Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ici Londres: In praise of patriotism

Dan Hannan MEP on the merits of patriotism.

(Not nationalism: he is talking about the sort of patriotism which means fondness for one's own country and as he points out, does not have to mean hatred or disdain for any other nation.)

Quote of the day 30th July 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Everyone should have a say on whether Britain stays in the EU

The point of holding a referendum on Britain's EU membership is that everyone should be entitled to have their say.

This is a decision for the British people, not just the politicians. Everyone should be able to take part in the debate, not just so-called "experts." I hope that debate can be held in a civilised and friendly manner, and that everyone will listen to the views of both sides.

I hope that both sides will put forward a positive vision for the sort of Britain they want and that country's place in the world, and that we won't get too much scaremongering from either side.

I hope that we don't get - from either side - any of the egregious hostility which sadly characterised some contributions to the Scottish independence debate. Those who indulged in that last year did no service to the cause of Scotland and anyone who adopts similar tactics of hate in the UK independence referendum will do no service to the cause of Britain.

There is a good article on the need for an inclusive debate by Mark Fox of the Business Services Association at:

My favourite advert of all time ...

They really don't make them like this any more, which is a shame. Not many adverts ever broadcast could make people laugh 20 years later as much as this one ...

And by the way, #SupportOption1

Quote of the day 29th July 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans

Dan Hannan has written a very good piece in the Washington Examiner,

Don't blame the Germans, blame the euro.

I have consistently been strongly opposed to British entry into the Euro and was part of the "Keep the Pound" campaign from day one.

There is actually a case for the Euro in those countries whose economies are synchronised with Germany's and which are willing to accept the financial discipline and loss of sovereignty which are necessary to make it work.

The inclusion of countries like Greece to which neither of these things apply was a recipe for disaster, and it is this, not any evil intent on the part of the German government or people, which has been a major part of the problems they have been experiencing (though massive mismanagement by past Greek governments didn't help.)

Quote of the day 27th July 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

This Week's best spoof articles

Another good crop of spoof stories, despite the fact that some of the "silly season" spoofs in the mainstream media are so ludicrous that it must have been hard to top them.

Indeed, this very point appears to have been the inspiration for the News Thump story Queen's corgis are Nazis claims shock report.

The Daily Mash says

"Labour MPs are all changing their name to Eric Pickles (except Jeremy Corbyn)," and on that note,

"Jeremy Corbyn's rivals accuse him of creating 'Scrappy Doo'."

NewsThump also advise us that "John Prescott says 'Hodor'" (I wonder which JRR Martin series of books they've been reading.)

And one from earlier this year which I missed at the time as I was just a bit busy with elections:

William Shatner steals space shuttle 'Enterprise' to search for reborn Leonard Nimoy.

Doubtless if that had been published in the last few days they would have suggested he might try to get to Kepler 542b ...

The best one however has to be how "Labour will do exactly what Tony Blair says." (Not.) The last line of the article refers to David Cameron being admitted to hospital for laughing too hard. Quite.

Congratulations to Chris Froome

Chris Froome has just become the first ever British cyclist to win the "Tour De France" twice. Congratulations to him on this fantastic achievement.

Sunday music spot: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

In 1804 Ludwig van Beethoven was going through a period when his work was not appreciated, and he was very short of money. He had such difficulty paying the bills that his cleaning lady, who had not been paid for weeks, came to give notice.

"But you cannot leave me!" cried Beethoven. "You are my inspiration."

The cleaning lady was most amused.

"I am YOUR inspiration?" she asked.

"Ha Ha Ha Haaaaah!"

"Ha Ha Ha Haaaaah!"

And by the way #SupportOption1.

Rebecca Coulson on Political Spam

Rebecca makes some good points at the Spectator here about the amount of texts, email, social media contact etc everyone remotely interested in politics tends to get, especially (but not just) during election campaigns.

