Showing posts from March, 2010

Lansley: Conservatives will protect NHS investment

Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley told Sky News this morning that the Conservatives are committed to real terms increases in spending on the NHS. "He stressed that the Conservatives would protect capital expenditure for the NHS and said that the Tories would build new hospitals, invest in diagnostic equipment, and in primary care facilities, although they plan "to get rid of the bureaucracy". You can read a Politics Home summary of the Sky News interview here .

Sunday Times: NHS and schools face Labour axe

The Sunday Times reports that "SPENDING on schools and hospitals will be slashed after the election under Labour plans, despite Gordon Brown’s pledges to ring-fence these areas against cuts." "Treasury figures in last week’s budget mean that investment in new hospitals and schools, as well as extra wards and other facilities, will be more than halved over the next four years. "The Treasury conceded that Labour’s guarantee to protect budgets only applied to current spending on wages and salaries and the cost of running schools and hospitals. Spending on new buildings and facilities would be reduced. "The budget showed that the Treasury is relying on huge cuts in spending on infrastructure to reduce the record budget deficit. Such spending will drop from £50 billion this year to just £22 billion in 2013-14. "Hospitals and schools account for a combined £13 billion of capital spending this year, which is set to drop to £6 billion over the next four years, add

Protecting Pensioners

The past thirteen years have not been good for Britain's pensioners. They have been hit by the doubling of council tax, Gordon Brown's £5 billion a year raid on pension funds, and by having to sell their homes to pay for care. David Cameron has set out how a Conservative government would seek to change this. DAVID CAMERON’S PENSIONER PLEDGE "The Government I lead will make sure that older and retired people are treated with dignity and given the quality of life they deserve. This is my pledge to support pensioners. "My Government will: * Increase the value of the basic state pension for all pensioners and help to stop the spread of the means test by linking pensions to earnings. You won’t get a repeat of Labour’s mean 75p rise with us. * Freeze council tax for the next two years, in partnership with your council. * Make it worthwhile to save for a personal pension and get rid of the rules that force people to get a compulsory annuity. * Help people protect their h

Darling says Labour will cut deeper than Maggie

Anyone tempted to believe Labour's simplistic propaganda about how they will spend lots more money on everything while the Conservatives will cut everything might be wise to take a good hard look at the front page of today's Guardian . The main article begins "Alistair Darling admitted tonight that Labour's planned cuts in public spending will be "deeper and tougher" than Margaret Thatcher's in the 1980s, as the country's leading experts on tax and spending warned that Britain faces "two parliaments of pain" to repair the black hole in the state's finances" and goes downhill from there. Gordon Brown's attempt to set out the choice at the coming election as being between "Labour investment versus Tory cuts" was rubbish from the word go and is now comprehensively exploded. Whoever wins the next election will have to take painful decisions. You can read the full Guardian article here .

Labour's Telephone Tax

I work in the Telecommunications industry, and am therefore particularly interested in how the parties propose to fund Broadband expansion. For the same reason I am careful what I say about this subject, and I always either formally declare an interest or make clear that I am an employee of a telephone company when the subject comes up at council meetings. Having got that out of the way, I want to refer to an interesting post by Mike Smithson at "Political Betting" on the subject of Labour's proposed £6 a year tax on landline telephones . Mike points out that a particular weakness with "hypothecated taxes" - e.g. where the revenue from a tax is specifically earmarked for a particular purpose - is that people who have to pay the tax and do not benefit from that programme may regard it as extremely unfair. He suggests that there is a group of people for whom a landline phone may be an important safety net, many of whom are on low incomes (and may therefore find £6

30 Million hit by new stealth tax

Once again, Labour have been caught hiding a stealth tax in the small print of a Budget. This time, 30 million people will pay more in tax thanks to personal allowances being frozen. It’s the biggest single tax rise in the Budget – but the Chancellor failed to mention it. The Budget failed to set out a credible plan to deal with the deficit. * We are now borrowing more than at any time in our modern history. * For every four pounds the Government spends, one pound has to be borrowed. * We will be paying more in interest on the government debt than on the entire school system. The choice is clear. Five more years of Gordon Brown, with the same debt, waste and taxes that got us into this economic mess. Or David Cameron and the Conservatives who offer you energy, leadership and new ideas to build an economy that grows – and an economy that works for everyone.

