Showing posts from 2010

DC's New Year Message

The Prime Minister writes: "After eight months in this job, I am acutely conscious of the challenges we face as a country. But I begin this New Year in the same positive frame of mind as when I set out the task of starting a new government back in May. By nature I am an optimist – about people, about human nature and, above all, about the future of our great country. If we sort out our problems, and make the most of our many opportunities, we can be one of the international success stories of the new decade. As for politics, my approach is simple: politics is public service in the national interest. We all have our dreams, ambitions and principles that we cherish and want to put into place. But most important of all, particularly at times like this, is to deal with the real problem in front of us. And there can be no doubt what that is: the state of our economy and the budget deficit. We have been living seriously beyond our means. We have to sort this out. Every sensible person k

Christmas reading - Decline and Fall

In between spending some time with the children over Christmas and tackling some long-overdue tasks around the house, my Christmas reading has been the second volume of the diaries of Chris Mullin, the former Labour MP for Sunderland South, which are called "Decline and Fall." On the face of it, I should have very little in common with Chris Mullin beyond a common dedication to politics and the fact that we both strongly disagree with the idea of locking people up for three months without trial. We come from very different parts of the political spectrum, and one of the things which marked his tenure as a select committee chairman was an ill-judged attack on an organisation of which I am a member and which I believe does far more good every year by helping those in need than the average M.P. does in his entire career. Nevertheless, Mullin's diaries are not just entertaining and informative but moving and thought-provoking. And in spite of what I wrote in the previous para

A Very Merry Christmas to anyone reading this

Wherever you are, and whatever your colour, creed or politics, I wish everyone who is reading this a happy and holy Christmas season and a healthy and prosperous New Year 2011.

A Christmas "Knock-knock"

My young son is very fond of "Knock-knock" jokes. After my children were up very early this morning, we reminded my son of a knock-knock joke which is often used in our family, referring to a line from "Tommy" which consequently seemed particularly apposite in our home this Christmas ... "Knock Knock!" "Who's there?" "The" "The Who?" "Did you ever see the faces of the children? They get so exited! Waking up on Christmas morning, long before the winter sun's ignited ..."

Christmas Pharmacy rota in Whitehaven

The emergency pharmacy rota in the Whitehaven to Egremont area over the Christmas and New Year period 2010 to 2011 is as follows: Christmas Day, 6-7pm, Tesco Pharmacy, Bransty Row, North Shore, Whitehaven Boxing Day, 6-7pm, W Fare, 71-73 Market Place, Whitehaven New Year's Day, 6-7pm, Murray's Pharmacy, 31 Market Place, Egremont. IN an emergency you can phone your GP out of hors service or the A&E at the West Cumberland. Urgent prescriptions should be endorsed as "Urgent" by a G.P.

With Friends like these

I have been reading an interesting article by contributing editor Dan Hodges on Labour Uncut called " The Left is losing its marbles ." Five years ago I quoted on this blog some thoughts by Mark Shields, an American journalist, on the pattern followed by parties which lose elections. He was thinking of the American Democrats (who he usually supports) after George W Bush's re-election, and I said at the time his comments were every bit as applicable to British Conservatives. Now they are relevant to the Labour party. Sheilds argued that parties which lose elections go through four phases: 1) We woz robbed 2) Blame the communications 3) Blame the leader/candidate 4) Find a Winner I commented at the time "I've had a bellyful of phases one, two and three. Whether there is any justice in them or not, they don't work." Obviously the majority of the rest of the Conservative party felt the same way, as they elected David Cameron who is now Prime Minister. Dan Ho

One way of clearing snow ...

Out this afternoon in Bransty ward delivering a Christmas newsletter, my colleage Graham Roberts and I passed a resourceful constituent who was melting the snow from his drive with a piece of equipment which was something between a very large blowtorch and a small flamethrower. Well that's one way of doing it. Actually the most dramatic indication of just how severe this cold snap has been was how long it was taking even a jet of flame to melt the ice, though it gave Graham and myself some opportunities to amuse ourselves with ideas of alternative uses for the flamethrower. Most of which we won't be repeating in front of anyone we don't know in case they turn out to be an undercover reporter ...

