Thursday, April 30, 2015

Campaigning in Millom today

Three great campaigning sessions today in the elections,: in the morning and early afternoon we were joined in Millom's Holborn Hill ward by Charles Heslop, past President of the National Conservative Convention.

We had a great session in Millom with Charles in the morning, went on to campaign in The Green this afternoon, and then went to the other end of Copeland and campaigned in Moresby Parks.

Thanks to Charles and all members of the team who helped us today.

Music to relax after campaiging: "With Catlike Tread" from the PIrates of Penzance

There are more subtle versions of this, but I'm afraid I love the really hammed-up ones in which the pirates are singing at the tops of their voices about how quiet they are being and the words "with catlike tread" are followed by the loudest possible stamping of feet ...

And of course, #SupportOption1


The general and local elections take place one week today.

My impression campaigning today in Millom was that our reception was very friendly, and I also had the impression that Labour's vote is very soft.

Opinion Polls suggest that the election is still extremely close: every vote could count and could make a difference. Everything to play for. This could go either way.

Quote of the day 30th April 2015

My quote today is this poster idea from the folks at "Do what's right for Britain."

Some people will ask "Can't you aim higher than that?" and to be quite honest they have a very good point, but elections are about making choices between imperfect alternatives.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Music to relax after campaigning: Jeremiah Clarke 'Trumpet Voluntary'

As I posted Purcell's "Trumpet Tune" yesterday as my piece to relax after campaigning, what better to follow it than the equally magnificent trumpet piece with which it is often confused, Jeremiah Clarke's "The Prince of Denmark's march" (more commonly known as the "Trumpet Voluntary".)

Hamlet would doubtless have approved ...

And don't forget to #SupportOption1

Mayoral hustings this evening

Churches Together in Egremont and District have invited all three candidates for Mayor of Copeland to a hustings session this evening (Wednesday 29th April) in The Meeting Place (the Methodist chapel) in Egremont at 7.30 pm.

Disaster relief following the Himalayan earthquake:

Nepal, homeland of the Gurkhas, has been badly affected by the recent earthquake.

If you want to show your support for some of the best friends Britain has ever had, here is a link to the Gurhka Welfare Trust.

(Hat tip to a serious comment on the NewsThump humorous website.)

Tax pledges



Eight days to go and still too close to call

The general and local elections are now a week tomorrow days away and it all still looks extremely close.Which means that every vote still counts and there is all to play for ...

Quote of the day 29th April


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Music to relax after campaigning: Henry Purcell's Trumpet Tune

To relax after campaigning this evening: Purcell's Trumpet Tune

A "Pop Oratorio" about Britain a few years ago put some words to this in the section on British music ...

"Then a man called Purcell came to save us
Stopped those foreign imports at a stroke
Wrote good tunes that really stirred the nation
Everybody said he was a splendid bloke!"

And BTW - #SupportOption1 and consultant-led maternity at WCH and FGH hospitals.

Five thousand positive reasons to Vote Conservative

Yesterday's Telegraph front page with details of a letter signed by 5,000 SME business owners backing the Conservatives.
And don't forget, #SupportOption1

Quote of the day 28th April 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Music to relax after campaigning: Purcell's Rondeau

Today's music to relax after campaigning is Purcell's Rondeau.

I am of an age to always remember this as the theme music from a BBC costume drama, "The First Churchills" but it was also incorporated into Britten's "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and into the Conservative election theme which Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote for the Conservative Campaign theme a few general elections ago.

And don't forget, we need consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital and Furness General, so #SupportOption1

Disaster in Nepal

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured, made homeless, or lost family or friends as a result of the terrible earthquake in the Himalayas, currently estimated to have killed more than three thousand six hundred people in Nepal as well as dozens in India and China.

Prayers also for the souls of those who died.


From the Conservative manifesto:

“We are committed to a truly national recovery, benefiting all parts of our country. We have devolved powers to Scotland and Wales, and set out long-term economic plans to raise the growth rate of all parts of England, bringing areas which have grown more slowly up to at least the national average.

"Over the last year, the North grew faster than the South. By connecting up the North with modern transport links, we will enable its great cities and towns to pool their strengths. We will invest a record £13 billion in transport for the North. We will electrify the main rail routes, build the Northern Hub, and provide new trains for the North.

"We will upgrade the A1, M62, M1 and A555 link road. And that is on top of our £50 billion commitment to build High Speed 2 – the new North-South railway linking up London with the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester – and develop High Speed 3 to join up the North.

"We will back scientific and technical strengths by creating new institutions such as Health North; the Royce Institute for Advanced Materials in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield; the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation in Newcastle; the Cognitive Computing centre at Daresbury; and by making investments in energy research in Blackpool, Cumbria and Thornton.”

See Conservative home here for a positive grassroots take on this.

Ten days to go and everything to play for

Ten days to the General and Local elections. All looking very close and every vote could count ...

Quote of the day 27th April 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Music to relax to (and giggle) after campaigning: The Pirate King's song

Kevin Kline as the Pirate King from the Pirates of Penzance ...

