Showing posts from May, 2013

Unemployment in the Eurozone reaches a new high

Unemployment in the eurozone has reached record high of 12.2%, according to official figures released today, which you can see here. An extra 95,000 people were out of work in April in the 17 countries that use the euro, taking the total to 19.38 million. Both Greece and Spain have jobless rates above 25%. Anyone in Britain who is cheering about the problems of the Eurozone is seriously out of touch with reality. It is a human tragedy for the people out of work, and for their families. And it is bad news for Britain, because it will have a negative effect on British exports to those countries and slow down the recovery of our own economy. But, and I can say "we told you so" as someone who was involved from day one of the "Keep the Pound campaign" (I was constituency Conservative chairman in St Albans when William Hague parked his lorry in St Albans market place to kick off the campaign), thank God we won the battle to stop Britain joining the Euro. Bri

Back from hospital

Back safely, my operation to remove a couple of teeth having gone off without any significant problems. I noted however, while I was in Carlisle that the leader of the city council, Cllr Joe Hendry, has died following a heart attack. I did not personally know Councillor Hendry so I am not going to post a formal obit, but my thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time.

Off to Carlisle today

As I drive past the West Cumberland Hospital site, which I do several times a week, I can see the signs of work on the rebuild and refurbishment of the hospital. The Business case has been approved, there are arguments about how much money is needed but the work is going on. There is no doubt that we will get a rebuilt and refurbished hospital. I have a reminder today, however, in the form of a visit to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle for a very minor operation, that what isn't certain is how many services our shiny new hospital will have. Oral surgery is just one of many services which have been moved to Carlisle. Obviously it is essential that all services provided are safe and of good quality. But there are real issues with expecting people to travel to Carlisle or futher afield for medical care. The people of West Cumberland value our local district general hospital. We have fought hard for it. We need to keep it. It is important that the new management of t

Quote of the day

"Always tell the press freely and frankly anything they could easily find out any other way" (Line spoken by Sir Humphrey Appleby in "Yes Minister" by Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn)

Wish me luck tomorrow - for an op on a Friday!

I shall be going into the Cumberland Infirmary tomorrow afternoon for a minor dental operation. The fact that I am having to go to Carlisle for this procedure is an indication of the number of services which are no longer available at the West Cumberland hospital in Whitehaven, which is a very sore point in West Cumbria, which I shall address in a post tomorrow morning, but that is not the issue this post is about. My operation tomorrow is not a particularly serious procedure, which is just as well, as the British Medical Journal has just published the results of a study which shows that patients are 44% more likely to die within 30 days of an operation performed on a Friday in an NHS hospital than within 30 days of one performed on a Monday. Knowing that the many journalists are - how can we put this - not particularly well versed in statistics, my first thought was to check how likely it is that this result is statistically significant. However, when one checks out the detail

On Prime Ministerial holidays

I don't always agree with Nadine Dorries MP, but I thought she was right on the money when she referred to criticism of David Cameron for taking a holiday this week as "ridiculous." In fact I would have used a stronger word were it not likely to cause offence. Labour MPs Sarah Champion and John Mann who criticised the Prime Minister for taking his children away on a short holiday this week - and don't forget that this is half term week - only proved in my eyes that they are either hypocrites who expect David Cameron to abide by a standard they would never apply to themselves, or it is fortunate for the country that they are not ministers. When Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered, the PM came back to Britain immediately from a summit in France, chaired a meeting of COBRA, condemned the murder, and sent a message of condolences to the family. That was right and proper. But once this was done and the necessary reviews had been started and the police starting to round up t

Quote of the Day

"First law on holes: when you are in one, stop digging." (Denis Healey)

Morrisons should reconsider their position on bands and badges

I was disappointed to learn that Morrisons has suspended a checkout assistant for wearing a Help for Heroes wristband and a small metal poppy badge in tribute to murdered soldier Lee Rigby. It is right that food stores should be very careful about any badges which might have an impact on food safety but this seems completely over the top and will cause justified offence to the brave men and women of our armed forces and the huge majority of people in this country who are grateful for the sacrifices they make on our behalf. I hope Morrisons will reconsider whether their policy is necessary or sensible.

