Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yellow Submarine and the "David Icke Defence"

One of the best political posts for a long time, and one that shows that some bloggers both have a sense of humour and are prepared to take the mickey out of their own side, was posted this morning on a Political Betting thread about David Cameron by Lib/Dem blogger "Yellow Submarine."

Labour, and to a lesser extent the Lib/Dems, have very much the same problem responding to David Cameron which we did in dealing with Tony Blair when he was leader of the opposition. Remember the totally unsuccessful "New Labour, New Danger" campaign? (Though the badges with flashing eyes were quite funny.)

Neither of the other main parties can get their heads round the fact that Cameron is a Tory leader who comes over to a large chunk of the electorate as a paid up member of the human race and has the brains to avoid most of their elephant traps.

Yellow Submarine, in a post dripping with irony, ridicules the approach which some politicians are trying to take to DC. He's talking about his own party, but if you add a pack of similar nonsense along the lines of "The tories want to close down West Cumberland Hospital and shut the nuclear industry" (which is of course totally untrue), Yellow Submarine's post could also have been a parody of the way the Labour MP for Copeland talks about Conservatives - and I cite his comments on the front page of today's Whitehaven News attempting to justify his behaviour towards me last week as an example.

Anyway, here is an extract from Yellow Submarine's post at position 9 on this morning's Political Betting thread.

Being political illuminati the Liberal Democrats can see, even if the general population can’t, that Cameron is a child sacrificing, devil worshiping, poor/refugee/gay/public sector hating shape shifting lizard.

Their historic mission to warn the populus that David Cameron may appear mamalian however his true reptilian form will be revealed soon. The Lib Dems are happy to bear the abuse and the public scorn because its what we do but that mask will slip soon….

We keep on because cameron hasn’t been “scrutinised” yet - as if over 3 years at the apex of a 24 hour news culture wouldn’t kill most mortals. Of course the Conservatives have no policies. By which we mean we don’t like the ones he has. However we were never going to vote Conservative anyone.

But my favourite is that he is a shallow ad man. Because companies spend billions on ads ever year out of charity. othing to do with them working.

And of course no sane politican could ever, ever have thought that the Conservative brand was a problem and priority in 2005 !

Finally their is no “enthusiasm” for the Conservatives. They aren’t doing as well in the polls as New Labour in 95 to 97. Methodologies haven’t changed and its all the same polling companies still in operation so the read back is valid.

Any minute now the public will see what we see. Cameron will be forced to assume his true cold blooded form on live TV. One theory I can reveal now, for the first time, decoded by a sage from sussex in ancient Hebrew Parish Council By Election results found with the Dead Sea Scrolls and surpressed by the Vatican is this.

When Cameron, or Azzreal to give him his true name, manifests he will eat his interview Jermamy Paxman live on a TV and a near by Child for pudding.

Those polls will be back in hung Parliament territory before you know it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let the police support our troops

I am surprised and disappointed by reports in the Daily Mail and elsewhere that Metropolitican Police officers have been banned from wearing small (one inch) union jack flags to show support for our troops in Afghanistan.

Apparently someone complained that they found the badges "offensive."

Personally I find the opinions of whoever made this complaint to be highly offensive, and the fact that senior officers did not use their intelligence and discretion to realise that such a ban would cause far more harm than good, both with police officers and the public, to be very offensive indeed.

You cannot please everybody, and there is no point trying to please those who hate this country. Under the rules of free speech they should be allowed to express their complaints, but acting on this one was a serious error of judgement.

I gather than large numbers of officers have defied the ban. If disciplinary action is taken against them that would be an even bigger disgrace. If anyone in the Met deserves disciplinary action, it's the people responsible for the ban.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The best election report I've ever read

The internet contains a vast amount of information - some of it true, some of it false. If you don't apply critical judgement to things you read on the internet, you can badly come unstuck - but if you check the same data on an internet search engine it usually does not take too long to establish the facts - and you can use the same method to "fact check" reports in the Mainsteam Media (MSM), who also get things wrong occassionally.

In fact some of the reporting on the best blogs is actually superior in accuracy and quality to the majority of journalism in the MSM.

An example was the reporting on Political Betting (see link at right on this blog) from the Norwich North by-election by someone calling himself "Bunnco - your man on the spot." I have some knowledge of the area having lived in Norwich for a year while taking my postgraduate degree, and as mentioned, did make a brief visit during the campaign.