And by the way, #SupportOption1


Whether or not there is a new generation of nuclear power plants - as I believe there should be - there will be a need to find the safest possible means of storing and dealing with large quantities of nuclear by-products. We already have hundreds of tons of such materials stored in Copeland, particularly at Sellafield and the Low Level waste facility at Drigg.

I believe that it would be grossly irresponsible not to keep the storage and treatment arrangements for this waste under review and to seek a safe and environmentally sustainable long-term solution. I am open to persuasion if any new evidence should come to light concerning what type of solution is safest and least harmful to the environment, but on what I have so far seen the evidence for a GDF is stronger than the evidence for a surface solution provided that the right geology can be found.

The previous MRWS (Managing Radioactive Waste Safely) process was aborted before investigations of geological suitability moved beyond the desktop stage to the kind of actual physical investigation which would have established whether particular areas are suitable or not. The completion of such an investigation is essential to ensure that the geology is acceptable and safe before any proposed development goes to the planning stage.

I support the principle of voluntarism - e.g. that you don't build a new nuclear waste facility into a community which has not voluntarily entered into discussions about it - including the ability of a host community to withdraw at any stage prior to the actual construction of a facility.

In my opinion no GDF proposal should move to the construction stage without being approved in a referendum of all residents of the area affected. Under the present system of local government the most appropriate area for such a referendum would be the district or districts affected. If the entire facility is within one district council area the referendum should be of the people of that district: if it is shared between two districts or on the border of a second district then the referendum should cover both.

This plebiscite should give a veto to the people of the district but should not be the only form of consultation employed, and more local levels such as parishes should also be consulted during the process.

Let me be crystal clear: If I become Mayor of Copeland I would make sure that a referendum in which all the people of Copeland could vote had to be held before any GDF was built.

The nuclear waste is going to be around for a long time. I believe that it is far better to proceed slowly with the maximum degree of consultation than to give the impression that any proposal is being steamrollered through.

Rescue in the Mediterreanean

It was right to reverse the previous policy on rescue in the Mediterranean. It is wrong to rewrite history in order to use a tragedy to score political points.

This Telegraph article by Dan Hodges contains points which should be uncomfortable reading for people in all political parties, including Conservatives, Lib/Dems, Labour and UKIP supporters. There are no easy answers to the tragic situations in Libya, Syria or Iraq. But we need to somehow find the right balance between rushing in gung-ho with all guns blazing and trying to totally ignore the massacre of innocent people in Africa and the Middle East.

And make no mistake - if we try to ignore the problems of the Middle East, they will not indefinitely ignore us.

Quote of the day 26th April 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Music to relax after campaigning: The Queen of the Night's Aria

Tonight's music to relax after campaigning is one of the most beautiful things ever written for the human voice - "Der Holle Rache" from Mozart's "The Magic flute, usually known as the "Queen of the Night's Aria."

I had heard this piece several times before I actually went to see the opera, and because of the speed and range at which the performer has to sing, my German was nowhere near good enough to follow what was actually being said.

It was therefore a terrible shock when I did go to see the opera, and found out!

I've posted here a version without subtitles, so if you want to continue to listen to it as a beautiful piece of music and have no wish to know what the Queen of the Night is singing, you can watch this.

But here is a link to the same thing with German and English subtitles if you do want to know what the words mean.

Or here is a link to Kenneth Branagh's version of the opera in which Lyubov Petrova sings "The Queen of the Night's Aria" in English

Alternatively here is the Barbie version ...

And don't forget, #SupportOption1


The general and local elections are twelve days away today. I cannot recall at any time in my adult life being this close to a General election and there being so much uncertainty about what was likely to happen.

That applies both nationally to the general election and here in Copeland where Labour are certain to lose seats because they have not put up as many candidates - a hung council is a real possibility and I think any of the three candidates to be directly-elected mayor have a chance of winning.

I do remember one occasion when at this distance from an election nearly everyone thought it was going to go one way, and in the event it went the other - that was 1992. Of course, for that very reason people are more aware that the outcome of an election may be different from what the polls appeared to predict.

I say "Appeared to predict" because, of course, an opinion poll is NOT a prediction of an election result. It is a snapshot giving an indication of what might have happened if the election were the day after the poll. But it isn't, and people can and often do change their minds between the opinion poll fieldwork and the actual election.

Because this election appears likely to be so close, and because of the unclear impact of several previously small parties which may get a bigger vote share this time than in the past on the vote shares of the leading parties, there is much more uncertainty this time than usual. The chances of a result in which either the Conservatives or Labour do significantly better than the polls appeared to suggest is very real and it could go in either direction.

The one outcome which I think you can rule out is a landslide win for any party. A slim Conservative majority is still a possibility. My gut instincts are that for Labour to win an overall majority from the present situation is unlikely, but they could end up as the largest party in terms of seats - possibly without being the largest party in terms of votes. The most likely outcome appears to be another hung parliament - but what sort of hung parliament is entirely open at this stage.

It really could go either way - which means that every vote counts and there is everything to play for.

ANZAC Day: Two Tragic anniversaries

Two terrible events occurred a hundred years ago this week.

