Showing posts from September, 2008

DC on the financial crisis

There was an unscheduled speech from David Cameron this morning about the financial situation. DC gave a warning to the banking community that there will have to be a day of reckoning but added that today was not the day for this. He offered the government the full support of the Opposition in passing the necessary legislation to help the country through the crisis. He said that tomorrow in his speech he will outline a full policy response.

Quote of the day - Tuesday

"There are more of us than of the bullies" Speaker from the organisation "Kid's Count"

Conference agenda - Tuesday

The Conservative conference agenda for Monday 29th September includes * Schools, with speakers including Michael Gove * Crime, with speakers including Dominic Grieve and Nick Herbert * Welfare, with speakers including Chris Grayling * Families, with speakers including Andrew Gove, Maria Miller, and Theresa May

Calling time on Brown's age of irresponsibility

On his excellent speech to the Conservative conference today, George Osborne set out a Conservative policy to deal with the credit crunch and end Gordon Brown's "Age of Irresponsibility." Measures to be taken by an incoming Conservative government will include: * Scrapping the discredited fiscal rules * Creating a new Office for Budget Responsibility to assess independently the sustainability of the public finances and hold the Government to account * Giving the Bank of England a far greater role in market oversight * Creating a new Debt Responsibility Mechanism * Introducing a new system of deposit insurance for savers for the first £50,000 of deposits, to be paid out within a week. George stressed that the Conservative plan for a strong economy will demonstrate that “the election of a Conservative Government would herald a new age of responsibility and economic reconstruction” The Shadow Chancellor's proposals for financial and fiscal responsibility are set out in a

Conference quote of the day - Monday

Alan Duncan MP, during a speech about the forthcoming energy gap, described the policies of the Liberal Democrats as follows. The Lib/Dems are living in a world of complete illusion. Their leader has said that they would build no new coal power plants and also that they would build no new nuclear plants. So the truth about the Lib/Dems is that they will never get any power.

Conference Agenda - Monday

The Conservative conference agenda for Monday 29th September includes * Enterprise and Business, with speakers including Alan Duncan and David Willetts * The Economy with speakers including George Osborne * The NHS with speakers including Andrew Lansley * Caring for an elderly population with Andrew Lansley and Stephen O'Brien

Conference, day one: quote of the day

From the introductory session at Conservative conference 2008: "I do not want to be filling in forms so that a failing government can congratulate itself," Monica, Psychiatric Nurse

Tories to find £121m to restore weekly bin collections

I was delighted to learn David Cameron has told the Daily Mail that a Conservative Government will find the money to allow councils to restore weekly bin collections for all households. Just over half of councils have scrapped weekly collections. The Mail notes: "The average cost of weekly collections is £59.80 per household per year, compared to £44.63 for fortnightly ones. That means the total cost of moving back to weekly collections is £121million. The Tories say they will raise £133million by scrapping funding for a range of inspectorates, regional assemblies, Labour's new planning superquango and forcing councils to spend less on promotion." The following bullet points were issued in a CCHQ press release this weekend: "A Conservative Government will change Whitehall policy so that there is an expectation that councils should offer full weekly collections, ending and reversing the Labour policy of bin cuts, which are harming public health and the local environme

Conservative Conference in Birmingham

Today is the first day of the Conservative Conference. The current financial crisis shows Britain needs change, not more of the same. Instead of a divided Government, led by the man who left the economy so badly prepared for this crisis, we need a strong, united, positive alternative to Labour. This conference will show that the Conservatives are a strong, united, positive alternative to Labour. Because we’re a united team people can trust us to work together for the country in a crisis, unlike Labour who are fighting each other. This week we’re talking about the future of the country, unlike Labour who spent their conference arguing about their internal problems. We’re not sitting back and waiting for Labour to fall apart, we’re coming forward with bold, radical ideas for changing Britain. There is absolutely no complacency. Plan for change We have a clear plan for change: to rebuild our battered economy, to renew our bureaucratised NHS, and to repair our broken society. Our plan for

