Showing posts from November, 2012

Developing the North

  I was interested to read about a study published by a body called "The Northern Economic Futures Commission" which has spent 18 months gathering evidence about how economic growth in the North pf England could be accelerated and how this could help the British economy as a whole. The commission report points out that over the last decade the three northern regions - the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and the North East - have been responsible for a fifth of the UK's prosperity, but London alone contributed more than a quarter. And while countries like Germany, Holland and Spain have several economically-powerful cities, the UK just has London. But above all it was concerned with how the north could help the British economy return to significant levels of growth. Why, the report asks, can't the likes of Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester be as economically significant as Stuttgart, Rotterdam or Barcelona?   The commission says it wants northern

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

I listened to Mr Justice Leveson's presentation today with great interest. The press has been on manouvers for the past few weeks, raising the spectre that if the wrong sort of decisions were taken in response to the disgraceful behaviour of some sections of the media as brought out in the evidence to the Leveson inquiry, the ability of the press to perform its' essential function as part of a free society might be compromised. Leveson said an awful lot of the right things, recognising both the valuable job done by most of the press and the damaging, extreme irresponsibility which other parts of the media have failed to play the role society needs them to play. His proposals would include giving the government a statutory duty to protect the freedom of the press, and that is certainly a good idea. He said that he does not want press regulation by the government. This is undoubtedly the right aspiration. But if may not be easy to acheive in a system set up by statute.

Ir may or may not be legal but you can stll be locked up for it!

I did a double take this morning - a very cold and frosty morning - on the way from the dentist's surgery to my office at the sight of a billboard saying words to the effect that going topless in Whitehaven is legal. I would have thought that women going topless in public except on a designated nudist beach would normally risk prosecution under the laws on decency. However, when I picked up a copy of the Whitehaven News later today there was a story, appropriately on page three (though not illustrated) about a book which has apparently just been published called "The law is an ass" with details of daft or unusual local laws. This book includes the allegation, for which the Whitehaven News was unable to track down a scintilla of supporting evidence, that a local by-law has at some point been passed allowing women in Whitehaven to go topless. Hmm. Even if this is right, someone silly enough to do it at the moment might still find themselves detained as a guest of Her

Superfast broadband comes to Cumbria

A contact signed this week between Cumbria County Council and BT, part of a project also supported by the government and by the EU, will bring superfast broadband to Cumbria. The contract was signed at Ullswater by Councillor Liz Mallinson on behalf of Cumbria C.C. and Bill Murphy for BT (left) in the presence of Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith & the Border (centre), who has campaigned for action to bring faster broadband to areas like Cumbria. This contract is part of the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme – and will mean super-fast broadband will become available to around 93 per cent of homes and businesses in Cumbria by the end of 2015. Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said: “Cumbria’s scattered population combined with its comparatively large size and challenging geography, means that small business plays a pivotal role in the county’s economy and the rollout of fibre broadband will act as an economic driver for those rura

Don't be conned

One of the curses of modern society is the number of people trying to trick you out of your money by posing as someone else. Some of these attempted frauds are so obvious they wouldn't fool a savvy ten-year old, but some are very sophisticated indeed. Anybody reading this probably finds their email inbox full of messages from people pretending to be their bank (or lots of other people's banks) or their Internet Service Provider  and asking you to confirm your login details or they'll have to cut you off for security reasons. One of the most recent tricks is websites which pretend to be either a large company such as BT, or an agency through which they can be contacted, and which then overcharge any customers or potential customers who used the contact details given in an attempt to contact the company concerned For example. there are a large number of websites which pretend to be BT or associated sites and give phone numbers on which people can supposedly - or actua

Hospice at Home "Santa Dash"

Do take care if you are reading this in one of the parts of the UK which had vile weather today. Fortunately in Whitehaven, though we have had a lot of rain this week and my garden is both sodden and treacherously slippery in places, the rain held off this lunchtime and the Hospice at Home West Cumbria charity run run with the theme "Santa Dash" was able to take place. My daughter was one of the runners: my son and I were among the stewards. Congratulations to all those who took part in the run, sponsored any of the runners or helped in any other way with an emjoyable event which raised funds for this worthy cause. 