I particularly like her last paragraph:

"Of course parties need to communicate during election campaigns. But they urgently need to do it better. By talking with rather than just talking to. By writing in clear, attractive English. By resisting cut-and-paste soliloquies with famous signatories. Simply, by offering people a real reason to vote for them."

Too right.

Quote of the day 26th July 2015

I picked this one because of the behaviour of SNP "anti-austerity" protesters in David Mundell's constituency last week. And anyone else who thinks they win an argument with someone by sending a hundred people to shout them down in a threatening or abusive way, or by insulting them generally.

As Jim King pointed out in a comment yesterday, the SNP are not the only culprits of this sort of behaviour. It is wrong whoever does it.

It is not impossible, by the way, to organise an demonstration in a non-threatening way, and I don't have a problem with that or consider that Paine's words would apply to it. I have seen, for example, a hundred or more people standing outside a building or the entrance to a venue, at a safe distance so that they are not obstructing of directly threatening the people their protest is aimed at, holding placards. The most effective such demonstrations had people either standing in disciplined silence or singing something associated with non-violent protest like "we will overcome" or "Kumbayah."

That sort of expression of opinion, where people show their own position without trying to threaten those who have a different view, express their is 100% legitimate and does not necessarily constitute the sort of thing Paine was writing about.

But where you get a mob of 100 people running after one person, chanting things like "traitor" and "shame on you" and doing so from six inches away from their car window, that is not a peaceful expression of opinion, it is threatening behaviour. Indeed, I think that the video footage of the demonstration against David Mundell MP on Friday should be studied by the police.

And those who take part in that kind of threat and intimidation have indeed renounced the use of reason.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bringing shame on Scotland ...

David Mundell MP is a good guy, an assiduous constituency MP and a brave man. He was jeered and threatened yesterday by an SNP mob when opening a food bank in his constituency. And nobody will convince me this was not organised.

As US comedian Jon Stewart asked Nicola Sturgeon a few weeks ago when she said the SNP were having an investigation into the three seats they didn't win (including David's),

"You think you're Saddam Hussein, you get 99%?"

It was funny on his show: this SNP mob are not funny, they are scary, because they are acting as if they actually believe they have a divine right to all the seats and anyone who opposes them is a traitor to Scotland.

They shouted at him "Traitor" and "Shame on you."

Well any decent human being watching the video of what happened would have been thinking "Shame on YOU!"

The members of that mob were a disgrace to Scotland.

As a person with some Scots ancestry myself, I cannot believe that most Scots really want to live in a country where being a politician from an opposition party means that you get treated like this.

This style of politics brings shame on Scotland and the SNP leadership will be bringing shame on themselves and on Scotland if they do not take steps to disavow it.

You can watch the video of what happened on the Daily Mail site at

And the SNP cannot claim that the contemptible behaviour of this mob was the action of individuals with no connection to their party: two of their branches have boasted on social media about being involved.

According to the Mail, the Dumfries East SNP branch also posted a link to a YouTube video of Mr Mundell at the event. The party tweeted:

'The Shaming of Mundell as he left via back door of food bank in Dumfries he'd just opened to shouts of "Shame on you".'

The West Dumfries branch of the SNP boasted on Facebook:
 'A great turnout to welcome Scotland's Viceroy, "Fluffy Munnel" in Dumfries today. Shame he scuttled off out the backdoor.'
They added that
'at least 100 folk' stood outside the foodbank with placards and chanted 'Tories Out!'. Mundell tried to sneak out the back door so we all piled round the back in hot pursuit chanting 'Shame on you'. Was brilliant! Lol!

I wonder how they would react if the Conservative or Labour parties arranged for a mob of 100 Conservative or Labour supporters to surround Nicola Sturgeon at a constituency function and behave towards her the way they behaved towards David Mundell. Somehow I don't think the SNP would be calling that "brilliant" or laughing out loud about it.

Quote of the day 25th July 2015

"After the events of the last few weeks Labour is doomed to be all over the place for quite some time."

(Steve Richards, in an Independent article which you can read here.