An apology is owed to the McWhirter family

David Baddiel, Alun Davies, and the BBC all owe an apology to the family of the late Norris McWhirter for an outrageous slur against a dead man, and to the Freedom Association for describing them as a 'slightly posher version of the BNP.' Hat tip to Dan Hannan and Cranmer for pointing out that comedian David Baddiel, while promoting a short film he had made about a visit by Norris McWhirter to his old school, made some entirely inappropriate remarks on Alan Davies's show on BBC radio Five Live on Saturday. The interview begins just after 1 hour and seven minutes into the two hour slot if you follow this link to BBC iPlayer. The comments to which Dan and Cranmer have taken offence - rightly, in my opinion - begin 1 hour 23 minutes and 35 seconds into the BBC iPlayer segment. There is no doubt that the late Norris McWhirter, who with his brother Ross started the "Guinness Book of Records" and was involved with "Record Breakers," did have strong politica

The Guardian sinks its' teeth into the Unite boss

A "Man bites dog" story: a Guardian editorial on Monday, Leading Nowhere attacked Len McCluskey, newly elected general secretary of Unite. As even the Guardian can see "the public does not want an unreformed welfare state, a lame duck industrial sector or trade unions that seem more concerned with overthrowing governments than representing workers' interests democratically. It wants welfare, work and industrial democracy that are relevant to today's world, not that of our grandparents. The labour movement will not be able to defend and renew what it cherishes if it follows Mr McCluskey up the blind alley of deficit denial, indiscriminate opposition to all cuts, and a programme of strikes which large parts of the country will see as an attack on rather than a defence of the public realm."

On Snow and Climate Change

Posters on Political Betting have been chuckling at a ten year old article which one of them unearthed at the weekend, while the country was under a thick blanket of snow, entitled " Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past. " And certainly some of the predictions in Charles Onians' March 2000 article, such as " snow is starting to disappear from our lives" look pretty funny at the moment. As we experience the second of two consecutive savage winters, at least relative to recent history, it is fairly obvious that the received wisdom of a few years ago, which the article represents, that the world is dramatically warming, is to put it mildly, a little overstated and oversimplistic. As we learn more about the environment, we can expect previous theories and views will sometimes be shown to be inaccurate, and need to be amended. Hence we need to be open-minded in our attitude to climate change. Genuinely open-minded: it is equally unhelpful to label anyone who

Rentoul on Cameron

John Rentoul in the Independent has a very interesting analysis on David Cameron's performance as Prime Minister called " Like it or not, Cameron is a born leader." Rentoul quotes Labour's former home secretary John Reid as saying of Cameron last week: "He is a better prime minister than he was leader of the opposition. If he had been as successful as leader of the opposition as he now is as prime minister, and as astute, then the Tories would have an overall majority."

A memorable weather report

Heard on the radio a little before 8 am this morning -the most succinct weather forecast I can remember. "Ice, snow, frost - I'd stay under the duvet today if I were you."

The Axe man cometh

A very busy week: still coming to terms with the local government spending assessments. Cumbria CC got off comparatively lightly, but Copeland BC has taken an even worse caning than we expected, apparently mainly as a result of the withdrawal of various "Top Up" grants. Wednesday's delayed Full Council meeting was dominated by screaming about this, with various Labour councillors putting the blame firmly in the wrong place. The reality is that painful measures were inevitable whoever had won the election, because the outgoing Labour government left the country bankrupt. Labour – up to their necks in debt Because Gordon Brown doubled the national debt, * This year, 2010-11, the burden of interest on government debt will be £42 billion in 2010-11. If we didn’t have to pay this money, we could abolish council tax overnight, and still have £16 billion left of change. * Unless we cut the borrowing, interest on the Labour Government’s toxic legacy of debt will hit £70 billio

In the public interest

How do you ensure that whistleblowers and people who release information which ought to get out cannot be convicted under laws designed to catch spies, thieves, or those whose activities are a genuine threat to national security? Most civilised countries square this circle by qualifying the laws against people who leak or publish sensitive information with a public interest defence. E.g. if you are "Wikileaks" and you publish secret information, but bringing that information into the public domain may cause criminals in high places to be caught, cause a policy which genuninely needs scrutiny to receive it, or otherwise be in the public interest, you can use this in your defense. On the other hand, if you publish stolen information, especially if this may put innocent lives at risk, and cannot point to such a corresponding benefit, you can and should be successfully prosecuted. I've been following the "Wikileaks" debate with some interest. One or two of the nugge

Labour's fox gets shot ...