Whitehaven Golf Course

There have been a number of post on this blog about the planning issues with regard to Whitehaven Golf Course. The history of council and government decisions on this site has been a dire chapter of mishaps which does nobody a great deal of credit. It was built in the wrong place and several years later we still do not appear to have a satisfactory resolution of the impact of this on the right of way through the site. To my astonishment, I find that the large banks of earth which have been erected on the side of the site, blocking a number of attractive views, do appear to conform to the planning application passed by Copeland Borough Council's planning panel. Sections of the dry stone wall which were shown in those plans as being retained have been removed, but this was at the request of Cumbria County Council's highways department. It was the opinion of County Highways officers that the relevant sections of wall were a traffic hazard. The third issue is the sewage disposal. T

Charles Bloxham R.I.P.

Most people reading this will never have heard of Charles Bloxham, who died yesterday at the age of 94, but hundreds of former pupils of my old school will remember him. He was a master at Saint Albans School for 43 years, either side of World War II, latterly as Head of Lower School. During the war he commanded a troop of medium artillery against the Japanese in the Far East. By an extraordinary coincidence, I was reminded of Charles earlier this evening: I stepped through my front door to be handed the telephone, and spoke to one of my colleagues who was extremely cross, and justifiably so, about a dishonest letter from another political party which a member of her family had received. The conversation reminded me about a very powerful comment which Charles Bloxham had made about telling the truth nearly forty years ago and which has been an influence on me ever since. Five minutes after putting the phone down I went to my desk to check my emails, and the first one I saw was about hi

George Osborne on Labour's Empty budget

George Osborne writes: "Now we know that Labour have no new ideas, no energy and no plans to get the economy moving. "There was nothing in this Budget except political positioning. No credible plan to deal with the debt. No serious plan to boost growth. All the spending decisions have been put off until after the election, and all the big tax rises concealed in the small print. "The only new policies were ones stolen from the Conservatives - like the stamp duty cut and new university places. It was the day Labour were found out. "It's clear that only the Conservatives have the energy, leadership and ideas to Get Britain Working." George Osborne

What a non-budget

I have just been watching the "budget" speech by the Chancellor. I don't think I have ever seen a budget speech so short on economic measures and so long on political point scoring. The centrepiece of the budget was the elimination of stamp duty for first time buyers on houses of value up to £250,000 which, as David Cameron pointed out has been Conservative policy for three years, and was attacked by Labour when we first proposed it. As DC said, "He came in as Chancellor copying our inheritance tax cuts and he leaves as chancellor copying our stamp duty cuts."

Sellafield Alarm Test

Anyone who lives or works within earshot of Sellafield should be aware that a new alarm system is being tested on the site this morning. If you hear the sirens today, it is a test and there is nothing to worry about.

Time for a change: cleaning up politics

The last Government ended with scandals like ‘cash for access’ – and Gordon Brown’s Government is ending with scandals that are, if anything, worse. To get real change, and to clean up politics, we need a change of government. Five more years of Gordon Brown won’t make any difference. We need a proper inquiry into the activities of the former Labour Ministers. If it was serious enough to strip these former Ministers of the party whip, surely it’s serious enough for an inquiry? David Cameron spelt out this morning how a Conservative Government would clean up politics by getting to grips with lobbying – an issue he highlighted several weeks ago. He laid out the following proposals to clean up politics · We’re going to make absolutely sure that ex-Ministers are not allowed to use the contacts and knowledge gained in government for their own private gain. · We’ll double the time when it’s forbidden for ex-Ministers to lobby government from twelve months to two years. · We’ll extend to t

Support for Sure Start

Conservatives support Sure Start Children’s Centres. We believe they will play a crucial role in making Britain one of the most family-friendly countries in Europe. We want to see Sure Start work even more effectively in the future. A Conservative Government will strengthen Sure Start through a universal Sure Start Health Visitor service. This will be funded with money from Health and extra money already set aside by the Government to strengthen out reach to vulnerable families. This plans will give parents professional health visitor support during the crucial early years of their child’s life. Health visitors are also more effective at reaching out to the poorest and most vulnerable families. We believe voluntary organisations, with a proven track record in supporting families, should be more involved in managing centres and providing services. Paying centres partially on the results they achieve will also help incentivise better management in Sure Start centres and increase the focu

Stronghold, what stronghold ?

