Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the radio tomorrow

D.V. I am due to take part in a radio debate on health tomorrow morning (Friday) for BBC Radio Cumbria, with the Lib/Dem seat being taken by Tim Farron and the Labour seat by Tony Cuningham. The debate is due to be broadcast live shortly after 8.00 am.

The last debate

On BBC1 this evening viewers watched the final debate between the three party leaders: in Crossthwaite Parish Rooms in Keswick we had the last local debate between candidates in Copeland.

I have watched the Angus Reid website here, which has results coming in live, and the the initial response on who won the debate is at this moment showing as

David Cameron first with 37%
Nick Clegg second with 30%
Gordon Brown last with 23%

While I have been writing this post the David Cameron percentage score has gone up from a starting point of 36% to 37%, while Nick Clegg's number has varied between 31% and 30% while the Gordon Brown number has varied between 23% and 22%.

Meanwhile in Keswick, five of the six candidates attended for at least some of a debate organised by Christians together in Keswick. The hall was packed with every seat taken and people standing at the back. We were all pleased to see that there was such strong interest being taken in the debate.

Jamie Reed, the Labour candidate, sent apologies due to illness. His brother read a statement on his behalf. Those present asked Jamie's brother to carry back best wishes for a speedy recovery.

The candidates who attended for the whole meeting were:

Myself (Conservative)
Frank Hollowell (Lib/Dem)
Jill Perry (Green)
Ted Caley-Knowles (UKIP)

The BNP candidate, Clive Jefferson was delayed, for which he apologised to the meeting and which he said was because of his work situation. The Chairman allowed Mr Jefferson to join the other four candidates present in making a 90 second closing statement at the end of the debate.

Getting children with cancer the drugs they need

On the day David Cameron looks forward to the final leaders’ election debate, we are unveiling plans to help children suffering with cancer get access to the drugs they need.

Around 1,500 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK, and the disease claims about 300 children’s lives. But children and young people can be particularly affected by problems accessing drugs for rarer cancers.

A Conservative government will create a £200 million a year Cancer Drugs Fund – paid for from the savings the NHS will make because of our plans to stop Labour’s tax on jobs – and change the way that cancer drugs are commissioned, to make sure all the cancer drugs children need are available on the NHS.

There is a clear choice at this election: Labour, and their jobs tax that will take £200 million out of the NHS budget; or the Conservatives, who will stop the jobs tax and use the savings in the NHS budget to create a Cancer Drugs Fund.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Candidate Declaration of Interest

In accordance with the policy of the Conservative party to promote greater openness and transparency, I have completed a candidate declaration of interests form.

This follows the guidelines laid down by the party in April 2010 which in turn conform to the advice from the Ministry of Justice.

My declaration reads as follows

NAME OF CANDIDATE: Christopher Whiteside

A. Other Paid Jobs

I am currently employed by BT Operate, a division of British Telecommunications PLC, as a manager. If elected I would not intend to continue with paid employment with BT while also serving as an MP.

I am currently also a member of Copeland Borough Council. If elected I would continue to serve in this office for the remaining year of my council term,
but would not seek re-election to the council when my present term expires in May 2011.

If elected, I do not intend to take on any further additional employment beyond my work as an MP.

B. The holding of positions of responsibility in some types of organisations.

I do not currently hold any positions of responsibility in any voluntary or charitable organisations; trade unions; professional association/society; or any campaigning group.

I do not currently plan to take on any positions of responsibility in such groups if elected, but cannot completely rule out the possibility that I might do so, provided that the position was fully compatible with my duties as an MP.

C. Relevant Financial Interests, reported against the following sub-categories:
(i) Directorships

I have no directorships listed at Companies House and no plans to take on such positions if elected.

(ii) Clients

I have no clients.

(iii) Land and Property

I own no land or property other than my main home, and have no current plans to purchase any additional property if elected.

(iv) Shareholdings

I own no shareholding large enough to be required to be declared under Department of Justice guidelines. I have no plans to acquire such shareholdings.

D. Tax matters

I support the next Conservative Government’s requirement that anyone who sits in either house will be required by law to be a full UK tax payer.

I confirm that, for the tax year 2008/09, I have not claimed to be, or been treated as not resident, not ordinarily resident or non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes.”

E. Any Other Interests

I am a member of the Court of Bristol University, of Senate House, Bristol, which meets once a year. I intend to continue to hold this position if elected.

I am a governor of Whitehaven School, Cleator Moor Road, Whitehaven CA28 8TY. If elected I intend to retain this position for six months and then review whether to continue further.

I am a freemason, and intend to remain a member if elected.

Additional Notes: none

Signed: Chris Whiteside
Date of declaration: 14th April 2010.

Campaign report

I was campaigning today in Whitehaven and Keswick, and also had a very constructive meeting with the Keswick Flooding Action group, who had a number of points they were keen to take up with candidates.

There has been some effective cross-party working to take action on the floods but it is extremely important that the pressure for reform is maintained and remains a priority after the election.

Pollard: why I'll vote Tory

Hat tip to Iain Dale for drawing my attention to this article in The Times by Stephen Pollard, who up to now has been a Labour voter since he turned 18, but who next week will vote Tory for the first time in his life.

Getting the Economy moving

Only David Cameron and the Conservatives have the energy, leadership and values to get the economy working for everyone. We need to reward hard work, get Britain making things again, deliver value for money in government and sort out the banks.

We want the banks to work for the people, instead of the people bailing out the banks. And we need to learn the lessons from the financial crisis. Within weeks of the election, a Conservative government will launch the most radical overhaul for a generation in the way that banks are regulated and policed, in order to support the economy and protect consumers. We will:

* get credit flowing to businesses with large scale government guarantees, building on our proposals for a National Loan Guarantee Scheme;

* sweep away Gordon Brown’s failed system of regulation and put the Bank of England back in charge of controlling the overall level of debt in the economy;

* introduce a new levy on the banks;

* push for international agreement to separate the riskiest investment banking activities like large scale proprietary trading from ordinary retail banking;

* create a tough new Economic Crime Agency to crack down on white collar crime and serious economic crime;

* promote responsible consumer finance with a powerful new Consumer Protection Agency taking over from the Financial Services Authority and the Office of Fair Trading; and,

* set up a free financial advice service and a free annual financial health check, to help families get their finances on track.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Campaign report

We were campaigning today in Thornthwaite and Cleator. Another beautiful day for it. Reception continues to be mostly friendly.

