Showing posts from September, 2014

Birmingham Conference Diary - George Osborne's speech in full

"Gathered here in this hall are the representatives of Britain’s great Party of Progress. The Party of enterprise and discovery, of liberty and the law, of the wide open seas and global free trade. And we meet to lay out our case before the nation and to ask it to choose the future not the past. In Broad Street, just around the corner from this conference, stands the statue of the Golden Boys. The three great British pioneers: Matthew Boulton, William Murdoch, and James Watt, are studying intently their plans for the new steam engine. It’s an image that captures a golden age for our country, when the spirit of invention was alive and the marriage of business and science made everything possible. A time when we faced the future with confidence, and weren’t afraid of the big answers to the big questions. I want us to be that Britain. Let’s raise the ambition of the nation so that everyone has the chance to succeed. I believe it is perfectly possible for Britain t

Conference Diary - Osborne, Callaghan, and rejecting the economics of the past

James Callaghan has not gone down in history as a great Prime Minister, but he did get one thing absolutely right, and he showed considerable bravery in telling the Labour conference why they should abandon the economics of the past. Nearly forty years ago, when both I and George Osborne were still at school - in his case Primary school - Jim Callaghan told the Labour conference "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 on borrowed time. For too long this country - all of us, yes, this Conference too - has been ready to settle for borrowing money abroad to maintain our standards of life, instead of grappling with the fundamental problems of British industry." "We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession, and increase employ­ment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you

Conference quote for Tuesday 30th September

"David Haines was a tireless humanitarian worker who helped Muslims….not just in Syria….but in Bosnia, South Sudan and Libya. Two weeks ago, he was murdered by terrorists, simply for being British. His murder followed the equally barbaric killings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American journalists who were reporting to the world the plight of the Syrian people. "The terrorists who murdered David Haines like to call themselves the Islamic State. But I will tell you the truth: They are not Islamic. And they are not a state. Their actions have absolutely no basis in anything written in the Quran. What they believe has no resemblance whatsoever to the beliefs of more than a billion Muslims all over the world. And, like all the other Islamist terrorist organisations, they have caused the deaths of many thousands of innocent Muslim civilians." (later) "The extremists believe in a clash of civilisations - a fundamental incompatibility between Islamic and Western v

Birmingham conference diary - There's only one Boris Johnson ...

I had to watch BoJo's speech, and indeed Theresa May's which preceded it, on the huge TV screen in Hall One because the main Symphony Hall at the Birmingham ICC was packed. Theresa May made a lot of important points which I will probably come back to. What can one say about Boris other than that he is always great value? To paraphrase what was said by the PPC who introduced him, I wish you could bottle whatever it is about his exuberance and humour which makes him so entertaining to listen to - combined, it has to be said, with an ability to dress up what is usually sound common sense in convincing language and give some of it to all the rest of us in the party.

Birmingham conference diary - from evening to morning

For any reading this who has never been to a major party conference - these are massive events in which at least as much happens on the "Fringe" e.g. side events as in the main conference hall. There are events from first thing in the morning to late at night and anyone who is interested even in one or two subjects affecting human beings, never mind a wider range than that, will usually find far more events they would like to attend than you could possibly fit in. So for example last night there was a reception organised by Conservative MEPs, at which the leader of the UK delegation of Conservative MEPs, Syed Kamall, who is also leader of the "ECR" (European Conservatives and Reformists) group in the parliament, made a plug for the ECR meeting at 7.45 am this morning. He jokingly suggested that people attending both didn't need to go to bed in between. In fact I was one of the people who did attend both, and will probably fit in a post at some time this we

William Hague on the 2015 election campaign and Team 2015

William Hague writes ... It was 37 years ago that I first stood on stage at Conference. And over those four decades I have watched this Party, the Conservative Party, rescue our country from debt-fuelled Labour governments not once, but twice. I've seen us give millions of people the chance to own their own homes and help small businesses to thrive. In the last four years alone, we have capped benefits and brought net immigration down from its peak under Labour. We've cut income tax for over 25 million people, created nearly two million apprenticeships, helped 1.8 million more people into work, cut the European budget for the first time in history, and given Britain the fastest growth of any leading Western nation. The coming election is therefore a choice: between more of this good progress or a lurch back to the days when Gordon Brown not only ran out of everybody else's money, but Ed Balls and Ed Miliband actually advised him on how to do it. You can p

