Showing posts from August, 2009

Political Compass

I have considered for a long time that the differences between different sets of political views cannot be adequately expressed by a simple one-dimensional line from left to right. For a start, nearly everyone recognises that the far left and far right come back round and meet round the back. Communism and Fascism have for more in common with each other than either has with mainstream democratic politics even on the "same side" of the political spectrum. And present day BNP activists are astonishingly similar in many ways to the Militant Tendancy activists I recall having to deal with in my student days. A more sophisticated way to look at different views is to consider two dimensions: one way of doing this is for "Left to right" to be defined by what degree of economic liberty you support - with more economic freedom on the right - while "Up and Down" is represented by your degree of social liberalism (usually shown with authoritarians on the top and soci

Summary of August Polls

Most politicians will tell you that "the only poll which counts is the one on election day" - which, in one sense, is of course true - and will pretend that they don't pay too much attention to polls. It is certainly the case that, no matter how good the polls are, no party can afford to get complacent, and no matter how bad they are, there is no point in giving up. However, polling methodologies have improved immensely since they called the 1992 election badly wrong (which is why comparisons of the huge leads which most pollsters gave Tony Blair in the mid 90's with the more modest but still healthy leads DC has now are misleading). David Cameron has warned Conservatives not to take victory at the next election for granted until and unless we actually win, and he is absolutely right about that. There is, however, a reason that I keep making the argument that the Conservaties have a chance of winning Copeland. Many people locally, knowing that they have had Labour MPs

Whom the Gods would destroy ...

The old saying, "Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad." appears to apply ever more strongly to Gordon Brown's Labour government. You'd think anyone sane would have learned their lesson from the 10p tax fiasco when they increased the burden on the poorest working families and individuals. But apparently political sanity is in short supply within the present government. So here they are again, hitting the poor and clobbering the people who thought a socialist government would stick up for them. One can see why Tony Benn, when asked on "Any Questions" the other day what he thought of Sir Winston Churchill, said that Winnie was probably more left wing than New Labour. This time it's housing benefit. Once apon a time, Housing Benefit took the form of the government paying the rent for some of these in desperate need. There was an obvious problem with this: it gives the landlord a huge incentive to increase rents, to the disadvantage of two groups

Full text of DC's health speech

I've already referred to David Cameron's speech on Health last week. But I think it was important enough to be worth posting the full text of the speech. Here it is. In America today, there is a real debate going on about healthcare. But here in Britain, the recent political exchanges over the NHS have neither been real, nor a debate. Not real, because they have focused on a question that is now settled: the Conservative Party's commitment to the NHS. And not a debate, because the back and forth of the past week or so seems to have been more about political point-scoring than a serious discussion of an extremely serious subject: How, in a world of rapidly rising healthcare cost and demand... ...should we deliver the rising standards of healthcare people expect in the 21st-century within a taxpayer-funded, free-at-the-point-of-use system, in which treatment is provided to all on the basis of need not ability to pay? That is the question I will try and answer today, but first

Total politics blog awards

This blog was listed in the 2009 total politics blog awards, not in the candidates section but in the councillor's section. (Since I am a local councillor in the constituency, and that role is relevant to perhaps a quarter of the posts on this blog, that's fair enough.) They list slightly over a hundred councillor blogs and I came in at 25. I have put the total politics top blogs banner on my links panel and linked it through to the list on the Total Politics website. UPDATE This blog has also climbed back into the "Top 100 Conservative Blogs"

Ensuring the NHS delivers rising standards of healthcare

David Cameron stressed the Conservatives’ “wholehearted commitment” to the NHS in a keynote speech in Bolton, and explained how the NHS can deliver the rising standards of healthcare people expect in the 21st Century. David said he was committed to “the principle of a healthcare system that is free at the point of use, based on need and not the ability to pay”. And he stressed that improving the NHS required reform of both sides of the “cost equation”: “We have to make the supply of healthcare more efficient and we must also do something about the increase in demand for healthcare. The first set of reforms is all about choice, competition, and a focus on outcomes not targets, while the second is all about public health.” David promised to increase competition by opening up the opportunity for any willing provider to supply care to NHS patients. And he stressed that by giving patients more choice – over the doctor they see, and the hospital they’re treated in – we can create “a more use

