Showing posts from April, 2014

Latest figures show that 50 per cent of all cancer patients now survive at least 10 years.

Because of the difficult decisions which the coalition government has made on public spending, it has been possible to protect spending on the NHS and create a Cancer Drugs Fund which is helping tens of thousands of people get lifesaving cancer treatment. Through the fund, we are making £1 billion available to help thousands of patients access cancer drugs recommended by their doctors. So far over 44,000 patients have benefited from this. As this latest research shows, we have seen significant improvements in some cancer survival rates, with new and innovative research and earlier diagnosis at the heart of this upward trend. We share Cancer Research UK’s aspirations for the UK to be the best place in the world to survive cancer

Quote of the day 30th April 2014

“Integrity is never given. It is a quality that can only be proven over time.”   ( Gary Hopkins  )

HS2 Bill given second reading

A new North-South rail line is a vital part of our long-term economic plan for Britain. Without HS2 our railways will be full by the mid-2020s – we need to build this extra capacity now. And it is important to make sure the new North-South railway uses the latest technology that Britain's competitors use - high speed. The jobs of the future depend on infrastructure fit for the future. A new North-South railway will be a foundation stone upon which businesses across the country can grow, compete and create jobs – and provide greater financial security for families. Parliament’s clear commitment last night is another important step in making this vision a reality. On the rebel amendment which was defeated: Of course there are concerns for some who live very close to the HS2 route. There are others who are worried about the cost of the scheme, and others who are worried about whether this is the right scheme to do enough to help the North. We will never get ever

Outlook for economy "Strong and broad-based" says CBI

The outlook for the economy over the next three months is ‘exceptionally strong and broad-based’ according to the employers’ organisation, the CBI. The latest figures are very good news – and are compelling evidence that our long-term economic plan is working. Businesses up and down the country are increasingly confident about the future. That means more investment, more jobs. There is still much more we need to do to build a resilient economy with more exports, more building, more investment – and more manufacturing too. Our long-term economic plan is creating more jobs, so that more families are able to enjoy greater economic security and the prospect of a brighter future, and is building a stronger, more competitive economy that will secure a better future for Britain.

Quote of the day 29th April 2014

"Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it forgoes revenge, and dares forgive an injury." ( E.H. Chaplin )

Quote of the day 28th April 2014

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus." (Stephen Hawking)

The Most Dangerous Myth in Britain today

There are a lot of contenders for the title of the most dangerous myth in Britain today Dangerous Myth number one is the idea that as soon as the economy recovers Britain can return to the levels of spending in the final years of the last Labour government. We can't, and we won't be able to do that no matter who wins the next election.  Gordon Brown doubled the national debt. That debt is still there and we are paying a terrifying amount of interest on it. Which would be even higher if interest rates were not at what is historically an exceptionally  low level. To put it in context, even at these low interest rates the cost of interest payments every year on the debts inherited from Gordon Brown's debt is double Britain's defence budget. As the economy recovers further and it is necessary to raise interest rates to encourage the savings which are essential if people are to be able to provide for their pensions and give businesses the money to invest, that cost wil

Quote of the day 27th April 2014

"At a time when democratic politicans are more unpopular than they have ever been in my lifetime, and respectable newspapers are speculating how much better off we might be without them, it is worth being reminded that all of the alternatives are far, far worse." (Francis Beckett, concluding sentence of a review in this month's BBC History magazine of Archie Brown's book The Myth of the Strong Leader .)

Bringing the church into disrepute

I am certain that very little damage was done to Christianity or the established church by the rather silly letter to the Daily Telegraph organised by the British Humanist Association which I blogged about a few days ago and was effectively answered by Bishop Nazir-Ali here , by several non-christians here, by some distinguished academics here , and by the Archbishop of Canterbury here . Fifty letters like that do less damage to the church than one act of stupidity or injustice by the church itself, or an individual chuch, can do. Or an act of stupidity and injustice such as registering to use an outmoded Tudor law giving some churches the right to claim "Chancel Repair Liability" from householders who may be nothing to do with the church concerned. I am not against the community providing support to religious organisations which are contributing to the cultural or social fabric of society where the funds are voted for in an open and transparent way by elected repres

Pots and Kettles two

There was a story in the Independent this week, which had obviously come from Labour spinners, about how the Labour party are preparing to defend themselves during what they expect to be a very nasty election during which Labour will be smeared by the "Tory Press" (If there still is such a thing). Have they forgotten which governing party did more smearing than anyone else in recent history? Which government was it who employed Damien McBride at the taxpayers' expense to invent smears about the private lives of Conservative politicians and their wives? Which government accused a pensioner in her nineties, Rose Addis, of being a racist when she expressed concerns about the care she was getting from the NHS? Which government started digging up dirt on a group of rail crash survivors and victims' families, asking "are they Tories?" Hint: It wasn't the Conservatives. Or the Lib/Dems.

