Showing posts from October, 2012

When politicians speak in code

Sometimes policicians seem to inhabit parallel universes and it difficult to believe that the things which different politicos say, or the things which some people in parliament say and the experience of ordinary people, are describing things on the same planet. There was an example today when I watched a BBC news item on which Michael Heseltine, Lord Heseltine as he is now presenting a report which the government have commissioned him to write about what more can be done to turn round the difficulties with the British economy and get businesses growing, providing more jobs and higher incomes. Heseltine was shown saying that he supported the present government, that he congratulated them on what they have done to turn the economy round, that many of the actions he was calling on them to take involved doing more of what they are already doing, and it was a sign of strength, not weakness that they had asked him to prepare a report which might be misrepresented as a criticism of their

Police and Crime Commissioner elections - Cumbria candidate details

Two weeks on Thursday on 15th November, every citizen in England and Wales outside London will have the opportunity to vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner who will set priorities for the local police force. I mentioned last Thursday that there is an official website for these elections, on which details of all candidates were due to be displayed from the following day. I can confirm that candidate details are indeed now available on this site, and you can find statements from all four candidates standing in Cumbria here .

Coach Road Closure

Part of Coach Road, Whitehaven is closed to traffic this week. The closed area is near the eastern end of the road, from the junction with Station Road to just short of the junction with The Gardens. Local businesses in Coach Road are all open. It is possible to drive from one end of Coach Road to the other by taking a detour through The Gardens and Station Road but if you do this, please drive carefully because parts of this route are quite narrow and the presence of parked cars means that can be necessary for vehicles travelling in one direction to stop so that those going in the other direction can pass.

Getting the police back on the beat

Police Minister Damian Green MP visited Cumbria a few days ago to support Richard Rhodes, the excellent Conservative candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 15th November. While here he told an interesting anecdote which indicates how much more needs to be done to cut bureaucracy and red tape so that our police can concentrate on fighting crime and making communities safer. Since coming to power in 2010 the Coalition government has already scrapped forms and regulations which took police officers 4.5 million hours a year to complete, which is equivalent to putting 2,000 officers back on the beat. But this story indicates how much more there is to do. Damian Green was out on a foot patrol with three police officers in his Ashford constituency. They called at a pub where an individual who had too much to drink was causing trouble. The officers ejected him from the pub and told him not to come back, but did not arrest him. Damian observed that the gentlemen had a

Clocks go back tonight

I dare say most people reading this in Britain will not need to be reminded, but just in case anyone does: British Summer Ttime ends at 2.00 am in the early hours of tomorrow morning (28th October) and the clocks go back an hour. So everyone gets an extra hour in bed.

The first frost of autumn

Take care today if you are out and about in weather conditions anything like those in Whitehaven today, and particularly if you are driving. This morning was the first occasion this autumn when I had to use defrost spray to clear the car windscreen. Winter begins to approach ...

Police and Crime Commissioner elections - three weeks to go

Three weeks today, on 15th November 2012, there will be an election for Cumbria's first Police and Crime Commissioner who will take over from the present police authority. There will be a Police and Crime Commissioner elected for each police force area in England and Wales other than London (where equivalent powers were transferred recently from the Home Secretary to the Mayor of London) These elections are important as it will be the duty of these commissioners to set policing priorities for the area and hold the Chief Constable to account. Police and Crime commissioners will not have operational day-to-day control of the police, which will remain with the Chief Constable, or have the power to tell officers who to arrest: decisions about arrests will remain the preserve of sworn officers. Any voter in England and Wales outside London who is reading this can find details of the candidates standing in their area as follows: * There is an official site, http://www.choosemy

Coach Road Whitehaven closed next week

Note that parts of Coach Road in Whitehaven will be closed for a week from 29th October for road works. Ouch!

When half-truths do more damage than outright lies

It is sometimes suggested that "A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent." Similarly half-truths can do far more damage than outright falsehoods. In an article by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent this week called   Weasel Words that politicians use to obscure terrible truths he expressed one opinion which was commonly held a couple of decades ago, was sometimes right and more often wrong, but which did far more harm to some of the most vulnerable members of society than the worst outright lie could have done. Patrick Cockburn was writing about government euphemisms and misleading phrases, among which he counts the name of a policy supported by both Labour and Conservative governments in an attempt to provide more humane care for those with a mental illness or mental handicap. Three or four centuries ago, those who we would now recognise as mentally ill or unstable were in grave danger of being labelled as blasphemers or witches a

A better story will usually be believed over the truth

Unfortunately when there are two versions of a story circulating, people will always be tempted to believe and repeat the one which is a better story. Various lurid accounts have been circulating this evening, about what happened when the Chancellor of the exchequer travelled to London on a Virgin train today. According to a press statement issues by Virgin Trains this is what actually happened "The Rt Hon George Osborne, Chancellor, was travelling on Virgin Trains’ 15:11 Wilmslow to London Euston service this afternoon (19 October). The Chancellor, who was travelling in First Class accommodation, held a Standard Class ticket. As soon as the train left Wilmslow an aide went to find the Train Manager to explain the situation and arrange to pay for an upgrade. It was agreed that the Chancellor would remain in First Class and an amount of £189.50 was paid by the aide to cover the upgrade for Mr Osborne and his PA. The situation was dealt with amicably between the Train Manager

Conference post-script: non-story of the week

I usually find when attending a party conference that there seems to be a remarkable gulf between the conference which the people who are physically there think they are attending and the one which is reported by the media. But even by this standard there was a big gulf today between the conference at which I heard a large number of tributes from the Prime Minister down to the work of the police, and an allegation which I was astonished to read in the Independent and their "I" spin-off newspaper today that because David Cameron didn't mention the police in his closing speech he obviously doesn't care about them. As I had heard the Prime Minister, Police minister Damian Green, Homes secretary Theresa May, and others make exactly the sort of tribute to the work of the police which this Independent diary entry complains that he didn't make, I nearly fell off my chair when I read it. On thinking about this further, the Prime Minister's tribute to the pol

Conference Diary 2012 final entry: the DC speech

Here is David Cameron's closing speech at the Conservative party conference.