Tories have no plans to scrap school building projects

Can you guess what the following three true statements have in common ? 1) The Conservatives are not planning to cancel any school building projects 2) The Conservatives are not anti-nuclear 3) John Redwood does not support the "Railtrack" model of rail privitisaion Answer - untrue statements from the New Labour spin machine have been made on all these subjects this week. Shane Greer notes here that the Labour Party website has essentially accused the Conservatives of planning to cancel hundreds of school building projects: However, this is not true. The Conservative paper that Labour is referring to makes clear that no building projects would be cancelled. Rather, they’d be taking £1.5 billion a year from the Building Schools for the Future fund for allocation after 2011. Why 2011? Because no funds have been allocated past 2011. And where would this £1.5billion go? Into building new academy schools! Then, in the Whitehaven News this week, "Jedie" Jamie Reed (Lab

Scrap ID cards

I was pleased to see that Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve has kept up the attack on the government's expensive and over-rated ID cards project. Even before the repeated fiascos in which the government kept losing people's personal data, I had doubts about ID cards because of the risk that innocent people who forgot to carry the damn things would become at best the recipients of police attention better directed at genuine criminals, and at worst would find that having a bad memory or being disorganised had become a criminal offence. Now that the government has proved conclusively that it cannot be trusted with the data in such a system, the prospect of criminals getting hold of the information in the ID card database and doing far more damage should be blindingly obvious. Dominic Grive said this week that it is “high time” Labour abandon their "ill-fated" ID cards project after Jacqui Smith unveiled the design of ID cards for foreign nationals. The Shadow Home Sec

Cameron on the Credit Crisis

Interviewed on the Credit Crunch and other issues by Sky, David Cameron said that * he recommends urgent action on deposit protection and a lead role for the Bank of England in managing financial rescues. * The underlying economic problem is too much debt. Referring to the impact of energy prices he said that he had a gas bill over £1,000 last year and an oil bill of over £1,000. In response to Gordon Brown's "No Time for a Novice" jibe, DC replied that the PM may have experience but his experience has been of bungling the regulation of the financial sector, and building up the largest ever fiscal deficit. You can watch an extract from the Sky interview on "Conservative Home" here. )

What a difference 18 months makes

Gordon Brown attacked David Cameron this week for supposedly using his family as political props. But as Iain Dale pointed out, in April last year Number Ten's press office issued to the media this photograph. ) Sauce for the goose ...

Ernest McConnell RIP

I was saddened and surprised to learn that Ernest McConnell, one of my Bransty ward constituents and, among many other things, Churchwarden at St James' church for many years, died suddenly on Monday of this week. Ernest was a very warm, friendly man who had a great sense of humour, and often a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He had made a vast contribution to the Whitehaven community and will be missed. His funeral will take place at St James' on Monday, September 29, at 1.45pm

Johnson House update

Following the call in of Copeland Council's executive deciding to sell land at Johnson house, the Executive has considered the recommendation from the panel which reviewed the decision. They decided to properly advertise the proposed sale, as should have been done in the first place, and to hold further discussions with the potential buyers and the neighbours: the executive has also requested a report on some of the other issues raised by the call in. There is grounds for optimism that an honorable compromise may be found for the site, and it does appear that at least some of the serious concerns which came out during the call-in may be addressed, but anyone who has been following the story of Johnson House will be aware that Copeland Council has some important learning points from this episode.

Official: Home Information Packs have failed

A secret Government report has condemned Home Information Packs (HIPs) as "a waste of time". The damning report, only made public because of a Parliamentary Question from the Conservatives, savages Labour's flagship housing policy. Grant Shapps, the Shadow Minister for Housing, said Labour had been "caught red-handed" trying to hide this damning indictment of Home Information Packs. And he promised a Conservative Government would abolish this unnecessary piece of red tape: "Home Information Packs have served to undermine the housing market, increased the cost of buying and selling a home and discouraged speculative sellers." Almost 4,000 buyers, sellers and estate agents across the country were surveyed for the Government report.

