Showing posts from August, 2012

Flooding hits West Cumbria

For the third time in less than a decade Cumbria has been severely hit by flooding. Enormous quantities of rain fell in the St Bees, Egremont, and Calderbridge areas last night and this morning. Many homes have been flooded - over a hundred in Egremont alone -  and a train derailed just south of St Bees when it hit a landslide on the tracks - fortunately none of the hundred or so people on board were hurt. An emergency centre for people who have had to leave their homes has been set up in Egremont Market Hall. Areas affected include Egremont, St Bees, Gosforth, Beckermet, Calderbridge, Moresby, Ravenglass and Sandwith. The Environment Agency described the rainfall which produced these flash floods as "Incredible" with 52 millimetres if rain (for the old fashioned, that's a whisker over two inches) falling in Egremont in six hours, and 15 centimetres falling in a quarter of an hour at Calderbridge I gather than the emergency services have been brilliant. A big

Follow that - and they did!

It was always going to be difficult for the opening ceremony for the Paralympic games to follow the extravaganzas which had been put on at the opening and closing of the Olympics. And yet they managed it. The conribution from Stephen Hawking was particularly inspired, but the whole thing was brilliant. A pity that some wretch of a TV presenter decided to conduct an interview while the main ceremony was featuring one of my favorite pieces of music - Purcell's Frost song - but the ceremony was a magnificent tribute to the human spirit and the wonder of the Universe.

UK overtakes France and Germany in Broadband speed

The average speed of Broadband service available to UK customers has overtaken France and Germany, and plans are in place to improve it further.   Nine out of 10 homes and businesses in the UK should have access to superfast broadband, and the UK should have the fastest broadband network of any major European country by 2015, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced. The Government has allocated £530m to providing the UK with the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. “In my very first speech as a Minister I said that I wanted us to have the “best” superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015,” said Jeremy Hunt. “In defining ‘best’ you include factors like price and coverage as well as speed. But over the past two years it has become clear, as Usain Bolt wouldn't hesitate to say, to be the best you need to be the fastest. “So I am today announcing an ambition to be not just the best, but specifically the fastest broadband of any major Eur

Neil Armstrong R. I. P.

As a small child I recall being woken in the middle of the night, because my parents thought that I would want to see immediately the TV images which showed Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. To this day the music for "Thus Spake Zarathustra" as used by Stanley Kubrick at the start of the film 2001 (below) and which was also played on contemporary images of the Saturn V launch vehicles blasting off for the moon, makes me think about what an extraordinary achievement this was. Communications satellites and weather satellites have generated enormous wealth and saved millions of lives. The rest of the space programme has yet to produce great benefits for mankind, but the time will come. For a start, we have yet to fully exploit the advantages which zero-G manufacturing could bring. For another, there are huge quantities of raw materials in the asteroid belt. But the third reason mankind may ultimately be very grateful for the technology which put Neil Armstrong on the moo

MRSA deaths fall by a quarter

Hospitals in Cumbria have always taken cleanliness very seriously and our local acute hospitals have some of the better records on death and illness from hospital acquired infections. Nevertheless it is excellent news that deaths from one of the most common hospital acquired infections, MRSA, have dropped dramatically in the past year. New figures from the ONS have revealed that the number of people dying due to MRSA infections in hospitals has fallen by more than a quarter in the last year, to a 15 year low. MRSA deaths rose by more than 450 per cent from 1996 to a peak of 1,651 in 2006. Since then infections have been brought down by 78 per cent and are now lower than at any point since 1996. Health Minister Simon Burns said: ‘The news that MRSA deaths are lower than at any point in the last 15 years is a testament to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff across the country. ‘We have a zero tolerance approach to all hospital infections and we have taken the unprecede

Good news for Cumbria from DEFRA

Jim Paice MP announces £3.5m for new jobs and businesses in Cumbria during his Rural Roadshow.

Blogging resumes

Have been away on a short family holiday in Norfolk without access to the internet. Just starting to catch up on what happened while I was away.

