Showing posts from June, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Show me a completely smooth operation and I'll show you someone who's covering up mistakes. Real boats rock." Frank Herbert (from "Chapter House Dune" which is one of the "Dune" series of books).

A long overdue memorial

We should have bitten the bullet and put up a memorial to the men of Bomber Command many years ago when more of those who survived the war would have been around to see it. Regardless of your view on the right and wrongs of the area bombing policy - of which more below - the aircrew of Bomber Command were not responsible for setting that policy. They were doing a filthy and dangerous job in an attempt to stop possibly the most evil and murderous regime there has ever been from conquering the world. Tens of thousands of them, nearly half of those who took part in the campaign, did not come back. It is right and proper that they should be remembered. It is also right and proper that the long overdue memorial which the Queen opened yesterday afternoon to the heroes of Bomber Command also included a reference to "those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing campaigns of 1939-45" which has been welcomed by the mayor of Dresden. The memorial should be an opportunity

A local tragedy

I hae always tried to support local businesses, and one of the local Whitehaven businesses which I have always used as much as possible in my political campaigns and for certain other printing which I needed was PrintExpress of Hensingham. It's a company that was run by lovely people who always bent over backwards to provide what we needed, when we needed it, in excellent quality and at very reasonable prices. So I am most disappointed to learn that PrintExpress have had to close this week after the bank pulled the plug on them. This is bad news for the people who worked for the company and very disappointing news for Whitehaven. It is another indication that more needs to be done to support local businesses here in West Cumbria.

Fuel price rise delay

I am delighted that George Osborne has delayed a 3 pence per litre rise in fuel tax. While it would have been even better if this rise could have been cancelled, at least the delay will give some relief to those who are being hurt by high petrol and diesel prices. And he made the announcment where it should have been made, in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The politicians who are attacking the government about which minister went on the Newsnight programme to make the announcement might better deploy their energies in discussing how we can get the economy moving again. It doesn't matter one iota whether it was the Chancellor or the Economic Secretary to the Treasury who went on Newsnight to discuss fuel prices. It matters rather more that the announcements was made in the Commons rather than to the press. It matters most of all that fuel prices will not be going up, at least as soon. Let's hope the government can find room for manouver that will allow further chan

A historic handshake

My wife's family comes from Ireland: several of my close friends and immediate family have had near misses from IRA bombs. I have a perspective from both sides on what it meant when the Queen shook hands with Martin McGuinness today. It is possible to overplay this sort of thing, but the fact that this could take place was a big deal and the BBC was right to run it as a major story. There is a lot of work still to do before a fully normal and democratic set of politics has been built in Northern Ireland, but today's handshake would have been unthinkable - on either side - fifteen years ago. To move forward and away from violence we need a greater acceptance of each other, and today proved that we have made some progress in that direction.

Idiot's guide to percentages

OK, even good mathematicians can occasionally make an embarrassing mistake with numbers, but to make the sort of basic mistake for which a ten-year-old child would be told off while accusing your opponent of not being good at maths is incompetence of a high order ! Labour shadow minister Kevin Brennan was speaking in Parliament during a debate on education and claimed that Labour had improved standards of numeracy, adding ''Only three in 10 pupils, that's 60 per cent because I know the Secretary of State is not very good at maths, only three in 10 pupils got a good GCSE in 1997.'' Clearly Mr Brennan is in no position to accuse anyone else of not being good at maths. So to help him, here is ... A GUIDE TO PERCENTAGES FOR IDIOTS AND LABOUR POLITICIANS Example 1) Labour doubled the national debt to 1.2 trillion pounds Labour scrapped the 10p tax band, and so doubled the marginal tax rate paid by the poorest taxpayers  * If you double something you

The Olympic Torch in Cumbria today ..

