Showing posts from May, 2011

Commemorating 2nd June 2010

There will be a series events to remember the victims of last year's shootings over the coming week. Residents of Copeland are being encouraged to take part in a two minutes' silence at noon on Thursday. There will be a short commemoration event in St Nicholas's Gardens, Whitehaven on Thursday, which I had previously heard would start at 11.30 am, but press reports and the council website now state that this will start at 11.55 am, and conclude with a two minute silence at noon.

Weekly bin collection

According to the Daily Telegraph, the government is to offer incentives to councils to return to weekly refuse collection. I hope that the terms are generous enough to enable councils where a reasonable political will exists to take up this deal. However great the need to encourage recycling, fortnightly bin collections have been associated with some real environmental health problems, including problems with rats and seagulls, and some spectacularly embarrassing decisions - continued fortnightly collections can only lead to more headlines like the ones Copeland Council generated by taking a family from Whitehaven to court over a bin which was four inches too full.

Space contract for National Nuclear Laboratory

The European Space Agency is commissioning cutting-edge technology needed to launch future European space missions in the National Nuclear Laboratories at Sellafield. This is fantastic news for West Cumbria. The plan is that nuclear batteries will be produced to power new space flights, and the ESA has given £1 million to the laboratory to show that it can work. Conservative energy minister Charles Hendry said that “This is great news for the UK and its National Nuclear Lab. The government sees the lab as a centre of expertise that can support the clean-up of legacy nuclear waste and play a key role as a world class provider of technology solutions and research. “Winning this huge European-wide contract gives me confidence in the current business model and is an excellent example of the UK using its traditional strong civil nuclear skill base in other high technology areas such as the space industry. I am sure that more commercial opportunities for the lab will follow.” Once the techno

Interesting Labour view of "Ken Week"

Since I'm discussing the row over Ken Clarke I'd better start by making clear that 1) Rape is a serious crime. Full stop. 2) Great efforts should be made to ensure that those who are guilty of rape are convicted and face serious punishment. Full stop. 3) Any person who reports that they have been raped should be treated with great sensitivity and their allegations properly investigated. Full stop. None of which alters the fact that the issues around sentencing policy are a lot more complex and difficult than some people who have commented on the government's proposals and Ken Clarke's comments have made them appear. There is an interesting article by Dan Hodges on the subject on "Labour Uncut" which you can read here .

Pot calling the kettle black award

If there were an Olympic gold medal in a “pot calling the kettle black” category, the comments by Allerdale Labour councillor Barbara Cannon headlined “Cowards left dirty work to us” on the front page of the News & Star last week would qualify her as a very strong contender. Every criticism she uses about the previous Alliance administration in Allerdale can be applied a hundred times over to the last Labour Government. It was her party which put in place the financial regulation regime under which the banks got into trouble and had to be bailed out. It was her party which let the Government deficit reach 25% of spending – in other words they were spending four pounds for every three pounds coming in, a completely unsustainable position. That’s why, under her party, the national debt doubled to £1.2 trillion, and the interest on that debt reached £25 billion a year, more than the country spends on schools. Debts which children not yet born will still be paying off 20 years from now

Gone with the wind

I mentioned that it was windy last night. Apparently some parts of the county clocked 91 mph winds. Ouch!

Thoughts on Recycling

It's a very windy evening in Whitehaven, and I have just spent a rather difficult 45 minutes trying to position the boxes containing a large amount of recyclable waste - glass bottles, plastic bottles, newspapers, cardboard - at the front of my property so that the recycling team from Copeland Borough Council will pick them up when they come down the street at about 7am tomorrow morning, but in such a way that everything won't blow all over the street in the meantime. There is a wind trap in front of my house, and if I could leave the material at the bottom of my drive it wouldn't blow away, but unfortunately that would be too far from the road and the recycling team would probably miss it. But it's absolutely frightening how much stuff there is to put in for recycling. Certainly better to try to recyle this than burn it or put it in landfill, but we still need to ask ourselves as a society whether we really should be producing so much packaging.