He is, however, quick to point out that five years is a long time in politics, inferring correctly Labour will not necessarily be all over the place for five years.

The fact that Labour are in a mess while the Conservatives are riding high today does not guarantee that either of those things will still be true in 2020.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Be careful what you wish for: a response to "Tories4Corbyn"

There are some Conservatives who derive a strong sense of schadenfreude from the car crash into which Labour's leadership election appears to be descending.
I can understand that, though I am trying to resist it.
I hope those who are talking about being "Tories4Corbyn" and suggesting that people should register as Labour supporters to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in order to destroy the Labour party are joking.
Because if people actually did it the joke could be on Britain.
Jeremy Corbyn is certainly not Labour's best prospect to win the next election. My main concern about the damage he could do to Britain is that I think he would be a very weak Opposition Leader, far worse than Ed Miliband, who nobody would take seriously. It would be better even for the Conservatives, and much more so for Britain, if the government were kept on its' toes by somebody who was seen as a credible alternative.
But the fact that I don't believe a Corbyn victory would be at all likely does not make it impossible.
The European referendum may be extremely difficult for the Conservatives: there will be prominent tory figures on both sides and it could get extremely heated. (It is entirely possible that Labour will have the same problem, but splits over Europe are not as important to the Labour party because they do not care as much about the issue.)
And sooner or later there is going to be another recession. It might not come this side of the 2020 election, and it may or may not be the fault of whoever is in government when it arrives. But they will probably get the blame for it.
Suppose the referendum splits the Conservatives badly, there is another recession, and a couple of "black swan" events which nobody could predict make the re-election of the government impossible.
In that circumstance, analogous to the Greek election which put Alex Tsipras in office, it is not impossible that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party could sneak into power, and probably put on the same sort of pantomime here here which Syriza have been performing in Greece.
I dare say "Tories4Corbyn" would be laughing on the other side of their faces in that circumstance, and serve them right, but unfortunately the rest of us would have to live with the consequences too.
There is a good piece from the Sun below on the most likely consequences if Corbyn became Labour leader. The idea of a "perpetual Tory government" may sound attractive to many Conservatives but actually, as an Edmund Burke small-government Conservative, I don't think any party can be trusted with perpetual power, even us. There is a saying, be careful what you wish for. It applies here.

Anatomy of a seagull

Suspect I will not be the only resident of Whitehaven who has some sympathy with this picture of the anatomy of a seagull posted on twitter by Ben Dawkins (@bennyd111)

The Economist on the opposition's lemming-like rush to irrelevance

The Economist has a good article on the British opposition's headlong attempt to make itself unelectable which you can read at

The frightening thing however, is that however determined on self-immolation Labour may be, a few disastrous events and a bad crack-up during the European referendum could still put them in power.

Britain needs a strong opposition. The worrying thing is that it doesn't look at the moment like we are going to get one.

Saj Karim MEP on the end of mobile roaming charges

The end is in sight for mobile roaming charges – Sajjad Karim, MEP for the North West, writes:

"An agreement between the European Commission, Council and Parliament was recently reached that will phase out data roaming charges across Europe within two years. The deal is great news for consumers and travellers.
This long overdue settlement means that charges will be significantly cut next summer and from June 15, 2017, we will pay the same price for calls, texts and mobile data irrespective of whether at home or travelling in the EU.
I and my Conservative colleagues in the European Parliament have been pushing for this. It’s been a tough battle but now we have an agreement to end this unfair practice that we’ve been trying to get rid of for so long and it removes another barrier to a true single digital market in Europe, helping Britain be more competitive which is good news for consumer and businesses.
The ‘Telecoms Single Market’ package has to be ratified by ministers and the European Parliament and does contain some areas of concern. Particularly a provision that telecoms operators have to treat all internet traffic equally with blocking only allowed for specific reasons, such as counter cyber-attacks or child pornography. This should benefit small companies as service providers can no longer give priority to big multi-nationals and our team worked overnight to ensure specific exemptions for spam filtering and parental controls can be brought in by national governments until the end of 2016 to pass legislation.
This will eliminate the fear of returning from holiday with to a bill you didn’t expect and can’t afford. Now we will be able to use our phones and tablets more regularly when travelling, also providing more opportunities for online businesses to provide services to travellers across the EU."
Sajjad Haider Karim MEP
Conservative MEP for the North West of England 

Quote of the Day 24th July 2015

The Longest Suicide Vote in History?