Pots and Kettles one

In a magazine interview this week Nigel Farage accused David Cameron of standing for nothing This from the man who scrapped his party's entire previous manifesto and policy positions in two minutes during a "Daily Politics" TV interview with Andrew Neil in January, and said they would be replaced after the European elections ...

Quote of the day 26th April 2014

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ( Mahatma Gandhi  )

Quote of the day 25th April 2014

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”   ( Lao Tzu  )

Quote of the day 24th April 2014

“It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err."   ( Mahatma Gandhi  )

Quote of the day 23rd April 2014

“The one difference between death and taxes is that death does not get worse every time Congress meets.”   (This quote has been attributed to a several people including  Jeffrey Fry  and Will Rogers)

Quote of the day 22nd April 2014

“... economists recognize that, other things equal, cuts in tax rates reduce tax revenues in percentage terms by less than the tax-rate reductions. Similarly, tax-rate increases do not raise tax revenues by as much in percentage terms as the tax-rate increases. This is true because changes in marginal tax rates alter taxpayer behavior and thus affect taxable income.”   ( Campbell R. McConnell , Loose-Leaf Economics  )

On Religious Toleration

Britain is, and has been for many years a tolerant country in which people can hold and express whatever beliefs they like about religion and anything else, so long as they do not express their views in a manner which amounts to incitement to violence. Britain is also a country whose culture and heritage has been immensely shaped by Christianity and in which, according to the last Gallop poll, 59% of residents describe themselves as Christian. In that sense describing Britain as a christian country is a statement of the obvious, though most christian churches would be the first to point out that in the sense of living up to the values taught by Jesus most of us have a very long way to go before we could make such a claim. When the Prime Minister made a recent speech encouraging Christians to have confidence in their beliefs he was very careful to emphasise that he was not "doing down" other religions or saying that it was wrong to follow another faith or to have no faith

What a lovely day

Up until about a firtnight ago, this year's weather was usually wet, cold and monotonous. I recall joking to someone at the end of March that the month had come in like a lion and gone out like one (rather than like a lamb.) We have had a few isolated nice days in the first half of April mixed with cold grey ones. However, it is as if someone had told the elements that now it is Easter the sun could come out. Today is another absolutely Glorious day - like summer already. I hope, whereever you are, that you are enjoying it.

Quote of the day 21st April 2014

“It's not rocket science. Hong Kong has 95% tax compliance, because it's code is only 4 pages long with a 15% flat tax.”   ( Ziad K. Abdelnour , Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics  )

Happy Easter

A very happy Easter to everyone reading this. If you have a religious faith, may your God be with you this weekend. If you don't, enjoy the holiday.

Views on the European Election

There are some interesting views on the European election in this Oxford Times article comparing the position of candidates for all the major parties. The Conservative quoted is Marta Andreassen, who was fired for telling the truth about the EU while she was working as a European Auditor, became a UKIP member of the European parliament but is now a Conservative MEP and candidate.

Quote of the Day 19th April 2014

"A few years ago, California politicians seized control of electric rates. They held rates down, but the true cost of energy kept rising. Soon the electric company went bust; the lights went out. Consumers had to pay for the mess." (From a TV advert put out by "CORE" e.g. "Consumers Organised forReliable Electricity" and funded by  a power company - the ad was drafted by the agency ASK, in which the A stands for Axelrod. That's David Axelrod, who has just been recruited to help with Labour's election campaign to elect as PM one Ed Miliband - who is advocating exactly the same energy price policy this ad was attacking.) 

Miliband's new adviser and Energy Policy

It would appear that the former Obama campaign strategist and "astroturfing" expert David Axelrod, who has just been hired by Ed Miliband to help advise on Labour's campaign, has previously worked on a campaign in which his clients had a better understanding of Energy policy than the former Energy secretary does ... Hat tip to Oliver Cooper via Twitter (@OliverCooper) for drawing my attention to this article whicn mentions that Mr Axelrod previously ran a campaign arguing that freezing energy prices could lead to blackouts. The agency in which Mr Axelrod is one of the three main partners arranged for a "consumer" group organised by his client to put out a message which included the following statement " A few years ago, California politicians seized control of electric rates. They held rates down, but the true cost of energy kept rising. Soon the electric company went bust; the lights went out. Consumers had to pay for the mess. Now, some people i

