Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Quote of the Day"

Overheard in the restaurant:

"The Russians have blasted a clown into space today - why can't we do the same with Gordon Brown?"

Sun backs Dave

The Sun newspaper has decided to back the Conservatives at the next election. They give their reasons in full here, the key section reads as follows:

"At the 2005 election, we and our readers believed Labour had many failings but gave them one last chance over a lacklustre Tory party.

They have had that chance and failed.

That is a fact Gordon Brown cannot escape, for all his rhetoric yesterday - his rewriting of history, his absurd caricature of the "heartless" Tories, his tired promises to solve problems he has had 12 years to solve.

Britain needs a brave and wise Government to restore our self-respect, our natural entrepreneurship and the will of every family to improve its lot through its own efforts, without depending on handouts.

We need a Government that will cut the red tape strangling businesses, that will make affordable tax cuts to stimulate growth, that will reform wasteful public services.

We need a Government with a genuine will to win the war in Afghanistan and the commitment to give our forces whatever they need to do it.

This will not be a Government that merely talks the talk, as Labour has. It will ACT.

We hope, and pray, that the next Government will have the guts and the determination to do these things. And we believe David Cameron should lead it."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today's papers

After doing some canvassing this afternoon I came home, had tea, and picked up the sunday paper - and I am still in shock from what the dominant stories say about the state of Britain today.

The stories which dominate the news are

* British victims of the credit crunch are trying to get out of debt by offering to sell one of their kidneys for £25,000 (link here).

* General Mackay who recently resigned as one of the British commanders in Afghanistan, has said that he was asked whether he could postpone an attack on a Taleban position until after Gordon Brown's visit to the country (link).

* Tony Blair has demeaned the office of Prime Minister which he used to hold by allowing admirers to pay £180 a time to pose with him for photographs (link).

* Another rash of stories about how the Attorney General, e.g. the government minister responsible for enforcing the law, continues to survive in that post despite having broken a law which she herself steered through parliament, including an extraodinary war of words with her Tongan cleaner here and an item here about her expenses claims.

* A law about impersonating police officers which was intended for use against conmen who try to genuinely fool their victims into thinking they are policemen in order to defraud them, has been used to mount a ludicrous prosecution against a group of G20 protestors for donning costumes which included the odd riot helmet along with boiler suits and visible underwear, at a cost to the taxpayer of tens of thousands of pounds (link).

* A trade union baron, who is also the husband of deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, was supported by party HQ to be Labour candidate for a normally safe seat at the same time as his union paid £1 million to Labour, and the former Labour general secretary at the time is quoted today as saying "My colleagues and I felt we had an obligation to deliver the seat." (link).

Any one of these six stories would be worrying. All six of them together in a single day's papers is strong evidence that the Labour government has been in power for far too long and it really is time for a change.

But the worst story of the lot is the saga of the dinner lady of Great Tey.

I have a daughter who is a year older than the child who was bullied at Great Tey(and a son of the same age.) I ask myself a hypothetical question: how I would feel if I discovered that my daughter had been tied to a fence and whipped with a skipping rope by four older boys, if I learned this not from the school but because the dinner lady who rescued her from this situation, innocently assuming that of course the school would have told me, asked how she was, and if the dinner lady concerned were then sacked for telling the parents what had happened to our child.

If that is what happened, I think "incandescent with anger" is a pretty mild description of what most parents would feel about it.

Minette Marrin puts it very well when she says

"It is possible that this is not quite what happened in Great Tey, Essex. Such stories are not usually as simple as reports make them seem and small villages are often cesspits of intrigue. However, the school and its governors do not deny the dinner lady’s allegations. The fact that they haven’t is telling. If her story is untrue, the school would have had absolutely nothing to lose by saying so.

"For years Labour has been promising us a new order of openness, transparency, accountability, consultation, empowerment and inclusion. But what do we get, in this case and countless others like it? The precise opposite. Transparency, accountability, consultation and empowerment do not exactly square, policywise, with shooting the messenger, as here.

"It seems daft to most people, as do many other gross inconsistencies and follies in the public sector. Think of the political survival of Baroness Scotland. And that’s because all public services and government agencies are now firmly in the grip of a mindset in which words mean what new Labour at the time chooses them to mean.

"Befuddled by jargon, frightened by diktats, vaguely aware of a requirement to square circles and believe several impossible things at once, overburdened by unachievable targets — put an end to bullying in schools but never exclude bullies, for example — public servants are losing their common sense, in a toxic combination of fear and folly.

"This corruption of sense leads directly to the desperate silliness of the case of the dinner lady of Great Tey, and to a much wider corruption as well."

You can read the full article here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The government is borrowing £6,000 per second

David Cameron has written a message with something to think about during the Prime Minister's conference speech. It reads as follows:

From Bournemouth to Brighton, the conference season rolls on. Next week, the Labour Party will meet for its annual conference. I expect Gordon Brown's speech will be stuffed full of statistics about how he's saving the world. But here are the facts which really matter in Britain today.

This country is in the worst mess it's been in for a generation. Unemployment is rising and youth unemployment is at its highest level since records began. Violent crime has increased by 70 per cent under Labour and there are more than 100 serious knife crimes every day. The poor are getting poorer, social mobility has stalled, and four in ten children are leaving primary school unable to read, write and add up properly.

And while all this is happening, the Government is borrowing money at a rate of around £6,000 every second. That's something to think about when Gordon Brown delivers his speech. Last year, Gordon's conference speech lasted 58 minutes. If he speaks for as long this year, we'll have wracked up about another £20 million of debt in the same time.

These are the facts and this is the record of twelve years of spin, irresponsibility and top-down state control. And increasingly, it's clear: if you want to see a real long-term plan for change in this country, and a Party with the guts and the determination to see this crisis through, you'll have to wait for our conference in Manchester in two week's time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FT: Labour lead in the North evaporates

Reuters report here details of an analysis of recent polling data published in the Financial Times indicating that the Labour party has lost support not just in the South of England but in Northern seats like Copeland.

The FT analysis suggests "a bleak picture for Labour" in terms of their prospects for the next general election, which must be held by June 2010.

The business daily's analysis of aggregated regional data from recent voting intention surveys suggests that the Tories have a four-point lead in the north of England, wiping out the 19-point Labour lead in the region that helped keep Tony Blair in power in the last election.

The FT article suggests that there has been an 11.5 percentage point swing from Labour to the Conservatives in the North since the May 2005 election, which is the largest swing for any region of Britain. They quote Andrew Cooper, founder of the polling company Populus, as saying that

“The only reason Labour weren’t wiped out in England at the last election was their huge majority in the north.” That majority may no longer exist.