Yougov poll predicts Tory majority of 128 seats

An exclusive Politics Home study of 35,000 voters in 238 marginal constituencies, based on fieldwork carried out by YouGov predicts that if an election were held now the Conservatives would win 398 seats, Labour 160, and the Lib/Dems 44. This is one of the largest surveys of marginal seats ever attempted. You can read a report summarising the results here, ) Marginal seats have been grouped into 17 categegories, and an overall swing based on the total votes in that category applied to Anthony Wells' estimate of the notional 2005 results. In terms of the overall national position the evidence provided by this survey is quite powerful, but in terms of individual seats, where the sample sizes were between 100 and 400, not too much weight should be given to it. For example, one of the categories consists of the four Labour-held seats in Cumbria, where 536 adults took part, of whom on a standard voting intention 39% intended to vote Conservative, 36% Labour, and 16% Lib/Dem. (They asked

Feedback from Keswick & District Neighbourhood Forum

I attended this evening's meeting of the above forum at the Borrowdale Institute in Rosthwaite. The meeting was so well attended that not everybody could get in, and some of us ended up standing in the kitchen! The reason for this high level of attendance was that bus services in the Borrowdale valley have just been cut back, particularly in the evening, and local residents were keen to know if their representatives could do anything about it. After a lengthy discussion had made clear some of the concerns, it was agreed to look at organising a special meeting in about a month's time, which representatives with expert knowledge of the issue would be invited to attend. Other issues on the agenda included the transport plan, and a presentation from a director of Allerdale Council about the Council's improvement plan.

Kavanagh on Brown

Trevor Kavanagh, formerly political editor of the Sun, eviscerates Brown's economic legacy in an article in today's paper, "We'll all pay for PM cheating on Prudence" Among his points: * "As Chancellor, Gordon ran the economy in much the same way as the bosses of troubled companies such as HBOS and Northern Rock. * While preaching “prudence”, he doubled spending and borrowed like there was no tomorrow. * He kept billions off the books by using costly and badly negotiated “Private Finance Initiatives” to build hospitals and schools. That piled an extra £150 BILLION on to State borrowing — taking the total to 45 per cent of national earnings. And add on another £1,300 billion in unfunded public sector borrowing — and £1,000billion in private borrowing for mortgages, credit cards and overdrafts. That lot works out at around £2,500billion — or £40,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in Britain, now and for years to come. Meanwhile, our savings have plum

Regenerating Whitehaven

My colleague and fellow Bransty councillor Allan Mossop had an excellent letter in this week's Whitehaven news about the need for more action to prevent the decline of our local economy. Highlights from his letter include: SIR – Yet another shop (Steve’s Paints) in Whitehaven town centre is closing down. When is Copeland Council going to stop sleepwalking into disaster and do something to stop the decline of the town centre? At the meeting in the Civic Hall a few months ago ... a number of suggestions were put forward that might have helped to stop the drip, drip of business closures in and around the town. To date, so far as I am aware, absolutely nothing has been acted on as a result of that meeting. This newspaper made an offer to be part of the initiative, and relay any events or happenings to the public. Up to now the only news items have been regarding book-keeping practices within the council finance department worthy of any banana republic, plus a totally unacceptable plann

Alan Sugar then and now

I am indebted to Ian Dale for pointing out the contrast between what Sir Alan Sugar has been saying this week about how wonderful Gordon Brown is with what the then Mr Alan Sugar was saying sixteen years ago. I would not dream of suggesting that Sir Alan's comments in a TV interview this summer, and opening the Labour conference, about how wonderful the Prime Minister is amount to toadying - first because it takes a brave man to say anything positive about Gordon Brown in the current climate, and secondly because I don't want to risk a class action from any toads who are reading this blog. But there is an interesting contrast with the letter which he wrote to the Financial Times in March 1992 condemning Gordon Brown in scathing terms and defending the then Conservative government. Iain has helpfully posted the 1992 letter and some of Sir Alan's current comments for comparison (see here. )

