Showing posts from June, 2008

Planning should be both quicker AND democratic

As usual, Labour MPs who criticised a cotroversial government policy have bottled out of actually voting it down. The government has survived a Labour rebellion over plans to speed up the planning process for big projects such as airports and nuclear power stations. A bid to ensure ministers get the final say on decisions by an independent body was rejected by 303 votes to 260. More than 60 Labour MPs had signed a Commons motion warning that the new planning quango would be undemocratic, but only 17 Labour MPs actually put their votes where their signatures were. Ministers say the bill will speed up the planning process. Hazel Blears argued that big projects which could boost the economy and Britain's energy security were being "clogged up" in "antiquated" planning processes. It was "unacceptable" that major projects such as the upgrade of the North Yorkshire power grid had taken just over six years to get through planning, while some wind farm applica

Sauce for the goose ...

I have been unble to resist a wry smile at the bitter complaints by Wendy Alexander, who has just resigned as Labour leader on the Scottish Assembly, and other Labour spokespersons, accusing the SNP of a campaign of personal abuse and vilification against her. Insofar as there is any truth in the Labour complaints that the SNP have seized any opportunity to portray their opponents as corrupt, the SNP have simply copied this practice straight out of the New Labour tactics manual. The tactic which Labour is now complaining bitterly about when they find themselves on the receiving end from the SNP is precisely the tactic which New Labour deployed in the 1990's to shred the reputation of everyone in the then government. It is the same tactic which New Labour has continued to employ in office against anyone who disagrees with them, from nonagarian pensioners who express concern about the NHS to academics who express concern about the workability of ID cards to rail crash survivors/famil

Full list of threatened telephone boxes

Re-reading my post on the Public telephones in Copeland council involved in a consultation on proposed closures, I noticed today that it appears to give 23 locations and there are in fact 25 boxes proposed for closure. The explanation of this is that there are two phone boxes threatened in Silecroft, and the manner in which I worded my previous post may not have made clear that there are seperate proposals to close boxes in the Millom area at both The Green and The Hill. The full list of locations and postcodes for the Telephone boxes in Copeland which are currently the subject of a consultation on proposed closure is: Bankend View, Bigrigg CA22 2TH Bridge End, Broad Oak, Ravenglass CA18 1RR Cliff Road, Whitehaven CA28 8SD Corney LA19 5TW Cross Gates, Lamplugh CA14 4TU Dent View, Egremont CA22 2ET Ennerdale CA23 3AR The Green, near Millom, LA18 5HJ The Hill, Millom LA18 5HB. Haile, Egremont CA22 2PD Hinnings Road, Distington CA14 5UR Holmrook CA19 1YG Lamplugh CA14 4SF Main Street, Fri

From "The Daily Mash" - Labour plan to lose last remaining votes

The following article which has just appeared online on "The Daily Mash" seems to sum up the ability of the hapless Labour government to get everything wrong at the moment: LABOUR UNVEILS PLAN TO LOSE LAST REMAINING VOTES Labour will today unveil a detailed plan to alienate its last remaining pockets of support. The central plank of the party's strategy involves identifying the 10 most popular family cars in Britain and then making them a nightmare to own. A Labour spokesman said: "We're going for the double whammy of making them too expensive to drive, but also impossible to sell. "And if that doesn't work we'll just spray paint a big swastika onto the bonnet." The party is also drawing up plans to spend £200 million of taxpayers' money on a vicious PR campaign against the country's 100 most decorated war veterans. Meanwhile teams of party researchers will tour marginal constituencies, identifying Labour voters and then kneeing the

Doublethink of the month

From the inquest/debate on "Lib/Dem voice“ into the disappointing result (from a Liberal perspective) of the Henley by-election. Lord Rennard, formerly the party's by-election strategist and now Chief Exec, wrote about their Henley candidate, who had been fighting (and losing) local elections in Plymouth a short while before being selected to fight Henley. The following must take a prize for one of the most extraordinary bits of doublethink I've ever read: "In Henley we worked hard to promote Stephen’s local credentials and he moved in as soon as selected.”

Gordon Brown RIP

No, this is not a joke and I am not referring to the Prime Minister. West Cumbrian freelance journalist Gordon Brown died last night at the age of 71. He was a nice guy who was often to be seen at the back of council meetings in Cumbria taking copious notes. What I found particularly positive about his style of journalism is that if he wasn't sure he had a quote right he would collar you after a meeting and check it. He was also one of those journalists who are willing to sit for hours through a long and boring meeting when most of the hacks have gone and a lot of the councillors wish they could do the same. He wasn't the only journalist here or in St Albans to do this or to try to get his facts right, but the fact he did make the effort was obvious and appreciated. We will miss him. Rest in Peace.