Good Friday

Today Christians remember something unusual, though not otherwise entirely unknown for religious believers, in that they commemorate the execution of their God. Regardless of whether you believe Jesus was the incarnate son of God or just a human being, the story of his trial and execution is an incredibly dramatic one which seems in some ways remarkably relevant to our own age. It is a story of courage and cowardice, of constancy and betrayal, of political and religious rivalry (the by-play between Pilate and Herod is particularly fascinating) of a tolerant faith against a fanatical one, of national unrest against an established regime, and a story in which people's principles are put to the test and all but one of them comes up short. The Good Friday story does not make for comfortable reading for Christians or anyone else. Partly because most of us on hearing the story instinctively put themselves in the place of one of the protagonists and ask "What would I have done?

I hope she wasn't a Maths teacher ...

Hat tip to Greg Hurst on Twitter for pointing out the following quote from Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, at an NUT press conference: "Of every five new teachers two leave the profession after five years. That's quite a lot, that's 20% leaving ..." Regardless of whether she was a Maths teacher I'm glad Ms Blower isn't teaching my kids!

Quote of the day for Good Friday 18th April 2014

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ( Martin Luther King Jr. )

UK Unemployment falls below 7%

The number of people out of work in the UK has fallen by 77,000 to a five-year low of 2.24m in the three months to February, official figures indicate. The unemployment rate now stands at 6.9% of the adult working population according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. This means that the unemployment rate has fallen below the threshold at which the Bank of England said last August it would consider raising interest rates under its policy of forward guidance. However, this does not necessarily men there sill be an increase this month from the current historic low rate of 0.5%. This news comes as it has also been reported that Average earnings in the three months to February grew 1.7% compared with a year earlier, while CPI inflation was recorded to have fallen to 1.6% in March. It is the first time since the spring of 2010 that the increase in average wages has exceeded the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation. It is also the firs

Quote of the day 17th April 2014

“Courage is a special kind of knowledge: the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared.”   ( David Ben-Gurion  )

Inflation falls again

UK inflation as measured by the change in the Consumer Prices Index compared with 12 months previously fell again in March, to 1.6% in the year to March, from 1.7% in the year to February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is the third consecutive month inflation has been below the Bank of England's 2% target rate, and the lowest rate since October 2009. The largest contribution to the fall in the rate came from petrol prices. Inflation as measured by the change in the older RPI measure (Retail Prices Index) also fell, to 2.5% in the year to March compared with from 2.7% in the year to February.

Quote of the day 16th April 2014

The penultimate paragraph in the set of quotes below has appeared as a quote of the day before on this blog , and probably will again, as a particularly significant and rare example of a Labour Prime minister talking sense - from a man who, for all the faults of his government, had ten times the understanding both of what it is like to be born into a working class family and of how the economics of the real world works that Ed Miliband will ever have. This is a series of quotes from the speech James Callaghan gave as Leader of the Labour Party to that party's conference in 1976 and it is astonishing how many of the things he said appear so very relevant nearly forty years later. "Britain has lived for too long on borrowed time, borrowed money, borrowed ideas." ... "For too long, perhaps ever since the war, we postponed facing up to fundamental choices and fundamental changes in our society and in our economy. That is what I mean when I say we have been living o

Quote of the day 15th April 2014

“Being faithful in the smallest things is the way to gain, maintain, and demonstrate the strength needed to accomplish something great.”   ( Alex Harris  )

Quote of the day 14th April 2014

“Helen Keller became deaf, dumb, and blind shortly after birth. Despite her greatest misfortune, she has written her name indelibly in the pages of the history of the great. Her entire life has served as evidence that no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.”   ( Napoleon Hill  )

Quote of the day 13th April 2014

I have been unable to validate or confrm the author of the quote below and it took me a while even to find a definitive statement regarding the accuracy of the saying on which it is based, namely that the Great Wall of China is the only manmade object which can be seen from the moon. It turns out that the theory that theGreat Wall of China is visible from the moon dates back to at least 1938, e.g. 38 years before any men landed on the moon and might have been able to check. NASA believes that it would be extremely see the Great Wall from the moon but that it is possible with some difficulty to see and photograph it from Earth Orbit, and have proved that it is definately possible to detect it from orbit using Radar. The quote I wanted to use refers to this saying, and I have to depend entirely on my memory, which may be fallible, both for the words and for the attribution to the famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith. "It is hard to see why anyone would bother

