Showing posts from August, 2010

IFS report- how to make numbers say what you want

Andy Cooke on Political Betting has written a very well argued critique at post 168 of this thread of the IFS report about whether the budget hit rich people or poor people hardest. His starting comment is " 168. I’ve had more of a poke around the IFS report. It’s an impressive example of how to present facts to support whatever case you want to make." and his conclusion is "It’s intriguing how they’ve taken an analysis that shows that the Budget is definitely progressive up until 2012 and managed to present it as “regressive”. Main points from his argument: * Appendix A of the report shows the Budget effects without their admittedly uncertain estimates of the effects of renewed DLA testing and the Housing Benefit effects, as well as the Tax Credit changes. "If you pretend that Osborne had no power to change Darling’s pre-announced changes (that they are binding on him and were the baseline), then the blue bars are what you’ll concentrate on. If you want to see t

A complaint about BBC bias

I have this evening submitted the following complaint about an item on the Radio 4 news this afternoon. I want to complain about an item comparing the election of Sheriffs in the USA with the UK Coalition government's proposals for elected Police Commissioners, This item failed to give both sides of the argument for and against using elections to hold police services to account. In particular, the item was biased in two key respects. First, while it included contributions from commentators critical of the US system, who were given an opportunity to criticise the election of Sheriffs and explain their concerns about it, there was inadequate opportunity for counterbalancing comment from a supporter of the American system explaining what benefits it might provide. Secondly and far more seriously, given that there are significant differences between Coalition proposals for the UK and the American system, there was no attempt whatsoever to explain those differences or note that most of

Elevating stupidity into an art form ...

The anti nuclear campaign sent me a letter today. They say that their aim is to try to persuade government ministers not to support new nuclear build. To this end they were asking me, one of the most outspoken supporters of nuclear power in the Conservative party, to ask the present MP for Copeland, who is a) one of the most outspoken supporters of nuclear power in the Labour party, and b) recently compared the present Prime Mininster to a nazi collaborator to sign an anti nuclear early day motion. One of the main arguments in the letter they sent me is that nuclear power supposedly does not create jobs. Just in case anyone reading this does not already know, about 25% of the working population in both Copeland Borough on which I am a councillor, and Copeland Constituency, which Jamie Reed represents, are directly employed by the civil nuclear industry. Including both those directly employed in the industry and those whose jobs are dependent on it, about 17,000 local jobs depend on

Exposed: Labour ignored crucial warnings over pensions raid

Newly released documents dating from 1997 expose the dangerous arrogance with which Ed Balls and other Labour Ministers ignored official warnings that their plans could cut the income of millions of pensioners by up to a fifth. The uncovered documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show how the Labour Government was warned that changes they were planning to the tax system for pension funds could result in a 20 per cent fall in share prices, with a massive knock-on effect on pensions. Labour Ministers ignored these warnings and proceeded with the changes. The decision to abolish dividend tax credits has been estimated to have cost British pensioners up to £150 billion, and was described by one Pension Fund expert as the ‘biggest attack on pension provision since the war’. Commenting, Conservative Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi said: “Labour’s pensions raid turned the British pensions system from one of the best in the world into one which is struggling to cope, leav

Feedback on Overview and Scrutiny Meeting

The first meeting of the new "External" overview and scrutiny committee of Copeland Council took place today. Member of the committee spent a large part of the day interviewing people connected with the courts service in Whitehaven about the proposals now out to consultation to move both the county court and magistrate's court in Whitehaven to Workington. These are part of a set of national proposals for the courts service which have been floating around for a while: one of the first things we heard today was that these did not jsut come forward after May's elections. We heard a great deal of evidence raising concerns about these proposals, which do not appear to take adequate account of the poor transport links in West Cumbria or the size of the area that the Workington court would have to serve. We also heard strong and compelling evidence that these proposals are not necessarily the most cost effective option. If the Whitehaven County and Magistrates' courts we

Seagulls !

