Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quote of the day 31st August 2014

"What is it we now want, guys? We're going to face a reckoning with the electorate in just over a year's time. We're two points behind the Labour Party. We can do this - we really can do this. If we lack discipline, we're going to have five or six appalling years in opposition to dwell on it."

(Douglas Carswell then a Conservative MP, warning his colleagues earlier this year not to do anything which might risk helping Labour win the 2015 election.)

It is difficult to think of anything Douglas Carswell could have done to cause a bigger increase in the risk of a Labour victory in 2015, which he rightly predicted would lead to five appalling years for Britain, than his actions this week.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rotherham - moving from denial to anger

When the news first broke about Professor Alexis Jay's report into the massive scale of child abuse in Rotherham, I had great difficulty believing that such a monstrous breakdown in enforcement of the law and protection of children could possibility have been allowed to happen.

I am now moving slowly but steadily from denial to carefully controlled anger, and the letters of reaction which can be read here are just some of many straws in the wind suggesting that this is not an isolated response.

How else can we respond to the news, that, as The Economist put it here,

"Children as young as 11 were plied with drink and drugs, raped, beaten and trafficked to be abused by men in other cities. One was doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight. Another told the investigation that gang rape was a usual part of growing up in her district."

"... the local council knew at least ten years ago of widespread abuse and yet appears to have downplayed the problem. Nor did the police pay much attention to it. On one occasion, officers attended a derelict house and found an intoxicated girl with several adult men. They arrested the girl for being drunk and disorderly but detained none of the men. Some fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves."

Professor Jay herself was quoted in the Telegraph here as saying that

"The utter brutality of it was what shocked me most."

“It is really hard to describe it – the horrible nature of the sexual acts and the brutality of the controls these girls were subjected to. There was a vast amount of truly horrific material.

"I was taken aback at how callous, how violent, the operations were. These were girls of 11 and 12. They were children. The violence was worst. Petrol dousing was used as a form of intimidation.

"Oral and anal sex were so often a means of control and punishment. It was truly frightening that people in our country could be doing that.”

As the same article says,

"Something unimaginably evil was unfolding and on a scale that defied belief."

It is essential that society as a whole and particularly those with responsibility for policing, security, and child protection, pay attention to what is being said about the problem by those people within the Muslim faith and the Pakistani community who have stood up against it - not least because it is essential that the blame is directed squarely where it belongs, on the child abusers and those in authority who looked the other way and failed to stop them, not on every Muslim and everyone of Pakistani origin, nor on those who genuinely tried to do their jobs.

One piece of required reading should be this article in the Telegraph about the concerns expressed by Dr Taj Hargey, imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, following the conviction of a gang in Oxford last year for the same sort of crimes which have been going on in Rotherham.

Another is this article by Shaheen Hasmat, a woman of Pakistani origin born and raised in Scotland,

I don't think I have ever previously in this blog quoted with approval anything said by a UKIP politician but I will make an exception for the acticle by Amjad Bashir MEP, himself a Muslim of Pakistani origin, who wrote that Pakistanis must condemn the Rotherham abuses.

It is essential that the perpetrators of these terrible crimes are put in front of a court, given a fair trial and, if convicted, severely punished for what they have done.

Anyone convicted of raping or pouring petrol over children who was not born in Britain should be taken straight from prison to the airport when they have served their sentence and put on the next plane to their country of birth - if they have been given British citizenship they should lose it.

We cannot afford to assume that those towns and cities where scandals like this have already come to light are the only places where such crimes are taking place. Even if, as I very much hope but do not think we can take for granted, there is nowhere else where child abuse is happening on the industrial scale seen in Rotherham, there have also been similar cases and convictions in Oxford, Derby, and Rochdale. We have to check if anything similar is happening anywhere else.

And above all, Professor Jay is surely right that a huge effort must be made to help and rehabilitate the victims. These vulnerable young people have been failed by society, and they should be helped to rebuild their lives.

Nuttall and Hannan on why they won't be joinng UKIP

David Nuttall, chairman of the "Better off Out" group of MPs and Peers, have both written about why they will not be defecting to UKIP.

David Nuttall MP explained yesterday why he will be staying in the Conservative Party on the Conservative Home website yesterday here: Daniel Hannan MEP explained on 20th August here, and reiterated after the Carswell defection that he stands by all the arguments in that post.

Both point out that if the Conservatives win the 2015 election there will be a referendum on EU membership and that if Labour wins, there won't.

Dan goes on to write

"If David Cameron had not offered an In/Out referendum, I would not have been able to fight the recent European election as a Conservative. But he did; and Ukip is in denial about it.

“You can’t believe a word Cameron says!” snarl my commenters, many of whom have convinced themselves, in a kind of false recovered memory syndrome, that he fought the last general election promising a referendum.

"As a matter of fact, I don’t think the PM has ever pretended to be anti-EU; I’d have less respect for him if he had. He made only two commitments when he ran for the leadership: that he’d pull his MEPs out of the European People’s Party; and that individual parliamentarians would be free to campaign against EU membership. He delivered on both."

Dan concludes that he fears the prospect, if Labour sneak in on a derisory share of the vote through divisions among their opponents, of

 "A decade of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. A decade of Labour’s wastrel incontinence. A decade of deeper European integration."

