Monday, May 31, 2010

New Conservative MPs make pro-nuclear maiden speeches

Hat tip to Conservative Home for pointing out that three new Conservative MPs used their first speeches in the House of Commons on Thursday to give strong support to nuclear power.

Damian Collins, the new MP for Folkestone and Hythe, explained his particular constituency, said that

"There is a great deal of support for nuclear power in my constituency. I am sure that hon. Members who have nuclear sites in their constituencies know that there is a good deal of support for them, because they generate a huge number of jobs and important support for the local economy."

Stephen Mosley, who gained City of Chester from Labour at the election, also added his pro-nuclear power voice to the debate, highlighting that Urenco’s uranium enrichment plant is based at Capenhurst in his constituency:

"Nuclear power is clean. It is a low-carbon source of electricity generation. We have secure long-term supplies of fuel. Modern reactors are incredibly safe, and it is a future technology in which Britain can still lead the world. Operators and owners of nuclear power stations have been jumping at the opportunities offered by the previous Government’s draft nuclear policy statement, and there are now 10 sites judged as potentially suitable on, or near to, existing stations. Those sites obviously have to be subject to the normal planning process for major projects, but the Government need to bring forward a national planning statement for ratification by Parliament as soon as possible."

Thérèse Coffey, who has succeeded John Gummer as MP for Suffolk Coastal, said that

"My diverse constituency also contains our beloved nuclear power station at Sizewell. I hope that we shall have many more reactors there — certainly at least two — before the end of the decade."

Three good ground rules for any new MP representing a constituency with many nuclear industry employees who is making their maiden speech, to ensure that he or she is in a position to represent their interests and be taken seriously

1) Don't make any silly jokes about being a Jedi

2) Don't make your maiden speech in support of a proposed law which you said as a candidate on the hustings was a bad idea, and

3) Do use your maiden speech to concentrate on supporting the nuclear industry.

I am quite certain that Damian Collins, Stephen Mosley, and Thérèse Coffey will be assets to the House of Commons and to their constituencies, and will be effective voices for the nuclear industry.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Huhne: there will be new nuclear build

“It is very clear from the coalition agreement that there will be a new generation of nuclear power,” said Energy Secretary Chris Huhme interview in today's Sunday Times which you can read here.

The tone of the interview has been widely interpreted as indicating a softening of Chris Huhne's personal objections to nuclear power.

In particular Huhne insisted that despite budgetary restrictions there was an appetite to build plants.

“The investors who are most interested in this issue accept the situation where there will be no subsidy,” he said.

He said the likely rise in gas and oil prices over the next few years would make nuclear more attractive to private finance. “They are looking at the likely rise in the carbon price. That will provide an incentive to all low-carbon and zero-carbon forms of energy.”

See previous post on the economic implications for nuclear power of the no-subsidy policy.

Nuclear New Build and subsidy

It was the policy of both the last Labour government and the incoming Conservative government that nuclear new build could be delivered by the market "without public subsidy."

The words in itallics could be interpreted in more than one way.

If you have a policy of complete laissez-faire on energy policy, you will get the cheapest forms of energy which are also some of the dirtiest ones and those with least long term security, e.g. fossil fuels, especially from Russia.

Some of the anti-subsidy comments from people like Chris Huhne, combined with arguments from people like Zac Goldsmith that nuclear new build will not be delivered if the government sticks to the promise to provide no subsidy, has produced understandable concern about the risk of power cuts.

When Greg Clarke was shadow secretary of state for Energy, he pointed out that the failure of the last government to move quickly enough on provision of new power plants meant that whatever the incoming government did there is a serious risk of power cuts by about 2017.

I agree with that assessment, and articles like the one this week from Max Hastings in the Mail, "Why I fear the lights will go out in Britain," make some very cogent points.

But not providing a direct subsidy does not necessarily mean doing nothing. An appropriate price on carbon (effectively a tax on pollution) makes all low carbon power generation - including nuclear - far more cost effective. The Conservative election promise to provide a guaranteed floor price for carbon has, as I pointed out in a blogpost a few days ago, become the policy of the new government.

And as Chris Huhne recognised in his Sunday Times interview today, if carbon is more expensive, then investors will see the advanges of putting money into nuclear power.

It would have been much easier to get nuclear new build if either the Conservatives or Labour had won an outright majority, but the presence of Lib/Dems in the government is not going to stop it happening.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Remember Dunkirk

It is right that we should remember the extraordinary week, exactly seventy years ago, when the "little ships" rescued a hundred thousand men from the nazis at the beaches of Dunkirk.

A group of fifty "little ships" sailed from Ramsgate to Dunkirk yesterday, with a whole series of events happening or planned up to the 31st of May. Details can be found here.

It was an escape not a victory, and as Winston Churchill said at the time, "Wars are not won by evacuations." But the heroism of the individuals involved nevertheless both saved a lot of lives and inspired a nation, and the struggle for victory over the following five years would have been even tougher without the soldiers who were rescued from death or imprisonment at Dunkirk.

"Si vis pacem, para bellum." (If you want peace, prepare for war.) The more effectively we remember these words, thought to have been written some 1560 years before Dunkirk by Vegetius but too easily forgotten by politicians in the thirties, the less likely we are to have to pull another group of British service personnel out of similar disastrous situations.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quote of the day

"Knock, Knock!"

"Who's there?"


"Gordon who?"

