Showing posts from February, 2015

Watch out for storms this evening

The Met Office has warned of storms (the non-political kind) including gale force winds and falling snow in parts of Cumbria tonight. Flood alerts have been issued across Cumbria ahead of 60mph gales in many parts of the county tonight and possibly reaching 70mph on the fells. Environment Agency flood alerts are in place near rivers Brathay, Rothay and Winster, as well as Upper River Derwent, Stonethwaite Beck and Derwent Water. The Met Office warned more severe gales have been anticipated across the Lake District fells later this evening with temperatures which may fall as low as 4C. A Met Office forecaster said: "Becoming very windy with gales for many, perhaps severe across the Fells. Rain will spread east across the [North West] region, some heavy and persistent, particularly across the Lake District and the Pennines. Gales and rain easing by dawn, but still windy. Minimum Temperature 4C."

To those who asked if I am still in the election for Copeland's Mayor

Labour don't want competition in the election for Copeland's first elected mayor. They are using every trick they can to discourage rival candidates from standing. My last post explained why I believe they cannot be allowed to get away with it. Elton John wrote a song which gives a great reply to those who have asked if I will withdraw from the election ... Here are the lyrics: You could never know what it's like Your blood like winter freezes just like ice And there's a cold lonely light that shines from you You'll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use   And did you think this fool could never win Well look at me, I'm coming back again I got a taste of love in a simple way And if you need to know while I'm still standing you just fade away Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid I'm still standing after all this time Picking up th

Labour want the Mayorality without a fight. OVER MY DEAD BODY.

My decision to stand for the post of Mayor of Copeland was never about the salary on offer for the job. If money was all I cared about, the package on offer would not have motivated me to put my name forward even on the terms recommended by an Independent Panel. I put my name forward because I care about public service and about the people of West Cumbria. On Thursday Copeland Labour party produced at the last minute an amendment to the Independent Panel recommendation about the salary to be paid to Copeland's first directly elected mayor. They reduced the payment for the job by 40%, to well below the average wage for the district. This is not primarily about the money either. The Copeland Labour group's actions are a clear and obvious attempt to sabotage the referendum vote to set up a directly-elected mayor, discourage other candidates from standing, and thereby rig the election. If the governors of any school in Copeland advertised for a head teacher at the salary Labo

Quote of the day 28th February 2015

"Never make a major decision when you are tired, ill or drunk" (I have not been able to trace this quote but my memory attributes it to Winston Churchill)

Leonard Nimoy RIP

Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the original series of Star Trek and reprised the role in various films, has died at the age of 83. He was a great actor. Rest in Peace

How Gordon Brown cost pensioners £118 BILLION and counting

While I was at University, I remember one of the rare instances of a British politician taking action to solve a problem which he saw coming twenty or thirty years ahead. The late Tony Newton, then a cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher's government, realised that as people were living longer and the birth rate was getting lower, the then system whereby each generation's pension contributions paid the pensions of the previous generation was doomed. This unfunded pensions system would become more and more unsustainable as the ratio of retired people to those of traditional working age became greater and greater, and collapse entirely some 30 years later (e.g. about now.) Britain needed to move to a system of fully funded pensions, and that required either much higher taxes or higher contributions. Newton resolved to give people a real incentive to save by means of their occupational pension. Newton took two steps to create that incentive, one negative and one positive.

Quote of the day 27th February 2015

(Hat tip to )

The choice at the next election in 80 seconds

There's a clear choice at the General Election - and this great film sums it up in just 80 seconds: Everyone needs to know the choice facing Britain: competence and a long-term economic plan that is working with the Conservatives - or the chaos of giving it up and going backwards with anyone else. And if you agree and want to help with the Conservative campaign, one quick way to do so is to click on the box below and ... Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Copeland Borough Council meeting this evening