Quote of the day 30th September 2014

"Whatever the problem, and solution which involves taxpayers funding more politicians is definitely not the answer." (Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Conservative Conference speech yesterday)

Birmingham Conference Diary - George Osborne on Pensions

There was so much in the chancellor's speech this morning that it justified more than one post,  so this is the second of three. Probably the worst of Gordon Brown's many disastrous mistakes was the £6 billion a year raid on pension funds. This was the biggest reason why, as even the more intelligent Labour politicians such as Frank Field MP recognise, having inherited one of the strongest pensions positions in Europe Labour reduced Britain to having one of the worst. I would love to see that £6 billion raid on pensions reversed, but when you need to cut spending or raise taxes by a net £25 billion a year - that's the official Treasury view of the structural deficit - scrapping a £6 billion a year tax is not easy to do. But we do need to find clever ways to increase incentives for people to invest in pensions. Giving people more control over their own pensions was an excellent start. Dramatically scaling back or scrapping the tax clawback on leaving your heirs the rem

Conference quote for Monday 29th September

"I used to hear the phrase 'you need to work hard to get a good job.' Why did I never hear the phrase 'You need to work hard so that you can CREATE good jobs.' ?" (Jamie Dodd, a 22-year old entrepreneur who addressed the Conference, referring to the fact that few of his generation will spend all their working lives employed by one organisation, and most are expected to find a good proportion of their working lives in some form of self-employment.)

Birmingham Conference Diary - Osborne reiterates support for Nuclear Power

During a powerful and wide-ranging speech today (of which more later) the Chancellor George Osborne gave a whole series of examples of how the people who built our modern Britain would have made the brave decisions which chose the future over the past. One of the things he singled out was the need for a new generation of nuclear power stations. He also spoke about the need, without reducing the engine of growth which is London, to build more growth in the rest of the country, and build a "Northern Powerhouse" connecting our great Northern cities.

WCH Meeting this evening

There is a public meeting this evening (Monday 29th September), at 7pm at Whitehaven Rugby League Ground, to discuss services at West Cumberland Hospital. The public meeting was organised by mother Siobhan Gearing who started a Facebook campaign to support services at the hospital. Guest speakers will include local politicians and former West Cumberland hospital consultant Mahesh Dhebar. There will also be representatives from North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The campaign website page is and questions can be emailed to wchcquestions@gmail.com01 As I am currently away at Conservative conference in Birmingham (the conference was planned for this date years ago, and I booked to attend well before this meeting was called) I will sadly not be able to attend but I hope there is a good turnout which shows community support for our local hospital.

Quote of the day 29th September 2014

“A hangover is the wrath of grapes.” ( Dorothy Parker  )

Conference quote for Sunday 28th September

"There's no such thing as government money. "The only money that government has is the money it takes from the taxpayer." (Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives) I had to hastily scrabble for pen and paper to get this one down and may not have the words absolutely right, but this was certainly the sense of what Ruth said - interrupted half way through by thunderous clapping, because she didn't need to finish the line before the audience realised what she was saying and warmly applauded.)

Birmingham Conference Diary - Sunday afternoon

The first afternoon of this year's Conservative Conference rapidly took on something of the characteristic of a rally. Having given a fairly robust performance to a private Conservative audience earlier in the morning, party chairman Grant Shapps gave a rousing performance to open the conference proper. Mostly knockabout stuff, but with a strong list of achievements. He also made the first announcement of the conference - after listing some of the things which make Birmingham a great British city, he announced that the Conservatives have signed a deal to come back here in 2016, 2018, and 2020. For anyone who thinks that the way a party manages its' own affairs may give a clue to how it may manage those of the country, he pointed out that the Conservatives were in a position to sign such a deal because the party is now debt-free. Let's hope this is an indicator that the Conservatives may succeed in moving Britain closer to being debt-free - it certainly seems reasonabl

