Showing posts from December, 2010

DC's New Year Message

The Prime Minister writes: "After eight months in this job, I am acutely conscious of the challenges we face as a country. But I begin this New Year in the same positive frame of mind as when I set out the task of starting a new government back in May. By nature I am an optimist – about people, about human nature and, above all, about the future of our great country. If we sort out our problems, and make the most of our many opportunities, we can be one of the international success stories of the new decade. As for politics, my approach is simple: politics is public service in the national interest. We all have our dreams, ambitions and principles that we cherish and want to put into place. But most important of all, particularly at times like this, is to deal with the real problem in front of us. And there can be no doubt what that is: the state of our economy and the budget deficit. We have been living seriously beyond our means. We have to sort this out. Every sensible person k

Christmas reading - Decline and Fall

In between spending some time with the children over Christmas and tackling some long-overdue tasks around the house, my Christmas reading has been the second volume of the diaries of Chris Mullin, the former Labour MP for Sunderland South, which are called "Decline and Fall." On the face of it, I should have very little in common with Chris Mullin beyond a common dedication to politics and the fact that we both strongly disagree with the idea of locking people up for three months without trial. We come from very different parts of the political spectrum, and one of the things which marked his tenure as a select committee chairman was an ill-judged attack on an organisation of which I am a member and which I believe does far more good every year by helping those in need than the average M.P. does in his entire career. Nevertheless, Mullin's diaries are not just entertaining and informative but moving and thought-provoking. And in spite of what I wrote in the previous para

A Very Merry Christmas to anyone reading this

Wherever you are, and whatever your colour, creed or politics, I wish everyone who is reading this a happy and holy Christmas season and a healthy and prosperous New Year 2011.

A Christmas "Knock-knock"

My young son is very fond of "Knock-knock" jokes. After my children were up very early this morning, we reminded my son of a knock-knock joke which is often used in our family, referring to a line from "Tommy" which consequently seemed particularly apposite in our home this Christmas ... "Knock Knock!" "Who's there?" "The" "The Who?" "Did you ever see the faces of the children? They get so exited! Waking up on Christmas morning, long before the winter sun's ignited ..."

Christmas Pharmacy rota in Whitehaven

The emergency pharmacy rota in the Whitehaven to Egremont area over the Christmas and New Year period 2010 to 2011 is as follows: Christmas Day, 6-7pm, Tesco Pharmacy, Bransty Row, North Shore, Whitehaven Boxing Day, 6-7pm, W Fare, 71-73 Market Place, Whitehaven New Year's Day, 6-7pm, Murray's Pharmacy, 31 Market Place, Egremont. IN an emergency you can phone your GP out of hors service or the A&E at the West Cumberland. Urgent prescriptions should be endorsed as "Urgent" by a G.P.

With Friends like these

I have been reading an interesting article by contributing editor Dan Hodges on Labour Uncut called " The Left is losing its marbles ." Five years ago I quoted on this blog some thoughts by Mark Shields, an American journalist, on the pattern followed by parties which lose elections. He was thinking of the American Democrats (who he usually supports) after George W Bush's re-election, and I said at the time his comments were every bit as applicable to British Conservatives. Now they are relevant to the Labour party. Sheilds argued that parties which lose elections go through four phases: 1) We woz robbed 2) Blame the communications 3) Blame the leader/candidate 4) Find a Winner I commented at the time "I've had a bellyful of phases one, two and three. Whether there is any justice in them or not, they don't work." Obviously the majority of the rest of the Conservative party felt the same way, as they elected David Cameron who is now Prime Minister. Dan Ho

One way of clearing snow ...

Out this afternoon in Bransty ward delivering a Christmas newsletter, my colleage Graham Roberts and I passed a resourceful constituent who was melting the snow from his drive with a piece of equipment which was something between a very large blowtorch and a small flamethrower. Well that's one way of doing it. Actually the most dramatic indication of just how severe this cold snap has been was how long it was taking even a jet of flame to melt the ice, though it gave Graham and myself some opportunities to amuse ourselves with ideas of alternative uses for the flamethrower. Most of which we won't be repeating in front of anyone we don't know in case they turn out to be an undercover reporter ...

An apology is owed to the McWhirter family

David Baddiel, Alun Davies, and the BBC all owe an apology to the family of the late Norris McWhirter for an outrageous slur against a dead man, and to the Freedom Association for describing them as a 'slightly posher version of the BNP.' Hat tip to Dan Hannan and Cranmer for pointing out that comedian David Baddiel, while promoting a short film he had made about a visit by Norris McWhirter to his old school, made some entirely inappropriate remarks on Alan Davies's show on BBC radio Five Live on Saturday. The interview begins just after 1 hour and seven minutes into the two hour slot if you follow this link to BBC iPlayer. The comments to which Dan and Cranmer have taken offence - rightly, in my opinion - begin 1 hour 23 minutes and 35 seconds into the BBC iPlayer segment. There is no doubt that the late Norris McWhirter, who with his brother Ross started the "Guinness Book of Records" and was involved with "Record Breakers," did have strong politica

The Guardian sinks its' teeth into the Unite boss

A "Man bites dog" story: a Guardian editorial on Monday, Leading Nowhere attacked Len McCluskey, newly elected general secretary of Unite. As even the Guardian can see "the public does not want an unreformed welfare state, a lame duck industrial sector or trade unions that seem more concerned with overthrowing governments than representing workers' interests democratically. It wants welfare, work and industrial democracy that are relevant to today's world, not that of our grandparents. The labour movement will not be able to defend and renew what it cherishes if it follows Mr McCluskey up the blind alley of deficit denial, indiscriminate opposition to all cuts, and a programme of strikes which large parts of the country will see as an attack on rather than a defence of the public realm."