CBC met this afternoon at 2pm in the Copeland Centre to set the council's 2015/16 budget. I was present in the area reserved for the public until shortly after the main budget was passed. This was followed by the report of the independent panel which makes recommendations on the level of allowances which should be paid to councillor, and which this year had its' remit extended to include the salary of the directly-elected mayor. At this point a Labour amendment to the panel proposals was moved and it was immediately clear that this would be very controversial (so much so that the police were called.) I removed myself from the meeting at this stage from concern that my presence might place my Conservative colleagues in an invidious position while councillors were voting on a proposal to pay the elected mayor an annual salary of £30,000 instead of the £50,000 recommended by the Independent Panel. Although I don't believe any of the Conservative councillors would have be

Quote of the day 26th February 2015

"A committee can make a decision that is dumber than any of its members."   (David Cobitz)

The problem with borrowing ...

Hat tip to Chris Pearson (@CJpearson82) from Calderdale in Yorkshire, for posting the graphic below on Twitter this morning     He rightly described this as indicating Labour's economic policy: it also describes the end result of the policies of almost all those parties who describe themselves as being anti-austerity but are really running against fiscal responsibility.

The OECD view of Britain's economic performance


Quote of the day 25th February 2015

"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him."   (Galileo Galilei)

How Labour has already cost people money without even being elected

Labour's policy of freezing gas prices sounded great - while they were going up - but it was suggested at the time (including on this blog) that the threat of this policy from Labour would cost people money immediately: if the energy companies thought there was a risk of Ed Miliband winning the forthcoming election and enacting this policy, they were likely to get the price increases in first. A report in the Sun today which you can read at quotes an industry expert as suggesting that Energy bills today might be 10% lower if Miliband had never announced his price freeze policy, and estimating that he has cost a typical family £70 in higher bills. Can this be proven one way or the other? No, as we can never be certain what would have happened. Doubtless those who want to believe in Labour will dismiss it as a slur by the "Tory Press." But personally I suspec

David Cameron writes about protecting pensioners

The Prime Minister writes ... It comes down to values. We believe if you have put in, you should get out. And if you have worked hard during your life, saved, paid your taxes, and done the right thing - you deserve security when you retire. That's why we'll continue to increase the State Pension through the Triple Lock, so it rises every year at either the rate of earnings, prices, or 2.5 per cent - whichever is highest. No more of the paltry increases - one year as low as 75p - we saw under Labour. Instead, the Basic State Pension has risen by £800 since 2010 with the Conservatives. And it's why we're protecting pensioner benefits including the free bus pass, TV licence and winter fuel payment. Values also lie at the heart of our commitment to give people the freedom to invest and spend their pension however they like. From six weeks today, no longer will you have to buy an annuity and have your own money doled back out to you. Instead, your money w

Metal Thieves Jailed: police foil planned attack in Cumbria

I make no apology for returning to the subject of metal theft and reporting the prison sentences passed on another gang of cable thieves. In order to come as close as we can to eradicating the scourge of modern society which metal theft represents, the more we can do both the catch and convict the thieves but also to publicise their sentences, the better. If potential thieves know that attempting to steal metal is more likely to earn them a jail sentence than a profit, they are less likely to try it.   A gang of seven metal thieves responsible for a £140,000 cable theft conspiracy have been sentenced to a total of almost 13 years imprisonment. They were caught while planning an attack in Cumbria.   ​The seven criminals were arrested after police linked them to a break-in at a BT depot in Gateshead, where they stole eight drums of heavy copper cable worth £20,000.   Between February and June 2013, the gang members, mostly from St Helens, Merseyside, dressed as workmen and u

Quote of the day 24th February 2015

(Hat tip to )