Any residents of Frizington who look at political websites, particularly if they are part of more than 72% of voters in the division who voted for someone other than the British National Party, may be slightly surprised to find themselves described as living in the "BNP Stronghold of Frizington" on the local BNP blog. What? Most parties use the expression "stronghold" to describe somewhere we win. The election in that county division last year was affected by tragic circumstances: the Conservative candidate, who had planned to campaign, was unexpectedly taken seriously ill just after the close of nominations. He spent most of the campaign in the West Cumberland Hospital and sadly died later last year. He still came within four votes of keeping the BNP in third and last place. Labour won that division with a majority of 343 votes. Overall in the divisions wholly within the Copeland Constituency the results were CONSERVATIVE, 8,979 votes (39.2%) LABOUR 7,900 v

DC writes about taking on Vested Interests

David Cameron writes: "There's a very simple choice at this election: five more years of Gordon Brown, or change with the Conservatives. But if the British people do vote for change, I can tell you now that it won't come easily. Real change is always hard because there will always be people and organisations with vested interests in preserving the status quo - even if that's not in the national interest. We need to take these vested interests on, and I gave a speech earlier today setting out how the Conservatives will do just that. Taking on vested interests has been at the heart of so many of the great moments of progress in this country - whether it's abolishing slavery in the face of commercial interests, or more recently Margaret Thatcher taking on those who controlled council housing and the nationalised industries. So we know that taking on vested interests can bring real, positive change. But that change can only come about if you have the strength to see it

Cameron and Clark launch Tory Energy Policy

Support for Nuclear Power features in the Conservative Energy strategy, launched yesterday by David Cameron and Greg Clark, and called "Rebuilding Security". The strategy recognises the serious strategic challenge Britain faces over the next ten years: * We will become increasingly reliant on imports as North Sea oil and gas production goes into steep decline; * One third of our current electricity generating capacity will close by 2020; * We are required (by EU agreement) to raise our proportion of renewably-sourced energy to 15% from 2.5% today; * We have committed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34% from 1990 levels; * Between £100 and £200 billion of new investment in our energy infrastructure is needed according to Ofgem. The paper sets our four objectives for Britain's energy policy under a Conservative government: Security: Britain must be able to count on, today and in the future, reliable supplies of energy for electricity, heating and tr

Heard on the doorstep

In Keswick this afternoon a couple gave one of my campaign team the following reason why they will not be voting Labour: "When Blair got in he said his priorites were 'Education, Education, Education.' What he delivered was Regulation, Regulation, Regulation."

Commemorating Whitehaven's Danish Fishermen

I have just returned from a fascinating event at which the Mayor of Copeland and the Danish Ambassador unveiled a plaque to commemorate the Danish fishermen who came to Whitehaven when their country was occupied by the Nazis during World War II, and operated from this town to help feed Britain and our allies during the war. Many including the fathers of the present mayor and former mayoress Yvonne Clarkson, married local girls and settled in the area. This town has a long and colourful past and it is right that we remember those who have contributed to it.

Is this why the polls are all over the place?

WARNING - political anorak post! All the opinion polls show David Cameron ahead in the race for Downing street, but by varying amounts. Most of them suggest that the race has tightened in the past couple of months, but some polls still show the Conservatives around 10% ahead. Not that you'd get that impression from reading the media. Because YouGov polls - which are well out of line with most of the other pollsters - have been adjusted to show the Tory lead dropping to just a few points (currently 4% - there was one poll showing a lead of just 2%.) And these are the polls which have had the attention in the newspapers because it makes the election sound more interesting if people think it is close. Another point which has not been brought out is that most of the drop in the Yougov poll lead is not due to any decline in the Conservative lead in the raw data. It's because of a change in the weightings to correct for the fact that voters who identify with the Labour party have bee

Andy McNab backs the Conservatives

Bravo Two Zero hero Andy McNab, who voted Labour in 1997, has now decided to publicly back David Cameron's Conservatives. After talks with David Cameron, he told the Sun newspaper: "Without doubt, the Tories are the future. I'm impressed by Cameron and the straight answers he gave to my questions. "I believe he does get the Forces and what they need. And I think he has the will to see Afghanistan through. "Now is not the time to go wobbly about the war." David Cameron responded: "Andy's backing means a huge amount to us. "Defending our country is the first responsibility of any government. "For everything they are doing for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, I want to see the concerns of our Forces and their families far higher up the agenda than they are at the moment. With Andy, we have got someone who has been at the sharp end and who has a huge understanding of what our Forces need." You can read the whole Sun article here .

