Monday, March 28, 2011

Tom Bradby, ITN's political editor on why Labour is losing the argument

Hat tip to Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home for pointing out a number of recent pieces in the MSM about how Ed Miliband isn't up to the job.

Iain Martin in today's Mail (See article at the bottom of this webpage) suggests that the split screen TV pictures of the Labour leader comparing himself to Martin Luther King while yobs threw ammonia bombs at police could be deeply damaging to Labour. (Incidentally, this may also be more relevant than you might expect to Bransty ward's forthcoming election - watch this space.)

Tom Bradby, ITN's Political Editor, has written a devastating analysis of why Labour is losing the argument on the economy and the strategic political mistakes Miliband is making. (I originally had a link here but sadly it has now disappeared from the ITN website.)

He points out the fatal problem in Labour's stewardship of the economy was that

"Gordon Brown came to believe he had abolished the economic cycle and was therefore proceeding extremely incautiously during the runaway boom years when, in retrospect, as we can now see, he should have been saving for a rainy day."

He adds that "Ed Balls can say all he likes that our historical debt position was not outrageous, which is true. But we were running deficits in these years when we needn’t have and we were much, much too reliant on what we can now clearly see was highly speculative income from the financial sector."

Labour hasn't said what it will do now:

"Ed Miliband admitted to me in Afghanistan that this reliance on the City had been a mistake, but at no point has any senior member of the shadow cabinet tackled this issue head on. Combine it with the fact that the party was incredibly slow to acknowledge the dangers posed by the deficit and the way in which it is still barely able to come up with a single cut it would make in public spending, despite being committed in theory to at least eighty percent (and who knows, perhaps, in reality, more) of the spending cuts the coalition is currently implementing and you can see why the patience of most non-aligned Westminster observers is wearing thin."

Not paying off the debt could hurt growth: "Labour would have been committed to four fifths of these cuts anyway and we can all see that paying more interest for longer would have its own impact on growth."

Eurozone crisis reinforces Osborne's rescue mission:

"it’s possible Osborne is doing too much too soon. Maybe it will all blow up in his face. But the longer the European debt crisis continues, the more people may tend towards the view that his is the less risky option."

The end of New Labour's economic credibility: "The party now seems to me to be in serious danger of losing the economic credibility that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair worked so hard to build."

Many in Labour agree that Ed Miliband has the wrong message: "You think these views are a little harsh? Too cynical? Too jaded? Too unfair? Well, I can assure you that there are plenty of very senior Labour figures who would agree with every word."

And Bradby's final conclusion:

"Miliband needs stronger arguments and better troops. And he needs both fast."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Clocks go forward tonight ...

Don't forget that we lose an hour this evening as the clocks go forward from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time ...

Friday, March 25, 2011

A story

The following story was sent to me today by a friend

"One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. 'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!' and, 'I didn't know others liked me so much,' were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again.

She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter.

The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in VietNam and his teacher attended his funeral.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. 'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked. She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said: 'Mark talked about you a lot.'

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

'We want to show you something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.'

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

'Thank you so much for doing that,' Mark's mother said. 'As you can see, Mark treasured it.'

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather
sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home.'

Chuck's wife said, 'Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. 'I carry this with me at all times,' Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: 'I think we all saved our lists.'

Never underestimate the positive power of sincere praise.

Shaun Hocking RIP

Whitehaven URC church was filled to overflowing this morning as hundreds of people attended the funeral of Shaun Hocking.

Shaun was a former teacher, who had been headmaster of Lowca school and had taken part in a huge range of activities within the town. He had been heavily involved with football for young people through Whitehaven AFC and was a keen supporter of many other sporting and charitable activites including Whitehaven RFC. He was a member and past master of the Sun, Square and Compasses lodge, and a member of Probus.

Shaun was a remarkable man who threw himself into everything he did, and he will be sadly missed by the Whitehaven community.

Rest in Peace

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

GO writes on the budget:

George Osborne writes:

"This afternoon I delivered my second Budget. I wanted to write to you immediately to explain our plans and set out some of the key measures.

Last year's Emergency Budget was about rescuing the nation's finances and paying for Labour's mistakes. Today's Budget sticks to the plan, and focuses on reforming the economy to ensure jobs and growth for the future. I am also doing what I can help to families with the cost of living - including an immediate cut to fuel duty.