Congratulations to John Howell

For anyone who missed it,the votes cast for the candidates in Henley were; John Howell (C) 19,796 (57%, +3.5%) Stephen Kearney (LD) 9,680 (28%, +1.8%) Mark Stevenson (Green) 1,321 (3.8%, +0.5%) Timothy Rait (BNP) 1,243 (3.6%) Richard McKenzie (Lab) 1,066 (3.1%, -11.7%) Chris Adams (UKIP) 843 (2.4%, -0.1%) Bananaman Owen (Loony) 242 (0.70%) Derek Allpass (Eng Dem) 157 (0.45%) Amanda Harrington (Beauties for Britain Party), 128 (0.37%) Dick Rodgers (Common Good) 121 (0.35%) Louise Cole (Beauties for Britain Party) 91 (0.26%) Harry Bear (Fur Play Party) 73 (0.21%) Conservative majority 10,116 (29.1%), 0.81% swing LD to Conservative Congratulations to John Howell and his team on an excellent result. Apart from the usual overblown predictions of victory from the Lib/Dems, I don't think anyone thought it very likely that the Conservatives would lose in Henley or that Labour had a chance there, so this is not quite the body blow for Labour that Crewe and Nantwich was.

Telephone Box proposals

Further to my report on yesterday's meeting of Copeland council, the Telephone boxes in Copeland which are currently the subject of a consultation on proposed closure are: Bankend View, Bigrigg Bridge End, Broad Oak, Ravenglass Cliff Road, Whitehaven Corney Cross Gates, Lamplugh Dent View, Egremont Ennerdale The Green, The Hill, Millom Haile, Egremont Hinnings Road, Distington Holmrook Lamplugh Main Street, Frizington Monk Moors, Eskmeals Overend Road, Whitehaven Parkside Road, Cleator Moor Scalegill Road, Moor Row Screel View, Whitehaven Silecroft The Square, Parton Wellington Windex, Frizington Ulpha. Deadline for the consultation is 6th September. Any comments received by Copeland council before 22nd August will be included in the council response, or you can respond to the consultation directly by writing to BT payphones, PP05 A23, Delta Point, Wellesley Road, Croydon CR9 2YZ or by email to

Feedback from today's Copeland Council meeting

The main item at Copeland Council today was the decision to talk to the government about future nuclear waste disposal. Councillors from both sides of the chamber accepted that the council should register an interest in this. That does not mean that Copeland is committed to taking a new waste repository. It certainly does not mean that the government can regard any such proposal as a done deal. It does mean that we have accepted that Britain's stock of nuclear waste exists, that it will continue to exist for many years even if there isn't a new generation of nuclear plants, that 70-80% of that waste is currently in Copeland, and something has to be done with it. It would be irresponsible for Copeland Council not to talk to the government about what is the safest way to deal with the waste. Interestingly, some Labour councillors appear to be coming closer to the view first expressed by the council's Conservative leader that the public should have a decisive voice in whether

How to tell when Parliament is passing too many laws

A comment which was made in my hearing today struck me as a providing a perfect example of a test of whether the government is forcing too many laws through the creaking parliamentary machinery. The test is this: if you regularly find that there are laws on the statute book which are almost impossible for the authorities to enforce or for anyone else to know how to obey, because the necessary supporting regulations have not get been published or agreed, it's a pretty clear sign that parliament is passing laws faster than they can properly be implemented. I was at a private meeting and someone asked a question about whether a suggested course of action was legal, quoting a law passed within the past 12 months. It transpire that the necessary statutory instruments and regulations to implement the law have not been published yet .... This is very far indeed from being the first time I have met this problem. At least the difficulty today was relatively minor. A few years ago when I was

Feedback from today's Valley Residents meeting

Attended the Valley Residents Association meeting in Whitehaven this evening. Highlights of the meeting were * The association is currently conducting a survey of its members and everyone who lives in the Valley Park area about the local one-way system and other traffic measures. The results will be fed to John Dell at Capita who is conducting a review on behalf of the County Council. * If you have views on this please get your comments in by the end of this month. If you are a Valley Residents member you should already have a response form which can be returned to the addresses given on it. For obvious reasons I am not going to put the addresses of the people organising the survey on the internet, but if you are a local resident, would like your views considered, and do not have a survey form to hand, I suggest you write a letter with your views about traffic in Whitehaven and the one-way systems in Foxhouses Road and Calder Avenue in particular, address it to "Valley Residents

What was Andy Burnham thinking?