EU Commission says UK must do more to set out debt reduction plan

The European Commission, like the Conservatives and many leading economists, has suggested that the British government needs to do more to tackle the Budget Defecit. This is a heavy blow for Gordon Brown’s credibility. The Conservatives have been arguing that we need to reduce our record budget deficit more quickly in order to support the recovery. Our argument is backed by credit rating agencies, business leaders, international investors and now the European Commission. That is why we need a change of government to restore confidence in our economy at home and abroad.

Millom Model Railway Exhibition, 4 to 5 Sept 2010

I've had a comment on my post about the opening of Millom Palladium from Peter Cheshire, Chairman of Millom Railway & Scale Modellers, which I thought deserved a thread of its own. Peter writes: Agree that The Palladium is much improved and we are happy to announce that this year's Millom Model Railway Exhibition will be held there on September 4th & 5th. Glad to see this back in the hands of those who actually care about this venue and hope that they get the funding they deserve! Please come along and support both the show and the much improved Millom Palladium. Peter Chesher, Chairman - Millom Railway & Scale Modellers

How Labour have created a new crime a day

One of the questions aspiring MPs often get asked, especially at selection meetings, is "If you won the ballot for private members bills, what new law would you propose?" It's a perfectly rational question to ask people who, if elected, would be able to add to the flood of legislation coming out of the Westminster sausage machine. But it makes my blood boil, because one of my strongest motivations for trying to become an MP is the belief that far from needing many more laws, we already have far too many. And the flood of badly thought through, badly drafted, and unworkable bills has been getting worse and worse. So if I get elected and am successful in the ballot for private member's bills, I won't be trying to pass a new one, but to repeal one of the existing laws I most detest. Top of my list of the laws currently in force which I would like to see repealed is Section 132 of SOCPA, which bans unauthorised demonstrations within a kilometer of the Houses of Parlia

Lovelock on Nuclear Power and Climate Change

There is a remarkable piece in today's Sunday Times about a recent Royal Society gathering at which the speaker was the "patron saint" of the greens, James Lovelock. Interestingly, while he remains very strongly of the opinion that the human contribution to Climate Change matters, and that we should try to prevent it, he started off his remarks by praising the contribution of the more intelligent among the so-called climate change sceptics. “I think you have to accept that the sceptics have kept us sane — some of them, anyway,” he said. “They have been a breath of fresh air. They have kept us from regarding the science of climate change as a religion. It had gone too far that way. There is a role for sceptics in science. They shouldn’t be brushed aside. It is clear that the angel side wasn’t without sin.” He also emphasised the uncertainties with present-day models of climate change. The article continues: "Lovelock places great emphasis on proof. The climate chan

Protecting Tourism

George Osborne made a major speech in Blackpool yesterday about the need to help tourism, a vital industry for Britain and the most important source of income in the Keswick area of the Copeland constituency. Among other things he promised to undo the damage caused by Labour's disastrous decision in last year's budget, coming into effect next month, to scrap the tax relief on Furnished Holiday Lets, The full text of the speech was as follows. “It’s great to be here in Blackpool. Today, I’m here to talk about the Conservative Party’s plans to rebuild the economy, and boost tourism in the North West and across the country. It’s good to be here with Jeremy Hunt and our dedicated Tourism Minister Tobias Ellwood. They’ve done a great job to develop our agenda for tourism and culture that we’ll be putting to the country in less than two months. Given that the election is almost upon us, some people might ask why someone who aspires to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer is making


The choice at the next election is between five more years of Gordon Brown’s tired government making things worse, or David Cameron and the Conservatives with the fresh ideas, energy and leadership to get the country moving. The Conservative Technology Manifesto to be launched today outlines the most ambitious technology agenda ever proposed by a British political party, and will provide a boost to British business and help create highly-paid new jobs across the country. Our plans will give Britain the fastest high speed broadband network in Europe, helping to create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. We will make the British Government the most technology-friendly in the world, and meet our ambition that the next generation of Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks are British companies.