A Positive Future for Schools

Earlier this week, David Cameron and Michael Gove spoke at a rally of parents in Kirklees. These parents are frustrated at the quality of education on offer for their children are demanding change – change which is being blocked by the Labour-led council and Ed Balls in Westminster.

David and Michael spoke about the choice facing parents at this election:

If you want to carry on with nearly 400,000 children a year suspended for violence and disruption, vote for Gordon Brown.
If you are content with millions more children leaving primary school unable to read and add up properly, and leaving school without English and Maths GCSE, vote for Brown.
If you want to keep good schools rationed by house price and income, vote for Brown.
If you want politicians to have more power over schools instead of teachers running schools, vote for Brown.

But if you want to change course, vote Conservative:

We will give teachers the powers they need to keep order.
We will give heads the power to pay good teachers more.
We will let all state schools do high quality international exams now studied in top private schools but banned in state schools.
We will replace the leadership of schools with persistent serious behaviour problems, poor teaching, and children unable to read properly.
We will build a new generation of independent smaller state schools with smaller classes, funded by taxpayers but run by teachers who know the children’s names and responsible to parents – not run by politicians.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another day, another debate

After campaigning this morning and afternoon in glorious weather, I attended a debate at St Bees School to which all candidates had been invited: VI formers from a number of other schools in the area had also been invited and several of the other schools were indeed represented.

The candidates who attended were:

Myself (Conservative)
Jamie Reed (Labour)
Frank Hollowell (Lib/Dem)
Jill Perry (Green)

Our hosts were at pains to say that the UKIP and BNP candidates had also been invited, but neither attended.

On the measure of turning up (and I recognise that one candidate was ill yesterday) this makes the score

Conservative, Lib/Dem, Green: 3/3
Labour: 2/3
UKIP: 1/3
BNP: 0/3.

The Second Debate (in Copeland)

A hundred and foty nine people attended the second debate between the parliamentary candidates for Copeland in St Andrew's Church, Mirehouse this evening.

All six candidates were invited. Three attended:

Myself (Conservative)
Frank Hollowell (Lib/Dem)
Jill Perry (Green)

We were told at the meeting that Labour's Jamie Reed had to send apologies at the last minute having fallen ill. Edward Caley-Knowles (UKIP) had hoped to attend but did not appear.

The British National Party did not attend either. This is the second debate in a week to which they were invited and failed to attend, which is surprising from a party that has spent the last three years complaining bitterly that everyone else excludes them.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More vandalism against posters

Offensive and obscene graffiti was spray-painted on Saturday night on the Conservative 8 by 4 posters at Holmrook.

We will again be reporting this to the police. A £200 reward, payable on the conviction of the culprits, has been offered by Copeland Conservatives for information provided to the police and leading to the successful prosecution of anyone defacing or damaging Conservative election posters.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Whom the Gods would destroy ...

"... they first make mad." according to the old saying.

I was out today campaigning - I have had people out today from Calderbridge to Keswick, from St Bees to Bransty - so I missed the moment with the Labour party and the Elvis impersonator.

But a sense can be gained of what it was like from Political Betting, here.

Desperate does not begin to describe it ...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Border TV gets the Cumbria constituencies wrong

I have been told by two different people that Border TV made an unforgivable error this evening.

Apparently their item on the Workington constituency described that seat as including Keswick.

For this election, of course, Keswick, along with the Crummock, Dalton, and Derwent Valley wards, move from Workington constituency into Copeland constituency.

We have quite enough confusion about this already without the TV giving out wrong information.

If anyone reading this lives in Keswick, and is confused about which constituency you are in, I do not blame you, but please note:

* If you have had election literature from one or more of the Workington candidates, (as I know some people have,) please ignore it, they have got it wrong, Keswick is now part of the Copeland constituency.

* If you heard on the Television that Keswick is still part of Workington constituency, please ignore it, they have got it wrong, Keswick is now part of the Copeland constituency

* Keswick residents (and those of Crummock, Dalton and Derwent) will still pay your council tax to Allerdale, still have your bins emptied by Allerdale, and will have an election for Allerdale councillors next year, but for the purposes of electing an MP you are now with Copeland.

The masters of dirty tactics

There are decent people and, sadly, scoundrels in all political parties.

Andrew Gilligan has argued in the Daily Telegraph, the Lib/Dems simply cannot be allowed to claim that they represent a "new politics" above dirty tactics: all too many in that party are masters at it.

As he writes,

"On the ground, their campaigning is consistently more unscrupulous and poisonous than the other parties’.

"And you don’t have to take my word for it – a lot of their election literature is now captured for posterity online."

He then lists some of the smears organised by the national Lib/Dem machine during parliamentary by-elections, and concludes,

"Nobody is saying, by the way, that the other two parties don’t sometimes stoop to the same level – remember the “toff” attacks by Labour in the Crewe and Nantwich byelection? – but they do it less often. And only the Lib Dems present themselves as uniquely clean and virtuous.

The truth, in fact, is that they are – at best – a party like any other, and you’d be deceived to think otherwise."

You can read his full article here.

Another day's campaigning

As we enter the final fortnight of the campaign, today I and my team have

1) Paid a visit to Egremont Market

2) Attended a community event in Seascale

3) Taken part in a live webcast for the Cumbrian Newspaper Group at the Whitehaven News offices

4) Visited Seascale Surgery to discuss the issues facing dispensing practices

5) Taken a quick tour of mid and south Copeland while arranging to have our mid-campaign newspaper delivered.

St George's Day

I was asked on the Whitehaven News webcast today whether I thought that today, St George's Day should be a Bank Holiday.

I replied that I do, but replacing one of the existing bank holidays with little cultural or historical justification: I would like to see more celebration of our English identity but in the present economic climate we should be careful about awarding ourselves an increase in the number of holidays we take.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One good smear deserves another ...