I know times aren't easy for families at the moment, so this Budget announced help, including:

An immediate cut in fuel duty by 1 pence per litre and a delay of April's inflation rise in duty to next January. This means fuel duty is 6 pence lower than it would be under Labour. We are paying for this by putting up taxes on the oil companies while the oil price is high to create a Fair Fuel Stabiliser.

An increase in the personal allowance from £6,500 to £8,100 over the next two years. This will mean £326 extra for working people and it will lift over a million low paid people out of tax altogether.

£250 million to help 10,000 first time buyers get on the housing ladder.

A freeze in Air Passenger Duty this year.

Money for councils so virtually every council in England will freeze council tax next month.

A new scheme to allow Gift Aid to be claimed on the contents of charities' collecting tins and street buckets, and support for largest donations with radical reforms to Inheritance Tax - if you leave 10 per cent or more of your estate to charity, then the Government will take 10 per cent off your inheritance tax bill.

As well as helping in the short term we need to reform our economy to create growth and jobs in the future. The hard truth is that Britain has lost ground in the world economy.

Under Labour manufacturing halved, and growth depended on unsustainable public spending, debt and financial services. We need a new model of growth based on investment, manufacturing and exports - a Britain that makes things again. This Budget started that process, with measures that include:

An additional 1p cut in corporation tax. In April this year corporation tax will fall from 28% to 26%. It will continue to fall by 1% in each of the following three years reaching 23%. Britain will be competitive again.

Doubling Entrepreneurs Relief to £10m and sweeping changes to the generosity, simplicity and reach of the Enterprise Investment Scheme, with an increase in the income tax relief available from 20% to 30%.

An extension of the small business rate relief holiday for another year.

An additional £100m for new science facilities and more generous tax credits for small business research and development.

21 new Enterprise Zones with business rate cuts and new broadband to promote growth across the country.

A review of the revenue raised by the temporary 50p rate of income tax.

50,000 additional apprenticeships and 100,000 work placements for young people.

£3bn for a Green Investment Bank, which will generate an additional £15 billion in private sector investment in green projects and low carbon energy.

The Confederation of British Industry has already endorsed our approach saying: "This Budget will help businesses grow and create jobs."

So this is our plan - reforming the economy to create jobs and supporting families. This Budget will put fuel back in the tank of Britain's economy.

George Osborne
Chancellor of the Exchequer

Osborne moves on fuel tax

I havew been greatly concerned about the impact of fuel prices on families and businesses, so I am very pleased that the Chancellor has acted in the budget to introduce the Fair Fuel Stabliser which we proposed while in opposition.

The Chancellor announced an immediate cut in fuel duty of 1p per litre, funded by a £2 billion-a-year windfall levy on North Sea oil. He also postponed a 5p rise in fuel duty which had been scheduled by the previous Labour government for next month.

“We are putting fuel into the tank of the British economy,” he said.

At ten to five yesterday afternoon - in other words, minutes before the close of the working day before the budget - the Labour group on Copeland council proposed a motion in favour of cutting tax on petrol.

While there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents - it was Labour that introduced increase after increase in fuel tax, and there wasn't a squeak of progest from any of the Labour members of Copeland Borough Council during any of the thirteen years in office of a Labour government which repeatedly increased tax on petrol - this motion was put forward far too late to be have any chance of being taken into account when the budget was being prepared.

If the motion had been moved at the January meeting of the council it could have been considered as a genuine attempt to persuade the government to address a problem. To propose it the day before the budget was just a transparent piece of political posturing which had everything to do with the forthcoming local elections and nothing whatsoever to do with decreasing the price of fuel or helping families and businesses in Copeland.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monbiot: why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

Hst tip to Political betting to drawing my attention to this article in the Guardian by George Monbiot, who has been a harsh critic of the management of the nuclear industry but recognises that all forms of energy, including even renewables (of which he supports an increase) do harm to the environment.

His article is called Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power and starts with the words

"You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

"A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation."

He points out that the more we expect any enegy source to do the higher the impact on the enviroment (hence the need for a mix) and works through in detail what this means for renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar energy, and hydro power. After this sober assessment he goes on to point out that

"the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power. Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast."