No one knows the day or hour

Apparently millions of people took seriously the suggestion that the "Rapture" might take place yesterday - not quite the end of the world, but the supposed beginning of the end, with millions of virtuous people taken straight to heaven. Needless to say it didn't happen. (My wife, who was raised in Luton, commented that "There certainly wasn't any Rapture in Luton after yesterday's football match!" but there you go.) I don't know whether I am more irritated that people who ought to know better are taken in by this sort of nonsense, or that the real Christian faith may be discredited because others imagine that the fraudsters and blithering idiots who peddle it have anything whatsoever to do with the teachings of Jesus. The most cursory reading of the sections of the New Testament which deal with the end of the world is sufficient to prove beyond any possibility of doubt that anyone who claims to know exactly when Jesus will come again is a fool or a

A Health reform discussion

Hat tip to Seth O Logue at " Political Betting " for drawing my attention to an audio recording on the Guardian site of a Q&A session with Professor Steve Field in 16th May. Field leads the NHS Future Forum, the ad hoc group set up by Cameron to listen to health industry professionals on the Health and Social Care Bill and report back to the government with proposals for change by early June. The audio recording can be found at " " The description and opinions below largely reflect Seth O Logue's post at Poltical Betting, with some minor editing. The group assembled for Field are broadly hostile to the reforms - polls taken before his arrival showed circa 70% against the main proposals. Field handles the 80 minute session well: he is clearly not interested in partisan political debate and focussed only on health issues. The audience consists of mostly of Guardian readers, and it shows. Badly. The first 3 minutes and 25 seconds of the rec

Have your say on your community health services

Cumbria Partnership NHS Trust suggested that the following article might be of interest to readers of this blog and I am extremely happy to use it. You can have your say in how your local community health services develop by becoming a member of the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – and have a chance to win £100 of M&S vouchers in our prize draw. Your local NHS services, including community hospitals, community services such as district nursing, health visiting, children’s services, community dentistry, learning disability and mental health are now delivered by Foundation Trust. The Foundation Trust is inviting anyone over 14 years old who lives in Cumbria or who cares for a person living in the county to become a Member. It’s free to become a member and you get the benefits of the NHS discount scheme at a number of high street and online stores – saving you money on everything from meals out to holidays. And if you become a member before June 24, 2011 you will be entered

Full election results for Copeland BC

The full results for this year's Copeland elections were: ARLECDON (1 councillor to be elected) Marie Simpson Conservative Party 87 Joseph Graham Sunderland Independent 359 Elected Electorate: 1232 Ballot papers verified: 459 Turnout: 37.25 % BECKERMET (2 councillors to be elected) Yvonne Clarkson Conservative Party 681 Elected Jim Hewitson The Labour Party Candidate 340 John A Jackson Conservative Party 536 Elected Electorate: 2265 Ballot papers verified: 1048 Turnout: 46.27 % BOOTLE (1 councillor to be elected) Anne Bradshaw The Labour Party Candidate 92 Keith H Hitchen Conservative Party 453 Elected Electorate: 1063 Ballot papers verified: 548 Turnout: 51.55 % BRANSTY (3 councillors to be elected) Phil Greatorex The Labour Party Candidate 710 Elected Allan Mossop Conservative Party 642 Brian O’Kane C

An exchange which reflects the NHS debate ...

Labour MP Ian Lavery made himself look exceptionally stupid today at Prime Minister's questions when he asked about former NHS manager Mark Britnell . But there was no fundamental distinction between the point he was attempting, and spectacularly, failing to score and the current approach of the Labour party to the NHS, including the way the party campaigned on the NHS in recent local elections. The only difference is that the specific details of Mr Lavery's question, apparently based on an article in the Observer last Sunday attributing views to Mark Britnell which Mr Britnell has said does not reflect his position, made it particularly easy to highlight the double standards of Labour's position. This was the exchange at PMQs: So the reason why the present Prime Minister had never been in a position to sack "his NHS Adviser David Britnell" ( sic: I note in passing that the Labour member for Wansbeck couldn't even get the gentleman's name right) is that

Congratulations to John Jackson, new Mayor of Copeland

Attended the annual meeting of Copeland Council today, when Cllr John Jackson was elected mayor for the forthcoming year. John will make an excellent mayor and his wife Linda will make an excellent mayoress: I wish them well for their year. Thanks also to Mike McVeigh and his wife who have worked very hard as Mayor and Mayoress in 2010-11.

Geoffrey Brown R.I.P.