Yesterday, Friday 24th April was the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

There is some debate about whether we should use that word or just call it a massacre. I agree with my colleague Saj Karim who did some great work in the European Parliament on this issue that we should use the word genocide, not least because the person who is usually credited with originally coining the term "genocide" in the first place was specifically thinking of the murder of millions of Armenian men, women and children in 1915 when he did so.

This ghastly crime was one of Hitler's inspiration for some of his own most evil actions: there is evidence that he actually said in a speech to his commanders at Obersalzberg a week before invadint Poland,  "Who, after all, speaks to-day of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Hitler was wrong:This month the European Parliament spoke of it and so have many others.

And then today, ANZAC Day,  is the anniversary of the first landings at Gallipoli, a tragic botched campaign in which thousands of brave men gave their lives.

This was the campaign for which the expression "Lions led by Donkeys" was first used to describe allied footsoldiers. That biting expression contains a great deal of truth, but ironically in the Gallipolli campaign the main problem was very much the opposite of that most often presented in the "Oh what a lovely war" view of the Great War/World War One.

The popular image of World War one is of aggressive, callous and ruthless generals who didn't care about getting their soldiers killed and who threw thousands of lives away by sending their men "over the top" to attack impregnable positions.

Like most myths, this has an element of truth, particularly in respect of the Western Front.

At Gallipoli, however, overcaution by allied generals was probably a more important cause of British, Australian, and New Zealand casualties than overly aggressive tactics. The Turks were given time to prepare defences covering the most likely landing sites, One of the opposing commanders was Mustafa Kemal, later dictator of Turkey and founder of the modern Turkish state, who made his name during the campaign, and moved his units quickly into key positions. Both sides took heavy casulaties during the fighting but the Allies failed to achieve any of their objectives.

The only good thing to come out of the campaign is that lessons were learned about how not to conduct an amphibious assault which undoubtedly saved many thousands of Allied lives in subsequent campaigns including the D-Day landings.

Today is a day to remember all the brave men who fought and died for their countries during the Gallipoli campaign.

Who wants to send me to Canada?

For the past couple of days a website which claims to offer the necessary application forms to apply to emigrate to Canada has kept popping up on my computer.

Like a number of people I might be tempted to make jokes about emigrating to the other side of the Atlantic if the election in twelve days' time produces an Ed Miliband government, especially if propped up by the SNP, but I would never actually do it.

I'm trying to work out who I have offended so badly that they might want me to be on the other side of the pond ...

Quote of the day 25th April 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Next Conservative Government ...

To relax after campaigning: Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba"

Tonight's "Music to relax after campaigning" is the Sinfonia which introduces Act III of the oratorio "Solomon" which is invariably known as the "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba."

To the best of my knowledge Handel never gave it that title, but it emerged because the section of the oratorio which relates to the visit of the Queen of Sheba follow immediately on from, this and the nickname has stuck.

I've always wondered who the Queen of Sheba really was. Most modern scholars agree that Sheba was the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, centered around the oasis of Marib, in present-day Yemen.

An alternative view was put forward by Immanuel Velikovsky. Many of his ideas appear to be somewhere between way out and completely bonkers, but I've always been intrigued by his suggestion that the Queen of Sheba was actually Pharaoh Hatshepsut and that the Egyptian records of her making a visit to the "Land of Punt" refer to a visit to Israel - to Solomon's court.

The "Land of Punt" was a trading partner of Ancient Egypt for centuries: nobody has ever conclusively proved where it actually was with possible locations suggested from East Africa to the Arabian peninsular.

On the conventional chronology the idea that the Queen of Sheba could have been Hatshepsut would be a few centuries out. However, other people such as David Rohl have put forward much less wacky and more evidence-based ideas than those of Velikovsky which also challenge the current conventional wisdom about the chronology of Egyptian and Israeli ancient history.

Regardless, it's a great piece of music !

And don't forget, #SupportOption1

Quote of the Day 24th April 2015

'A few countries, only a few, are driving growth: one is the USA, where growth is solid, anchored and where we foresee a 2015 that will be also a good year. And the UK where clearly growth is improving, the deficit has been reduced, and where the unemployment is going down."

"'Certainly from a global perspective this is exactly the sort of result that we would like to see: more growth, less unemployment, a growth that is more inclusive, that is better shared, and a growth that is also sustainable and more balanced."

IMF chief Christine Lagarde praising the growth of the UK economy and the coalition government's management of the economy. She also said that other countries should follow Britain's example and that

'The UK is leading in a very eloquent and convincing way in the European Union.'

For reference see: here.

The final word on Jamie Reed's car crash mansion tax interview ...

Last word on this topic. Last night at a debate between parliamentary candidates for Copeland at Mirehouse, Jamie Reed said that the independent experts who had validated Labour's estimate that the Mansion tax would raise £1.2 billion in its' first year were from HMRC.

If that is correct why on earth did he not give that answer to Andrew Neil?

And by the way, we need consultant-led maternity at WCH and FGH, so #SupportOption1

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Even more "Bach to basics"

During election season I have been posting a piece of "Music to relax after campaigning" at 9pm each evening.

This is Bach's cantata "Wake oh Wake" which my family jokingly refer to as "Not the black horse."

