Showing posts from February, 2010


At today's Conservative conference David Cameron promised real action in six key areas to help get Britain back on its feet 1: Act now on debt to get the economy moving Deal with the deficit more quickly than Labour so that mortgage rates stay lower for longer with the Conservatives. 2: Get Britain working by boosting enterprise Cut corporation tax rates, abolish taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses, promote green jobs, and get people off welfare and into work. 3: Make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe Freeze council tax and raise the basic state pension, recognise marriage in the tax system and back couples in the benefits system, support young families with extra health visitors, and fight back against crime. 4: Back the NHS Increase spending on health every year, and make the NHS work for patients not managers. 5: Raise standards in schools Give teachers the power to restore discipline, and create new smaller schools. 6: Change politics Reduce t

The "Moral Compass" malfunctions

Most politicians in Britain have scruples about making political capital from attacks on the families of their opponents. Even some of the most ruthless practitioners of hardball politics ususally do not cross that particular line. And on the rare occasions when someone does cross it, members of the perpetrator's own party are usually as furious as those in the victim's party. Or at least that was the rule until now - but it doesn't appear to apply to the Brownite "Forces of Hell". The filthy lies which Damian McBride, one of the closest lieutenants of Gordon Brown, was caught plotting to plant on the internet included false allegations about the wives of both the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Chancellor: see the Observer report here and BBC report here. When this came out the Brownite spin machine tried to distance themselves from McBride's plans and disavow them as the work of a couple of rogue individuals. But now it seems that, having learned n

Savings and Investment to fix the economy

Last night, George Osborne set out how the debt-fuelled model of growth that Gordon Brown pursued for the past decade is fundamentally broken. Gordon Brown’s debt is the single biggest threat to the recovery and our economic future. We have to deal with our debts to get the economy back on its feet. And we need a new economic model built on saving and investment. Labour’s argument that we can afford to wait until 2011 before dealing with the deficit is complacent and puts the recovery at risk. We need to start dealing with the deficit in 2010 for three key reasons: the lack of confidence in the public finances is already undermining the recovery; if Britain loses the confidence of international markets, the result would be emergency cuts that would indeed be swingeing and savage; and real public sector reform takes time, so starting early on the deficit creates space for more targeted cuts that protect the poorest and front line services.

Reforming the Planning System

The Conservatives have launched this week a green paper on reforming the planning system. You can read it here. Writing on Conservative Home, Shadow Local Government secretary Caroline Spelman had this to say about the proposals: "Any objective look at the planning system tells you it simply isn’t delivering. It lacks democratic accountability or environmental sustainability, and despite an unprecedented property boom it has delivered the lowest number of new homes since World War II. It is holding our country back and it is fostering mistrust in our political system. Our planning green paper, Open Source Planning, sets out in detail how we would reform the planning system so that it is more accountable, more efficient and far more capable of delivering the new homes our country so desperately needs. So we will start with abolishing the arbitrary targets that are conceived in Whitehall and forced on local communities, regardless of the impact on the environment or the infrastru

Labour's Debt Crisis

Last week, it was revealed that every British family faces a bill of £4,800 to pay for Gordon Brown’s borrowing so far this financial year alone . We can’t go on like this. The Prime Minister must now heed the advice of leading economists and business leaders and set out a credible plan to get the deficit under control, starting this year, to put Britain back on her feet. The longer he delays, the more the recovery and our credit rating will be put at risk. Key facts about Labour’s Debt Crisis · This year, Britain is expected to borrow almost twice as much as when we nearly went bust in the 1970s. · The British Government is now spending more money on the interest on the national debt than on schools. · Britain has the biggest budget deficit of any large economy. · Last week, we had the worst public borrowing figures for any January on record - it was the first time for years that the government had not had a surplus on January.

"Don't Mention Our Record" Labour tells activists

According to the Daily Mail the Labour party has told its' workers NOT to campaign on the record of the Labour government. A leaked document about Labour's "Operation Fightback" gives this advice as Labour tries to regain momentum after what the paper describes as "months of dire economic news and setbacks." You can read the full article here. Key points in the article include - " ... the leaked document is an astonishing admission that voters have little to show for 13 years of Labour rule." "It says: 'Voters considering voting for the Tories are attracted to the argument that David Cameron would make a change. 'Labour needs to ensure that the next election is seen not as a referendum on the government but as a big choice about the change we want for Britain.'"

Yet more roadworks on the A5094 in Whitehaven.

