Showing posts from 2009

A New Year's message from David Cameron

David Cameron writes: 2010 will be election year. After all the false starts and speculation, now we know for sure that the country will have a chance to vote for change this year. Within days, the gloves will be off and the arguments will begin. But as we enter this year of intense political activity, I think it's important for all politicians to remember something. While those in the Westminster village might eagerly be limbering up for a frantic few months of speeches and launches and strategies and tactics - and all the hoopla of today's politics - most people in the country will be contemplating the prospect of months of electioneering with emotions somewhere on a scale between indifference and dread: and that is something we need to change. But we'll only do that if we recognise the reasons why politics is broken. First and foremost it's because the expenses scandal is not a chapter that comes to a close as we move into a new year. It is an ongoing reminder of a d

A realistic forecast for 2010 and a "fantasy" one

The New Statesman website has two extremely different predictions for 2010 Peter Kellner the (Labour leaning) Chairman of the Yougov polling company has this message for labour optimists: " Get Real !" At the other extreme, James Mackintyre, who predicted last year in his Political Predictions for 2009 that "By the end of the year, the two main parties will have switched positions in the polls, with the Conservatives heading into 2010 languishing below 30 per cent." gets out his crystal ball again and makes a prediction for 2010 which he himself describes as Fantasy Politics . I am not sure how serious this prediction is supposed to be, particularly given the title: it predicts a 6th May election (that date is plausible) in which BBC and ITV exit polls project a Conservative majority of 30 to 50 seats but when the actual votes are counted Labour have emerged as the largest party in a hung parliament. This reminds me of an article in one of the papers just before t

A very Merry Christmas to everyone reading this

Complements of the season and best wishes for a very happy Christmas holiday to everyone reading this blog, wherever you are and regardless of what you believe.

A Copeland anecdote

A few weeks ago a Lib/Dem blogger who uses the non-de-plume "Yellow Submarine" posted the anecdote below on a "Political Betting" thread. The following day, when asked which seat he had been talking about, "Yellow Submarine" subsequently confirmed that the constitutency concerned was Copeland. "Anecdote Alert: I spent a week recently in a northern Labour constituency that survived the 1983 Falklands landslide. Labour activists I went to school with talked openly about being “in deep ****” and ” completely ****ed”. They are fighting for their lives and think there is a realistic prospect they’ll lose the seat. One particulalry telling exchange was about the “guilt” some canvassers were experiencing because there was so much direct Lab/BNP switching going on they thought it might just save them as a certain sort of person just wouldn’t vote Tory ( This bizarre heirarchy of stigma tells you a lot about some WWC areas). However the most shocking thing abo

Bransty Landslip

By a strange coincidence I was on Bransty Hill delivering Christmas cards when I got a message that there had been a landslip at the Bransty cliffs. Fortunately nobody was hurt. Went to check: the area is clearly signed. But if you are walking anywhere near the cliffs at Bransty this holiday (above or below them), do take care.

DC on supporting our troops at Christmas

David Cameron writes ... As the snow falls across our country this week, let's remember the soldiers who are serving in the wind and frost of Afghanistan. Christmas is a tough time to be away from your family, and for many families, this Christmas will be especially painful as they think of the loved ones they have lost this past year. But every single soldier and all their families should know that the whole country is right behind them and incredibly grateful for the work that they do. Earlier this month, I made my fourth trip to Afghanistan. As you can see in this video, I got to see a bit of what life can be like for our troops. Just before I arrived, President Obama announced a big increase in American troops for Afghanistan. If you add in the extra soldiers Britain is sending over, we now have the best chance to ensure that our counter-insurgency campaign is successful, deliver a safer country to the Afghan authorities, and then bring our brave troops back home. One of the b

The big freeze and Rational Expectations

If you are travelling in the present frosty conditions, do take extra care. I've just got back from a trip to Birmingham on business. Most people I met on my travels were careful and considerate. There was one lunatic who overtook several cars on the road to Great Clifton at about 6 am this morning, who was travelling well over the speed limit in conditions of total darkness and when there was ice and snow on main roads in the immediate vicinity. One did think "Darwin Award candidate." But lots of other people were the soul of courtesy, from the police civilian who got out of his car when the A66 was blocked to advise other drivers of progress with sending for snow ploughs, to colleagues at the telephone exchange in Penrith who helped me deal with snow there. As BT's Business Travel Unit is a great deal more effective at keeping expenses claims under control than the House of Commons Fees unit appears to have been, I had booked my travel well in advance, on trains whi