Personally I am not convinced that Britain ought to leave, but I am convinced that we should have a referendum on the subject. Because we have to settle the question "In or Out" and the only way to do that is to give the British people the choice. I'm not supporting a referendum because I'm fanatically pro-Europe or anti-Europe, but because I am pro democracy.

The best piece I have read on how sad it is that Douglas Carswell, a good man who has made a tragically bad decision, decided to join UKIP, was written by Matthew Ancona in the Telegraph, called "Carswell has just made a Labour victory more likely."

As Ancona writes, 

"His powers of persuasion presumably remain undimmed, but his powers of judgment have gone on a long weekend."

" ... by adding his political heft to Ukip, he has helped Ed Miliband, who will often be the beneficiary of Farage’s party taking votes from the Tories in marginal seats. What possible comfort can Carswell derive from making a Labour victory more likely?"

"His contention that all the main parties are the same, though fashionable, is also daft. “Different clique, same sofa” is a good T-shirt slogan. But that’s all. Is Carswell seriously suggesting that the reforms enacted by Michael Gove in schools and by Iain Duncan Smith in the welfare system would have gone ahead if Labour had clung on in 2010?"


Quote of the day 30th August 2014

"In order to exit the EU, we need David Cameron to be Prime Minister in 2017 - the year when we will get the in/out referendum, our chance to vote to leave the EU."

(Douglas Carswell, then a Conservative MP, writing in The Daily Telegraph, 15 April 2014)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Terrorism threat level raised to "Severe"

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that Britain's terrorism threat level has been raised from "substantial" to "severe" in response to conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

The new alert level rates the risk of an attack on the UK "highly likely", although Mrs May said there was no evidence to suggest one was "imminent".

It is the second highest of five possible UK threat levels.

Quote of the day 29th August 2014

"Follow your heart, but take your brain with you"

(Alfred Adler)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dan Hannan on how "Anti-Racism" failed the children of Rotherham

Dan Hannam MEP has a good blog item in the Telegraph here about what went wrong in Rotherham.

Racism means pre-judging people according to the colour of their skin or what community they belong to.

Anti-racism must not mean being afraid to take action against people from any particular community, and that is no more or less true when the people concerned have black or brown skins as when they are white. What has been called "Anti-racism" in Rotherham appears to have actually been, in effect, inverted racism.

A real anti-racist should support taking action when the evidence justifies it, regardless of who that evidence is against.

Quote of the day 28th August 2014

“The problem is that the people with the most ridiculous ideas are always the people who are most certain of them."

( Bill Maher )

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I am still trying to take in the sheer horror of what appears to have happened at Rotherham: that so many children should have had their lives blighted by sexual abuse over such a long period and that the authorities so signally failed to protect them.

The report by Professor Alexis Jay, the former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, which suggests that at a"conservative estimate" 1,400 children were abused over a 16 year period in Rotherham is so shocking that it is difficult to find adeqaate words to describe it.

As Randeep Ramesh wrote in the Guardian  here,

"The putrid mess that oozes from the 160 pages of Alexis Jay's report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham is so thick that one gags rather than read the words."

Mark Easton of the BBC argues here that the scale of sexual abuse of children which has always gone on in this country "beggars belief" and we are ony just becoming aware of it.

I don't know whether the proportions of people being abused in this country can be quite as vast as the numbers quoted in the article.

But from recent prosecutions and the report published there is quite enough evidence to conclude that all Police forces and Local Authorities with responsibilty for children should be asking themselves

1) Could it happen here?

2) Is it happening here?

3) If the answer either of the above questions above were yes,  do we have adequate measures in place to protect children?

I find it particularly depressing that, as Dan Hodges argues  here, it appears that the criminals selected tehir victims on a racial basis and that fear of being falsely accused of racism may have hindered dealing with them.

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the law applies to everyone and that child abuse is wrong and illegal whether it is perpetrated by white men, by white women, by asian men, or anyone else.

It is racist to jump to assumptions about someone's guilt or innocence without evidence because of their race. It is not racist to investigate whether there is any truth in allegations or to act on evidence regardless of the racial identity of those accused.

It also cannot be emphasised too strongly that anyone accused of child abuse must, if there is inadequate evidence to justify a prosecution, be cleared, and if there is, must be given a fair trial. Both failing to act on accurate allegations of child abuse, and spreading or acting on incorrect ones, has great potential to wreck innocent lives.

All allegations of historic or contemporary child abuse must be carefully investigated without pre-judging guilt or innocence.

Quote of the day 27th August 2014

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

( Niels Bohr )

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quote of the day 26th August 2014

“That which is currently beyond your capabilities now, does not have to be so forever”
( Chris Murray )

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quote of the day 25th August 2014

“Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”
( Albert Einstein )

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Is this the most ridiculous prosecution ever brought?

There have been some utterly daft prosecutions in the past on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the "Twitmarsh" books about how to annoy bureaucrats published by the late Sir Patrick Moore under the pen-name "R. T. Fishall" gave a case where a British utility realised just in time that a badly programmed computer had initiated a prosecution to recover an unpaid bill for £0.00 and human lawyers dropped the case less than 24 hours before it would have come to court.

(If you want a laugh, the books are "Bureaucrats: how to annoy them" and "The Twitmarsh Files" and neither has dated all that much in the forty years since they were published.)