MIchael Gove on Rotherham's chilling decision

I think that anyone who votes UKIP is showing a serious failure of political judgement. But that's my opinion, and UKIP supporters are equally entitled to their different opinion and their vote. I also think that anyone who voted Labour in 2010 showed an even more catastrophic failure of political judgement, but democracy means that people have the right to use their votes in ways which I really, really strongly disagree with and I just have to live with it. Just as people who equally strongly disagree with the way I vote and the things I believe in have to live with that. The price of our freedom to hold our own opinions and vote the way we wish is that we have to extend the same freedom to others. Another part of the price of that freedom is that millions of people have fought and died to defend it. Which is why the way unelected council officials in Rotherham have taken an action which appears to strike directly at that freedom is so shocking and alarming. A couple in Ro

Time to vote out the 74 ?

The Church of England was effectively created in its' present form by Queen Elizabeth the First to be a "Broad Church" which as large as possible a proportion of the population of England could identify with and take part in. That tradition has largely been continued down the centuries. Although there have been times when the "Yes Prime Minister" joke about the compromises within the Anglican church including one between those who believe in God and those who don't has had rather more truth in it than was comfortable, the fact remains that the tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness which is an essense of what the Church of England tries to stand for has enabled that church to reach out to and help many people who would be completely unable to identify with a more dogmatic church. But the problem with any organisation built on tolerance and staying in touch with the mainstream of the people of this country is how do you deal tolerantly with those who

In Memory of C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, best known as author of the Narnia stories though he also wrote some absolutely brilliant books about the human condition from a christian perspective such as The Problem of Pain and The Screwtape Letters , is to get a memorial in Poets' corner at Westminister Abbey, which will be unveiled in a year's time on the 50th aniversary of his death in 1963. Many years ago, having had a letter published in The Times in which I explained why we can be certain that Jack Lewis would have fallen about laughing at some of the speculations about allegories in his writing which had appeared in the letters column, I had a note from the Oxford University C.S. Lewis society inviting me to make a donation to a memorial they were organising for him. I did make a small donation, and was pleasantly surprised a few months later to get an invitation to the unveiling of that memorial in Oxford, which was a very interesting and enjoyable occasion. It will be interesting to see how the

G8 to go to Northern Ireland

Good idea to hold next year's G8 summit in Northern Ireland. Hope one year we might have such an event come to Cumbria. In both cases it would be a big boost to tourism in the area: in both cases the area could do with that boost in these difficult times.

If you have evidence of crime, take it to the police

The whole circus around accurate and false accusations of child abuse has been deeply disturbing in both directions. It is essential to protect children from harm. Therefore anyone who has anything which remotely resembles evidence that children might be at risk should take it to the proper authorities, e.g. the police. If there is any real evidence that the police are failing to properly investigate such accusations, there then might be a role for the media in applying pressure. There is no role for the media in making childish stunts in relation to this terrible and serious crime,  such as ambusing the prime minister live on air with a set of names based on three minutes' research on the internet. Precisely because child abuse is such a terrible crime, those who are falsely accused of it can have their lives destroyed - in some cases literally. People who appear to have been innocent have committed suicide when accusations of this kind have been published. Marriages and fam

Notes from an election count

I am not a big fan of the AV system, or of the second class AV system with a first and second preference vote which is now used to elect Police and Crime Commissioners and directly-elected mayors. By a huge irony, one of the candidates who lost out this week under this system when he would have won on first past the post, John Prescott, was Deputy Prime Minister in the government which first introduced that voting system when elected mayors were first introduced. It was alleged that this was done in an attempt to stop Ken Livingston becoming mayor of London. That worked out well, Tony and John, didn't it? But the system still exists I had a ground level view of just how badly this went down with Cumbrian voters yesterday at the count, particularly when we were checking spoilt votes. I took a lot of flak this week (and earlier in the campaign), on the doorstep and at non-political meetings, from voters who complained that the election had not been adequately explained. The m

Anorak alert - reading the PCC runes

I have been looking with great interest at how the PCC contests came out around the country, and although the turnouts were low there were good things about how the results went, particularly that those who did vote appeared to be paying attention to the merits and relevant experience of individual candidates. It wasn't a particularly brilliant night for any of the political parties, and it was evident that many voters voted against candidates who they saw as too political. Twelve independents were elected. Candidates with a strong background in the justice system, such as the successful candidate in Cumbria, Richard Rhodes, who had been a magistrate for 33 years, and a significant number of former police officers, tended to do well in the election. Former ministers of both parties, such as Labour's John Prescott, tended to lose. I actually think that one of the reasons to support the new system is that it gives the voters the option to choose a non-political representative