"Sometimes a fortnight is a very long time in politics ..."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Charles Hendry and Chris Huhne visit Sellafield

I welcome the fact that the new Energy ministers, Chris Huhne (Secretary of State) and Charles Hendry (Minister of state for Energy) have paid a visit to Sellafield today.

It is obviously important that the new government is aware of the issues facing Sellafield, which is the main employer in the area and has a vital role in British energy policy.

David Moore, chairman of the West Cumbria Site Stakeholders group, told the Whitehaven News that "Although the visit was arranged as a private one, we welcomed the opportunity to ask Chris Huhne about the government's energy policy, particularly to get a clear commitment to nuclear new build, clean-up and decomissioning, and the timescales."

Her Majesty's Government

A list of the ministers in the new government can be found at the number ten website here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DC: today marks a new start for Britain

Today all the pomp and ceremony - the carriages, the robes, the Coldstream Guards - doesn't just mark the start of a new Parliament, it marks a clean break from the past and a new start for our country.

This Queen's Speech shows what we're all about as a government. It's not a shopping list of superficial, eye-catching goals put together for the party interest, or a wish list to please vested interests. It's a programme of practical, achievable plans drawn up in the national interest.

And this Queen's Speech is different in substance as well as style. Our coalition government has been formed around three key principles: freedom, fairness and responsibility.

We want to build a country that is more free, where government gets off people's backs and trusts in their common sense. A country that is more fair, where every young person believes nothing can hold them back. And a country that is more responsible, where we're all aware of our obligations to each other, where people ask not 'what are my rights?' but 'what are my responsibilities?'.

Of course we can't simply bring this vision into law. But you can see these values running through each and every Bill that was set out today. Freedom - in the Freedom Bill and its proposals to scrap ID cards. Fairness - in our Education Bill and its plans for a pupil premium so that the poorest children go to the best schools, not the worst. Responsibility - in our Welfare Reform Bill and its proposal to cut benefits for those who can work but refuse to work.

You can read a detailed breakdown of the bills here. As you read you'll see the way this coalition government works. We're about devolving power, not centralising it; trusting people, not dictating to them; saving money, not wasting it. That's how we've started with this Queen's Speech, and that's how we mean to go on.

Feedback from Bransty and Harbour Neighbourhood forum

Went from a school governor's meeting earlier this evening to the Bransty and Harbour forum.

The installation of CCTV cameras at the play area behind the garages on Bransty Row has been slightly delayed because of a mix-up with the equipment but is expected to be resolved shortly.

Dog fouling is a considerable concern in many parts of Whitehaven. Enforcement issues will be looked at: Copeland Council will also seek to replace missing or vandalised litter/poop scoop bins. If one of these bins has been stolen, broken, or otherwise sabotaged in your area of Copeland please let the council know.

Town centre parking and the unsatisfactory one-way system/traffic arrangements around the Valley area resulting in serious problems and traffic bottlenecks in Calder Avenue and Coach road remain issues of great concern to residents attending the forum. We are looking at the possibility of getting a special meeting of the forum set up with the new highway engineer to address this.

Other issues raised: arrangements to clean Whitehaven Harbour appear to have fallen down badly with the change to the new Marina company.

The A66 tragedy: Every parent's nightmare

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of yesterday's A66 tragedy, especially the relatives of those who died and most particularly the parents of the two pupils who died, Kieran Goulding aged 15, and Chloe Walker, who was killed on her 16th birthday.

The thought of losing one of your children is every parent's nightmare, and this horrible tragedy is rather too close to home for comfort.

Police have urged people not to attempt to leave floral tributes at the scene of the crash. A spokesman said Crosthwaite church in Keswick and nearby Braithwaite church had opened to receive flowers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Climate Change and Global Warming

One consequence of the harsh winter the country has just gone through is that those election candidates who care about the environment were careful to talk about "Climate Change" rather than "Global Warming".

(Widely publicised failings in the scientific arguments which had been put forward for global warming also had something to do with this, although the balance of evidence that human activity is affecting the climate remains stronger than evidence in the other direction.)

I gather that the coming week is expected to see a return to more normal May temperatures after the scorching hot weather of the weekend just gone (and indeed today.)

I wonder how many more weekends like the last one it will take before it becomes fashionable to talk of "Global Warming" again? Not many, would be my guess.

Bransty and Habour Neighbourhood Forum, 25 May

There will be a meeting of the Bransty and Habour Neighbourhood Forum at Bransty Primary School at 7.00 pm tomorrow

Items on the agenda include

1) officers from Copeland Borough Council will give an update on Childrens Play Facilities in this forum area, namely the Bransty Play Park, Bleach Green on Victoria Road and the Skate Park in Whitehaven;

2) the Neighbourhood Police Team will update on action taken to deal with youth anti-social behaviour and minor damage at the Bransty Play Park;

3) Joanne Fearon, Head Teacher at Bransty Primary School, and members of the School Council will highlight their concerns re dog fouling especially on a route they take to the beach, their campaign for a safety barrier and ideas for play equipment at the school.

4) Community groups will make presentations to support their grant applications.

Everyone is welcome and light refreshments will be served.

Balancing the Books

Chancellor George Osborne has outlined plans to cut £6.2bn "wasteful spending" to start to reduce the budget deficit.

This is exactly as outlined in the Conservative manifesto and in posts on this blog during the election: there will be cuts to quangos, spending on consultancy and big IT projects and a civil service recruitment freeze.

