conservatives to as much of Whitehaven as we can cover with the available time our delivery force has left after the Kells & Sandwith by-election. In Kells and Sandwith we have included a slip saying thank you from the Conservative candidate, Brigid Whiteside, to those who voted for her. For those who have not seen either that slip or the letter from Brigid in today's Christmas issue of the Whitehaven News, the latter is repeated below: Dear Sir, Following on from the Kells & Sandwith by election. In this season of peace on earth and goodwill to all people, regardless of their faith, colour, or birthplace, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone reading this, and thank all those electors in Kells and Sandwith who voted for me on 18th December. Yours sincerely B

De-politicising the police

Probably the worst legacies that the Blair and Brown governments will leave behind is a mountain of debt that will take decades to pay back, and a wrecked pension system. But a close third is the way they have attempted, with far too much success, to politicise a great many things which ought not to be politicised, starting with the civil service. Within a year of taking office they had changed the law to allow political appointees like Alistair Campbell to give orders to civil servants and replaced the senior press officers at the great majority of government departments. And the process has continued from there. But far more insidious and dangerous is the way Labour has attempted to politicise the senior ranks of the police. I would not for an instant suggest that every Labour Home Office minister has been a party to this, nor that every senior officer has gone along with it. But there have been a number of senior police officers, of whom Sir Ian Blair was the archetypal example, who

Cameron on the action Britain needs.

Britain is facing a serious economic problem. David Cameron is putting forward positive and constructive proposals to deal with these problems. Anyone who is tempted to believe the rather ridiculous Labour propaganda story that the Conservative policy on the recession is to "do nothing" would be well advised to go to the horse's mouth and see what the Conservatives are actually proposing. The following message from David Cameron spells out his positive programme to help British businesses, families, and individuals. "When the financial crisis happened, I made it clear that the Conservative Party was ready to put aside party differences to help bring stability. That's why we supported the recapitalisation of our banks. "I also said that we would not suspend our critical faculties over this Government's calamitous economic policy decisions - decisions that helped not only cause this crisis by encouraging government and personal debt to spiral out of contro

Christmas in Whitehaven II

I really was tempting fate by mentioning the excellent Christmas lights display in Loweswater Avenue, Woodhouse: as mentioned, the following day I spotted two more in Whinlatter Road in Mirehouse. There is in fact at least one more magnificent display in the Kells & Sandwith division, half way up Monkwray Brow. While walking the patch in my own council ward, Bransty, this weekend I have seen several elaborate light displays, particularly at Broom Bank and the entrance to Bay Vista. Displays in Harbour ward include several in Esk Avenue and there is another in Mirehouse next to the shops. Apologies to all the ones I have undoubtedly missed!

Pantomime: Cinderella at the Rosehill Theatre

After three weeks in which virtually every spare minute was spent running around Kells and Sandwith, it was even more pleasant than would normally have been the case to forget politics for the other kind of pantomime, and take my children to see a very good performance of "Cinderella" at the Rosehill Theatre, near Moresby just north of Whitehaven. In the interests of fairness I should say that I have heard that this year's pantomime at the Civic Hall in Whitehaven was also excellent. As my late mother, was both (in her professional life as a teacher) an officer of the Herts Drama Teachers association, and (as a hobby) a prolific supporter and producer of amateur dramatic performances, I have seen a great many pantomimes, from the excellent to the truly dire, but I don't think I have seen many that were more fun. Nor can I ever recall a very small boy dressed as a squirrel so thoroughly stealing the show. All the cast and those who organised the event deserve congratul

Wasting Police Time

If the Telegraph report referred to here gives an accurate and balanced account of the action taken by police in Port Talbot, who warned newsagent Bob Singh that he could face prosecution for breaching public order if he continued putting jokes on his leaflets, then the officers who visited him should themselves be prosecuted for wasting police time. According to Mr Singh's account in the Daily Telegraph, his jokes "contain no bad language and are not racist" He admitted some were "a bit saucy" but insisted that they "don't target any person or gender." Examples of the jokes given included "What is the technical name for three days of horrendous weather followed by bright sunshine? A Welsh Bank Holiday!" "What do you call a sheep with no legs? A Cloud!" Have the officers involved cleared up every single case of murder, rape, burglary, vandalism and assault in Port Talbot? If not, both the local Chief Constable and the Police A

