Showing posts from January, 2015

One size does not fit all - Greece's Euro agony

I was reading an interesting article from Nick Cohen this evening which you can read on the Guardian website here concerning what is going wrong in Greece: he argues that "respectable fanatics" are destroying Greece and by that he means the ECB and Eurozone governments. His article was very reminiscent of Keynes' famous dictum about how ideas can often be applied long after they have ceased to be helpful: "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twen

Grant Shapps on Labour's thirty days of Chaos

Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps writes ... "We're just one month into the campaign. And already we've see 30 Days of Labour Chaos – with total confusion and incompetence from Ed Miliband. Over the last 30 days: 1) Labour’s plans for £20.7 billion of borrowing have been exposed; 2) Senior Labour figures have lined up to criticise Ed Miliband’s weak leadership ; 3) And Labour’s policies have fallen apart – whether it’s their price freeze which would have meant higher bills, or their homes tax which they’ve now spent three times. You can see the full horror of Labour's 30 days of chaos HERE . Don't let them get away with it. Share the facts with your friends: Best wishes, Grant The Rt. Hon. Grant Shapps MP Conservative Party Chairman"

Quote of the day 31st January 2015

"As a Muslim, I strongly condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo and those behind it. These terrorists do not represent me nor do they represent Islam. Their wicked ideology is an existential threat to Islam itself. Part of the problem is that these extremists and Islamophobes – responsible for burning mosques and attacking women wearing hijab – need each other in order to exist. We, the majority of ordinary people of every faith, race and colour, should stand together to these extremists and say enough is enough." ( Mohammed Samaana, Belfast. Letter in the Independent, January 2015 )

Stephen Haraldsen's campaign for Copeland hits the ground running

Following his selection as Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Copeland, Stephen Haraldsen has hit the ground running, organising a series of press releases, interviews, and campaign events from Whitehaven to Keswick.     Stephen is shown here at the play area in the centre of his Hillcrest council ward, where, with other Conservative  councillors at district and county level, he secured £15,000 to provide equipment, fencing and a new path. Stephen said after being picked by local Conservative members "I'm delighted to be selected as candidate for my home constituency. Having been born and raised in Whitehaven and working in Copeland I have experienced many of the challenges we face, but also see the great potential in our community. I'm looking forward to setting out my vision for Copeland as a lively and well-connected place where people and businesses have the opportunities to succeed."

Remembering Churchill

This month seems replete with significant dates, and one which many people have been remembering today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill had an unbelievably complex life replete with triumphs and disasters. Sometimes he was spectacularly right - at other times he was equally spectacularly wrong. Rosevelt was supposed to have said that WSC had a hundred ideas a day, of which four were good ideas. His early career showed a spectacular climb to be First Lord of the Admiralty, when he was brought down by the failure at Gallipoli - though I have some sympathy for Douglas Reeman's pithy epitaph on that particular disaster, "It was designed by a genius, but it was left to bloody fools to carry out." That one was almost worthy of Winston Churchill's own famous wit. I have already quoted him in today's quote of the day, but cannot resist the temptation to repeat a few more. When WSC was at school a teacher asked him to dec

Time to Outlaw Blasphemy laws

I believe in God. I do not believe in laws against blasphemy. Ether there is a God, or there is not. If there is no God, those who argue against religious faith are speaking the truth and those who mock the gods have not insulted a real person. But if there is a God, He would have the power, if He chose to exercise it, to take far more terrible and effective vengeance against anyone who insults religion than any mortal man could even imagine, let alone carry out. Furthermore, if God chooses to forgive people who have insulted him, what right has anyone else to take it on themselves to punish them? So if there isn't a God, punishing those you think have committed blasphemy would be both wrong and evil. But if there IS a God, punishing those who He has decided not to punish must therefore be both against His will, and evil. Either way laws against blasphemy - provided we are only talking about disagreeing with or even mocking or insulting a religion, as opposed to inc

Postscript on immigration - what planet are the Independent's headline writers on?