As a brilliant set of games comes to an end

If you'd told us in 2005 how much the hosting the Olympic Games would cost, and that it would fall due in the middle of the longest double-dip recession since WWII, most of us would probably have said that it wasn't worth doing. Yet we would have been wrong. Even if the huge publicicity boost worldwide which the games have given to Britain doesn't help our salesmen sell more abroad - and I think it will, though nobody will ever be able to prove it, and even if David Cameron is wrong that the "massive self-confidence boost" doesn't help us fight the recession, the sheer excitement and pleasure which the  Olympic Games have given to Britain has been worthwhile on their own merits. Opinion polls at the close of the London Games demonstrate a significant public pride both in the country's team and its ability to host a successful global event, and rightly so. There will be naysayers and grumblers who say it was a waste of money - there alwa

What they thought of the games over the pond ...

Yahoo Sports US site published a review of the London 2012 games from a US perspective which you can read on their UK site here . Here are a few extracts with some of the highlights and lowlights as seen by our ex-colonial cousins ... So how did London fare? Crowds: B+ The ones that got in were terrific. Eighty thousand per night at track and field, swimming and boxing packed, basketball overloaded, even nearly 30,000 for dressage. The locals were into it, and London was accessible to so many nations. Plus, this is one of the most, if not the most, diverse city in the world, so many who live here now could root on the nation they left behind. The energy was incredible. The only downside was the traditional plague of empty seats courtesy of sponsor and IOC sections. London was slow to react with a plan to fill them with people who couldn't get a ticket in the first place. Venues: A Perhaps no city in the world could produce such a combination of traditional landma

When democracy and ethics conflict ...

It happens surprisingly often that rules designed to prevent corruption can, if applied too legalistically and without common sense, seriously interfere with the normal functioning of democracy. The "predetermination rule" which the government has just rightly scrapped, was designed to make sure that councillors who had to make a decision on an issue attempted to keep an open mind in advance of the vote. The problem was that it all too often meant that a candidate for election as a councillor who tried to be honest with his or her voters about a key issue in the ward risked finding if elected that the council solicitor told him or her not to attend or vote at the meeting where that issue will be decided because those comments have "prejudged" the issue. Another good example was the "Standards Board" system of local government ethics which the present government rightly scrapped earlier this year. The problem with it was that a system designed to pr

Book Wars

Amazon UK has released the information that it now sells more e-books for it's Kindle reader than it does hard copy books. A few months ago e-books including free copies overtook paperbacks on the site, now actual sales - not including free books - have overtaken paperbacks and hardbacks combined. Apparently for every 100 printed books sold through Amazon UK this year they have had 114 titles sold for the Kindle not including free books. The Independent was  getting upset earlier in the week when they noticed this, about Amazon's increasingly dominant position in the world of publishing. I don't think we need to panic yet because there are still many ways to publish and get hold of books, and frankly the policies of mainstream publishers appear to be a bigger constraint on the ability of people to publish their ideas than those of Amazon. There are also serious rivals to the kindle as ways to read books electronically, such as the iPad. I hope the competition auth

Constitutional Reform

I support both reform of the Upper House and the review which the Boundary Commission has been undertaking to improve the blatantly unfair constitutency boundaries for the House of Commons. Given the catastrophic economic and fiscal position which the present coalition government inherited from the previous Labour administration, it is unsurprising that this is not top of the public list of concerns, which is headed by bread and butter issues such as the cost of living (especially fuel costs), jobs, and services like the NHS. However, there is no good time to reform the constitution, but it does need reform. It is no criticism of the present members of the House of Lords to say that Tony Blair's incomplete "reforms" made the composition of the present chamber indefensible. Ironically what appears to have happened this summer proves how right the Conservatives were when Blair took most of the hereditary peers out to call for "no stage one without stage two.&qu

Murray's richly deserved gold medal

There has been such a lot of fantastic sport over the past two days. Perhaps the most moving after the disappointment of a month ago was Andy Murray's incredible performance against the formidable Roger Federer to win the olympic Gold in the tennis men's singles. During the Wimbledon championship both were brilliant but Federer deserved his win. This time Federer still played like a champion - he was far better than the straight sets score would suggest - but Andy Murray was truly brilliant. I don't know what on earth they are going to do about Sports Personality of the Year this time. There are at least five people, from Andy Murray to Bradley Wiggins, from Ben Ainsley to Sir Chris Hoy, not to mention Jessica Ennis, and the betting firm which has already paid out on Bradley Wiggins may have jumped the gun. And as for the mens 100m final, in which Usain Bolt became the first person ever to successfully defend an olympic title in that sport - what an amazing race. Al

Bad news sells papers ...