Certain Labour party spinners and bloggers, and their friends at the Guardian have been trying to talk up the possibility that the PM's media advisor, Andy Coulson, might face charges over illegal phone hacking while he waws editor of the News of the World. As Mike Smithson at political betting suggests here , there has consequently been a betting market on whether Coulson will have to resign - and Mike advises putting your money against it. At one stage the BBC was also running with this story, but they seem to have seen the writing on the wall. The BBC reports here that prosecutors have investigated the allegations and dropped any idea of bringing charges. As the BBC reports, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, says there was no admissible evidence to support the claims that public figures' phones were hacked. Former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare had made lurid allegations in the New York Times about widespread phone hacking at the paper, but refused t

Tuition Fees

I have very mixed feelings about the Tuition Fees package which the government successfully carried this evening. When I was a student union officer I took part in demonstrations calling for improvements to grants packages which were vastly more generous to students at the taxpayers' expense, and I have no doubt that if I were still a student union officer I would have been of the same mind. Actually it's quite ironic when you look back to the debates we used to have, to see what ministers of all parties have subsequently done. Suppose that in 1985 I or one of my tory student contemporaries such as Iain Dale had told our fellow students that over the next 25 years * Mrs Thatcher would be the last Prime Minister during whose tenure students were paid support from the state consisting entirely of grants with no loan element and the state covering fees * When Labour finally got into power, one of their first actions would be to introduce fees payable by students despite a manifest


Attended a meeting this afternoon in relation to the Department of Energy and Climate Change reconsultation about the revised draft National Policy Statement on Energy. Much of the debate concerned the Kirksanton and Braystones site, which the new government is proposing to remove from the list of possible locations for new nuclear build. (Local residents of those area were very keen to ensure this change is confirmed and those sites are not subsequently proposed again.) The remainder of the discussion was very supportive of Sellafield going forward as a site for new nuclear build, with all speakers from the floor (including myself) also arguing for an effective, phased plan for insfrastructure improvements to put but in place no later than the submission of any planning application. The consultation is open until Monday 24th February and you can respond online via the DECC website here .

Harras Moor gas leak

About 40 homes in the Harras Moor area of Bransty ward had to be evacuated today after a gas main developed a leak. The road from the Sunny Hill to Red Lonning was also cordoned off for much of the day. A reception centre was set up in St Benedict's school: about 35 people used the service, other residents went to stay with family or friends. Sixth form pupils at the school served hot food and drinks to the residents at the reception centre, while an emergency response team, Copeland council, Red Cross and other organisations worked to manage the situation. The gas leak, into the local sewer from a fractured main, was contained by early evening and a phased programme has begun to let residents back into their homes. Jackie O'Reilly from Copeland Councils Environmental Health department and Ruth Walsh co-ordinated the council's response and as a ward councillor for the affected are I would like to put on record by appreciation and thanks for their hard work, and also thank t

Copeland Council meeting postponed

The meeting of Copeland Borough Council which had been due to take place at 2pm this afternoon has been postponed because of difficult travel conditions: the roads in West Cumbria are very icy at the moment. I understand that the meeting is likely to be rescheduled for 4pm on Wednesday 15th December at Cleator Moor Town Hall and Masonic Centre.

Watch out on the roads

If you have occasion to travel this evening or tomorrow please take great care: the roads are very treacherous.

Sauce for the Goose ...

I was pleased to hear that David Cameron eventually decided not to have his photographer paid from the public purse: not because the original decision to the contrary was any worse than all the millions the previous Labour government had spent on self-publicity, but because the Conservatives had promised to cut the cost of politics. Hat tip to Guido Fawkes' blog for pointing out that one of the Labour MPs who criticised the original decision to have the Prime Minister's photographer on the public payroll has herself claimed £634.99 from the taxpayer as parliamentary expenses this year for the cost of her own photographer. As Guido put it, turning her own words against her, "Charging the taxpayer for vanity shots at a time when people are losing their jobs and homes? This is outrageous.”