Richard Rhodes elected Cumbria's first Police and Crime Commissioner

Richard Rhodes, who had been the chair of Cumbria's probation trust, a magistrate for 33 years, and was the Conservative candidate, was elected in Thursday's election to be the first Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria, taking over the responsibilities of the former Police Authority. First preference votes were cast as follows: Richard Rhodes (Conservative):   18,080 Patrick Leonard (Labour):            15,301 Mary Robinson (Independent):     15,245 Pru Jupe (Lib/Dem):                    13.623 No candidate had more than 50% of the vote plus one, so under the system used - a kind of "AV-lite" which I know is a very sore point with some people - the bottom two candidates were then eliminated and those of their second preferences which were for the Conservative or Labour candidates were then counted. Votes with a first preference for the Conservative and Labour candidates stayed in those respective columns, and second preferences from the defeated Lib/D

PCC Elections today: Polls open until 10pm

Polls are open until 10pm this evening in the UK's first ever elections for Police and Crime Commissioners to replace the existing Police Authorities. If you have a postal vote which you have not used, you can hand it in at a polling station. You do not need your polling card to vote as long as you are on the electoral register and have some evidence of your address at the place where you are on the register. The elections are important as the person elected will control a large budget - in most force areas at least £100 million - and have power to set part of the council tax. Don't lose your say: use your vote.

Reasons to vote tomorrow

A couple of reasons why I believe it is worth casting your vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections tomorrow (if you have not, like me, already voted by post). 1) Whether you think this post should have been set up or not, it has been, and somebody will be elected tomorrow. That person will have considerable power, including the right to set part of your council tax bill. If you don't vote you lose your say over who will fill that job. 2) Voting does not endorse the creation of another tier of politicians. The Police and Crime Commissioner will replace the existing Police Authorities, and should cost less that the existing system. 3) Operational day-to-day control will remain with the Chief Constable, but the Police and Crime Commissioner will set police priorities and have a big influence on what the police treat as their most important challenges.

Theresa May in Cumbria

The Home Secretary took time out from trying to deport terrorists today to come to Cumbria to support Richard Rhodes, the excellent Conservative candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in the county. The original plan had been for Theresa May to do a walkabout in the town centre in Penrith, but because of inclement weather she held an open meeting in the George Hotel instead. This was Theresa May's second visit to the county to support Richard Rhodes: the Prime Minister was also here to support Richard a few days ago, and both the present and previous police ministers have come to Cumbria to back his campaign. This is a sign of the respect in which Richard Rhodes is held by members of the government and the extent he would be listened to as a voice for Cumbria on policing issues if elected.

Police and Crime Commissioner elections: two days to go

Two days to go now to the election on Thursday 15th of Police and Crime Commissioners who will take over from the unelected Police Authories in England and Wales outside London The new Police and Crime Commissioners will set priorities for the local police force. As mentioned before there is an official website for these elections, on which details of all candidates are displayed. You can find candidate details on this site, and statements from all four candidates standing in Cumbria can be read here .

The Farage Daily Politics car crash interview

UKIP leader Nigel Farage was interviewed on the Daily Politics Show by Andrew Neil on 4th November. This is the section of the interview in which Neil asked about UKIP's promise that their MEPs would publish details of their expenses online ...

Amazon and Starbucks insult their customers, not just MPs

The MPs on the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee were right to be disgusted this afternoon at the answers from representatives of Starbucks and Amazon which one of them described as "pathetic" and another as "one of the most ridiculous answers I've heard in months and months on this committee." Senior managers of Starbucks, Amazon, and Google were answering questions from MPs about their tax arrangements. Where they managed to answer questions at all - which Andrew Cecil from Amazon mostly spectacularly failed to do - the answers ranged from the unreasonable to the ludicrous. I am all in favour of low taxes and light regulation. I am not in favour of financial anarchy or of accounting which bears no relation to the real world as a means of avoiding tax. Any O-level economics student ought to be able to explain in simple language on a page of A4 how multinational companies can adjust the prices which different national divisions of those comp

Quote of the Day

On BBC Radio 4 this afternoon, as a link from a news bulletin dominated by BBC turmoil to an advert for a comedy quiz programme, the announcer said "And now, from the state of the BBC to I'm sorry, I haven't a clue."

Lest we forget

A good attendance this morning despite the cold weather when I took my family down to attend the Act of Remebrance ceremony at the Whitehaven war memorial: today is of course both Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, being the 94th anniversary of the armistice which concluded the shooting at the end of the Great War. It is important that those who have died in war are not forgotten. To quote the " Ode of Remembrance " from Laurence Binyon 's poem, " For the Fallen " They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Whom the Gods would destroy ...