Birmingham conference diary - Sunday morning

Travelled down to Telford yesterday evening and came into Birmingham this morning. As is always the case for a major party conference, a significant proportion of the City centre cordoned off. The hotels will have done very will out of the conference, some other traders less so  - last time I looked there was a net commercial benefit to cities of hosting a big conference but there can be some inconvenience involved. Hope we don't cause too much for Birmingham this time. There are more than 5,000 representatives attending the conference this time, all at their own expense, which I understand is a record. The Sunday morning is the "National Conservative Convention" which basically is mostly the constituency chairmen with some Area and Regional officers added. "Ordinary party members" which now includes me are also entitled to attend but not speak or vote. I was a member of the Convention until nine days ago, when I stood down as Cumbria chairman on finishi

Quote of the day Sunday 28th September 2014

“Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.”    ( Robertson Davies )

Quote of the day Saturday 27th September 2014

"Under any government, we face up to a further five years of austerity in public sector spending". "The first five years have been challenging but the second five years are likely to prove even harder for three reasons:" "Firstly, the easier savings have already been made. "Secondly, we are likely to be doing it against a background of a growing economy and greater competition for good staff. "Thirdly, the sense of urgency that underpinned the first savings programme will be reduced. "In reality, the task is not yet complete. But this will be hard to explain to those in the public sector, including our own staff, who are looking for some relief." (Sir Bob Kerslake, outgoing head of the UK civil service, speaking at the "Institute for Government" think tank this week.)

The least worst option

There are times when there is no good option and you have to pick between a choice of bad ones. That was the situation facing MPs today. There were all sorts of good reasons why MPs might have been reluctant to commit British military forces to Iraq so soon after we had finally managed to get them out of the country. There are even more good reasons not to let the so-called "Islamic State" establish itself. Even Al Qaeda has condemned the crimes committed by this organisation. Muslims in Britain and the world over have appealed to them to release their hostages and stop their murderous actions. They do not listen. Once the Nazis were established in control of Germany there was no way to remove them short of a military campaign, and until they were removed they were a threat to the entire world. ISIL are not identical to the Nazis, but their utter contempt for human life, their disregard for any morality other than their own perversion of Islam, and their tactics o

Quote of the day 26th September 2014

"If we had a responsible opposition, then instead of a shadow chancellor who pays lip service to the idea of cutting the deficit and then proposes £20 billion of extra spending, and a leader of the opposition who forgets to mention the deficit at all, we would have an opposition leader and shadow chancellor who put forward ideas for cutting the deficit which could survive ten seconds of serious scrutiny. "If we had a responsible opposition, then instead of constantly attacking businesses they would be encouraging the government to help employers provide more jobs and earn more money for Britain. "If we had a responsible opposition, then instead of constantly promising to spend more they would be calling on the government to further reduce what is still an unsustainable level of public borrowing." "If there had been any doubt, this week's Labour conference demonstrated that Britain does not have a responsible opposition." (Chris Whiteside)

Forgetting the Deficit

Labour leader Ed Miliband's aides have admitted that he "forgot" to mention the passages on Britain's deficit which he had intended to include in the speech, lasting slightly over an bour, which he delivered from memory at Labour Party conference. Sometimes, as with the bacon butty incident or William Hague's baseball cap, political leaders get an extraordinary amount of flak over something incredibly trivial. Sometimes however, they get flak over things which are more important than they might at first appear, and IMHO the failure to mention the deficit is one of those times. Talk of deficits sounds dry and boring to many people and the measures required to live within our means are never popular. But the trouble is, the conseqences of ignoring a deficit of the size the British government still has - never mind the even larger one the last Labour government left behind - are disastrous. The problem can be expressed in seven words: YOU CAN'T SPEND MON

A Freudian slip from the Labour Conference ...