He concludes, after demonstrating that he remains a critic of the nuclear industry's management,

"Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quote of the day

George Monbiot, writer and journalist, pointed out on the BT Politics show today that Coal-fired power stations do more damage to the environment in the ordinary course of operations than nuclear powered ones do when they go wrong.

Quite apart from the large-scale release of carbon into the atmosphere, coal fired stations also give rise to more radioactivity: there are trace radioactive elements in coal which are released into the atmosphere by a standard coal-burning power plant.

If the recent terrible disaster in Japan results in a scaling back of new nuclear generation and more coal plants instead, this will do immense harm to the environment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How not to respond to the Japanese disaster - 3)

By jumping to premature or downright false conclusions about the relevance of the accident to Nuclear power in Britain.

The earthquake which has just hit Japan was the fifth-worst ever recorded. It was 130,000 times more severe than the worst quake ever recorded in Britain.

We do not know, and will never know precisely how many people have died in this terrible disaster, but it appears likely to be over ten thousand.

And among those thousands of deaths, how many are directly attibutable to release of radioactivity from the nuclear power stations affected by the earthquake?

So far, none.

By all means let us review the vulnerability of all our installations - not just nuclear ones - to every natural threat they might realistically face. (And in the UK, that doesn't include Richter 8 plus earthquakes.)

How not to respond to the Japanese disaster - 2)

A disaster of this kind is not the place to score political points. I note that Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has been criticised by Labour MPs as well as Conservative ones as you can read here. And so he should.

How not to respond to the Japanese disaster - 1)

I am stunned to read in the News and Star that an aid worker from Penrith, who was part of a 14-strong team from the "International Rescue Corps" flown out to Japan to help with the disaster, had to return home with the rest of the group because of problems with paperwork.

You can read the details here.

I am pleased to read that a government minister, Alistair Burt, has promised to investigate.

One had better not junp to conclusions about whether the fault lies with the British authorities, the Japanese ones, or the organisers who sent the team out there, but to have the situation where people who are willing to help with a desperate crisis are flown to the other side of the world and told to come back again is absolutely beyond belief.


I am sure that almost everyone has been following the ongoing disaster in Japan with sympathy and horror. The magnitude of the disaster is quite astonishing. Thoughts and prayers are with all the people affected by the disaster.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Census 2011

Like most householders up and down the country I have received my census form.

Note that there is no point returning this before 27th March - send it back before that data and the form is invalid.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Nuclear Build moves a step closer

... with the news that commercial contracts have been signed to make some of the parts for the first four power stations in a new generation of nuclear plants.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Tale from Hansard

During Health questions on Tuesday of this week, after Andrew Rosindell MP had asked about measures to protect against MRSA and C-Diff (on which West Cumberland Hospital has an excellent record), the following exchange took place in parliament, and the health minister answering questions agreed to meet the MP for Copeland to discuss concerns about local hospitals in West Cumbria:

Jamie Reed (Copeland, Labour)

As the Secretary of State knows, the north Cumbrian health economy is in crisis. GP commissioning is providing £30 million less for acute hospital services in north Cumbria this year than it did last year. This has resulted in the trust being unable to seek foundation trust status, and it is seeking a merger which minutes leaked to me by consultants say could lead to the closure of the West Cumberland hospital. Will the Secretary of State meet me as a matter of urgency so that we can collectively find how we can get the hospital out of that hole? Will he also consider a delay to foundation trust status to give the hospital trust more time to get back on its feet?

Simon Burns (Minister of State (Health), Conservative)

I am a bit confused, Mr Speaker, as the question is about MRSA and C. difficile, and I did not hear any specific question from the hon. Gentleman on that subject.

John Bercow (Speaker)

I am grateful to the Minister of State. My sense is that Mr Reed is seeking a meeting. The Minister is perfectly at liberty to say more if he wishes, or if he does not think it is worth it, he does not have to do so.

Simon Burns (Minister of State (Health), Conservative)

Mr Speaker, you are a wise owl to be able to interpret what Opposition Members are thinking but may not be saying. If the hon. Gentleman has concerns along the lines that he mentioned, I or one of my ministerial colleagues would be more than happy to meet him.

John Bercow (Speaker)

Wise owl is the kindest description that the hon. Gentleman has ever offered of me. I shall take it that he means it. It's the best I'll get.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Mark Weir RIP

I was sorry to see that Mark Weir, the charismatic Cumbrian businessman who had made a huge success of the Honister Slate Mine as a tourist attraction, has been killed in a helicopter accident.

