Showing posts from March, 2008

Support Holborn Hill post office

I spent part of this weekend in Millom with Brian Crawford, the excellent Conservative candidate in the current by-election for a seat on Millom Town council. Brian is a keen and energetic campaigner who is involved in a large number of activities in the town and would be a great asset to Millom Town Council if elected. One of the main issues we discussed was the proposed closure of Holborn Hill post office, one of eight in Copeland, 35 in Cumbria, and 2,500 in the UK which are currently under threat. Post offices provide an essential service to the community and I was delighted to sign Brian's petition to keep Holborn Hill post office open.

Nuclear co-operation with France

One of the interesting things which came out of this week's visit by the French President to Britain was the possibility of greater nuclear co-operation between Britain and France. I am broadly in favour of this, as it has potential to benefit both countries, but it could be a double-edged sword for Copeland and West Cumbria. So far as the outlook for nuclear jobs in West Cumbria is concerned, greater co-operation presents both opportunities and threats. We need to be ready to exploit the former and be ready to position ourselves so as to avoid the latter. I specifically do not want to suggest that we should take a kind of Anti-Globalisation luddite line that that international co-operation should be resisted because it means exporting jobs. However, to make sure that the benefits of job creation are shared, we need a strategy which identifies the areas of work where we have a comparative advantage and make sure we get those areas of work.

C'est Magnifique ...

I have just been watching President Sarkozy's excellent speech to the British parliament. I cannot imagine that any of the Presidents which France has had since I have been old enough to follow politics - Pompidou, Giscard, Mitterand, or Chirac - could possibly have made such a positive and friendly speech to a British audience. A President in office in our nearest neighbour country who is so positive about what Britain has to offer is a potential great help to us in promoting a forward looking vision for Europe - and by that I mean a more decentralised Europe, not a stronger Federal superstate - and we should take advantage of that opportunity.

The great Post Office debate in full

For those who want to read the full debate on post office closures last week, you can find it either on the Hansard pages on the House of Commons website, or at the "Theyworkforyou" website at the following URL For residents of Copeland who have not already seen this from the News and Star, you may like to know that the following motion to stop post office closures was supported by Conservatives, Lib/Dems, Scottish Nationalists, Welsh Nationalists, and Independents, and also by 19 Labour MPs who were willing to put the interests of their constituencies before their party. "That this House regrets the proposal to close up to 2,500 post offices; * recognises the vital role post offices play in local communities; * notes the concern and unpopularity amongst the general public of closing such a large portion of the network; * has concerns that the access criteria laid down for the closures consultation do not ad

Oh Gord, give me an inquiry, but not yet ...

St Augustine, when a young man, was supposed to have prayed "O Lord, give me chastity" and then added mentally "but not just yet." I was reminded of this by the Prime Minister's recent comments on a full inquiry into the Iraq war. If you accept that the government really believed the case they put for the invasion - that Saddam was breaching a UN mandate and posed a threat to his neighbours because he had weapons of mass destruction - then this was the worst intelligence failure for at least 21 years. Regardless of what Hutton himself wrote in his conclusions, the information which came out during the Hutton and Butler inquiries was certainly sufficient to give a very strong indication of some of the things which went wrong. But if there is to be another inquiry, I can see no reason to delay it other than to spare the government from embarrassment.

One law for everyone

This is the first and last time I will comment on the Paul McCartney & Heather Mills divorce case - all divorces are sad and painful events for those concerned, usually with some right and wrong on both sides, and making comments on such cases usually amounts to kicking someone when they are down. However, I have been following the newspaper coverage and commentary on Heather Mill's action in pouring a jug of water over Sir Paul's lawyer. There have been a great many jokes about this, and then there have been rows over whether those jokes were offensive. However, with one or two honorable exceptions what strikes me as the most important aspect of this incident appears to have been almost completely ignored. That is that "celebrities" should be treated the same by the courts as everyone else. Supposing that instead of Sir Paul McCartney and the soon-to-be-ex Lady Heather McCartney, these events had taken at the divorce proceedings between Mr Paul Smith and Mrs Heat

Wishing you a happy Easter

A very happy Easter to everyone reading this

The great Post Office debate

I was going to write an article here about how disappointed I was that the MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed, failed to support local Post Offices on Wednesday, and instead voted for the closure programme. Nineteen of his Labour colleagues, including fellow Cumbrian MP Eric Martlew, did vote for our post offices (I don't often agree with Eric but credit where credit is due.) But the reasons why Jedi Jamie should have voted with us to save local post offices were already so much better put during the debate by his Labour colleague Mr Gordon Prentice (MP for Pendle) that I shall simply quote his speech in full. What a shame the MP for Copeland wasn't paying him more attention. Gordon Prentice MP (Pendle, Labour) "I shall be very brief, but I want it put on the record that I will vote for the Conservative motion this evening. I can see nothing wrong with it. I read it through two or three times in case I was missing something. I see nothing in it that my friends or colleagues on th