(The explanation of that joke is that this is a different variation on the same theme - the hymn "Wake O Wake" - as the variation which Lloyds Bank used to deploy in their advertising, accompanied by a picture of a black horse.)

And yes, I will say it again: #SupportOption1 because we must keep consultant led maternity services at WCH and FGH

Policies for Copeland: Debate starts on CBC property portfolio

One of the good things about the fact that we are having an election for a Mayor of Copeland is that a number of issues which have been ignored for too long are bubbling to the surface. One of them is whether we can get better value for taxpayers from council assets such as the property portfolio.

I have been looking at this as the probable means of implementing one of the policies in my manifesto: last night another candidate published proposals to use them for his.

I am committed to making Copeland BC car parks free after 3pm and funding this by not appointing a political assistant: I have also promised in my manifesto which is now being distributed to look at increasing the number of car parking spaces.

There is a serious lack of places to park near the main shopping areas of Copeland, particularly but not only Whitehaven Town Centre: this has been made worse with the opening of Albion Square as the Ginns which used to provide an effective buffer is now full from early morning with cars which presumably mostly belong to people who work there, or have been displaced from their previous parking sites by those who do.

Copeland BC has more than ten million pounds of property not essential to current operations, some spare, some investment property. Given the council's previous record of finding extra reserves and assets when they belatedly look, it is far from impossible that a mayor who knew what he or she was doing might be able to increase that figure.

My current intention if elected is to look at the council's property assets with a view to disposing of or using some of them to fund or provide more car parking spaces so more people can get into our towns to support local shops and businesses.

I was very interested in the proposal which Mike Starkie, another candidate, put forward yesterday evening to use money from Copeland BC's property portfolio to set up a local power company.

I will be studying the proposals in more details as and when they are fleshed out: we have had far too much "not invented here" in Copeland over the past forty years and I would much rather go back to an older tradition of doing the best you can for the public by pinching the best ideas of one's opponents !

I think it is a really good thing that ideas of how to make better use of these assets are coming forward. Unfortunately we cannot spend the same money twice, and the amount of property which the council holds may not be large enough to make it practical to do both. I think providing more car parking must be a very high priority if we are to get people into Copeland's town centres and regenerate them.

What I am 100% certain of is that both my idea of using money from the property portfolio to provide more parking and Mike Starkey's idea of using it to provide more affordable housing and a local energy company are infinitely preferable to the previous situation where assets worth millions of pounds owned by the local taxpayer were just sitting there with nobody putting forward any useful ideas of what to do with them to benefit local people or services.

Deficit slashed by £11 billion

A bigger than expected fall in the March budget deficit figure means that the government borrowing figures for 2014/15 have come in below target at £11 billion lower than last year.

Details available on the BBC website at

Very good news that the coalition government is succeeding in reducing the deficit but it is still dangerously and unsustainably high and the crushing debt burden we are leaving future generations is still increasing. That is why Britain cannot afford to abandon the effort to cut the deficit.

I hesitate to quote the Institute of Fiscal Studies because honesty will then compel me to admit that the IFS were fairly rude about the amount of detail which all parties have given about their policies, but I think it is fair to point out that they also said that Labour's policies (and those of all other major parties) would mean a lot more borrowing.

If there were another party on offer which was credibly proposing to borrow a lot less than the Conservatives I think we would have a serious fight on our hands with that party for the votes of the most intelligent and responsible voters, but there isn't. The only clear alternative is proposing to borrow more - while simultaneously claiming, heaven help us, to stand for fiscal responsibility. (The Guardian typo when they accidentally referred to "fiscal irresponsibility" was closer to the truth.)

But at least the deficit is currently heading in the right direction.

Two weeks to go and everything to play for!

The general and local elections are two weeks today.

This is the most open set of elections in years, everything is suggesting an extremely close finish both nationally and here in Copeland and there is everything to play for

Happy Saint George's Day!

A very happy St George's Day to everyone reading this.

As someone who appreciates the rich cultural tapestry of the British Isles I celebrate all four of our national Saint's Days.

If we had some sort of tabula rasa and were picking a Patron Saint for England from scratch, I think Saint Alban, the first known Christian martyr in these islands, would be a far stronger candidate than Saint George. He definitely existed, he actually lived in England, and the deed for which he is remembered - giving his life to save a Christian Priest rather than defeating some mythical dragon - really happened.

But we don't have a tabula rasa, and people in England have celebrated St George's day for centuries.

Taking pride in your own culture and history does not have to mean a lack of inclusivity or that you denigrate the culture of other nations in any way, shape or form. To start hacking bits out of our national culture for no good reason would be a tragedy, so I say again: Happy Saint George's day!

Quote of the day 23rd April 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Claim that 1 million people use food banks comprehensively debunked

The allegation has been made, including at the debate at Egremont in Copeland earlier this week between the parliamentary candidates here, that more than a million people are using food banks.

The fact that anyone needs to use food banks should be of concern to any compassionate person and I would not for a moment dispute that the number of people who are using food banks in Britain is much larger than any reasonable person should be comfortable with.