He was one of a kind. Our thoughts are with his partner and three children.

Rest in Peace.

A culture of secrecy

For the past fifty years, under national governments of both parties, there has been a trend towards making local councils more open and transparent.

One of Mrs Thatcher's first acts as a backbench MP was to propose an access to information act so that the public could find out what their councillors were doing.

Sadly government of both parties have generally been less willing to apply the same principle to their own activities than to local authorities, but I think more information about what councils do is very helpful.

I strongly support the rule which has now come into effect requiring councils to publish details of all their spending above £500.

This has already resulted in greater scrutiny of some of Copeland Borough Council's decisions in the local press.

Sadly that has gone down very badly with some people. It is very easy for national politicians, councillors, and the managers of public services to develop a "siege mentality" with regard to local media.

If the paper or radio station concerned has made some irritating mistakes - and of course, most news media, being staffed by fallible human beings, will have done so occasionally - and has written or broadcast things which an MP, PPC, or councillor doesn't feel gave him or her a fair crack of the whip, it is all too easy to start thinking of the press as the enemy.

Copeland BC has a bad case of this disease.

The council also has an self-defeating tendancy to be very restrictive in applying rules about what should be published. As I mentioned in response to a recent comment, this can have the counterproductive result that when CBC refuses to release information, residents usually assume the council has something to hide. Sometimes when the council refuses to publish something, the conclusions people deduce from this are far more negative than the truth would have been.

A more open attitude to the local media and a more positive approach to putting information into the public domain are two of the many ways in which Copeland Borough Council desperately needs a fresh start.

You can see the information which Copeland council has published on how they spend your money by clicking here.

Quote of the week

Responding to Ed Miliband's question about William Hague at Prime Minister's Question Time, DC responded, looking at the Leader of the Opposition,

“I know only one person here who has knifed a foreign secretary – and I’m looking at him”.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

David Cameron writes

I'm in Cardiff this weekend with three clear messages for the party. One: thank you for everything you've done. We're in government delivering Conservative pledges - from bringing some sense to our public finances to dismantling Labour's nanny state. This wouldn't have happened without the constant work of activists up and down the country over this past year. So thank you.

Two: get ready because we've got some big elections coming up - council elections, Welsh Assembly elections, Scottish Parliament elections and of course, the AV referendum. AV is fundamentally unfair - it makes politics and politicians less accountable and it means some people's votes can count more than others. We've got to get out there, take these arguments to the country and urge them to vote no to AV.

The third message is to do with our economy. In just over two weeks, we're going to unveil the most pro-enterprise, pro-business Budget for a generation. It's going to be a no-nonsense, roll-our-sleeves up Budget in which we do everything we can to make it easier for businesses to grow, invest and take people on.

Make no mistake, I am an enterprise Prime Minister. Every summit I go to, every trip I make, every foreign leader I meet, I'm trying to drum up new trade or business for Britain. I know some people don't like me doing that. But do these critics think the Germans and the French and the Americans are all sitting at home waiting for business to fall on to their lap? Of course not. They're getting out there, and so am I.

This is an enterprise government too. Everywhere we can we're breaking down the barriers to business growth - cutting corporation tax, gripping regulation, bringing in an enterprise allowance to help those who are unemployed set up their own business. But there's so much more to do. Right now in our country there are what I would call the enemies of enterprise, whether it's bureaucrats who concoct ridiculous rules or town hall officials who take ages to make planning decisions. Believe me, we are taking them on.

Enterprise is in our party's DNA. We have always been on the side of the doers, the grafters, the entrepreneurs. They are the wealth creators and the job creators, the ones who will drive Britain's prosperity in the years to come, and that's why this government is doing everything possible to get behind them today.

David Cameron

Friday, March 04, 2011

Tom Broughton and Roland Woodward RIP

Millom has lost two distinguished public servants, one on each side of the political divide, in a couple of weeks.

Roland Woodward, a former Labour County Councillor for Millom, died suddenly last month: and earlier this week Tom Broughton, who was Mayor of Copeland in 1976-77 and Leader of the Conservative Group on Copeland Borough Council for many years also died.