I don't mean to stigmatise the Whitehaven News which is an excellent local paper: almost any other paper these days, or a TV news outlet, would have done what I am about to highlight. This week, as recorded a couple of days ago, the UK Treasury finally gave signoff of a full business case approval for £77 million for the the rebuild-refurbishment plan for West Cumberland Hospital, the final hurdle for a £90 million uplift to secure the future of a District General Hospital in West Cumbria. If the business case had been rejected this would rightly have been seen as a disaster and would have been front page news in the Whitehaven News and other local papers. Any suggestion of delays or doubts to the approval had been greeted with front page headlines like "Do We Need Another March, Prime Minister?" Yet the final approval of the scheme was relegatd to page five. The front page headline of the Whitehaen News this week was the news that the government is considering a

Congratulations to Team GB on more medals

Congratulations to Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins whose victory in the women's double sculls brought Team GB a fourth Olympic gold in 24 hours - and the total to six so far at London 2012. Particularly good to see Katherine Grainger pick up a gold medal as she was a silver medallist at three previous games. Other rowng medals: in the men's pair  George Nash and Will Satch won bronze. And Alan Campbell then won bronze in the men's single sculls.

Quote of the Week

"I worry about accusing politicians of making gaffes when they've uttered remarks that would be regarded as plain common sense if anyone else had said them.   We in the media risk forcing them to tame all their opinions until they are so bland as to be dishonest." That quote comes from Mark Mardell on the BBC Website after the so-called "Romneyshambles." And whether or not you think it applies in that instance the point is certainly valid in general.

WCH Upgrade clears final hurdle

The final business case for the rebuild/refurbishment of West Cumberland Hospital has been signed off by the Treasury. This is fantastic news. We still have to fight to ensure that the magnificent new building contains all the services which were promised under "Closer to Home" but at least this represents a confirmation of a clear commitment by all the levels of authority from the NHS to the government to a continuing  District General Hospital in West Cumbria and they have put the money where their mouths are.

Team GB hits Gold ...

Congratulations to Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy  for their Gold medal in the team sprint cycling, to Peter Wilson for his Gold medal in Shooting - Men's Double Trap , to   Tim Baillie & Etienne Stott for their Gold medal in the Canoe Slalom  and to the Team GB competitors who won a further three Silver medals today.

Polly loses the plot

Polly Toynbee has written an engagingly mad article in the Guardian entitled  As the scales tilt in Labour's favour, this is a pivotal moment for ED Miliband . If she's as far off in the title as she is in some of the details of her analysis, Labour will be out of power for twenty years as they richly deserve. As an example of the sheer insanity of her arguments I give you this quote: "Arguments can be turned: a cap of £26,000 on total benefits sounds eminently reasonable – but less so once people know most goes straight to landlords, often rack-renting slums at shameless prices." Excuse me? Let's get this straight Polly - you've noticed that much of the money handed out in benefits goes straight to landlords, sometimes the worst kind of Rachmanite ones. * And that the effect is often to put the price of rented accomodation up to ridiculous levels. * You might have added that one knock-on effect of this is to similarly boost the price of entry le

Wiggins takes Gold

Congratulations to Bradley Wiggins who followed up his Tour de France victory with olympic gold in the cycling men's time trial event, finishing in 50 minutes 39 seconds for the 44km course. This gave him a 42 seconds lead over Germany's Tony Martin who took silver. Congratulations also to Chris Froome, runner-up to Wiggins in Paris, who took the bronze. Today's win takes Wiggins to seven Olympic medals - four golds, a silver and two bronzes - passing the six medal haul of rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave. Congratulations also to team GB swimmer Michael Jamieson who  has won a silver medal for Britain in the 200m breaststroke event, setting a new  British record of two minutes 8.2 seconds for the event in his semi-final.

Congratulations to Helen Glover and Heather Stanning

on their gold medal in the Olympic rowing ladies pair. They have both claimed Team GB's first gold medal in the 2012 olympics and become the first British female rowers to win an Olympic title. Stanning is a serving officer in the Royal Artillery and said "Thanks for all the support in Afghanistan, I'm so proud to be associated with you."