The government seems to have a political "reverse midas touch" at the moment. After his gaffe about David Davis and the director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, I was interested to read that by New Labour standards Burnham is regarded as a "nice guy." The following piece by Marina Hyde in yesterday's Guardian demonstrates what damage New Labour's authoritarian streak and their penchant for going for nasty remarks about individuals rather than engaging with arguments is doing to their traditional support. Am I the only person who felt a chill run down my spine at the use of the words "the state has a right to know who you are" ? The trouble is that just as legal power which were passed into law on the basis of fighting terrorists have been used against people suspected of trying to manipulate school admission rules, the more power we give the state the greater the risk that those powers will be abused. Anyway, here is Marina Hyde's article. In be

From this week's Whitehaven News

Following on from the infamous "open bin" prosecution by Copeland Council, and as the same council prepares to make an expression of interest - not binding at this stage - in talking to the government about the possibility of a nuclear waste repository in the area, the following letter from Eric Walker (from Northampton) appeared in the local paper here: "Sir If, as recently reported, Copeland Council might apply to the government for financial reward for the local disposal of nuclear waste, it is hoped the council will ensure the waste bin lids are tightly closed?"

All 8 Copeland post office closures to go ahead

I am angry and disappointed, but sadly not surprised, to learn today that all eight proposed closures of Post Offices in Copeland are to go ahead. Post Offices Ltd have announced that 34 out of 35 closures proposed in Cumbria will proceed, starting possibly as early as next month: the exception is the post office in the ward of the Labour leader on Carlisle council. For the avoidance of doubt, let me make clear that I am not criticising the decision to save Botcherby post office but livid that none of the others which also had very strong cases to stay open have been reconsidered. These closures are the result of an instruction to Post Offices Ltd from Cumbria Labour MP and Cabinet minister John Hutton to close up to 2,000 post offices. Copeland's Labour MP Jamie Reed voted for the Post Office Closure programme. The post offices to close are: Beckermet Bigrigg Gosforth Holborn Hill, Millom Lowca Moor Row Parton Tangier Street, Whitehaven Councillors from both the Conservative and L

Time to suspend Lisbon ratification

It would be ludicrous for the UK to continue with the process of ratification following the Irish vote - which is not to say that this government won't do so. The treaty as signed cannot come into effect until all countries have ratified it. The Irish electorate have voted not to ratify it. In the unlikely event that the EU Council of Ministers manage to come up with a deal which persuades the Irish government that they can put the issue back to the Irish people, it would be the most obvious common sense that Britain should wait until we know what that deal is before we continue with ratification. None of which changes my view that the manifesto commitment of all major UK parties to have a referendum on the EU constitution, which was virtually identical to the Lisbon treaty, should have been honoured. The government appears to be all over the place on this: Brown and Milliband appear to be saying that ratification will continue, yet a government source has suggested that anyone who

Quote of the year

The following was quoted on "Political Betting" by James Burdett yesterday. ‘Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty’ used to mean we watched the government — not the other way around

Is the internet giving us "Pond-skater" minds?

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting piece in today's Sunday Times News Review about the possibility that spending large amounts of time on the internet can have an impact on the way we think. It's called "Google is giving us pond skater minds." The advantage is that we can get hold of vast amounts of data very quickly - at least, it's an advantage if we think to check that the data is actually accurate. (See my post a couple of weeks ago about the Red Arrows myth.) Sullivan argues that the potential disadvantage is that we can find ourselves flitting from issue to issue without devoting serious thought to any one. He argues that this would be a probem if we become, for instance, to used to a rapid flow of a wide ranging stream of information that we cannot summon the concentration to read a book. Certainly that is possible. So as a check of how vulnerable to this I've become I thought I would check my book consumption over the first six months of this year. The

Quote of the day - a Bonkers week

A very amusing summary of the last week from "Political betting" on the past week from a chap using the pen-name Marquee Mark The past bonkers week: a summary for those who missed it - Most Labour MP’s go bonkers and vote to destroy civil liberty in the UK. (Some of them do say that in mitigation they have gotten themselves a canny deal from Gordon Brown as the price for their vote.) In Parliament, Diane Abbot gives the speech of her life. She will do no deals as it would destroy civil liberty in the UK. The Northern Irish Prods do a canny deal to enable the Labour MP’s to destroy civil liberty in the UK. What’s a civil liberty, they ask, bemused. Gordon Brown goes bonkers and denies on TV that any of his MP’s or the Northern Irish Prods have done any canny deals to enable the Labour MP’s to destroy civil liberty in the UK. Diane Abbot goes bonkers and confirms on TV that many of Gordon Brown’s MP’s and the Northern Irish Prods have done many canny deals to enable the Labour

Whom the Gods wish to destroy ...