How could I have forgotten when writing up the council meeting on Tuesday? There was also a question about seagulls in Whitehaven - a subject which caused an amazing amount of reaction when I wrote about it in this blog during the 2007 local election campaign. There is an annual survey of herring gull numbers in Whitehaven. This year's surey has not yet taken place. When it does, we were promised it will be reported to the council, and I will report it, and any action proposed, on this blog.

When lefties aren't actually left wing ...

One of the more bizarre aspects of my political experience is that the more often I speak to Labour or "left wing" activists in a context other than arguing accross the council chamber or another formal political forum, the more likely I am to find that they have at least some views that are, to put it frankly, right wing. Not always in private either - I can remember being very shocked when I was first outflanked on the right by a prominent Labour councillor some eleven years ago, but it's happened to me often enough since then that I can deal with it. There was a very funny item in the Sunday Times at the weekend called "Face it, you're in denial about turning into a Tory" by Matt Rudd. He was reporting on an academic paper from James Rockey of Leicester University entitled " Who is Left-Wing and who just thinks they are? " which can be downloaded from here . The research paper finds evidence from a study of 134,000 thousand people who were ask

Guardian poll finds public supports coalition on economy

Today's front page lead article in the Guardian starts as follows: David Cameron's first 100 days in Downing Street have seen the coalition win the key argument over the economy, with a Guardian/ICM poll today showing that voters back austerity measures to reduce Britain's record peacetime budget deficit." You can read the full article here .

August meeting of Copeland Council

Copeland Council met this afternoon at Millom School. A large part of the afternoon was taken up with the Council Executive report and questions. Much of this was political knockabout with planted questions from Labour backbenchers to Labour executive members used to make a lot of noises about cuts from the coalition government. Of course, since the previous Labour government had admitted before the election that they would have had to make £40 billion of cuts had they been re-elected most of these cuts would have happened anyway. Other issues raised included * New contract standing orders were approved by the council * Concern was expressed at the lack of adequate publicity and information about issues like amended bus timetables when the road from Cleator Moor to Whitehaven was closed at Keekle for planned repairs * There was a "Part II" discussion about the Tesco site in Whitehaven. What this means is that the council discussed this issue in private. The fact that the disc

Party or Country first

If you believe that duty to your country comes before duty to your party, then the coalition government was right to offer roles to Frank Field, John Hutton, and now Alan Milburn, and they were right to accept. One of the things that many members of the public most hate about politics is the way that a "yah-boo-sucks" and "Not invented here" attitude keeps the talented people whose party doesn't happen to be in power from offering ideas to benefit the country. Anyone who has spent much time on the doorstep has regularly heard complaints from voters who do not like the bickering between parties and say things like "They all ought to get together and sort it out." Of course it's not that simple, and people who strongly disagree with the direction a government is taking may have good reasons not to be able to serve, or be offered places in, that government. But there are sometimes advisory roles where someone who is not a supporter of a government can

VJ Day - lest we forget

Sixty-five years ago today World War Two finally came to an end with the defeat of the Japanese. When I was a boy both the first and second world wars were very much within living memory, and a fair number of the older men I knew were veterans of one of the two world wars - the great war as well as WWII. But in the last couple of years, the great war has passed from living memory into history with the deaths of the last survivors of the trenches, and world war II is beginning to do the same. The last of the people I knew who fought against the Japanese, and who survived great cruelty and mistreatment as a POW, died earlier this year in his nineties. Which makes it all the more important that we do not forget. We do not have to be prejudiced against modern-day Japanese or Germans, or blame them for the crimes of their grandparents' generation, to recognise that the wartime governments of both powers were amongst the worst mass-murderers who have ever existed. Their defeat saved the

Murray beats Nadal in straight sets

Andy Murray's run of superb tennis continued with a smashing 6-3 6-4 victory over world number one Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto. He will now meet the winner of the other semi final, which is between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, for the final. Wow!

Talking to a brick wall

Hat tip to Political betting for pointing out this clip of an interview by Labour's former pollster Deborah Mattinson on her book " Talking to a brick wall ." (Follow the link if you want to buy the book from Amazon). The book will of course be headlined as a description of, as it says on the cover, "How New Labour stopped listening to the voter" but it makes a lot of points about the gulf between the public and the entire Westminster Village (including politicians of all parties and journalists). Anyone involved in politics in any party might well find the interview worth fifteen minutes of your time to watch.