Hat tip to Jim King for drawing my attention to this clip on Youtube

Quote of the day 25th September 2014

"We are convinced that ISIL is a direct threat to Britain, and we have a comprehensive strategy to defeat them. We have been asked by the Iraqi government for assistance against them – which is why Parliament is being recalled so that Britain can take part in international air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. "What we are doing is legal, right and does not involve British combat troops on the ground. As ever with our country, when we are threatened in this way we should not turn away from what needs to be done. "We are confident that we will get this through Parliament on an all-party basis – it is right our country to be united at this time. Parliament will be voting on taking part in international action against ISIL in Iraq – if there was a question of taking part in action in Syria that would require a separate Parliamentary vote and debate." (David Cameron on the decision to recall Parliament to discuss and vote on whether Britain should join air strikes aga

Balls by name ...

I've already blogged about the frightening fact that the speech by Ed Balls this week was coldly received by Labour conference because they didn't like the fact he signalled some faint awareness of the need to cut the deficit. In other words they didn't like the one thing he said that was right. But it is only fair to point out that Mr Ball's commitment to sound money, though enough to annoy the unions and upset Labour conference, was paper thin. While outlining over £20 billion of spending promises, he only explained how Labour would raise £1.9 billion worth of revenue. On this speech alone, Labour have an £18.5 billion black hole in their spending plans. But it gets worse for Labour 1)  Rachel Reeves admitted that the only way to get ‘debt falling’ is ‘to have a surplus on overall spending’ – but that’s not Labour’s position, it’s the Conservative position. 2)  Just this week the IFS found that Labour actually want to borrow £28 billion extra. 3)  Ed Balls was

Quote of the day 24th September 2014

"If any undecided voter was waiting to be convinced Ed M is PM in waiting, not very sure that was the speech that would do it... " (The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter yesterday)

Pot calling the kettle black award of the century

The sheer effrontery of the Labour party when it comes to making attacks on people for things they do themselves never ceases to amaze me. Don't just take my word for it. Earlier this year I would have said that the leading contender for a "Pot calling the kettle black" award in this decader was a speech by Ed Miliband which was described by former Labour activist Dan Hodges as follows: " Ed Miliband's attack on political cynicism is the most cynical thing I've seen in years. " It's worth a read of Dan's piece " here " which is a brilliant piece of political dissection, but as a contender for any "pot calling the kettle black" award that speech was upstaged today by Andy Burnham. Yes, that's the same Andy Burnham who was the last Labour secretary of state for Health and is currently Labour's shadow secretary of state for health' The same Andy  Burnham who greatly increased the role of private clinics and

Lord Ashcroft on the lessons from Scotland.

Lord Ashcroft has an interesting comment about results of his poll on the Indyref and the lessons for GE2015, called Victory for Project Reasonable Caution - But lets not learn the wrong lessons . His polling found that the most important reason for the 'No' vote was that “ the risks of becoming independent looked too great when it came to things like the currency, EU membership, the economy, jobs and prices ”. "Nearly half (47%) of No voters said this was their biggest consideration. "This was echoed in the more specific issues people said had played a part in their vote. The pound was the single most important of these, mentioned by more than half (57%) of all No voters. Nearly four in ten (37%) were concerned about pensions, and 36% cited the NHS (as did more than half of those who voted Yes)." Polling also showed that the Union was saved by older voters. He goes on: "As soon as I published the poll on Friday my Twitter timeline filled with in

Quote of the day 23rd September 2014

" Ed Miliband clearly has no idea what he thinks the United Kingdom should actually look like. " (Dan Hodges, Telegraph blogs, the day after the Scottish referendum result)

Labour loses the plot

What does it say about the Labour party when Ed Balls' speech today showed too much knowledge of the real world to go down well with them? I will have some more things to say tomorrow about the things which were wrong with Ed Ball's speech to Labour Party conference, but the worst thing about it is how it was unpopular with delegates for being too realistic. Whike I do not agree with everything in the blog post from Dan Hodges today, in which he argued that " The size of the financial black hole is incomprehensible so Labour has opted not to comprehend it. " Dan does make some very telling points. The present government inherited a totally unsustainable deficit, spending four pounds for every three coming in, a national debt on track to double to 1.2 trillion pounds and on which the interest was greater than the entire education budget. After four years of so-called "austerity" which have certainly not been easy for people (though that has been mai