For a media group which enshrines a supposed commitment to independence in the very titles of its' newspapers, the publishers of the "Independent" and "i" seem to be taking a very strange approach to the immigration issue this morning. Considering that it is Labour who caused a storm this week with leaflets announcing "Labour's tough new approach to immigration" and were condemned by some of their own supporters including a prominent MP as trying to out-kip UKIP, it is really quite extraordinary that the front page headlines in the Independent and "i" suggest that a tough approach to immigration might cost the Conservatives the election, or that "Tories Fear Migrant voting power." What are they smoking? Surely anyone in their right mind should have noticed that striking the right balance on the immensely difficult and sensitive issue of immigration is going to present challenges for any party which is a serious contender

The real reason you can't trust Labour on immigration

The last Labour government was frequently attacked on one side for promoting high and unsustainable levels of immigration. Yet they were also attacked from the left by critics such as Nick Cohen ( see here for example ) for adopting brutal hardline policies towards immigrants which went further than some far-right parties. Now you would think two such diametrically opposite charges could not both be justified, and it would certainly be difficult for both to be true at any given moment, but here is the amazing thing. Both charges were accurate at various times during the lifetime of the last Labour government! The strongest criticism of Labour on immigration isn't that the last Labour government sometimes practiced an "open door" policy and encouraged unsustainable levels of immigration - although at times they did - or that they sometimes managed to quite literally outdo the Daily Mail in taking a ridiculously hard-line anti immigration stance - though this too w

Quote of the day 30th January 2015

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak: courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." ( Winston Churchill  )

In defence of Economic Liberalism

Editors of "The Economist" get to write one signed editorial - as a valedictory at the end of their time in the job. John Micklethwait, who has been editor since 2006, leaves the magazine this week, and his valedictory article, which you can read here , is a robust defence of economic liberalism. And by "Economic Liberalism" I do not mean wishy-washy centrism, but a clear conviction that the best way for countries to be happy economically successful is to help people maximise their potential by getting the state off their backs. The kind of Liberalism defended in this article is certainly not the sort of idea usually associated with the Liberal Democrats today - although some or the "Orange Book" Lib/Dems have not entirely forgotten the true Liberalism that their party supported in the age of Gladstone. Here are a few extracts from John Micklethwait's valedictory article. "Washington remains synonymous with gridlock. In every year of my edit

Government announces £21 million boost for Cumbria's economy

The government is to put nearly £21 million of taxpayers' money into four new investment projects to improve infrastructure in Cumbria and boost the economy   The projects to be funded are the second phase of the "Connecting Cumbria" superfast broadband project; improvements at the Port of Workington; Carlisle College's Advanced Manufacturing Centre;  and Barrow Waterfront Enterprise Zone. This is new money which will be injected into the Cumbrian economy over the five years from 2016.   Prime Minister David Cameron personally announced the “Growth Deal”, which came after the money was bid for by the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership, which promotes economic growth. He said that giving local communities the power and the money to unlock growth and development is a key part of the country’s long-term economic recovery. David Cameron added: “This is happening right here in Cumbria, with more money announced today for key projects to boost the local eco

Wrap up warmly and take care if out and about in Cumbria today

Having been glued to my work computer for several hours, I got up and made myself a cup of tea - and saw a thin dusting of snow on the ground. If it's like this in Whitehaven where we don't often get enough snow for it to settle, the Met office forecast of heavier snow inland have presumably been accurate. Very picturesque but a bit of a nuisance - wrap up warmly if you are going outside in Cumbria today

Quote of the day 29th January 2015


Andy Burnham's car crash interview on Labour NHS plans

Labour think that the NHS is their issue and that they are the only party who will protect the NHS. But if you want a perfect illustration of why Labour is not fit to govern, the internal contradictions and complete intellectual inconsistency of their approach to the NHS, a subject they believe is their issue, provide it. This is perfectly demonstrated if you watch the egregious performance given by  Labour's last Secretary of State for Health and current Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, when interviewed by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight yesterday. Wark started the interview by asking Andy Burnham about two inconsistent quotes: one from Burnham himself suggesting that Labour wanted to "call time" on private provision in the NHS and one from his deputy arguing that there is a place for it. She asked which was Labour policy? Burnham could not and did not give a consistent answer to this question or almost any other question he was asked during the entire ten minute inte