Twenty years serving the community

Attended the 20th annoversary celebrations today of the Whitehaven Community Trust. In that time the Trust has helped with the regeneration of the time, found accomodation for more than 430 vulnerable youngsters with high housing need, and helped many others into employment.

Some attacks say more about the attacker ....

And some criticisms say far more about the person making the criticism than they do about the subject. Such as the tweet today by Ed Miliband’s chief media spokesperson, Kate Myler - which, Mr Miliband's office was quick to point out, was "made in Kate Myler’s personal capacity." I'm disappointed that England is not to host the 2018 world cup, but it's one of those things - there are far more countries wanting to host such events than they can possibly go to. I'm quite sure that if David Cameron had refused to lift a finger to back the bid, the Labour party would have been the first to attack him for it. So what are we to make of Kate Myler's tweet, some time before the final decision, that the Prime Minister was “pimping himself out in Zurich..” I don't recall that over the last 13 years the Labour party described ministers in their government who tried to being business or international events such as the 2012 Olympics to Britain in those terms. As a

May: Putting policing at the heart of the community

Home Secretary Theresa May writes: "Today we unveiled radical new reforms to put the public back at the heart of our drive to cut crime, and give people more influence over their local communities. For the first time you will have a real say in how your local area is policed through directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. From May 2012 these Commissioners will replace faceless police authorities and they will set goals and priorities for their police forces according to the wishes of the public who elect them. On top of this, we are strengthening the powers that police and councils have to tackle crime and, in particular, alcohol-related, disorder. We are putting in place these changes because, for too long, the fight against crime has been tangled up in a web of centrally imposed red tape, driving a wedge between the police and their local communities. Under Labour the police were behind desks, not out on the streets; they were chasing targets, not fighting crime. As the

Should the Lib/Dems be allowed to abstain on tuition fees?

Tim Montgomerie points out at Conservative Home here that the exact wording of the Tuition Fees section of the Coalition Agreement is as follows: "If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote". Things have moved on since then, and it would be more than a little ironic (to put it mildly) that if this agreement is invoked to the letter, the minister who drafted the policy may end up abstaining himself. I'm not convinced that abstention will satisfy the people who are angry with the Lib/Dems over tuition fees, but that's their problem. An abstention is what was agreed in the coalition agreement, and if the Lib/Dems collectively abstain and the Conservatives all vote for the goverment position, it will be carried with a majority of 13 over all other parties. If Lib/Dem ministers are allowed to abstain, there is a quid pro quo whic

Labour spend taxpayers' money blaming the coalition for the cuts

You couldn't make it up, could you? But that's what the Labour council administration in Camden has done. Here is a link to an article in the Camden New Journal, Labour spend public money to show cuts are Coalition’s . If a shortage of money means that "tough decisions" are needed, cutting back on propaganda first ought to be an easy one - for any honest and intelligent politician who cares more about services for the people they were elected to represent. Clearly the administration in Camden, which is spending £1,500 on posters blaming the government for the cuts, has demonstrated whether any of those descriptions apply to them. The local Conservative group leader, Councillor Andrew Mennear said: “The current government is having to make spending cuts owing to the previous Labour government’s reckless profligacy with our money during its 13 wasted years in office. “Labour Camden’s decision to waste our money locally by putting up pointless and arguably political adve

The dangers of declaring victory too early ...

One of George W Bush's worst mistakes was declaring "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq at a stage when Saddam might have been overthrown but building a stable and secure state to replace what US and British arms had overthrown was, to put it mildly, not complete. I have similar concerns about the possibility that mainstream politicians may take the setback for extreme nationalist parties in this year's general election, and their low profile in most parts of the country since, as grounds for complacency. This would be a mistake. Am email sent out this morning from the "Nothing British" campaign says that "Undoubtedly the BNP as an institution has lost its momentum. The humiliation in Barking. The financial collapse. The EHRC trial. Griffin’s personal failings. And the tremendous work of anti-BNP campaigns. So we are closing down Nothing British at the end of the year. We would like to thank all those who have helped our campaign against the extremism and ra