Sunday Spot - Tony Benn on death threats

One of the occupational hazards of being involved in politics at anything above the level of backbench councillor is the need to judge when people who threaten to kill you are actually making a serious death threat which needs to be reported to the police and when they are just indulging in hot air which is best ignored. Unfortunately the only safe rule is that if you are in the least doubt you had better report it - which means another waste of police time. Tony Benn had an amusing item on the subject at the tail end of his "My Week" piece in today's Sunday Times ... NATIONAL TREASURE? NO THANKS I got a death threat the other day. I was very chuffed as I’ve not had one for years. Once I was called the most dangerous man in Britain; now I’m told I’m a national treasure. That’s the final corruption in life: you become a kindly, harmless old gentleman. I am kindly, I am old and I can be a gentleman, but I’m not harmless. When I was a minister, a man wrote to say he was goin

HMG should support both English and Scots jobs

The merger document between Lloyds TSB and HBOS included a pledge to 'keep jobs in Scotland', as well as stating that its 'management focus' would be on saving as many posts north of the Border. According to both the blogosphere and some of the MSM such as the Telegraph (see here, ) this was partly the result of pressure from the government. To quote from the telegraph article, "The Chancellor pleaded with the bosses of the new super-bank, formed when Lloyds TSB completed its emergency takeover of HBOS, to save as many posts as possible north of the Border. Similarly he admitted making 'very clear' that HBOS's headquarters should remain in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital for which he is an MP." I do not for a moment suggest that the government should not have tried to limit the impact of job losses, but they need to ensure that support for jobs is done on an even-handed basis. There are plenty of parts of England and Wales where the economic situat

In today's Economist Magazine

Today's Economist has an interesting article: "Who killed New Labour" which is well worth a read. A key sentence from the article to give you the flavour: Mr Blair said of the Tories in 1994: “Their philosophy is done. Their experiment is over.” New Labour seems, at the moment, to have reached that point too. Old age, penury, Mr Cameron, Mr Brown: they are all incriminated. But, in the end, New Labour killed itself.” You can read the full article on the Economist website here.

Don't wreck the City, warns Cameron

David Cameron has warned in an FT article that, with huge and valid concerns about the stability and performance of financial institutions, it is important to avoid the kind of populist over-reaction which would prevent them from doing their legitimate job. This is particularly important in a country like Britain where the City of London provides a significant proportion of our national income. We do need to review the regulatory climate, but it is important not to introduce the kind of excessive and over-bureaucractic regime which will simply send business abroad. So far the mainstream Labour party has avoided this pitfall, but the "usual suspects" are starting to come up with attacks on capitalism, and even Polly Toynbee made a very tasteless comment about wanting to see more City bankers committing suicide. A few more examples of such comments, as Conservative Home pointed out: "The good news is, there'll now be a realisation - even George Bush sees this now - tha

This month's "pot calling the kettle black" award.

Apparently Hariet Harman has said that David Cameron "wants women for one thing and one thing only - their votes." As Jane Moore put it in The Sun, and next week Russell Brand accuses Calum Best of only wanting women for sex.

IPSOS - MORI has Conservatives on 52%

According to Mike Smithson on the Political Betting website, an IPSOS - MORI poll for the Press Association which is about to be published has the following voting intention figures Conservatives 52% Labour 24% Lib/Dems 12%

Fisking Sadiq Khan

One of the more unpleasant types of hypocrisy affecting many on the left is the ungracious way they too often react when a rival party promotes someone from a group they have championed and regard as natural supporters. Often the left attacks the individual concerned in a way they would instantly brand as racist, sexist, or bigotry if anyone on the right was stupid enough to use the same tactics. Classic example this week is a ridiculous attack by Labour whip Sadiq Khan on Conservative shadow minister Baroness Warsi. The comments he has made which I have fisked here are as reported on the Telegraph website, which refers to a pamphlet which he has published. The Daily Telegraph reports Sadiq Khan as alleging that Baroness Warsi was given her post as a shadow communities minister as part of a "opportunistic courtship of the Muslim vote" by a "cynical Tory Party," David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has used the "Tory spin machine" to make out that his pa

Support the Gurhkas

Veterans of the Gurkha regiment risked their lives fighting as bravely for this country as any soldiers ever born. I am deeply ashamed that the High Court case in advance of which veterans form the regiment have been protesting had to be brought. We need a balanced, non-racist immigration policy which reflects the manpower needs of this country, the number of people our public services can support, and what individual applicants can offer. But I do not see how any reasonable person could oppose inclusion in our immigration policy of the principle that people who have risked their lives for this country should have the right to live here.