The Olympic Torch passed through Cumbria today, including a visit to Whitehaven and a trip over  Windermere. Despite the poor weather lots of people turned out, and it had an enthusiastic reception. The BBC suggested that this visit might be good for tourism in the county - as people could see what beautiful views the area has to offer. I do hope so. But in the meantime, good that people could emjoy watching the torch pass.

Short changing policing in Cumbria

Labour's candidate for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner in Cumbria has told local newspapers that if elected he might, subject to the approval of his existing Housing Association employers, combine the job of Police Commissioner with his existing job. I'm not impressed and I hope the electorate are not impressed either. The first Polce Commissioners will have a big job and big challenges, and be paid a generous salary to do it. Cumbria deserves better than a part-time commissioner.

Reality check

The most welcome aspect of the Greek election result is that at least some of the powers that be appear to be resisting the temptation to assume they can now relax. One of the advisors to the EU Commission President who was interviewed on the BBC this lunchtime described the reaction of European governments and markets as a sigh of relief that the result had not "made a bad situation worse." Invited by a BBC journalist to suggest that this might represent a corner being turned, he replied that it might be better to think of it as one fewer Sword of Damocles hanging over the European economy. A very cautious and understated reaction maybe. But I'd much rather hear that sort of reply than any indication that we can afford an atom of complacency about European economies - or our own.

Next year's Whitehaven festival secured by strong support

I've already logged about what a marvellous weekend the "Marratime" festival in Whitehaven was. I am pleased, but not surprised, to learn that the strong support for this year's festival has secured the postition of the 2013 Whitehaven festival which had until the "Glorious First of June" this year been in the balance. In these difficult times this was a boost that the town of Whitehaven really needed and I am pleased that the work which a lot of people have put into the Festival has been rewarded. I certainly had the impression that a lot of people were emjoying themselves so hopefully they will come again next year.

Thirty years on

I was very moved by the TV reports of the commemoration ceremonies on the Falkland Islands to mark the 30th anniversary of the liberation of the islands from a fascist dictatorship. I note that the Falklands government is to hold a referendum next year on the future of the islands. I would be willing to bet that 1) It produces a vote of 90% or more to stay British and 2) The Argentine government will take no notice. Holding the referendum is nevertheless the right thing to do, because instead of people speculating about what the Islanders want we will know for a fact.

Labour and the press

I was one of the people who gasped with astonishment at Gordon Brown's evidence to the Leveson inquiry. If anyone reading this believed a word he said, I have a really lucrative investment proposition to put to you regarding the Forth bridge ... As a useful corrective, Jeremy Vine, who is now a radio presenter but used to be one of the BBC's frontline political correspondents, has brought out a book called " It's all news to me " which is being serialised in the Daily Mail.   It has some interesting reflectios on the way in which Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson treated the press: "At any point, Peter would be involved in about 20 highly personal run-ins with political journalists... The BBC’s Nick Jones pointed out the way Alastair Campbell and Mandelson worked as a pair — the baseball bat and the stiletto. ‘If they don’t like your story, Campbell screams down the phone at you while Mandelson quietly goes to the Director-General,’ he said."

DC: forced marriage to become a criminal offence

David Cameron announced today that coercing someone into marriage will become a specific criminal offence in England and Wales. The decision to create a specific offence of forced marriage follows a 12 week consultation which took views from the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies. It is possible to make an argument that in many cases forced marriage would have broken existing laws, but the new legislation will remove any doubt and send a clear signal. The new law will be accompanied by a range of measures to increase protection and support for victims and a continuing focus on prevention. More than half a million pounds worth of funding, delivered over the next three years, will help deliver measures including: Helping those working in education to spot the earliest signs of forced marriage and what action to take Helping victims receive the right support in a joined-up way by expanding the current training for relevant professional agencies Mak