I have been following with mounting disbelief the chaotic saga of the BBC over child abuse and of Newsnight's gross mishandling of stories on the subject. There are few if any subjects on which both failing to pursue a true allegation or airing a false one can do more damage than where child abuse may be taking place. Society has a responsibility to protect all children from abuse, and anyone who knows of evidence that such abuse may be taking place has a responsibility not to ignore or try to silence that evidence. Yet there have also been all too many cases where wrong accusations of child abuse have destroyed lives, leading to innocent people being hounded from their homes, marriages broken up even deaths through assault or arson. Frequently when innocent people are mistaken for child-abusers who might have a similar name or appearance, the children of those wrongly accused of such abuse may have their lives wrecked, becoming the victims of real harm where there was none b

Saj Karim MEP writes - end the Strasbourg Shuttle

Saj Karim, one of the Conservative MEPs for the North West of England, sent me this week the appended letter about an E-Petition which he and fellow Conservative MEPs have sponsered on the Downing Street website, calling for an end to the law which required the European Parliament to be based in two separate cities and shuttle between Brussels and Strasbourg. I have signed this e-petition and strongly encourage anyone whe wants to end one of the most egregious examples of EU waste to do likewise. Saj's letter reads as follows: Dear Friends and Colleagues I and fellow Conservative MEPs, led by Ashley Fox MEP, have launched an e-petition calling on the Government to lobby for an end to the Strasbourg Circus at the European Council. The European Parliament’s monthly one week relocation to Strasbourg Costly, farcical, wasteful and utterly pointless. Where else in the world would you see a Parliament re-locate to identical facilities 250 miles away for 48 days a year and

Too many tweets ...

It isn't quite as bed as when the MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed, claimed to be a follower of the "Jedi" religion from Star Wars in his maiden speech in the House of Commons. But his reputation for being best known outside Copeland and the nuclear industry for making unfortunate jokes and insulting people continued this week with considerable reaction to an unfortunate tweet as described here .

Police and Crime Commissioner election: one week to go

A reminder: it is now one weeks to the election on Thursday 15th November, when 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. As mentioned before there is an official website for these elections, on which details of all candidates are displayed. You can find candidate details on this site, and statements from all four candidates standing in Cumbria can be read here .

Stealing is stealing whoever does it

Former Labour minister Denis McShane is standing down as an MP, after the parliamentary standards commissioner found that he submitted 19 false invoices "plainly intended to deceive" Parliament's expenses authority, which totalled £12,900. Chairman Kevin Barron said it was "the gravest case" the parliamentary Standards and Privileges committee had considered. The committee recommended that Mr MacShane be suspended as an MP to reflect the fact that his actions fell far short of  "what would be acceptable in any walk of life." Mr MacShane has pre-empted that punishment by announcing his resignation. The committee's report said that the "real mischief" of Mr MacShane's conduct was that the "method he adopted of submitting false invoices" allowed him to bypass rules to spend public money as he saw fit. It said it was "impossible to escape the conclusion" that he claimed in the way he did to ensure he was

Thanks to the Police Authority for all their work

The police and crime commissioners who will be elected in just over two weeks take over from the present Police Authorities. The existing Police Authority in Cumbria met on Tuesday 30th October and I understand that this was their last meeting. It therefore seems appropriate to say that I think we should be very grateful for all the hard work done by Chairman Ray Cole and the other sixteen members of the Police Authority.

Damnatio Memoriae

The ancient romans had an expression for trying to wipe out the memory of someone who had fallen from power and favour - damnatio memoriae . It was also known in ancient Egypt - and ancient Greece. We don't think such attempts have ever succeeded - but if they had, we wouldn't know, would we? When a man called Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus with the aim of becoming famous for it, the authorites in that city ordered that his name should never be repeated again, under penalty of death. This attempt was unsuccessful, however, as illustrated by the fact that we still know his name today. Some years after the "Heretic Pharoah" Amenhotep IV, better known as Akhenaten, attempted to change the Egyptian religion, subsequent rulers attempted to erase all evidence not just of Akhenaten's reign but of an entire generation of Egyptian history, the so-called "Armana period." Ironically this attempt at damnatio memoriae succeeded 

Police and Crime Commisssioner Elections - two weeks to go

It is now two weeks tp the election on Thursday 15th November, when 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. As mentioned before there is an official website for these elections, on which details of all candidates are displayed. You can find candidate details on this site, and you statements from all four candidates standing in Cumbria can be read  here . I was asked yesterday at the farm auction in Cockermouth where the money for this post is coming from. The answer is that the Police and Crime Commissioners will take over from the existing Police Authorities which will be abolished, will be funded in the same way, and should not be any more expensive to run.