Most readers of this blog will probably not have heard of Geoffrey Brown, who died on local election day this year, but he was a remarkable man. Geoffrey was my Deputy Chairman (Political) while I was Chairman of St Albans Conservative Association. Despite the fact that he had seconded my opponent for the position, when I was elected he gave me three years of loyal and extremely hard-working support. Which was rather a change-around from our first meeting: after he finished his army career and became a history teacher at St Albans School in 1973. On the morning of his first day as a teacher I was twelve years old and was a member of the second form history class which was the very first one he taught. Geoffrey joined the army during World War II as a private soldier while he was still a teenager. He was serving in in Sheriff Thompson's Airlanding light artillery regiment, part of the 1st Airborne division, when that unit took part in the battle of Arnheim. After the war he remained

Free Speech

I was interested to read the different print and internet versions of an article which Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has put in various "Independent" publications today. The "i" copy is titled "Do we want Free Speech or Tittle-Tattle" with the subtitle "We should stop muddling celebrity shenanigans with abuse of power." The inference - which it's very hard for a reasonable person to disagree with - is that the press should have the right to to probe when those in powerful positions have misused them or made a mistake, but it's not an edifying spectacle when the media use their freedoms and rights not to investigate such issues but to publish invasive smut about the sex lives of celebrities. However, the slightly longer article in the full edition, and the internet version, which you can read here , has the rather different title " We need new codes to define the perimeters of free speech " and the subtitle "Those who say the battle

You read it here first

I see I am not the only supporter of the Union who is urging the government to recognise the SNP's victory in the Scottish Parliament elections makes a referendum on independence inevitable, and to get on with holding it as soon as consistent with allowing a proper and democratic discussion and vote. I wrote nearly a week ago (9th May) on this blog that if negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments are held under the shadow of a looming independence vote there is a real danger that it will poison them. Best to hold the referendum reasonably quickly, let people vote on whether there will still be a United Kingdom or not, and free both Scotland and the rest of the UK to move forward. A number of MSPs have been making similar noises, and now the Spectator argues that "The answer is for Westminster to call Salmond’s bluff by instigating an early referendum. It ought to have been done years ago. Why let the SNP leader choose the moment of maximum advantage, when now there

Doctors say NHS reforms "will benefit most vulnerable"

41 GPs with a lead role in practices caring for over 7 million patients across the country have written to The Daily Telegraph supporting the Government's plans to modernise the NHS which "will benefit the most vulnerable in society". The doctors are leading the plans which will bring together over 1,000 GP practices across England to give more power to doctors and nurses and improve care for patients. It is important to listen to healthcare providers and patients so as to get the proposals right, which is why the government has called a pause in the proposals to listen to comments. But this is not some new plan which has come out of nowhere - in fact it the devolution of powers to GPs is a continuation of what was being developed in Cumbria for the last few years under the previous Labour government. The doctors who wrote to the Telegraph confirmed that in their view the plans are an evolution of the previous Government's proposals, and welcomed the idea that instead

Reforming vocational education

The Government has announced plans for all 16-19 year-olds who fail to get a C grade or better in GCSE English or Maths to keep studying the subjects until they get good qualifications. The move will address employers' concerns that standards of literacy and numeracy among young people are not good enough. A recent survey by the CBI found that 42 per cent of firms are not satisfied with the basic use of English by school and college leavers, while 35 per cent are concerned with the basic numeracy skills of new recruits. The move is one of a number of recommendations from a review of vocational education carried out by Professor Alison Wolf earlier this year that were today accepted enthusiastically by Education Secretary Michael Gove. The review concluded that more than 300,000 16 to 19-year-olds are on courses which do not lead to higher education or good jobs. Michael Gove said: "The weaknesses in our current system were laid bare by Professor Wolf's incisive and far-rea

And I thought I had a bad week ...

A commemoration poster recording the success or otherwise of the Labour leader's campaign visits and events this year ... (Click on the poster to see it slightly larger and again to see full size.)

One final AV referendum post ...

