Showing posts from December, 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