Budget date confirmed as 24th March

As Richard Willis and others predicted, budget day has been confirmed to be 24th March. Because that date is only a few days before Easter, this is being seen as confirmation of what most people have suspected for some time: that the General Election will be called just after Easter and take place on Thursday 6th May. The Election Countdown application on this blog is to the last possible date for an election - Thursday 3rd June - so subtract 28 days for the probable actual date.

Nursing Times: patients treated in inappropriate places

A survey conducted by the Nursing Times suggests that many patients are being treated in areas of the hospital not designed for clinical care. Extra beds are being put in the middle of wards, patients are being put on trolleys in corridors, cupboards and kitchens as hospitals struggle to cope with the numbers, it was warned. Two thirds of the 900 responses to the survey reported patients being treated in "non-clinical" areas of hospitals. The practice puts patients at risk because of the cramped conditions and lack of equipment around the temporary beds. The overcrowding also risks patient safety as patients have no access to call bells, water or emergency equipment and fire exits may be blocked. And putting beds too close together increases the risk that infections will be spread between patients, according to nurses who responded to the survey. The main source for this post is an article in The Daily Telegraph which you can read in full here. Shadow Health Minister Anne Mil

Value for Money in the Town Hall

Under Labour, council tax has doubled, whilst frontline services like bin collections have halved. A Conservative Government will work with councils to offer better quality public services and more value for money. By giving the public full access to the books, we will create a new army of armchair auditors, vetting town hall spending, pay and expenses. This will identify waste and bureaucracy, freeing up resources that can be used to improve services or lower taxes, depending on what local people decide. In a speech to the Conservative Councillors’ Association on Friday 5 March, David Cameron set out how Conservative plans to give more power, discretion and autonomy to local councils must be backed by greater accountability to local taxpayers. The key proposals are set out below. Value for money on town hall spending • Conservatives will give more power, discretion and autonomy to local councils. But greater power must be backed up with greater accountability to local taxpayers. •

Sunday Times: Labour hid NHS reports

The Sunday Times today accuses Labour of suppressing reports which reveal how the top-down target culture has failed to protect the best interests of patients. The story alleges that 'DAMNING reports on the state of the National Health Service, suppressed by the government, reveal how patients’ needs have been neglected. They diagnose a blind pursuit of political and managerial targets as the root cause of a string of hospital scandals that have cost thousands of lives. The harsh verdict on the state of the NHS, after a spending splurge under Labour between 2000 and 2008, raises worrying questions about the future quality of the health service as budgets are squeezed. One report, based on the advice of almost 200 top managers and doctors, says hospitals ignored basic hygiene to cram in patients to meet waiting-time targets. It says “several interviewees” cited the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells [NHS Trust in Kent where 269 deaths during 2005-6 were caused by infection with Clostridi

Seacroft Children's Respite Centre March

I attended today's march, which was also supported by several hundred people including prominent local politicians from both the Conservative and Labour parties, in response to the proposed closure of Seacroft Children's Respite Centre. This was a very moving occasion. The intention is to provide replacement respite care at Workington, but the point was made that Seacroft should not be closed until these replacement arrangements are fully in place. The point was also made that we need to do more for people with disabilities.

Where we stand on Europe

People are tired of a European Union built from the top down, obsessing about its powers, not consulting the people. We need to change that. A Conservative government would never allow Britain to slide into a federal Europe. Britain’s interests are best served by membership of a European Union that is an association of its nation states, working together on our common problems: keeping our economies competitive, securing our energy supplies and dealing with the world’s trouble spots. A new Conservative government will protect Britain’s interests in Europe and salvage as much as we can from the mess that Labour have made. First, we must make sure that never again can areas of power be handed over to the EU without a referendum. A Conservative government will pass a law – by amending the 1972 European Communities Act – so that any future treaty which hands over further of areas of power to the EU would be subject to a referendum – a referendum lock for which only the British people will