I am not posting this to suggest that a Conservative victory is certain, in Britain or Copeland. I entirely agree with David Cameron that we must not take the voters for granted. No party can ever afford to assume we have won until the result is declared. I am posting this to make the point that there is everything to play for, suggestions that "Labour will always win here" are simply wrong, and people's votes at the next election will really count.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Use Tides to power The Wave ?

As reported on the Whitehaven News website, protesters on Sunday urging that "The Wave" at Whitehaven Harbour should be turned on have suggested that perhaps it could be powered by a tidal or wind turbine.

About two dozen people held a candlelit vigil at The Wave to draw attention to the fact the artwork has not been lit up for over a year.

Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners say they cannot afford to pay for repairs to the lights.

A Facebook group set up to campaign for the restoration of the lights has attracted 600 members.

Organiser Chris Gurney told those at Sunday's candlelit vigil: “At the turn of the century, the Millennium Commission awarded the Whitehaven Millennium project £6.9million to help regenerate the harbour areas.

“As part of this award, The Wave was created. I’d also like to recognise the great work that the harbour commissioners have done in the past.

“They have pulled this historical port into the 21st century and given us a modern harbour we can all be proud of.

“But to quote Leanne Shepherd who recently joined the Facebook Group ‘I’ve lived here over a year now and I didn’t even know that the thing lit up! Get it sorted the kids will love it.’

“Next June will hopefully see the Whitehaven FM Festival take place. Wouldn’t it be impressive if the commissioners and Copeland Borough Council could find a way of working together and give the people of Whitehaven their wave back.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Latest ICM Poll

Hat tip to Political Betting for the details of the latest ICM poll in the Guardian

CON 43% (+2)
LAB 26% (+1)
LD 19% (nc)

The “others” total drops to 12%

The 17% Tory lead is the second highest ever in the Guardian series of polls which began in 1984. Less than half those who told ICM that they voted Labour in 2005 plan to do so again. This compares with the situation in the ICM/Guardian poll in September 1996 of a 15% lead for Labour - in other words this poll has put David Cameron further ahead than Tony Blair was according to a poll by the same organisation at the equivalent stage of the 1992-97 parliament.

Nobody should take the result of the next election for granted, however. No election is won until the returning officer declares the result.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Feedback from Millom neighbourhood forum

Attended the Millom forum this evening

The major item was a question and answer session with the leader of Copeland Council and several of the council's senior officers.

Issues raised included

1) Choosing to change

2) The poor Audit report on the council's housing department - what progress has been made? (It was accepted that this service had had serious problems - an improvement plan is in process)

3) What has been the delay on quality beaches?
(Answer - capacity problems in the council department concerned. A vacancy in that team has now been filled, it is hoped to put at least two beaches forward in November.)

There will be fireworks if it is only two: all four of the areas which did have quality flag status want it back

4) What is the status of the Gateway Project?
(Answer, on hold, but it could be re-started if Millom residents wish. We were told that the disagreements about parking had persuaded the authorities that the scheme did not have enough public support to progress. However, comments from the floor this evening suggest that residents thought that there could be, or already has been depending on who you listened to, an acceptable compromise on this and everyone seemed to think the scheme is still wanted.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Don't forget to give us a wave today!

Just a reminder: there will be a candle-lit protest at Whitehaven Harbour at 7pm this evening (Sunday 20th) calling for the Harbour Commissioners to fix the Wave. Bring a candle !

Eric Pickles: Lib Dems should consider voting Tory

The Chairman of the Conservative party has made a keynote speech on why Liberal Democrat voters should consider supporting the Conservatives at the next election, especially in seats like Copeland where the best chance of removing a Labour MP supporting Gordon Brown's illiberal government is to elect a Conservative MP.

Eric highlighted the "growing consensus" uniting Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters about the kind of change our country needs and outlined the "clear choice" between voting again for the Liberal Democrats, with a leader who has admitted he is chasing Labour votes, or putting trust in David Cameron to deliver on the things the whole country wants to see.

As Eric pointed out, fifty Liberal Democrat councillors, nine former parliamentary candidates and one MEP have already made the move since David Cameron became leader: here in Copeland a former Liberal Democrat council candidate is now a valuable member of my campaign team. Eric pointed to the shared values and common goals of Liberal Democrat voters and the Conservative Party and pointed to some of the areas where Conservatives have worked for the ideals of Liberal Democracy:

Our opposition to 42 days detention
A pledge to scrap ID cards
Supporting the right of Gurkhas to settle in Britain
A firm commitment to tackling climate change

Eric called on Liberal Democrat voters to consider joining the thousands of others across the country who have chosen to help the Conservatives.

Anyone who considers themselves to be politically liberal, (whether with an upper case or lower case 'L'), should look at the record of the present government and ask themselves one important question:

Which party has the best chance of forming a government which will deliver on those liberal ideas that are important to you?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cameron Direct

David Cameron has been holding a series of unscripted meetings in marginal constituencies called "Cameron Direct" in which anyone can attend and ask him any question. I saw one of these in Barrow: of course I'm biased but I was very impressed. This video shows his most recent Cameron Direct in Bedford a few days ago.

Iain Dale fisks James Macintyre

Iain Dale has an excellent piece here in which he gives a very restrained fisking of James Macintyre's silly blog post.

Give us a Wave! Bring a candle at 7pm tomorrow

There will be a candle-lit protest at 7pm tomorrow (Sunday 20th) calling for the Harbour Commissioners to fix the Wave at Whitehaven Harbour.

This was organised by Chris Gurney, who set up a Facebook site to campaign set up a group on the social networking site Facebook. Since August 23, his page has attracted 576 members who all want the focal point on the harbour to be repaired and have come up with ideas of how to fix it.

He wrote online: “Hopefully quite a few of you will turn up and show the harbour commissioners that there is a real swell of public opinion that we want the Wave fixed. See you there!”

People are asked to bring a candle along.

The Harbour Commissioners have said that plans are in place for new designs for the lighting, but it could take around 12 months for funding to be secured.

Mr Gurney is also part of the photography group, Whitehaven Snappers. It is this, he said, that has spurred him on to petition to get the Wave fixed.

It's high time the wave was fixed and I hope that this gets strong support.

Much of the information in this post was taken from the Whitehaven News.

Friday, September 18, 2009

DC: Reality has caught up with Gordon Brown

David Cameron writes:

On Tuesday, after months of denying it, Gordon Brown finally admitted that spending had to be cut. So at last he is catching up with reality.

The public spending debate can often get bogged down in the language of deficits, forecasts and balance sheets but it really is this simple: Britain's in a debt crisis. We're borrowing far, far too much money. And unless we cut public spending, we're all going to pay the price - with higher taxes, higher interest rates and lower confidence in our economy for the long-term.

