Showing posts from October, 2011

Another take on the Euro-vote

Hat tip to Plato at "Political Betting" for drawing my attention to a very interesting piece by Mail journalist Tim Shipman called Why Cameron really defied the Euro rebels . Shipman argues that Cameron's reasons for opposing the motion for a referendum on membership of the European Union was not because he completely disagreed with what the rebels wanted, but because he does agree with much of what they want but considers that calling for a referendum now is not the best way to get it. Here are some extracts from the article "Mr Cameron’s behaviour over the last week is more explicable if you take the view that he sought to crush the calls for a referendum not because he doesn’t want to repatriate powers but precisely because he does and wants to remain in charge of the process. "If he is to take on Brussels, he wants to do so on his own terms and at a time of his chosing. His aides stress that the threat of a referendum is a single shot distress flare, rather

Nixon, China, and the monarchy

Sometimes when a change happens it is people at the opposite end of the political spectrum from those you might have expected to enact it who actually do. It's like the "Vulcan Proverb" which supposedly said that "Only Nixon could go to China." And witness the fact that it was a Conservative Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary who finally took action, agreed at the Commonwealth meeting yesterday to start the process of scrapping archaic and ridiculous rules about the succession to the monarchy. Both the ban on anyone married to a catholic inheriting the throne, and the rule which ruled a monarch's female children out of the succession while a brother of any age was available, should have been repealed decades ago. This sort of rule lays the country open to charges of enshrining discrimination against women in our constitution at the highest level and has no place in the 21st century. (I don't think I need to declare an interest in the former case: I am

Quote of the Day

On "Any Questions" today (rebroadcast from yesterday evening) David Davis, following a Lib/Dem speaker who had just made a contribution recognising the role of prison sentences in the fight against crime, said words along the lines of 'I'm a Liberal Democrat and I robustly support prison:' - the coalition is working.

Cameron dismisses suggestions of "bitterness" over Europe vote

David Cameron has ruled out any suggestion that there might be any bad blood or rancour over the rebellion on Europe earlier this week. He told Sky News that "These [the rebels] are valued Conservative colleagues. I understand why people feel strongly and we'll go forward together and tackle the difficult decisions that the country faces. "But you have to do the right thing and give a lead in politics, and that's what yesterday was about." He added that there was "no bad blood, no rancour, no bitterness" over the fact that some people had taken a different view.

EU vote in the commons

Parliament has voted not to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership at the present time, despite a sizeable rebellion by both Conservative and Labour MPs. The front benches of the Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour parties voted against the motion. In total 483 MPs voted against while 111 defied party whips and voted for, a majority of 372. Labour leader Ed Miliband said the revolt was a "humiliation" for Prime Minister David Cameron. "If he can't win the argument with his own backbenchers, how can the country have confidence that he can win the arguments that matter for Britain?" he said. He didn't explain how this chimes with the fact that, on Labour's own figures, about 25 Labour backbenchers failed to vote with him. A Downing Street spokesman said many people who voted for the motion felt very strongly, and their views were respected. "However, the government has to do what is in the national interest. The easy thing to do would have been

On the rights and wrongs of a Euro referendum

A very insightful piece in the Economist today about the arguments concerning whether we should have an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the E.U. I am old enough to remember that about thirty-five years ago Britain did have a referendum on E.U. membership and it produced a two-to-one majority for staying in. This was then used by the advocates of closer union as "proof" that Britain wanted a much greater degree of integration than I suspect many of those who voted "Yes" thought they were voting for. Two thirds of referenda in Britain produce a vote for the status quo. I know that there are a lot of people who think that it's time for another vote on the issue, and they are entitled to that opinion, but I think it is worth those who support any given referendum asking themselves exactly what they are trying to achieve. I know exactly why I support referenda being reqired for certain things. I wanted one on the Lisbon treaty because it was a bad tr

Buzz !

Just after I had come for lunch this week, a horrible noise started to come from the TV, the same sort of noise which sound equipment often makes when something else, such as a mobile phone, is interfering with it. My wife asked if my mobile was causing the problem, and I had just pulled my phone out of my pocket and was trying to work it if this could be the cause when, on the TV, Andrew Neil asked the New Labour panellist who was speaking whether he had a mobile phone on him, and if so, could he please turn it off. He had, and it was interfering with his mike. A great many of the stories people tell about mobile phones - such as that they can cause explosions at petrol stations - are complete fiction. (The electrical impulses inside a mobile phone are orders of magnitude lower than those inside a car engine, and the hottest possible temperature or any component of a mobile phone is vastly cooler than many parts of a car. There is not a single confirmed case of investigation proving t

Parliamentary boundaries

Spoke today at the public hearings about the Boundary Commission for England proposals for the new Parliamentary constituencies in the North West The public consultation is open for another few weeks. Best way to study the proposals and have your say is through the BCE's consultation website, at . The website contains all the Initial proposals, reports and maps, the electorate sizes of every ward, and an online facility where you can have your say on their initial proposals.