Copeland Mayoral Election

At a meeting this evening in Gosforth I was selected by Conservative members in Copeland as our candidate in the first election for a directly-elected mayor for Copeland. The position of directly-elected mayor will replace that of Leader of the Council, and the Mayor, with the Executive (council cabinet) that he or she appoints, will have similar (but slightly greater) powers to the existing executive. The main difference is that the mayor will be directly accountable to, and can be hired and fired by, the whole electorate of Copeland, in contrast to the current position of leader which is indirectly elected, with the Leader of the Council emerging from a caucus of whichever party has a majority on the council. The full council will continue to be involved in setting the budget, agreed between mayor and council under a procedure which is designed to require the agreement of both: the full council will also retain a scrutiny role, and can over-ride mayoral decisions by a two-third

Of Margaret Thatcher and Honorary Degrees

Had I been a graduate of the University of Oxford instead of having acquired my degrees from those of Bristol and East Anglia (and unlike holders of Master of Arts degrees from Oxbridge, my M.A. is a real one, earned by a year of postgraduate study and by passing further exams) I would have voted in 1985 to grant Mrs Thatcher an honorary doctorate, as all previous Prime Ministers who attended Oxford had been given. Yet I notice that Mrs T herself seemed remarkably unconcerned by the successful campaign to prevent her receiving such an award. She always struck me as far more interested in ideas and in getting things done than with titles and honours. Perhaps she was too big a person to allow herself to be upset when her political opponents tried to snub her or perhaps she just realised - correctly, I am certain - that if she showed dignity by refusing to get upset over not being granted an honorary title she would look like a much bigger person than those who took part in the petty

Quote of the day 23rd February 2015

  (I have not been able to establish who said this, but places where it is quoted include here and here )

Copeland Council threatens homeless charity with eviction

When I was first selected as Conservative Candidate for Copeland and moved to the area in 2004 it was quickly apparent to me that one of the best-run organisations in the area and one of those doing most to move things forward was Whitehaven Community Trust, then as now based at the Market Hall in Whitehaven. So I am truly appalled at the way Copeland Borough Council is treating the community trust, as was reported this week in the Whitehaven News at It is not by any means wrong that the council should be looking hard at it's property portfolio and trying to find better ways of using council assets to help local residents. It is not necessarily wrong that that review might include negotiating a move for organisations like the Whitehaven Community Trust into the Civic Hall on fair terms. What is, however, outrageous is the way the trust is being told to move on terms which on the

Quote of the day 22nd February 2015

"I wouldn't read a 52-page love letter from Kylie Minogue. What chance of granny in the pew reading one on politics from a bunch of bishops?" (An unidentified Church of England Bishop quoted in The Times this week expressing his doubts about whether Anglican congregations would welcome a lengthy episcopal epistle about the forthcoming election.)

Government acts to fight Dementia

While the Conservatives were still in opposition I recall attending a Conservative meeting at which a very powerful and moving address on dementia was given by the author Terry Pratchett - who suffers from a form of dementia which does not prevent him writing books or making speeches but still has significant impacts on quality of life. The coalition government has attempted to address this issue and David Cameron signalled a significant further effort today, when he announced that £300 million pounds of taxpayers' money will be committed to research into fighting dementia. He said that an international dementia institute will be established in England over the next five years in a bid to make the UK a world leader for research and medical trials. Some 1.3 million NHS workers will also receive additional training in how to care for people with dementia. The Prime minister called dementia "one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime". There are approximatel

Quote of the day 21st February 2015

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” ( Thomas Sowell ) (Hat tip to )

The Putin Problem

When the Berlin wall fell, and the Cold War came to an end, Russia appeared to begin developing the institutions of a democracy. It was not unreasonable at that time to hope that, although the process of building a stable democracy takes time and usually involves some bumps along the road and geopolitics would inevitably lead to some disagreements with the West, the days when Russia had to be seen as a hostile power were coming to an end. While Boris Yeltsin was President of the Russian Federation, there was more evidence for this view than against it. And while Vladimir Putin is clearly no Gorbachov or Yeltsin, it did not seem impossible at first to do business with him. But over the past year, the number of warning signs have been increasing that, if Putin ever was a leader we could deal with amicably, he is such a leader no longer. In the days of the Warsaw Pact one of the ugliest features of the Cold War was the fact that assassination was sometimes used against those who w