So why on earth has it taken the Government so long to realise this? For months, we've been telling them that they need to get a grip on our national finances. And all across the country, families and businesses have been working out how to trim their own costs and live within their means. But the Government seems to have been entirely asleep on the job.

It didn't have to be like this. On Wednesday, the Conservatives were handed leaked documents from the Treasury. These showed that as far back as April, Gordon Brown's officials were drawing up plans to cut public spending by nearly ten per cent. So all the time that Gordon Brown was adamant in public that spending could continue to rise, in private his figures showed otherwise. He was, not for the first but hopefully for the very last time, taking people for fools.

Add that to the election that never was, the bungling over the abolition of the ten pence tax rate, the evasiveness about the release of al-Megrahi, and we have a Prime Minister who can't be straight with people about what he really thinks.

James Macintyre gets himself in hot water

There is an old epigram

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
(thank God) the British journalist
But seeing what the man will do,
unbribed, there's no occasion to.

When Humbert Wolfe wrote that poem, he must have been thinking of a journalist like the Political Editor of the New Statesman, James Macintyre.

It's a free country, and Mr Macintyre has every right to express his opinions even when I find them ludicrous.

Postscript - as originally written this post contained a link giving an example by reference to an page  on the "Working Class Tory" blog which systematically demolished a particularly silly article. Since I posted this the "Working Class Tory" blog has been limited o an invited audience, but if you happen to be one of those who are able to read it the link I originally included is here.)

What I find less acceptable is when Macintyre plays the race card and uses "guilt by association" tactics to make false accusations of racism.

A few months ago Mr Mackintyre wrote this disgraceful article in the New Statesman in which he accused the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists, Michel Kaminski, of being anti-semitic. Kaminski rebutted those smears from Macintyre and others here.

The editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, was among those who were not impressed by the attacks on Kaminski, which he described as "Anti-Semitic mudslinging of the worst kind." As I blogged at the time, Pollard's comments on these attacks included the following:

“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.”

On Michal Kaminski's comments about whether Poland should issue an official apology for a terrible atrocity, Stephen Pollard wrote ...

“The intention is clear: to accuse Mr Kaminski of sympathising with the murderers. But this is a grotesque distortion. Mr Kaminski’s argument was that apologising for the collective guilt of Poles let the individual murderers off the hook. Far from trying to cover up the massacre, he was using the president’s apology to make a wider point: that the massacre was not committed by “the Poles” against “the Jews”, but was a vile crime committed by specific individuals against their fellow nationals.”

Well, Mr Macintyre has been at it again this week with a post on the New Statesman blog titled Tory racism: crystal clear which accused the Conservative party of being "institutionally racist." Again he was using guilt by association, this time to attack David Cameron because of some comments by Dan Hannan MEP, and to make this argument work Macintyre had to pretend that DC is "close" to Dan Hannan.

Now anyone who is supposed to be the political correspondent for a major political magazine and says that DC and Dan Hannan are "close" at the moment is either far too incompetent to be in that job, or being very much less than honest. I am reliably informed that David Cameron was exasperated by Hannan's off-message comments about the NHS, and this is what DC had to say about them:

"I don't agree with Dan Hannan.

"He does have some quite eccentric views about some things, and political parties always include some people who don’t toe the party line on one issue or another issue."

Interestingly enough, the article wasn't up for very long before it completely disappeared from the New Stateman's website. Did the NS lawyers take fright by any chance, I wonder? If so, unfortunately for them, before the offending article disappeared from the cache, certain enterprising bloggers managed to get a screen shot of it.

Now this sort of poison has to be tackled head on. Every time some Labour supporter like James Macintyre makes a false accusation of racism it damages British politics in two ways. Firstly because the fear of being falsely accused of racism can make people afraid to confront difficult issues, which in turn leads to a perception by some voters that mainstream politicians are ignoring those issues. And secondly, just as the boy who falsely cried "Wolf" ensured that his warning was ignored when the wolf really appeared, every time false accusations of racism are thrown around, it makes accurate charges of racism less effective against those who actually deserve the description.

The last word on Mr Macintyre should belong to Stephen Pollard who has a very amusing post on the Jewish Chronicle site here, which includes the following:

"The New Statesman has a very annoying blogger, James Macintyre - annoying because he is entirely partisan and so never says anything interesting. Anything or anyone Conservative is racist, evil, blah blah blah and any member of the Labour Cabinet is sagacious, decent, etc.

"Macintyre annoys me because he is the very antithesis of good political blogging.

"But today he has a post which is so hilariously, full-on, smash it out of the park, beyond all reason that I sort of feel sorry for him."


Comments policy on this blog

This blog is meant to be capable of being read by a family audience. I will not accept profanity on it, and neither will I accept libellous comments.

In the first three years this blog was up I only deleted about three comments from visitors to the site. I don't accept that blocking an average of one comment a year can be described as intolerance of disagreement.

I had to delete slightly more than that, though still a single figure number, in the following eighteen monts.

However, in the past two weeks, I have had to delete considerably more unsuitable comments than in the previous four and a half years. I suspect someone is either having a laugh or trying to force me to turn on comment moderation. I therefore want to update and reiterate my policy on comments, which is

1) Any post which contains profanity is likely to be deleted.

2) Any post which I consider potentially libellous will be deleted.

3) Commercial adverts, and anonymous posts which are completely irrelevant to the subject matter of this blog, are liable to be deleted

4) Posts which do not break any of the above rules and which are signed will usually be left up even if I strongly disagree with them, though of course I will normally post a reply

5) However, I reserve the right to delete posts which I consider to make unfair attacks on anyone, and I am particularly likely to delete such posts if the authors do not have the guts to sign their names.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mandelson's Mission Impossible

Hat tip to the bloggers at Political Betting for drawing my attention to this item on the Economist website referring to an interview by the magazine's "Bagehot" political editor with Lord Mandelson.

It refers to the U-turn which Mandelson has engineered, dropping Brown's ridiculous "Labour investment versus Tory Cuts" line which was an insult to the intelligence of the electorate. The article concludes

"Lord Mandelson was typically robust — but the truth is, this time, he and the rest of Mr Brown's team are on an almost impossible mission.

It would have been mad for Mr Brown to try to stick to his "investment versus cuts" line until the election.

Revising it is almost certainly the least bad option available to him. But it is still a humiliating reversal that no amount of Mandelsonian finessing can disguise."

Mr ten per cent - Gordon Brown

For months the Labour party has had on their website a picture of David Cameron and the slogan "Mr Ten per cent" which is a reference to the shadow health secretary's comment that on the government's own spending plans, and if the NHS is protected, everything else would have to be cut by an average of 10% in real terms over three years. The inference being that the Conservatives would make cuts of this order and Labour would not.