Both men in their very different ways worked very hard for Millom and for Copeland, and were respected accross the political divide. Both will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Eric Pickles writes on making Councils accountable to voters

Transparency and openness must underpin every decision your council makes for you.

Fifty years ago this month, Margaret Thatcher's maiden speech championed a Private Members' Bill which would ultimately make councils open up their meetings to the press and public. As she argued at the time, 'The public has the right... to know what its elected representatives are doing'. Indeed, local people should be able to hold politicians and public bodies to account over how their council tax is being spent, and decisions made on their behalf.

We are ushering in a new era of transparency, where every aspect of council business is open to democratic scrutiny and an army of armchair auditors can shine a spotlight on waste and unnecessary cost to help protect frontline services.

For too long, Labour let councils spend your hard-earned cash without proper local accountability. For too long, Labour took local taxpayers for a ride.

You wouldn't spend your money without knowing what you were buying - so why let the Government?

With greater power for local councils must come greater local accountability. We are committed to increasing transparency across Whitehall and local authorities in order to make data more readily available to you, the citizen, and allow you to hold service providers to account. I recently called on every council in the country to publish all of their spending data over £500 online - and only Labour-run Nottingham are yet to deliver, with their Labour leader arrogantly saying 'we have much better things to be doing'. What have they got to hide?

Not only will transparency allow you to see where your money goes and what it delivers, throwing open the council books will also unlock the door to new businesses and encourage greater innovation and entrepreneurship.

When the new Government is giving unprecedented power and freedom to councils, it's more important than ever that local residents can keep tabs on what their town hall is up to. We're bringing the full glare of the public's eye onto spending. I invite you to scrutinise where your money goes and help us make sure it is spent on the right priorities. It's time to put the council receipts at your fingertips.

You can see how your council is spending your money by clicking here.

Yours truly,

Eric Pickles
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

£10.7 million more for the NHS

The government is putting an extra £10.7 million of investment into the NHS.

Andrew Lansley has challenged Labour leader Miliband to match this increased investment in the NHS.

In a speech to the Welsh Labour Party, Ed Miliband baselessly attacked the Government for seeing healthcare as "a commodity to be bought and sold." However, his speech failed to commit his party to matching the increased NHS budget being delivered by the Coalition.

The Health Secretary has called on Ed Miliband to explain whether he agrees with his Labour colleague Andy Burnham that our increases in NHS spending are "irresponsible", or if he will commit the Labour Party to match our investment.

Commenting on the Labour leader's speech, Andrew Lansley said:

"Before attacking the Government for cutting the NHS, Ed Miliband needs to tell us whether he supports the extra £10.7 billion we are putting into the NHS. If he won't support that extra funding, people will see these attacks for what they are - pure political opportunism."

And he added, "Ed Miliband has no vision to improve care for patients. He has turned his back on the very things we need to modernise our NHS - "any willing provider", increasing the power of frontline staff and making accountability work for patients, not bureaucrats"

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

West Cumbria Shootings: Inquest begins today

The inquest into the deaths of the twelve people who were killed during the tragic shooting events of last year and the death of Derrick Bird will begin today, Tuesday 1 March, at Energus, Lillyhall, Workington and is again likely to attract substantial national and local media attention.

This will no doubt be difficult and will bring back some painful memories and emotions for all involved as well as for those living in the communities affected.

An inquest is a formal court hearing at which a coroner must establish who died and how, when and where the death occurred.

The inquests are the first time where we are likely to hear all of the details of the events of 2nd June. Some of the information that will come out of the inquests is likely to be graphic and upsetting.

The public services in the area – Copeland Council, Cumbria County Council, NHS Cumbria and Cumbria Constabulary are working together to do all that they can to ensure that the negative impact of the inquests on the community is minimised.

NHS Cumbria, have produced a leaflet with information on how to cope with the events. Copies will be available from the usual community locations, and these and additional support information will also be available from the NHS Cumbria website,, and from the Copeland Council website,

We know that the inquests are likely to attract significant national and local media attention. If you are concerned by how the media are operating then you might want to visit the Press Complaints Commission website to see what you can do,

If the press are acting illegally or causing disorder then you might want to report this to Cumbria Police directly by calling 0845 33 00 247.

We know that these are going to be challenging and emotional times. It is important that residents of West Cumbria support each other, however we can, throughout the period.