Kells & Sandwith result

Kells and Sandwith Cumbria County Council by-election result this evening. This is usually one of the safest Labour county divisions in Copeland. Previous election, 2005: Joseph McAllister (Labour): 1,367 (65.8%) Gordon Brown (Independent): 357 (17.2%) Leah Higgins (Conservative): 355 (17.1%) Labour majority: 1010 18th December 2008: Wendy Skillicorn (Labour): 434 (41.7%, down 24%) Simon Nicholson (BNP): 418 (40.1%, did not contest in 05) Brigid Whiteside (Conservative): 190 (18.2%, up 1%) Labour majority: 16. Official turnout figures have not been released but I can say unofficially that the turnout was only about 25% and was depressed both by bad weather and the election being a week before Christmas. In many ways an election at such a time, with a very low turnout, was a freak result, and should not be overstated, but for a party like the BNP to get such a large vote is cause for concern. There will be a lot of people asking how this could happen. Just to be clear

Kells & Sandwith by-election

A reminder that tomorrow (Thursday 18th December) is polling day in the Kells and Sandwith county division for the vacant seat on Cumbria County Council. There are three candidates, who in alphabetical order are: Brigid Whiteside (Conservative) Simon Nicholson (British National Party) Wendy Skillicorn (Labour) Polls are open from 7am to 10 pm. For a whole host of obvious reasons I support the Conservative candidate, but I would urge any Kells and Sandwith elector who may be reading this to go to the polling station and use your right to vote, regardless of your views. This is important to help whoever is elected to do things for local residents: whichever candidate is elected has more chance of getting things done if he or she has the mandate of being positively chosen by the electors, rather than slipping in on a low turnout. It is also important to maintain and use the democracy for which so many generations have fought and died. There are still many people in other countries who wo

Christmas in Whitehaven ...

I should have known it was tempting fate to mention the excellent Christmas lights display in Loweswater Avenue, Woodhouse: the following day I spotted two more in Whinlatter Road in Mirehouse. I shall be walking the patch in my own council ward, Bransty, at the weekend and will have to keep an eye out for any more in that part of the town. I shudder to think now much work and effort goes into these displays, and the electricity meters in these houses must go round like the hands of a clock, but it obviously gives them a lot of pleasure, and hopefully does the same for people walking or driving past.

Labour's 2009 Poster campaign

I am grateful to Iain Dale's blog for drawing my attention to a site called "10 Drowning Street" and a humorous version of Labour's 2009 poster campaign (not suitable for children) which you can read here. A second group of spoof Labour posters is here.

Michael Gove on the "Children's Plan"

I am grateful to Conservative Home (see link at right) and Hansard for drawing my attention to Michael Gove's speech on the first anniversary of the Children's Plan. The burning question in Copeland will be whether our MP, as the self-described first Jedi Knight in parliament, took part in the lightsaber duel ... Anyway, here is Michael Gove, shadow education spokesman, leaving aside the more formal type of debate on starting his contribution to a debate last week ... "I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Government Front-Bench team for their understanding in allowing me to leave the Chamber briefly earlier in order to see my daughter’s nativity play. Even though we all face tough economic circumstances, I know that all hon. Members will want to find time in their schedules for seasonal festivities. I was particularly pleased to read about the great fun had by all at the Christmas party held by the Secretary of State at the Department for Children, Schools and Families

Christmas in Kells and Sandwith

It seems that there is usually at least one family in every town who go in for a Christmas lights display in a really big way. While out delivering leaflets for the current Kells and Sandwith by-election I found a house on the Woodhouse estate which has a magnificent array. (It's in Loweswater Avenue, Whitehaven.) This by-election, which will take place a week before Christmas (this Thursday, December 18th) is proving very hard to call. Kells and Sandwith is normally an extremely safe Labour ward, and anything other than a massive Labour majority would be bad news for them. Trying to make contact with electors at a time of year when it is dark before most of those with jobs are at home and very dark at the time we would usually do most of our canvassing has been challenging. On the basis of the people I have spoken to, Labour support is down, and the turnout is likely to be low. The election may turn on which of the three parties contesting the election are most successful at getti

Government caught releasing dodgy statistics

More than a hundred years ago, Benjamin Disaeli said that "There are three kinds of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." And for at least that far back, official statistics have been distrusted. The new UK statistics authority was set up earlier this year, with Sir Michael Scholar, retired top mandarin and president of St John’s College Oxford as the three day-a-week non-executive chairman. Their job is to monitor the accuracy and fairness with which official statistics are collected, analysed and reported. He obviously takes that role more seriously than some officials in number ten or the home office expected. Sir Michael has complained publicly about the way the government released unreliable statistics designed to make it sound like policies to cut knife crime were working. This is an extract from Sir Michael's letter to the top civil servant at Number 10:- "Dear Jeremy, I am writing, as chair of the UK Statistics Authority, to express my concern about yester