Labour MP criticises Brown's first year as PM

Gisela Stuart MP has written an article in the Party Conference season special edition of The House Magazine which is extremely critical of Gordon Brown's premiership, according to the Birmingham Post. The newspaper writes that "Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said Labour under Mr Brown had failed to come up with fresh ideas and had forgotten how to communicate with voters. She criticised Government policies on dealing with terrorism and the European Union ... "When Mr Brown came to power, Labour MPs were humming “Things Can Only Get Better”, the theme song used for the party’s triumphant election campaign in 1997, she said. She added: “Today it’s more likely to mean ‘surely it can’t get much worse’.” You can read the Birmingham Post article which describes Gisela Stuart's attack on Brown on their website here.

David Cameron warns against complacency

David Cameron spoke to staff at the Conservative Campaign centre this morning. After thanking those present for their hard work over August, he said that "The main thing I want to say is that I think the real danger we have at the moment is the danger of in any way looking complacent .... "That deal is never sealed until that cross goes in the ballot paper." You can see the full clip on Webcameron (see link at right) or at the Conservative Home website here.

Lib/Dems come out for Cameron

I have had an email from Sajjad Karim MEP with details of a letter he and several other former Lib/Dems who now support the Conservatives have sent to the Guardian this week. You can read their letter on the Guardian website here. In Copeland, where the 17,000 jobs depend on the nuclear industry and therefore an anti-nuclear party like the Lib/Dems have no chance of coming better than a porr third place, the points which Saj and his colleagues make are particularly apposite. Obviously Lib/Dems and tories will never agree on everything. But we do agree on some of the things which this government is doing wrong - for example, both parties would scrap ID cards and oppose the idea of locking up suspects without charge for 42days. In constituencies like Copeland, where only the Conservatives can defeat Labour, the most effective way to vote against illiberal policies such as ID cards and 42-day detention without charge is to vote Conservative.

Sunday spot - on chauvinism

The following quote from a book on (primarily male) chauvinism was drawn to my attention recently. "A chauvinist believes that 'Where you go, I will go' was said by a woman to a man." I suggest a more balanced version of that statement might read something like this: "A male chauvinist, or someone who is more familiar with the history and customs of Ancient Rome than with the Bible, believes that 'Where you go, I will go' was said by a woman to a man. "A female chauvinist, or someone whose knowledge of the bible is superior to her knowledge of Ancient Rome, believes that 'Where you go, I will go' was said by one woman to another. "A well informed person knows that both are correct." Postscript I was asked for the source on these. 1) The promise "Ubi tu Gaius, ego gaia" (Where you go, I will go) was the wedding vow which brides in Ancient Rome made to their grooms. 2) In the bible, after both their husbands had died, the Mo

Let's not get complacent but ...

Another analysis in the Guardian, this time from Martin Kettle called "Message of the polls" which was published earlier this week. The Guardian is becoming to New Labour what Private Fraser what to Captain Mannering's platoon - constantly repeating "We're all doomed!"