Thoughts on a scandal

It is essential that all politicians of all parties should act with the highest standards of integrity and probity, and be seen to do so. Sadly there have been some people in all political parties who have failed to do so and each party has a responsibility to do something about it, espeically with regard to their own members. It is unacceptable that the impression has been created that MPs can get away with things which would result in anyone else gong to jail. Of course five MPs (all Labour) actually have gone to prison over fraudulent expenses claims. So should anyone else, of whatever party, who commits a crime for which someone who is not a politician would have been jailed. Given the need to avoid creating the impression that the political class thnks it is above the rules, I thought it was right that Maria Miller resigned, and I am pleased that she is giving her pay-off to charity. However, I have a question for those journalists and Labour politicians who are accusing D

Quote of the day 12th April 2014

"Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel." (G.K. Chesterton, " Orthodoxy")

Quote of the day 11th April 2014

"There is no education like adversity. " (Benjamin Disraeli)

Quote of the day 10th April 2014

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. " (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Quote of the day 9th April 2014

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem." (Theodore Rubin)

Jail for metal thieves

Those who have visited this blog in the past will be aware tht I regard metal theft of one of the curses of modern society and have been a strong supporter of effective action against the gangs and the people who buy stolen metal from them. So I was pleased to see the ringleader or a major metal theft gang, who operated on what was described as an "industrial scale," and three of his associates given prison terms. Birmingham Crown Court heard how the conspiracy was uncovered in June 2011 when West Mercia Police, assisted by BT, began investigating the activities of 48-year-old Gary Kitchin. It was discovered that, despite not working or claiming benefits, Kitchin had more than £120,000 in various accounts, a mortgage-free property in Ledbury, Herefordshire, a part share in a property in Weymouth and an apartment in Spain. Kitchin was found to be organising the theft of infrastructure cable belonging to utility companies in several Midlands counties which he sol

Quote of the day 8th April 2014

"The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble shoots back." (Anon)

Quote of the day 7th April 2014

"Things are never so bad they can't be made worse." (Line from the film  "The African Queen" based on the book by C.S. Forester)

Osborne on supporting small businesses ...

Chancellor George Osborne writes:        Today really matters.   From today, small businesses will be able to give more people the security of a pay packet each month - because we've cut the jobs tax, making it easier for them to take on more people. And from today, hardworking families will keep more of the money they earn and be more financially secure - because we've increased the tax-free personal allowance to £10,000, cutting income tax for over 25 million people.   More jobs, more money in people's pockets, more financial security for you and your family. Today marks another important step in our long-term economic plan to build a stronger economy and secure Britain's future.   Support that plan today by forwarding this email to friends or sharing this film on Facebook and Twitter :   Thanks, George Osborne

Quote of the day 6th April 2014

"For thirty years now, in times of stress and strain, when something has me backed against the wall and I'm ready to do something really stupid with my anger, a sorrowful face appears in my mind and asks... "Problem or inconvenience?" I think of this as the Wollman Test of Reality. Life is lumpy. And a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same lump. One should learn the difference. " (Robert Fulghum, "Uh-Oh")

DC writes: the Income tax calculator

The Prime Minister writes:   More money in your pocket, more financial security for you and your family.   As part of our long-term economic plan, we're cutting income tax for over 25 million people - and lifting 3.2 million out of income tax altogether.   From Sunday night, the tax-free personal allowance will increase to £10,000 - meaning you'll pay less tax and keep more of the money you earn. Use our quick income tax calculator today to find out how much you'll save this year.   This has only been possible because of the consistent action we've taken to cut the deficit.   So we need to let people know that the difficult decisions are paying off. Share the link to our income tax calculator with everyone you know so they can see how much they'll save:     Forward it to your friends and family, share it on Facebook and Twitter - let everyone know that the Conservatives are cutting income tax and he

Quote of the day 5th April 2014

"If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire—then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer. " (Sigmund Wollman, quoted by Robert Fulghum in "Uh-Oh")

Vote Farage - get Clegg ?

One of the most ironic aspects of the Farage/Clegg debate was pointed out by Mike Smithson - a former Lib/Dem PPC who now runs the hugely informative "Political Betting" website - in a post called " They'll never admit it publicly but LD chances of retaining seats against the Tories rely a lot on UKIP doing well. " In many seats there is a risk that voters might, to coin a phrase, "Vote Farage, get Miliband" But in Tory/Lib-Dem margins, they might find that it's "Vote Nigel, get Nick." So the huge irony is that Nigel Farage's percieved win against Nick Clegg in the debate might actually help the pro-EU Lib/Dems win more seats. Let's just hope voters have more sense than to allow this to happen.