Quote of the Day

"Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular. "   (Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay)

Two litres of milk for 97 pence

One of the games that the press likes to play with politicians is stick a microphone under their nose and ask the price of some basic commodity such as a loaf of bread or a pint of milk to see if they know the answer - the theory being that if they do know they are more likely to be understanding of a hard working family trying to balance a budget or a senior citizen trying to keep body and soul together on a state pension. If  a journalist playing this game ever asked me the price of a pint of milk, my answer would begin with the comment that anyone who wants set themselves up as a judge over whether policiticans are in touch with the real world ought to be sufficiently in touch themselves to know that people who are remotely price-sensitive should not be buying milk by the pint. Shops which sell milk will almost invariably offer a litre of milk (2.2 pints) at a price which is much better value for money than a pint, and a two litre container of milk is usually much better value

DC's message to party members

This is an email which was sent last week on behalf of David Cameron to members of the National Conservative Convention, e.g. Constituency, Area and Regional chairmen.     After the news this weekend, I wanted to write a personal note to members of our Party. I’ve been a member of the Conservative Party for 25 years. Some time after I joined I became Chairman of my local branch and was one of the volunteers dedicated to getting Conservatives elected to the local council. Since then I have met thousands and thousands of party members. We’ve pounded pavements together, canvassed together and sat in make-shift campaign headquarters together, from village halls to front rooms. We have been together through good times and bad. This is more than a working relationship; it is a deep and lasting friendship.   Ours is a companionship underpinned by what we believe: that everyone should be able to get on in life if they’re willing to work hard; that we look after those who ca

Quote of the Day

"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes." Winston Churchill

Quote of the Day

" Communism was a great system for making people equally poor. In fact, there was no better system in the world for that than communism."   Thomas L. Friedman, from "The World is Flat."

EU clears faster broadband for Cumbria

The European Union has given "major contract approval" for the £50 million deal between the British government, Cumbria County Council (while it was still Conservative-led) and BT to provide faster broadband for rural areas of Cumbria. This will be very good news for small businesses and therefore jobs in Cumbria.

Quote of the day

"Politicians are like nappies, they should be changed regularly and for the same reason." (Ken Dodd, anglicising a saying from Mark Twain.)

A silver lining to a terrible cloud

Thre are very few words to express the true horror of the terrible murder in Woolwich. A brave man, who was loved and respected by his family and comrades, who had risked his life for his country in Helmand province, was hacked down in the streets near his home in Britain. A two year old boy has been left without a father. There can be no justification for this senseless and brutal murder. Certainly not in the name opf Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, or in the name of the religion of Islam, which means "Peace." If there is a single bright side to this awful act, it is in the response: by the brave cub scout leader who, as the PM put it, spoke for all of us when she confonted one of the attackers, and in the fact that the airwaves in the aftermath of the attack were full of as many repudiations from Imams and other representatives of Islam as they were of condemnation from anyone else. And that the unreserved rejection of this attack by spokesmen for Muslim belie

PM's statement on the Woolwich tragedy

Statement issued by Prime Minister David Cameron on 23rd May.     What happened yesterday in Woolwich has sickened us all.   On our televisions last night – and in our newspapers this morning – we have all seen images that are deeply shocking. The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know: something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger. Today our thoughts are with the victim – and with his family. They are grieving for a loved one… And we have lost a brave soldier. This morning I have chaired a meeting of COBRA. And I want to thank the police and security services for the incredible work they do to keep our country safe. There are police investigations and security service operations underway – so obviously there is a limit on what I can say. But already a number of things are clear. First, this country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror. We will never give

Quote of the Day

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”   ― Abraham Lincoln How much more strongly would honest Abe have argued this had he lived in the age of the internet, the tweet, and the ability of what anyone writes on either to come back and bite them years later?

Sometimes there IS smoke without fire

During the recent controversy a person claiming to represent Conservative Grassroots made the statement on television that "there's no smoke without fire." This is of course a very old saying. My experience from more than thirty years in active politics is that this particular saying is absolutely not true. Sometimes there really is smoke without fire, especially when it is in someone else's interests that there should be. Certain very widely believed stories are actually very clever propaganda planted by the enemies of the people they are about. Evidence against the theory that "thre's no smoke without fire goes back a long time. Although the Emperor Nero was undoubtedly one of the most evil rulers in history, many historians believe that he was actually innocent of the best known crime for which he is remembered - singing an aria as he watched the city of Rome burning. (He was certainly innocent of the allegation in the form in which it was most often q