There are so many good policy reasons not to vote Lib/Dem that there is absolutely no need for those of us in other parties or in parts of the media who don't agree with them to go after Nick Clegg personally.

Instead of the torrent of personal attacks against Nick Clegg this morning I would have preferred to see it pointed out that

* The Lib/Dem plan to increase the tax threshold to £10,000 sounds wonderful but is completely unaffordable

* All the parties would have a major challenge on their hands to find the savings from waste and bureaucracy they have set out, but the Lib/Dem plans would be far and away the most impossible to achieve

* Their policy of scrapping the pound and joining the Euro would harm this country's economy and is totally against what most British people want.

Of course, in Copeland the national Lib/Dems also want to shut down the industry which employes a quarter of our working population.

I had been wondering whether any political party had a hand in some of these smears. Nick Robinson at the BBC has an interesting response to allegations from Lord Mandelson that the Conservatives had planted the stories about Nick Clegg.

Let's just remind ourselves: which party leader recently had someone in his office who was caught red handed fabricating smears to plant against his political opponents?

Does Peter Mandelson imagine that everyone has forgotten one of Gordon Brown's former closest aides, Damien McBride and the filthy lies he dreamed up, not just about prominent Tories but about their families?

Nick Robinson's article Does one good smear deserve another? asks if this wasn't

" ... simply a smear designed to lay blame for the smears against Nick Clegg firmly at the door of the Tories?

"Lord Mandelson has not provided any evidence that Andy Coulson was involved; indeed, there are plenty of reasons to think he may well have not have been ...

"as yet there is no evidence that the Tory leadership were behind this morning's stories and until there is we must conclude that Lord Mandelson is trying to make a story about the Liberal Democrats into one that is damaging for David Cameron."


Supporting the victims of Equitable Life

I support justice for the people who lost money as a result of the Equitable Life fiasco.

The policyholders of Equitable Life have been disgracefully treated by this Labour Government.

If more than thirty thousand people had died waiting for justice in any other situation there would be rioting on the streets. Yet Gordon Brown’s government has been happy to kick the issue of Equitable Life into the long grass.

Conservatives welcomed the Ombudsman’s recommendations as soon as they were published. However, the Labour Government, rather than following our lead, took six months to make a formal response and even then decided to ignore most of her findings. It has taken a judicial review to get the Government to finally accept responsibility. Labour Ministers then kicked the issue into the long grass by appointing a retired judge, who won’t report until after the General Election.

Gordon Brown has failed Equitable policyholders and sought at every stage of the process to block, frustrate and delay justice for policyholders. In a recent debate in the House of Commons, Labour MPs did so again.

The tragedy of the situation is that we would have acted immediately, but as a result of Labour’s delays, over 30,000 affected policyholders have died.

Conservatives have made a firm pledge to compensate Equitable Life policyholders and dependents with no means testing, and I support the EMAG pledge, given below as a sign of this commitment. Policyholders have waited long enough for justice.

The EMAG Pledge:

The Conservatives are supporting the EMAG pledge, which reads as follows:

“I pledge to the voters of this constituency that if I am elected to Parliament at the next general election, I will support and vote for proper compensation for victims of the Equitable Life scandal and I will support and vote to set up a swift, simple, transparent and fair payment scheme – independent of government – as recommended by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.”

The first debate in Copeland

Attended the first of three public debates in Copeland to which all six parliamentary candidates were invited.

This took place under the auspices of the FSB in the United Reform Church in Whitehaven and was chaired by the Reverend John Bannister.

Five candidates took part in the debate:

Myself (Conservative)
Jamie Reed (Labour)
Frank Hollowell (Liberal Democrat)
Edward Caley-Knowles (UKIP)
Jill Perry (Green)

The BNP candidate was invited but did not attend.

Two Weeks To Go

The general election is a fortnight today. Still everything to play for.

The Conservatives are launching our "Armed Forces Manifesto" today

Labour have let down those who wear the uniform with such pride. Our Forces sacrifice and risk so much to do their duty by us. The least we can do in return is to do our duty by them. That is why we are today launching our Armed Forces Manifesto, which outlines how we will repair the Military Covenant and rebuild the bonds between the Forces and the people. We will:

* Give the Armed Forces clear leadership – we’ll hold a Strategic Defence and Security Review to make sure resources match commitments. In the meantime, we’ll protect the defence budget for 2010/11.

* Equip our Armed Forces properly – we’ll reform procurement so our Forces get the equipment they need when they need it, at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.

* Support our servicemen and women – we’ll double the operational allowance, improve rest and recuperation leave and establish a tri-Service Military Covenant.

* Support service families and children – we’ll give Forces children extra support in school through the pupil premium, and provide college and university bursaries for the children of Forces personnel who have been killed.

* Support our veterans – with a new mental health screening process and a new ‘Troops for Teachers’ programme to get ex-service personnel into teaching.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Campaigning, Wednesday 21st April 2010

Very successful coffee morning in Buttermere this morning: in the afternoon and evening we had two teams out delivering and canvassing, and between us we were active in Hensingham, Braithwaite, Lorton, and Keswick.

Follow on from Social Action Day

We had two good sessions cleaning up litter at both Gosforth (above) and Hillcrest yesterday. As Stephen said in a post on the last thread, some of what we found was shocking, but we left the car park area in Gosforth very clean, and made a big dent in the amount of rubbish around the play area/park in Hillcrest.

I am quite certain that this was a worthwhile exercise, which the quantity of glass alone that we removed, never mind anything else, would have justified. If you leave large quantities of bottles and broken glass in a play area, sooner or later a child will be hurt.

There were four sites which we looked at for yesterday's action day: two in Whitehaven, one each in Millom and Gosforth.

We talked to Copeland council about the proposed litter picks in advance. The council decided that what we were doing was political and refused to provide the litter-picking sticks etc that they usually make available for exercises like this (we made other arrangements) and then they sent the council's own clean-up team to tidy up the area in Millom which we had been concerned about.

As far as I am concerned that counts as a success: we wanted the area cleaned up, and that was the important thing, not who actually did the tidying-up.

So that's one area cleared of rubbish by CBC and two by ourselves, and one area still to tackle, which is on Bransty Hill.