One final look at the reasons for the defeat of AV, this time from the perspective of a disappointed "Yes" supporter. Angela Harbutt has written this article on "Liberal Vision" about " The Humiliation of the 'Yes' campaign ." The massive scale of the rejection of AV undoubtedly means that this system will not be put forward again in Britain in the lifetime of any present-day voter. The reason I have referred back several times on this blog to what went right for the No campaign and wrong for the yes one is that some of the lessons are valuable ones for anyone, of whatever party, involved in politics. As Angela writes, "The YES campaign was eminently winnable. But it ended up being run by readers of the Guardian for readers of the Guardian. Readers of this newspaper are about 1% of the voting electorate – and are also a statistically extreme group. Their views do not chime remotely with mainstream British opinion. There is no purist Guardian

The Coalition one year on

Today is the first anniversary of the formation of the coalition government. The present government took over when the fiscal position inherited from the previous administration was threatening to turn the UK into an economic basket case, and their first priority has had to be reducing the unsustainable deficit before Britain got into the same mess as countries like Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Anybody who does not realise that without firm action, Britain's public debt would have spiralled completely out of control with disastrous consequences is living in cloud-cuckoo land. Labour know that - they put off the pain until after the election and kept very quiet about what was coming, but if you look at what one of the few honest Labour front benchers of the present generation, Alistair Darling, said when he was chancellor, it is pretty clear that a re-elected Labour government would have made £7 of cuts for every £8 that the present government is making now. In many areas such as s

Performance against expectations

It was always expected that the Conservatives would lose some council seats to Labour last week. The seats we were defending were last fought four years ago when Labour were going through a very bad time indeed. In my own case, when I stood for Bransty four years ago it was a calculated risk - it's the one ward in Copeland which regularly changes hands, delivering kicks to prominent members of both the Conservative and Labour parties at regular intervals. In the event the risk paid off four years ago but not this year: the number of people who voted for me last week was within two votes of the number who voted for me four years ago but the Labour vote had gone up. The Local Government Chronicle had predicted that the Conservatives would have net losses equal to a thousand of the five thousand council seats defended last week. But as ConHome put it, "The voters failed to fall into line with the expert modelling prepared for them by Rallings and Thrasher." What nobody had e

Scots Independence: call the referendum next year

The Scottish Nationalist Party, which is committed to holding a referendum on Independence for Scotland now has a majority in the Scots parliament. If - or rather when - they ask for that referendum, it would be entirely unreasonable for the UK government to refuse. But, speaking as someone who hopes to see a "No" I see no good reason to wait for them to formally ask. If that referendum is hanging over the future of the UK for several years, there is a serious risk that it will poison relations between the different parts of Britain. Why let it? Far better to recognise that last week's Scottish elections means that there will be a referendum, set a timetable for it now, and hold the vote as soon as is consistent with putting a proper choice to the electorate. That probably means next year. Then we can either get back to making the United Kingdom work if, as I hope, Independence is voted down, or get on with new arrangements if "Yes" wins. And let's try to r

How TO run a referendum campaign, and win

Hat tip to Conservative Home for this exceptionally interesting account of the inside story behind the "No" campaign for the AV referendum, and why they won. Key points 1) After being convinced that a Yes vote would endanger his relationship with his parliamentary party David Cameron gave the order to fight the campaign with all available resources. 2) AV could only be defeated if a large number of Labour supporters voted to keep First Past The Post and from the earliest days of the campaign huge efforts were made to ensure the No campaign was genuinely cross-party 3) One consequence of this was that, although David Cameron would have preferred not to have had the "No" campaign target Nick Clegg in the way that they did, to keep the Labour "No" people onside there had to be an arms length relationship between the Tory leadership and the No campaign. This meant Cameron was unable to stop them from taking advantage of how politically toxic Nick Clegg and hi

An election day story

A story from this year's election in Copeland On the way to the polling station on Thursday, a lady who I will not embarrass by revealing her identity said to her partner "I dont know any of the candidates so I dont know who I will vote for yet" The people in the polling station were quite shocked when she burst out laughing in the polling booth. She said on the way back "I did know one of them so that's who I went for" (It was, of course, her other half ...)

How not to run a referendum campaign

During the discussion in the press and the internet about the AV referendum result, one commentator described the Yes campaign in the Australian referendum on whether they should become a republic as the text book case for how to lose a referendum. It was, but no longer. For the rest of our lifetimes the "Yes to AV" campaign will be the textbook case on how to lose a referendum. Both sides made some good points and some, shall we say, less good ones, though I think there is room for honest people to disagree on quite a few issues, such as how much more AV would cost and whether voting machines would be needed. (There isn't any reasonable doubt that AV would cost more.) But the key difference was that the "Yes to AV" Campaign took for granted that it was the voice of progress and talked to a narrow chunk of society, while the "No" campaign was aimed with ruthless effectiveness at the concerns of much larger numbers of voters. Coupling a sick child with

As the dust settles ...