Grant Shapps writes on Sharing the Facts:

Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps writes: Be at the heart of the most important election in a generation - start using our Share the Facts site today and let everyone know what's at stake in May. This election is going to be close - and we need every Conservative supporter to play their part. One simple but important way you can help is by joining the thousands of supporters sharing graphics, videos and blog posts online through our Share the Facts site. Every week, Share the Facts users help get our message out to over 3 million people - and with you on board, we can reach even more. You'll be playing a vital role in the campaign: letting your friends and family know about our plans to secure a better future for Britain - and how Ed Miliband, propped up by who-knows-what minor parties, would put it all at risk. Simply go to the Share the Facts site, click on an item you want to share and sign up for an account when asked. You'll then get points every time

WCH Torchlit procession report

Hundreds of people joined the torchlit procession organised by the ‘We Need West Cumberland Hospital’ group from Whitehaven town centre to the hospital on Sunday. Gathered at the hospital, the campaigners then turned out their torches one by one as each of the services whose future is under consideration by the trust was read out. A fuller report on the event and the Trust's response, and link to the article in this week's Whitehaven News about the procession, is given on my hospitals blog at

Quote of the day 20th February 2015

"Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" Most frequently quoted version of an aphorism from the 5th century work, De Re Militari ("Of Matters Military") by  Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus . It is most often translated as "If you want peace, prepare for war."

IDS writes on reforming welfare:

Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith writes ...    "At the heart of our welfare reforms is a simple goal: to tackle the culture of welfare dependency that Labour allowed to develop. So we're creating a system that helps people stand on their own two feet - restoring the incentive to work and ensuring that work always pays. Gone will be the days when it could make more sense to sit on benefits than enter work. Now, the right choice is also the logical one. Our new Universal Credit is already transforming lives, freeing people from welfare dependency and helping them provide for themselves and their families. Yet Labour refuse to back the scheme. Having opposed every one of our vital welfare reforms, including the benefit cap, again they stand in the way of progress. So I need your support. Add your name today to show you back the important changes we're making to the welfare system. The difference between the Conservatives and Labour on welfar

Quote of the Day 19th February 2015

“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” ( George Orwell ) (Hat tip to )

Guido on Apple's new HQ.

Guido Fawkes had a "what's the difference between" post last week concerning Apple's new HQ at He showed these two pictures, first of the new Apple HQ which is currently under construction, and of another large construction project in Cheltenham a decade ago (e.g. GCHQ)   Which prompts the question "Can you spot the difference?" and the answer "One is the HQ of a secretive organisation hellbent on hoovering up your personal data, and the other …"

Quote of the day 18th February 2015

"Rule of thumb: if a movie trailer makes me mutter 'No one wants to see that' then about 50-100 million people will want to see that." (Aubrey Stern @AubreyStern on twitter 11th February 2015)

Quote of the day 17th February 2015

“They voted because they utterly despaired of their established parties, and probably rightly, although it was a bit hard on the outgoing prime minister. But at last they decided that the old Greek political establishment, corrupt and oligarchic as it had always been, had got them into this mess, and was probably not going to get them out of it quickly, and so they decided to take a risk – what else was on offer? – and see if these extraordinary alternative Left politicians can somehow pull off a miracle, which I don’t think they can. “Every western democracy has that problem. The angry impatience, the escapism, the easy answer – to say it’s all the fault of our established politicians, all the fault of these bloody foreigners – every western democracy has that. “In no western democracy can the traditional parties of government get a majority on their own. The first one was the Tea Party. Then you had Le Pen. Most of the protests are right-wing nationalist in Europe, but some are l