But, as the Economist reports this week here, the current prosecution of Texas governor Rick Perry has been condemned even by opponents who think him "one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America” but that the charges against him appear to be "an overzealous prosecution."

The above quotes from from the New York Times - the prosecution was described as “Unbelievably ridiculous” by Jonathan Chait of New York magazine.

The row which led to the absurd charges against Governor Perry began whem the District Attorney General of Travis County was convicted of drunken-driving and sentenced to 45 days in prison. Rick Perry called for her resignation. I find it astonishing that any reasonable person could disagree and according to "The Economist" many democrats privately agreed with him.

However, the DA refused to go, and at this point Governor Perry apparently threatened to use his line-item veto to remove the funding of a department in her office unless she stepped down. A few days later he did use that line-item veto.

As "The Economist" says, the veto

"though unusual, was surely legal. The governor has a line-item veto and does not have to give reasons for using it. As for the veto threat, Mr Perry’s legal team insist that any such communication, if it occurred, was political speech protected by the First Amendment. The prosecutor seems to regard the normal cut-and-thrust of politics as a crime."

Quite.Or else this prosecution was, purely and simply, an act of revenge.

Quote of the day 24th August 2014

"The 'Islamic State' is Islamic in much the same way that the 'Democratic people's republic of Korea' is Democratic."

(Murtaza Hussein)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Proof you can have a civilised debate about the Indyref ...

Many of the debates I have heard, or have read on the internet, about the forthcoming Scottish Independence referendum have been quite bad tempered.

But if you want proof that it is possible to have a civilised discussion about the forthcoming decision Scotland has to make in which both sides were almost entirely positive and constructive about their vision for the future of these Islands, and addressed their opponents with courtesy and respect, you could not do better than the discussion on the BBC radio four "Any Questions" programme last night from Melrose in Scotland.

The panellists were historian and commentator Sir Anthony Seldon, microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington, actress and comedienne Elaine Smith and businessman Tony Banks.

The programme will be broadcast again at 1.10pm today or you can listen to it here.

Quote of the day 23rd August 2014

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
( George Orwell )

Friday, August 22, 2014

IDS writes on the latest employment figures

Secretary of State for Work ad Pensions Ian Duncan Smith writes ...


This month we saw the biggest annual fall in unemployment in 25 years - and the biggest annual fall in youth unemployment since records began.

Being able to find a job is the most important way to improve people's standard of living. Our long-term economic plan is helping to create more real jobs and giving more people the security of a pay packet to provide for themselves and their families.

To get this important news out there - please share this graphic on Facebook and Twitter today:

1.8 million more people in work

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Labour's Great Recession led to the biggest economic crash in living memory. People lost their jobs, and families were hit hard. We're fixing the mess they left behind.

By backing Britain's businesses - cutting the jobs tax, cutting red tape, and investing in vital infrastructure like roads, rail and broadband - we've helped create 1.8 million more jobs.

And Labour still haven't learnt their lesson. They're planning to increase the jobs tax - hitting small and medium-sized businesses and putting jobs at risk.

Share our graphic on Facebook and Twitter today, and let everyone know that while Labour costs jobs, the Conservatives create them.


Iain Duncan Smith
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

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Quote of the day 22nd August 2014

“People have an annoying habit of remembering things they shouldn't.”
( Christopher Paolini )

Amazing that this quote came from a novelist rather than a politician.   

Murder in the name of God

All violent deaths are to be regretted, and the murder of a helpless hostage or prisoner who has not been convicted of any crime is particularly shocking.

Although religious fanatics have no monopoly on murder in the name of their beliefs - atheistic regimes such as those in the Soviet Union and China also killed millions of people for daring to disagree with them - it is even more incomprehensible to me that people can kill vast numbers in the name of religions which teach Peace, Love and Forgiveness.

In past centuries some people who called themselves Christians inflicted barbaric cruelties in the extraordinary belief that they were serving a God who, when incarnate in the form of Jesus, gave the most explicit imaginable instructions against such cruelty in words like

"Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you"

and, ordering one of his disciples who was trying to use force to defend him to desist,

"those who live by the sword shall die by the sword."

These days the most vile acts of cruelty and murder are most often committed by those who, while they have a slightly different view of the same God, refer to Him as "The Compassionate, the Merciful" and call their religion by a word which translates into English as "Peace."

Let me stress that I personally know many Muslims who are civilised, tolerant, compassionate people who are thoroughly integrated into British society and are as horrified by the actions of Jihadi killers as everyone else. I am certain that such people, and not the extremists, represent the true face of Islam.

But the ghastly murder of James Foley. following on from that of Lee Rigby, the barbarism of the "Islamic State" (formerly ISIS) and the fact that apparently hundreds of Brits have gone out to fight for them, is an indication that we have a real social and security problem with Islamic extremism.

One solution which is sometimes suggested and which absolutely will not work is to withdraw from the world and imagine that if we "Leave them alone and they'll leave us alone." The grain of truth in this is that where a foreign intervention goes wrong as the US/UK invasion of Iraq did, it can generate more support for Islamic extremism.

Unfortunately it is also true that when the West does NOT intervene in cases where hardline Islamic believers think we should have, as in Bosnia, Gaza, and Syria to give just three examples, the hardliners get cross about this too.