"Reliable Sources"

Earlier this evening the Labour PPC for Skipton and Ripon, Claire Hazelgrove, put this comment on Twitter: "Have now heard rumour from a number of reliable sources of new MORI poll placing the Tories on 37, and Labour on 34. Let's wait and see!" The actual results of the IPSOS MORI poll concerned, taken some time ago but only published this evening, came out a couple of hours later and were rather different from that rumour: they were CONSERVATIVE 43% (Up from 37% in the last MORI poll) LABOUR 26% (Down from 31%) LIB/DEM 20% (Up from 17%) OTHERS 11% (Down from 16%) Which only goes to show that if there is one thing sillier than reading too much into one opinion poll it is paying attention to rumours about an opinion poll. MORI use different methods to adjust for sampling error to those of other pollsters. For example. they do not weight their samples by past vote, and they only includes those who say they are 100% certain to vote. This means that MORI predictions ten

From the Guardian ...

The Guardian are not renowned for side splitting humour (except occasionally unintentionally) but hat tip to Political Betting for this item from that paper: An English cat, "One Two Three" and a French cat, "Un Deux Trois" had a boating race. Who won? Answer: the English cat, "One Two Three." Because Un Deux Trois Quatre Cinq ....

There is no "honour" in murdering your daughter

News coverage of the tragic story of Tulay Goren, whose father has just been convicted of murdering her, suggests that so-called "Honour Killings" are claiming a victim every month . It is offensive to call these murders 'honour killings', because there is nothing honourable about them. To kill your daughter or sister can never redeem your family's honour, it destroys it by proving you to be a particlarly depraved criminal. What is even more extraordinary is that these murders are being linked to the rise in certain forms of fundamentalist religion. There is no valid religious justification for murder, and the perpetrators of such crimes should not be allowed to hide behind any faith. It would not justify these crimes if the perpetrators could point to a passage in the Koran or any other holy book as the inspiration for their actions, but in fact it is my understanding that no major faith or sacred text calls on the adherents of that religion to enforce it's p

Martin Kettle on what the polls are really saying

Hat tip to Mike Smithson at Political Betting for recommending this article by Martin Kettle in the Guardian. Kettle's article "Not even Cameron can control the politics of anger" suggests that the next election will take place against a backdrop of enormous hostility to government - the present government in particular, but to some extent the whole political system has been discredited and whoever wins the next election will have a very difficult time. He has some astute comments on the "self deception" of some Labour politicians and supporters who appear to think that the next election is "game on" because a very modest firming of their position has some opinion polls showing them only nine points behind. As he says "It is one thing to be misled by polls and local elections that are actually in your favour, as Harold Wilson was when he called the 1970 election. It is quite another thing to get carried away – as some in the Labour party are –

Cameron visits Barker crossing

David Cameron and shadow farms secretary Nick Herbert were in Cumbria today: their itinerary included a visit to Barker crossing - the new footbridge built by the army in Workington and named in honour of PC Bill Barker who lost his life while saving those of others during the floods. I was of course pleased to see David and Nick making the effort to visit Cumbria and see the work which is being done to recover from the floods. One spontanous incident which I found particularly moving happened at the bridge just before DC arrived. One of the people who met him at the bridge was the Brigadier commanding the unit which includes all the regular and TA units in the North West of England, 42 Brigade, which provided the majority of the 200 soldiers who built the bridge. As he was telling us, there were service people from various parts of the country involved, particularly armoured sappers who are used to building bridges for tanks, but also local TA members who were helping their own commun