Different views does not mean stupid

Dominic Lawson began a piece in the Indy this week with the following comment: "It is one of the most cherished illusions of the left that conviction politicians of the right are stupid: not just wrong, but actually obtuse. The consequences of such prejudice are obvious: colossal underestimation, leading to blind arrogance, and thus electoral defeat." Although this statement is completely true, it is unfortunately also the case that far too many Tories make exactly the same mistake about left-wingers and many Lib/Dems are equally quick to jump to the same wrong conclusion about anybody on the left or the right. No political view has a monopoly of intelligence or stupidity. No names or pack-drill, but I've certainly met some Conservatives who made Piers from "The New Statesman" look bright, some socialists who could perform the same office for two short planks, and some Lib/Dems who have less common sense than the average five-year old. I have also met people in

The politics of personal abuse

It is a sad fact that rather too much of politics these days consists of personal attacks on opposing candidates. I am not saying that those who put themselves forward for office should be immune from criticism, especially if they deserve it. But there is far too much abuse which is false, utterly irrelevant to the office which the person attacked holds or is standing for, or worst of all, drags the family or children of candidates into the mud. I have been following the US elections with fascination. There has been much that is good about the way the American primary system gives enormous opporunities for ordinary voters to influence the outcome, and I can also see some immensely positive things about both John McCain and Barack Obama. There are also things about their system which I really don't like, including the cost, the consequent effect on their politics of the need for candidates to raised huge sums of money, and the amount of mud which all too frequently gets thrown aroun

Report on Johnson House call-in published

The report of the three-person scrutiny team who investigated the proposed Johnson House sale has now been published as part of the Agenda for the 16th September meeting of Copeland Council's Executive. A fairly comprehensive summary is given on the front page of tomorrow's Whitehaven News which you can read on their website here. It is difficult to disagree with my colleague Alistair Norwood's description of this as a "damning" report, since it is clear that in a number of respects the arrangements to sell the land was mismanaged. The report also suggests a constructive way forward. Among the concerns raised by the scrutiny group: * The land should have been classed as Open Space and accordingly advertised as prescribed by section 123 (2A) of the Local GOvernment Act 1972. * The Formal valuation of the land was not made until August 28 2008 – 16 days after the Executive considered its report on the land disposal. The scrutiny tribunal's report says “The Exec

Newsflash - Hell freezes over !!!

Which I would have expected to happen before The Guardian even considers the possiblity of not supporting Labour. But today an editorial called "Progress in Blue" begins as follows: "There have been moments in the postwar history of Britain when people who would naturally be inclined to vote Labour have been driven to ask themselves whether the return of a Conservative government would be the worst possible outcome for the country or for the general cause of progress? For those in Britain who think of themselves as progressives, the answer has usually been an unhesitating yes. Nevertheless there is a reasonable and sober body of historical work which reaches the judgment that there have, indeed, been times when Labour has deserved to lose. We may be approaching another moment for difficult questions." You can read the full article here.

Violent crime up in rural areas

New analysis by the Conservatives show significant increases in violent crime in England and Wales, including in rural areas. Total violent crime has increased by 93 per cent in rural areas since 1998-99, compared to the average of 78 per cent for England and Wales. Violence against the person has increased by 98 per cent, compared to 91 per cent nationally. Sexual offences have increased by nearly two-thirds, compared to 15 per cent nationally. Robbery is up by 30 per cent, compared to 27 per cent nationally. Shadow Home Secretary, Dominic Grieve, said: "Violent crime is one of labour's biggest failures causing untold misery to too many up and down the country. These figures show that people in rural areas are often hit the hardest. This comes as they are suffering from post office closures and GP surgery closures. "Labour have run out of ideas. All they can offer are more gimmicks and failed initiatives. This makes them part of the problem, not the solution." In Cu

Feedback from Copeland Council

The September meeting of Copeland Council took place this afternoon. Having complained at some recent meetings that the Executive reports had been a bit thin we were pleased to see a very comprehensive report this time which generated more than a few questions. Key points of interest: 1) A report on the state of Copeland's accounts will be coming to Audit committee on 24th September. It is recognised that the present situation with the accounts is very unsatisfactory and it will be interesting to see what the report says about how the council fell into the situation were we have two sets of accounts not signed off, and lots of money having to be spent to put it righ. 2) A decision on the site for a new hospital will need to be made before the end of the year. It is universally agreed by Copeland councillors, and included in the Masterplan, that this needs to be in Whitehaven, although it is not true that the council regards Pow Beck as a favoured site. 3) There was negligible in