I don't think there is a magic wand we can wave in response to the problems of Islamic extremism, but it is very important that

 1) We come down hard on those against whom there is sufficient evidence to prosecute them for any crime, and

  2) We avoid draconian measures against the innocent and do not try to lump all Muslims in with the Jihadis.

  3) We must be more vigilant without knee-jerk reactions or panic measures which would destroy the freedoms which make Britain a place worth fighting for and living in.

  4) There must be one law for everyone in the UK and it must be the same law for everyone.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's the difference between this mug and Ed Miliband?

The Conservatives are offering a limited edition mug to anyone who donates £20 to the party's general election campaign fund.
As they point out, the unions are giving Labour £1,000 an hour to try to make Ed Miliband Prime Minister.

So what is the difference bertween this mug and the leader of the opposition?

One is a staggeringly expensive mug - and the other is the latest Conservative fundraising idea.

Ed Miliband isn't even in office and he's already put up the price of gas. Every taxpayer is paying more tax towards the billions of pounds extra in interest payments on vast sums which Brown, Balls, and Miliband borrowed when they were last in office, doubling the national debt to £1.2 trillion.

Can we really afford to find out how much more  Labour would cost ordinary British citizens if they won the next election? It would certainly be a lot more than £20 for a mug.

If you want to get a mug to help make sure Britain doesn't, click here to donate £20 or more today - and you'll get a limited edition mug to say thank you for helping to secure a better future for Britain.

Donate to receive your limited edition mug

Quote of the day 21st August 2014

"A friend is one who sees through you and still enjoys the view"

(Wilma Askinas)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CPI inflation falls to 1.6%

Following last week's good employment news the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of UK annual inflation fell in the 12 month period to last month to 1.6% compared with 1.9% in the period ending the previous month.

This is a larger fall than forecasters had been predicting  Economists had expected CPI inflation to fall to 1.8% in July.

The ONS said consumer price inflation for the three month period to the end of July was 1.7%.

The RPI meaure of inflation which includes house prices also fell, but from 2.6% to 2.5%

It means the Bank of England is not under pressure to raise interest rates in order to keep CPI inflation at or below its target rate of 2%

Last week, Bank policymaker Professor David Miles told the BBC he believed inflation was likely to remain below target for some time to come. He added that this was a "very good news" as it meant the Bank was not "going to be pushed into raising interest rates sharply or immediately because the inflation outlook remains pretty subdued".

BBC News Business editor Kamal Ahmed wrote that
"Although today's inflation figures are important for their impact on rail fares, it is worth considering the broader economic picture and growing evidence that the UK is in an incredibly benign inflation cycle."

The ONS also released house price data for June which showed the rise in property values eased slightly to 10.2%, from 10.4% in May.

Quote of the day 19th August 2014 - an ironic quote

If there is one quote which is most often used to mean the exact opposite of what the person who first put the words together actually meant, it is the following

"Thou shalt not kill, but needst not strive officiously to keep alive."

This comes from "The Latest Decalogue" by Arthur Clough, writing in the 19th century, and every line is dripping with irony. I don't know how he would have reacted had he been told that a century later, as Dominc Lawson pointed out this week, one of his commandments would regularly be used as if it were meant to be taken literally, often in the context of euthanasia.

The best way to show how this was not the meaning of those words is to quote the whole thing. There are two versions, one known as the "Harvard" version reproduced below, and a similar one held at the British Museum.

To illustrate the point I have shown in bold the lines which echo the ten commandments, and in italics how Clough suggested people of his time were completely evading the spirit of those moral principles even when usually paying lip-service to the letter of them.

The Latest Decalogue

Thou shalt have one God only; who
Would tax himself to worship two?

God's image nowhere shalt thou see,
Save haply in the currency:

Swear not at all; since for thy curse
Thine enemy is not the worse:

At church on Sunday to attend
Will help to keep the world thy friend:

Honor thy parents; that is, all
From whom promotion may befall:

Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive
Officiously to keep alive:

Adultery it is not fit
Or safe, for women, to commit:

Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
When 'tis so lucrative to cheat:

False witness not to bear be strict;
And cautious, ere you contradict.

Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
Sanctions the keenest competition.

 Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Innocent until proven guilty?

Taking sexual advantage of a vulnerable position, especially a child, is a vile thing to do, and those who can be proven in court to have acted in that way should be punished.

But false or mistaken accusations of that kind of conduct can also wreck the lives of innocent people.

We have already had the situation where an elderly and totally innocent man who had served his country with distinction had the last few months of his life ruined because the BBC broadcast an inadequately-checked story.

The greatest care needs to be taken to balance the needs of cracking down on genuine abuse while respecting the privacy of victims and accused and, in everyone's interests, making sure that there is a fiar trial.

Tipping off journalists to be there with their cameras when there is to be a raid on the property of someone who has not yet been charged or interviewed is not a good idea. This practice must stop

Trial by media is not the best way to establish guilt or innocence

Philip Hammond on the MIddle East and Ukraine

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond writes:

I wanted to update you on the situations in Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine.

Although thousands of miles away, these events affect us all - and you can follow the British Government's response on the Prime Minister's Facebook page.


As David Cameron wrote yesterday, we are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology.

ISIL is an extremely dangerous terrorist movement, determined to expand its influence and control well beyond Iraq and Syria. It is a clear danger to Europe and to our security here in Britain.