So regardless of the result of the election and whether I am there as the local MP or as the ward councillor, we will be organising a litter pick on a Saturday in May on Bransty Hill. Details will follow - watch this space.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Social Action Day

Today throughout Britain Conservative candidates are making a change to normal campaigning and instead doing something positive for the community.

This won't be something we have taken up just for the campaign: it is something we have been doing in each constituency on a regular basis to support the community.

Here in Copeland, where Conservatives have regularly organised and taken part in clear-up and litter pick activities, we have organised two litter picks.

One will be in Gosforth, meeting at the Village car park at 10 am this morning

The second will be in Hillcrest, Whitehaven: meet at the play area at The Crest at 6.00 pm.

Monday, April 19, 2010

IFS: Labour has "left the UK ill-prepared"

A report from the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has given a damning verdict on Gordon Brown’s economic mistakes which left Britain with one of the biggest deficits in the developed world, and gave us the longest and deepest recession since the war.

As The Sun put it,

"GORDON Brown has saddled Britain with more debt than all major countries except Iceland and Ireland."

The IFS also say that "The UK public finances have under-performed relative to comparable countries.

"The UK is forecast to experience the highest borrowing in 2010 and the fifth largest increase between 2007 and 2010 of 26 industrial countries.

"Only Ireland and Iceland are projected to see a larger increase in debt over this period, with the UK sliding from its mid-table position in the international public debt league."

IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said: "Labour reduced borrowing between 1997 and 2007, but most other countries did more.

"If the Government had taken more action before, they would be more credible when they talk about bringing down the debt."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Interesting times ...

For obvious reasons, I have not seen any sign of a swing to the Liberal Democrats: if they were to win every seat in England except one, this would be the one.

In the constituency where I live, work, and am campaigning, nearly a quarter of the working population are directly employed by an industry which it is Liberal Democrat policy to close down. (And many more people work in businesses for which the nuclear industry or its' employees are a major part of the customer base.)

In fairness, Frank Hollowell, the Lib/Dem candidate in Copeland, does not support his party's anti-nuclear policy. But as he wants Nick Clegg to be in a position of power, and "Calamity Clegg" is on record as saying that the thousands of Cumbrians who his policies would throw out of work (probably about 17,000) could find something else to do, Frank is unlikely even to finish in the first three.

Consequently the recent Lib/Dem surge in the opinion polls has passed most of Copeland by - they may pick up a few more votes around Keswick but that's about it.

Apart from Frank and his agent, I've only met one person in West Cumbria so far in this campaign who was willing to admit that she was considering voting Lib/Dem, a lady who lives at Drigg (round the corner from the LLWR). It took me four seconds to put paid to that with the question "You do know that the Lib/Dems want to shut down the nuclear industry?"

So the main reaction in West Cumbria to the most recent opinion polls seems to be a mixture of bemusement, disbelief, and concern: probably what you would get in Dagenham if a party committed to abolishing the motor car had a big surge in the polls.

For a whole host of reasons, we should see the current bout of "Cleggmania" not as indicating that the election result is already determined but that it is wide open and all the parties have everything to play for.

Hat tip to Political Betting where one poster points out that the details of the Sunday Times YOUGOV poll show that

1) The Tories are 13% ahead with older voters (who tend to actually vote)
2) The Tories are 6% ahead of the Lib/Dems and 8% clear of Labour in England, and
3) The Lib/Dem surge is largely among the under 35s.

If there isn't a significant change in the pattern of who turns out to vote, (usually in recent elections older voters have been most likely to do so and younger voters least likely,) then the polls over the last few days could be understating the Conservative position and overstating the Lib/Dem position.

More to the point, the Lib/Dem bounce was the result of the first of three debates. The experience of US elections, where presidential candidates have held debates for years, is that the last debate is the most influential. There is everything to play for.

I do not normally turn to the News of the World for classic political journalism, but they have an article today called "The Tamagotchi of British Politics" which refuses to get carried away by the hype and makes a measured reponse

Examples of comments from the article

"There was nothing in Clegg's performance to mark him out specially, other than the indisputable fact that he could point at the other two leaders and say: "I'm none of the above.

"He won by default because, well, he's a novelty.

"On Thursday, Clegg took the moral high ground over expenses, while his own MPs were up to their necks in corruption as the Westminster gravy train ran free.

"And that's before we get round to the fact that the Lib Dems still refuse to give up £2.4million donated to them by fraudster Michael Brown.

"Then there's his party's disarray on the issue of Trident nuclear missiles. Clegg wants to scrap them - but during his leadership campaign three years ago he opposed the move.

"Or how about crime? Clegg's Lib Dems want to scrap prison sentences under six months, a move that would see thousands of criminals freed.

"Out of the three party leaders, Nick Clegg is now under the greatest pressure. He goes into the next leaders' debate with much to lose.

"Wait until English voters - notoriously twitchy about all matters European - hear him explain his continued desire to scrap the Pound in favour of the Euro."


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swimathon 2010

After spending the morning with my campaign team in the centre of Whitehaven, I have just completed the Swimathon at Copeland Pool in Hensingham this lunchtime to raise money for Marie Curie cancer care.

I swam 5,000 metres (200 lengths of the pool) in one hour and 55 minutes.

Anyone who would like to sponsor me and support Marie Curie cancer care, whether you share my politics or not, can still do so here.

Britain needs a clear Conservative win

This is the most important election for a generation. Not just for those who can vote but for future generations too.

We face an economy mired in debt which we have to get moving. A society with too much breakdown which we need to transform. Our political system in a mess, which we need to clean up - and cut the costs.

The big question, the real question is who can get the job done.

Gordon Brown can’t do it. He’s had 13 years and made things worse. He’s sinking – and clinging to the Lib Dems as his life-raft.

But a hung parliament won't get the job done. It would be dominated by haggling, not decision making.

The best way - the only way to get the job done is to have a decisive Conservative victory.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chris Whiteside in Swimathon 2010

I will be taking part in the Swimathon tomorrow to raise money for Marie Curie cancer care.

I plan to swim 5,000 metres at Copeland pool during the session which starts at noon tomorrow.