(Front page headline of yesterday's "Independent" referring to the Labour leadership election. You can read the article for which this is the headline here.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Time to remove the protected status of Seagulls

Eight years ago on this blog I raised concerns about seagulls which were picked up by the Whitehaven News.

The problem of aggressive seagulls in Whitehaven has continued to get worse and was picked up this week by the Daily Mail.

I think it is time to remove the protected status of seagulls - they are not remotely endangered, we could not wipe them out if we tried - and they are becoming a health hazard because

1) we have foolishly allowed them to associate humans with food and

2) they have lost their fear of humans.

I think when it came out that primary school children at Jericho School had had to be escorted past the gulls into school after coming under attack from them was probably the tipping point for a lot of people.

We need to get the situation under control.

When people believe strange things ...

Forty six years ago this week, Apollo 11's lunar module landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, in one of the most incredible achievements in human history.

The fact that this was done tells you something and amazing and positive about the human race, but something equally amazing but negative is how many people, some of whom are otherwise highly intelligent, have managed to convince themselves of the absurd idea that the moon landings never happened and NASA pictures of them is all a gigantic hoax.

I was deeply shocked a little over a decade ago, during a casual conversation with a colleague who I knew from the quality of his work had a fully functioning brain, to discover that he was convinced that the moon landing films had been faked. Since then I have had an interest in why people believe strange things.

An amusing coincidence - which I am certain was not a conspiracy - is that after the experience of finding that an intelligent work colleague believed in this bizarre conspiracy theory had prompted me to buy David Aaronovitch's book on conspiracy theories, Voodoo Histories, the introduction to the book revealed that an almost identical experience - finding that an intelligent work colleague believed the same absurd conspiracy theory - had prompted him to write it.

David Aaronovitch did not attempt to find the flaws in the arguments put forward by his colleague Kevin but dismissed it on the grounds that there would have to be thousands of people involved in such a conspiracy - the astronauts themselves, everyone at what purported to be Mission Control, the set designers and builders for the fake moon set, the photographers, the Navy vessel who would have had to have pretended to fish the astronauts out of the sea. He argued that the chances that none of these people would have blown the conspiracy is negligible, and this was so obvious that the chances of any government risking the staging of a fake event so likely to be exposed is also negligible.

I regard that as a perfectly valid argument, but if you want to read the answers to the detailed allegations made by the Moon-landing-deniers, all the so-called "evidence" for the landings being faked is comprehensively debunked at several websites such as the Bad Astronomy site. Nevertheless the conspiracy theorists rumble on and this week Professor Brian Cox did not mince his words in his answer to them here.

Quote of the day 23rd July 2015

“All those things we were saying about how it was a hard election for us to lose were true, we just still managed to lose it.”

(Ed Miliband adviser speaking to Rafael Behr of the Guardian and quoted here.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Old habits die hard

Can I draw your attention to four unnecessary words in a quote from a generally very perceptive article?

Andrew Rawnsley, a very shrewd centre-left journalist, wrote a few days ago, that Jeremy Corbyn's argument

"– that Labour lost because it was not left wing enough for the electorate – is going essentially unchallenged. This is, of course, what hard leftists always say after a Labour defeat.

They said it after 1979. They said it again when Labour adopted most of their prospectus and then went down to an even worse defeat in 1983. They said it after 2010. They are singing the same old anthem now about 2015. If we had promised higher taxes, more welfare, more borrowing and mass nationalisation, Ed Miliband would be in Number 10.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, serious people are investigating the true reasons why Labour came 98 seats behind the Conservatives in England and Wales, and secured 2 million fewer votes than the Tories."