Disavowing a Facebook campaign

I do not use Facebook. This is not because I disapprove of it, but there are only 24 hours in the day, and I decided it was better to use conventional campaigning techniques and one modern media - blogging - properly, than to try to use all the new media and not have time to do them effectively. My attention has been drawn to a report in the News and Star about a facebook group which was apparently organised to vilify a Carlisle family. You can read the article here. As I am not a Facebook user, I have not seen either the original Facebook group, or the second one which was set up after the original group was shut down. Hence all the qualifications such as "apparently" in this blog post. But according to the News and Star, the person who set up the second Facebook group used the name Chris Whiteside. If this report is correct, the individual concerned either shares my name or is abusing it. I would like to make clear that I have no connection whatsoever with this Facebook ca

March to support Seacroft Children's Centre

There wil be a march at 2pm tomorrow, (Sunday 7th March) supported by both administration and opposition groups on Copeland Borough Council, in support of Seacroft Children's Respite Centre. Assemble at Castle Park, Whitehaven to move off at 2pm to The Hub.

What's Happening to the Budget date ?

I have been becoming increasingly surprised by the lack of any announcement about a budget date. My assumption up to now has been that we were likely to have a March budget and a May election but the budget date would be announced as late as possible so that the government could keep their options open about the election timing. It is now almost certainly too late to call a March election. So why hasn't the budget date been announced? There are some interesting thoughts about this on Political Betting today. If the government has any sense or responsibility left they'll announce a budget date shortly - the nation's finances are in too big a mess to leave this hanging. UPDATE Hat tip to Iain Dale for drawing my attention to a blog post by Richard Willis which you can read here, in which he suggests that the budget will be on 24th March.

Michael Foot RIP

Obviously I totally disagreed with the late Michael Foot on a great many things. But he was an outstanding parliamentarian and a politician of huge integrity. His death should be marked not by scoring political points, on either side, but by remembering a warm, genuine, and very sincere human being. Rest in Peace

Together we can

I was in Millom this morning with colleagues taking part in the "Together We Can" week. First of all we went to a drop in organised by Age Concern and the South Copeland Disability Forum at the Age Concern HQ at Bradbury House. Then we spent the rest of the morning helping with a litter pick at the Slag bank play area.

North East Copeland Business Forum.

I attended this meeting today in Cleator Moor as an invited guest. The meeting was orgaised by the North East Copeland Business Forum in partnership with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce. The main speaker was Andy Barnard of WCDA who spoke about the "Backing Business in Copeland" programme and the support available from this for local small businesses in Copeland Borough. Among the other speakers were the entrepreneurs who run two small businesses who have found the advice available from "Backing Business in Copeland" extremely helpful.

Chris Whiteside in Swimathon 2010

I will be taking part in the Swimathon to raise money for Marie Curie cancer care. I plan to swim 5,000 metres at Copeland pool on the morning of April 17th. Anyone who would like to sponsor me and support Marie Curie cancer care can do so here.

March meeting of Copeland Council

Key issues from this afternoon 1) The budget and council tax have been set for next year. The increase in the Copeland Council element of the tax will be 2.8% The fact that such a large increase was necessary is that the government grant which constitute's most of the council's income has only increased by half a percent, which represents a big cut in the council's real income. 2) Home Housing appear to have sent another letter to some tenants of Copeland Homes, with another proposal to introduce service charges It was agreed that the council should contact Home Housing and establish exactly what they are proposing, for whom, and why. 3) I asked if the council's policy on major retail development (e.g. ASDA, Tesco, etc) will be reported either to the Economic Development O&S Committee, or back to the full council, or both. This has been promised.

Together We Can

Spent this morning in Millom on an estate walk with local Home Housing staff which was part of the "Together we can" series of events.

Conservative plans to expand Academy schools

Unless we act now our children will lose out in the global race for knowledge. We cannot afford another five years of Gordon Brown, with five more years of indiscipline in the classroom, falling standards and hundreds of thousands of parents not getting their first choice school. We need a new generation of independent state schools run by teachers who know your child’s name, not by politicians. If we win the election, we will act within days to raise standards. We will immediately change the law so we can set hundreds of good schools free from political interference and enable them to help struggling schools. We will enable them to re-open as Academies this September. The choice is clear. Five more years of falling school standards, indiscipline in the classroom and a lack of choice under Gordon Brown. Or a new generation of independent state schools, with higher standards and the freedom to innovate under David Cameron and the Conservatives.