Child Trust Funds will be axed by January but funding for schools and Sure Start will be protected, said the Chancellor.

Of the cuts identified, £500m is to be reinvested in further education, apprenticeships and social housing, leaving a net spending cut of £5.7bn - less than 1% of total government spending.

The savings will break down as:

* £1.15bn in "discretionary areas" like consultancy and travel costs, £95m through savings in IT spending, £1.7bn through delaying/stopping contracts and projects and renegotiating with suppliers

* £170m from reducing property costs, at least £120m from a civil service recruitment freeze and £600m from reducing quango costs and £520m from other "lower value" spend.

The biggest cuts by department are £683m (4.6% of departmental budget) at Transport, £780m (7.2%) at Communities and Local Government, £836m (3.8%) at Business, £670m (1.1%) at Education and £325m (3.2%) at the Department for Justice.

Nobody likes having to make savings, but the outgoing Labour government left this country bankrupt, spending four pounds for every three pounds of income. Then £6 billion of cuts announced today represents about 1% of government spending, and there isn't a business in the country that hasn't made larger savings than that to deal with the recession.

Unfortunately it will not be enough - as a BBC journalist pointed out this evening, these saving is less than a tenth of what the outgoing Labour chancellor admitted is necessary. Further economies and difficult decisions will be necessary to deal with the huge debts and defecits which are Labour's disastrous legacy.

Tragedy on the A66

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three people who were killed and with all those injured in the terrible accident on the A66 near Braithwaite this afternoon when a Keswick School Bus taking pupils home to Cockermouth overturned after being in collision with a Honda Civic. The accident also involved a minibus.

The three people killed were the driver of the Honda Civic, and two teenage pupils at the school, a boy and a girl, who were passengers on the 49-seat coach.

A police information line has been set up for concerned parents and guardians to call: 0800 096 1233 or 0207 158 0197.

An initial report on the accident is on the Times Newspapers website here.

A Whitehaven News report can be found here.

A spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary said: “The collison occurred on the A66 near Keswick, towards Cockermouth and was reported to police at 3.47pm this afternoon.

“Serious casualties were airlifted to hospitals in Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Preston.”

The spokesman added: “It is believed there were three fatalities, four people are in a critical condition and around 35 are walking wounded.

“Police and fire are in attendance along with six helicopters, six ambulances, non-emergency ambulances, rapid response vehicles, doctors and mountain rescue teams”.

It is of course too early to say what caused the crash. Our hearts go out to those affected.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Did the civil service help with the coalition agreement?

Mike Smithson has an interesting post at "Political Betting" here in which he notes how well drafted the coalition agreement is and wonders if the civil service helped to draft it.

It is part of the job of the civil service to be ready for any realistically possible change of government in the run up to an election and to be prepared to assist whatever potential government might emerge. I am sure Mike is right that they will have

"had a draft “Conservative - Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement” all ready to be taken off the shelf"

and I'm sure they also had a draft Labour - Liberal Democrat deal ready etc.

Don't write off the preparation David Cameron's team did, however. DC learns from other people's mistakes as well as his own. He was always determined that, if he won, he was not going to repeat Tony Blair's mistake of getting to Downing Street and not knowing what to do with victory.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is the Euro in Danger ?

Short answer - no, but I'm very glad Britain isn't in it.

The Times headline in large letters accross today's front page reads 'The Euro is in danger'.

After announcing a ban on speculative share trading in Germany’s top financial institutions and the bonds of eurozone countries until next March, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is quoted as having warned: “This challenge is existential and we have to rise to it. The euro is in danger. If we don’t deal with this danger, then the consequences for us in Europe are incalculable . . . If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

This kind of hyperbole does not usually help the situation: all too often, as promptly happened in the past 24 hours, it touches off a wave of selling.

Most european countries, including Britain, are in serious economic difficulties because of reasons which have nothing whatsoever to do with whether they are in the single currency or not. It has much more to do with the gross mismanagement of banking policy, with the world recession which has resulted, and with huge and completely unsustainable budget deficits.

It is important to remember that the financial crises in other EU countries, from Greece to Germany, has serious consequences for us, and would whether we were in the Euro or not: they are key trading partners for Britain. Their problems are exacerbating our problems.

It is also important to remember that a shared currency such as the Euro is less vulnerable in the short term to speculators than a linkage between different currencies, such the ERM from which the markets ejected Britain on Black Wednesday. Speculators can push a shared currency up and down, but they can't pull it apart the way they did the ERM.

The Euro will survive its present difficulties. It will continue to deliver both benefits and disadvantages for those countries which take part in it. The huge short-term costs of re-establishing an independent currency, and particularly of doing so in the middle of the present financial difficulties, would be far greater for any of the existing Euro members than any realistic estimate of the disadvantages of Euro membership. So neither Greece, nor any other Euro member, is going to abandon the single currency.

Meanwhile Britain will survive outside the Euro. Anyone with a good understanding of economics will continue to recognise that the benefits of Euro membership would be smaller, and the disadvantages greater, for Britain than for any other major European economy. A few economic illiterates will probably argue that Euro membership would have helped Britain weather the present economic storm, though they might like to consider that it certainly hasn't provided the current members with a magic wand to banish financial turmoil.