The Post Office Hitlist

The list of 35 post offices in Cumbria which have been proposed for closure is given below. There will be a campaign against these diabolical proposals - watch this space The Post Office's detailed Area Plan proposal is available from: web: email: post: Post Office Ltd, Freepost Consultation Team. The following branches are proposed for closure: West Cumbria: Beckermet, Newlands, Beckermet, CA21 2XB Bigrigg, Springfield Road, Bigrigg, Egremont, CA22 2TN Gosforth (temporarily closed), The Lakeland Habit, Gosforth, Seascale, CA20 1EJ Holborn Hill, 49 Holborn Hill, Millom, LA18 5BJ Lowca, Lowca, Whitehaven, CA28 6QH Moor Row, 1 Church Street, Moor Row, Carlisle, CA24 3JG Parton, Village Hall, Main Street, Parton, Whitehaven, CA28 6NY Tangier Street, 12 Tangier Street, Whitehaven, CA28 7UX Brigham, High Brigham, Cockermouth, CA13 0TG Broughton Moor (temp. closed), The Miners Arms, Broughton Moor, Maryport, CA15 7RY Camert

Fixing our broken politics

I heard David Cameron in Gateshead today. I thought he was on excellent form. The proposal to improve on Labour's proposal to support new parents by untrained Outreach workers as part of Surestart by instead re-establishing a proper Health Visitor Network got most of the media attention. But another part of his speech was even more significant - fixing our broken politics and rebuilding trust. For too long politicians have promised the earth and delivered too little. David Cameron emphasised that we must promise only what we can deliver. One of the things we can and must deliver is clear accountability and tranaparency in the spending of taxpayers money on MPs salaries and expenses. Most MPs do not abuse the system, but some in all parties have done so, and we have to ensure that the few do not drag down the reputation not just of their own parties, not just of those MPs who are innocent, but of the whole political process.

NHS proposals agreed by trust

Cumbria's NHS Primary Care Trust has approved this week the amended version of the "Closer to Home" proposals for the future of hospital services in West, North, and central Cumbria. The revised proposals include at least 220 beds at the West Cumberland hospital or its successor and that the hospital will continue to provide trauma care. This is not the end of the story: we must continue to ensure that there is public involvement in protecting a full range of hospital services in Cumbria. More comments on the "Support West Cumbria Hospitals" campaign blog - see link at right.

A Bad News Budget

George Osborne has described today's budget as "A Bad News Budget" He added that "Alistair Darling is kicking Britain’s families when they are down. - Darling has added £110 a year to every family’s tax bill. The tax take will be £2.8bn a year higher by 2010 – and if benefits are excluded, it will be £4bn higher. - The new taxes announced in the budget will add up to £1.5bn extra on all alcoholic drinks, £1.6bn on drivers, and £1.7bn on businesses over the next three years. Taxes and borrowing are up because Labour failed to use the good years to prepare for the bad years. After 15 years of global growth, Britain has the worst budget deficit in the developed world. Even with the new taxes introduced in Darling’s budget, borrowing will be up £20bn over the next four years, including a £7bn rise next year alone. The Government has no room for manoeuvre, so they are kicking families when they’re down."

Should Whitehaven have a Town Council ?

Attended the annual meeting with Town and Parish councils today in the Copeland centre. Items discussed included the new localities support funds, the unacceptable delays in processing minor proposed changes to parish boundaries, and whether Whitehaven should have its own Town Council. At the moment the rest of Copeland has Town or Parish councils, or a "Parish Meeting" performing similar functions, but Whitehaven does not. Local functions which elsewhere would be provided by Parishes are provided in Whitehaven, if at all, by Copeland Borough council. It has been suggested in some quarters that there should be a Town Council for Whitehaven. This would have some advantages, particularly in fairness in respect of the rest of the Borough, but would also cost money, and is only worth doing if local people want it. If you live or work in Copeland and have a view on this, please leave a comment here.

Report back on Keswick Neighbourhood Forum

Attended the Keswick Neighbourhood Forum this evening. Main items on the agenda were 1) The current consultation on the proposals to replace six Care Homes in Cumbria, this time focussing on the Ravensfield care home in Keswick 2) Grant Applications 3) The North Cumbria Acute Hospital's trust's plan to bid for Foundation Trust status There was also a brief item from a representative of the National Parks Authority.

Quotes of the Week

Quote number one comes from the Economic Research Council. Commenting on the government's handling of the nuclear building programme and quoted in The Times on 3rd March: "Sadly, after ten years, Britain is still faced with a Government that appears to believe that White Papers, rather than private setor companies, build nuclear plants." Quote number two was a Whitehaven resident commenting on the suggestion on Question Time by a Lib/Dem MP that Prince Harry went to Afghanistan to repair his reputation "Well if that were true, it would probably be the only publicity stunt in history where the people who organised it began by putting a D notice on it."