Joke of the day - NHS myth explodes

News just in: Three spin doctors working in the "NHS Propaganda" section of Labour's election campaign were killed today when the myth they were working on exploded. The three had been trying to convince people that Labour had excellent policies for the NHS, when Labour's former Health secretary Alan Milburn was quoted in today's Times as saying that it would be a "fatal mistake" for Labour to just propose increasing the budget of the NHS without reforming it, and for the party to stick to its' comfort zone. "You have got a pale imitation actually of the 1992 election campaign" he told the Labour spinners, exploding their myth with fatal results. A spokesman for the Department of Health described the Labour spin doctors' condition as "satisfactory." (P.S. Parts of this post are, of course, a joke but the quotes from Alan Milburn in this morning's Times are genuine.)

Yellow warning of snow in Cumbria this morning

Another very cold day, and the met office have issued a yellow snow warning of possible snow in Cumbria this morning. They say that over ... "Northern England 3-8 cm could accumulate by Thursday morning, especially over high ground. Over Scotland and Northern Ireland 5-10 cm may fall even at some lower levels, with more than 15 cm possible over higher ground. Strong, gusty winds will lead to drifting and temporary blizzards over high ground, while icy surfaces and lightning pose additional risks in some areas. This is an update to extend the warning a little further south across the Pennines. Note also that there is some signal that more frequent snow showers may affect parts of southern and central Scotland through the evening peak travel period on Wednesday, and this may lead to eventual issue of an Amber warning." Brrrrr ...

Quote of the day 28th January 2015


Party chairman Grant Shapps writes

Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps writes ...    There are now just 100 days until the next election. 100 days before Britain chooses between David Cameron or Ed Miliband as Prime Minister. Between competence or chaos. Between going forward - or going back. Over the next few months, we'll be giving everything we've got to win the fight for Britain's future. So today, I'm asking you to support our campaign by giving whatever you can - so we can reach the voters that will decide the most important election in a generation. We need to tell them about our plan to guarantee a Britain where hard work is rewarded, a Britain where everyone who wants to work can find a job - and a Britain that lives within its means, so our children and grandchildren aren't burdened with mountains of debt. But we can't do that without your support. So please donate whatever you can today - and let's win the fight for Britain's future: DONATE £20 DONAT

A hundred days to go and everything to play for

Today's date is significant for a number of reasons. As per the posts I made this morning, it is Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auchwitz death camp. A day when we should remember that in my parents' lifetime most of the countries of Europe experienced the horror, on an almost incomprehensible scale, of an attempt to wipe out entire categories of human beings. And then looking to the future, it is a hundred days to the 2015 General Election An election which I expect to be as close as any election in my lifetime and far and away the hardest to predict. Latest opinion polls are suggesting that Labour have lost the poll lead which they held for much of the parliament and that the Conservatives are something between neck and neck and a whisker ahead. But all that could change by the time of the election. There really is everything to play for and every vote could count. There are four realistically possible outcomes to this elec

Where is Jonathan Creek when Argentina needs him?