So while we are not going to get involved in another war in Iraq, we will do everything we can to push ISIL back: helping the Kurds fighting against these extremists; working with the Iraqi Government; and using our political relationships, our aid and our military expertise to help the Americans and others who are taking direct military action against them.

And we will continue to help deal with the humanitarian crisis in the region, providing aid to those trapped on
Mount Sinjar and in refugee camps.


We are calling on all parties to extend the current ceasefire and work towards a lasting peace.
The current negotiations are not easy. But there is no other viable option than a comprehensive negotiated solution that will allow both Israeli and Palestinian people to live in peace and security.

Ultimately, we must see a return to talks on a negotiated two-state solution, which remains the only way to resolve the conflict and end the human suffering it causes once and for all.

In the meantime, the UK has already contributed £17 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and deployed a world-class team of NHS medics to help those injured in the conflict.


We are committed to Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
We condemn Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and reports of Russian military equipment crossing the border into Ukraine - and we have been at the forefront of EU measures to impose sanctions on Russia, including asset freezes, export restrictions and an arms embargo.

Events in all three areas are changing rapidly - so please follow the Prime Minister's Facebook page today to keep up to date with developments.


Philip Hammond
Foreign Secretary

Quote of the day 18th August 2014

'In England, if you commit a crime, the police don't have a gun and you don't have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say, "Stop, or I'll say stop again"'

(The late Robin Williams)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

DC on keeping the UK together

David Cameron writes ...

I'm passionate about the United Kingdom.

Working together, our family of nations has achieved so much over the years. Our armed forces have defeated dictators and defended freedom, our inventions have shaped the modern world, and our businesses export to every corner of the globe while creating jobs at home.

And if we keep working together, even brighter days lie ahead for all of us.

On 18th September, Scotland will vote on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom. While only 4 million people have a vote in this referendum, all 64 million of us have a part to play.

Whether you're Scottish, English, Welsh or Northern Irish, you can join the campaign to keep the United
Kingdom together. If you are on Facebook, please share this graphic with your friends and family.

Let's Stick Together

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Whether it's sending postcards or putting a Let's Stick Together sticker in your car, there are many ways you can play your part in this vital campaign.

There is so much at stake - and I really need you to get involved. If you want to keep our family of nations together, please do all you can to help.


David Cameron

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Come back the Silly Season, all is forgiven

I've just returned to West Cumbria after a short family holiday in various parts of the UK.

Most of the holiday was great and it was wonderful to see those of our relatives who we managed to meet, and attend a very happy event yesterday, the wedding of our friends Stephen Haraldsen and Genna Martin.

The one downer on an otherwise wonderful week was that whenver we put the TV or radio on, to say that much of the news has been somewhat depressing would be rather an understatement.

Usually at this time of the year there is a dearth of real news so we get the so called "Silly Season" when newspapers and the TV cover all sorts of daft stories which would usually get spiked.

This year however there is a vast amount of news, all too much of if the sort of thing we could all too easily do without, from a ghastly war in Gaza, fighting in Ukraine which has resulted in suffering for the people of that area and a planeload of 300 innocent people including scores of children blasted out of the sky because of someone else's quarrel, large areas of Iraq and Syria falling into the hands of the "Islamic State" (formerly ISIS), genocidal new threat which is so bloodthirsty that it has been disowned even by Al Queda, much of Europe going back into recession, etc, etc, etc ...

So not so many "Silly Season" nonsensical stories and lots of horrible ones.

Come back the "Silly Season", all is forgiven.

Quote of the day 17th August 2014

"Cricket is basically baseball on valium"

(The late Robin Williams.)

For the avoidance of doubt I love cricket and don't agree with this - nobody who has ever sat spellbound watching a run-chase at the end of a cricket match could - but it has just enough truth in it to be extremely funny)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quote of the day, 16th August 2014

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God"

(This quote from the letter of Paul to the Romans, Chapter 8 verses 38 and 39, is for two very good friends of mine, Stephen Haraldsen and Genna Martin, who are getting married today.) 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quote of the day 15th August 2014

"The second amendment says we have the right to bear arms, not to bear artillery."

(Robin Williams)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grant Shapps writes on Labour's tax plans

Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps writes on Labour's tax plans:

First, Labour's Deputy Leader said, 'People on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes' (Harriet Harman, LBC Radio, 14/07/14).

Then, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary promised to 'embrace' a 15% death tax which would cost the average taxpayer £46,000 (Andy Burnham, The Daily Telegraph, 30/07/14).

And now, a senior Labour figure is calling for the Party to extend their planned tax on the family home to properties worth £400,000 in the North of England - hitting an estimated 210,000 more families (Sunday Express, 10/08/14).

Labour want to hit hardworking families like yours with more taxes - help stop them by donating £20 today.

Labour's commitment to tax the family home is one of many tax rises they're planning for after the next election:
  • A rise in National Insurance, the tax on jobs (Observer, 20/04/14)
  • Higher fuel duty, because they oppose our fuel duty stabiliser (Labour Press Conference Q&A, 11/01/11)
  • A rise in corporation tax, putting jobs at risk (Financial Times, 24/09/13)
  • A graduate tax (Daily Politics, 02/04/14)
  • A tax on pensions (BBC News, 20 September 2013; HM Treasury, Budget 2013)
Labour want hardworking taxpayers to foot the bill for their wasteful spending. Donate £20 today and let's make sure they never get into power:

Donate today

Grant Shapps
Conservative Party Chairman

P.S. Every pound makes a difference to our campaign, so please donate whatever you can today.