Now documents have surfaced which show that Labour has known all along that they will indeed have to make cuts of that order.

And while the Prime Minister was saying of the idea of cutting public spending in departments other than Health by 10% over three years, "That is not the policy of this government." the treasury was in fact planning cuts of 9.3% over four years.

He also said "I have always told the truth. I have always told people as it is."

One is tempted to throw back at him the words he is supposed to have said to Tony Blair: "There is nothing you could tell me now that I would ever believe."

The Telegraph has a good leader on the subject today which is called Voters will no longer be taken for fools.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brian Dixon on why he resigned the Labour whip

Copeland council takes a severe kicking - which, to be honest, is richly deserved - on the letters and news pages of this week's Whitehaven News in respect of the way the "Choosing to Change" programme has been handled.

The decision to take part in the programme was necessary and the right thing to do - there have been just too many indications that the council is in some ways one of the worst in the country and the people of Copeland deserve better than that. Unfortunately both the way the decision was taken and the way the report from the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee into that decision were handled demonstrate how much the council needs to improve, to become more open and more transparent.

Brian Dixon has an article in the paper edition of tomorrow's Whitehaven News on why he resigned the Labour whip. It makes some very powerful points about what is wrong with Copeland's politics.

When Brian was appointed to chair the council's Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee he said at the following council meeting, "I will hold this executive to account." By all accounts he made no secret of this intention when Copeland Council's the Labour group held an election for their nomination for the post. But it is because he tried to keep that promise that he has ended up outside the Labour group.

Some of the key points in his letter:

"I resigned from the Labour group because, as you may have read in the Whitehaven News last week, I was not prepared to allow the integrity of my committee to be compromised by party politics. Bearing in mind the committee's agreed independent nature and the fact that the recommendation was supported by all its' members, both Labour and Tory, it should have been accepted by the full council at its' meeting last week.

"I firmly believe that if Copeland Council wishes to change then it must move towards a decision-making process more openly involving all 51 members, whatever their political persuasion. This, in effect, is cross-party working. It appears from the sorry events of the last two weeks that the Labour group has not real desire for change. Failure to recognise the independence of an important committee and thereby refusing the power to question tells its' own story, a shabby chapter in Copeland's recent history.

"Scrutiny can review any issue that affects local people and can call Executive members, council officers and representatives from other agencies to attend meetings and provide information. Scrutiny can come to life when an executive member is questioned about a planned decision. Local councillors are constantly being asked to decide between equally legitimate points of view; holding the balance between different opinions and trying to act in the wider interests of the whole borough. The scrutiny process helps to find that balance by giving councillors the framework for asking the difficult questions.

"And wouldn't it be great if the questions came not from members of the committee but from a room full of members of the public from across the Borough?

"All I want to do, as the Labour government wants to do, is have a proper Overview and Scrutiny process at the council. Why doesn't the Labour group want this?

"Everyone in Copeland should be allowed the opportunity to make the council better - because at the moment it needs all the help it can get."

Both his comments and the front page story in the paper about a complaint which has been made about the behaviour of a senior councillor towards an officer at last week's meeting illustrate that Copeland has a culture of bullying.

I am not going to write any more about that complaint at this time, because I do not want to prejudice the inquiry which Copeland Council is holding into it. The incident which gave rise to the complaint took place within a few feet of the seats reserved for members of the council's shadow executive.

If Copeland council is to deliver the better services which local residents need and deserve one of the things which we need is more respect for others and for opposing views.

More bad news on unemployment ...

Every single Labour government in history has increased unemployment, e.g. it has been higher when they left office than when they were elected.

If there were an election this autumn and Labour were to lose, this record of failure would be maintained.

Inkerman Terrace Closure - one week in, four weeks left

Graham Roberts wisely persuaded representatives from Cumbria highways to attend the Bransty and Harbour forum this evening to discuss the Inkermn Terrace road closure which has now been in effect for a week, with another four to go.

At the moment the work is on schedule.

As expected, there has been extra traffic on Solway View and Hilton Terrace which has made life difficult for residents of these roads. The morning peak hour has largely settled down but the afternoon peak hour is still quite bad.

I'm told by a number of businesses in Whitehaven that their trade has been down during the closure.

With less than perfect timing, we were informed this evening that the Amey Mouchel on behalf of the Highways agency will be doing some repainting work on most of the Loop Road junctions in Whitehaven in late September, which may require "Stop-Go" signs to be used. This will start before the Inkerman Terrace work is finished. However, they will be working in the evening so it will not coincide with those times of the day when the worst impact of the Inkerman Terrace closure apply.

Some of the temporary measures in place during the closure, e.g. extra double yellow lines, have been popular with some residents and there are likely to be requests to make them permanent. Without taking sides on this, I asked if the county could be certain to consult properly before deciding whether to act on any such request, as there are likely to be some people who gain from such measures and others for whom life is made more difficult. Both sides should have a fair chance to put their case before any decision is made.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nick Robinson catches Mandelson fibbing.

One of the more irritating aspects of New Labour is the way they are prone to the shameless rewriting of history. 

They've been doing it from the word go, from Tony Blair's attempts to blame non-existent votes in the House of Lords when he delayed legislation, to Godon Brown's Labour Conference speech in which he inferred that Conservatives thought it was impossible to abolish the slave trade or to ban sending children down mines and up chimneys. 

(The first was passed with the support of a many tories, one of Wilberforce's main allies having been a Tory prime minister, Pitt the Younger; the second was proposed by a Tory peer, Lord Shaftesbury.)
Particularly irritating is when, in true 1984 style, they not only drop a slogan which has been at the centre of their propaganda, but deny that they ever said it. Prior to the current economic difficulties, Gordon Brown claimed to have abolished boom and bust. This was always regarded as nonsense by experts, as you can read here. 

When the recession kicked in, and the claim to have abolished recessions began to look particularly silly, Brown attempted to deny that he had ever made it, saying "I actually said, 'No more Tory boom and bust'." 

There were some occasions when he did use those words. However, as the "Factcheck" website demonstrates here, anyone with an internet connection and a reasonable level of computer literacy can establish in five minutes that Brown also said that Britain used to have "an unenviable history, under governments of both parties, of boom and bust", and that his policies had ensured that "we will never return to the old boom and bust". 

Those quotes are from Brown's first pre-budget report speech as chancellor and his last budget as chancellor. Factcheck also quotes a number of similar speeches and concludes that Brown's attempt to deny that he had claimed to have abolished the business cycle "just doesn't stand up". When Factcheck assess a statement by a politician they award a score from zero to five, where zero means a statement which is completely true, and scores at the top of the range indicate a misleading or false claim. 