Blogging Resumes

The Conservatives are currently selecting candidates for next year's elections to the European parliament. There will shortly be a ballot of party members in each region to pick and rank those candidates, and from the day of the local elections at the start of May until the end of the ballot period at the end of July, those who have applied to stand and are taking part in the process are under extremely strict limits - known as "purdah" - about what we can do to promote ourselves, what meetings we can go to, and what we can circulate to party members. The purpose of the rules is to attempt to ensure a level playing field among candidates during the ballot period. As I am one of the people affected by these rules, I have been trying carefully to stay within them and possibly been over-cautious. This is why I have stopped posting tweets, and have not been able to attend a number of Conservative meetings which I would normally have gone to. For the same reason I had suspen

Blogging suspended

Original Post For reasons which I will explain in full when I start blogging again, I will not be posting any new blog entries, comments or tweets either here on any other form of social media until late July. This is not due to a problem with my health, not to any legal trouble, nor anything else to worry about. I have been advised by Conservative Campaign HQ that I don't have to shut down the blog, but that it would be best not to put up any new posts for the next couple of months to avoid the possibility of being accused of prejudicing an election process. Active blogging will resume on Saturday 27th July. Anyone who might have come here looking for my views on Europe is referred to my post "Britain and Europe" which I put up at the end of April. You can read it here . At the request of readers I am undertaking a trial removal of comment moderation on this blog. It's actually off at the moment but will go back on if there are any offensive or legally diff

Quote of the day

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”   ― Abraham Lincoln

Bully for Brontosaurus

I was pleased to see that the quiz show "Who dares wins" accepted "Brontosaurus" as a dinosaur name in the contest which was broadcast this evening. I think this was the right decision but would not have dared put it forward if I had been a contestant myself because paleontologists now regard the official name for this genus of dinosaur as being Apatosaurus. Brontosaurus means "Thunder Lizard" which seems to me a very appropriate name for what was once the best known of the huge sauropods. However, it is now the overwhelming opinion among the experts that the two fossils from which the genus was named, which were discovered within two years of each other, and originally thought to be two different types of dinosaur, were actually juvenile and adult specimens of the same animal. Because the half-grown specimen which was named "Apatosaurus" (deceptive lizard) had been discovered two years before the adult, which was the largest dinosaur fossi

Reprise on Ed Miliband's Car Crash Interview

The local elections may be over but Ed Miliband is still Leader of the Opposition and thereby a contender to be Prime Minister of our country. A fact viewed with concern by plenty of people who are not necessarily Conservatives: for example. John Rentoul argued in the Independent here that if Ed Miliband wins the next election "we have to take seriously the likelihood that his government will be a disaster." So it is still of intererest that, interviewed by Martha Kearney on BBR Radio four's the World at One programme on Monday, he gave an interview which I previously described as a car crash. At the moment and for another couple of days (until Monday 6th May) you can still listen to the full programme on BBC iPlayer Radio here . Miliband admitted to Channel Four the following day that this had been " not such a good interview " and readily proffered the admission he had repeatedly refused to give Martha Kearney, that "a big VAT cut to stimulat

Comment Moderation Trial

Original Post As an experiment I have turned off comment moderation for posts on this blog for 28 days after they have been published. Provided there are no huge embarrassments as a result I will leave moderation off for two months, and then review whether to turn it off for older posts as well, stick with a policy of no moderation for 28 days, or put comment moderation back on. I still intend to delete any posts which I regard as offensive, as a potential source of legal problems, or negative comments about the person who has died in obit threads. But posts which make a constructive contribution to discussion will usually be allowed even if I disagree with them. POSTSCRIPT For very good reasons which I will explain when I resume blogging on 27th July, I will not be posting any new blog posts, comments or tweets either here or on any other form of social media for the next three months. I still intend to have a two month trial doing without comment moderation, but it would

Scenes from an election count ...