However the allegation that a million people are using them has been comprehensively demolished by the "Full Facts" fact checking team as you can read at

This figure appears to have come from a statement from the Trussel Trust which co-ordinates food banks and has claimed that, quote "over 1,000,000 people have received at least three days’ emergency food from the charity’s foodbanks in the last twelve months”

However, this statement is extremely misleading, and, to quote the "full facts" team,

"comes from confusing the number of different people using Trussell Trust food banks in a year with the number of times they use the food banks."

After being challenged on this, the Trussel Trust have added to their press release the qualification that "these are not unique users."

In other words, if a family of four get a voucher to obtain food from a food bank for three days on a given week, that will count as four people fed for three days. If the same family go back a month later and do the same again, these two instances will show up in the Trussel Trust figures as a total of eight people fed for three days.

The Trussell Trust describe their service as “emergency food and support”, not sustained food provision. About half of their users only needed one food bank voucher in a year, though a significant minority, about 15%, used the service more than three times.

The Trust estimates that the average number of vouchers issued per year to the people who come to them is two. If that is anywhere near correct the number of people using their food banks for three days or more in a year is much closer to 550,000 than to 1.1 million.

Which is still worryingly high, and clear evidence of how important it is to keep going with the economic policies which have delivered two million new jobs in the last five years.

But please, guys, let's try to get our facts right!

Labour candidate declines opportunity to go back on TV and answer the question ...

During the "Car Crash" interview earlier this week by Ed Miliband's Labour candidate for Copeland, who is a shadow health minister, he said that "Independent experts" had verified that the so called "Mansion Tax" would raise £1.2 billion a year, but but failed to answer when Andrew Neil asked him five times who these "Independent Experts" were. The line to Carlisle then apparently went dead.

We learn today here that Jamie Reed was invited back onto today's Daily politics show to finish the interview but declined (or perhaps was ordered not to go on by Labour HQ to stop him causing them any more embarrassment.)

In fact the Labour party declined to put anyone up to defend or explain their position on the NHS in what they themselves have called "NHS Week"

These people call themselves the party of the NHS, so why won't they allow their plans for the NHS to be subject to proper debate?

If you missed it, here is a repeat of what the Guido Fawkes blog described as the "worst interview of the 2015 campaign so far ..."

And while I'm talking about the needs of the NHS in Copeland, one of the things we need is consultant-led maternity care at West Cumberland Hospital and FGH, so please #SupportOption1

Music to relax after campaigning: yet more Bach to Basics

This evening's music to relax after campaigning: Brandenberg Five with period instruments.

(E.g. the fifth of Bach's six "Brandenberg" concertos, performed here by the Croatian Baroque ensemble)

And don't forget: we must let the NHS trusts know that it's essential to retain consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland and Furness General hospitals: #SupportOption1

Quote of the day Wednesday 22nd April 2015

"The question isn't who's going to let me, it's who's going to stop me."

(Ayn Rand)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Music to relax after campaigning: more Bach to basics

This evening's piece of classic music to relax after campaigning: Bach's magnificent Magnificat

And don't forget: #SupportOption1

Copeland Labour candidate's car crash interview on NHS spending

Ed Miliband's Labour candidate for Copeland, who is a shadow health minister, had a car crash interview with Andrew Neil today in which he was unable to explain clearly whether the extra £2.5 billion promised by Labour was a contribution towards the £8 billion funding gap in the NHS which the Conservatives have promised to meet. (Labour have refused to match this commitment.)

Then he was unable to answer basic questions about the "Mansion Tax" which is supposed to fund the money Labour is proposing to spend on the NHS. He said that independent experts has backed Labour's estimate of how much money this would raise: Andrew Neil asked him several times which independent experts and he repeatedly avoided giving any answer.

Andrew Neil was still trying to get an answer when the line to Carlisle was cut off. Unkind people were wondering if a friend of the Labour candidate cut him off to avoid further embarrassment ...

And while I'm talking about the needs of the NHS in Copeland, #SupportOption1

One US import we can do without ...

One American import we can do without - an exacerbated culture war between parents and non-parents.

I spent the first 21 years of my adult life as a batchelor, had fifteen months as a married person whose children had not yet arrived, and for just under fouteen years have been a parent. So I have some understanding both of how non-parents sometimes view families with children and how it seems from the other side of the fence.

I enjoyed to the full the freedoms I had as a single man. I respect those who would prefer to keep that freedom, or tie themselves only to one fellow-adult.

Marriage and parenthood have brought pains and pleasures. Even in the most difficult moments I have never regretted the decision my wife and I made to try to have children, but I accept that what was the right decision for us would not have been right for everyone.

The decision to have, or not to have children is not one that everyone gets to make. I know of some people who would have loved to have children, and who would have made great parents, but never had the opportunity.

But most people are part of a couple who have the choice. That choice is intensely personal and I don't think there is anything whatsoever to be gained from those who have made either choice engaging in a "culture war" with those who made the other.

I did like one paragraph in particular in the article I have linked to below:

 " One could ... make the economic case that, with their taxes, childless couples are selflessly subsidizing the education and well-being of other people’s children (who provide tax breaks for their parents). Conversely, it is these parents’ descendants who will be taking care of the childless adults — and keeping society operational — when they are elderly."