Quote of the day 14th August 2014

"If it's the Psychic network, why do they need a phone number"

(One of the late Robin Williams' best lines)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quote of the day 13th August 2014

"Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?"

(Robin Williams)

Robin Williams RIP

The tragedy of the great entertainer who is terribly unhappy in his own life is so well known that it is almost a cliché, but the late Robin Williams who tragically killed himself yesterday, appears to be an extreme example.

He made millions of people laugh, and he also made people think. He will be remembered with affection and he will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quote of the day 12th August 2014

"To none will we sell, to none will we delay, to none will we deny right or justice"

(From the Magna Carta. Judging by the Eccleston case this principle does not apply in German courts ...)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quote of the day 11th August 2014

“There are but two ways of paying debt: Increase of industry in raising income, increase of thrift in laying out.”

(Thomas Carlyle)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Quote of the day 10th August 2014

“Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.”

(Ambrose Bierce, from "The Devil's Dictionary)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Quote of the day 9th August 2014

A hundred wagon loads of thoughts will not pay a single ounce of debt.”

(Italian Proverb)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Quote of the day 8th August 2014

"For those who object to a new nuclear repository I have one question - where do they think the stuff is now?"

(Jim King, local resident and Sellafield worker)

Jim put that to me shortly after showing a party of students from Manchester around Sellafield. One of the students said she opposed the idea of a new repository, saying that we shold not make any more waste. Jim pointed out to her that this was not mainly about new waste but finding the best and safest long-term storage place for the nuclear waste Britain already has, and she asked "where is it now?"

On being told that quite a lot of it was about two metres under her feet at that very moment, her perspective shifted somewhat ...

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Grief and suffering in Gaza

The Prime Minister regrets that Baroness Warsi has decided to stand down and is grateful for the excellent work that she has done both as a Minister and in Opposition.

Our policy has always been clear - the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

We now have a 72 hour ceasefire. Our objective now is to make that permanent so the killing stops.

Israel and Hamas are currently observing a 72 hour ceasefire

We welcome this ceasefire. It’s an important first step to ending the suffering of the people of Gaza and creating the space for discussions on how to resolve the underlying issues on both sides. We urge both sides to respect it.

Our priority now is to support the talks in Egypt and to find a way forward that brings a lasting end to the violence. There needs to be a clear path to real change in Gaza if we are to avoid future conflict and improve life for ordinary Palestinians, as well as addressing Israel’s legitimate security needs.

We are also pressing for urgent measures to relieve the humanitarian suffering of those in Gaza. The UK is already providing more than £15m in emergency assistance to help tens of thousands of Palestinians affected.

Quote of the day 7th August 2014

“The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor.”


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Blogger problems

Some difficulty with blogger this lunchtime - kept telling me that it could not save or publish my post then saved it half-a-dozen times and published both the initial and completed versions - and then I could not get into it to vorrect the matter.

Still it could be worse for Blogger - they could be Scottish TV's internet service ! I think STV must have been hacked by Nats who didn't want people to see Salmond's poor performance.

P.S. for those without a sense of humour, the previous paragraph is something called a joke.

Labour plans would mean £500 Billion more debt

See the "share the facts" website  here for details of how Labour's spending plans would saddle the country with more debt, and more interest on that debt.

While there is more to do, our long-term economic plan is working. The deficit is down by over a third, the economy is growing at the fastest rate in the developed world and 1.8 million more people wake up in the morning knowing they have the security of a job.

But Labour haven’t learnt their lesson. Their policy would add £35,000 of debt for every child in the country over the next two decades - more debt than future generations could ever hope to repay.

Labour are the biggest risk to Britain’s economic security. Only by working through our long-term economic plan and finishing the job of eliminating the deficit will we secure a better, brighter future for our country.

New investment in the north of England.

Conservatives want the great northern cities to work with us over the coming months and together we will make a reality of the plan we’ve set out for the Northern Powerhouse - an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns in the northern belt radically better connected from east to west - to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city.

Conserative ministers in the coalition government are ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science. And real new civic power too. This comes on top of action already taken to build a new north-south railway, HS2, and give our great northern cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Hull more tools to grow through City Deals.

Yesterday the Chancellor set out the Pathway to this Northern Powerhouse, so as to deliver a real improvement in the long term economic performance of the north of England. This will be a centrepiece of the Autumn Statement - and part of our long term plan to build a healthier economy and a brighter future for the whole country, meaning more security and greater peace of mind for hardworking taxpayers.

Quote of the day 6th August 2014

“Interest on debts grows without rain.”

(Yiddish Proverb)

Initial polls suggest 56% to 44% win for Darling in Independence TV debate

A ICM poll for the Guardian poll found that, contrary to expectations that First Minister Alex Salmond would win tonight's TV debate on Scottish Independence, the chairman of the "No Thanks" campaign, Alistair Darling, was considered to have won by 56% of viewers expressing an opinion.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Consistency on Immigraton policy

There was a post on the New Statesman's rolling politics blog, "The Staggers" yesterday, which had the provocative title

Politicians will never please the public on immigration so they should stop trying.

Now, I cannot and won't go all the way with this article - no one who aspires to be involved in the politics of a democratic country can or should "stop trying" to meet the voter's concerns on any important issue even though you will never be able to please everyone.