21 years for metal theft gang as courts crack down

No apologies for another post about metal theft: it's an increasing scourge of modern society, and it's important to note when the authorities crack down in the hope that the sentences will act as a deterrent. Not that I imagine most readers of this blog are potential metal thieves, but they might say something to other people and the more the word that courts are starting to take the offence seriously is known, the better the chance that it will reach people who we want to hear it. A judge at Southwark Crown Court has imposed jail sentences totalling 21 years and six months on a gang of seven metal thieves who, amongst other things, posed as communication workers to steal BT cables. At least one of their offences, the theft of a cable connecting two hospitals, had significant potential to put lives at risk by compromising patient care. ​The longest jail terms were imposed on the gang’s ringleader, Stephen Fraser, 52, who was sentenced to five years, and his assistan

30+ arrests as police swoop on rogue metal traders

Metal theft, a rapidly growing crime which can have intolerable consequences, is only possible if someone is willing to buy the stolen metal. Many metal dealers are honest, but some are not, or are not careful enough, and without the rogue metal traders the crime of metal theft would not continue to exist. So I was delighted to see that the police have pounced on scrap dealers suspected of handling stolen metal items such as BT cables. More than 30 people have been arrested in simulaneous raids accross three counties. ​More than 400 officers, including 45 specialist search officers and 50 detectives from three police force areas, carried out simultaneous raids on a series of premises.These included six scrap metal dealerships and eight home addresses of people associated with these businesses. So far, a total of 33 people have been arrested, but police said the operation is on-going. The operation, one of the largest ever undertaken by Thames Valley Police, is the culmination o

Sixty years of service

Congratulations and thanks today to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Duke of Lancaster, on sixty years of service to the nation. Few people of any station in life could have given so many years of dedicated service to their country. We have been very fortunate to have a queen who so perfectly exemplifies the principle that the higher the rank, the more it carries duties and responsibilities as well as privileges. Through good years and bad, she has been a shining example to our nation. Indefatigable and indomitable, for sixty years she has always carried on and done what has to be done. Today will celebrate sixty years of service from a very special human being as well as a great Queen.

Quote of the Day

Quote from an email today from a friend "The trouble with socialists is that they always run out of other people's money."

Whitehaven Maritime Festival: a glorious weekend

This weekend has been particularly special in West Cumbria as the first two days of the four-day Diamond Jubilee celebrations have coincided with the Whitehaven Maritime Festival. We've been fortunate to have two days of magnificent sunshine, and hundreds of thousands of people have turned out to see the ships, the stalls, the sunshine, the bands and singers, and the air displays. I particularly enjoyed a magnificent display by the Red Arrows. Congratulations to Gerald Richardson and everyone involved in this year's "Marratime" festival.

Police Commissioner elections in Cumbria

Applications to be Conservative candidate for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner in Cumbria have now closed. Shortlisting will take place the week after next and the candidate will be selected at two meetings in mid July in different parts of Cumbria. All paid up members of the party in Cumbria will be able to choose either of the meetings to attend and vote (obviously you cannot vote at both!) Full details of the meetings will be published shortly. Ballot papers from both meetings will be mixed and counted at the conclusion of the second meeting. Cumbria is one of sixteen force areas for which applications to be Conservative candidate for the posts of Police and Crime Commissioner closed a couple of days ago, these being: Cheshire Cleveland Cumbria Durham Greater Manchester Humberside Lancashire Merseyside Norfolk North Yorkshire Northumbria Nottinghamshire South Yorkshire Staffordshire West Midlands West Yorkshire

A brilliant speech about the Falklands

Roger Edwards, an elected member of the Falkland Islands legislative assembly, made an excellent speech yesterday to the "decolonisation committee" of the United Nations, meeting in Ecuador, in which he suggested that the only way forward for the UN concerning and debates or claims about the future of the islands is to respect the right to self-determination of the inhabitants. You can read a MercoPress (South Atlantic News) report which includes the full text of his speech at .

Running before you can walk

The front page headline of today's issue of "The Economist" refers to teaching robots about right an wrong. Perhaps we will be in a better position to attempt this when we have done a more successful job of teaching people the difference between right and wrong ...