DC: Labour have lost the right to govern

David Cameron points out that, by their failure to take the decisions the country needs, last week Labour lost the moral authority to run Britain. He writes "Their Pre-Budget Report on Wednesday was an opportunity to finally confront the biggest budget deficit in Britain's peacetime history. Instead, they put their own political fortunes ahead of what is right for our country. Not only did they decide to carry on their irresponsible spending, but they're actually increasing it next year. "Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling just don't seem to care about the risks they are running. As I say in this video, it's as if they're a couple of joy-riders in a car smashing up the neighbourhood, not caring about what is going to happen and not caring about anyone who might have to take over the mess they have created. "It's clear that all they care about now is politics. Just look at the reports about Brown personally overruling the Treasury's advice on th

Labour: a party no longer fit to govern

The Sunday Times does not pull its' punches today in describing the miserable failure of Labour's Pre-Budget Report to address the issues facing Britain. Their main leader article, "A party no longer fit to govern" begins as follows: "When Alistair Darling delivered his pre-budget report, the public had a right to expect three things. He needed to set out a credible plan to get public borrowing down. He had to be honest about the scale of spending cuts needed during the next parliament. And, if he chose to announce tax rises, they would be for reducing the debt, not spending even more on Britain’s public sector. "The chancellor failed on all three counts." You can read the full article here .

Millom Christmas Fair

I took the family down to Millom yesterday to attend the town's christmas fair, held in and around a big marquee in the market square. The fair was a big success, and was well attended. There was a good variety of stalls and events which obviously represented a lot of work for many people. Fortunately the weather was much better than we have generally been enjoying for the past couple of weeks. My children greatly enjoyed their outing.

The Sun shreds the PBR

The Sun editorial today "Darling Duds" is very critical of the Pre-Budget Report (and IMHO rightly so). As they say, "LABOUR had one last chance yesterday to show it was serious about cutting Britain's crippling debts. It threw that chance away. And with it may have gone Britain's financial reputation." and "Chancellor Alistair Darling's Pre-Budget Report was in reality a Pre-Election Report. "He set out Labour's political stall while skating around the crushing £800billion Britain owes. "Faced with disaster in the public finances and the failure of his own projections, Mr Darling might have been expected to change course. "Instead, the Chancellor buried his head in the sand." You can read the full article here . Postscript A little naughty but their front page today - number nine in this gallery - may also be one of the headlines that people always remember.

Labour puts off the pain until after the election

Today's Pre-Budget Report (PBR) was a disgrace. It was an exercise in deferring the pain of the tough decisions which are needed until after next year's election. Because the Labour government have failed to take those tough decisions before the election, there will be higher taxes and higher interest rates if Labour win the election. The central measure was a tax on jobs that hits everyone earning over £20,000 – well below the median wage. That is Labour’s definition of the “well off”. As George Osborne said, if you want to get ahead, if you want to buy your house, if you want to save for your pension, if you want to leave anything for your kids, Labour is no longer the party for you. Labour have failed to deal with the £178bn deficit, cancelled the pre-election Comprehensive Spending Review, and instead said that a Labour victory at the election would mean: £7.8 billion higher taxes - £370 more per family - after the election Of this £6.5 billion - £310 more per family – is a

Two years for new bridges

A report in the News and Star today says that it is likely to take two years until permanent replacements for the Northside and Calva bridges in Workington are open. Cumbria County Council announced yesterday that it hopes to have a temporary road crossing over the River Derwent by next summer. Council leader Jim Buchanan said: “We are moving as fast as we possibly can. There is no way that we could move more quickly than we are doing.” A dozen bridges across Cumbria remain closed after the floods. They include Gote Bridge in Cockermouth, Great Broughton Bridge and Ouse Bridge at Bassenthwaite. CCC engineers have drawn up six options for permanent and temporary road crossings. We need to hold the government to the Prime Minsiter's promise that the government will meet local authority costs for flood repairs and rebuilding.