Anyone who would like to sponsor me and support Marie Curie cancer care can still do so here.

Elections and the law

Nominations have not even closed yet and we have already had several instances of four different criminal offences committed by people hostile to my campaign. Two of these criminal offences took the form of hostile posts to this blog.

All fall within the catetory of actions which people should not need to know are illegal to realise that they are unethical and should not take place.

Going onto someone else's land without permission to vandalise a poster is a criminal act (trespass and criminal damage). We have reported a number of instances of this to Whitehaven Police.

Under the Representation of the Peoples Act 1983 it can also be a criminal offence to make false statements about a candidate in an election. In 2007 a Labour councillor was fined £1,000 with £3,000 costs, and automatically removed from office, when she was convicted of spreading the false accusation that her Lib/Dem opponent was a paedophile.

It is also a criminal offence to make statements which purport to come from someone and don't and more serious when the person concerned is a candidate in an election.

Hence the person responsible for a string of comments on this blog which purport to describe a totally fictitious event is breaking the law. So is the person, who may or may not be the same individual, who has posted a number of comments here purporting to come from me (and which, obviously, didn't)

I have removed the posts concerned.

This sort of unethical conduct is unacceptable whoever does it and whichever party or individual is on the receiving end. And it will not be tolerated.

Greg Clark in Cumbria today

I spent most of today with Greg Clark, shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change, on a tour of Cumbria.

He saw a range of facilities connnected with Education in general and traning for the nuclear industry in particular, and met people connected with various programmes to regenerate Cumbria, including union members from Sellafield.

I was very pleased to hear Greg's positive message about how a Conservative government would take forward the regeneration of this county and the nuclear renaissance.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lib/Dems oppose nuclear power

The national Liberal Democrats have unveiled a manifesto which opposes nuclear power.

This means that a vote for the Lib/Dems is a vote to close down the economy of West Cumbria.

Their candidate here in Copeland does not support their national policy. Nevertheless, but if elected he would vote for Nick Clegg to be Prime Minister, and "Calamity Clegg" wants to shut down the industry which directly employs a quarter of the working population of West Cumbria and indirectly supports much of the rest.

Election day minus 21 - a historic day

Today is an historic day in British politics, and after all the damage done to our politics, the leaders’ debates offer a new way for politicians to connect with the public – which is why David Cameron was the first party leader to suggest them.

We will be campaigning in Gosforth today.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Election day minus 22 days and counting

We will be campaigning in Seascale and Holmrook today

Conservative Manifesto Launch

Invitation to join the Government of Britain

We are inviting the British people to come together to change their country.

Our Manifesto is an invitation to the British people to...

· be your own boss

· sack your MP

· run your own school

· own your own home

· veto council tax rises

· vote for your police

· save your local pub or post office.

Our manifesto sets out our plans to change Britain:

· Our school reform plan will raise standards and improve discipline.

· Our welfare reform plan will make sure that everyone who can work does work.

· Strong families are the bedrock of a strong society, so we are setting out plans to help make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe.

· We will cut government waste to stop Labour’s jobs tax, which will kill the recovery.

· It reaffirms our support for the NHS.

· It includes the boldest and most ambitious set of green measures ever put before the electorate by a mainstream party.

Our manifesto brings together all the work we’ve done over the last five years as we’ve changed into a modern, progressive Conservative Party. The central idea is that we’re all in this together, that working together we can change the country for the better. We’re saying that no government on its own can solve the big problems we face – everyone’s going to have to get involved. That’s why we’ve called it Invitation to join the Government of Britain.

April meeting of Copeland Council

Copeland Borough Council met this afternoon in Whitehaven.

Considering that this meeting was taking place in the middle of a general election campaign I was pleasantly surprised that the amount of party political point scoring was not particularly higher than usual.

There were several questions from Labour backbenchers to Labour executive members during the report section which appeared to have been asked for the specific purpose of allowing the executive member concerned to praise some decision by the Labour government.

At one point, one of the executive members concerned either mis-spoke or had misheard when told what answer he was supposed to give to one of these questions, and referred to an announcement of £6 million when the "indicative allocation" concerned was actually £61.5 million.

Items on the agenda included

* Reports on the "choosing to change" programme

* Changes to the constitution of the council designed to make the functioning of the council more democratic and accessible to the public

* Annual report of the standards committee

* An item about a safety hazard at the North Shore cliffs at Bransty Hill in north Whitehaven. The council has now agreed a number of measures to reduce the risk of anyone being killed or seriously injured by falling rocks in this area.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Election Day minus 23 days and counting

Another lovely morning.

We will be campaigning in Whitehaven this morning: the April meeting of Copeland Council is at 2pm this afternoon.

Election day minus 24 and counting

Another beautiful day, and we were out campaigning in Bransty ward and Hillcrest.

Meanwhile 23 more business leaders have added their names to the list of signatories backing our plans to stop Labour’s job tax.

This brings to 104 the number of business leaders who have now said they “welcome George Osborne’s plan to stop Labour’s increase in national insurance by cutting Government waste”, and that “stopping the national insurance rise will protect jobs and support the recovery.”

In total the business leaders backing the Tory plans employ more than 1,000,200 people.

A Conservative government will guarantee a GP in your area from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week

At present, many people cannot see a GP when they need to because Labour took responsibility for access to primary care outside normal working hours from family doctors and gave it to bureaucrats in Primary Care Trusts.

Nearly a quarter of GP practices are now closed beyond the normal surgery hours of 8am to 6:30pm, five days a week.

A Conservative government will give people the certainty they need: our 2010 manifesto includes plans to change GPs’ contracts to ensure that everyone has access to a GP in their area from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. And responsibility for managing how patients access care outside of normal surgery opening hours will be given back to GPs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The poster UKIP should have used

Apparently UKIP will be launching a poster next week which has nothing more constructive to say than to swear about all the main party leaders.

No party is perfect but it's a bit hypocritical for UKIP to pose as the anti-establishment party. They seem to be hoping voters have forgotten that the proportion of MEPs elected under UKIP's banner who have been proven to have fiddled their expenses represents an even worse record than the MPs or MEPs of any of the other parties represented in Westminster or Brussels.