There is an ancient saying, "Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." I think this applies to the reported attitude of Gordon Brown in proceeding with ratification of the Lisbon treaty after the Irish people voted against it in Thursday's referendum. That section of the British electorate which is interested in Europe and either sceptical in the proper sense of the word or downright hostile to Europe was incensed over the broken promise from Labour and the LibDems to support a referendum on the European constitution. They noted that everyone except the British government, including all the other EU governments and some of Labour's own backbenchers, regarded the Lisbon Treaty as 95% the same as the defeated constitution on which all parties had promised us a referendum. The Irish vote against Lisbon gave both Labour and the LibDems an opportunity to reconnect with those voters by demonstrating that they can listen. Brown apparently is not going to take it.

Ireland says No!

The rejection of the Lisbon treaty by the voters of Ireland is a huge opportunity for the European Union to move forward in a positive way, and it could be a very good thing for Europe. No, that isn't a typo. Doubtless tonight many people who hate the European Union will be celebrating because they think the Irish vote is very bad for the EU, and most of those in positions of power in the EU and and European governments will be horrified for the same reason. And if the EU responds in the same stupid and anti-democratic way that it reacted to previous referedum votes against the treaties of Maastricht, Nice, and the previous incarnation of the European constitution, both groups will be right. Rewording the constitution, claiming everywhere except the British Isles that the constitutional treaty was largely the same as the constitution that French and Dutch voters had already rejected, and trying to sneak it through by the back door was asking for trouble. When voters in any EU count

A Brave Man ...

David Davis's decision to resign over the erosion of liberties and specifically detention without charge for 42 days took me, like most people involved in politics, completely by surprise. It is not entirely unprecedented for a politician to put his job on the line in this way, but it is extremely rare, and nobody ever does it unless they genuinely feel strongly on an issue. I doubt if he is in much danger of losing the by election but he may well have prejudiced his chances for a senior government office if Cameron becomes PM. So I don't accept the view that this is just a stunt. I thought David Davis's arguments about the cumulative impact of current and proposed laws and measures was very powerful. Personally I'm with DD in opposing ID cards and detention without charge for longer than 28 days, disagree with him on CCTV systems, and have an open mind on biometric data provided there are much stronger safeguards. But you don't have to agree with all his individual

42 days would hinder, not help, the fight against terror

If the government had convincing evidence that that detaining people without charge for up to 42 days could help the war on terror, they would have been able to point to far more statements of support from police chiefs and experts. One or two Chief constables do support the government on this. Others have kept a deafening silence. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions, very bravely in the circumstances, has openly advised parliament that in his opinion the 28 days for which terrorist suspects can currently be help is long enough. And senior law officers in Blair's government have made clear that they will oppose the proposal for 42 day detention if it reaches the House of Lords. Ironically, the "concessions" which the government has offered to try to get the measure through appear to have done more harm than good: medium rank police officers have privately indicated that the concessions make the legislation too complicated and unworkable. Let's not forget that

Book Review: "7-7 The London Bombs, what went wrong"

As we approach the vote on Wednesday about whether to give the police the power to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, I have been reading "7-7 The London Bombs, what went wrong" by Crispin Black. I thought it would be interesting to see if there was the least hint in the book that greater powers to lock up suspects without trial might have helped prevent the bombings. The subject is not even mentioned. However, the book does give, from the viewpoint of an intelligence specialist, a number of insights into the mistakes that were made and how we could make them less likely in the future. Issues discussed in the book include * Black argues that too much weight was placed on the lack of any specific intelligence: there were a number of reasons why July 2005 was a particularly likely time for Islamic extremists to attack Britain and the decision to downgrade the "alert state" threat level a few weeks before the 7/7 attacks was a mistake. *

Anglican Church criticises government

It is a very long time since the Church of England was nicknamed "The Tory party at prayer" and for the whole of my adult life the fact that it had once had that nickname seemed ludicrously inappropriate. Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, whatever else one may say about them, appear to be more serious about their religious faith than the majority of British politicians. (Indeed, how two men who seem to be fairly devout christians could reconcile that faith with some of their actions has often struck me as quite remarkable, but that is another story.) So it is deeply ironic that, assuming reports in today's Times are accurate, the Anglican church is about to publish a report which criticises the government in the strongest terms since "Faith in the City" in 1985. But this reflects the reality that, despite the personal faith of Messrs Blair, Brown and one or two other ministers, this government has broadly supported strongly secular policies. Obviously I have not

Queen visits Whitehaven

HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh came to Whitehaven this morning as part of a visit marking the 300th anniverary of Royal Assent for the act which set up the Harbour and Town. It was a magnificent ceremony and the elements also smiled on us: I would like to congratulate everyone who was involved in organising the event.

A trip to the Isle of Man

Yesterday and today were the two days this year you could get a direct ferry service from Whitehaven to the Isle of Man. I took the family today, the MV Balmoral was full of people who obviously greatly enjoyed the trip, as we did. This is the sort of thing we need to promote on a much more regular basis, perhaps with a connecting transport link from the central lakes.