Saj Karim on EU help for Cumbria

Sajjad Karim MEP, with his Conservative colleagues Sir Robert Atkins and Jacqueline Foster, have been working to persuade the European Union to provide help for Cumbria in response to the floods. Saj sent me an email on the subject today and I thought it was worth sharing a few points from that message. Dear Friends and Colleagues Meeting with EU Commissioner Samecki regarding Cumbria Floods Further to my previous update about what actions I have taken with reference to Cumbria, I can confirm that no response has been received from the Government in relation to my call for them to apply for EU funding to assist Cumbria in the aftermath of the devastation caused by the floods. Yesterday, I met with European Commissioner Pawel Samecki, who is the European Commissioner for Regional Policy. The management of the EU Solidarity Fund is within his remit, so I was keen to meet him to discuss Cumbria’s case and what could be achieved with the solidarity fund to assist Cumbria. Commissioner Sa

A final response to Robin Pitt

Over the past few months Cllr Robin Pitt has made a series of complaints and allegations against an officer of Copeland Council and just about every prominent Conservative in sight.  Not one of those complaints was upheld: as he admitted in the debate on the no confidence motion which was moved against him yesterday, he had no proof to back any of them up.   It is perhaps worth explaining that the justification for moving a motion of no confidence against Cllr Pitt as Chair of Copeland Council's personnel panel is that someone who makes allegations of misconduct against a member of staff for which which he can provide no evidence may not be the ideal person to act as impartial chairman of a body which looks after the interests of council staff.  The debate was an example of the kind of politics in which grown adults act like badly behaved adolescents, and which puts so many people off politics. For example, before the debate was guillotined, Cllr Pitt repeated a demand that the L

Feedback from December Copeland Council meeting

Copeland Council met in Cleator Moor civic hall this afternoon. The meeting began with prayers for those affected by the recent floods and expecially the family and friends of the late Bill Barker. The following three hours was, to use a football expression, very much a "game of two halves" with two hours of fairly constructive discussion about positive issues during which most people would agree with the vast majority of what was said on all sides, followed by a fairly nasty final hour marred by some unpleasant party political manouvering. FLOODS AND INFRASTRUCTURE It was agreed by councillors on both sides of the chamber that the effect of the recent floods shows how badly Cumbria's transport infrastructure needs to be improved. The need to re-trunk and/or replace the A595 was one, and for a Duddon Bridge, were two of the issues raised. HOSPITALS Continued progress on the rebuild project for the West Cumberland Hospital was welcomed but it was agreed that councillors ne

A prolonged hung parliament would be a disaster

The arithmetic of the next election makes a "hung parliament" in which no party has a majority a horribly real possibility. While one should always be careful not to over-react to one or two opinion polls, a recent small upturn in Labour support has caused some people in the MSM and blogosphere to speculate about whether such a result is likely. Certainly David Cameron has always been the first to warn Conservatives not to take victory for granted. Believe me, we don't. No Conservative with any sense will regard the election as being in the bag until the results have been declared. However, it says something about how desperate some Labour spinners and supporters have become that they are gasping with exitement at polls showing themselves only eight points behind. I remember some Conservatives clutching at straws like that in the run-up to the 1997 election - and much good it did us. There is everything to play for. But I certainly hope we don't get a hung parliament

Workington bridge named after PC Bil Barker

The new bridge in Workington has been named after hero PC Bill Barker who lost his life while saving those of others.

Where it went wrong for Labour

Hat tip to Political Betting for drawing my attention to an interesting piece by Jeff Randall in the DT, which seemed apposite when it was published last year and seems even more appropriate now. The title of the article was "Where did it all go wrong? When Labour started telling lies." The article is worth reading in full but the following words ring particularly true for me: "No amount of makeovers, re-launches or faked sincerity can change what has occurred. The public has worked out that just about everything Labour had promised on issues that really matter turned out to be untrue. "For Mr Brown and the entire New Labour project, that is where it has all gone wrong. It is the falsehoods that dumped the party's poll ratings in the gutter. "Goebbels' comment on the efficacy of propaganda will be familiar to many: "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." What is less well known is his qu

Ken Clarke - "New Labour is dead"

Ken Clarke has a superb newspaper column in the Mail this weekend here. He argues convincingly that the Labour government's attempt to bring back the class war by attacking prominent tories not on the basis of our policies but on where they went to school demonstrates that they know they are losing the battle of ideas, that they are desperate, and that the ideas of New Labour are being abandoned. As Ken puts it "If you can hear the sound of scraping coming from within Downing Street this weekend, it is because the inhabitants of No 10 have now found the very bottom of the barrel. "There is no surer sign that Gordon Brown has given up on governing and opted instead for base political mud-slinging than his decision to lurch to the Left with that old Labour attack on the Conservatives: the class war. "The attack on David Cameron's background last week and Labour's assault on the Inheritance Tax package (even though they are implementing a version of it themselve