I am not aware that Factcheck have ever given a score of five out of five, which "unlikely event" would mean that "the claim under examination has absolutely no basis in fact." But they gave Gordon Brown a score of 4 for pretending that he never claimed to have abolished boom and bust, which in practice is about as close to calling someone a liar as they get. 

And today New Labour were busy rewriting history again. For weeks Gordon Brown has been claiming that the next election will be about a choice of "Tory cuts versus Labour investment." This morning that line was finally abandoned: and Nick Robinson suggested on the Today Programme this morning that you could almost hear "the sound of shredding machines" as the Prime Minister's previous line was abandoned. 

In response Lord Mandelson accused Nick Robinson of being unable to back up the suggestion that the Prime Minister had ever referred to Tory cuts vs. Labour investment with any specific quote. That didn't take too long to refute. 

Shortly afterwards, at 9.15 this morning, Nick posted this article on his blog, arguing that in the internet age no-one can rewrite political history and including the specific quotes Mandelson had challenged him to give: Hansard shows that during Prime Minister's Questions on 17th June Gordon Brown repeatedly used the phrase that Labour is now trying to expunge from the history books. 

If they had any sense the New Labour spinners would have stopped there but when they are caught saying something untrue they never seem able to admit the mistake and move on. They came back to the BBC and suggested that Gordon Brown was only quoting David Cameron! 

As Nick Robinson pointed out, Brown used the phrase repeatedly on 17th June and some of the quotes just do not fit the Labour argument: "'His is the party of cuts; we are the party of investment' doesn't sound to me like a quote from the Tory leader.'

Frank Field on public spending

I wrote a short while ago that painful decisions would be needed after the next election whoever wins it. Otherwise Britain will sink in a sea of debt.

One Labour MP who is willing to be open about this is Frank Field, who had an excellent article in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday headed

Bribing voters with their own money is no longer an option.

The first few paragraphs of the article include the following:

"When asked by the Telegraph this week how he would like a Tory government to be remembered, David Cameron's answer was clear: "We sorted out the deficit."

History will indeed judge the next government by whether it walks the walk on public expenditure and provides a titanic dose of sanity to the public accounts ...

The point is that ever since 1945, parties have competed for votes by promising to expand public expenditure. Bribing voters with their own money has been the order of the day. Now the tables have turned ...

... this is no ordinary set of economic circumstances. All previous post-war recessions have seen the economy move back fairly quickly to what is called its long-term growth rate. This recession, however, has damaged the structure of the economy: the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that it has wiped out nearly five per cent of our total wealth. That means the country is permanently poorer, and will take well over a parliament just to restore its lost wealth.

The uniqueness of this recession also shows in the public accounts. In all previous recoveries, tax revenues have been quickly restored. Not so this time. The Government admits that, even with the economy growing once again, there will still be a gap of £80 billion in 2013 between revenue and spending."

After arguing convincingly that Britain cannot go on as we are, Field goes on to suggest that the challenge is to find radical ways to improve public services while spending less money on them. restore public finances by finding radical ways to provide good public services more cheaply.

You can read the full article here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Voters trust Tories more than Labour on public services

A new poll carried out online by YouGov for Policy Exchange and published today in the News of the World, which you can read here, says that voters believe schools and hospitals would be better under David Cameron.

The weighted findings of the poll showed that :

* 29% of people trusted the Tories most to deliver value for money on public services, compared to 19% who favoured Labour

* 26% trust the Tories most to provide the best quality public services, compared to 23% for Labour.

The Conservatives also came out ahead when voters were asked which party was more likely to protect the quality of public services from spending cuts by increased efficiency.

The survey included a question for those who actually work in the public services, and of these most respondents said "not much" or "none" of the extra spending under Labour had gone on improving the quality of service for the general public. 84% said "lots" or "a fair amount" had gone on bureaucracy.

Policy Exchange Director Neil O'Brien said: "People simply do not believe that public services have improved in the last ten years.

"Even the vast majority of public sector workers themselves think that the Government's supposed extra investment been wasted.

"These figures suggest the Government has completely lost the faith of the public when it comes to the effective delivery of public serves."

Quote of the Day

From an article by Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer which you can read here:

"Precedent was always against Labour winning the next election. Only once in modern British history has a party secured four successive terms in office. Securing another term would be a challenge even if the party was led by a cross between Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Jesus Christ. It is instead led by Gordon Brown."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Soham report author criticises proposed scheme

Sir Michael Bichard, the former Whitehall mandarin who conducted the inquiry into the Soham killings, on which the new "Vetting and Barring" scheme was based, has joined calls for a review of the ISA's rules, suggesting the new restrictions on millions of ordinary adults were a disproportionate response to the threat posed by paedophiles.

The ISA will become the world's largest vetting and checking system when it starts work next month, checking the backgrounds of an estimated 11.3 million adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Anyone whose work brings them into contact with children will have to undergo checks costing £64, including all teachers, doctors, nurses dentists, pharmacists, prison officers, and school governors and dinner ladies.

Most controversially, parents who give lifts to friends' children to attend a football match or Cubs' evening will have to be vetted in all cases where the arrangements are made through the club or organisation.

The Daily Mail describes his comments here

There is an excellent piece on the "Bad Science" website here on the maths of why trawling huge numbers of people looking for terrorists doesn't work. It is no more effective when you're looking for paedophiles.

Matthew Paris in the Times writes persuasively on why This stupid child protection law will turn us into outlaws.

Parris's article begins

"Only two sane responses are possible to the Government’s new vetting and barring scheme for adults who volunteer to come into contact with children. One is rage, and the other despair. I incline to despair. But permit me a moment’s rage before I do."

and concludes ...

"I believe in the State.

I believe in a strong State.

I believe in the State’s core purpose: to regulate and arbitrate.

I believe in the State’s power to do good; to bring justice, security and order; to defend and protect its citizens; and to make their lives better.

I believe in the State’s duty to care for the needy; to ensure that the rich help the poor, and that the weak are helped by the strong.

And I believe finally in the State’s nobility as an idea; the inspiring power of the national ideal; the tremendous possibilities unleashed by collective action; and the love and duty owed by citizens to the State.

But the incontinent expansion of the State’s reach degrades its grip. It undermines legitimacy, lowers confidence and breeds disregard. Twelve years of new Labour’s flabby-minded growth in the public sector, and the bloating of its claims on individuals’ lives, have begun to rot the whole idea of something the Left ought to believe in, and the Right do: society, and the public good."

Let me emphasis that I am not supporting calls for this vetting system to be hacked back because I don't care about protecting children from paedophiles. I want to hack it back because I believe that it won't work.

The Conservatives have promised to trim back the scheme if we win the next election. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: 'This scheme cannot be allowed to go ahead in this way. We would review the whole safeguarding process and scale it back so that common sense applies.'