Forthcoming Road Closure, Inkerman Terrace

From 7th September for about five weeks the A5094 (Inkerman Terrace) in Whitehaven will be closed for repairs. I cannot criticise the County Council for the fact that they are going to repair the road because it really does need doing. But the implications for traffic in Whitehaven from September to mid-October will be horrendous. This is one of the three key routes into Whitehaven, and the main one from Sellafield. The traffic chaos on the other routes into and out of town, especially some of the narrow residential roads which may experience rat running, will be bad. There will also be issues for those local streets - and I'd better declare an interest as I live in one - which are usually reached through the secion of road being closed. The one-way restriction on the Northern part of Foxhouses Road between the A5094 and Ehen Drive junctions will be lifted while the repairs are in process. The recommended alternative route into Whitehaven from Sellafield is to continue up to the Pe

Gosforth Show

Spent much of the day on the Conservative stall at the Gosforth Show. Sadly, because the weather was filthy from early morning until into the afternoon, the attendance was not as good as the quality of the event deserved. It was a superbly organised show and it was nice to meet some old friends there.

Cameron and Hawking defend NHS

David Cameron and Professor Stephen Hawking are among those who have defended the NHS from ludicrous and inaccurate criticisms made in America. David Cameron sent an email to supporters saying that he and his family had been grateful for the work of the NHS. The most ridiculous of the attacks made by US critics of the NHS was the claim in an American newspaper that 'People such as Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.' Which country do these cretins think Professor Hawking comes from ? (Clue - the St Albans he comes from isn't one of the US ones. This brilliant man, who despite having had Lou Gehrig's disease for 40 years has been responsible for enormous scientific progress, is the most distinguished living old boy of my own former school.) Professor Hawking himself, while in Washington to receive America's highest

Richard Graham RIP: Ken Simpson RIP

Two sad deaths in the Copeland community: two funerals to report. Richard, the son of Mike Graham, who is a local businessman, former councillor for Bransty and then Hillcrest, and my predecessor as Conservative PPC for Copeland, tragically passed away at the age of seventeen and was buried on Thursday. Ken Simpson, a long-time stalwart of Copeland Conservatives who most recently stood for election as a county council candidate in the Cleator Moor North and Frizington ward also died a few days ago and his funeral was held at Ennerdale this afternoon. At the time he was selected Ken was expecting to be able to campaign but his health deteriorated sharply just before the election began. Despite not being able to do any active canvassing he still secured very nearly 500 votes which I think is a tribute to how many people in the community knew and liked him. His funeral today was very well attended, with the church literally full to overflowing and a significant proportion of those who cam

Whitehaven Festival Weekend

Have just spent part of this morning and afternoon with my family among the crowds attending the excellent festival which is taking place in Whitehaven this weekend. Where previous Whitehaven festivals have had a maritime or "Marra-time" feel, this one is themed as the Whitehaven food festival. There are large numbers of stalls selling every imaginable kind of food. Celebrity chefs including Ainsley Harriott and Jean-Christophe Novelli, as well as local cumbrian chefs including Nick Martin, Craig Sherrington, and Whitehaven's own Ricky Andalcio have been taking part in a range of book signings and "Celebrity Chef Theatre" events in Lowther Street at Michael Moon's bookstore and St Nicholas's, and at Sugar Tongue in the harbour. Several tall ships are visiting Whitehaven Harbour including the sailing schooner Kathleen & May and the trading ketch Irene . There are also jet ski displays at the harbour and a number of air displays and fly pasts, includi

When the lights go out

There is a superb article in this week's Economist about the problems of energy. The title is How long till the lights go out? and the article makes a convincing case that, whoever is in government, and even if action to protect power supplies is taken quickly, there is a real danger that Britain will suffer power cuts in the next five years as older power stations have to be decommissioned faster than new power supplies can be built. Britain needs a genuinely balanced energy policy to maximise our energy security. As the Economist rightly points out, one of the serious pitfalls we could easily fall into is an excessive reliance on gas (and on supplies of gas from Russia, down a pipeline which recent history shows is liable to be disrupted by arguments between Vladimir Putin and his Eastern European neighbours). We can and should invest in renewables and emerging energy sources, but those enviromental extremists, such as the Green Party, who imagine that we can fill the looming en

On attempts to smear the ECR leader

There have been a number of attempts in the press and the blogosphere to smear the new leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group as an alleged anti-semite. There was a comment along these lines on one of the threads on this blog a couple of weeks ago. A definitive answer to these smears has been given in the Daily Telegraph by the distinguished journalist Stephen Pollard, who is Editor of the Jewish Chronicle. (Note - I originally had a link to Stephen Pollard's article at the Telegraph website here, but it appears to have been moved or deleted.) Pollard's article is entitled “Anti-Semitic mudslinging of the worst kind” and includes this comment: “There are few things more despicable than anti-Semitism, but here’s one of them: using a false charge of anti-Semitism for political gain. Yet it seems there are few depths to which some will not sink in their desperation to damage David Cameron.” And: “there is simply no evidence that Mr Kaminski is an anti-Semite, on