Workington Footbridge opens tomorrow

Pleased to see that a temporary footbridge which has been put in position over the Derwent with Army help will open tomorrow. This will bring some relief to Workington residents for whom the loss or closure of the bridges has caused considerable difficulty. However, in Workington and many other parts of Cumbria such as Lorton, the fact that many road bridges are still down or closed is causing considerable difficulty. The floods have shown that we need to have a long hard look at our infrastructure.

Floods appeal passes the million mark

Thanks to the generosity of both many local people and organisations, and others from all over the country, the Cumbria Floods appear raised over a million pounds in the first ten days and is still going strong. Howver, this generosity is needed. Insurance analysts estimated the total damage from the flooding, public and private sector, as about £200 million. Some of this will be picked up by insurance, but it will not have been possible to insure many of the flooded properties.

Byran Appleyard on Global Warming in the Sunday Times

Recent embarrassing disclosures about the work of climate change study at the University of East Anglia have touched off a fement of debate in the blogosphere, some of which is hitting the mainstream media, about whether man-made global warming is happening. Rather too much of the debate on this subject is dominated by extremists on both sides: for example, I greatly dislike the practice of calling those who don't agree that man's activities are causing global warming "climate change deniers" as if they were on the same level as holocaust deniers - e.g. apologists for nazis and genocide. I thought David Davis got it about right when he said that the evidence for man-made global warming represents a probability of about 80% - e.g. not conclusively proved but certainly strong enough evidence that we cannot afford not to do anything about it. There is a very good, and in my opinion well balanced piece by Bryan Appleyard on the subject in today's Sunday Times which yo

Reminder: useful flooding contact numbers

FLOOD victims should log on to or call Cumbria Foundation on 01900 820827 to apply for grants. GRANTS are also available for voluntary groups supporting people affected by the flooding. BUSINESSES affected by the flooding should contact the Federation of Small Businesses at, telephone number 01253 336000 or BusinessLink at or telephone 0845 0066888. TO DONATE to the flood relief fund go to or send a cheque, payable to Cumbria Community Foundation Flood Appeal, to CCF, Dovenby Hall, Cockermouth, CA13 0PN. CASH can be donated at Cumberland or Furness building society branches or branches of HSBC. Hat-tip to Cumbria Newspapers Group's website for the information in this post

Keswick is open for business (and so is the rest of Cumbria)

After campaigning this morning in Moresby I spent part of this afternoon Christmas shopping in Keswick with the family. As the Town Mayor of Keswick, Cllr Andrew Lysser, has said "Keswick is very much open for business. It has been a tough time but the local community has reacted wonderfully and, despite everything, the atmosphere is buoyant." Prince Charles visited yesterday to switch on the lights in Keswick (he was in Cockermouth today) and pushed the message that Cumbria is open for business. Keswick was full of shoppers today: the market was thronged with people, and the shops we visited, some of which had been flooded last weekend, were doing well.

Bridge Repairs

Engineers from Cumbria County Council, the Highways Agency, and the armed services have been working hard to prevent any further tragedies, survey every bridge in the county which is near water, and look at replacement bridge options both for the short term and the long term. Just about every thread on Political Betting for the past week has included at least one contributor who asks why Bailey Bridges are not being used in Cumbria. That was considered early on, and the professionals tell us that Bailey Bridges are not suitable for the particular circumstances of these particular bridges, but that the army will be able to provide some assistance, and today that is happening. Construction work will begin by the army today on a new temporary footbridge crossing the River Derwent in Workington, uniting communities currently cut off on the north and south side of the river following the collapse of Workington Bridge and the footbridge, and by the structural damage making Calva Bridge unusa

Remembering PC Bill Barker

The funeral of floods hero PC Bill Barker, who lost his life while saving those of others, will take place today at 1pm at St Mary & St Michael's church in Egremont.

