Showing posts from September, 2012

National Police Memorial day

Today is Police Memorial day, which was establised a decade ago to remember all police officers who have died in the line of duty. There have been about 4,000 policemen and policewomen who gave their lives for their country since the era of modern policing began in 1829 with the creation by Sir Robert Peel of the Metropolitan Police. There have been twelve scuh deaths this year, most recently PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes. In Cumbria today we particularly remember PC Bill Barker from Egremont, who died when a bridge collapsed in Workington during the 2009 floods while he was directing drivers away from that bridge and thus undoubtedly saving lives. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a mau lay down his life for his friends."

Ideas for the coalition

One of the problems with most political blogs is that a constructive response to the ideas of rival political parties is rarer than it should be. "Not invented here" is sadly a common aproach. A glorious exception this week on "Conservative Home" is a piece from Peter Hoskin called Five suggestions for renewed Tory Lib-dem cooperation . You can read the whole thing here , but the main points are: 1) Political Reform. Two of the big ideas for political reform often associated with the Lib Dems (though one of them was in the Tory manifesto) have been put to bed by, respectively, the electorate in the AV referendum, and by an unholy alliance between the Labour party and a minority of Conservative backbenchers who don't appear to have read the manifesto they were elected on, in the case of House of Lords reform. But Hoskin points out that there are a number of other possible reforms which would be both popular and helpful to the cause of British democracy,

The price of our safety

The shocking murders of two police officers today serves as a grim but timely reminder of the price which public servants sometimes have to pay for our safety. Like every other organisation the police service, and the men and women who make it up, sometimes makes mistakes. But every man or woman who puts on a police uniform is doing so to protect the public and taking some degree of risk to their own safety while they protect ours. And the great majority of our police force are ordinary, decent people, doing their best in a job which can sometimes be very difficult. We have a largely unarmed police force in this country and a survey in 2006 found that 80% of police officers themselves were opposed to routine arming of the police. I am certain that this is the right policy. It still makes me sad to see large numbers of armed officers around Westminster or outside a party conference, even though I fully understand why the actions of terrorists have made this necessary. But the polic

Getting Britain moving - a blitz on Red Tape

It has been annnounced this week that the government will scrap or overhaul over 3,000 regulations in help British businesses recover from the recession. In these tough times, businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth without being tied up in unnecessary red tape. The coalition govenment has listened to business’s concerns and are determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety to reduce the costs and fear of burdensome inspections. Conservative Business Minister Michael Fallon has announced that shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face burdensome health and safety inspections. From April 2013, binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and local authorities will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from burdensome health and safety inspections. Health and safety rules designed for businesses operating in a dangerouse environment should never have been applied to those who simply do not face such risks.


The only good thing about the terrible story of the Hillsborough cover-up is that the truth did eventually come out in the end. I would like to live in a country where we could take for granted that public servants can be trusted to tell them the truth. A great many public servants - including a much higher proportion of politicians of all parties than is often given credit - are honest and would never dream of countenancing the sort of black propaganda which we now know happened after Hillsborough. But unfortunately not all. And when ordinary citizens find that the allegations of a cover-up against the South Yorkshire Police and ambulance services, which sounded at the time like partisan conspiracy theories, turn out to be no more than the truth, there is likely to be a loss of confidence which will take a long time to put right. Ironically, this will therefore make it harder for more honest publis servants to be believed when they are telling the truth - which is a further tra

Back from the brink

This weekend I came face to face with a friend I had never expected to meet again in this life. A couple of months ago the friend concerned, who I shall call David (because that's his name) had been very ill indeed. He was not responding well to chemotherapy, and took the brave decision to ask his doctors to cease further treatment so that he could spend what were expected to be his last few days in more comfort. He was transferred to a hospice and his son - who is a doctor, indeed a hospital consultant - emailed his friends that the prognosis was not good and that we might want to send David a final message. But he had barely arrived in the hospice when David began a remarkable recovery. He was duly discharged from this hospital, was able to attend a meeting yesterday and looked better than I had seen him for years. Obviously I was very pleased by this: two things I learn from it 1)  Never give up hope: it is a cliche but it's true 2)  The human body is more complex

Paralympic Language

One of the things one apparently has to watch when describing the Paralympics is the language you use. One of the things which the athletes who take part are triumphantly refuting is a culture of low expectations. And I gather that one of the ways these low expectations express themselves, which many people with disabilities parcicularly dislike, is the use of overinflated praise for relatively modest accomplishments. One of my contemporaries at University combined severe physical disabilities with a brilliant mind, considerable public speaking ability, and a passionate hatred of any form of what was then already called "positive discrimination." He single-handedly caused the defeat of more motions on that subject than anyone else I ever knew. Whenever a fellow-student had proposed a motion in the Students Union of the debating union supporting any  form of "positive discrimination" in favour of a disadvantaged group, he would signal to speak against, make his

A reshuffle story

Many years ago, before mobile phones had become ubiquitous, I was helping to organise - well, to be more honest I was one of the footsoldiers at - a huge all-day fundraising event in a park in the constituency of a middle-ranked minister who I shall call Mr A. Earlier in the week a certain member of the cabinet had opened his mouth and inserted his foot while giving an interview to a prominent journalist. There had been a couple of days of the most embarrassing headlines, and there were rumours that the cabinet minister concerned might have to resign. During a lull between events I and a couple of my fellow Young Conservatives asked the local MP what he thought of the affair. "Let's hope it will all blow over," said Mr A. "The last thing we need now is a cabinet reshuffle." Pause. Then a big grin. "Unless I'm involved, of course!" Then we went back to work and forgot all about the conversation until arriving home several hours later. I 

Endings and Beginnings

The ministerial reshuffle marks the end of the time several people have spent in important jobs, the apparent conclusion to a number of ministerial careers and the start of a number of others. Andrew Lanlsey's tenure at the Department of Health was controversial. But I know from meeting him on his visits to health facilities in Cumbria, both when he was shadow health secretary for what amounts to a very long time and when he did the job for real, that he made a huge effort to visit hospitals and listen to what people had to say. The fact that he put forward proposals which were not always popular was because he thought them necessary to improve care for patients, not because he didn't care about or listen to the opinions of others. The legislation is passed now: let us hope that Jeremy Hunt can work with doctors and nurses to make it effective while providing a greater degree of stability to the NHS. Sir George Young has had a very long and distinguished career, serving as