After the by-election he posted this summary which I honestly think is the best written report on an election that I've ever read. If the MSM want to survive in their present form they need to make use of the talent which people like Bunnco display in their blogs. That way they might avoid mistakes like the way most of the MSM fell hook, line and sinker for the Green party's overstating of their chances, and the BBC's exclusion of UKIP from a debate among four arbitrarily selected "major candidates".

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Paid one of my regular visits to a recycling centre this afternoon to get rid of glass and plastic bottles, cardboard, newspapers etc. As it happend I went to the banks at Tesco in Whitehaven but the point would have equally applied to the Morrisons recycling area and many others.

I am six foot two inches tall. Virtually all the recycling containers including those for bottles, newspaper, cardboard and plastic bottles, had openings to put the material they were collecting at about my eye level, and some had flaps with moderately strong springs. There was nothing for anyone to stand on to help them reach.

For a person of my stature, getting things into the recycling container was not too much of a problem, but I did wonder if people who are not as tall as I am might sometimes find it a bit difficult.

I would be intested to know if anyone reading this has had difficulties reaching up to put things in the recycling containers in Whitehaven or anywhere else.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Harry Patch RIP

A few years ago, as a member of the Court of Bristol University, I attended a special meeting at which we gave an honorary degree to Harry Patch, who was then one of the last survivors of the troops who fought for Britain in the trenches of the first world war.

Harry, who in his youth had helped to build the University Building where the ceremony took place, attended in his wheelchair to accept the degree. I was struck by his courage, serenity, and above all by his modesty.

I have just heard that Harry died today as the last surviving British WW1 veteran soldier.

As someone who has had the good fortune never to be within a thousand miles of a battlefield, I can have no conception of how dreadful the experiences of Harry Patch and others was. I do know that if millions of people like him had not been prepared to risk their lives for this country in two world wars, this country might be a living nightmare today. And I know that vast numbers of young lives were ruined in those wars, including my great uncle, Fusilier Robert Whiteside, who was killed at the age of 18 just a few weeks before the end of the first world war.

When I was a boy, first world war veterans were more common than those from the second war are now: my uncle, who was a veteran of the second war, died of old age a few weeks ago. As these terrible wars pass from living memory into history, it is important that we continue to remember how much they cost and what sacrifices were made for our generation and those of our children.

Rest in Peace, Harry. From the one occasion I heard you speak I think you were a far greater man than you ever realised.

David Cameron has just issued this statement:

"I was so saddened to hear of the death of Harry Patch. The passing of our last surviving WWI soldier marks the end of an era and is a reminder of the huge debt of gratitude we owe Harry and those he served alongside. The sort of conditions they experienced and sacrifices they made are difficult for my generation to even imagine. We must never forget them and we will continue to fight for the values they fought for. My deepest sympathies are with his family."

The state of play in Copeland:

(Click chart to view full screen)

The chart above shows votes cast in the County elections on 4th June in the thirteen county divisions wholly included in Copeland constituency as it will exist at the next election, e.g the chart shows Copeland Borough wards plus Keswick and Derwent.

If it were possible to know the actual votes cast for the whole constituency the Conservative lead would have been larger because two Conservative-held district wards, Crummock and Dalton, have not been included. These are part of two county divisions which are now split between the Copeland and Workington constituencies. Both divisions returned Conservative county councillors on 4th June by large majorities. The "Others" bar represents total votes cast for Green, Independent, and UKIP candidates.

Both the county and european elections on 4th June showed a close fight between the Conservatives and Labour for first place in Copeland, with other parties nowhere. None of the other parties reached 15% of the vote over Copeland constituency or Copeland Borough in either election.

What this shows is that the Conservatives have a real chance of defeating Labour in Copeland at the general election, and no other party does. If you want to protest against Gordon Brown's Labour party at the general election, you can do so by voting for anyone else. If you want to remove Labour in Copeland at the general election, vote Conservative.

DC on a historic victory

David Cameron writes:

"I'm on my way back from Norwich after celebrating Chloe Smith's historic victory in the Norwich North by-election. No-one was predicting a victory on this scale. A Labour majority of five thousand turned into a Conservative majority of over seven thousand.

"I'm proud of the campaign Chloe fought here - not just because of what it achieved, but because of how it was conducted. Chloe fought this campaign in a positive way about the issues that really matter to people on the doorstep. In contrast, the Labour campaign was full of lies and half-truths. It's time they learnt the lesson that trying to scare people by lying about your opponents does more damage to you than it does to them.