I much prefer this alternative version of their poster.

Meanwhile on the BBC Politics show this lunchtime, Lib/Dem treasury spokesman Vince Cable was forced to admit that his party's poster claiming that the Conservatives would put up VAT was pure conjecture and that he couldn't rule out putting up VAT either. Hat tip to Conservative Home for this extract from a transcript of the show:

JON SOPEL: I mean let’s leave aside whether or whether not there is a black hole in the Tories' finances. Leave that to one side. You don’t know factually, that they are going to raise VAT. That is your conjecture.

VINCE CABLE: It is a conjecture and it’s a reasonable assumption and I wouldn’t claim anymore than that.

JON SOPEL: And that £389 is a rough figure plucked –

VINCE CABLE: It’s a ball park estimate of what it would require in order to fill that gap, and it seems a reasonable way of expressing that argument."


JON SOPEL: Would you rule out raising VAT?

VINCE CABLE: No, I don’t. It’s something –

JON SOPEL: So therefore your position is no different to them."

You can read a Press Association summary of the interview here, and see a Conservative Home alternative version of the poster here.

Copeland Labour party's incomplete pledges ...

While we were in Whitehaven marketplace yesterday one local resident showed us one of the postcards the Labour team were handing out.

At least two (and possibly three) of the four promises on the card were incomplete:

* one referred to "local public services: schools, police and"

and then stopped dead.

* another referred to "all our pensioners and those in"

and also stopped dead.

Perhaps their proof readers are away on holiday ?

Or maybe they have not decided what to promise yet?

Answers on a postcard please ...

Election Day minus 25 days and counting

104 business leaders, who employ more than one million people, now support our plans to stop Labour’s jobs tax

23 more business leaders have added their names to the list of signatories backing our plans to stop Labour’s job tax.

This means more than 100 business leaders have now said they “welcome George Osborne’s plan to stop Labour’s increase in national insurance by cutting Government waste”, and that “stopping the national insurance rise will protect jobs and support the recovery.”

In total the business leaders backing the Tory plans employ more than 1,000,200 people.

Now Gordon Brown needs to come clean and publish the Treasury’s secret assessment of the job losses that will be caused by Labour’s jobs tax.

And here in Copeland ...

Sadly some of our posters have been vandalised over the past 24 hours.

Destroying other people's property is entirely unacceptable whoever does it and whoever it is directed against and I hope all candidates will make this clear to their supporters. We will of course be reporting all such incidents to the police.

Today being a Sunday we will not be knocking on doors but we will be delivering campaign material.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Election Day minus 26 and counting

Another glorious day in several ways.

We spent a couple of hours in this morning in Whitehaven Market, giving out balloons and leaflets.

The Labour party turned up a few minutes after we did: the wiser and more pleasant Labour people present took the fact that there is more than one political party fighting the election in their stride but one of two of them seemed to have difficulty with the fact that we were there.

Then off to Portinscale and Keswick where we were campaiging this afternoon.

Issues raised in the marketplace and on the doorstep today included local NHS services (both at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and the Mary Hewetson cottage hospital at Keswick), the impact of holiday housing on the supply of homes for local residents, and the impact of Labour's taxes and regulations (including the proposed NI rise) on local businesses.

There is now an excellent display of eight-foot by four-foot correx posters in many parts of the constituency: we are also getting requests for the smaller correx posters and for window posters and will be putting these up shortly.

We finish the first week of the campaign in good heart, and looking forward to the second stage.

Election Day minus 27 and counting

Another lovely day, more progress on the campaign trail.

Encouraging sessions of canvassing in both the Mirehouse and Highlands areas of Whitehaven. Interesting the Mirehouse section covered this morning was nearly as good as the Bransty ward section.

We also visited a Sure Start centre in Cleator Moor, where some excellent work was being done: this was one of two occasions today when I and members of my campaign team met my Labour opponent Jamie Reed. With, I would add, courtesy shown on both sides: we can differ about the best path for Britain without being enemies.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Councillor Jim Buchanan RIP

Jim Buchanan died last night. Jim was leader of Cumbria County Council until he stepped down a few days ago because of cancer.

Jim took over the leadership of the county council following the June 2009 elections, when the Conservatives became the largest group on the council but the previous Conservative group leader lost his seat.

Jim initially attempted to form an all-party administration but the political arithmetic on the current county council makes it mathematically impossible to assemble a cabinet which reflects the voting power on the council without at least one group looking under-represented. Consequently for about nine months Jim had been leading a coalition of Conservative, Labour and Independent councillors.

I know from my own experience of serving in a three-party cabinet that, although such very broad coalitions may be the least worst way to run a council where no party has overall control, keeping a multi-party administration on the road requires great gifts of patience, diplomacy, and temperament.

Jim had those gifts, and he will be a huge loss to Cumbria.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

Rest in Peace.

Sir Peter Gershon explains how wasteful spending can be cut.

Gordon Brown's own former efficiency advisor, Sir Peter Gershon, has set out some of the savings which could be made in government spending without damaging front line services. Sir Peter insisted that these are 'achievable'.

He said not filling empty posts and 'driving down the cost of agency and contract staff' would save 'perhaps £1 billion to £2 billion' in 2010-11.

Cuts to costly IT programmes could save ‘potentially at least’ £2billion to £4billion. Renegotiating contracts with suppliers was ‘not rocket science’, and could save £3 billion.

David Cameron has pointed out that the government payroll can be reduced without sackings or redundancies by not replacing some of the 400,000 public employees who leave each year.

'If you don't fill all those jobs as they become available, that's one way of saving money relatively rapidly,' he told the BBC this morning.

'If you are doing that, not in the front line but in back-office jobs and management jobs, that means you can save money without anyone losing their job.'

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Funding the Conservative campaign in Copeland

The vast majority of money for the Conservative campaign in Copeland has been raised locally, here in Cumbria, through membership subscriptions, support for events, and donations from residents and businesses in Cumbria. The remainder of our funding has come from the national Conservative party.

If any candidate in Copeland has any questions to answer about how they paid for the material they have been putting out, it is Labour's Jamie Reed, who in recent years used taxpayers' money from the Parliamentary Communications Allowance to send glossy magazines full of photographs of himself around the constituency.