On Snow and Climate Change

Posters on Political Betting have been chuckling at a ten year old article which one of them unearthed at the weekend, while the country was under a thick blanket of snow, entitled " Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past. " And certainly some of the predictions in Charles Onians' March 2000 article, such as " snow is starting to disappear from our lives" look pretty funny at the moment. As we experience the second of two consecutive savage winters, at least relative to recent history, it is fairly obvious that the received wisdom of a few years ago, which the article represents, that the world is dramatically warming, is to put it mildly, a little overstated and oversimplistic. As we learn more about the environment, we can expect previous theories and views will sometimes be shown to be inaccurate, and need to be amended. Hence we need to be open-minded in our attitude to climate change. Genuinely open-minded: it is equally unhelpful to label anyone who

Rentoul on Cameron

John Rentoul in the Independent has a very interesting analysis on David Cameron's performance as Prime Minister called " Like it or not, Cameron is a born leader." Rentoul quotes Labour's former home secretary John Reid as saying of Cameron last week: "He is a better prime minister than he was leader of the opposition. If he had been as successful as leader of the opposition as he now is as prime minister, and as astute, then the Tories would have an overall majority."

A memorable weather report

Heard on the radio a little before 8 am this morning -the most succinct weather forecast I can remember. "Ice, snow, frost - I'd stay under the duvet today if I were you."

The Axe man cometh

A very busy week: still coming to terms with the local government spending assessments. Cumbria CC got off comparatively lightly, but Copeland BC has taken an even worse caning than we expected, apparently mainly as a result of the withdrawal of various "Top Up" grants. Wednesday's delayed Full Council meeting was dominated by screaming about this, with various Labour councillors putting the blame firmly in the wrong place. The reality is that painful measures were inevitable whoever had won the election, because the outgoing Labour government left the country bankrupt. Labour – up to their necks in debt Because Gordon Brown doubled the national debt, * This year, 2010-11, the burden of interest on government debt will be £42 billion in 2010-11. If we didn’t have to pay this money, we could abolish council tax overnight, and still have £16 billion left of change. * Unless we cut the borrowing, interest on the Labour Government’s toxic legacy of debt will hit £70 billio

In the public interest

How do you ensure that whistleblowers and people who release information which ought to get out cannot be convicted under laws designed to catch spies, thieves, or those whose activities are a genuine threat to national security? Most civilised countries square this circle by qualifying the laws against people who leak or publish sensitive information with a public interest defence. E.g. if you are "Wikileaks" and you publish secret information, but bringing that information into the public domain may cause criminals in high places to be caught, cause a policy which genuninely needs scrutiny to receive it, or otherwise be in the public interest, you can use this in your defense. On the other hand, if you publish stolen information, especially if this may put innocent lives at risk, and cannot point to such a corresponding benefit, you can and should be successfully prosecuted. I've been following the "Wikileaks" debate with some interest. One or two of the nugge

Labour's fox gets shot ...

Certain Labour party spinners and bloggers, and their friends at the Guardian have been trying to talk up the possibility that the PM's media advisor, Andy Coulson, might face charges over illegal phone hacking while he waws editor of the News of the World. As Mike Smithson at political betting suggests here , there has consequently been a betting market on whether Coulson will have to resign - and Mike advises putting your money against it. At one stage the BBC was also running with this story, but they seem to have seen the writing on the wall. The BBC reports here that prosecutors have investigated the allegations and dropped any idea of bringing charges. As the BBC reports, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, says there was no admissible evidence to support the claims that public figures' phones were hacked. Former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare had made lurid allegations in the New York Times about widespread phone hacking at the paper, but refused t

Tuition Fees

I have very mixed feelings about the Tuition Fees package which the government successfully carried this evening. When I was a student union officer I took part in demonstrations calling for improvements to grants packages which were vastly more generous to students at the taxpayers' expense, and I have no doubt that if I were still a student union officer I would have been of the same mind. Actually it's quite ironic when you look back to the debates we used to have, to see what ministers of all parties have subsequently done. Suppose that in 1985 I or one of my tory student contemporaries such as Iain Dale had told our fellow students that over the next 25 years * Mrs Thatcher would be the last Prime Minister during whose tenure students were paid support from the state consisting entirely of grants with no loan element and the state covering fees * When Labour finally got into power, one of their first actions would be to introduce fees payable by students despite a manifest


Attended a meeting this afternoon in relation to the Department of Energy and Climate Change reconsultation about the revised draft National Policy Statement on Energy. Much of the debate concerned the Kirksanton and Braystones site, which the new government is proposing to remove from the list of possible locations for new nuclear build. (Local residents of those area were very keen to ensure this change is confirmed and those sites are not subsequently proposed again.) The remainder of the discussion was very supportive of Sellafield going forward as a site for new nuclear build, with all speakers from the floor (including myself) also arguing for an effective, phased plan for insfrastructure improvements to put but in place no later than the submission of any planning application. The consultation is open until Monday 24th February and you can respond online via the DECC website here .