More on Cutting the Cost of Politics

A follow up from David Cameron yesterday to his speech earlier in the week about cutting the cost of ministers and MPs

"The seasons might be changing but this Groundhog Day Government certainly isn't. Labour came back from their summer holidays promising a fresh approach - more honesty and more realism about the state of the public finances.

But after all the spin the most striking thing about Alistair Darling's speech was what he didn't say. He still couldn't bring himself to utter the word 'cuts' and there were no new commitments to reduce spending.

What's more he didn't address the fundamental inconsistency in Labour's argument. He says he'll reduce the deficit once the recession is over, yet his own forecasts expect growth to resume at the end of this year.

So why on earth are they still planning to increase spending next year by £30 billion? Simple - there's a general election around the corner and for Labour, doing the right thing lost out long ago to political calculation.

On the same day I gave a speech that showed our approach is the exact opposite. I was honest about the scale of the challenge, and that cuts have to be made.

I said we had to start dealing with the debt as soon as possible, and that the extra £30 billion is simply too much. I also set out new commitments to reduce spending by cutting the cost of politics.

The whole pampered, profligate apparatus of modern politics has got to be trimmed back. The chauffeur-driven cars, the subsidised food, the public affairs consultants, Ministers' pay, even the number of MPs - all have to be cut.

People say this is a stunt. When the deficit is £175 billion, saving £120 million isn't going to make a massive difference. I know that. But this isn't just about the money - it's the message it sends out.

This country is in a debt crisis. We must all now come together, play our part, carry our burden and pay our fair share. And that starts at the very top - with politicians cutting the cost of politics."

Heard at the post office

While collecting an item at Whitehaven sorting office today, where the staff were, as usual, extremely helpful ...

"Are you the Conservative feller, then ?"

"Yes, that's me"

"So can we expect a bit in the Whitehaven News about how good we are?"
(Said with a smile and a twinkle in the eye ...)

Not certain if I can swing that but I'm happy to acknowledge here that all the the post office people in Whitehaven (and the rest of Copeland) have always given excellent service.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Vetting and Barring

As a parent of two children aged under ten, I would strongly support any reasonable measure which makes it less likely that they or other children could be attacked by paedophiles.

That includes longer sentences for people convicted of actually harming children, and making the systems which check up on potentially dangerous people more effective.

Unfortunately it does not necessarily mean bringing vastly more people into the net of government checks, which are already drawn so widely that the systems involved are creaking at the seams. There comes a point when the more people you try to watch, the less effectively you watch those who really need watching. And the government's new "Vetting and Barring" scheme appears to go way past that point.

The Daily Telegraph reports here how the government is proposing a vast extension of the range of people who need checks before they are allowed within a mile of children. The new scheme covers any formal agreement to ferry youngsters to and from the likes of Scouts, dance classes or local football matches, parents who help children read in class or those who host foreign pupils as part of school exchange trips, school governors, dentists, pharmacists, prison officers and even dinner ladies. All these people will have to register with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and undergo criminal record checks. Anyone who fails to register and have their background checked faces a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record.

Ultimately this new system is expected to bring a fifth of the total population of Britain into the net - 11.3 million people.

Anyone familiar with the management of schools is likely to have heard stories of the hassle already involved in making sure everyone who needs one has a CRB check. I strongly suspect that the new scheme will make matters worse. It will also deter people from volunteering to do things.

Whoever wins the coming General Election is going to have to make savings in government spending in order to stop this country reaching intolerable levels of debt - and any Labour politician who claims that a Labour government would not make cuts after the election is a fool or a liar.

If David Cameron wins I hope one of the first savings he makes will be to scrap the Vetting and Barring scheme, not because protecting children isn't important, but because I am convinced that such a disproportionate, bureaucratic scheme covering far too many people will be actively counterproductive.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bransty & Harbour Neighbourhood Forum, 15 Sept

The next meeting of the Bransty & Harbour neighbourhood forum will be held at 7pm on Tuesday 15th September in the United Reformed Church, Market Place, Whitehaven.

The first item on the agenda will be a report back on the Whitehaven Traffic Flow consultation: I suspect this may be widened to allow some questions about the impact of the current road closure on Inkerman Terrace.

This will be followed by a series of Community updates, on the work of the COuncil for Voluntary services, and on New Start adult education courses, and by updates on items previously raised, including Litter and refuse issues, Mill Street, and resident's parking.

As usual the meeting will finish by considering Grant applications.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Labour's death wish: September Copeland Council

The September full council meeting of Copeland Borough Council took place today. 

It began with presentations to various schools who had done excellent work to improve their local environment, and there was some discussion on traffic (see previous post) but the meeting was dominated by an extraordinary row about the "Choosing to Change" programme. 

When an administration at national or council level has been in power for too long it sometimes develops a kind of "death wish." When this syndrome takes hold there seems to be no sequence of events which they cannot turn into a festering self-inflicted wound. It's a bit like the political equivalent of Necrotizing fasciitis. 

 And both Gordon Brown's Labour government and Elaine Woodburn's Labour administration in Copeland have advanced cases of this "death wish" syndrome. Cases which, if the electorate makes the right decision, will be terminal. Having repeatedly been the subject of truly dreadful audit reports and surveys, which provided objective evidence for the view that Copeland is one of the ten least effective and most unpopular councils in England, the administration finally decided earlier this year to apply to take part in a government reform programme called "Choosing to Change." 

As one aspect of "Choosing to change" is supposed to be about boosting local democracy, and making decision making more clear and transparent, it's ironic that the manner in which the decision to take part was made appears itself to have left something to be desired in terms of clarity and transparency. But it appeared to be a good sign that the council was recognising the need for improvement and taking positive steps to try to do something about it. 

 Copeland council's Overview and Scrutiny Management committee, which has a Labour majority, held a meeting on 1st September at which virtually the whole programme was taken up with an investigation into the decision to apply to take part in "Choosing to Change." Because it clashed with a meeting of another council committee of which I am a member, I was not able to attend the whole of this meeting, but what I saw of it was positive and constructive. 

The committee members voted unanimously for seven recommendations to try to help the reform process, which were due to be presented to full council this afternoon. I thought that these were very sensible recommendations, and most of the noises coming out of the administration were positive. If the administration had the sense God gave a wombat, they would have accepted the recommendations, today's council meeting would have been extremely boring, and the Whitehaven News headline this week would probably have read something like "Copeland Council finally start to get their act together." 

Well, I don't know what the headline's going to be, but I suspect it is more likely to feature words like "Blazing Row," "shambles," or "Defection." 

A number of sections were removed from the report of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee without the agreement of the chairman or vice chairman. Now this may sound boring to most people, but stop for a moment and think. How would you feel if you had put a lot of hard work into an important report which you would be presenting in public, and somebody took six paragraphs out of your report without consulting you? 