Let's not forget why we were forced out of the ERM in 1997. It is often suggested that Britain joined at too high an exchange rate, which is a misleading half-truth. In terms of purchasing power parity between the Pound and the D-Mark, there was nothing wrong with the rate at which we joined: the problem was that the D-Mark was high against the dollar. It was the impact on British trade of the consequent high exchange rate for the pound against the dollar which made the markets decide that the ERM exchange rate for the pound was unsustainably high: and this was a self fulfilling prophecy.

If Britain were in the Euro now we would probably have the opposite problem, which would be both inflationary, and equally disruptive to our trade.

So the Euro is not in danger, but Britain should not and will not join it.

Full text of final coalition agreement

The full text of the Coalition Agreement which sets out the agenda for David Cameron's government can be read at the Cabinet office website here.

Government WILL guarantee a Floor Price for Carbon

A floor price for carbon is essential for nuclear power to be profitable without public subsidy. So one of the most important part of the final text of the coalition agreement, published today, is that the Conservative policy to guarantee a floor price for carbon will be part of the new government's programme.

The relevant section of the coalition agreement states:

"We will introduce a floor price for carbon, and make efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits."

This will help both nuclear power and other forms of low carbon energy to get established.

The full text of the Energy and Climate Change section of the coalition agreement reads as follows:


The Government believes that climate change is one of the gravest threats we face, and that urgent action at home and abroad is required. We need to use a wide range of levers to cut carbon emissions, decarbonise the economy and support the creation of new green jobs and technologies. We will implement a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy.

• We will push for the EU to demonstrate leadership in tackling international climate change, including by supporting an increase in the EU emission reduction target to 30% by 2020.

• We will seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

• We will continue public sector investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for four coal-fired power stations.

• We will establish a smart grid and roll out smart meters.

• We will establish a full system of feed-in tariffs in electricity – as well as the maintenance of banded Renewables Obligation Certificates.

• We will introduce measures to promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion.

• We will create a green investment bank.

• We will retain energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs.

• We will introduce measures to encourage marine energy.

• We will establish an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient carbon capture and storage to meet the emissions performance standard.

• We will cancel the third runway at Heathrow.

• We will refuse permission for additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.

• We will replace Air Passenger Duty with a per-flight duty.

• We will introduce a floor price for carbon, and make efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.

• Through our ‘Green Deal’, we will encourage home energy efficiency improvements paid for by savings from energy bills. We will also take measures to improve energy efficiency in businesses and public sector buildings. We will reduce central government carbon emissions by 10% within 12 months.

• We will reform energy markets to deliver security of supply and investment in low carbon energy, and ensure fair competition including a review of the role of Ofgem.

• We will instruct Ofgen to establish a security guarantee of energy supplies.

• We will give an Annual Energy Statement to Parliament to set strategic energy policy and guide investment.

• We will deliver an offshore electricity grid in order to support the development of a new generation of offshore wind power.

• We will encourage community-owned renewable energy schemes where local people benefit from the power produced. We will also allow communities that host renewable energy projects to keep the additional business rates they generate.

• As part of the creation of a green investment bank, we will create green financial products to provide individuals with opportunities to invest in the infrastructure needed to support the new green economy.

• We will work towards an ambitious global climate deal that will limit emissions and explore the creation of new international sources of funding for the purpose of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

• Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided that they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new National Planning Statement), and also provided that they receive no public subsidy.

• We will implement a process allowing the Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the Government to bring forward the National Planning Statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible. This process will involve:

– the Government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;

– specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesperson will speak against the Planning Statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and

– clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence.

Britain is open for business

I was impressed by George Osborne's speech to the CBI.

Positive measures to help business which he announced included reform of corporation tax.

"We will reform the corporate tax system by simplifying reliefs and allowances, and tackling avoidance, in order to reduce headline rates," he said.

"Our aim is to create the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20, while protecting manufacturing industries".

For would-be entrepreneurs, he wanted the UK to be the easiest place in the world to start a business.

He added: "And I want to help new businesses by abolishing employers national insurance contributions on the first ten jobs they create."

With reference to personal income tax allowances, he said the long-term goal was to raise the allowance to £10,000, "with real terms steps in that direction every year".

Meanwhile Nick Clegg appears to be going forward to implement some of the promises common to both Conservative and Lib/DEm manifestoes to trim back the over-mighty state - from scrapping ID cards to dictatorial rules against peaceful protest which treated anyone with the temerity to criticise the last government like a terrorist.

I particularly liked the suggestion to "tell us what laws you want us to scrap" and I hope he gets a good response to this.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Is DC going to make Frank Feld "Poverty Tsar" ?

According to the Daily Telegraph, David Cameron is planning to appoint Labour MP Frank Field to lead "a major review into levels of poverty across Britain."

I hope this is true. Frank Field is one of the very few Labour MPs I have any time for. One of the worst mistakes of the last Labour government, after appointing Frank Field as minister for Welfare Reform and telling him to "Think the Unthinkable" was to frustrate and sack him when he did.

Genuine, compassionate but effective reform of the welfare state will require firm action for which the highest possible degree of cross party co-operation will be required. Getting someone of Frank Field's quality on board can only help.

You can read the Telegraph article here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Many a True Word ...

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws said: "When I arrived at my desk on the very first day as Chief Secretary, I found a letter from the previous chief secretary to give me some advice, I assumed, on how I conduct myself over the months ahead.

"Unfortunately, when I opened it, it was a one-sentence letter which simply said ’Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.’"