Was busy campaigning and then at the verification of the count from 7am on Thursday morning until 3.30 am this morning, and then from 10 am until the Copeland AV result was declared at 8.30 pm - the last council in the North West to declare. Not much change in Copeland although I and my colleagues were not successful in Bransty. The ward has a well-deserved reputation for kicking each party in turn in the teeth every few years, and having been successful in 2007 and 2009 we were on the other side this time. (And incidentally, that is not a complaint. I think Copeland would be a much better-run council if more of the other wards had Bransty ward's willingness to change.) The AV referendum result in Copeland was: NO: 16,687 (a fraction over 75%) YES: 5,627 I will put the other election results on here in the next few days. Congratulations and best wishes to all candidates of whatever party who were declared elected today.

DC on why you should vote No to AV

Today is a big day for our country. It's AV referendum day and you need to make your voice heard. Unless enough people go out and vote, Britain could sleepwalk into a system that damages our democracy permanently. So I urge you to get down the polling station and vote 'No' to AV. Remember, there are five big reasons why: One - AV is complex. First Past the Post is so simple you can sum it up in seven words: the person with the most votes wins. AV is so confusing that when I was recently interviewed on the BBC, it became clear that one of their most experienced broadcasters didn't understand how it worked. Two - AV is unfair. With First Past the Post, everyone gets one vote, and that vote is counted once. That's fair. But under AV, supporters of extremist or fringe parties can get their votes counted again and again and again. That's unfair. It's simply not right that the fifth vote of a Monster Raving Looney supporter counts as much as your first vote. Three

Local Elections - Polls open in Copeland and Allerdale

Polls are now open for all the members of Copeland Borough Council, Allerdale Borough Council, and in a by-election to represent Keswick on Cumbria County Council (caused by the resignation of an octegenarian Lib/Dem county councillor). Polls are open from 7am to 10 pm today (Thursday 5th May). You do not need your polling card to vote, but be aware that a number of polling stations have been moved: for example, the polling station for residents of The Highlands and Harras Moor who used to vote at a house on Harras Road has moved to Whitehaven Golf Course. Conservative candidates for Copeland Borough Council are: Arlecdon: Marie Simpson Beckermet: Yvonne Clarkson and John Jackson Bootle: Keith Hitchen Bransty: Allan Mossop, Brian O'Kane and Chris Whiteside Cleator Moor North: Alex Carroll Cleator Moor South: David Walker Distington: Sheena Gray Egremont North: Jack Holmes Egremont South: Dr Graham Hutson and Elizabeth Hutson Ennerdale: Bob Salkeld Frizington: Hazel Dirom Gosforth:

Hospital public meeting today

Reminder: there is a public meeting at 6.30 pm this evening (3rd May) at the United Reformed church hall in the Market Place about local hospital services in West Cumbria.

Thoughts on the death of Bin Laden

One of my differences with the late Osama Bin Laden is that I do not think it is ever seemly to celebrate the death of another human being - even one as evil as he was. That word, "evil," is so grossly over-used in our society that it seems inadequate for someone who could calmly plot to hijack four airliners full of passengers and deliberately crash them into buildings where thousands of civilian men and women were working - and a man who could do so in the name of a God described as "The compassionate, the merciful" in spite of the fact that some of the passengers on the aircraft and in those buildings were fellow-worshippers of the same God. However great the risk that he may be wrongly seen as a martyr by people who are nearly as twisted as he was, it was reasonable for the USA to seek to bring him to justice - and to use deadly force when he refused to surrender. This is the man who once told the West "We love death as much as you love life." Finally

Prime Minister on the future of West Cumberland Hospital

David Cameron spoke at Prime Mininster's Question Time this week about the future of West Cumberland Hospital and assured local residents that the Department of Health is working closely with the local NHS to move forward the proposed redevelopment of the hospital. In answer to a question from the MP for Copeland, David Cameron said: "First, I well remember visiting the hospital in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. It is a fantastic hospital and it did brilliant work during those incredibly tragic times about which he spoke. I can absolutely reassure him that he does not need to worry about the future of the West Cumberland hospital. "I understand that he has met the Minister of State, Department of Health, my right hon. Friend Mr Burns, to discuss the concerns, and they are in agreement that issues need to be resolved swiftly. "The Department of Health is working closely with the local NHS to produce proposals to redevelop the hospital. That is what is going to