This has not prevented Mr Reed from writing a very inaccurate article in "Egremont today" which challenges Copeland Conservatives to explain where our funding comes from.

A letter signed by Rachel Stalker which was remarkably similiar to Mr Reed's Egremont Today article - one or two phrases were actually word for word the same - also appeared in today's Whitehaven News.

Anyway to answer the questions posed by Mr Reed, here is a little light fisking of his article. My responses are in bold.

"Shockingly, it has now been revealed that the Conservative Party has been significantly funded by non-dom billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft who for the most part lives in the South American country of Belize."

No he doesn't. He has been normally resident in the UK for the past ten years.

"Certain people choose to become non-doms in order to avoid paying tax on all of their income in Britain."

That's a sloppy form of words which could easily be misunderstood. "Non-doms" pay UK tax on their UK income, and tax on their income from other countries in the nation where that money was earned.

"This sticks in the throat, but it's legal and all political parties have received some money from non-doms."

If this "sticks in the throat" why have Labour not done anything about it in the past thirteen years? The Conservatives did propose a levy on non-doms - Labour attempted to copy the idea, but mishandled it, lost their nerve, and backed down.

But you're certainly right about all parties having received money from non-doms. For example in the past nine years the Labour party has received more than £10 million from eight reportedly non-dom donors such as Lord Paul, Lakshmi Mittal, and Sir Ronald Cohen. That's significantly more than the Conservative party has received from Lord Ashcroft over the same period.

"The allegation is that Lord Ashcroft avoided paying British taxes at the same time as he was funding the Conservative Party and funding its marginal seats campaign, including in seats like Copeland."

Lord Ashcroft has declared his UK income to the Inland Revenue. With regard to his non-UK income, his tax status is no different from that of major Labour non-dom donors who have given even more money to Labour than he has to the Conservative party. Sauce for the Tory goose is sauce for the Labour gander.

"The Copeland Conservatives should now tell the people of this borough if they have received any Ashcroft money, if so how much they have received and how this money has been spent."

As I have explained, most of our funds were raised locally here in Cumbria and the rest came from the Conservative party. We have received no money directly or personally from Lord Ashcroft or any of his businesses.

Britain needs cleaner and more transparent politics including a cap of £50,000 on donations to any party by any individual. In future all MPs and all members of the upper house should be full UK taxpayers.

All political parties need to do better on this and for anyone to point fingers at their opponents while pretending to be perfect themselves really is the pot calling the kettle black.

Election Day less 28 and counting ...

Another glorious day for campaigning.

We've spent three days putting out an introductory leaflet: will resume canvassing tomorrow.

Reaction on the doorstep has largely continued to be friendly, and again, most of the minority of people who were not appeared to be cross with all politicians rather than specifically the Conservatives.

We were out in a number of villages in Copeland and Allerdale this morning, then spent the afternon in Keswick.

Quite a few of our large eight foot by four foot posters are now up and looking very prominent.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Election Day less 29 and counting ...

Where the first day of campaigning yesterday started gray and drizzly and eventually turned quite nasty, today's weather was absolutely glorious day, and my campaign teams got a lot done.

Reaction on the doorstep has largely been extremely friendly, and most of the minority to whom this did not apply were people who appeared to be cross with all politicians rather than specifically the Conservatives.

I was with my Whitehaven team yesterday and today, but have been getting good reports of the campaign kicking off in other parts of the constituency.

No flesh and blood mortal could possibly get to every doorstep in a constituency this size over a 30 day period, but I do plan to personally spend time campaigning in every ward in the constituency during the course of the campaign.

FHL Tax victory

The Conservatives have secured a stay in execution of Labour's disastrous FHL tax changes.

As part of the "Wash up" at the end of the budget, Labour have had to postpone plans for a stealth tax rise on the tourist industry through scrapping the Furnished Holiday Lets rules.

This tax change could have dire consequences for areas like Keswick which depend on the tourist industry.

Labour have promised to reintroduce this if elected. Conservatives are opposed to it and had promised to "undo the damage" it would cause.

There have been similar delays to the cider tax and the £6 a year telephone tax.

The FHL stealth tax rise is a vital issue in areas like Keswick where income from a million visitors a year is the main component of the local economy. A very substantial proportion of those vistors stay in FHL accomodation. That sector will be seriously hurt if Labour is re-elected and goes ahead with their FHL tax proposals.

A vote for Labour's Jamie Reed is a vote to cripple the economy of Keswick.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

When should politicians over-rule experts?

The controversy over the dry stone wall at Whitehaven Golf course, which to my complete astonishment - and that of a lot of other people - was taken out at the request of highway safety officers at Cumbria County Council - begs an important point - when should elected but non-expert politicians over-rule the professional opinions of qualified experts?

It seems to me that when one finds oneself at odds with a professional judgement, you should ask yourself two questions

1) What grounds, based on evidence, do I have for thinking that my judgement is more likely to be right than that of the professionals in this case?


2) What are the consequences of accepting the professionals' advice if they turn out to be wrong, against the consequences of rejecting that advice if they turn out to be right?

On a number of occasions in my political career, where professionals thought that a proposal was safe based on general principles and I thought it wasn't based on local knowledge, I have backed my judgement against expert advice. That was in cases where I thought someone was likely to be killed or seriously injured if the professionals were wrong.

But where it is the experts who think something isn't safe, a councillor or minister should only over-rule them if he or she has very strong grounds indeed to believe that the experts are wrong.

The Balloon finally goes up

At long, long last it is finally confirmed that the election will be on Thursday 6th May.

At last the British people will have the chance to choose who will lead Britain for the next five years. And the choice at this election has never been more important. Voters can choose to vote for five more years of Gordon Brown’s tired government making things worse, or to vote for change with the Conservatives.

The Conservatives have the right argument on the economy – Labour’s jobs tax will kill the recovery, so we’ve got to cut Labour’s waste to stop it.

And we’ve got the big idea for the future of our country. Labour’s big government has failed – it’s time to build the Big Society.

The Conservatives have the energy, leadership and values to get Britain moving again.