Feedback on Millom Neighbourhood Forum

Attended the Millom Neighbourhood forum which took place in Haverigg Cricket Club this evening, chaired by Cllr Ray Cole. Main agenda items 1) Presentation by Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland Borough Council, about the possibility of a nuclear waste repository. This sparked a lively debate. 2) Presentation by James Fraser from Cumbria PCT and David Lemare from Adult Social Care at CCC about the current consultation on adult Mental health care in Cumbria. This sparked an even more lively debate. The consultation is open until 30th September so if you have views about the services provided for adults with mental health issue in Cumbria, PLEASE SEND IN YOUR VIEWS before the end of the month. 3) PC Sue Addyman gave a presentation about Neighbourhood policing in the Millom area, including Operation Cardinal, which is a crackdown against violent crime and the intimidation of victims and potential witnesses.

Lib/Dem bloggers attack Clegg over tax plans

Some Liberal Democrat bloggers have highlighted the confusion over their own party's tax plans. For example, there is a post called "Clegg goes bonkers again" on a Lib/Dem site which you can read here. at

Cliff Richard's domestic arrangements

I have no interest in who lives in Cliff Richard's House. But looking at the photograph of the singer which accompanied his press release on the subject, there is a question I certainly would like to ask him. Since Cliff Richard was an adult when I was born, and appears to have hardly aged in that time, I would like to know who did the painting in his attic, and is the artist still taking commissions?

Cannon to the right, cannon to the left

The fire being directed at Gordon Brown in the press today is quite astonishing. Two of the most influential columnists on the right and left are both calling for the Prime Minister to go. Matthew Paris in The Times describes the collapse of Gordon Brown's leadership as a "national emergency" and suggests that "Britain is heading into a recession with a doomed and flailing leadership at the helm." He argues that in their own interests as well as that of the country the Cabinet should persuade the Prime Minister to resign. You can read the full article here. Meanwhile in the Guardian Polly Toynbee, who used to be one of GB's strongest supporters in the press, makes a surprisingly similar argument from a left-wing perspective. She lays into the Prime Minsiter and those who have not attempted to remove him in extraordinarily strong language. Her article "Unseating Gordon Brown may be Labour's last chance" begins by saying that “... The smell of

New hospitals boss takes up position

Carole Heatly, the new chief exec of the trust which runs West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary, has taken up her post more than a month early. She started work on Monday, even though she had not been due to take over until the end of October. More details on my hospitals blog (see link at right)

Johnson House call-in

The report on the Johnson House call in has been postponed again. It will now be available to Councillors on Monday but is not expected to be published until it has been to the Executive. I think it is very important that this report is seen to be dealt with in a transparent way and the concerns that were raised during the call-in process are addressed.

Britain should opt out of plans for "in absentia" trials

I am deeply concerned by the proposal that EU citizens could be tried in absentia for crimes alleged in another European country and then automatically extradited. The proposals, which have been approved by the European Parliament, would mean that British people could be convicted in their absence by foreign courts, and then immediately extradited to another European country on the basis of an "in absentia" guilty verdict in its courts for offences carrying fines or custodial sentences. In a joint statement the Parliament said: "The EU wants to create a common area for justice, which requires the mutual recognition of criminal law judgments by member states." The proposals, which were put forward by seven countries, including Britain, were described by the European Criminal Bar Association (ECBA) as being "by their very nature a violation of the fundamental procedural rights of the accused". In a letter to MEPs, the ECBA said: "The rights of European

Another important Health Consultation begins

Anyone interested in the future of health in Cumbria should have a look at a consulation document which has just been been published on the future arrangements for pharmacies and dispensing practices. These proposals are likely to affect two GP practices in Copeland - one in Seascale and one in Whitehaven - and may result in the closure of Bootle surgery if they go ahead as planned. You can find the document online at

Johnson House call-in

The decision by Copeland Council's executive to sell land at Johnson House was "called in" last month for further consideration by the relevant "Overview and Scrutiny" committee. Due to the short timescales in which a decision had to be taken and the difficulty getting a full meeting together at this time of year, the committee set up a panel of three councillors to examine the issues and call witnesses. The report of that panel was originally due to come out earlier this week. There has been a slightl delay but the report is now expected within 48 hours and is likely to make interesting reading.