Christmas is coming

It's still around a fortnight to halloween and the shops are already full of Christmas themed products. It's a free country and they have the right to offer whatever they think they can sell, but it does seem a little premature.

Electoral registration day today: don't lose your vote

Today is the qualifying date for the electoral register: each household should register with the local electoral authority the names and details of voters, plus sixteen and seventeen-year olds, normally resident in that household as of tonight. It is perfectly legal to have more than one place where you are normally resident and register to vote at more than one address - students, for instance, often register at both their home and college address - provided that you don't actually vote more than once for the same body. This year we had the opportunity to register by returning the paper form, on the internet, by freephone telephone service, or by text. I used the internet service and found it very easy and straightforward. Apart from the little matter that if you don't register you are breaking the law, it also means that you lose your vote and your voice. Don't forget to register!

Commons debate on nuclear power at Sellafield

There was an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, secured at the request of the MP for Copeland, at the conclusion of which the Minister made the following statement. Charles Hendry (Minister of State (Renewable Energy), Energy and Climate Change; Wealden, Conservative) "Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for granting this debate. I congratulate Mr Reed on securing it and thank him for doing so. The matter is timely and important, not just to his constituency but to our national interest more generally. I am delighted to see on the Front Bench and to congratulate Caroline Flint and Tom Greatrex on their appointments to the important positions in the shadow team. I am grateful for the chance to clarify the Government’s position on the future of the nuclear industry in Sellafield, although I cannot give the hon. Member for Copeland all of the answers that he seeks today. I begin by acknowledging the vital contribution that the nuclear industry makes to the economic prosperity

Extending the Right to buy

David Cameron has announced that the government will increase the discounts offered to council house tenants to buy their homes as part of a plan to boost construction of new homes. Cameron announced on the first day of the Conservative Party conference yesterday that the government would also release land it owns to be used to build homes. These actions together would provide thousands of jobs in the building industry with more houses being built, he said. The plan aims to make the Right to Buy scheme, introduced by the Thatcher government in the 1980s, attractive again, the government said. The cash raised by an increase in council house sales will be used to build 100,000 homes that will then be rented out. Cameron said that this would create 200,000 jobs in the construction industry, adding that the release of government land for house building would create a similar number of homes and jobs. More details of the precise level of discount increase will be provided by the government&

DC's final round up from Manchester

A final message from David Cameron about the Conservative Conference in Manchester this week. "This year's Conservative Party Conference was a crucial one. We weren't talking to ourselves; we were talking to the nation, clearly setting out how we are delivering the leadership this country needs to secure a better future. "Over the four days we spent in Manchester we showed that our resolve to tackle Labour's crippling debt is unwavering - because the only way to build a better country is to start with strong economic foundations. "But our Conference was about more than dealing with the deficit. Because, even during these tough times, we can do so much. Together we can protect the vulnerable and safeguard our NHS. We can improve school standards. We can tackle the 'something for nothing' welfare system. We can build our Big Society. We can confront so many things - bonkers health and safety rules, the adoption crisis, famine overseas, reoffending rates

Where is the Tomato Juice ?

Doing a famiy shop at one of the supermarkets in Whitehaven this morning I observed, not for the first time, that while in general there is a much broader choice of fruit juices than used to be the case, the healthiest of the lot, which was readily available in my childhood and early adulthood, is now quite hard to find. Unless the latest dietary advice has done another flip-flop since I last looked, the substance which gives most tomato products their red colour is also one of the most powerful anti-carcinogenics known to man, and including tomato juice as part of one's regular intake of fruit and veg is a very good way to reduce the risk of getting several types of cancer. So why is there obviously not as much demand for it as you might expect? Perhaps tomato juice is for some people an acquired taste, although I never found it hard to acquire: certainly it isn't as good as some other drinks for dealing with a thirst because the taste is too strong to enable you to drink larg

The EU is not the best place to set speed limits

North West MEP Jacqueline Foster and other Conservative MEPs have slammed a proposal from German MEP Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, who has put forward on behalf of the Parliament's Transport Committee a resolution including the introduction of a 30km speed limit in every residential area in Britain. That's about 18.64 mph. I am all in favour of LOCAL authorities being able to impose 20 mph speed limits where LOCAL people know that they are needed - for example, there are a number of places in Copeland where 20 mph speed limits are or have recently been in place where they were entirely appropriate. And the removal of the 20mph speed limit in St Bees was extremely unpopular. But it is just plain daft to set that kind of speed limit in Brussels for every residential area in Europe. There are places where it's needed and places where it is not: and local people and councillors have a much better idea which is which than an MEP from the other end of the continent. As Jacqueline Foster