Neither parents not non-parents have a monopoly on selfish or selfless individuals. Both groups include a majority of people who make a postivie contribution to society. An inclusive society which celebrates differences should be able to celebrate this difference too.

Link to New York Times article about a book on the subject: here.


The first batch of postal votes in Copeland is dropping through letterboxes this week: I have just had my postal votes through the doorstep.

I say "votes" because I had four ballot papers for four elections, for MP, Mayor, Borough Councillors, and Town/Parish councillors.

If you think you have a postal vote, and your voting papers do not  arrive in the next day or so, and your application to vote by post was not a very recent one, this may mean there is a problem with your individual registration. In Copeland you will not necessarily have lost the right to vote because of this, but there may be issues with your ability to vote by post.

I would advise any long-standing postal voter in Copeland whose postal vote does not arrive in the next 24 hours to contact the electoral registration office at Copeland Borough Council.

Swimathon 2015 update.

Can I repeat my thanks to all those generous souls who have sponsored my son, myself or both for either of the charity swims we have completed this year to date.

The first was the Whitehaven Lions "Swimarathon" at Copeland Pool in Hensingham. Each team taking part was raising money for two good causes: one nominated by the team and also the "James Burn Wish to Walk" campaign, which has been successful in raising the money to send him for his operation. This was a great event and we were glad to have the opportunity to support a charity swim at Copeland pool this year because a family wedding meant that we had to do Swimathon 2015 in pool in another part of the North West.

My son and I were very pleased to have the chance to take part in the Lions Swimarathon: between us we completed 50 laps of the pool (100 lengths, e.g. 2.5 kilometres) in the hour available. Our other charity was the Pride of Cumbria Air Ambulance.

Then last Sunday we completed Swimathon 2015 in aid of Marie Curie Cancer care.

I have now seen  my provisional time for the 5,000 metres on the Swimathon website, and had slightly misheard the lane judge at the event, although the statement that I had beaten two hours was correct: my time was one hour 58 minutes and 17 seconds. John reached 54 lengths in 54 minutes 43 seconds and I am very proud of him.
Adding up the sponsorship given to date for both events and for both John and myself, we are very grateful and pleased to have so far raised £295 for these excellent causes. It is not too late to sponsor us: the giving pages will be open for a couple of months yet. One or two people have had trouble with the links to these pages, and I would appreciate if you drop me a line if you have this issue or leave a comment below. But most people seem to have managed to use them.

Those links again:

Quote of the day Tuesday 21st April 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Music to relax after campaigning ... Bach to basics

During the election period I am posting a piece of great music to relax to at 9pm every day. Here is Bach's magnificent concerto for two violins

And don't forget, we need consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital and Furness General Hospital. #SupportOption1

The Number of the beast ...

I suppose it had to happen eventually.

This blog had exactly 666 hits yesterday.

Is it possible that some of Mr Miliband's people were checking on what the opposition were doing?

Hell, yes.

Proof that there is (sometimes) intelligent life in journalism

John Rentoul of the Independent tweeted last night that he was particularly proud of an article he had written in 2003, which begins with the words "Sometimes I don't understand politics at all" (a brave if worrying thing for a Chief Political Correspondent to admit.)

It is actually a very good article and I can see why he was proud to have written it.

I would love to live in a country where most people had the clarity of vision to be able to debate things based on truth rather than the sort of games he describes.



If you have not had a polling card and are not certain if you are on the register, check today if you don't want to lose your vote. You can register online via this link:

Quote of the day 20th April 2015

"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't"

(Mark Twain)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Another alternative piece to relax to after campaigning

Another alternative piece to relax to, this time the final part of "Winter" from the Four Seasons

A piece which conjures up an image as cold as XXXX's heart (insert name of your least favourite politician here) but is great to listen to.

And don't forget, we need consultant-led maternity at WCH and FGH


Pachelbel's Canon week concludes with the 1 Hour Version

And for the seriously hardcore fan of Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D, here is the one hour version ...

I really had better stop there before someone sends for the sort of cannon which has a third 'n' in the name!

(But we'll make you listen to this again and again unless you SUPPORT OPTION ONE.)

Pachelbel's Canon week: now with added Gigue !

For the past week I have been posting different versions of Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D. This was originally followed by a Gigue which for some reason is not heard nearly as often but is extremely nice, and I thought it would be wrong to finish the week without at least one version which included it. So here are versions seven and eight with the Gigue.

Have I finished? Not quite. Last post in this series coming up very shortly, aimed only at the seriously hardcore Pachelbel fan. And if Pachelbel were alive today and living in Cumbria, I'm sure he would SUPPORT OPTION ONE.

Swimathon 2015

We have now arrived back home after completing the Swimathon earlier today.

Fairly exhausted but no peace for the wicked: campaigning and various other activities start again tomorrow.

I managed to swim 200 lengths of a 25 metre pool in a little less than two hours.

If I heard the timekeeper correctly (which I would not swear to as I was exhausted and my ears were full of water) the precise time was one hour 50 minutes and 17 seconds.

My son had some technical difficulties (goggles broke) but still managed 54 lengths which is well over a kilometre, so I am very proud of him.