Fisking Gerald Kaufman

A response to Sir Gerald Kaufman's article in The Guardian which you can read here. "I am getting increasingly worried about the mental condition of the House of Commons". A cheap shot, to which I shall resist the obvious cheap riposte. Instead I shall merely note that it is Sir Gerald who has started off his article by descending to questioning the mental stability of those who take a different view from him about the importance of an issue. A classic New Labour smear tactic once deployed by the Blairites against Gordon Brown himself. "I do not refer to individual MPs. Most of them are sensible and hard-working. I am talking about the Commons as a collective, which seems these days to be carrying self-absorption into the realm of solipsism." Ditto. "This week we have had two ministerial statements about welfare reform. Attendances in the chamber were respectable, but no more. On Monday there was a debate about the rights of MPs, and the chamber was crammed

A Tale of two Freudian slips

Martin Kettle argues in the Guardian here. that Brown's slip of the tongue at Prime Minister's questions - "We not only saved the world" may become one of the things for which he is remembered. So it should. But another commment yesterday which may be seen as a gaffe could be far more significant in the long run. The comments made by the German finance minister, Peer Steinbruck, go against the normal conventions of diplomacy and may not be particularly helpful to Anglo-German relations, but they may also match the comic definition of a gaffe as an incident in which a politician voices a truth he might have been wiser to leave unsaid. When Mr Steinbruck said of the UK cut in VAT and the atrocious borrowing implied by the British government's Pre-Budget Report that "Are you really going to buy a DVD player because it now costs £39.10 instead of £39.90?" and "All this will do is raise Britain's debt to a level that will take a whole generation to

Cameron on the economy

Speaking at the London School of Economics, David Cameron has spoken about the “clear choice that is emerging in British politics” on the economic problems facing the country. He argued that two main problems face this generation – a recession coupled with a record level of Government debt, and that the Government are trying to tackle one while ignoring the other. David outlined the Conservative approach of addressing both problems together, to set the economy and our public finances on a sustainable path, and make the recession shorter and shallower. He also promised greater transparency and accountability from a Conservative government that look to reduce waste, reform public services and reduce demands on the state. David said, “Every week this Government is in power the mortgaging of the future gets greater. Every week the debt gets larger. Every week the burdens on our children mount up higher.” And he added, “We urgently need a change of direction, not more of the same.”

Public Service Announcement

I think the following suggestion which I picked up from Iain Dale's blog (see link at right) is a good idea, and have done this on my own mobile phone. We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in its memory. If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence this 'ICE' (In Case of Emergency) Campaign. The concept of 'ICE' is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As mobile phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name 'ICE' (In Case Of Emergency). The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents there were always mobile pho

29 Honorable Members

The government has defeated by 285 votes to 281 an amendment which sought to ensure that the committee of inquiry into the arrest of Damian Green MP was effective. The amendment would have allowed the committee of inquiry to follow the lines originally proposed by the speaker: unfortunately the government has secured a committee with a government majority and more limited terms of reference. The result will be that it is being boycotted by the opposition parties and has zero credibility. The 285 MPs who went into the government lobby not only failed to do their job in protecting the right of parliament to hold the executive to account: taking a longer term perspective they were foolish even in terms of the Labour party's sectonal interests. At some point, possibly after the next election, Labour will be back in opposition. Do they really want to go into that position having set the precedent that opposition MPs can be arrested and have their homes and offices searched by large numb

Conservative action on the economy

Gordon Brown keeps peddling the line that the Conservatives support a "do nothing" strategy of letting the recession take its course. This is not true. The following are some of the policies which Conservatives support to help families and businesses right now. We will freeze council tax for two years by reducing wasteful spending on advertising and consultancy in central government We will abolish Stamp Duty for nine out of ten first-time buyers and raise the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1 million. Both of these changes will be funded by a flat-rate charge on non-domiciles. We will provide tax cuts for new jobs with a £2.6bn package of tax breaks to get people into work, funded by money that would otherwise go on unemployment benefit We will cut the main rate of corporation tax to 25p and the small companies' rate to 20p, paid for by scrapping complex reliefs and allowances We will give small and medium-sized businesses a six-month VAT holiday, funded by a 7.5% interest

Cameron's third anniversary

Three years ago today David Cameron became leader of the Conservatives. Whether you like David or not, whether you support the Conservatives or not, anyone who is interested in the health of British politics should recognise that DC has done democracy a service. By bringing the Conservatives back into the game he has offered the electorate a choice. No party can be certain of victory at the next election, but that is as it should be. When Labour thought they could not lose they made some of their worst mistakes.