Outgoing Labour minster Liam Byrne, who left the note, insisted it was meant as a joke. I'm sure it was. But many a true word is spoken in jest.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thank God for that ...

Like many residents of Copeland I was concerned at the appointment of a Liberal Democrat as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - the terms of the coalition agreement to appear to allow New Nuclear Build to go ahead but having a Secretary of State who is not exactly a supporter of the industry did raise a few eyebrows in West Cumbria.

I have been waiting for news on who the other ministers in the department would be. We are now advised that the ministers of state will be Charles Hendry MP and Greg Barker MP.

Hence my reaction "Thank God for that" - it means that the minister with specific responsibilty for Energy supports and understands the needs of the nuclear industry.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cameron keeps his promise on Ministers' Pay

David Cameron's first act as Prime Minister was to keep his election promise about ministerial salaries.

All ministers in his Lib-Con coalition will take a five-year pay freeze, as well as a 5% pay cut.

Where the coalition stands on Nuclear Power

The coalition government agreement between the Conservative and Liberal Democrats states that

"We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.

This process will involve:

■ The government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;

■ Specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and

■ Clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence."

Chris Huhne, the new energy secretary, conceded the coalition was internally divided on the issue of building new nuclear power stations, but said they had agreed such stations should not be built with any public subsidy.

If there was then a majority in parliament in favour of building such power stations on that basis, "then new nuclear will go ahead," Huhne said.

Even if Labour vote against new nuclear build - and I can think of at least one Labour MP who would lost not just his seat but his deposit at the next election if he did that - the promised Lib/Dem abstention will be enough to ensure that the National Policy Statement goes through.


The Wall Street Journal, and a new website called "Say no to 55%" appear to have completely misunderstood the proposal for fixed term parliaments which can be over-ridden if 55% of MPs vote to dissolve parliament.

Iain Martin writes here that

'In the document outlining the coalition agreement that the Conservatives and the Lib Dems signed up to there is a startling little paragraph in the section headed “Political Reform”.

“Legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed-term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favor.”

If implemented, that would mean that a majority of one on a motion of no confidence in a government is no longer enough to bring it down.'

The "Say no to 55%" website says that

"This change in the law would make it impossible for Parliament to hold the government to account through a confidence vote."

Actually, no, the sentence quoted does not mean either of those things.

The government has to resign or call a General Election if it loses the confidence of the House of Commons. This can happen in two ways:

1) If the government loses a vote on an "issue of confidence" and does not immediately manage to carry a motion that "This House has confidence in Her Majesty's government," the Prime Minister has to go to the Queen and either resign or ask her for a dissolution of parliament and a General Election.

2) Similarly, if a motion that "This house has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government" is passed by a simple majority of the House of Commons, or if a motion of confidence fails to get a simple majority, the Prime Minister has to go to the Queen with the same options.

There is no suggestion in the coalition agreement that it is proposed to change the margin required for a motion of confidence or one of no confidence. The author of the Lib/Dem policy on fixed term parliaments which the coalition has adopted confirms in the Guardian that there are no plans to change rules on no-confidence.

What the coalition agreement paragraph, appears to change is what would happen after a motion of confidence fails (or if a motion of no confidence is passed).

Under the present rules, a Prime Minister who is defeated in the Commons can ask the Queen to dissolve parliament, and then fight an election as Prime Minister.

What changes is that Prime Minister who has been defeated in a vote of confidence in the House of Commons can only ask the Queen for an election if there has also been a vote supported by 55% of the House of Commons calling for one.

In other words, supposing that the government loses a motion of confidence in the House of Commons, and there isn't a vote to dissolve parliament, the Queen's next move is to see if an alternative government can command a majority of the existing House of Commons.

Far from making it harder for parliament to bring down the government, this rule change makes it slightly easier, because MPs can sack the PM without necessarily precipitating a General Election.

For the benefit of the Wall Street Journal: translated into US terms, the proposal is not, as you appear to assume, equivalent to increasing the size of the majority required to impeach the President. It is equivalent to saying that congress can impeach the President without having to fight an immediate election themselves unless 55% of them vote to call such an election.

Incidentally, to impeach a US President currently requires both a simple majority of the House of Representatives and a two-thirds majority of the Senators present for the vote - which is 11 percentage points more than 55%. Iain Martin's statement wrote in his article that

"It is an idea that has been easily and widely grasped for generations inside and outside parliament that if you lose a confidence vote by one then, there’s no way around it, you have lost. Fifty per cent plus one is enough."

On that basis, will he be campaigning to change the US constitution so that 50% plus one in the Senate will be enough to impeach a President ?

Incidentally - and here's a first - the proposal by the new government has been defended by the Guardian here. Alan Travis points out that

"there does not appear to be any change in the rules surrounding a vote of no confidence. A government could still fall on a simple majority of MPs."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

"For me the big find has been that Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, the secular fundamentalist who spends all his spare time attacking a bloke he says doesn't exist, is in favour of electoral reform. If someone as clever-but-daft as Dawkins is in favour of PR, then reform has sustained a heavy blow."

Michael White of the Guardian

Meanwhile the Revd. John Bannister, Rector of Whitehaven, and local businessman Gerald Richardson have a powerful letter in tomorrow's Whitehaven News arguing that the only appropriate way to deal with the question of whether or not to change the voting system is to put it to the public in a referendum. It looks like that's what the new coalition government is going to do.