(The full article is here.)

Can you spot the four words which add nothing?

It's the words "in England and Wales" in the final sentence I quoted. The Conservatives and Labour now hold one seat each in Scotland, so "98 seats behind" applies equally to England and Wales and in the UK as a whole.

The interesting thing is why those words are there. Andrew Rawnsley was making the point about how far Labour came behind the Conservatives in large parts of the UK. In every General Election between 1959 and 2010 in which the Conservatives obtained more seats than Labour the best way to make the point about Labour having fewer seats had been to quote the figures for England, or for England and Wales.

Following the SNP "Tartan-wash" in 2015 this is no longer true, but I presume old habits die hard.

There is a point to this. It is incredibly easy to stick to old modes of thought after change has made them irrelevant.

Andrew Rawnsley is by no means the first commentator or politician to use an obsolete figure of speech or thought which was perfectly appropriate before the 2015 election but is no longer helpful now. Nor by any means the worst offender, and nor will he be the last.

I'll give you another example. From 1992 to 2010 the UK electoral system appeared to be significantly more favourable to Labour than to the Conservatives.

This anti-Tory bias in the election system peaked in 2001, when the Conservatives got more votes than Labour in England but about a hundred fewer seats. In the 2010 election the bias in the electoral system was worth about 50 seats to Labour.

Everyone thought that on the unreformed electoral boundaries the same thing would happen again in 2015, with the Conservatives needing a bigger margin to win than Labour. It was expected that the electoral system's bias towards Labour might make it possible for them to get an overall majority on less than 35% of the vote.

But that is not what happened. The pro-Labour bias of the electoral system did not just evaporate, it actually reversed as you can read here.

The reasons for this include an ultra-ruthless focus on marginal seats by the Conservative high command - a ruthlessness which was if anything overdone, but you can't dispute that overall the strategy was successful - and the impact on Labour of the SNP and UKIP.

The Conservatives knew all along we had to watch the flank facing UKIP and made a point of emphasising that we were the only major party promising a referendum on British membership of the EU, a promise which will be honoured by the end of 2017.

By contrast, Labour assumed that UKIP was only a threat to the Conservatives, indeed one which would help put Ed Miliband into Downing Street: they only realised that UKIP was taking Labour votes too after the 2014 European elections and they then developed headless chicken syndrome in trying to work out a coherent response.

In the event Labour's response was probably the worst possible. What they probably should have done is match our promise to support a referendum, thereby depriving the Conservatives of the USP of being the one party which both could and would deliver that referendum. What they did instead was to copy past Conservative slogans on tougher immigration. Unfortunately for Labour the only people who believed them were the ones who didn't like that line at all, and they probably lost more votes to the Greens and SNP, or which they failed to gain from the Lib/Dems, than they prevented from going to UKIP.

The most astonishing thing about the reversal of Britain's electoral bias, however, is how few people have noticed. There was a thread on Political Betting about it, and there have been mentions on one or two other political or academic blogs such as the one I linked to above. If it has been mentioned at all in the MSM, I missed it.

There are two equal and opposite mistakes political strategists could make about this. One would be to fail to even notice the issue and assume that the electoral system is still biased to Labour. The other would be to assume that the 2015 bias to the Conservatives is as nailed on as the previous bias to Labour proved not to be.

The Conservative win was not inevitable: neither was the reversal of the bias in the electoral system. As I suggested above, if Labour had tried a different approach - such as promising an EU referendum instead of a crackdown on immigration - it is at least possible that there would have been a different pattern to the results.

“All those things we were saying about how it was a hard election for us to lose were true,” a rueful Miliband adviser was quoted as saying in the Guardian yesterday. “We just still managed to lose it.”

Quite. And in 2020, the people who are least likely to find themselves lamenting that they had thrown away an election which might yet be up for grabs will be those who have noticed how the world has changed, and will have changed again by then, and do not stick to old habits of thought.