Unfortunately the work on the A5094 coming into Whitehaven Town Centre from the South has still not been completed and there are traffic lights with one-way-at-a-time working yet again today on Back Corkickle.

Concessionary Fares - time running out

A final reminder from tonight's Bransty and Harbour Neighbourhood forum which is also relevant to senior citizens in other parts of the Copeland BC area. Concessionary Travel permits etc for 2009/2010 expire at the end of March. Copeland BC have sent application forms for those who want to take advantage of the scheme for 2010/2011 to existing customers and they are available from the council offices. If you want to have concessionary travel available from 1st April, please try to get your application in by 19th February (e.g. this Friday.)

Election Countdown

The election countdown at right is to the last possible date for the election, e.g. Thursday 3rd June. The actual date is under the control of the Prime Minister and could be well before that.

Corkickle Roadworks complete

Pleased to report that the roadworks on the A5094 are finished for now.

Sunday Times: "Tories right on cuts, say Economists"

Today's Sunday Times publishes a letter from a number of leading economists about the need to tackle Britain's public sector deficit and has a front page headline about the fact that their recommendations are extremely similar to Conservative Policy. You can read the letter itself here, and the article by the paper's Economics editor, David Smith, here. The article begins with the words "Leading economists say the government lacks a credible plan to cut Britain’s budget deficit and that action to reduce the country’s borrowing should start immediately after the election. "In an endorsement of the Conservatives’ position and an attack on Labour — although the economists insist they are non-partisan — they warn that a failure to act could trigger a loss of confidence that could push up interest rates, undermine the pound and threaten the recovery." As the Sunday Times leader points out here, "The signatories of this letter are serious people. They include

Dumbing Down

I was very unimpressed at the question I was asked by the BBC last week. They were asking one question of all major party candidates in Cumbria and the North East. So was it something relevant to the problems facing the country, like * How will you protect NHS services? or * How should the government's deficit be reduced? Was it something relevant to the needs of the area, like * Do you support New Nuclear Build? * Would you give local planning authorities more discretion to give permission to build allow the number and kind of houses which the area needs? No, their idea of an important question was, "Where did you go to school?" I believe that candidates for councils or parliament should be judged on what they have achieved and what policies they support, not on decisions made on their behalf when they were children. For the record I went to state primary schools and then to a secondary school which was then a direct grant school, although it was subsequently forc

Back Corkickle and Calder Avenue road closures

This morning and lunchtime two roads in the Corkickle area of Whitehaven are closed or restricted. The North end of Calder Avenue is currently (Saturday lunchtime) completely closed due to a nasty accident. The one way system means this is usually the only direct route from Valley Park and Calder area of Whitehaven, so this is a serious obstruction. Postscript (Saturday afternoon) - Calder Avenue is now open again. At the same time roadworks have resumed on Back Corkickle, fixing a collapsed sewer, with traffic lights allowing travel one way at a time. These roadworks are running a day ahead of schedule. Factor a delay into your travel plans.

Forthcoming meetings

There will be a special meeting of Copeland Council at 2pm on Wednesday 17th February to agree the council's response to the DECC consultation proposing that Sellafield, Braystones and Kirksanton should go forward as potential sites for New Nuclear Build. The meeting will be held in the Copeland Centre at Catherine Street, Whitehaven and will be open to the public. The previous evening (Tuesday 16th Feb) the Bransty and Harbour neighbourhood forum will take place at 7pm at the URC Church Hall in Market Place, Whitehaven. The agenda will include the proposed Albion Square development, proposals to tidy up the YMCA, and other local issues.

An extraordinary case

I wasn't terribly impressed last year when the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, was convicted of breaking a law which she herself had helped to draft. If anyone else had been convicted of the offence concerned - essentially failing to get the paperwork right when employing a cleaner from overseas who turned out not to have the necessary permission - I would have been strongly in favour of clemency. There's far too much onerous paperwork as a result of silly laws passed by the present government. But for one of the people who drafted the law - and one of the government's law officers - to be unable to comply with it suggests either incompetence in drafting the law or, more likely a lackadaisical attitude to complying with it. E.g. a view that laws are for other people to obey, not Labour ministers. And that attitude should be driven out of politics. (I would have been equally convinced that a Tory minister found guilty of breaking a law which he or she had helped to draf

Discussing Copeland issues for Five Years

This blog was founded five years ago today, which makes it one of the longest running continuous political blogs in the UK, and far away the oldest political blog in Copeland. It's also the only political blog in Copeland which allows a full range of both supportive and hostile comment provided you don't post anything defamatory or offensive.