Anyone who has been following politics in Argentina may be aware of the enormous political significance of a death in a locked room which seems almost like something out of a Jonathan Creek TV story. There is a report on the incident on The Economist website here . Alberto Nisman, an Argentine Federal Prosecutor, was found dead by a single gunshot in his bathroom. There was a pistol by his side and the front door to his apartment was locked on the inside. A clear case of suicide? Apparently. Yet there was no suicide note, and a few hours later he had been due to present to a congressional committee evidence for his accusation that Argentina's President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, had tried to obstruct the investigation of Argentina’s worst terrorist act, the bombing of a Jewish centre in 1994. No one has yet been convicted for the bombing in Buenos Aires, in which 86 people died and hundreds were injured. Argentina’s Jewish community believes that Iran planned the atta

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auchwitz. January 27th has been designated Holocaust Memorial day when we remember all the millions of human beings who were murdered in the waves of persecution by Hitler's Nazi regime and their allies. This was not the first genocide or, sadly the last. But it is important that we remember the victims of genocide because the better we remember it, the fewer people are likely to die through such hideous insanity in the future. Those of us who have not experienced the elimination of our entire communities, of all our families and friends cannot fully appreciate how awful this was for each of the millions of victims. And the sheer scale of the number of victims of Hitler's regime is so vast that our minds cannot begin to comprehend the amount of suffering which those numbers represent. But we can and should remember those numbers because we do have the capacity to understand that they represent a truly enormous evil. The

Quote of the day for Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January 2015

“The question shouldn't be "Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for trying to save Jews?' The real question is "Why aren't all the Christians here?”    ( Joel C. Rosenberg , The Auschwitz Escape  )   

First woman Anglican Bishop consecrated

More than twenty years after the Church of England began to ordained women as priests, the church has consecrated its first female bishop today at York Minster. The Reverend Libby Lane, 48, was consecrated as Bishop of Stockport in front of more than a thousand people. The Anglican Church formally adopted legislation last November to allow women bishops, following decades of argument over women's ordination. Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who led the service, said he had been "praying and working for this day". Congratulations to the Very Reverend Libby Lane on her appointment.

Congratulations to Stephen Haraldsen and good luck in Copeland

Copeland Conservatives have this evening selected Councillor Stephen Haraldsen as our candidate to be MP for Copeland in the forthcoming General Election in a hundred and one day's time. He will make an excellent candidate and, I hope, MP and will have my enthusiastic and active support. Stephen was born and educated in the constituency at West Cumberland Hospital and Whitehaven School (now Whitehaven Academy). He works at Westlakes Science Park in the constituency and has represented Hillcrest ward on Copeland Borough Council since 2011. He has also been a school governor of Bransty school. Stephen has proved himself a tireless fighter for the interests of all his constituents and the people of the borough as a Copeland councillor, and I am sure he will also be a stalwart champion for the people of Copeland if he becomes MP for the area. 

David Cameron on rewarding work

Prime Minister David Cameron writes:   "I believe that if you have worked hard and earned your own money, you should be able to spend it how you like. It's your money, not the Government's - and so you should keep it. That is why I believe in cutting taxes. Since 2010, we've cut income tax for over 24 million people, with an average saving of £705 - and after the next election, we'll go further. We'll take everyone who earns less than £12,500 out of income tax altogether - and raise the 40p tax threshold, so that no-one earning less than £50,000 pays it. As a result, 30 million people will keep more of the money they earn. And we will do this while reducing the deficit. Over the last five years, we've halved the deficit while cutting income tax. And in the next Parliament, we'll do the same again: eliminating the deficit while reducing your taxes. After years of sacrifice, the British people deserve a reward. People whose hard work

WCH fire update

The Trust has confirmed that the fire which extensively damaged the energy centre of the new buildings at West Cumberland Hospital has not affected patient care in any way. It will however delay the move into the new buildings and it is not yet clear for how long. More details on my hospitals blog at

Quote of the day 26th January 2015

"Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time." ( E.B. White )

Thank our firefighters for saving our hospital

We don't say thank you often enough to the brave men and women of Cumbria's fire service. Today we owe them our thanks that we still have a hospital. Thanks, guys, for everything that you do.