Rawnsley on the case for and against AV

Andrew Rawnsley has a very good piece in the Observer today, available on the Guardian website here , which is about the case for a Yes or No vote in the AV referendum but rejoices in the title Two-tribe politics is over. But the likes of John Prescott can't see it. After an effective demolition of Prescott and the other "long in the sabre-tooth" politicians fronting the "No" campaign, Rawnsley sumarises the arguments on both sides in the referendum. He appears to be arguing on balance for a "Yes" while I will be voting "No" but it is a good summary and worth a read if you are interested in an intelligent discussion of the issues.

Now Winter has come ...

Today is Advent Sunday, the first day of the Church's year and the beginning of the preparation for Christmas. Rather appropriately, the first four words of the Advent Hymn with which many congregations will have started their services this morning are "Now Winter has come" You're telling me! If you go out today, please do take care. Many paths and roads are quite treacherous.

On childhood and snow ...

It doesn't often snow in Whitehaven. The majority of years we've been here the entire winter has passed without a single day's snow on the ground. So when we woke up this morning with about three-quarters of an inch of snow everywhere, and the view over to Kells from our bedroom windows looking like a christmas card, the shrieking of happy children in my household could probably be heard over half of Whitehaven. Funny how such things bring back memories of one's own childhood, though I don't know what my dad would have said if my brother and I had chosen the bonnet of his car as the ideal place to make a snowman ... The adults are probably less inclined to celebrate, but it's the weekend and our children are only young once.

Ed Byrne caught out on Question Time

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes and Guy News for pointing out a boo-boo by left-wing comedian Ed Byrne: last night on Question Time during a discussion on student fees, Byrne was asked by David Willetts "Didn't you do some publicity on this under the last Labour government?" and replied "No" and "I think you're thinking of somebody else: I didn't do any publicity for the Labour party on anything." It's usually a bad idea to tell "Two Brains" Willetts he's wrong: his memory turned out to be rather better than Mr Byrne's as this clip by Guy News shows. After the clip appeared on Guido's site, Ed Byrne tweeted “I hold my hands up. Completely forgot about it. Apologies to David Willets”

Warsi: getting Britain back on track

Conservative co-chairman Sayeeda Warsi writes ... As Party Chairman, I spend a lot of my time on the road meeting people across the country and talking about how the Coalition is trying to achieve a better Britain. Recently I visited Hyndburn, Derby and Doncaster where I spoke to supporters and members of the public about what the Government is doing and how we're doing it. While we've got a lot more work to do, I think we've made a promising start: We've brought Britain back from the brink by dealing with the deficit; We're creating a new economic dynamism and bringing a pro-enterprise attitude to Government; We're making tough but fair welfare reforms, meaning it will always pay to work. We're ending the absurd situation where some people can claim over £100,000 a year to live in large houses in expensive areas; And we're protecting the most vulnerable in our society. We're ensuring real terms rise in health and 5-16 schools spending and we're

Charles Hendry hints at reprocessing ...

Conservative energy minister Charles Hendry hinted during a visit to Copeland this week that the government may be taking a more positive view of the future of reprocessing. He also talked about making West Cumbria one of the best placed parts of the world to take advantage of the nuclear renaissance and strongly emphasised the potential benefits to West Cumbria of the infrastructure improvements which will need to come with it. Charles Hendry told The Whitehaven News that Billions of pounds may flow into West Cumbria, including substantial investment in infrastructure, as part of the development of new nuclear facilities. Road improvements, transport, health and education services could all be involed, he said. The minister was speaking on a visit to Sellafield just as Whitehaven was hosting a ‘drop in’ centre for people to give their views on underground disposal of higher levels of nuclear material. And he said it was only right that local communities should benefit from future nuc


Hat tip to Tim Montgomerie and to Political Betting (not too often you find those two sources in agreement) for pointing out this clip of the shadow chancellor referring to his leader as "Red." Makes you wonder if that's what he calls him in private ...