Who we are fighting for

· The Conservatives are fighting this election for the Great Ignored. Young, old, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight. They start businesses, operate factories, teach our children, clean the streets, grow our food and keep us healthy - keep us safe. They work hard, pay their taxes, obey the law. They’re good, decent people – they’re the people of Britain and they just want a reason to believe that anything is still possible in our country. This election is about giving them that reason, giving them that hope. That’s the Conservatives’ mission for the next 30 days and we can’t wait to get started.

Monday, April 05, 2010

What invention would you "disinvent?"

Which everyday modern invention would you most wish had never been created?

For many people it would be the parking meter.

For some it would be the mobile phone.

A strong contender must be the idea of controlling televisions and related equipment via a remote control instead of a panel on the front - especially if you have children who keep wandering off with the remote and forgetting where they've put it.

My personal bete noir is the system which automatically cancels car indicators when the steering wheel passes the centre in the other direction. I regularly have to make driving manouvres - including putting the car into the drive of my own house - where the shape of the road causes this feature to turn off the indicators as I am about to turn. This can force the driver to choose between taking some of his or her attention off a complex turning movement to switch the indicator back on, or sending unclear signals to other motorists.

Anyone else reading have a commonplace feature of modern life which you would love to "disinvent?"

The calm before the storm ...

If all the pundits are right, this is the last day before the election is finally called, and polling day is just a month away, at last.

Bring it on!

Farewell to the NHS Blog Doctor

I wish "Dr Crippen" a happy retirement on learning that he has ceased to publish the "NHS blog doctor" weblog.

It was always one of the best of the medical blogs.

His retirement is marked here and here.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter

A very happy Easter to everyone reading this blog, regardless of your political persuasion or where you are.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Labour depict David Cameron as Gene Hunt

The Labour party has just unveiled a poster depicting Conservative leader David Cameron as "Ashes to Ashes" star Gene Hunt.

What a brilliant idea ! (For the Conservatives, that is.)

This is the Conservative response:

Businesses support Conservatives on NI

Labour will kill the recovery with their tax on working people – so we’ll cut Labour waste to stop it. 7 out of 10 working people will be better off with the Conservatives than under Labour.

On Thursday morning, our plans to stop Labour’s tax on jobs were backed by the leaders of some of Britain’s largest companies – such as Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Next – which, between them, employ over 500,000 people. But instead of listening to Britain’s leading employers, Labour’s response was to attack them.

By the afternoon, another fourteen company leaders had added their names to the list, including Richard Caring, a former Labour donor; Ron Dennis, of the Formula One team McLaren; Simon Fox, the chief executive of HMV; and Brent Hoberman, who is a member of Gordon Brown’s own Business Council.

They were then followed by the leaders of Britain’s business organisations:

· David Frost, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce

· Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium

· John Cridland, Deputy Director General, Confederation of British Industry

· Phil Orford, Chief Executive, Forum of Private Business

· John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

· Miles Templeman, Director General, Institute of Directors

· Kevin Green, Chief Executive, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation

As every day passes, it becomes more and more clear that Labour’s tax on jobs will kill the recovery. Putting up National Insurance will cost 57,000 jobs in small firms alone, according to leading business experts. Alastair Darling says that is ‘manageable’. It all shows why we can’t afford five more years of Labour.

Yesterday was a highly significant day in the debate about the British economy when the business community has come together to reject Labour’s tax on jobs. Rebuilding the economy cannot be done by Government alone. It’s going to involve working with businesses big and small to create the jobs that so many Britons desperately need. Gordon Brown now finds himself increasingly at war with British business – he is part of the problem, not the solution.

The choice at this election is clear: five more years of Gordon Brown, and his tax on jobs that threatens the recovery; and David Cameron and the Conservatives, who will stop the tax on jobs and get Britain working by boosting enterprise.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Stopping Labour's taxes on jobs

If any party is serious about trying to protect Britain's economic recovery, the last thing they should be contemplating is is a tax on jobs.

Yet that is what Labour are planning with swinging increases in National Insurance. Gordon Brown intends to increase Employer and Employee National Insurance contributions from April 2011. This tax on jobs will threaten the recovery, hurt working families and make unemployment worse.

The most absurd argument presented during the TV "Chancellors" debate was when George Osborne's proposals to cancel this increase were described as a "GIVEAWAY."

It is not a "giveaway" when you don't increase taxes. How can it be a "giveaway" to let people keep the same amount of their own money?

And this suicidal policy comes from the Labour party, which has the cheek to suggest that electing someone else might put the economy at risk!

There have been a great many Labour tax rises which I would like to reverse as and when the economy can afford it -

* Labour's "Bash the pensioners" tax
(when Gordon Brown took £5 billion a year from pension funds)
* Labour's "Bash the poor" tax
(when Gordon Brown doubled the tax rate for the poorest income earners)
* Labour's "Bash the motorist" taxes
(too many tax rises on motorists to list here)
* Labour's "Bash the tourist industry" tax
(scrapping the FHL rules, which has the potential to seriously harm tourism)

to name but four of well over a hundred tax increases from Gordon Brown.

The first priority of a Conservative government in reversing these taxes will be to remove job destroying taxes, and the second will be to reduce the tax burden on the poor.

So our first aim will be to avoid the NI increase, and we have also promised to "undo the damage" caused by the FHL rule change.

This approach has been backed by business leaders. Many of Britain's leading employers have backed Conservative plans to cut Labour's waste and stop their National Insurance tax rise on jobs.

The twenty three business leaders who wrote to the Daily Telegraph run some of the country's most successful companies - including Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer's and Next - and employ over half a million people in the UK. They know what it takes to create jobs and grow a business. They argue that putting up national insurance will "endanger the recovery" and that our plans will "protect jobs and support the recovery".

Seven out of ten working people will be better off than under Labour's plans, and businesses will save £150 for almost every person they employ.

We will pay for this with plans to cut wasteful government spending that were backed by Sir Peter Gershon and Dr. Martin Read. As two of the Government's leading efficiency advisers over the last decade, they know better than anyone what savings can be made in Government spending, and they believe that our savings can be made without affecting the quality of front-line public services.