Diagnosing swine flu

Diagnosing Swine Flu A survey of GPs reported on the ITN website this morning found that 90% of them are concerned that diagnosing swine flu over the phone could lead to other diseases, like meningitis, being missed. More details on my "support West Cumbria Hospitals" blog (see link at right.) It's a small sample, but the overwhelming nature of the response is statistically significant and suggests that the fears described by the NHS Blog Doctor (see post "How not to deal with swine flu-or anything else" on the hospitals blog) are shared by many other doctors. While the levels of suspected wine flu are above what normal NHS capacity can deal with it may be regrettably necessary to keep the current special measures such as internet and telephone diagnosis in place, but this survey reinforces my view that we should return to normal methods of diagnosis as soon as practical when infection rates trend down. POSTSCRIPT 8 AUGUST - TRAGEDY STRIKES Sadly it appears tha

Digital Switchover problem

Several hundred Copeland residents, including a number of my Bransty ward constituents and other people living in the area served by the Bleach Green transmitter, have been losing their TV signal. One Bransty resident, who had an engineer at his house for six hours trying to solve the problem, told the Whitehaven News that "We get the channels, then they keep going off, they come back on and then they are all broken." It has been suggested that Digital UK were slow to recognise the problem but have now accepted that it does exist and are trying to solve it. There is a suggestion that the signal from a Scottish transmitter at Cambret Hill may be reaching the Whitehaven area, possibly enough to cause the Autotune function on set-top boxes to trying to set to the wrong signal. Digital UK and others made the mistake of believing their own propaganda about how smoothly the original switchover in Whitehaven went in 2007, and missed the opportunity to learn lessons about the need fo

Feedback from Copeland Council

Copeland Council met this afternoon at Millom School. I asked questions about Whitehaven Gold Course and the Keekle Head former opencast mining site: details of my questions and the answers will be covered in more detail in specific posts. There were numerous references to the Places Survey. This was a national survey assessing public satisfaction with public services all over the counrty. Provisional results from the 2008 survey have recently come out, and put Copeland as one of the worst councils in the country in terms of customer satisfaction. A Task and Finish group has been set up to look into what the council needs to do to improve performance in the areas criticised by the survey. Much of the executive report was taken up with concerns expressed by my colleagues in rural parts of the constituency about the refuse collection service, particularly as it affects those who live in roads that the council refuse vehicles will not drive down. This is a huge issue in the rural areas of

West Cumberland Hospital Meeting

A few weeks ago, the Save Our Services group, a community campaign which includes people of all political parties and none, requested a meeting with the North Cumbria Acute Services Hospital Trust and local consultants and staff representatives to discuss progress on the new hospital and a number of concerns and issues which had been raised by senior and junior staff at West Cumberland Hospital. The meeting was duly called for Friday 24th July. The same individual who had originally requested the meeting on behalf of Save Our Services, also invited me to attend in my capacity as one of the two Copeland councillors (one from each major party) who are part of the Save Our Services group. In the event, when I turned up at the meeting to which I had been invited, I ws turned away in front of the press, who were naturally extremely interested to know what on earth had happened. I have heard from those who were allowed to be present that it was a very constructive and useful meeting. A repor

Whitehaven Traffic Proposals

I am relieved that the County Council has taken on board, in response to the consultation about traffic flows in the centre of Whitehaven, the view that making the town more pedestrian-friendly has to be done without harming shops, general trading and movement. Removing all or most traffic from Lowther Street and Strand Stree could have grossly overloaded the section of the current ring road from Irish Street to Duke Stree which under three of the original proposals would have become two-way and had to cope with virtually all traffic movement around the town centre. But a redesign of some of the streets and junctions could be a good thing - one or two of the junctions in Whitehaven are potentially dangerous. You can read a report in the Whitehaven News about the latest proposals here .

Doctor's and Firemen's Hours

The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is applied to the hours worked by junior doctors in the UK from today. Senior doctors are concerned that this may cause serious problems for the NHS. The bad drafting of the legislation as it affects people on call will also be a problem for the fire service. The difficulty is that, in their desire to be seen to address the problems of excessive working hours, European legislators have attempted to impose a simplistic Euopre-wide solution on a complex problem. It is right to address the issue of working hours but it should be done on the basis of local negotiations including the key staff involved. The view of the BMA and other organisations representing doctors is that there must be a balance between the need to avoid excessive working hours and the need to ensure that junior doctors get a wide range of experience. Another problem with the EWTD is that it fails to adequately distinguish between the impact of inactive "on call" time