However, the article does make some important points.

And the line

"we demand that our politicians serve us a dish of fried snowballs and then feign disappointment when they fail to deliver it."

is not merely amusing but contains a worrying amount of truth.

You can read the full article  here.

Cumbria Police & Crime Commissioner to hold surgeries in Barrow and Maryport

Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner, Richard Rhodes, will hold surgeries to meet local residents in Barrow on Monday 11 August and Maryport on Thursday 14 August.

Mr Rhodes is inviting people to go along and share their views about policing in the county.

The first event will be in The Forum, Barrow between 12-2pm on Monday 11 August and the second will be at The Wave Centre, Maryport between 2-4pm on Thursday 14 August.

Pre-booked appointments can be made for the first hour. To book a time slot, please email or ring 01768 217734. Alternatively feel free to drop in to see the Commissioner without an appointment.

Richard Rhodes said: “A key responsibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner is listening to the views of the people of Cumbria and using them to influence the future policing in the county. It is important that as many people as possible could come along to the surgeries and share their issues and views.”

Quote of the day 5th August 2014

“Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them.”

(Ogden Nash)

Monday, August 04, 2014

We Will Remember Them

I have programmed this post to appear at 10.00pm BST, the moment at which people all over the UK will be marking the centenary of Britain's entry into what was known to those who lived through it as "The Great War."

We will be putting out the lights as we remember those who died.

They went to fight hoping that they were taking part in "The war to end wars" but it only ended the lives of millions of people.

The first four lines of verse which conclude this post are from a poem called "For The Fallen" or the "Ode of Remembrance" which was written in September 1914.

As is traditional at Remembrance commemorations, I have also added another few lines which come from a memorial to those who died in a second great conflict a generation later.

"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."

"When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today."

Lights out in one hour

In one hour, at 10pm BST, we will put out the lights to mark the centenary of Britain's entry into the First World War and remember all those who died in that terrible conflict.

A hundred years ago yesterday as I noted here in yesterday's "Quote of the day," the then foreign secretary remarked that "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

Like people all over the UK, we will douse the lamps, light a candle instead, and say a prayer in memory of those who died.

Lest We Forget

One of the things which brings home to me the hideous cost of war, through the particuarly awful cost of the war which began for Britain one hundred years ago today, is one of the names which isn't on a war memorial.

As a child I regularly visited my Grandfather's house in Darwen, Lancashire, which is a few yards from Bold Venture Park.

That park is the site of the town's war memorial. Darwen is not a particularly large town. It's population in the last census before the First World War, in 1911, was about 40,000.

Almost every town and city in Britan, and the vast majority of villages, have a memorial to residents of the aree who were killed in the great wars of the 20th century. In most towns and cities the size of Darwen, and in many which are quite a lot bigger,  the memorial lists the names of those people.

But when the citizens of Darwen commissoned a memorial, to those killed in what was then usually known as "The Great War" they did not have that option.

The Cenotaph in Darwen was unveiled in 1921 by a mother who had lost three sons in the war.

Instead of listing the names of the war dead, this is what it said.

I cannot fully comprehend how awful it must have been when a town of 40,000 citizens lost 1,200 people, but I understand enough to know that there would not have been a family in the town who hadn't lost someone close to them.

My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who came back. His younger brother, Fusilier Robert Whiteside of the Lancashire Fusiliers, was one of those who didn't. He died as a result of enemy action in 1918 at the age of 18, just six weeks before the end of the war.

So my great uncle's name is one of those which doesn't appear on the war memorial because a small town did not have room to write down the names of all those who died.

But every one of those people was somebody's son or daughter, and all too many of them were also someone's husband or lover, some child's father.

We must never forget their sacrifice or the price of war.

"At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them."

Quote of the day 4th August 2014

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?

Then Abram bound the youth with belts and strops,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.

When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one."

(Wilfred Owen)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Lights out at 10pm tomorrow

To mark the centenary of Britain's entry into the Great War tomorrow, lights will be switched out between 10pm and 11pm.

Public buildings will douse their lights and it is suggested that where possible households also switch off electric lights and light one or more candles to commomorate the ghastly tragedy which took place a hundred years ago tomorrow.

The more we can ensure that everyone understands and remembers the ghastly cost of war, less likely we are to have to repeat it.

The nations who sent their troops to war a hundred years ago hoped for a short victorious war, the young men to fight hoped and expected that it would be all over by Christmas.

Let us learn from their sacrifice and remember them.

Quote of the day 3rd August - first said on 3rd August 1914

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

(Sir Edward Grey, Britain's Foreign Secretary, first said a hundred years ago today on the even of the First World War.

His memoirs record:

A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.")

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Quote of the day 2nd August 2014 - Robert Halfon MP on the conflict in Gaza.

The following quotes are extracts from a superb article which Robert Halfon MP posted on his blog yesterday. You can read the full post here.

"I condemn, without equivocation – those who cause – whether Arab or Israeli - the loss of innocent life, whether it be through serious negligence - or deliberate targeting of civilians. They should be brought to justice - to account for what has occurred. I despair for the loss or injury of every innocent civilian, whether it be Israeli or Arab."

"I condemn the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in the Syrian Area of Yarmouk by Assad’s chemical weapons, his siege, and wish the world would not ignore the plight of Palestinians in areas other than Gaza."