Quentin Letts on the debate on Damian Green's arrest

No apology for returning again to the subject of the Damian Green arrest. MPs should not be above the law, and civil servants cannot have an absolute right to leak things. Nevertheless parliamentary privilege, which provides members of parliament with a degree of special legal protection while doing their job, is an important part of a functioning democracy, and it is there not just to protect MPs but to protect ordinary citizens whose interests an MP may have taken up. It is no accident that the same 200-year old and previously disused common law offence which was used to arrest Damian Green had previously been used to arrest a part time journalist on a local paper who was strip searched and threatened with life imprisonment for embarrassing the local police by revealing that they'd lost the keys to the local nick. (As mentioned in previous posts, the case against her was dismissed the day after Damian was arrested.) Nothing I am writing on this is intended as an attack on the ord

David Cameron on the Queen's Speech

I'm grateful to Conservative Home and Hansard for the following transcript of David Cameron's reply to the Queen's Speech. "Let me tell the Prime Minister what is wrong with this Queen’s Speech. There is no recognition in the Government’s programme of how the world has changed. We are moving into an age in which there is no Government money left, so we need public sector reform to get better value for money. We are moving into an age of massive debt, so we need to mend the broken society and reduce the demands on the state. But in the Queen’s Speech there is no serious reform, just bureaucratic bungling and technocratic tinkering. It is all about the short-term prospects of the Prime Minister, not the long-term future of the country. It is last year’s Queen’s Speech from yesterday’s Prime Minister. "There is no change. Let us look at the promises that the Prime Minister made when he said — remember the phrase ? — “Let the work of change begin.” "Let us examin

European Court is right about the DNA Database

I'm very sorry that the issue of the DNA database had to be taken to the European court. I would have preferred to see the British government recognise that the two innocent men who had their DNA and fingerprints taken by police, but were never convicted of anything, should not have had this information retained. But although it is not often these days that Conservatives come out and praise the European Court of Human Rights, this time the court is absolutely right. It is absurd that we are retaining the DNA of millions of innocent people, while there are also millions of convicted criminals who are not on the database because their convicion was before a particular date. Dominic Grieve, Shadow Home Secretary, said our approach to a national DNA database has been vindicated by the ruling, which “vindicates all that we have been saying about the Government's wrong-headed approach to this issue which has caused so much resentment amongst the law abiding majority”. He called on Ja

Feedback on Copeland Council and Bransty meetings

The December Meeting of Copeland Council took place in Cleator Moor yesterday afternoon (2nd December). Key issues covered included * Approval of the Local Development Scheme (This is part of the Local Development Framework which will replace the old District Plan, and sets out how the other documents in that framework will be approved. * Future of West Cumberland Hospital - the leader of the council agreed with me and with Conservative Group Leader Cllr David Moore that we should pressure the local NHS Trusts to avoid any further delay in taking a decision about the siting for the new hospital. See fuller report on my hospitals blog (link at right.) * Christmas Parking. We had asked at a committee meeting whether there would be any free parking at Christmas to attract shoppers into Whitehaven and were promised a statement at the December council. Due to an administrative error it appears that the Portfolio holder, Cllr Clements, had not been advised that he was supposed to be making a

Keswick and Bransty public meetings

The Keswick and District Neighbourhood forum met last night in the Quaker meeting house opposite Booth's at 7pm. Topics included Emergency Planing, Lake District National Park issues, Transport options for young people in Borrowdale after the 9pm bus has been withdrawn, and grant applications The Bransty and Harbour Neighbourhood forum meets this evening at the Bransty Legion at 7pm. Topics include the Whitehaven Town Centre traffic proposals and whether Whitehaven should have a Town Council