"But people don't just want straight talking on a local campaign level. They also want politicians to tell the truth about the challenges facing us as a country. They want to see that we recognise the change we need to bring to our politics, society and economy. That's why the Party that was frank and open in this by-election was the Party that won it. And that's why we need a General Election, so the rest of the country can have a chance to vote for the Party that will bring that change."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stunning Conservative win in Norwich North

The Conservatives have taken Norwich North from Labour with a majority of more than 7,000.

The results were

Chloe Smith (Conservative) 13,591
Labour 6,243
Lib Dems 4,803
UKIP 4,068
Green 3,350
Murray (Independent) 953
BNP 941
Holden (Independent) 166
Raving Looney 144
Libertarian 36
Baggs (Independent) 24

Chloe, who at 27 will be the youngest MP in the House of Commons, paid tribute to outgoing MP Dr Gibson in her victory speech saying she hoped to serve the voters "with the same honesty and conviction".

She said the result sent a signal to Downing Street: "The people of Norwich North have rejected the old politics of personal attacks, of bickering, of smears and scare stories.

"They have voted for change. And in doing so they have sent a message to Gordon Brown very loud and very clear."

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said it was a "convincing majority", much more than many in the Conservative camp expected and was a "serious blow" for Labour.

Norwich North had gone Conservative in Mrs Thatcher's landslide victories in 1983 and 1987, and been retained on the personal vote of the sitting Conservative, Patrick Thompson, in 1992. Apart from that, until yesterday the seat had returned Labour MPs in every other election since the seat has existed.

In the special circumstances of this by-election, the Conservatives were expected to win, and needed to do so to demonstrate that we are on track to win a majority at the general election. But few people were expecting the Conservatives to beat Labour by more than two-to-one, still less to do so even with UKIP getting more than four thousand votes. However people try to spin it, this is a good result for the Conservatives and a very bad one for Labour.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hospital contractor chosen

Tomorrow's Whitehaven News reports that Laing O'Rourke has won the contract for the rebuild/refurbishment of West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.

Earlier this month I met NHS Trust CEO Carole Heatly with Cllr Yvonne Clarkson, chair of the Copeland council overview and scrutiny committee dealing with health. We had a constructive discussion about a number of issues, and one thing which Yvonne and I were keen to see was that the hospital project went forward as quickly as was compatible with due diligence and getting the rebuild right to deliver a safe and effective service. We were assured that progress was happening to achieve this this and this week's announcements backs up that statement. This his progress on assigning the contract is most welcome.

More details on my hospital campaign blog - see link at right.

Digital Switchover completes

If you live in Copeland and your TV is not working this morning ...

If you went over to Digital in 2007, you need to retune your set-top-box or digital TV again. Channels have been re-set as the rest of Borders joins us in the post-analogue age.

If you were still receiving an analogue signal (perhaps you live in Keswick, St Bees or Parton, or your TV aerial was able to "see" the Caldbeck transmitter) there is no more analogue signal. You will need a digital set-top-box to use any analogue television.

If you have a set-top-box and your TV is still not working, or if you think switchover went particulaly well or badly, I would be interested to hear your experiences. Post a comment here or email me on

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Copeland LDF issues and options consultation

Copeland Borough Council is consulting on the issues and options for what should be written into the new "Local Development Framework" which will replace the local plan and affect what gets planning permission in those parts of Copeland which are not in the National Park. (The park, as planning authority, is writing it's own LDF).

The consultation has been extended to the end of July. Details of the consultation can be found on the Copeland Borough Council website - see link at right.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Survey of the top political blogs

There is a survey to find the top ten political blogs on the Total Politics site (described in the first version of this post as Iain Dale's annual survey - Iain is not exactly uninvolved, but this year it's being run through Total Politics rather than his blog.)

Click on the large button below before 31st July to go to the Total Politics site and vote for your favourite political blogs.

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Digital Switchover - three days to go

Those residents of Copeland in the Whitehaven TV area who lost the analogue TV signal in 2007 had to retune our sets last month and have to retune again on Wednesday when Border TV finishes the switchover.

There have been some problems with automatic software downloads which didn't work following the July 24th channel reset. I have been on the receiving end of one of these problems: despite more than one attempt to reset it, and taking the machine concerned in for a check, one of my items of digital equipment is still not working properly. If you have been having any similar problems it would be a good idea to do something about it on Monday or Tuesday, because the TV people are going to be very busy through the rest of the week.