Two opposing fantasies about the Euro

There are two opposite and equally ludicrous British fantasies about the Euro. The one which most of the political class believed fifteen years ago was that joining the Euro would be good for Britain and it was inevitable that we would join within at most a decade. Only a handful even of the dwindling band of Federalists still think that now - Ken Clarke does not expect to see Britain replace the pound by the Euro in his lifetime. Much more persistent among the far from diminishing band of hardline Eurosceptics is the view, in my opinion equally silly, that the Euro has been a disaster for all participants and will collapse soon. People who have convinced themselves of this are living on another planet. The Euro has been a disaster for countries like Greece, Spain and Italy which were insane to join it and should never have been allowed to. For Germany, and for countries which have economies closely aligned to Germany and are willing to accept the loss of independent economic

A quarter of UK tax is paid by the wealthiest taxpayers.

New figures show that the wealthiest taxpayers paid a quarter of all UK income tax last year, and the proportion has increased since the coalition came to power. Both the proportion and the amount paid by "additional rate" taxpayers has increased: where before they paid £38 billion there are now 313,000 such taxpayers paying £46.5 billion. This knocks two Labour myths on the head 1) It demonstrates that this government's policies have not, despite Labour propaganda to the contrary, reduced the amount or proportion of tax paid by the wealthiest people. 2) Although those who break the law by failing to pay their taxes should be prosecuted, and loopholes which allow people to get away with ridiculously low payments should be closed, if a little over three hundred thousand rich people are paying between them more than forty billion a year in tax, those people on average must be paying over a hundred thousand pounds a year each. And if on average they're paying t

Quote of the day 16th February 2015

“I’ve reached the stage that once the thought enters my mind that things are not what they were, I count to ten, because that’s an inevitable reaction that hits everybody at my age." (Kenneth Clarke MP)

Killing someone because you don't like their views is the real blasphemy

Yesterday I published a post on this blog condemning the murder of three Muslims in America, which, without wishing to pre-judge the result of the forthcoming court case, appears to have been because of their beliefs. The same day a meeting about free speech was attacked by a terrorist gunman who killed one person and wounded three police officers, apparently because one of the people present was a cartoonist who had depicted the prophet in the past. It cannot be said too many times that murdering people because you don't like views they express is wrong whoever does it and whoever is the victim. One of my beliefs happens to be that you should try treat other people's views with respect. I won't be posting any cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed on this blog, and that isn't just from fear of being attacked: I won't be going online under a false name and posting them anonymously either. But the fact that I am in generally favour of treating the religious

Reminder: Torchlit procession this evening to support WCH

There will be a torchlight procession in Whitehaven tonight (Sunday 15th February 2015) to support the campaign to keep services at West Cumberland Hospital. Meet at St Nicholas's Gardens shortly before 6pm if you would like to support the campaign. Thirty-three torches will be paraded from St Nicholas Gardens, from 6pm on Sunday, to WCH Organisers are inviting people to join. The procession has been organised by the “We Need West Cumberland Hospital” campaign group to raise awareness about the issues around the future of services at the hospital. Once the procession arrives at the hospital, at about 6.45pm, each of the torches will be switched off. There are proposals being looked at by the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust to strip West Cumberland Hospital of its full maternity service as well as downgrading other services including children’s ward. It would mean thousands of people having to travel to access hospital care. More details at the "Support West

Quote of the day 15th February 2015


If Ken Clarke had won ...

A few days ago. in response to an fascinating interview with Ken Clarke on Conservative Home here I posted an quote from that article here and added that "Ken Clarke would certainly have been leader of the Conservative party and very possibly Prime Minister were it not for the tragedy that his views on Europe were so different from those of most Conservatives." My attention was drawn today on twitter to a counterfactual post on the Economist website here about what might have happened if Ken Clarke had become Conservative leader in 2005 when he made the third and last of his three bids for the position. The author admits that this post "contains wishful thinking." It certainly does. However, Ken came much closer to being leader in 1997 and 2001, and was runner up in both those elections. In 1997 Ken was the "favourite" e.g. the candidate expected to win, and the golden rule of Conservative leadership elections is that the early favourite NEVER wi