Quote of the day 4th April 2014

"The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it. Whether he's got an abscess on his knee or in his soul. " (Rona Barrett)

DC on West Cumberland Hospital

The Prime Minister was asked at PMQs yesterday about the West Cumberland Hospital. This was his reply (Source: They Work For You website, which took it from Hansard)       David Cameron (The Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative) "The hon. Gentleman is right to say that I saw for myself what an excellent job this hospital does and how important it is. The clinical commissioning group total revenue available this year is an increase of 2.3%—£663 million. That is because this Government decided to protect NHS spending and not cut it, and that is why important hospital developments can go ahead."

Ten thousand new jobs head economic news

The Prime Minister will today announce the creation of 10,000 new jobs by businesses in Britain A key part of our long-term economic plan is to create more jobs - so more people have the security of a pay cheque and are able to provide for their families. So today we’re delighted to announce nearly 10,000 new jobs in businesses across the country, from Vodafone to Birmingham Airport. This is proof that our plan is working – the fundamentals are being fixed with firms expanding and taking people on. Now we need to keep the momentum up and this week sees another boost for jobs with a number of tax changes coming into effect. Corporation tax is being cut again. Business rates are being reformed. And this weekend employer National Insurance contributions are going to be cut by £2,000. We’re proud to be making these changes as we take another step in the long but vital road of securing Britain’s future. Tax changes coming into effect this week: On 1 st Ap

A Guardian view - is the left "trapped in the past?"

One usually expeets to find articles putting the case that the Left "Owns the Future" and the Right is "trapped in the past" in left-wing papers like the Guardian and arguments suggesting that the Conservatives are the party of the future and the left stuck in the past in more right-wing publications like the Spectator or the Telegraph. But yesterday there was an interesting piece by John Harris in the Guardian expressing the fear (from his point of view) that The Tories own the Future: The Left is trapped in the past. The sub-heading reads   "Too many progressives remain wedded to nationalisation, the big state and jobs for life. If they can't find a more modern vision the battle is lost" He argues that   "What underlines the sense that Tories are on an upswing is the fact that they, and the right more widely, have come up with a solid vision of the future, and may yet persuade a sufficient share of the public to buy in." To p

Quote of the day 3rd April 2014

"The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work." (Harry Golden)

Treasury Minister Sajid Javid writes - Please watch this short flm

Income tax - cut. The jobs tax - cut. Corporation tax - cut. Fuel duty - frozen.   This week we're bringing in the biggest business and personal tax cuts for a generation - made possible by the difficult decisions we've taken to cut the deficit.   Our long-term economic plan is building a stronger economy and a more financially secure future for hardworking people - but same old Labour want to put all that at risk with more spending, more borrowing and more taxes.   They wrecked the economy once - we can't let them do it again. Please watch this film and share it with your friends and family today.   Thanks, Sajid Javid MP Financial Secretary to the Treasury

A use for Roman numerals ...

You would not think that in the 21st century the old Roman numeral sytem, which is incredibly clunky and inefficient compared with arabic numbers, would have any real use outside of history and archaeology. Guess agan. I was using an online payment system today which is run on behalf of one of the organisations with I have regular dealings. Despite being one of the less user-friendly computer systems I deal with, it is still massively more convenient than making a round trip of at least an hour and a half to visit the organisation in person and much quicker than posting a cheque. But boy is it user-unfriendly at times. This morning I had to decide on a "nickname" for something. I wanted to include a date in the nickname so I could identify the most recent one. No deal - the system did not accept numbers. Then my wife said "Why not try using Roman numerals?" And it worked. Extraordinary irony that a modern internet-based system will accept an inefficien

Quote of the day 2nd April 2014

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much." (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

UKIP MEP's to defect?

Rumours were sweeping Brussels this morning that almost all the remaining UKIP members of the European Parliament who had not already been expelled, resigned, gone to prison, or joined the Conserative party were about to defect en masse to the Conservatives. UKIP has already suffered an astonishing number of losses from the MEPs elected in 2009 no less than 45% of them have gone - six out of thirteen. The record is: Nikki Sinclaire ( expelled ), David Campbell-Bannerman ( defected to the Tories), Mike Nattrass (de-selected and then resigned ), Trevor Coleman ( quit UKIP’s European grouping) Marta Andreasen ( defected to the Tories) Godfrey Bllom (lost the whip after calling a roomful of UKIP ladies "sluts") And when UKIP MEPs don't defect, the independent VoteWatch Europe website found that UKIP members of the European Parliament have the worst attendance and voting records of any political party from any country. (Footnote) Now the Brussels rumour mill

Quote of the day 1st April 2014

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” ( Winston Churchill  )