Copeland Council and WRLFC, continued

There was considerable discussion when the Chief Executive's report to councillors on Copeland Council's involvement in Whitehaven Rugby League FC was presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee today. The report highlighted a number of problems with the way the issue was managed and made a number of suggestions for improvements in council procedures to reduce the chance of some of these problems recurring. One Labour councillor described what has happened as a "systemic failure" by the council, and I agree. The council gave the club financial backing designed to protect the club, secure a development at Pow Beck. While it is too early to say how much of the £125,000 of taxpayers money CBC loaned to the club or guaranteed, it is pretty clear that some of the council's investment in the club been lost, not much progress has been made on Pow Beck, and the club went into administration anyway. Failure on all three fronts: a worst of all worlds situation. The CEO

Polly goes Paddy-bashing

Polly Toynbee accuses the Irish of "piracy" and being "bad neighbours" in the Guardian today, and opposes the bailout, saying that " Ireland shouldn't get a penny " until they abandon policies she appears to blame for spreading economic catastrophe over the face of Western Europe. "Cameron says he is being 'good neighbours' with the Irish. Why, when they have been such terrible neighbours to us?" she asks. Just imagine how the Guardianistas would react to those words coming from the pen of anyone on the Tory right. Could it be possible that irony isn't quite dead after all? Nah!

Copeland Council and Whitehaven Rugby League

The Chief Executive's report to councillors on the management of Copeland Council's investment in Haven RLFC will be presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at 5pm tomorrow, Monday 21st November, in the Bainbridge Room at the Copeland Centre in Catherine Street, Whitehaven. The meeting is open to the public. If you want to come along, allow a few minutes to get your security pass etc sorted out.

The sad death of Irony

* Remember when we used to joke at the expense of our cousins over the Pond that "The Americans don't do irony" ? * Remember when someone who put an argument really badly ran the risk of getting disowned by the side of the debate they were trying to support, or receiving unwelcome congratulations from the side they disagreed with, because their argument was taken for irony? * Remember that once apon a time, brilliant satirists like Jonathan Swift could parody a view they disagreed with by writing essays like " A Modest Proposal " in the knowledge that everyone who read the article would know perfectly well that the actual message was the exact opposite of what it appeared to be saying. Well, it now seems that Britain doesn't "do irony" either. The process has been going on for a while. Shortly after I left Bristol University, there was an attempt by the extreme left to take action against that University's TRG society - yes that's right,

A Cumbrian tragedy

I am almost speechless at the report of Michael Redfern QC's inquiry into the postumous removal of body parts from deceased Sellafield workers. The tragedy is that treating the families of the deceased in this underhand and shabby way was so unnecessary. If it were possible that I had been exposed to radiation, and I was asked by a duly authorised person for permission after my death to remove parts of my body and check for contamination, so as to help protect people from future hazards, there is a very strong possibility that I would agree. In fact the decision would rest with my heirs, and again, if they were properly asked in a sensitive way, I would hope they would similarly give permission. I'm not going to go into detail, but a close relative of mine did indicate during their lifetime that they would be happy for parts of their body to be used after their death to help others. When that person died the rest of the family gave consent and those wishes were carried out. It

Government moves to keep referendum promise

EU lock means powers cannot be transferred without referendum The Government has introduced a new bill to the House of Commons which is designed to provide an EU lock and ensure that any further handover of powers from Britain to the EU will require a national referendum. The Conservative Party fully understands that many people within Britain feel disconnected from the EU and this is a way of ensuring that politicians have to consult the public before handing over further powers. Only the British people will hold the key to the referendum lock. The EU Bill places on a statutory footing the common law principle that Parliament is sovereign and that EU law only takes effect in the UK by virtue of the will of our Parliament expressed through Acts of Parliament. To date, case law has upheld that principle. This Bill will put the matter beyond speculation by placing this principle on a statutory footing. The provision is declaratory, affirming this common law principle. It does not alter t

Remembrance Sunday

Tomorrow, 14th November is remembrance Sunday and I will be taking part in the commemoration in Whitehaven for the fallen. The parade will leave Copeland Council Offices at about 10.40 and there will be a minute's silence at the war memorial at 11 am.