And at the council meeting the Labour group, while accepting six of the seven recommendations, put a "party whip" against the last one which called for cross-party working. As I was not at the Labour group meeting last night, or at either of the impromptu meetings which Labour councillors were dragged into in a room next to the council chamber this afternoon, I only have hearsay evidence for what went on. But it would appear that there was some heavy duty arm-twisting. 

What is beyond doubt is that the Chairman of the O&S Management Committee, Cllr Brian Dixon, was so cross at the pressure being brought to bear on him that he resigned the Labour whip at the meeting and crossed the floor, taking a seat near the Independents. A Labour amendment to delete the "cross party working" recommendation was carried on a recorded vote with at least two Labour councillors, not counting Brian Dixon, refusing to support it. The mood of the debate was fairly poisonous, and what should have been an opportunity to start the process of reform which everyone agrees Copeland needs turned into yet another destructive row of the kind that brings local politics into disrepute.

Inkerman Terrace Road Closure - Day two

This is the second day of the roadworks in Whitehaven during which the A5094 in Whitehaven is closed for re-surfacing from the junction of Inkerman Terrace with the Loop Road (A595) down to the garage at the junction of Corkickle and Coach Road.

The lower end of Park Drive at the bottom of Midgey is also now closed to through traffic.

The one-way restriction on the Northern part of Foxhouses Road between the A5094 and Ehen Drive junctions has been lifted while the repairs are in process and there are a lot of temporary yellow lines on roads like Calder Avenue.

I have been walking to work and back rather than taking the car. The town centre is quieter than usual. I am told that, as expected, traffic flows in the area of the Pelican junction have been quite difficult.

I raised the issue at Copeland Council this afternoon: there seemed to be a fair degree of consensus that more consultation and discussion further in advance about how to minimise disruption caused by this kind of road works would have been a good thing.

DC on cutting the cost of politics

David Cameron gave a major speech today, which you can read in full here, setting out how a Conservative Government will cut the cost of politics.

"If we're going to take our country through these difficult times",
he said, "those who lead must lead by powerful example. That means getting our own house in order and cutting the cost of politics".

He outlined several ways of doing this, including cutting the number of MPs, cutting their perks and subsidies, and cutting ministerial salaries and their cars.

In total the proposals DC announced today will save taxpayers as much as £120 million a year, but he emphasised that this was about more than the money.

"It's about the message. This country is in a debt crisis. We must all now come together, play our part, carry our burden and pay our fair share. And that starts at the very top - with politicians cutting the cost of politics".

Monday, September 07, 2009

Inkerman Terrace Road Closure in effect from today

Well, today we find out what the effect of the road closure of Inkerman Terrace is. If you have to drive into Whitehaven over the next five weeks, drive carefully.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Yet more Labour smears ...

If I had to identify the worst and most poisonous aspect of the "New Labour" culture it would have to be the extent to which many of them - not all - are extremely prone to smearing anyone who gets in their way.

I've changed my views on this since moving to Copeland: if you had asked me when I lived in St Albans who were the dirtiest fighters in politics I would have answered that it was the Liberal Democrats. Conservative and Labour councillors on that authority frequently ended up working together to a greater extent than you would expect because both those groups found that Lib/Dem dirty tricks made them very difficult to co-operate with.

However, there are decent people and scoundrels in every political party, and I'm coming to the view that a large part of the present Labour administration is even less scrupulous than the worst Lib/Dems in their willingness to smear anyone who stands in their way. That doesn't just mean Conservatives - they are almost equally quick to turn on ordinary citizens or each other. (Look at the things that people close to Tony Blair have said about Gordon Brown and vice versa.)

The McBride affair, when one of Gordon Brown's closest associates was caught trying to plant filthy lies about the sex lives and the sanity of family members of leading Consertives, was probably the worst single example of this, but it was not an isolated case. This has been a consistent thread throughout the Labour government. Remember

* Rose Addis, a 94 year old grandmother who was accused of racism after her family expressed concern about the health care she was given by the NHS

* The attempt to dig up dirt on survivors and the families of victims of the Paddington Rail Crash, described here.

* When Martin Sixsmith, a former journalist who was Director of Communications at the Department of Transport, tried to ensure that the funeral of the Queen Mother was not used to hide embarrassing news, it became his turn, not just to be smeared but "resigned" - cabinet minister Stephen Byers announced that Sixsmith had resigned when he hadn't. HIs permanent secretary was dragged into defending the minister as described here.

* Labour MPs themselves have not been immune: the late Gwyneth Dunwoody, then chairman of a Select Committee, said that the government smear machine had been employed against her too for disagreeing with Labour minister Stephen Byers.

* A few weeks ago there were a series of attacks against the previous head of the army Sir Richard Dannant, which were described by former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie with the words: “This is ghastly spin, the sort of behaviour you expect from the gutter. Richard Dannatt is beyond reproach. This is beneath contempt.”

That is far from a complete list.

Taken individually, any one of these stories could be dismissed as an isolated incident or the press getting things wrong. But looking at the total picture and it is difficult for a reasonable person to avoid the conclusion that people very close to both Blair and Brown have used smearing anyone who gets in their way as a routine political tactic.

Passing the newspaper stands this morning, I was disgusted to see what appears to be the latest Labour smear campaign on the front page of the Mail on Sunday. Only a few days after the "gutter" attacks on the outgoing head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, it alleges that Labour Ministers were preparing a smear campaign against his successor, General Sir David Richards.

You can read the Mail story here.

Apparently the government were preparing to smear Sir David if he repeats the concerns expressed by his predecessor about whether our armed forces in Afghanistan are given enough support. Labour were particularly concerned because Sir David's 25-year-old daughter works for David Cameron as his diary secretary.

It is suggested that one of the real reasons why Labour MP Eric Joyce, a former army major, resigned as PPS to the Defence Secretary last week was that he strongly disagreed with any such tactics.

And the response of the Labour trolls on various blogs today? They have been posting comments attacking Eric Joyce and suggesting that he planted this story.

No political party is perfect. But the systematic smears by too many Labour politicians against anyone who crosses them are much worse than the normal run of political knockabout and represent a new low in political debate. If there is any justice, these guys deserve to be absolutely hammered at the next election.

Inkerman Terrace closure - ONE DAY TO GO

Tomorrow, Monday 7th September, the A5094 in Whitehaven will be closed for repairs from the junction of Inkerman Terrace with the Loop Road (A595) down to the garage at the junction with Coach Road.

Park Drive at the bottom of Midgey will also be closed to through traffic.

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 repairs to the road are expected to take about five weeks. This will not be an easy period. Leave plenty of time and drive carefully while coming into Whitehaven by car from tomorrow.