Holmrook and Wath Brow

Although the Copeland Borough area has not been nearly as badly hit as Allerdale, there have been communities within the Borough which have had real issues. The Wath Brow bridge at Cleator Moor has been closed as has the Irt bridge at Holmrook - a massive issue both for the village and for South Copeland as this bridge carries the A595 south from Sellafield. A diversion is in place via Santon Bridge. Firefighters were in Holmrook all night last Thursday, pumping water from the road and properties. “We continued pumping all night,” said David Moore, watch manager of Seascale fire station. (Yes, that's the same David Moore who is often quoted on this blog wearing one of his other hats.) “But at 4am, although the tide had gone out, the river was rising faster than we could pump water away from properties.” People were told to stay in their homes and sand bags were given out. Although a number of businesses were affected by the flood they are still open. The local MP visited on Tuesday

Cumbria Flood Fund close to £500,000

There has been a magnificent response by the public and charitable organisations to the appeal launched by the Cumbria Community Foundation to help residents and local businesses who are victims of the floods. At the time tomorrow's edition of the Whitehaven News went to print this lunchtime, the total donated had reached £400,000. But such has been the generosity of the community that this total is increasing rapidly and by this evening the paper's website reports that it has almost reached the half-million mark. Cockermouth firm James Walker, a seals and gaskets maker, donated £100,000 to the fund. Details of the appeal can be found be logging on to Cumbria Community Foundation's website, or by calling the dedicated phone line 01900 820827. Cumbria County Council has promised £50,000 and Allerdale Borough Council £25,000. Donations from organiations and businesses have ranged from the large, such as the James Walker donation mentioned above and

Cameron visits flood-hit areas

David Cameron visited Cumbria today to see for himself the flood damage to Cumbria and learn about the steps being taken to repair the damage. His visit took in Cockermouth and Carlisle. It is very welcome that so many front bench national politicians of both major parties, from the party leaders down, have come to visit the area affected by the disaster.

Keswick and District Forum Cancelled

Due to the flooding the Keswick and District Neighbourhood Forum which was due to take place tomorrow (24th November) has been cancelled.

Cumbria Floods Appeal

An appeal has been launched by the Cumbria Community Foundation to help residents and local businesses who are victims of the floods. Details can be found be logging on to Cumbria Community Foundation's website or by calling the dedicated phone line 01900 820827. Cumbria County Council has promised £50,000 and Allerdale Borough Council £25,000. The leader of Allerdale council, Cllr Tim Heslop, told the News and Star: “ We are committed to working together with all agencies on the massive recovery effort that we face in getting the county back onto its feet. “As well as getting people back into their homes, the future of many small businesses and how we can help to ensure their survival is one of our top priorities. “We also express our heartfelt thanks to everyone who is working tremendously hard to help others in these exceptionally difficult circumstances - especially those who are coming to terms with their own loss.” There are buckets collecting donat

Unsung heroes

There are more people who have behaved like heroes in dealing with the impact of the floods than any list could possibly cover. The first name on the list will always be PC Bill Barker who gave his life saving others, but hundreds of people from the police, ambulance, RNLI, fire brigade, NHS, RSPCA, social services, housing organisations, and voluntary bodies have put in a huge effort. I'm going to mention one activity which was just one example of a contribution by one particular local community organisation - and not the only thing that particular society has done - to give an illustration of the lengths to which members of the Cumbrian community have gone to help one another. I and one of my colleagues from Cumbria County Council were in Cockermouth and Keswick earlier today. The bridges in Keswick, open or closed, were manned by people in reflective yellow jackets. When we spoke to some of them, we found that they were volunteers from Keswick Lions club. The Lions, at the reque

Nick Herbert on his visit to flood hit areas of Cumbria

Please note that the post below was published more than ten year ago on 21st November 2009 Nick Herbert MP, shadow cabinet member for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, was in Cumbria this morning to see the areas affected by the flooding. He writes on Conservative Home about his visit. Here is an extract. I’ve been in Cumbria today to see the areas affected by the floods. I arrived early in Keswick where I met officials from the Environment Agency. Although the river levels had fallen considerably and homes were no longer flooded, the damage to homes had been done. And the water which had got into houses wasn’t just from the river – it was foul water which had risen from the drains. I talked to fire crews who were pumping flood water back into the river, and discovered that they were from Tyne & Wear and Lancashire. They had been called in at an hours’ notice and had been working on the scene ever since, staying at a local hotel. You cannot fail to be impressed by the