After the riots

Forty one police officers injured, and a number of other people. Eight required hospital treatment. Fifty people arrested. This is not a trivial incident. Nor is it one which any government can afford to back down in response to. I fully accept that the great majority of those who took part in the demonstration wanted nothing more than a peaceful protest. As well as by government ministers, those who orchestrated and took part in the violence have been condemned by Ed Balls on behalf of the opposition and by the president of N.U.S. Their right to take part in a peaceful protest has been taken away, not by the government (which is in the process of relaxing some of the restrictions on protests near parliament which Labour had imposed) but by the thugs. I note that a few idiots have attempted to semi-justify the violence by saying that as politicians have broken their promises on student fees, the protesters had been deprived of a way to obtain their wishes democratically. I would not en

Lest we forget ...

Today is Armistice Day, the 82nd anniversary of the end of the first world war. It is a day to remember all those who were killed or injured in wars, particularly those who were hurt while fighting to keep this a free country and oppose evils such as nazism. They must not be forgotten.

Mob rule at Millbank

When I was a student I frequently took part in peaceful student demonstrations against national or local policies which I disagreed with, but I always opposed protests those which looked violent or intimidatory, or were likely to give people a disgust of students. I suspect that the National Union of Students were not expecting when they called today's demo what has just happened at Millbank. They are probably intelligent enough to realise that smashing windows, injuring policemen, and terrorising office workers at a building where most of the people who work have nothing to do with any political party, because it also houses Conservative Campaign centre, does not advance their case. As so often, the entire body of two million students is in danger of being given a bad name by a relatively small number of extremists. Anyone who imagines that what happened at Millbank today will make it more likely that government policy will be changed to help students - as the peaceful protest NUS

Human rights in China

If there is one major moral issue which is just about impossible to get right, it is whether, how, and to what degree the West should speak out about Human Rights in China. Chinese governments have a long history, which goes way back before the present communist regime, of treating all outsiders as "Foreign Devils." Unfortunately, all too many of their past experience of foreigners gave them justified reasons to be very cautious of outsiders, from the depredations of Ghengis Khan through the Opium Wars to the rape of Nanking. The sad fact is that when China is criticised by outsiders, particularly by foreign governments (most particularly of countries like Britain which have some unfortunate history with China) the default response of successive Chinese regimes has not just been to dismiss the criticism as coming from enemies of China but to crack down on anyone who the foreigners are trying to help as traitors. To Chinese eyes a government which failed to respond in a manner

A lesson in irresponsible behaviour

There is a very good piece in today's Guardian by Inayat Bunglawala, " Phil Woolas: a lesson in irresponsible behaviour " in which he asks "What was the local Labour party thinking of when it allowed this incendiary madness to take place?" It's a good question and gives rise to a further one. I had to run every word of every leaflet my campaign team put out during the 2010 election, and the run up to the election, past Conservative HQ because the party was determined to avoid precisely the kind of debacle which Labour has now fallen into over Phil Woolas's campaign. I'm fairly certain that the Labour party had similar arrangements. So one can also ask, what was the NATIONAL Labour party thinking when it allowed this incendiary madness to take place? You can read Inayat's piece here . Yesterday I posted a link to a summary of the judgement on the BBC website. Hat tip to Mike Smithson at Political Betting for pointing out a link to the full judgem

A Landmark Ruling

Making a false statement about a candidate during an election is a serious offence. It is very rare for charges to be brought for this offence, and rarer still for a court to rule that the charge is justified. But that has now happened. A court has found that the Labour election campaign in Oldham and Saddleworth, where former Labour minister Phil Woolas was the candidate, put out leaflets making statments about his Lib/Dem opponent which were untrue. They have quashed his election, which unless this decision is overturned by Judicial Review, will mean a by-election. Until a few years ago, if you had asked me to predict which party was most likely to be accused of dirty tactics, I would have said the Lib/Dems. It had been my experience that there is a majority of decent people and a minority of unprincipled rascals in all the parties, but that the dirtiest election campaigns were usually fought by the Lib/Dems. But smearing your opponents, whether personally or politically, is wrong wh