Trevor Kavanagh in today's Sun

Trevor Kavanagh has an excellent article in today's Sun which you can read here and begins as follows: "I USED to think ID cards were a good thing. Along with CCTV cameras and DNA databanks. Even, at a pinch, 90-day detention. What law-abiding citizen could object to these new weapons against terrorists, rapists and murderers? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear. Not any more. Not after the death of innocent Jean Charles de Menezes or the pointless shooting of drunken barrister Mark Saunders by two police marksmen. Not after the inexcusable bugging, strip-searching and futile £1million vendetta by police against journalist Sally Murrer for revealing officers had lost the keys to the local nick – a case which was rightly dismissed last week. And certainly not after the Stasi-style raid by anti-terror police on an MP I know to be above reproach. Damian Green’s “crime” was to make Home Secretary Jacqui Smith look even more foolish than she is by exposing the chaos in her department

A law that should be repealed

The more I read about the common law offence of “aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office” the more I am convinced that it is dangerously vague and bad law, and should be abolished. A number of journalists including Sam Coates and Matthew Parris in The Times and Nick Cohen in the Guardian have written very powerful articles on this. With superbly ironic timing, a case which had been brought involving the same charge against journalist Sally Murrer collapsed the day after Damian Green was arrested. Nick Cohen writes a damning and frightening account of the way that case was prepared here. Some of the reactions to the Green arrest comparing the present government to Robert Mugabe are a little over the top. But it is not exaggerating to say that if you could ask the people of my father's generation who fought and in many cases died to defend this country from Hitler what they were fighting for, some of them would have listed keeping this the sort of

Cross party concern at arrest

It is not just Conservatives who are extremely concerned at the way shadow cabinet member Damian Green MP was arrested and had his home and parliamentary office searched. I don't aften agree with former Labour minister Denis MacShane but I did agree with his response to the Green arrest. He said that the Speaker should make clear that MPs were entitled to hold sensitive material in the same way as lawyers and doctors, and added: "To send a squad of counter terrorist officers to arrest an MP shows the growing police contempt for Parliament and democratic politics," he said. "The police now believe that MPs are so reduced in public status that they are fair game for over-excited officers to order dawn raids, arrests and searches of confidential files held by MPs or those who work for them. "I am not sure this is good for British democracy." Tony Benn, not someone you would expect to rush to the defence of a Tory MP, said "I may sound strangely medieval,

The Daily Mash on the Damian Green Arrest

"The Daily Mash" has a satirical view of the arrest here. "THE PURGE BEGINS News - War THE Prime Minister last night began the elimination of his enemies as he pledged to cleanse Britain of the virus of dissent."

Statement by Damian Green M.P.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Mr Green said: "I was astonished to have spent more than nine hours today under arrest for doing my job. "I emphatically deny I have done anything wrong. I have many times made public information that the government wanted to keep secret - information that the public has a right to know. "In a democracy, opposition politicians have a duty to hold the government to account. "I was elected to the House of Commons precisely to do that and I certainly intend to continue doing so."

Green arrest raises disturbing questions

Damian Green MP, Conservative front-bench spokesman on immigration, was arrested today, apparently by nine anti-terrorist policemen, in connection with home office documents allegedly leaked to him by a home office whistleblower. His home and office have been searched, but he has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing. I have met Damian Green on several occasions, and I like and respect him. I do not believe for one second that he would have put into the public domain any information he had received unless he was convinced that it was in the public document to do so. For the police to arrest opposition politicians for releasing to the media documents critical of the government is not the way we do things in Britain. All governments have people working for them who disagree with some of the things they do and leak them to the opposition. All oppositions make use of the information. All governments get cross about this, and order leak inquiries. But it is unprecedented in Britain for

The Darling Tax

I am still fuming at the size of the mess the Labur government is leaving for the incoming government to clear up. Perhaps one of the new taxes that will have to be introduced to get the nation's finances back on an even keel should be named "The Darling Tax" to remind everyone whose fault it is that these tax rises are necessary.

Andrew Rowe RIP

I was sorry to hear that Andrew Rowe, who served as the MP for Mid-Kent from 1983 to 1997, has died. Andrew was one of my heroes when I was a young man. He was living proof that you could be a moderate Conservative without being "wet" and that you could be civilised without being soggy. I gather that he was also a very effective constituency MP. Rest in Peace.