Milking an issue ...

During an election debate at Whitehaven school as part of the 2005 election campaign, Jamie Reed who was then the Labour candidate for Copeland (now the MP) claimed that he became interested in politics as a small child when Mrs Thatcher took away his school milk. I pointed out immediately that he probably hadn't been born, and certainly wasn't old enough to be at school, when Mrs Thatcher took school milk away from some pupils. (I was right the first time - he hadn't been born in 1971.) If the Labour's propaganda campaign on this subject convincing him that Maggie Thatcher had stopped his milk really was the reason why Jamie Reed joined that party, perhaps I should have pointed out that he had been conned into joining them under false pretences and sent him a Conservative application form. The actual history of events was: 1) 1968 - Labour government takes free school milk away from secondary school children. The Secretary of state for Education at the time was Ted Sho

Sayeeda Warsi on Labour's Legacy

Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative party, writes: IT'S TIME TO EXPOSE LABOUR'S LEGACY "We all know that over 13 years the last Labour government spent huge sums of money and left us to deal with the biggest budget deficit in our peacetime history. But what we didn't know was just how wasteful they were with our money. From wasting £12 billion on an NHS computer system that didn't work to kitting out regional fire offices with £6,000 luxury coffee-making machines, Labour showed complete contempt for taxpayers' money up and down this country. Despite this reckless spending and waste, Labour remain in complete denial about their legacy. They blame the bankers, the recession, the global downturn - everyone and anyone - except themselves. Today, I gave a speech to begin the process of exposing Labour's waste. This video exposes some of the most shocking examples of Labour's legacy. Labour's incompetent handling of our economy will hit all

New nuclear plants operational in eight years

The government has announced that it expects the first of a new generation of nuclear plants to come on stream within eight years. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne today handed Cumbria a potential economic boost, confirming that a number of potential sites for the stations had been identified – generally close to existing nuclear energy installations – and that power should be on stream by 2018. Three sites in West Cumbria are of course among the places in the running for a new generation atomic power reactor, bringing a major jobs and cash boost to the county. Of these the preferred site locally is of course Sellafield. Mr Huhne reiterated that the Government would not subsidise the new nuclear power stations but said investors had indicated they were ready to press ahead thanks to rising gas, oil and carbon prices. “We are on course to make sure that the first new nuclear power station opens on time in 2018,” Mr Huhne told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “There are a number of sites tha

Rex Toft R.I.P.

I seem to be writing far too many obits on this blog this year. Rex Toft, a former Conservative parliamentary candidate for Copeland has died, and there will be a memorial service for him at St Mary's Gosforth at 1pm on Thursday. During his long political career Rex came within two thousand votes of unseating Jack Cunningham in the eighties, became county councillor for Gosforth Ennerdale, Leader of the Conservative group on the County Council, and eventually leader of Cumbria County Council. I first met Rex in 2004 on the evening when I was first selected to fight the seat, and he game me some very useful advice both about elections in Cumbria and about certain long journeys which both he and I reguarly had to make at that time. He was a good guy and will be missed.

Dr Karen Woo (and colleagues) RIP

I single out Doctor Karen Woo among the members of the medical team who were murdered in Afghanistan, not because the tributes which are rightly being paid to her do not also apply to the other members of the team, but because the extensive news coverage today has not named most of the other victims. I understand that the team leader, also murdered in the attack, was Tom Little from America. The story of this team and what happened to them is an illustration of the best and worst of which human beings are capable. Dr Woo and her colleagues had skills which would have enabled them to enjoy a comfortable, well remunerated and safe existence in Britain, America, or Germany. They risked their lives to work in much less pleasant conditions because they were helping the poor, and if there is a heaven I am as certain as one could ever be that heaven will be their destination. Those responsible for the murder of this medical team demonstrated the most egregious evil of which human beings are c