Fire at West Cumberland Hospital

The   Whitehaven News Website reports that an investigation is to take place following a fire at the West Cumberland hospital on Friday night. Firefighters arrived at the hospital at 10.45pm on Friday evening and worked for four hours through the night to control the fire. WCH's biomass fuel plant was destroyed in the fire. Mercifully there were no reports of injuries and the hospital was not evacuated. It is understood there was no impact on the rest of the hospital. At the height of the blaze there were five fire engines at the scene. Specialist fire investigators were due to return on Saturday to look into the cause of the blaze. North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said all services continue to run as normal but there will be a knock on effect for the move in date of services to the new building, which was planned for April this year. In a statement, the Trust said:  "This has come as absolutely devastating news to the Trust, to staff and the new hospi

Quote of the day 25th January 2015


Democracy - an extra quote for 24th January 2015


Quote of the day 24th Jan 2015

"Those who believe that liberal democracy and the free market can be defended by the force of law and regulation alone, without an internalised sense of duty and morality, are tragically mistaken."   Jonathan Sacks

Quote of the day 23rd January 2015


Leon Brittan RIP

Lord Leon Brittan, former Home Secretary, Trade Secretary and EU Commissioner, has died of cancer at the age of 75. Leon was a very warm and charming man characterised by a most formidable intellect (an ability shared by his brother Sam Brittan, the financial journalist). Lord Brittan had a long and very distinguished career in public service. As David Cameron said “As a central figure in Margaret Thatcher’s government, he helped her transform our country for the better by giving distinguished service.” “He went on to play a leading role at the European Commission where he did so much to promote free trade in Europe and across the world. More recently, he made an active contribution to the House of Lords." I did not always agree with Leon Brittan but I always found his views interesting and worthy of respect. The usual obit rules apply to this post - nihil nisi bonum. My thoughts are with his widow and family at this sad time. Rest in Peace.

Unemployment continues to fall and is at its lowest for six years

Figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics show that Jobless total fell 58,000 September to November, to 1.91m Number claiming jobseeker's allowance fell 29,600 to 867,000 Job vacancies reached a new record - up by 19,000 to 700,000 Average earnings increased by 1.7% in the year to November Details here . The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is at its lowest level for almost seven years and is now below 900,000, the ONS said. Long-term unemployment has fallen by 185,000 in a year to 658,000.   David Cameron said: ‘The drop in unemployment is welcome news. 'Behind the statistics are stories of people finding self-respect and purpose in life.’

Quotes of the day 22nd January 2015

Some more quotes on democracy, starting with the response given by a great heroine of the movement for democracy to those who suggested that Democracy only works in the West: “If ideas and beliefs are to be denied validity outside the geographical and cultural bounds of their origin, Buddhism would be confined to north India, Christianity to a narrow tract in the Middle East and Islam to Arabia.”   ( Aung San Suu Kyi , Freedom from Fear  ) “May it please your Majesty I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here.”    ( William Lenthall , Speaker of the House of Commons, to King Charles I who had come to parliament in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest several MPs) “Democracy comes into grave danger when truth is no longer spoken to power.” ( Paul Bamikole )

DAESH's latest targets for murder - teenage football fans and pigeon breeders

When the murderous barbarians of DAESH (see previous posts) who like to call themselves the "Islamic State" are not enslaving and raping any non-Sunni women they can catch, beheading harmless aid workers for trying to help sick children, or throwing gay men off the top floor of the nearest 100-foot tower block, they have apparently found a new set of targets - teenage football fans and young pigeon breeders. According to a local activist group called "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" DAESH extremists executed 13 teenage boys for watching the Asian Cup football match between Iraq and Jordan last week. The young football fans had been caught watching the game on television in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is controlled by the so called "Islamic State."   And now we learn of allegations by a local security official that DAESH fighters have arrested 15 pigeon breeders aged between 16 and 22 in the Diyala province of Iraq after deciding that keepi

Quotes of the day 21st January 2015

Yesterday was the 750th anniversary of the first parliament in Britain, called by Simon de Montfort, and this year also sees the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta The BBC designated yesterday as "Democracy Day" so here are some quotes about democracy: “People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”    ( Alan Moore , V for Vendetta  ) “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” ( Winston S. Churchill . But he also said,) “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." ( WSC, Speech in the House of Commons, 11 November 1947)” “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have