Quote of the Day

"This year alone, the £78 billion borrowed by the Treasury is more than Winston Churchill needed to fight the Second World War." George Osborne

PBR = Preposterous Borrowing Requirement

PBR is supposed to stand for "Pre-Budget Report" but it could equally stand for "Preposterous Borrowing Requirement". In any complex package like the one which the government announced in the PBR, almost everyone is going to find some things they like and some which they don't. But it is the overall picture which appalls me, and particularly the enormous debt mountain. All governments will automatically tend to go into spending deficit in a recession. In fact, fiscally progressive income taxes and a social security net are often collectively called "the stabilisers" as they tend to take proportionately more money off people when the economy is charging ahead while forcing the government to pay out more as it goes into recession. This will tend to moderate both inflationary booms and recessions even before and additional government action. But for a government which was already expecting £30 billion defecit when they thought the economy was still growin

Misuse of the MPs "Communications Allowance"

The Lib/Dem MP for Cheadle, Mark Hunter, also PPS to the Lib/Dem leader, has been criticised by the impartial parliamentary watchdog for misusing his "Communications Allowance." Mark Hunter MP, who is PPS to Nick Clegg, was ordered to repay £500 after having allowed a constituency-wide survey on the NHS, paid for by the Communications Allowance, to be contaminated by party political messaging. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded: "I conclude, therefore, that the way Mr Hunter deployed this survey in his Liberal Democrat newsletter was a breach of the rules since he was using the product of material paid for from the Communications Allowance for party political or campaigning purposes." He continued: "I do not believe it was a calculated breach. But this was more than a series of isolated misjudgements or individual mistakes. The evidence suggests that at its heart lay a confusion in Mr Hunter’s approach between communications with constituen

ICM reports an 11% Tory lead

After a week in which the Conservative lead in the opinion polls has ranged from 11% down to 3%, it bounced back to 11% in the latest ICM opinion poll. This ICM poll gives the party shares as: CONSERVATIVES 42% (-1) LABOUR 31% (+1) LIB DEMS 19% (+1) Practically every opinion poll for a year has estimated the Conservative share of the vote at 40% or above, including all the polls in the past week, but Labour has been between about 31% and 37% and the Lib/Dems between 12% and 19%. So the range in Conservative opinion poll leads in the past week - 11%, 5%, 3%, and back to 11% - has largely been due to different estimates of how support divides between Labour and the Lib/Dems. It is also noticeable that the media has given much less attention to the opinion polls showing the Conservatives still more than 10% ahead than to those with a narrower lead. It is worth remembering that if a poll has a sample size of 1000 or so, as most of them do, the standard margin of error is about three percen

Lest we Forget

Earlier this month on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Dat we commemorated all those who were killed or wounded in war. This week a plaque was unveiled to remember those people who made a special effort, sometimes at considerable personal risk themselves, to save Jewish people from the Holocaust. The official British government record in terms of effective action to protect people from being murdered by the Nazis was mixed. There were undoubtedly some enlightened official decisions which allowed many thousands of people who would otherwise have been killed by Hitler's regime to escape to this country, to America, or to what is now Israel. However historians who examine the record as a whole will always ask whether there was more that the Western powers could have done. That question will not be asked of Captain Foley, the British Intelligence head of station at the Berlin Embassy, who saved a very large number of people - probably thousands though nobody knows the exact number - fr

Quote of the day

"Alistair Darling could be quite a good Chancellor if Gordon ever gave him the job." Ken Clarke

Clarke backs Osborne

Ken Clarke has publicly supported George Osborne as Shadow Chancellor and disavowed those who have been suggesting that David Cameron appoint him instead. In an interview in the Daily Mail, Ken suggested that his name was being used in a dirty tricks campaign against the Shadow Chancellor which was designed to undermine the party leadership. He said that Mr Osborne was being "targeted in a personalised political campaign" and added: "I think my name is being used as part of this attempt to undermine George." Mr Clarke warned: "I think for David Cameron to replace George Osborne with me or anyone else would be a serious political mistake. The impression it would give of self doubt, division and sudden loss of confidence in what we have been saying would be catastrophic. It would be a triumph for opponents of the Conservative Party." Mr Clarke backed Mr Osborne's dramatic warning at weekend that soaring borrowing could trigger a run on Sterling. He accus