Residents of St Bees, Parton, Keswick, and other Border TV residents affected by the second stage of Digital switchover - you have already lost the BBCs analogue signal, and all the other terrestial analogue signals will be switched off on 22nd July. If you have not already acquired some digital equipment and checked that it is working, and don't want to lose TV service for a while, you would be well advised to buy and set up a Digital set-top-box tomorrow or Tuesday, because otherwise you will have no TV service on Wednesday.

My contacts in the industry tell me that the lessons from the Whitehaven switchover have not been learned as effectively as they should have been. So TV repair and fitting services will probably be very busy from Wednesday onwards. Don't leave it too late!

DC on supporting our troops in Afghanistan

There's been a tragic loss of life in our armed forces over the last two weeks. I think they have reminded all of us that over three thousand miles away from our daily lives, several thousand men and women are putting their lives on the line to help keep this country safe.

The very least we can do here at home is make sure everything is done to give them what they need to fulfil their dangerous mission, and to reduce the risks as much as we can. That's why I have been saying for three years that our forces in Helmand desperately need more helicopters.

When he was Chancellor, Gordon Brown cut the helicopter budget by £1.4billion - a bad mistake. The result is that after eight years in Afghanistan our troops have fewer than 30 helicopters in Helmand. This compares to over 100 helicopters that the Americans have for the same number of troops. It's a scandal that the Government has not dealt with this shortage.

It's also important that we remember that the dangers our troops face don't disappear when they leave the battlefield - the battlefield can leave mental as well as physical scars. That's why we held a conference this week to highlight the severe mental health problems that some veterans have.

David Cameron

Friday, July 17, 2009

Feedback from Hillcrest and Hensingham Forum

Attended the Hillcrest and Hensingham Neighbourhood Forum yesterday (Thursday 16th)

Agenda items included

1) Forthcoming Youth opportunities in the are. In particular there are two "POWW" events on 7th August and 4th September at Hensingham Stadium. This stands for "Positive Opportunities for Weekends in Whitehaven" and are for young people, to fill them in on constuctive things to do with their time at the weekend. BOth events will run from 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm on Friday afternoons.

2) "Drive Down the Cost" - a presentation from the Energy Saving Trust Advice Centre on how motorists can help both their own budget and the planet by using their cars which use less petrol and release less carbon into the atmosphere. Some good asdvice from them on this and other issues can be found at

3) Copeland Council's LDF (Local Development Framework) consultation. This is about a new set of documents to replace the local plan. A consultation is currently running about what policies the council should use when deciding whether to grant planning permission. See link to the Copeland Council website at right for more details: I will put up a post with more details in the next few days.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dan Hannan on the newly elected leader of our new group in the European parliament

I have been watching with interest recent events in the European parliament.

There were many issues on which British Conservatives have agreed with our former colleagues in the European Peoples party. However, it was a serious problem that most of them were pro-Federalist and we are not. Being part of a trans-national group which broadly supported greater integration and centralisation of power within the EU was beginning to significantly impede our ability to argue for an agenda which reserved more powers and independence for member states.

I will admit to having had grave reservations about whether we could pull off the creation of a new grouping of mainstream centre-right parties which supports a europe of nations, but I was delighted that it has indeed been achieved. And despite some hypocritical scaremongering from the Labour party and its' supporters about who the British Conservatives are now working with, all our new allies have signed up to a very mainstream statement of values. I use the word hypocritical because the criticisms they make are at least as applicable to the group of which the Labour MEPs are part.

So all credit to David Cameron and William Hague for moving forward on Europe. I hope we can continue to work with the EPP on issues where we agree with them: in the short term some rather foolish comments by certain European leaders and the outgoing president of the European parliament suggests we may have a bumpy ride for a time, but I am coming to the view that things will work out.

Dan Hannan MEP has posted on Conservative Home the following about the election of a new leader of the group which Conservative MEPs are now members.

"British Conservatives can be proud today: ours is the first Group in the European Parliament to elect an MEP from an accession state as its leader. None of the Groups which drone on about their commitment to the European ideal can claim as much.

Michal Kaminski, of Poland’s Law and Justice Party, is my age. We went into politics at the same time, when we were in our mid-twenties. We each have two little girls of similar ages. We’re both conservatives: Euro-sceptics, free-marketeers and Atlanticists. But we might have spent our early lives on different planets. I grew up during the réveil national of the Thatcher years. Michal’s early life was spent in an occupied country. Every day, he lived with the moral shabbiness, the material squalor, the thousand petty lies of Jaruzelski-era Poland. When Michal was small, his father defected to Canada. They met once, in Michal’s teenage years, in Cuba – the only state to which they could both get visas. Michal’s father urged him to defect, but Michal replied that he wanted one day to sit as a conservative in a free Polish Sejm. A few years later, he did, although his father was sadly no longer alive to see it.