A very big thank you indeed to those generous people who have already sponsored my son, myself, or both: they include people on both sides of the political spectrum and people who are not involved in politics at all such as work colleagues and people who I know through charitable and social organisations.

I do think it says something very positive about the good side of the British political system, and the people involved in it, that even in the middle of a hotly contested election I found that both my political friends and foes, and non-political people who are probably wishing the election was over, came together to support my son and myself in our attempt to raise money for people with terminal illnesses. I really appreciate this.

Swimathon 2015 today - please wish us luck

Today (Sunday 19th April) my son and I will be taking part in the Swimathon in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.

As previously posted, I first took part in the Swimathon twenty-one years ago in 1994 so this will be the 22nd consecutive year I have swum the 5,000 metre challenge. My thireen-year old son John is joining me and taking part in the Swimathon for the third time: he will be swimming the 2,500 metre challenge.
The Swimathon is Britain’s largest charity swim, and gives people of very varied swimming abilities an opportunity to raise money for charity by swimming distances of up to 5,000 metres.  This year's Swimathon event is in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care, who look after 40,000 terminally ill people.
A big thank you to those who have already sponsored either me, or my son John. It is possible to sponsor swimmers online: If you would be kind enough to sponsor either or us and would like to use the online facility, you can do so at the following sponsorship page URL:

My giving page

My son's giving page

Quote of the day 19th April 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another alternative piece to relax to

Another alternative piece to relax to for those who might have had enough of Pachelbel's canon

The Dance of the Furies (also known as the dance of the Cybernats and Kippers)

And by the way #SupportOption1

Pachelbel's Canon week: version six

And for day six of my Pachelbel's Canon week, here is the LSO:

And by the way, SUPPORT OPTION ONE.

Quote of the day 18th April 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Alternative music to relax after campaigning

I appreciate that some people who like music to relax to and might not be as fond of Pachelbel's Canon as I am might by now by thinking that they would prefer to listen to something else.

Wrong time of year, I know (though some of the weather we have been having has been a bit wintry) but here is an alternative great piece to unwind to - the first movement of "Winter" from the Four Seasons

And by the way, #SupportOption1 !

Pachelbel's Cannon week: version five

This week's relaxing classics are versions of one of my favourite relaxing classics, Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. Version Five is a slightly modernised piano arrangement complete with a graphic showing the slots which would be used to programme an automatic piano to play it:

And by the way, SUPPORT OPTION ONE.

Priti Patel writes - 2 million jobs created since 2010


It's just been announced that 2 MILLION JOBS have been created since 2010.

That's an amazing number, but it's not some dry, meaningless statistic - it's 2 million more people with the security of a pay packet; 2 million more families able to look forward to a brighter future.

Let's get this important news out there - please share this graphic on Facebook and Twitter now using our Share the Facts site.

2 million more people in work - SHARE

It's no mystery why our economy is creating jobs: it's because of the hard work of the British people, and because of the measures David Cameron has put in place to back businesses and build a stronger, healthier economy.

Ed Miliband and the SNP would put all that at risk. Their plans for more borrowing, more debt and more taxes would mean chaos for Britain, and cost jobs.

We have to stop them.

Share our graphic on Facebook and Twitter today - or forward this email on to your friends and family, so they know to vote Conservative at this vital election.

Thank you,

Priti Patel
Donate today
Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Swimathon 2015

This weekend is Swimathon 2015 weekend, and on Sunday (Sunday 19th April) my son and I will be taking part in the Swimathon in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.

I first took part in the Swimathon twenty-one years ago in 1994 so this will be the 22nd consecutive year I have swum the 5,000 metre challenge. My thirteen-year old son John is joining me and taking part in the Swimathon for the third time: he will be swimming the 2,500 metre challenge.
The Swimathon is Britain’s largest charity swim, and gives people of very varied swimming abilities an opportunity to raise money for charity by swimming distances of up to 5,000 metres.  This year's Swimathon event is in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care, who look after 40,000 terminally ill people.
A big thank you to those who have already sponsored either me, or my son John. It is possible to sponsor swimmers online: If you would be kind enough to sponsor me, and would like to use the online facility, you can do so at the following sponsorship page URL:

My giving page

My son's giving page

The "Post hoc" problem

"Post Hoc" is short for "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" which is a classic logical fallacy - it is latin for "after this, therefore because of this."

The problem is that the "Post hoc" principle often works in practice, and I believe that it works often enough that in the process of human development we have become genetically programmed to think in those terms. Unfortunately although

"After this, therefore it MAY have been caused by this"

is a perfectly reasonable inference, we often act as though

"After this, therefore it MUST have been caused by this"

were also valid. And it isn't. Sometimes a third factor caused both events and sometimes the appearance of correlation is a pure coincidence.

A classic recent example has been caused by the fact that the age at which the NHS has chosen to give children the MMR vaccine happens to be close to the age at which children who are going to develop autism often begin to show symptoms.