You can read their letter (followed by one from me thanking all those who voted for me) here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

David Cameron becomes Prime Minister

Arriving back from the Copeland Mayor-making I am relieved to find that five days of haggling have come to an end, and Britain finally has a new Prime Minister.

I am obviously pleased that David Cameron has become PM. I wish him well in dealing with the enormous responsibilities and challenges which he will now face.

Annual meeting of Copeland Borough Council

The Annual meeting and Mayor-making will take place this evening at 6.30 pm in Whitehaven Civic Hall.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Adam Boulton blows up at Alistair Campbell

My first reaction to the sight of Adam Boulton losing his cool with Alistair Campbell on live TV (hat tip to Iain Dale here,) was astonishment.

My second reaction was that it is surprising fewer people lose their temper with certain New Labour spokesmen. Mr Campbell provoked Adam Boulton with a particularly irritating trick which New Labour spokesmen use more often than anyone else, namely telling someone else what they believe.

For every person who, like Adam Boulton, has told a New Labour representative

"I'm fed up with you telling me what I think! I don't think that! Don't tell me what I think!"

I bet there have been ten who felt the same way.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Lest we forget

I have just returned home after attending a ceremony at the South Harbour in Whitehaven to mark the centenary of the Wellington Pit disaster.

At about 7.40 pm on Wednesday 11th May 1910, there was an explosion in the Wellington Pit workings underneath the seabed off Whitehaven harbour. A total of 136 men and boys were either killed immediately or trapped underground. Heroic attempts were made to rescue them but without success.

Today's ceremony, organised by the Wellington Pit Memorial Committee, was attended by about a thousand people, including relatives of the victims who had come in some cases from as far away as Australia and the United States.

The Bishop of Carlisle dedicated a new banner and two books of commemoration containing the names of those who died in mining accidents in Whitehaven. A beautiful memorial stone on the site of the former mine shaft was unveiled by the last survivor of those who escaped the William Pit disaster in 1957.

Today's ceremony was extremely moving and carried a palpable sense, which can be felt even a hundred years later, of how strongly the tightly-knit community of Whitehaven was affected by the terrible disaster at Wellington Pit. It put one's own disappointments and setbacks, and the current political to-and-fro at Westminster, into perspective.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thanks for all your messages

Just a quick note to say that I have been very touched by all the supportive messages I have had during the past 24 hours.

Friday, May 07, 2010

2010 general election results - key facts

Key facts for election anoraks

· Conservatives have made more gains than at any election since 1931. We have made a net gain of 97 seats. Previously, the most seats gained by the Conservatives in a single election since 1931 was 87 – in the 1950 general election.

· Conservatives record their second biggest swing from Labour since 1931. The Conservative Party has received a swing from Labour of 5.1 per cent, second only to that achieved by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 (5.3 per cent).

· Labour have now lost more seats than at any General Election since 1931. Labour have made a net loss of 91 seats. Previously, the most seats lost by the Labour Party in a single election since 1931 was 78 – in the 1950 general election.

· Conservatives exceed Labour’s 2005 number of votes. We have won more votes than Labour did when they won in 2005 – 10.7 million vs. 9.5 million.

Wellington Pit disaster commemoration

There will be a ceremony at 2.30 pm this Sunday to commemorate the centenary of the Wellington Pit disaster. The ceremony will be held on the site of the former mine in Whitehaven and I will be attending as a local councillor.

(Note corrected time)

Copeland Result

Final result:

Jamie Reed (Labour): 19,699
Chris Whiteside (Conservatives): 15,866
Frank Hollowell (Lib-Dems): 4,365
Clive Jefferson (BNP): 1,471
Ted Caley-Knowles (UKIP): 914
Jill Perry (Greens): 389

Majority - 3833

Compared with last time my vote was up by more than 5,000 and by about 50%. The swing from Labour to Conservative depends on what figure for the notional 2005 result you base the swing from, but the BBC has it at about 2.1% which I presume is based on a notional Labour majority of 5157 in 2005.

Evidently the fact that the seat is more marginal both polarised the results and brought out more voters. The turnout and the absolute numbers of both Conservative and Labour figures were well up.

Verification begins

The verification stage of the count at Copeland started at 9.00 am this morning.

This is expected to be finished by about 11 am, after which there will be a short break and then the actual counting of the votes will begin.

We were told to expect a result by about 1pm, but given the high turnout and the possibility that a close result might include recounts, I would not be too surprised if this slips a bit.

Nationally it is clear that the Conservatives have made record gains and that Labour have had one of their worst nights in history in terms of losses.

The Conservatives have a net gain of 90 seats so far, which is an unprecedented increase for the party in any election since 1931, while Labour have lost more seats than in any election since 1931.

To put the gain of 90 sats (so far) into context

* In 1979, the Conservative party gained 63 seats and formed the new Government.

* In 1970, the Conservative party gained 77 seats and formed the new Government.

* In 1951, the Conservative party gained 24 seats and formed the new Government.

David Cameron's Conservatives are the winners of this election having polled more votes and won more seats that any other party, and gained more seats than in any election for seventy-nine years.

In the best interests of the country the most sensible thing to happen now would be for David Cameron to be given the opportunity to form a government.

It looks unlikely that a Lib/Lab coalition would have an overall majority, and any such deal to keep Gordon Brown in power by the back door is not going to solve this country's problems.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

As the polls close ...