That such a man, having led such a life, should now lead our Group, does more for European unity than any number of federalist declarations. The Europe that Michal and I believe in is one united by the spread of freedom and democracy, by commerce, by the actions of independent citizens. This is a world away from the Europe they want in Brussels, united by rules and regulations, by institutions and bureaucracies, by anthems and flags.

When Michal made his first speech as an MEP, he hymned the praises of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, to the unfeigned horror of the EPP. He is, in short, the closest thing to a British Tory outside the Carlton Club.

In a sense, Michal’s election was accidental. It had originally been planned that he would take a parliamentary Vice-Presidency while a Briton became the first leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). But my erstwhile colleague Edward Macmillan-Scott decided to have a go at the Vice-Presidency himself, which upset all the calculations (Edward lost the Conservative Whip in consequence).

This left Michal in an embarrassing situation. He is well known in Poland as a long-standing advocate of the new conservative Group. Yet he had been denied office by a renegade British Tory.

At this stage, the two British candidates for the leadership, Timothy Kirkhope and Geoffrey Van Orden, displayed extraordinary magnanimity, withdrawing their candidacies in Michal’s favour.

I know that Timothy, in particular, has come in for some criticism from ConHome readers, a lot of it very unfair. His behaviour over this episode made the rest of us proud to be British Tories. It was hardly his fault that Edward Macmillan-Scott had decided to run. But an injury had been done to our Polish friends by a British Conservative, and he took it upon himself to make restitution by ceding the Group leadership. He put the interests of Conservatism above his own ambitions.

In a funny way, Macmillan-Scott has done us a great favour. No one can now argue that the ECR is a Tory front with a couple of minor parties added on for decoration. We have a leader who, while a sturdy Polish patriot, is also a committed Anglophile and Thatcherite. And the graciousness with which both Geoffrey and Timothy acted has created a mood common purpose among British Tory MEPs that I can’t remember in ten years. The best is yet to come.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feedback from special Bransty and Harbour forum

Attended a special meeting of the Bransty and Harbour neighbourhood forum this evening, chaired jointly by Graham Roberts and Andrew Wonnacott, to discuss parking issues in Whitehaven Town Centre, particularly for residents.

A lot of important issues raised, including

* getting the right balance between residents and visitors/businesses
* how long people should be able to park in disabled spaces
* fair, consistent, and even-handed parking enforcement
* whether there are enough parking spaces (general view was no)
* need for both Cumbria County Council and Copeland Borough council to listen more
to the concerns of local residents

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Feedback from Norwich North

Graham Roberts and myself paid a visit to Norwich North this evening to campaign for the excellent Conservative candidate in the by-election there, Chloe Smith.

I stood for public office for the first time in Norwich North many years ago as a student (the former Mousehold division in the 1985 County elections) and am well aware that it is very much a seat of two halves. The southern part of the constituency consists of several Norwich City wards where Labour tends to be very strong. The northern part of the constituency consists of Broadland council wards where the Conservatives tend to predominate.

Graham and myself were campaigning in one of the more Conservative areas, so it is not particularly surprising that we saw lots of evidence of support for Chloe - indeed, if the area we were campaigning were typical, Labour would be in serious danger of coming third behind the Conservatives and Lib/Dems (in that order).

It is obvious that Chloe is fighting an excellent and well-organised campaign and is getting a lot of support: I wish her all the best.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How not to deal with Swine Flu - or anything else

I was deeply concerned to read posts by the NHS Blog Doctor and Guido Fawkes about how inquiries about Paul Staines' daughter were dealt with by his local NHS when she developed a fever.

"Doctor Crippen" writes that

"I am ashamed to say that swine flu is being seen by some of my cynical colleagues as a perfect excuse with which to fob off a large number of patients."

As he points out, during the current fuss about swine flu, "other illnesses continue as normal. Children still get meningitis, and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get bacterial pneumonia and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get pyelonephritis (kidney infections) and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get acute appendicitis and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough. Children still get acute leukaemia and may well present with high temperatures, tummy ache, headaches and a dry cough."

Unfortunately the symptoms which small children present when they get ill can be very similar for a wide variety of illnesses, some minor, some presenting a risk of permanent injury, and some life-threatening. That's why we must avoid the trap of diagnosing over the phone that every child with a fever has swine flu, prescribing Tamiflu, and assuming that this will deal with it.