Dealing with the floods

There are a number of politically significant things which would normally merit a blog post which have happened in the past few days. However, I am still stunned at the impact on many parts of central and west Cumbria of the floods - an issue which is far from over as it is raining again. Bridges and roads are still in many cases down, blocked, or unsafe. More than seventy families are in emergency accomodation, though the numbers affected are much larger - it's understood that over a thousand properties have been hit by flooding. This puts the normal party political debate into persective and in the circumstances, I'm not going to be posting anything party political for the next few days. One thing we can all agree with is that the response of the emergency services to this disaster has been exemplary. Police, fire, lifeboat, NHS, council services and the voluntary sector have all moved quickly to help, co-ordinated their efforts well, and responded magnificently to a very ser

Flooding chaos

My internet connection has just come back up after being down for most of the past 24 hours. One of the bridges in Workington which was swept away last night took with it the cables which supplied much of West Cumbria with broadband. Spent part of this morning checking the areas of my ward where there had previously been flooding issues. By comparison nearby areas of Cumbria, the Borough of Copeland has not been as badly hit. However, the situation in Allerdale, particularly Cockermouth and Keswick, has been extremely serious. A brave police officer lost his life while saving those of others in response to an emergency call. Hundreds of people have lost their homes and thousands have been without electricity. Road and rail services have been seriously disrupted. Copeland Borough has been giving some help to Allerdale. At a more trivial level the annual "biggest liar" competition has been cancelled for the first time in heaven only knows how many years. The work of the emergen

PC Bill Barker RIP

It has been confirmed that Police Constable Bill Barker from Egremont died in the performance of his duties when floodwaters caused a bridge to collapse under him as he was directing motorists to safety. PC Barker, who was due to celebrate his 45th birthday tomorrow, leaves a widow and four children aged between 8 and 16. He was a brave man who gave his life for others. The community of West Cumbria will remember him with pride.

The Queen's Speech - a wasted opportunity

The Queen's speech contained a large number of proposals for legislation, far more than there could possibly time to pass into law before the end of this parliament. One or two are good proposals. Some of the proposed bills set out laudible objectives but would not actually do anything to be achieve them. But it is a great pity that the opportunity has been missed to pass a law clearning up MPs and Peers expenses. A few weeks ago all parties were saying that they supported the proposed reforms. So why not put them into law? Even if there is no intention to backslide, the impression left with the public will not help restore confidence in parliament. Three good pieces in the press on the Queen's Speech: Martin Kettle in the Guardian here has no problem with politics if it's smart politics but thinks that Gordon Brown is giving way to fantasy. Kettle argues that smart politics should mean more than using "the next six months, in and out of parliament, to establish pote

Complaints against Conservative councillors dismissed

A series of complaints against prominent local Conservatives from defecting councillor Robin Pitt have been dismissed by Copeland Borough Council's standards panel. Cllr Pitt, now a member of the Labour group, accused a former officer of the council of plotting with Conservative councillors to remove the Leader of Copeland council. He made a similar complaint against the councillors he alleged to have been involved, and against the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Conservative group. A formal investigation into the allegation against the officer was dismissed, and the standards panel has now cleared all the councillors involved.

DC on poverty and "The Big Society"

David Cameron's "Hugo Young" lecture was remarkable in many ways. It was a powerful message on what a Conservative government should do to tackle poverty. It also showed that Cameron is reaching out to address the problems of the whole country, not just the Conservative comfort zone. The speech was warmly welcomed by one of the Labour MPs I most respect, Frank Field. (And no, I don't think Frank is going to defect - unfortunately.) And now according to an ICM poll in the Guardian, for the first time I can ever remember, the Conservatives came ahead of Labour when people were asked which party had the best policies to deal with poverty. Here is the text of David's speech. "There are many things to admire about Hugo Young and his writing. The elegance of his prose. The doggedness of his curiosity. The strength of his integrity. Above all, you had to read him - he mattered. He understood that the size and role of the state was a key issue in politics and return