Another botched Labour effort to copy Tory proposals

It is sometimes alleged, usually by Labour supporters, that the Conservatives do not have any policies. Actually this is nonsense, but David Cameron is faced with the need to hold some of our plans until the election is finally called, because when we do publish proposals the government often nicks them. This would not be a bad thing if they implemented them properly, but quite often what we get is a half-hearted mess which may discredit the policy - as for instance over the botched attempt to taxation "non-domiciled" residents which ended up scaring away some high-earning foreign residents without bringing in a penny of extra tax revenue. They have done it again this week. Where the Conservatives want to scrap stamp duty for nine out of ten first time house buyers, Labour is to suspend stamp duty on house purchases below £175,000 for one year. But as with the way Labour did a half-hearted copy of our plans on inheritance tax which did not go far enough, this latest Labour at

Appropriate punishments for false accusations ...

Recent events appear to suggest that there is a need for much clearer sentencing guidelines for people who knowingly and maliciously make a false accusation against someone else. The instances which have caused most controversy involve false accusations of rape but the argument applies to any other false accusation. There is good reason to believe that real cases of rape are a genuine and growing problem. Accordiny to a survey by the Channel 4 show Dispatches, one in four women has had her drink spiked with a date-rape drug. People working on the study questioned 750 women in 16 cities across the UK. In 1994, 169 incidents involving allegations of date rape drugs were reported to the police, but last year this had reached 998. That’s almost a six-fold rise. The proportion of rape allegations leading to a conviction is only 5%. This very probably indicates that far too many actual rapists are getting away with their crime, but knee-jerk measures to try to raise the conviction rate will

Feedback from meetings today

Two meetings today 1) A meeting of the Economic Development O&S Committee of Copeland council. I attended the parts of this meeting which related to planning enforcement and planning appeals. The other part of the meeting related to the proposals to close a number of BT phone boxes (reported separately on this blog). I was not present for this part of the meeting, because as a BT employee I had previously declared an interest in this item and felt that it would not be appropriate for me be in the room. 2) There was also a meeting of the Bransty and Harbour Neighbourhood forum, which unfortunately at the last moment I was unable to attend because of a domestic issue. The main agenda item was a presentation by the Leader of Copeland Council, Elaine Woodburn, about the possibility of a nuclear repository in the borough.

Spare first-time buyers the stamp-duty burden

The Conservatives have proposed that nine out of ten first time buyers should not have to pay stamp duty. Under Labour, Stamp Duty has become a major barrier for those looking to get onto the housing ladder. More people are paying it: research by the Halifax bank shows that homebuyers in nearly a third of local authorities now face a Stamp Duty bill equivalent to a fifth of average local full-time earnings. Five years ago, this was the case in only 5% of local authorities. The cost has risen: in 1997, the average homebuyer did not pay any Stamp Duty on their first home; but today’s first-time buyers have to pay an average of £1,600 to the Treasury. This represents a huge outlay at a time when cash is already tight. We believe in encouraging homeownership, not putting obstacles in people’s way. And that is why the next Conservative Government will abolish Stamp Duty for 9 out of 10 first-time buyers. Anyone who buys their first home for under £250,000 will pay no Stamp Duty at all. This

Labour - the new Nasty Party

Vicky Woods had an excellent article in the weekend's Telegraph called When did Labour become the nasty party? It makes some very powerful points about how the power of the state to boss ordinary people around has increased out of all proportion to justice or common sense. Although the increase in state power which she rightly criticises has been particularly marked under the present government, there have been similar moves under governments of both parties and it is extremely important that the next Conservative government makes a serious effort to roll back the extent of bureaucratic interference in people's lives. The article begins with a coruscating attack on the national children's database: "I was stunned to read this week about the stupidly named "ContactPoint": the children's database that is almost ready to be launched. "ContactPoint" will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11?million under-18s in England as well as inform