Otherwise as he points out, we will have a tragedy like this:

Mrs Jones phoned the GP/the hospital/the walk-in centre and was told over the telephone that her daughter, Mary, had swine flu. They left out a prescription for Tamiflu but Mary died the next day from meningococcal septicaemia.”

You can read the NHS blog doctor's comments in full here here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

DC calls for more helicopters in Helmand Province

David Cameron paid tribute to the soldiers killed in Afghanistan yesterday and called on the Government to provide more helicopters for troops in Helmand Province immediately.

Eight British soldiers were killed across Afghanistan yesterday, in one of the bloodiest days since the start of the conflict.

David said, "This is dreadful news. The whole country will be shocked by the deaths of so many service personnel in a single day. My heart goes out to their loved ones.”

He stressed that every member of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan has the “support and the admiration” of the entire country.

And he made clear, “We owe it to them to ensure that we prevail in this mission for which they are putting their lives on the line.”

David called on the Government to provide the “key equipment our troops need” and stressed it was “a scandal” that our forces still lack the helicopters they require to move around Helmand Province.

“Promises of more helicopters in the future are not enough. More helicopters are needed today. More helicopters would save lives. We have been calling for more helicopters for three years. Instead of promising, the Government must act to provide more helicopters immediately."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Remembering Heroes

A hundred and seventy six British service personnel have now been killed in operations in Afghanistan.

They are heroes and we should remember their sacrifice with pride.

For reference, to the best of my knowledge I am not related to Trooper Christopher Whiteside of the Light Dragoons, who was identified today as the last of those casualties and who was the seventh British soldier killed in the country in a week.

Afghanistan should not be allowed to become a forgotten war: there are large numbers of British servicemen and women out there, including soldiers, sailors, and airforce people: they are trying to rebuild that country, prevent the re-establishment of the regime responsible for the despicable attack on the West on 9th September 2001, and prevent the area becoming a base for terrorist training camps.

It is important to stress the differences between what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both were run by barbarous regimes which had oppressed and murdered huge numbers of their own people and shown themselves to be a menace to other nations. The main difference is that when our governments told us that the Taleban regime in Afghanistan posed a direct threat to the West, they were telling the truth. The second is that they had a rather more effective plan for what they would do after overthrowing the Taleban than they did in Iraq. But nation-building is still proving painfully slow, and expensive in terms of both money and lives - Western and Afghan.

We need to make sure our troops in Afghanistan have better support and equipment. We also need to do more in a positive way to help build up the local non-drugs economy and society.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Come to Whitehaven for a home by the sea:

A survey has found that Whitehaven is the most affordable place in the UK to buy a seaside home.

The survey showed that the ten most economical places for those looking to settle down in the UK were all in the North.

Whitehaven was followed by Withernsea on the East Yorkshire coast and Maryport in Cumbria, according to high street bank Halifax.

The group said the average cost of a home in all these areas was less than four times average earnings.

But at the other end of the scale, properties in Sandbanks in Dorset cost 21.7 times average earnings, making it the most expensive location in which to buy a home by the sea.

House prices in St Mawes, Rock and Fowey, all in Cornwall, are all around 15 times higher than average earnings, making them the next most expensive seaside towns.

The most affordable place to buy a property by the sea outside of northern England is Skegness, followed by Bexhill on Sea in East Sussex, where properties sell for around five times average earnings.

Barry and Rhyl are the most affordable seaside towns in Wales, with these towns also having a house price to earnings ratio of around five.

House prices in nine out of 10 seaside towns have more than doubled during the past eight years.

Buyers are prepared to pay a premium to live by the sea, with the average cost of a home near the coast rising by 115% since 2001, compared with an increase of 96% across England and Wales as a whole.

Pwllheli in Wales has seen the biggest jump in prices, with the average cost of a home there soaring by 206% during the past eight years,

Source: Press Association

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Labour's latest triumph - a spending rise of 0%

If I wrote down on my blog every terrible performance by the Prime Minister I would have no time for anything else, but he surpassed himself with a truly dire display at Prime Minister's Questions today.

He criticised the Conservatives for saying that unemployment is likely to rise. That view follows from the government's own figures and is shared by every serious commentator.

Then he insisted that public spending will grow, saying

"Total spending will continue to rise and it will be a 0% rise."

To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli's comment about Lord John Russell, to find that such a person could become First Lord of the Treasury helps one understand how the ancient Egyptians could worship an insect.