Nihil Nisi Bonum

To clarify the comments policy on this blog If you want to criticise a living person who holds public office, appointed or elected, and the attack is not actionable or worded in offensive language, I will usually leave the post up even if I strongly disagree with it. This blog operated for many years with no comment moderation and very few posts indeed deleted, and I wish I could continue to run it that way because I believe strongly in free speech. However, when an obit thread, is posted on someone who has just died, comments critical of that person which might have been regarded as within the bounds of decency during their lifetime are likely to give offence. I am not going to ban all criticism on this blog of any decision taken by someone who has since died - for example, if we had a post on pensions policy and someone says that part of our problem now is because the late Prime Minister X was wrong to do Y on pensions twenty years ago, that's within the area of legitimate debate

Copeland hit by more floods

Please take great care if you are out on the roads in Copeland this evening There are at least six flood warnings in Cumbria this evening, several of them in the Copeland constituency. Traffic is being affected by water on the roads in many areas including Keswick, Distington, Frizington, and Muncaster/Holmrook. There is also a flood warning in Egremont and there have been reports of the River Duddon bursting its banks.

Bransty & Harbour Neighbourhood Forum

Despite the filthy weather there was a reasonable turnout for the Neighbourhood Forum meeting at Bransty School at 7pm Agenda items included 1) The new system for allocating social housing, which is due to be adopted in Cumbria before the end of the year, whereby people on the housing waiting lists can apply for social homes of their choice rather than wait to be allocated something by the powers that be 2) The scheme which provides supported lodging for young adults leaving care 3) Feedback from the Bransty school youngsters who presented a petition to the council on dog fouling. (This provoked a fierce but polite and constructive argument about whether the council is doing enough to keep the streets clean and whether this should be higher on our priority list. Most of the residents who spoke appeared to think it should.) 4) Grants applications.

The last change to GMT ?

The clocks went back an hour today prompting the usual range of press speculation about whether we ought either to make British Summer Time permanent or go back to the wartime practice of having the clocks an hour ahead in winter and two hours in summer. So should today be the last change to GMT? Although I appreciate it is much harder to get people to shift behaviour and habits than to fiddle with the clocks, and would cost more, (e.g. printing new timetables, opening hour signs, etc if we were ever really serious about getting people to get more benefit from the hours of daylight, it would be a more effective and appropriate way to address the issue. E.g. the day after a change from BST to GMT you would insist that schools opened at 8 am rather than 9am, the evening news went back from 10pm to 9pm and so on: in terms of when we actually did everything it would be exactly the same as the previous week but the times would be stated an hour earlier. Then six months later, when the clock

Harriet Harman puts her foot in it

Harriet Harman MP, former acting leader of the Labour party, has described Lib/Dem cabinet minister Danny Alexander as a "ginger rodent". This prompted Mike Smithson of political betting, not a man who with whom I associate words like 'fury' to ask " Has Labour's hate campaign gone too far? " and comment "As the father of two children who were bullied at school because of their ginger hair I am beside myself with fury at Harriet Harman’s nasty attack on Danny Alexander as being a “ginger rodent”. By all means get into an argument on the issues but to use an inherited bodily characteristic to attack someone smacks of racism - which is even more outrageous given Harriet’s record in the equality area."

Nuclear Strategy consultation

Also on the subject of the NDA, there was a workshop in Cleator Moor on Tuesday to inform Copeland BC's response to the Nuclear Decomissioning Authority's draft stratgegy consultation. That consultation started on 1 September and will close on 24 November 2010. You can read about it, and submit your own views online, on the NDA website here .

NDA welcomes funding settlement

The NDA have a statement up on their website which you can read here , and which welcomes the annoucement in the Chancellor's statement last week of the funding settlement for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority over the next four years. Essentially the government recognised the nuclear cleanup is a national priority and largely protected this area from the cuts - which also happens to be very good news for Copeland. Together with projected commercial income, the settlement will ensure that total expenditure by the NDA will be maintained at current levels of around £3billion a year. The statement includes the following quote by Tony Fountain, NDA's CEO: "I welcome the funding settlement announced today as it recognises the importance the Government allocates to the decommissioning agenda. We will be able to fund a very significant, targeted, programme of work to manage the UK's nuclear legacy. Clearly, our funding is not unlimited and we will need to look at how we