I have spent today travelling up and down the Copeland constituency trying to get the vote out, meeting party workers and polling clerks from Millom at the start of the day through Seascale, Gosforth, Beckermet, Whitehaven, Keswick, Portinscale, Braithwaite, Frizington, Cleator Moor, Woodhouse, Kells, and finally Harbour ward.

One clear and positive thing which we can all welcome about today is that there has been an enormously increased turnout. It was looking as though turnout might hit 90% in Seascale and it is very high everywhere.

I would like to thank

* All those who campaigned on my behalf

* All those who voted for me

* All those who took part in the election and helped to support democracy and ensure that whoever wins this election has a mandate to work for the people of Copeland.

The BBC Exit poll suggests that the Conservatives are on track to gain 97 seats from Labour. Copeland is 97th on some lists of Labour held seats vulnerable to a Conservative swing. The count here tomorrow could be really nail-biting!

Sign of the Times

Keswick's Labour Club closed down a few months ago and is now up for sale.

Let's hope that the voters of Keswick, and the rest of the enlarged Copeland constituency, make this picture of the former Keswick Labour Club a metaphor for the end of Labour hegemony in Copeland.

And today, from 7.00 am to 10.00 pm, is your chance to do so.

You do not need your polling card to vote, just turn up at your polling station with some ID. If you have a postal vote and have not yet returned it, you can hand it in at a polling station up to 10.00 pm tonight.

If you want to put the biggest possible rocket into the Labour establishment in West Cumbria, vote for change today by voting Conservative.

If you want to let every politician in the Copeland constituency, from Millom to Distington and from St Bees to Keswick, know that there is no such thing as a "safe seat," vote for change today by voting Conservative.

If you want to avoid a hung parliament, vote for change today by voting Conservative.

If you want a different Prime Minister, vote for change today by voting Conservative.

If you want a positive start towards fixing Britain's broken society, broken politics, and broken economy, vote for change today by voting Conservative.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

24 hours to choose a new government

Just 24 hours from now the polls close: we have 24 hours to choose a new government and save Britain from five more years of Gordon Brown.

Britain now faces its most important General Election for a generation. We need to use every second that remains to tell voters about the choice they face. Our message is clear:

Only by voting Conservative tomorrow will you get a new government that starts cleaning up the mess on Friday.

A vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for five more years of Gordon Brown.

· Labour only offer more of the same – and their desperate campaign is designed to scare families, older people and the vulnerable.

· The Liberal Democrats’ policies for an immigration amnesty, to scrap prison sentences under six months, keep Labour’s jobs tax and join the euro would damage Britain.

· From day one, we will start to fulfil our no nonsense, no frills contract with the British people – to cut the waste, sort out the welfare mess, improve front line services and deliver change for the better. We won’t leave the poorest and the most vulnerable behind, because we’re all in this together.

· If we don’t do these things, you should vote us out in five years’ time. A Conservative Government will be accountable to you.

As the Eve of Poll dawns

The Conservatives have published our contract for growth, setting out our plans to get the economy moving for everyone. Our contract sets out that a Conservative government will:

· cut government waste to stop Labour’s jobs tax, which threatens to kill the recovery;

· use government guarantees to get credit flowing to businesses and protect the economy from the risk of a second credit crunch, building on our plans for a National Loan Guarantee Scheme.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The FT Endorses Cameron

Four consecutive days, four press endorsements, and not for the first time, today's is from a publication which backed Blair previously. Indeed, it is from a paper which, I read at Conservative Home, backed Labour at the last four elections.

As the Economist on Friday, the Times on Saturday, the Sunday Times yesterday, now the Financial Times has come out for Cameron's Conservatives. They argue that the Conservatives

"would create the best environment for enterprise and wealth creation."


"Britain needs a stable and legitimate government to navigate its fiscal crisis and punch its weight abroad. On balance, the Conservative party best fits the bill."

You have to be registered to access the Financial Times online, but if those who are registered or willing to do so can read the full article here.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Passing the Ben Brogan test

Ben Brogan points out in the Telegraph here that most of the election campaign has been characterised by excellent weather and that many candidates who have been working hard have developed a suntan.

Broadly true here in Copeland constituency - I have been drenched a few times while out and about during this election, both in Bransty ward on the first day of the campaign and most recently in Keswick on Saturday. But most of the rest of the time the weather has been glorious.

Anyway, a quick look in the mirror suggests that I certainly don't have the "pale and pasty" look which Ben Brogan associates with candidates who have not been spending enough time on the doorstep!

Vote for Change on Thursday

The only way Britain can make a fresh start with a new government on Friday is if you vote Conservative on Thursday. Any other vote could leave Gordon Brown in Downing Street.

Labour only offer more of the same and their desperate campaign is designed to scare families, older people and the vulnerable

The Liberal Democrats’ policies on immigration, crime and the economy would damage Britain.

From Friday, we will start to fulfil our contract with the British people – to get the economy moving, improve front line services and deliver change for the better.

We won’t leave the poorest and the vulnerable behind because we’re all in this together.

Contract for young people

Today we are publishing our contract for young people, setting out our plans to give young people positive things to do. Our contract sets out that a Conservative government will:

* introduce a National Citizen Service – the initial flagship project will provide a programme for 16 year-olds to give them a chance to develop the skills needed to be active and responsible citizens, mix with people from different backgrounds, and start getting involved in their communities;

* establish an Olympic-style school sports competition to give every young person at school or college an opportunity to play competitive sport and help secure a lasting legacy from London 2012; and

* focus Home Office support on interventions, like mentoring by expert voluntary groups, to tackle youth and knife crime in the 100 most deprived communities across the country.