"I condemn Hamas for deliberately using civilians as a human shield and hiding missiles in Mosques, hospitals and schools."

"I condemn Hamas for deliberately firing missiles onto Israeli towns and civilian areas. 11,000, since the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and 2,825 in the past few months. If Israel had not had a missile defence system, thousands of Israelis would have died. 300,000 have already left their homes in Southern Israel to avoid missile attack."

"I support a free Middle East, free from terror, free from Hamas, Al Qaeda, and ISIS. An enlightened, Middle East that has real liberty: a rule of law, genuine elections, property rights, religious tolerance, equality towards women and a rejection of terrorism."

"And yes, I support an enlightened Palestinian State – alongside a secure and democratic Israel, free from Hamas and living in peaceful coexistence."

Friday, August 01, 2014

Employment minister Esther McVey on the Long Term Economic Plan

Esther McVey MP writes:

This is important: I need you to add your name to show you're backing our long-term economic plan.

Labour's recession - the longest and deepest since the war - hit businesses and families hard. Our economy shrank, costing jobs and taking away people's livelihoods.

But thanks to a realistic assessment of the challenges we faced and your hard work, Britain is starting to get back on its feet.

Our economy is now larger than it was before Labour's recession - a major milestone in our long-term economic plan. But there's still much more to do.

That's why I'm asking you to get behind our plan today.

We're backing the businesses hit by Labour's recession. We've cut the jobs tax - with 725,000 businesses already benefitting, and able to create more jobs.

Supporting businesses means there are now 1.8 million more people in work, with the security of a pay packet to provide for them and their families.

We're making sure our economy delivers for those who want to work hard and play by the rules - capping benefits, reducing immigration and cutting income tax for over 25 million people.

We're going in the right direction, but we need to keep going and finish the job. That's why I'm asking you to back our plan today.

If we keep going, if we dig deep and all play our part, we can carry on building a stronger, healthier economy and secure a better future for Britain.

Esther McVey
Minister of State for Employment

Donate today

Beware of big percentage changes on a trivial base

One of the oldest tricks in the statistician's book - and one of the most common big mistakes made by people in general and journalists in particular - is to overstate the importance of an apparently large percentage change which represents a small absolute change on a small starting number.

If last year four people in the USA suffered from a rare disease, and this year six people had it, that is a scary-sounding 50% increase.

But measured as a percentage of people in the USA, it's an increase of about one millionth of a percentage point.

(If I had used used the UK instead of the USA as my example, that would have been about four millionths of a percentage point.)

As Scott Adams put into the mouth of his Dilbert character, "Are you expecting a roomful of engineers to get excited about a big percentage increase in a trivial base?"

Engineers, economists and accountants have seen this kind of trap so often that we are slightly less prone to fall into it, but a lot of people do.

There is a funny but all too apposite article up on The Daily Mash" website at the moment called

"Britons impressed by big percentages."

If you understand the first three paragraphs of this post you will probably find the Daily Mash article which I have linked to above very amusing.

If you are not completely clear on why I wrote that a 50% increase could also be an increase of one millionth of a percentage point, you should probably read the Daily Mash article because the humour in the article might help you to understand something rather important about percentages.

Son of MRWS - hunt resumes for solution for Nuclear Waste

The government has publisehd a new White Paper on the long-term solution for nuclear waste, which reiterates than any such proposal must have local public support.
A “test of public opinion that demonstrates community support” will take place ahead of any final decision on the location of a geological disposal facility (GDF).

The white paper says that no one tier of local authority will be able to veto the plans against the wishes of others – and more information on possible locations will be provided earlier in the process.

The plans laid out by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) include:

* a payment of £1million per year for up to five years will be made to councils to enter initial formal discussions, rising to £2.5million per year as the design/planning process begins

* national geological screening will take place before 2016 so that possible locations can be ruled in or out early in the process.

* communities will have the right of withdrawal from discussions at any stage before the test of public support

* community benefits “might include” improved education and skills investment, transport infrastructure and recreation facilities.

Initial discussions are set to take place between now and 2016, with formal discussions to follow for communities that volunteer. Energy secretary Ed Davey said that:

“Geological disposal provides the secure, long-term solution we need to deal with the radioactive waste we have been creating for more than 60 years, and we can learn from the experiences of other countries who are also doing this.

“Building and running a GDF will be a multi-billion-pound infrastructure project, which will bring significant economic benefits to a community.

“We’re setting out our plan to find a suitable site, based on a fundamental principle of listening to people, to make sure we have the right process in place.

“The area that eventually hosts a GDF will benefit from significant investment in the community and hundreds of skilled jobs for decades to come.”

DECC says that: “All levels of local government will have to have a voice but we are keen that no one individual level will have an absolute veto.”

I think that is the right decision but community support in the area which hosts a repository must be proven. I think a local referendum should be held and require a "Yes" vote in the relevant district before a repository can go ahead.

(The image above is taken from the government White Paper, reproduced in a Whitehaven News article giving more details of the proposals which can be read here.)

Quote of the day 1st August 2014

"Blonde, Curly Hair, Grey Eyes"

("Description" given on the ballot paper for a Portland Town Counil election this month (in the box which usually says things like "UK Independence Party" or "Conservative") by former UKIP council candidate Tracey Gough.)