Let me declare my own prejudice on the subject of MMR: my late mother had been, presumably wrongly, diagnosed with rubella when she was a child, and therefore she was not inoculated against it. Unfortunately she then developed rubella when pregnant with my sister, who as a direct consequence  was born severely handicapped and died at the age of one week. If MMR had been available and in use when my mother was an infant, the overwhelming probability is that my sister would be alive today.

But I appreciate that some of those parents whose children developed autism shortly after being given the MMR vaccine are as passionately convinced that the vaccine caused it as I am that the net effect of the vaccine is overwhelmingly positive.

Yesterday I saw this graphic on the subject:

Part of the problem is that the human brain evolved as a pattern-spotting mechanism designed to alert us to potential dangers and opportunities. And there are some patterns which appear to indicate danger or opportunity sufficiently often that there was an evolutionary advantage in selecting for people or proto-humans who employed them, possibly because in a pre-scientific era they were the least worst options our ancestors had.

Suppose you are an early hominid: your tribe has chosen or been forced to migrate to a new area with new fauna and flora. You are short of food and need to find out whether new items you might add to your diet are safe to eat. Taste and smell will take you so far, but in some cases you have to rely on trial and error.

You eat something and feel OK and reasonably conclude it must be all right. You eat something and are violently sick, and you avoid that food in future. A member of your tribe eats something and falls down dead and the rest of the tribe avoid it like the plague. And in the majority of cases will have been right to do so, though it is next to certain that some ancient tribes will have had the tradition that a particular item was unsafe to eat because some poor devil had an unfortunately timed heart attack or stroke which had nothing whatsoever to do with the particular food concerned. 

It is my opinion that some patterns of thought which are not strictly correct will have been close enough to the truth, perhaps the best available approach, in more primitive times, to create natural selection in favour of those who use them. I believe that in consequence, a preference for those patterns of thought is hardwired into our brains, even though those patterns are not always right.

I further believe that one of those patterns is a propensity to give a bit too much weight to "Post hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" style thinking as though it were a golden rule which is always right, rather than a useful indication which can often be right.

Quote of the day 17th April 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pachelbel's Canon week: version four

At 9pm each evening during the election (about the time we get home from campaigning), I am posting some relaxing classical music, and each evening this week will be posting a different version of one of my favourite relaxing classics, Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. This is version 4.

And by the way, SUPPORT OPTION ONE.

Three weeks to go and everything to play for

The General and local elections are three weeks today.

One of the consequences of having a free country is that people can think and vote the way they want to, and not the way I or anyone else thinks they should.

Part of me is very cross that an election which I think ought to be a Conservative landslide given that Labour are utterly unfit to govern is looking close, but the realist in me keeps reminding me to work in the world we have not the one I would like, and the democrat in me keeps reminding me that everyone has the right to their own opinion.

Nationally it does still looks very close and every vote could count.

Three weeks tomorrow David Cameron could be preparing for his second term, or Ed Miliband preparing to move in to Downing Street. Or an extensive round of negotiations to see who can form a government might be about to start. (Shudder!)

Locally in Copeland it looks close too with a voodoo poll for a local Newspaper suggesting Stephen Haraldsen neck and neck with Ed Miliband's Labour candidate. I don't pay too much attention to that kind of poll but our canvass returns and some of the national polls are also consistent with a very close result.

I think the local elections here are close too - we are picking up a LOT of discontent with the outgoing Labour administration and many voters hungry for change, which Conservative and Independent candidates are offering, and Labour cannot.

Have you noticed by the way that the Conservatives are not afraid to use David Cameron's name and are campaigning on the fact that if we lose Ed Miliband becomes PM, but nobody on the Labour side mentions Ed Miliband or Elaine Woodburn in their local literature? Funny, that.

And by the way, SUPPORT OPTION ONE - we need consultant led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital and FGH.

David Cameron writes about the next five years ...

David Cameron writes:

At the heart of our manifesto is a simple proposition: we are the party of working people, offering you security at every stage of your life.

If you're looking for training or a good job; if you want to buy your own home; if you're raising a family and need help with childcare or a great school place; if you fall ill and need to rely on our NHS; if you are reaching retirement and want real security - we are there for you.

These past five years have been a critical period for our country.

Together, with the hard work of the British people, we have rescued our economy, created record numbers of jobs, and put Britain back on her feet. But the next five years are much, much more important.

We are on the brink of something special. And our manifesto sets out how we will make this a country where those who work hard and do the right thing can enjoy a good life:
  • The personal tax-free allowance raised to £12,500
  • No 40p tax until you're earning £50,000
  • The family home taken out of Inheritance Tax
  • £8 billion more a year for our NHS - so it's there for your family, 7 days a week
  • Rail fares frozen for five years
  • Welfare controlled to reward work
  • Multinationals pursued so they pay their tax
  • The Right to Buy extended to 1.3 million extra families
  • 30 hours of free childcare a week for working families with 3 and 4 year-olds
  • Everyone earning the Minimum Wage lifted out of income tax altogether
We have come this far together. Let's not waste the past five years and let Labour drag us back to square one - instead, let's build on the progress we have made.

So volunteer to help our campaign today - and together, we can finish what we've begun and build a brighter, more secure future for your family and our country.

Thank you,

David Cameron
Donate today
Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Quote of the day 16th April 2015