Hitting the ground running, continued

Here are just some of the things the new coalition government has done in its' first 100 days for local government alone: Local taxation • Scrapped Labour’s plans for new bin taxes on family homes, which would have harmed the local environment by fuelling fly-tipping and backyard burning. • Announced we will work with local councils to freeze council tax for at least one year, and two, if money permits; and give people the power to veto high council tax rises. • Introduced a more generous small business rate relief scheme, to help firms come out of recession, for one year starting in October. Firms with a Rateable Value under £6,000 will pay no business rates at all for a year. • Scrapped Labour’s ports tax – unfair retrospective business rates on firms in ports which threatened to decimate those firms and damage Britain’s whole manufacturing sector. Housing & planning • Scrapped John Prescott’s flawed Regional Strategies and the role of his unwanted and unelected Regional Asse

"Egremont today falls out of the sky"

That's the front page headline on this month's final issue of Labour's "Egremont Today" publication. The last "Egremont Today" front page can be read here . I have very mixed feelings about this. Obviously I have had my differences with "Egremont today" and indeed there have been some moderately sharp two-way exchanges between that publication and this blog. However, it is a good thing when politicians of whatever colour make an effort to communicate with their electorate, and regardless of your views about the politics of Peter Watson and Egremont Labour party, their worst enemy could not dispute that they put a lot of effort into Egremont Today. Ironically, the truth of one point which Peter Watson wrote in his valedictory editorial on the front page was demonstrated only too clearly by turning the next two pages to read the articles by our local MP on page three and Brian Simpson MEP on page five. Jamie Reed MP wrote on page five about being

Inkerman Terrace open again

As planned, Inkerman Terrace re-opened today. The Cleator Moor road from Hensingham is still closed, however.

Roadworks pain continues

Disruption to traffic and business continues in Whitehaven, where Inkerman Terrace has been closed for several days while a hole which appeared in the road is investigated. The Whitehaven News reports they are hoping to re-open that road tomorrow. The main road between Whitehaven and Cleator Moor is also closed near the swimming pool.

Demos on why Labour lost the election

Interesting blog post from Janet Daley on the Daily Telegraph about a YouGov poll for the Labour think tank Demos which suggests that Labour lost the last election "because too many of its own supporters had become disillusioned with the Big State. All that extra funding poured into the public services was seen for what it was: profligacy and an invitation waste taxpayers’ money." Janet Daley comments that The responses (from Labour voters, remember) to the pollsters’ questions read, gratifyingly, like a Telegraph leading article. Government spending under Labour is described as having “reached or even breached acceptable limits” and – miraculously – a good many of those who deserted the party actually said that they no longer saw the state as a force for good. In short, they got it. That theory that many of us had been putting forward – to the effect that the public were not credulous fools and that they could see clearly that throwing more money at a problem was not going

Expression of the week

Wonderful expression heard today for something which is hard to learn. "A learning curve like trying to climb Everest with two broken legs."

How not to organise the tax system

A lot of very frustrated people have told me that over the past few days they've been making a lot of phone calls to the Inland Revenue Tax Credits hotline. A classic example left over from the last government of how not to organise the tax system. You make a tax credit available to a huge proportion of the population. You require them all to reapply for the benefit annually. You refuse to accept online applications, encouraging people to phone or write in (and effectively particularly encouraging them to phone.) Then you fail to provide enough telephone lines or advisors to answer them around the time the deadline for applications falls due. Result - thousands (possibly millions) of people desperately trying to get through.

DC: We've hit the ground running

David Cameron writes: " Parliament has risen, summer is here and this coalition government is nearly at the three month mark. It's a good time to take stock of what we've done so far and where we're going. Eleven weeks in and I believe we've made a good start. We said we'd take the tough decisions needed to rescue our economy and we've been doing that. We've scrapped Labour's jobs tax, completed an in-year spending review to save £6 billion of waste and presented an emergency Budget that will balance the books within five years. We promised radical reform of our public services and we're delivering, with a big expansion of the academy programme in our schools and unprecedented reform of the NHS - £1 billion of bureaucracy cut, pointless targets scrapped, whole tiers of bureaucracy abolished and real power for GPs and patients. We campaigned relentlessly on pushing power out from the centre and we're making it happen. Eric Pickles' depart