Lower spending increases are not spending cuts: 2

When I heard that David Cameron had dropped the promise to match Labour's spending increases, I had two immediate reactions 1) Given the increasingly dire financial position and Labour's reckless tax and spending plans, this is the right thing to do: it appears unlikely that the country will still be able to afford increases on the scale currently proposed. 2) We will need to be on our guard, because Labour and some of their allies in the media will dishonestly misrepesent lower spending increases as spending cuts. The Labour MP for Copeland proved me right on the second point almost instantly. A quick look at Hansard reveals the following question which he asked at this week's PMQs (Prime Minister's Questions): Jamie Reed (Lab, Copeland): "Constituencies such as mine are set to benefit from new schools, new hospitals, new health facilities and new social housing in the near future, but those developments will be put at risk by the public spending cuts from the Op

A wise man shows he knows when to call it quits

I have enjoyed John Sergeants performances on "Strictly Come Dancing" and I think that up to this point, he and his dance partner have provided a lot of pleasure and amusement to viewers of the show. There is also no doubt in my mind that the panel of judges rashly went "over the top" in their criticisms of him a week ago last Saturday, and probably perversely boosted his vote in the process. Whatever the judges said, John Sergeant's dancing performances improved greatly over the series and were fun to watch. His professional partner, Kristina Rihanoff, deserves some of the credit for that. However, in pulling out of the competition this week he has done something very rare: run with something as long as it was entertaining and funny but stopped before it became too much of an embarrasment. Perhaps as a political journalist he has learned a lesson from watching politicans, who rarely know when to quit.

Lower spending increases are not spending cuts

Because of the credit crunch which has already hit us, and the recession which even the government admits is likely, Britain can no longer afford the large increases in public spending which Labour is proposing. Labour's policy of unfunded tax cuts now combined with rises in public spending will mean even bigger tax rises after the next election if they win. As any reputable economist will admit, big increases in public borrowing, even if temporary, will usually mean that interest rates have to be higher than they otherwise would have been. This means that if the government is already borrowing lots of money, as the current Labour government is, a further fiscal stimulus (that's economist-speak for governments spending more) can "crowd out" private spending. That is why the Conservatives will no longer by promising at the next election to match Labour's spending plans for the first two years of a Conservative government. This does NOT mean that we are proposing to

MPs should be briefed on science

I broadly welcome the news that Adam Afriye MP, Conservative science spokesman, is proposing that Conservative MPs should attend briefings on scientific literacy under a plan to strengthen evidence-based policy-making. Classes explaining scientific method and basic concepts will be included in the induction programme for all Tory MPs after the next election, and sitting members and peers will also be offered the opportunity to attend. The policy is intended to address concerns about a lack of scientific expertise and understanding in the House of Commons and Whitehall. Scientific challenges such as global warming, stem-cell research, pandemic flu and GM crops are becoming increasingly important political issues. Making information available to MPs of all parties about the scientific evidence on these and other subjects strikes me as an excellent idea. This is not a problem unique to Conservative MPs - Professor Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientific adviser, has criti

Quote of the Day: Ken Clarke

I'm indebted to Iain Dale for the following quote from Ken Clarke. Ken said yesterday that "The G20 thing is a bit of a circus. They decided they wanted more growth. Yes and we all love mothers too. The summit was held because all 20 of them wanted to use he word 'global' to emphasie that it wasn't their problem. I'm afraid they all went there for the photo opportunity and I fear the photo that they missed was that with President-Elect Obama."

Christmas Parking

I was hoping to be able to give details of parking arrangements over Christmas and particularly whether there will be some free parking in Copeland to try to bring shoppers into Whitehaven and our other shopping areas in the run up to Christmas. I am advised that "the question of free car parking in Whitehaven at Christmas is currently under review and an announcement will be made by the portfolio holder, Cllr George Clements, at Council on 2nd December."

When a government is past its Sell-By date ...

A good test of when a governments has been in office for far too long, is whether they are unable to take criticism. In particular, those who have become so accustomed to holding office that they see it as a privilege and not a right interpret any suggestion that they might have made a mistake not as criticism of themselves but as a disloyal attack on the country. E.g. if the pound drops 25% and the Shadow Chancellor makes some comments about why this may be happening and how to avoid making it worse, and the government accuses him of "Talking Down the Pound." You can't run a democracy on the basis that any attempt to criticise the government is immediately damned as disloyal and against the rules: that way lies the politics of Robert Mugabe.