Quote of the day 22nd September 2014

"It is actually pretty remarkable that a state can say 'We are not going to compel part of what has been our country but perhaps didn't want to remain part of our country, we are not going to compel them to do so. We are going to allow the democratic process.' "To do that, you have to be a country that has enormous confidence in its own democratic institutions." (Sir Stephen Wall, a former British Ambassador)

Remembering Arnheim

This weekend we have been remembering operation Market Garden, which took place seventy years ago. Two people I knew very well, both of whom died of old age in this decade, were serving in the 1st Airborne division at the time. My uncle Ron missed the battle because he was not well enough to jump: he lost a lot of friends there. A close friend, the late Geoffrey Brown, took part in the battle of Arnheim as a soldier in the 1st Airlanding Light Artillery (known to him and others at the time as "Sheriff Thompson's regiment.) I have noticed from the pageview stats that the Obit post I put up when Geoffrey died three years ago has been one of the most read posts on this blog over the past few days. I presume this may be because the post included a story Geoffrey used to tell of his time at Cambridge. A tutor was describing the Battle of Arnheim and made a number of statements which Geoffrey did not consider to give a true picture of the battle, so he challenged him. &q

Manufacturing an unnecessary argument

When the Prime Minister responded to the Scottish referendum result, he said that we should not look at a fair constitutional settlement for all four parts of the United Kingdon. He was right to do so. However, the promises made to the Scottish people must be hunoured. These two views are not imcompatible, and those people who are starting to suggest there might be a danger that the promises made during the referendum might not be honoured are jumping the gun. Downing Street sources told the BBC's political correspondent Ross Hawkins that although Mr Cameron had said that devolution over the whole UK should be discussed on the same timetable as that for Scotland, implementation of the promises made to Scotland would not be held up by progress on devolution for the rest of the UK: 10 sources made clear that "the one is not conditional upon the other". David Cameron wants to give the peoples of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and, yes, England more control of t

Quote of the day 21st September 2014

These quotes about the USA from a speech in Iowa were made about the USA this week but IMHO they also have some relevance to Britain: "We are less sexist, racist, and homophobic than we've ever been" ... but ... "We don't want to be around anyone who disagrees with us" (Former US President Bill Clinton)

The cashless society?

Yesterday's edition of "The Economist" had an interesting article, which you can read online in full at and which argues for the complete abolition of notes and coins as forms of money. At first this idea will seem to be completely off-the-wall, but some of the ideas in it are actually very powerful. Once apon a time currencies were supported by the value of the metal in the coins. The first paper money was backed by a promise to exchange it for precious metal. Even today, a five pound note contains in small writing the following commitment from the Bank of England "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds." I read in one of my economics textbooks as a student that if you try to take them up on it you'll be issued with another five pound note. But it originally meant you would be issued with

Quote of the day 20th September 2014

“Life would be tragic if it weren't funny.”   ( Stephen Hawking  )

Congratulations and good luck to Kevin

This evening I completed my term as Chairman of the Conservative party's Cumbria area, and handed over to Kevin Beaty. It has been a privilege to be chairman of Cumbria Conservatives over three very eventful years. Best wishes and congratulations to Kevin and his team: thanks to everyone who helped me during my term. Now on to challenges anew ...

Cycling safety

And now for something completely different ... I had an experience on the A66 this afternoon which brought home to me the need for cycle lanes on dual carriageway roads and for cyclists to wear high visibility clothing or helmets. I was fully alert, was not speeding (I was driving a few mph below the 70mph limit on the relevant dual carriageway section of road), and visibility was generally pretty good. I was in the left hand lane of the Westbound carriageway, and a car was overtaking me in the right hand lane. It may have been a factor that I was driving west, with bright late afternoon sunshine coming from West-South-West, and a line of trees on the South side of the A66 was casting a shadow on the left hand side of the road, in which a cyclist was riding. At the moment I spotted the cyclist he was about 100 yards ahead of me. I had two of three seconds to check the position of the overtaking car, and move safely to the right hand side of my lane, before I passed the