A Valentine for Whitehaven - more A5094 roadworks

There will be another set of Roadworks on the A5094 coming into Whitehaven commencing this weekend. POSTSCRIPT - these works started on Saturday, a day ahead of the schedule in the Whitehaven News. On Saturday there were traffic lights at Back Corkickle, as of Sunday the road is closed, including the junction with Park Rise at the bottom of Midgey. This week's "Whitehaven News" advised that another collapsed sewer will need to be mended slightly further up the road from the one which caused the recent closure of Back Corkickle just down from Inkerman Terrace. The road will be closed on Sunday 14th February for eight hours while the work is carried out and then there will be traffic light controls on Monday and Tuesday while the road is resurfaced. You can read the full story here. Factor a delay into your travel plans

Right and wrong reasons to criticise Jamie Reed

There are plenty of valid reasons to criticise the performance of Jamie Reed as MP for Copeland. However, the fact that he has organised meetings in the House of Commons for the Nuclear Industry and for groups working for the industry is not one of them. It has been estimated that 24% of the working population of Copeland is directly employed by the nuclear industry. And many more are part of the supply chain. The economy of West Cumbria is heavily dependent on civil nuclear power. And therefore a local MP who was not in regular contact with the industry would simply not be doing his or her job properly. Any MP for Copeland who was not willing to help the nuclear industry discuss with government and opposition alike the issues of Energy Policy affecting the industry would be failing in his or her duties to the constituency given that those issues present both enormous threats and opportunities for local employment. Let me be completely open about this - if I become MP for Copeland I w

What lead does Cameron really need ?

Warning: this post is about election mechanics and likely to be of interest only to political anoraks. But if you have an interest in politics, there have been two posts at Political Betting this week that you absolutely have to read. Not all that long ago, the most insightful views on politics came from politicians, jounalists or academics and were first launched in lectures or newspaper/magazine articles. I'm starting to find that a lot of cutting edge thought is coming through on blogs, and Political Betting is one of the best. It is received wisdom among a lot of journalists and academics that David Cameron needs a lead of ten or eleven percentage points in vote share to win a parliamentary majority because of an inbuilt bias in the electoral system. (And I wonder how the people who write and post gleefully about this would feel if the bias were the other way round.) Blogger Andy Cooke has written two seminal articles on making a well-argued strong case that this rece

Inkerman Terrace/Back Corkickle Road Works

Road Works continue at Back Corkickle just below Inkerman Terrace in Whitehaven. However, the road is no longer completely closed at the town centre end. There are now traffic lights, with one direction open at a time, for a stretch about half way between the junctions with Coach Road and Foxhouses road. Factor a delay at this point into your travel plans. POSTSCRIPT - These works now completed, but the Whitehaven News advises that there will be another set of road works to mend a collapsed sewer next week. The road will be closed on Sunday 14th February for eight hours while the work is carried out and then there will be traffic light controls on Monday and Tuesday while the road is resurfaced. You can read the full story here.

Ladbrokes odds on the Cumbria seats

Jonathan Isaby at Conservative Home has an interesting article here about the current betting odds at Ladbrokes on constituency results at the coming election. Ladbrokes have posted their betting odds for fifteen markets on the General Election here, including both total numbers of seats and odds for every constituency on the UK mainland. Their odds effectively predict a Conservative majority of 33 and Jonathan has gone through the individual seats to see which party is the favourite in each and hence which seats are part of the projected 132 gains for a 33 majority. (The figure of 132 gains does not include a few which the Conservatives are already projected to have won as a result of boundary changes, but it does include Crewe & Nantwich and Norwich North which have been won in by-elections and which it would be a gain relative to the last election to hold. In Cumbria Ladbrokes projects three Conservative gains from Labour which are (surprise, surprise) Barrow & Furness Ca

Home Housing withdraw proposed charges (for now)

Home Housing have withdrawn the consultation on proposals to charge tenants of Copeland Homes a "service charge" for gardening etc, following strong opposition from tenants and councillors. The charges will not ge ahead for now. However, they have reserved the right to consult again on a similar proposal later in the year, so ths issue may rear its head again in the summer.