One moment from yesterday's election count which demonstrated that some people involved in politics still have a sense of humour about what is said about them ... There are a number of reasons why ballot papers may be taken out of the initial count and shown to all the candidates as potentially subject to challenge. If you write something other than a tick or cross on your ballot paper it is supposed to be shown to all the candidates and agents, which used to make this a good way of making a point to them. although your vote can still count if the intention is clear. Yesterday the election staff in Copeland, who were obviously in a hurry to get everything done as fast as consistent with getting it right, waved these in front of  us for just long enough to see whether the voter had expressed a clear preference, which wasn't always long enough to also read what the voter had written.  Which I thought was a bit of a shame as I would have liked a few more seconds to check whe

Unlucky Thirteen - twice over

Well, some you win, some you lose, but this morning's result was almost enough to make someone superstitious. Both myself in the "Egremont North & St Bees" division and my colleague Graham Roberts in Bransty missed out on election or re-election to Cumbria County Council by exactly thirteen votes. In " Egremont North and St Bees " the result was Henry Wormstrup (Labour)     395 Myself (Conservative)             382 Lorraine Armstrong  (UKIP)   296 Labour majority 13 - one recount. Turnout 23.9% In Bransty the result was Eileen Weir (Labour)                    580 Graham Roberts (Conservative)   567 Labour majority 13 - one recount. Turnout 25.7% Over the county as a whole the Conservatives won most votes: total votes cast throughout Cumbria were as follows: Political Party Votes % of vote Conservative 39581 31.6 Labour 34876 27.9 Liberal Democrat 23282 18.6 UK Independence Party 14591 11.7 Independent 7013 5.6 Green 2798 2.2

A big thank you

I spent almost all day yesterday, up to shortly before the close of polls at 10pm, dashing round trying to persuade people to vote. Then after a quick and very late meal I attended the "verification" of the votes, e.g. checking that the number of papers in the ballot boxes matched the numbers issued. A very big "Thank You" to all those who turned out in the Egremont North & St Bees division and voted for me. Shortly we will find out who has won when the actual count, which begins at 10 am, takes place. This is not going to be a wonderful result for the Conservatives, but given that we are having to make painful decisions in government while cleaning up Labour's mess, this is not surprising. Of course if there were any justice in the world Labour would not hold a single seat in these elections, as insofar as any British party is responsible for the current difficulties it is Labour, who set up the bank regulation system which so signally failed and un

Quote of the Day

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” John Stuart Mill

St Bees road closure

The main road through St Bees has been closed to vehicles for over a week now as a result of a gas leak. This must be an enormous inconvenience to residents of the village, it has certainly been a major annoyance to e while I have been campaigning in the village during the election. The road closure  does not appear to have had a catastrophic effect on turnout in the village in today's election, although some voters have been saying that having to drive round the countryside to get to the other end of the village has been rather a pain.  Perhaps Northern Gas nee to provide villagers with more information if they can't find and fix the problem soon. The road closure and knock-on effects have also highlighted issues with rhe road network in the area including capacity and safety issues which I will wish to take up if elected.

Remember to vote today

Polls are open today in the elections for Cumbria County Council and all the other County Councils in the country. Polling stations are open until 10 pm. You do not need your polling card to vote. I am standing as the Conservative candidate in the Egremont North and St Bees division which includes St Bees, Moor Row, Bigrigg, Rottington, and much of the western part of the Mirehouse estate in Whitehaven. Obviously I would prefer as a Conservative that people vote Conservative but the most important thing is to use your vote. People have died for the privilege of having the right to vote and refusing to use it doesn't "punish" the politicians - it only deprives you of your voice.

Quote of the Day

"Errors to be dangerous must have a great deal of truth mingled with them. It is only from this alliance that they can ever obtain an extensive circulation." Sydney Smith

Quote of the Day

“You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Laughing at the devil

“The devil , the proud spirit , cannot endure to be mocked ,” wrote Sir Thomas More. Isn't it amazing how many terrorists seem to be people of such amazing, breathtaking stupidity, that the most appropriate reaction to these clowns is to fall about laughing. When terrorists succeed in hurting someone other than themselves, it is tactless and insensitive to laugh at their stupidity. And of course, in encouraging people to laugh at the hapless absurdity pf incompetent terrorists like the six who pleaded guilty yesterday, I am not for one moment suggesting that we should fail to take all reasonable steps to protect ourselves against the threat that less stupid terrorists, or for that matter stupid ones who were luckier, might manage to cause. The people who run the "Darwin Awards" have an unconfirmed story about an archetypal stupid terrorist called Khay Rahnajet. This gentleman allegedly removed himself from the human gene pool and thereby increased average intell