David Cameron on why we are in Afghanistan

This week was the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. It's a time to remember all those who fought, died and sacrificed for Britain. But it's a time, too, to remember the lessons.

Some of those lessons apply in Afghanistan today. We're fighting a ferocious war and after eight years there still seems to be no end in sight. Our troops lack vital equipment, especially helicopters. Many people want Ministers to explain more clearly what our troops are fighting for. And that anxiety is now really affecting the Government, with the resignation of an aide to the Defence Secretary. It's clear we cannot go on as we are.

We need to make it clear to the British people why we're in Afghanistan. It's simple - to stop terrorism here in Britain. We must help the Afghans to stop their country from once again hosting the world's most dangerous terrorists. So we need to train and equip the Afghan army to root out terrorists, and to support them until they can do this for themselves.

We must make sure our soldiers have the tools they need - more counter-IED capability, more helicopters, more surveillance drones, more heavily armoured vehicles, and more transport aircraft. We must support their families here in Britain, and give every assistance to the injured.

And to do all these things we need one thing more than anything else - leadership. That's something that's been desperately lacking. We've had four defence secretaries in as many years; the last one was part-time and the current one ranks 21st out of 23 in the Cabinet. That's not a great starting point when we're fighting a conflict thousands of miles away. This is a new kind of war, it's a necessary war, and we need strong leadership and relentless focus to explain that to people in Britain.

The lessons of 1939 show that Britain can turn things around in war. Six years of effort later, we won the war. I'm confident we can see success in Afghanistan. I've been out there and seen what a tremendous job our servicemen and women do. It's time they got the right kind of support from the Government at home.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Inkerman Terrace closure - TWO DAYS TO GO

Just two days to go until Monday 7th September, when for about five weeks the A5094 in Whitehaven will be closed for repairs from the junction of Inkerman Terrace with the Loop road down to the garage at the junction with Coach Road.

Park Drive at the bottom of Midgey will also be closed to through traffic.

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.

If you will have to get into the centre of Whitehaven, especially during rush hour, for the next few weeks, it is worth some careful thought about how to do so.

* If you are in a position to apply "modal shift" and walk in, this might be a very
good idea (and I will be taking my own advice on this.)

* The recommended route in is to take the Loop Road up to the pelican and turn 150
degrees left down New Road. This probably is the best route, but be prepared for
delays. This is also the recommended route out.

* Many people may be tempted to take other routes such as the St Bees Road or to go
through residential streets. If you do this, please assume that there will be
significant delays on these routes too, and please drive safely and carefully,
especially when near schools such as St James's and St Beghs. And be aware that
the congestion near these schools during the morning rush hour and at school
closing time will be terrible.

Almost all of the possible routes into Whitehaven other than the recommended route have sections where the narrowness of the road, combined with parked cars, make it impossible for cars to pass in opposite directions at the same time. Many of these sections may require considerable patience for the next few weeks.

It's going to be a difficult few weeks. A great pity these repairs could not have been done before the schools went back.

Digital switchover problems

The saga of Digital TV switchover is far from over. My Bransty county colleague Graham Roberts has had a large number of complaints and concerns from people whose TV service was disrupted as a result of the changover to Digital transmission.

Apparently a major part of the problem this time has been interference between the Bleach Green transmitter and one on the Isle of Man which used the same frequency.

From beginning to end the process of Digital Switchover has been marketing led rather than engineering led, and in consequence not enough emphasis has been placed on anticipating and learning from problems. It really is time that more attention was paid to people on the engineering side of the TV industry who understand the technical issues with switchover.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Inkerman Terrace closure - FOUR DAYS TO GO

Four days to go until Monday 7th September, when for about five weeks the A5094 in Whitehaven will be closed for repairs from the junction of Inkerman Terrace with the Loop road down to the garage at the junction with Coach Road.

Park Drive at the bottom of Midgey will also be closed to through traffic.

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 route into Whitehaven during this period is down New Road at the Pelican junction.

I am and remain very worried about the capacity of junctions on the remaining main routes into town and the road safety issues which are likely to arise on some of the potential rat runs.

If you are in a position to walk into town rather than take the car, it might be worth doing for the next few weeks. (I shall be taking my own advice on this.) If you drive into town along residential roads, please drive carefully.

Lest we forget ...

Seventy years ago today Britain declared war on Germany at the start of WWII.

There followed six years of sacrifice ad many thousands of brave men and women gave their lives to prevent the victory of perhaps the most evil cause the world has ever known.

That sacrifice must never be forgotten. Now should we forget that the sacrifices were greater than might otherwise have been necessary, and that Nazism came closer to establishing a new Dark Age, because the majority of leaders and people in the Western Democracies failed in peacetime to grasp the severity of the threat or to prepare for the challenge that they would face.

There are those who argue that the threats faced by the free world today are even worse than those of earlier ages. When it is used in an attempt to justify the erosion of centuries old liberties, that argument is overplayed. The threats presented by Hitler's Germany seventy years ago, or by the former Soviet Union in my youth, were incomparably greater than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong-il, and all their like put together.

Nevertheless, we are born into a dangerous world, and it is as true today as it ever was that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

This country is sometimes accused of being obsessed with the history of World War II. But perhaps, when we remember how this country and our commonwealth stood alone against murderous dictatorships which ruled practically the whole of Europe and Asia, in a war which more than almost any other in history really was a battle between good and evil, we have something to be proud of. Let us seek to be a people who the heroes of 1939 to 1945 would be proud to have as their descendants.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Left in the dark

Because Labour have left it too late to start the process of building new power stations, there is a strong probability of power cuts in Britain within the next decade, whoever wins the next election.

The admission that Britain will face power-cuts is contained in one of the supporting documethns for Government’s own "Low Carbon Transition Plan", launched in July.

As the Daily Telegraph reports here an appendix to the report, only published online, warns of power shortages. It details supplies and expected demand between now and 2030, and highlights the first short-fall in 2017. The “energy unserved” level reaches 3000 megawatt hours per year.

That is the equivalent of the whole of the Nottingham area being without electricity for a day.

Shadow Energy and Climate Change secretary Greg Clark has a new blog on which he explains here how the problem has arisen.

He concludes:

The next government has an urgent task to accelerate the deployment of new generating capacity of all types. We must promote the rapid roll-out of ’smart grid’ technology to enable the sensitive matching of supply and demand, without recourse to the blunt instrument of rolling blackouts. Above all we must make robust margin of security an explicit object of British energy policy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Frank Field on teaching history in schools

Labour MP Frank Field has an excellent article on Conservative Home about teaching history in schools which you can read here.

I hope he doesn't take any flak for writing this or Con Home for publishing it, because more constructive discussion ignoring party lines in this country would be a thoroughly good thing.