Conference diary 4: Nukes, Boris, and crime

The third full day of Conservative party conference Attended a session first thing this morning on the environment, rural affairs, Energy and climate change. John Hayes, the new energy minister, reaffirmed the government's commitment to a new generation of power stations which included nuclear in the mix. Also mentioned this morning was another police which greatly affects Cumbria - the drive for faster broadband links in rural areas, which are vital to the development of local bsuiness in countties like Cumbria That was followed by a highly amusing - but quietly rather impressive - speech by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Boris is one of a kind, and used to play on his reputation as a clown: he did include a certain amount of charicteristic Boris clowning but there was also something very meaningful about the achievements of London and of Britain this year. He said that Britain has rediscovered that it is a can-do country, and that is absolutely right. Then this aft

PCC elections - just over five weeks to go

A break from the conference reports, although on an issue which has been discussed a lot at this year's Conservative conference - the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 15th November. Thirty-six days and twelve hours from now. This election will replace the existing police authorities, which are partly appointed and partly indirectly elected, with a directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner. The job of the new Police and Crime Commissioners will be to strengthen communication between the police and the public, set policing priorities and hold the Chief Constable to account, though all operational matters and day-to-day control of policing will remain with uniformed professionals. The Conservative candidate to be the first PCC for Cumbria in these elections will be Richard Rhodes who lives in the county, is currently head of the probation trust, and was a magistrate for 33 years, most recently in Barrow. Nominations opened yesterday for these elect

Conference Diary 3: George Osborne/NIA Fringe

I spent a lot of the third day of conference at fringe meetings and briefings rather than in the main conference chamber. I did however hear the speeches from the new transport secretary, by a panel of business leaders, and a very strong speech by Chancellor George Osborne. I was pleased to hear a number of points in those speeches and others made today which concentrated on keeping down the cost of living for hard working individuals and families - * Councils given support to freeze council tax for the third year in a row * planned fuel duty hikes put on hold (not a new announcement but at least shows ministers are still aware of the issue * a cap on increases in regulated rail fares which reduced fare increases compared to what had originally been proposed There was also a strong emphasis on supporting business and enterprise, which will be absolutely essential to pulling Britain out of recession and restoring the national finances. Nuclear energy being vital to the econo

Conference diary 2: the Hague Barnstorm

Have just listened to a barnstorming and exceptionally wide-ranging performance from the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Highlights of the speech included: * the work being done, despite the shortage of money inherited by the coalition government which is affecting the FO as it affects every part of the government, to increase the number of places abroad in which Britain is represented. (In places this is being done by collaporation with our friends and allies: for example we have made an agreement with Canada to share of co-locate embassies) * A campaign against the use of rape as a weapon of war, which Britain is about to launch and which will be a major feature of this country's chairmanship of the G8 next year.  In many of the wars and civil wars of the last two decades wholesale rape and sexual abuse have been used against women and girls -and sometimes also against men and boys - on a truly horrifying scale, and it is time for the international community to recognize

Conference Diary 1: National Convention

To Birmingham, where I attended this morning a meeting of the "National Conservative Convention." A few years ago, when the Conservative party as such had no proper legal existence, there was a body called the "National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations" or "National Union" for short, which pulled the voluntary party together and organised the conference. The nearest thing it had to a governing body was called the "NUEC" or National Union Executive Committee, which consisted of about 400 of wht the press would have called "Tory Grandees." When the party was put onto a more formal legal footing during William Hague's leadership, the National Convention was set up as an equivalent body replacing the NUEC, and is both more powerful - for example, it elects several members of the party board - and closer to grassroots members - most of the NUEC were officers of what we would now call Regional oranisations, while all

The Miliband speech, broken promises and apologies

Mr Miliband's speech to his party conference appears to have gone down a lot better than I for one think it deserved. There was a particulaarly interesting review of the speech by Fraser Nelson in the Evening Standard you can read a version on his blog here . Regarding the specifis of what Miliband atually proposed o do, Nelson asked "Was it plausible? Not at all." But he thought the speech would be effective. For me the double standards were mind-blowing - having raised the question of David Camero's own income in the speech he denied that he had done so shortly afterwards when refusing to answer the question of whether he is a millionaire himself. And I kept thinking "Two years ago" when Miliband was asking when we last had a government which fitted his long list of uncomplementary descriptions. every one of the insults he used were at least as applicable in my opinion mostly more so, to the last Labour government of which he was a member. And

Brown's treasury and the "Admiral Byng" approach

Damian McBride, the former aide to Gordon Brown who had to resign after he was caught planing to plant some pretty filthy and untrue smear stories about his poltiikcal opponents, made some intersting comments about his approach to leaks on his blog in a post called "The Seven Year Hitch" which you can read here . The key section, which has been the subject of debate on "Political Betting" and which casts a very unflatttering light on the functioning of the Brown Treasuring - including Ed Miliband and Ed Balls - is as follows: "The Treasury under GB was almost immune to unplanned leaks and rogue quotes, a remarkable record sustained over 10 years. That was in part due to our policy that unless a quote came from X, Y or Z, then we’d simply deny that it represented the Treasury view, where X was the Head of Communications (successively Peter Curwen, John Kingman, Michael Ellam, me, Paul Kissack and Chris Martin), Y was the Media Special Adviser (successively