Back Corkickle closed again

Residents of Whitehaven could be forgiven a sense of deja vue as Back Corkickle is closed again just below Inkerman Terrace. This time there is a diversion in place through Midgey for traffic heading to the A595. Postscript - the closure has now been replaced with traffic lights, with one direction open at a time, for a stretch about half way between the junctions with Coach Road and Foxhouses road. Factor a delay at this point into your travel plans. FURTHER POSTSCRIPT - These works now completed, but the Whitehaven News advises that there will be another set of road works to mend a collapsed sewer next week. The road will be closed on Sunday 14th February for eight hours while the work is carried out and then there will be traffic light controls on Monday and Tuesday while the road is resurfaced. You can read the full story here.

An Abuse of Privilege

The courts should and will decide whether the three Labour MPs and one Conservative Peer who are to be prosecuted over their expenses are innocent or guilty. It is absolutely clear that the system of parliamentary expenses needs radical reform, and that some MPs have abused a lax system: they should be treated the same way that anyone else who behaved similarly would be. That includes the presumption that any individual is innocent until proven guilty. British law is built on that principle - however much some politicians have been trying to undermine it - and it should apply whether the accused is an MP or a dustman. Of course, it is highly ironic that a former minister in the present government, and two backbenchers who supported it, should rely on the principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty when this government has not exactly been the strongest defender of that principle for others. That doesn't make the principle wrong. One thing which nobody should be able

A silly question and a misleading answer

The MP for Copeland asked what looked like a planted question at Prime Minister's Question Time today. Both question and answer were misleading. The question began with the statement that the Prime Minister is the only leader of a British political party who supports Nuclear New Build. This is not true - David Cameron has said that he sees nuclear new build as having a role to play within a balanced energy policy. The Prime Minister's reply started well, saying that he hopes all parties will support nuclear new build. Thus far I agreed with him. But then he quoted the time - eight minutes past twelve - and suggested that as he understands it the current Conservative policy is that nuclear new build is a last resort. That isn't the current policy - that form of words was dropped three or four years ago. Shadow Secretary of State Greg Clark has made clear that we want to see new nuclear build. And incidentally, though the question looked like a plant the Prime Minister didn&

"Why has this been put in writing?"

Some people will discount Clare Short's evidence to the Chilcott Inquiry because she has long been an opponent of Tony Blair. Personally I disagree with Clare Short on a great many things, but at the end of the day, even if the timing of her resignation reduced its' impact, she did eventually give up a seat in cabinet because she strongly disagreed with the way the Iraq war was handled. Her explanation of why deserves to be listened to. There are several number of contenders for the most damning bits of evidence so far given to the Chilcott Inquiry. One would be Tony Blair's response to a question about the battlefield, short-range weapons which were referred to in the original intelligence source which suggested that Saddam could deploy weapons in 45 minutes. Short-range battlefield weapons are not usually referred to as Weapons of Mass Destruction. Blair was asked if he understood the distinction and replied “I did not focus on it a great deal at the time”. As John Rentou

People who live in glass houses ...

The "Cumbrian Patriots" blog which is run by the BNP candidate for Copeland has had an article up for the past couple of days poking fun at a UKIP candidate who failed to spell the word "Britain" correctly. Unfortunately for the BNP their item pointing out that UKIP can't spell came quickly on the heels of items which demonstrate that the BNP can't add up. Just underneath the scan of UKIP with the wrong spelling, was a scan of a BNP leaflet which includes a quote attributed to their party's national chairman about how well they supposedly did in Copeland. A couple of posts before that the BNP candidate himself made a claim about the share of the vote which the BNP received in Copeland in last year's elections. These claims are contradictory, and they're both wrong. Griffin (or whoever drafted the statement which appears under his name) claims that the BNP got "An incredible 19% share of the vote across the whole of the Borough of Copeland&qu

The Indy adopts Sir Humphrey's polling tactics

One of the funniest scenes in the Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister series was when Whitehall Mandarin Sir Humphrey demonstrates to Bernard, the minister's private secretary, how to make opinion polls give the result you want. First he asks Bernard a series of questions to which most people would reply in the affirmative and which lead as a logical conclusion to support for the reintroduction of National Service. Then Sir Humphrey asks a contrasting series of questions, again to which most people would give positive replies, but this time logically leading towards the rejection of the same policy. At the end of the first series of questions, Sir Humphrey asks Bernard "Would you support the re-introduction of compulsory National Service" and gets the reply "Yes." At the end of the second series of questions he asks "Would you oppose the re-introduction of compulsory National Service" and a visibly astonished Bernard finds himself replying "Yes."