DC's speech to conference

"This week, in Manchester, this party has shown the discipline, the unity, and the purpose that is the mark of a party of government. I'm proud of my team, I'm proud of our members, I'm proud to lead this party - but most of all, I'm proud of you. "People have very clear instructions for this government: "Lead us out of this economic mess." "Do it in a way that's fair and right." "And as you do it, make sure you build something worthwhile for us and our children." Clear instructions. Clear objectives. And from me: a clear understanding that in these difficult times, it is leadership we need. To get our economy moving. To get our society working, and in a year - the Olympics year - when the world will be watching us, to show everyone what Great Britain really means. But first I want to say something to you in this hall. Thank you. Despite the predictions we won elections all over the country this May, so let's hear it fo

Manchester diary, final day: cat flap!

And so the fourth and final day of party conference begins. I was in the hall for Theresa May's speech yesterday about the human rights act which has apparently generated what one paper called a "cat-flap." Whether or not she was right about the case of a burglar who supposedly escaped deportation because he had a cat, her essential point was undoubtedly right. Which was that the section in the European Convention on Human Rights which lays out a right to family life has been applied unreasonably by some court decisions in a way that neither the proposers of the EHCR nor those of the Human Rights Act intended. I remember when the act was going through. The pessimists and opponents of the act predicted that it would be used in perverse ways and put the human rights of criminals and terrorists above those of their victims and potential victims. Optimists and supporters of the act pointed out - quite correctly as far as what the Act and the ECHR actually say - that they are

Martin Kettle on IDS

One of the most thoughtful speeches I have heard in Manchester this week was from Iain Duncan Smith, who has re-invented himself from a right-wing party leader to a much more successful thinker and reforming secretary of state addressing welfare and social deprivation. Interestingly, he also impressed Guardian commentator Martin Kettle, who pointed out that IDS was the only platform speaker at any of the party conferences to say anything constructive or thoughtful about the riots. Martin had this to say on the Guardian blog: "It is barely two months since the urban riots of 2011. Yet the party conferences of 2011 have scarcely addressed them. There have been exceptions, of course. Nick Clegg had a section in his leader's speech to the Liberal Democrats, which concluded that young people could be put back on track with a bit of extra summer schooling. Yvette Cooper, speaking at the Labour conference, had a section on the riots because she saw them as an example of Tory police c

Quote of the day - Tuesday

"While I am secretary of State the NHS will not be fragmented, privatised, or undermined. I am committed to an NHS which provides equal access and quality of care." Andrew Lansley

Manchester Diary: Day Three

I thought George Osborne was brilliant yesterday: back to Copeland for a meeting after his session. Returned to Manchester this morning. Conference began with a "Back Boris" session, followed by a discussion on Crime and Home Affairs policy with ken Clarke and Theresa May. The NIA Fringe meeting on Tuesday lunchtime about new nuclear build was extremely well supported with standing room only at the back. It was chaired by Lord Hutton (formerly a Labour cabinet minister and Cumbria MP as John Hutton) in his capacity as chairman of the NIA and excellent contributions from three speakers including energy minister Charles Hendry. Support for nuclear new build within the Conservative party appears to have moved from strong to everwhelming with no voices of dissent raised at any of the fringe meetings I have attended: the only anti nuclear voice I have heard in Manchester has been one lone nutcase shouting at people outside the entrance to the conference secure area. The afternoon

Quote of the day - Monday

"You cannot borrow your way out of Debt." George Osborne

Manchester Diary - day two

Another early start, though not quite as early as yesterday morning: up in time to make the half-hour trek from my hotel to the conference for a very interesting Nuclear Industry Association fringe meeting at 8 am. The discussion centred around the nuclear industry in the community: obviously an issue very dear to the heart of people in Cumbria, particularly West Cumbria, where as one speaker rightly pointed out, the local economy would be unrecognisable without the investment brought by the nuclear industry into the area. Sellafield has now managed to raise the proportion of their supply chain spending going into the local community to 30% which is extremely good for this kind of industry, though they would like to do even better. The point was mentioned that to achieve an even better proportion will need effective co-operation with local authorities and all parties concerned need to think carefully about what they can do to help bring this about. There was also a reminder of one othe

Manchester Diary

Up before the crack of dawn to reach Manchester for the 9.30am “National Conservative Convention” which precedes the Conservative party conference. This body consists mostly of constituency chairmen, with a few others such as area and regional chairmen added, and is a key part of the party structure. The convention heard a brilliant speech from David Cameron; if his speeches later to the public sessions of the conference are anything like as good as this speech delivered in private, it will set the tone for a good conference. The main conference session started in the afternoon. The attendance is good and the mood is buoyant but the weather has been diabolical. So much so that I had to put a good cumbrian cagoule on for protection from the rain. Seeing me donning this garment one policeman said to me: "I see you’ve been to Manchester before, sir!"