Report back from Copeland Council O&S Management Committee

I attended the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee of Copeland Council yesterday. Mostly an admin type meeting dealing with the sort of issues which councillors have to address but which tend to send most other people to sleep. However, one or two issues which do have an effect on people in the real world did come up. Issues discussed included * How Copeland can feed views into the consultation by Cumbria CC about traffic in the centre of Whitehaven - prevailing view was that we may want to discuss this at an Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It was noted that a lot of people may think that becase the consultation is described as being about Whitehaven Town centre it won't affect residents of less central areas of the town or other parts of Whitehaven. However, in practice it will affect a lot of other people. Those who shop in the town for example. * Questions asked about whether there will be free parking over Christmas. See forthcoming post. * Some

Conservative proposals on Post Office Card Accounts

Following the excellent news that a campaign by Conservatives and others has shamed the government into renewing the Post Office Card Account contract, this is how Conservatives believe that the card should be extended, helping both Post Office branches and customers. What does the Post Office Card Account do now ? POCA is a basic cash account run by the Department for Work and Pensions, which currently can only receive welfare, state pension and tax credit deposits. How would the Conservatives extend it? A Conservative government would expand and widen the role of POCA, both enabling it to accept additional deposits – including housing benefit and any weekly wages – and create sub-accounts which can be used for direct debit payments on a full range of public and private sector bills, including utilities. Based on evidence from industry, vulnerable customers ‘cost’ utility companies on average double the amount of non-vulnerable customers. This is because of higher collection costs. Th

Victory on Post Office Card Account

I was delighted to learn that the government has renewed the Post Office's one billion pound contract to distribute benefits, and abandoning a plan to offer it to the private sector which might potentially have caused the closure of anther 3,000 local post office branches on top of the 2,500 the government closed this year. Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell told the House of Commons that he was dropping the procurement process that could have led to a private company winning the Post Office Card Account contract, and that he will allow the Post Office to carry on providing the service. Conservatives and others have campaigned to keep the Post Office Card Account with Post Offices Limited, not least because this gives some real opportunities to enhance the capabilities of the card which would simultaneously help some of the most vulnerable members of society and reinforce the economic position of post office branches. Two million people had signed a petition and 265 MPs from

Keep Britain Working

David Cameron has proposed giving tax cuts to employers who hire new workers, in a move that will create an estimated 350,000 new jobs over the next year. Tax cuts worth £2,500 per person, per year would be given to employers who hire new workers who have been unemployed for three months or more. £2.6 billion of tax breaks would be given to employers in total – and this would be paid for using the money saved on welfare payments. The scheme would create new jobs, boost the economy and reduce the damaging social costs associated with unemployment. And, because it would be funded from lower spending on unemployment benefits, it would be revenue neutral overall for the Government. David called on Labour to adopt this scheme as soon as possible, stressing, "Instead of the Government paying for people to be unemployed, it can pay for them to be in work." He said there was a "clear choice" between unfunded "tax cons" from Labour and fully funded tax cuts from th

Consultation on Whitehaven Town Centre Traffic

I attended a presentation to councillors yesterday evening on the consultation which Cumbria CC is currently carrying out on options for managing traffic flow in Whitehaven Town Centre. The consultation runs until March. It will be presented to the public at several public meetings including: South Whitehaven Neighbourhood Forum, 7pm this evening, Mirehouse Community Centre Hillcrest & Hensingham Neighbourhood Forum, 6.30pm on 27th November, St John's Church Hensingham. Bransty & Harbour Neighhourhood Forum, 7pm on 2nd December, The Legion, Bransty There will also be an interactive exhibition at the URC Church, Market Place, from Thursday 20th November to Saturday 22nd November (Noon to 6pm Thursday to Friday, 9.30 am to noon on the Saturday) and an ongoing exhibition at the Danial Hay library in Lowther Street. The public can email questions or comments to Essentially there are four options. Option one, the minimum change option, keeps b

"Bonkers Tax Cutters"

I do not normally expect to find myself in strong agreement with John Rentoul of the Independent but he makes some very good points on his blog today here. Not long ago, any suggestion from the Conservatives that they might cut taxes was greeted with a barrage of accusations from the Labour party in general and Gordon Brown in particular that these tax cuts were not properly costed and that "unfunded" tax cuts (or indeed "unfunded" spending) was a disaster. Now after billions of "unfunded" spending to nationalise Northern Rock and more unfunded billions paid out to support the other banks, Brown is not only proposing unfunded tax cuts of his own, but criticising, yes, criticising the Conservatives for the fact that the tax cuts we in turn are proposing are not unfunded, e.g. that there has been an attempt to say how they would be paid for. As Rentoul puts it From punk tax cuts to bonkers tax cuts. I could not believe what Gordon Brown was saying this mor