IMF ranks Britain the fastest-growing major economy last year

The International Monetary Fund issued their latest growth estimates and projections this week, which continue to show Britain as the fastest-growing major economy in the developed world in 2014. They have revised their estimate of the rate at which Britain's economy grew in 2014 down from 3.2% to 2.6% but this is still better than any other major developed world economy, a little bit ahead of the USA and well ahead of the Eurozone, where slow growth remains a concern. The IMF continues to project growth of 2.7% for Britain in 2015, which is at the upper end of the range of sustainable growth attained by this country since World War II. Chancellor George Osborne said today's IMF forecast showed Britain was pulling ahead, while global growth was being downgraded.   ‘There's confirmation that we grew faster than any other major economy last year, and we're set to grow faster this year.   ‘But there are risks out there in the global economy. It's a timel

Congratulations to Rozila Kana and good luck in Workington

I have been following with interest the debate about Labour's all women shortlist in the neighbouring constituency to me, Workington. As it happens, both Labour and the Conservatives will be standing women candidates in Workington in May. The difference is that Labour will be putting up a quota woman, picked through a contest in which no men were allowed to apply, while the excellent Conservative candidate, Rozila Kana, won selection on merit in a contest in which she competed on equal terms with the male candidates who applied. Rozila has 15 years service in the police, during which time she has received national recognition for her work including a number of national awards and commendations. She is particularly keen to develop better job and career opportunities for young people and to encourage and improve economic prospects and wealth creation throughout the area. Rozila is currently managing a European project on behalf of the police in collaboration with eight Euro

Quote of the day 20th January 2015

"It is no use saying 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary." (Winston Churchill)

Need it be a dirty fight on the NHS?

Does the debate about the NHS during the coming election have to be a dirty one? No. Should it be a dirty fight? Absolutely not. Do I think it will be? Sadly yes. I referred in a recent post to the Hinchingbrooke hospital situation. The Daily Mail leader writers argued that this stitch-up heralds the start of a dirty fight on the NHS . They appear to have a point. But how much better would it be for the NHS and for the quality of debate if we could have a grown-up discussion which * starts with an admission that no party could afford to increase the NHS budget by as much as everyone would like to, in order to meet increasing demand for health resources, * goes on to discuss how we can fund as much of that increase as possible, * addresses what the nation's health priorities should be, and then * discusses how we can make the finite resources available go as far as possible in delivering progress on those priorities. It would certainly be more edifying and useful t

Another cold night

Brrrrr !

Take care if out and about today

The forecast of a cold night was only too accurate: West Cumbria awoke to a thin dusting of snow and a heavy frost. The cover I put on the windscreen last night kept it clear but I had to spend several minutes clearing ice and snow from the other windows. Do take great care if you are out and about this morning in Cumbria or anywhere else in the Northern UK.

Quote of the day 19th January 2015

Blow, blow, thou winter wind Thou art not so unkind As man’s ingratitude; Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen, Although thy breath be rude. (William Shakespeare, "As You Like It.")

Next phase of WCH rebuild approved.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust has announced that the Outline Business Case  for phase two of the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital has been approved by the NHS Trust Development Authority Investment Committee. More details on my hospitals blog at

Advance notice of Swimathon 2015

There will be a lot more posts on this subject but here is early notice that Swimathon 2015 will be taking place from 17th to 19th April this year to raise money for cancer care. There will be sessions at Copeland Pool and Cockermouth  Leisure Centre on Saturday 18th April. My son will also be taking part. My sponsorship page is at

A cold night ahead ...

Have just put windscreen cover on the car and am taking other precautions for a cold night - apparently it is expected to be the coldest night of the year in Scotland with a snow warning in the North East, and it will not be much warmer here in Cumbria

Quote of the day 18th January 2015

“A man who trusts everyone is a fool and a man who trusts no one is a fool. We are all fools if we live long enough.”    ( Robert Jordan  )