Moving forward

My final post on the Indyref - though I think there will be a lot more to come on the new constitutional settlement. The great majority of campaigners on both sides put their case in a positive, constructive, and democratic way. The 85% turnout which resulted, and the fact that so many people got involved, were fantastic things. I thought a really good point was made on the BBC website. They noted that many countries, particularly some of those which don't exactly have strong democratic traditions, were astonished that Britain let Scotland hold this vote, and more astonished when they realised that there was a possibility that it would produce a "Yes" and that that decision would have been respected. Then they added: 'While many countries may have found it incomprehensible that Westminster agreed to let the Scots hold this vote, another former British Ambassador, Sir Stephen Wall, points out that it does show British democracy is alive and well.' "It

DC on the Indyref result and the future of the UK:

Prime Minister David Cameron writes: "The people of Scotland have spoken. It is a clear result. They have kept our country of four nations together. "Like millions of other people, I'm delighted. It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end. "And that sentiment was shared by people not just across our country, but also around the world - because of what we've achieved together in the past and what we can do together in the future. "So now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together, and to move forward. "We have a chance - a great opportunity - to change the way the British people are governed, and change it for the better. "Political leaders on all sides must work together to advance the interests of people in Scotland, as well as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. "Because it is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that ap

That referendum result in full:

The final result: No 2,001,926 Yes 1,617,989


I doubt if there will ever have been a result which will leave not just David Cameron and also Ed Miliband, but also Jean-Claude Junker and Barak Obama, as very relieved men, as the SCottish referendum result. At the time of writing this I have not heard the final figures as one counting area was still outstanding but it is clear that Scots have voted, on an extremely high turnout of around 85%, to stay within the United Kingdom. The vote was around 55% to 45% - clear enough to put the issue to bed for a generation. Now the issues which made 45% of Scots want to leave - and which were clearly of concern to many of the majority who voted to stay - must be addressed. The promises made to Scotland during the campaign must be kept. The greater self-government promised to Scotland must now be given to all four of the nations of the UK. Preferably without creating another layer of politicians. It's not going to be easy or simple, and the timetable laid out is going to be challe

Quote of the day 19th September 2014

"The people of Scotland have spoken, and it is a clear result. They have kept our country of four nations together." (David Cameron)

Latest Employment Figures

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen below one million for the first time since 2008 – with unemployment seeing its biggest fall on record. Yesterday’s strong jobs numbers show our long-term economic plan is working, building a stronger, healthier economy, where fewer people are relying on benefits and more have the security of work. To make this happen the Conservative-led coalition government has been backing businesses with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes to create more jobs as part of our plan, while driving a programme of welfare reform. And it’s clear from these figures that it’s working, with the number of people claiming JSA below one million for the first time since 2008, and near record levels of employment. There is still more to do. We know that families are still feeling the effects of Labour’s Great Recession and we want to make sure living standards go up for the long

Decision Day

After all the years of argument and campaigning, today is the day that Scotland votes on whether to remain in the British family of nations. Whatever the result, let us hope that after all the disagreements of the past few weeks, from tomorrow we can all accept the result and work together for a prosperous and successful common future.

Quote of the day 18th September 2014

“The true champions of a nation's freedom are those who reject the limitations of stereotypes and affirm the rich diversity of human nature to be found.” (Vasily Grossman)

Scotland and Europe continued

It isn't just Scotland and the rest of the UK who will have a lot of challenges as a result of tomorrow's Scottish Independence referendum, whichever way it goes. Brussels is, if anything, even more alarmed than London, though most of them have the sense to realise that the best thing they could do is keep quiet. But there is a very interesting article here on the ITV News website. I wrote that most of them are keeping quiet and trying to appear neutral but as the article reports, the Spaniards are not: the Spanish PM described Scottish Independence yesterday as “a torpedo aimed at the European spirit”. Yesterday his Europe minister spoke of a delay of at least five years before Scottish readmission, and even then only on the proviso that Edinburgh commit to joining the Euro, joining Schengen and losing its share of the UK budget rebate. And these are not empty threats, because Spain (like each of the 28 members) has an absolute right of veto over the admission of an