Harras Moor gas leak

About 40 homes in the Harras Moor area of Bransty ward had to be evacuated today after a gas main developed a leak. The road from the Sunny Hill to Red Lonning was also cordoned off for much of the day. A reception centre was set up in St Benedict's school: about 35 people used the service, other residents went to stay with family or friends. Sixth form pupils at the school served hot food and drinks to the residents at the reception centre, while an emergency response team, Copeland council, Red Cross and other organisations worked to manage the situation. The gas leak, into the local sewer from a fractured main, was contained by early evening and a phased programme has begun to let residents back into their homes. Jackie O'Reilly from Copeland Councils Environmental Health department and Ruth Walsh co-ordinated the council's response and as a ward councillor for the affected are I would like to put on record by appreciation and thanks for their hard work, and also thank t

Copeland Council meeting postponed

The meeting of Copeland Borough Council which had been due to take place at 2pm this afternoon has been postponed because of difficult travel conditions: the roads in West Cumbria are very icy at the moment. I understand that the meeting is likely to be rescheduled for 4pm on Wednesday 15th December at Cleator Moor Town Hall and Masonic Centre.

Watch out on the roads

If you have occasion to travel this evening or tomorrow please take great care: the roads are very treacherous.

Sauce for the Goose ...

I was pleased to hear that David Cameron eventually decided not to have his photographer paid from the public purse: not because the original decision to the contrary was any worse than all the millions the previous Labour government had spent on self-publicity, but because the Conservatives had promised to cut the cost of politics. Hat tip to Guido Fawkes' blog for pointing out that one of the Labour MPs who criticised the original decision to have the Prime Minister's photographer on the public payroll has herself claimed £634.99 from the taxpayer as parliamentary expenses this year for the cost of her own photographer. As Guido put it, turning her own words against her, "Charging the taxpayer for vanity shots at a time when people are losing their jobs and homes? This is outrageous.”

Twenty years serving the community

Attended the 20th annoversary celebrations today of the Whitehaven Community Trust. In that time the Trust has helped with the regeneration of the time, found accomodation for more than 430 vulnerable youngsters with high housing need, and helped many others into employment.

Some attacks say more about the attacker ....

And some criticisms say far more about the person making the criticism than they do about the subject. Such as the tweet today by Ed Miliband’s chief media spokesperson, Kate Myler - which, Mr Miliband's office was quick to point out, was "made in Kate Myler’s personal capacity." I'm disappointed that England is not to host the 2018 world cup, but it's one of those things - there are far more countries wanting to host such events than they can possibly go to. I'm quite sure that if David Cameron had refused to lift a finger to back the bid, the Labour party would have been the first to attack him for it. So what are we to make of Kate Myler's tweet, some time before the final decision, that the Prime Minister was “pimping himself out in Zurich..” I don't recall that over the last 13 years the Labour party described ministers in their government who tried to being business or international events such as the 2012 Olympics to Britain in those terms. As a

May: Putting policing at the heart of the community

Home Secretary Theresa May writes: "Today we unveiled radical new reforms to put the public back at the heart of our drive to cut crime, and give people more influence over their local communities. For the first time you will have a real say in how your local area is policed through directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. From May 2012 these Commissioners will replace faceless police authorities and they will set goals and priorities for their police forces according to the wishes of the public who elect them. On top of this, we are strengthening the powers that police and councils have to tackle crime and, in particular, alcohol-related, disorder. We are putting in place these changes because, for too long, the fight against crime has been tangled up in a web of centrally imposed red tape, driving a wedge between the police and their local communities. Under Labour the police were behind desks, not out on the streets; they were chasing targets, not fighting crime. As the

Should the Lib/Dems be allowed to abstain on tuition fees?

Tim Montgomerie points out at Conservative Home here that the exact wording of the Tuition Fees section of the Coalition Agreement is as follows: "If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote". Things have moved on since then, and it would be more than a little ironic (to put it mildly) that if this agreement is invoked to the letter, the minister who drafted the policy may end up abstaining himself. I'm not convinced that abstention will satisfy the people who are angry with the Lib/Dems over tuition fees, but that's their problem. An abstention is what was agreed in the coalition agreement, and if the Lib/Dems collectively abstain and the Conservatives all vote for the goverment position, it will be carried with a majority of 13 over all other parties. If Lib/Dem ministers are allowed to abstain, there is a quid pro quo whic