Another day, another campaign

We had a mass delivery session in Egremont this morning. Am going round much of the rest of the constituency today setting up our "Get Out the Vote" operation for Thursday.

Several of my time noted how little hostility there was in areas which used to be very solid Labour. Some of that could be traditional Cumbrian courtesy. We shall see soon enough.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Campaigning today

Today being a Sunday, we were not knocking on doors.

However, I spoke to members and local residents at Keswick Conservative Club this afternoon. And between myself, my campaign team, and other volunteers, we had people delivering literature today in a number of parts of the constituency including Moresby, Hillcrest, Keswick, Eaglesfield, Greysouthern, St Johns in the Vale, and Grange.

The Sunday Times endorses Cameron

As the Economist on Friday, the Times yesterday, now The Sunday Times has come out for Cameron's Conservatives, in a leader entitled Tories deserve a chance to govern.

The article argues that

"The Tories are articulating the most dynamic vision for Britain at a time of economic crisis. The dividing line in this election is an old one: between a Labour party veering back to its old ways and believing big government is best and a Tory party that wants a smaller state and greater individual freedom. It is between a Labour party that wants to redistribute wealth through central diktat, rather than encourage people to make their own way and create that wealth for a fairer society. The Tory route at least offers hope of success.

Britain needs a change of government on Thursday and a decisive outcome. This can only mean that the best solution will be an outright Conservative victory."

You can read the full article here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Campaigning today

We spend this morning giving out newspapers and balloons, and meeting the public, at Keswick market: this afternoon and evening we had people out delivering in Keswick, Arlecdon, Portinscale, and Kells.

The Times endorses Cameron

As the Economist yesterday, now The Times has come out for Cameron's Conservatives, in a leader entitled Vote of Confidence.

The article begins with the words

"The Times has not endorsed the Conservative Party at a general election for 18 years."

and then explains why they are now doing so. After noting the changes that David Cameron has made to his party, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Labour and the Lib/Dems, they conclude:

"The central question of this general election is the economic future of the nation. The Conservative Party has shown the most consistent willingness to deal with the atrocious State of the public finances that this Government will bequeath. Under fire from Mr Brown, they have held to this unpopular line. Amid the sound and fury, a fundamental philosophical difference has emerged: the Conservatives want to reduce excessive public expenditure, the Labour Party wants to keep on ratcheting up benefits, tax credits and other forms of state spending. One party recognises the benefits of individual independence. The other keeps fostering a state of benefit dependency. In the race for growth with India, China and other rising countries, the Conservatives know that Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit needs to be unleashed.

"The economy is broken and so is politics. It is time for a change, in both the philosophy and the style of government. It is time for us to believe in the power of the individual, the strength of society and the unique promise of this country. Labour is tired, defensive and ruinously reliant on higher government spending. David Cameron has shown the fortitude, judgment and character to lead this country back to a healthier, stronger future. It is time, once again, to vote Conservative."

You can read the full article here.

"The Economist" endorses Cameron

The Economist Magazone, whether you like it or loathe it, is one of the most thoughtful and balanced magazines writing in Britain and has been for a long time.

Of all the press endorsements David Cameron has had, their endorsement today is the most intellectually significant.

The Economist is an independent-minded heir to the old Liberal tradition. They do not always back the more right wing candidate in an election: as they themselves pointed out, they supported Barack Obama over John McCain, Tony Blair over Michael Howard and a succession of Italian socialists over Silvio Berlusconi.

But today, in an editorial called Who should govern Britain? The Economist argues that there is an "overwhelming necessity" to reform the public sector, citing the budget deficit of "a terrifying 11.6% of GDP" as just one part of the problem. And they conclude that

"Mr Cameron is much closer to answering the main question facing Britain than either of his rivals is. In this complicated, perhaps inevitably imperfect election, he would get our vote."

You can read the full article here.

Campaigning today

Two good campaigning sessions today: we were canvassing in St Bees and in Distington wards and had a fairly friendly reception in both.

Quote of the day -

"You're the first actual candidate of any party I've seen in 37 years."

(That was in Distington ward.)

I was also on Radio Cumbria this morning in a discussion on Health.

One issue which was raised in that debate related to a Conservative promise which was extremely controversial when something similar was in our last manifesto, but has hardly come up at all this time, perhaps because Labour are proposing something similar, and it related to our policy to allow patients to choose any provider who meets NHS standards within the NHS price.

The relevant section of the Conservative manifesto reads as follows:

Give patients more choice

We understand the pressures the NHS faces, so we will increase health spending in real terms every year. But on its own this will not be enough to deliver the rising standards of care that people expect. We need to allow patients to choose the best care available, giving healthcare providers the incentives they need to drive up quality.

So we will give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards, within NHS prices. This includes independent, voluntary and community sector providers.

We will make patients’ choices meaningful by:

• putting patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control
of their health records;
• spreading the use of the NHS tariff, so funding follows patients’ choices; and,
• making sure good performance is rewarded by implementing a payment by results
system, improving quality.

We will publish detailed data about the performance of healthcare providers online, so everyone will know who is providing a good service and who is falling behind, and we will measure our success on the health results that really matter – such as improving cancer and stroke survival rates or reducing hospital infections.