Dan Hannan MEP on why Socialism Doesn't Work

Dan Hannan MEP in a debate at the Oxford Union, on why Socialism does not work.

John McTernan doesn't pull his punches ...

Hat tip to Guido - former Labour spinner John McTernan does not pull his punches about the Labour MPs who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for leader so that there would be a debate ...

Syed for Mayor

I live more than 300 miles away from London, so it is entirely right that I will not have a vote either in the selection of Conservative candidate for London mayor, nor in the election itself.

And I hope that all the rumours of CCHQ trying to impose either a candidate or a specific size of shortlist on Conservatives in London are just that - rumours - it should be for Conservatives in London to pick their candidate.

However, I used to work in London and naturally still take an interest in what happens there, so I see no reason not to express a view.

There are several excellent candidates who have put themselves forward, but although he would be a huge loss to the European parliament, I hope Syed Kamall MEP becomes mayor.

Syed has been a London MEP for ten years and is currently the British Conservative leader in the European Parliament and also the leader of the Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.

While I was standing for the European parliament last year I was immensely impressed by Syed, who is a really great guy: a Muslim Conservative whose dad used to drive a number 73 bus but who inspired him never to put limits to what he could try to be. He would be an excellent leader for a city which is one of the largest and most complex, arguably the most dynamic, and absolutely without question the most cosmopolitan city in the world.

There is a great interview with Syed on Conservative Home which you can read here.

Quote of the day 22nd July 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The wrong reason to attack Tim Farron.

Like the vast majority of political activists in Cumbria who are members of parties other than the Liberal Democrats, I am definitely not a fan of Tim Farron M.P.

His own electorate appear to love him because of his enormous skill at appearing to, as the saying goes, "be nice to everybody." He has practically eliminated the Labour vote in Westmorland & Lonsdale by coming over as a progressive alternative to the Conservatives while persuading many people in the constituency of a broadly Conservative persuasion that he thinks like them.

And some of the tactics by which the Lib/Dems have achieved this have, shall we say, not been exemplars of the highest possible standards of truthfulness.

However, I have not been impressed by the manner in which, during the campaign for Lib/Dem leader, and since his election, Tim Farron has been relentlessly attacked by people making out that because he is an evangelical Christian he must have ambiguous views on gay rights.

This amounts to an attack on Christians in the name of tolerance. There are many sound reasons to criticise Tim Farron but this is a wrong one.

It is not unknown for Christian Lib/Dems to struggle with this issue. When a gay priest was appointed as Dean of St Albans Cathedral you might have thought that the political party least likely to object would be the Lib/Dems, yet in fact the chairman of St Albans Council's cabinet, the Reverend Councillor Robert Donald, who was also an Anglican clergyman, publicly distanced himself from the appointment.

You could make the argument that Farron has probably not helped himself in this respect by declining to answer the question of whether he personally considers expressions of gay sexuality to be sinful. Unfortunately there is little doubt in my mind that the press would never in a million years have appreciated the nuances of what I suspect might be his actual position.

My attitudes to gay people moved on from the Rowan Atkinson "you're going to have a rotten life" parody of Christian attitudes to gays long before that episode of "Not the Nine O'clock News" was broadcast several decades ago. There certainly passages in the bible which can be interpreted as justification for the opposition of most churches and many Christians to equal marriage and other aspects of gay rights, but there is nothing in Jesus's own words which backs up that view, and He was always ready to forgive even when he judged someone to be a sinner - which He was markedly less quick to do than anyone around him.

Other people have a different attitude. But the key thing is, are they willing to accept that everyone has a right to their own opinion and their own lifestyle, or are they going to impose it on other people?

And the answer to that question is quite clear from Tim Farron's answer when he was asked if being gay was sinful:

"Somebody who is a Christian does not go enforcing their views on other people. It’s not our views on personal morality that matter, what matters is whether we go out and fight for the freedom of every single individual to be who they want to be – and that’s what makes a liberal. To understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners…Every minority, every individual’s rights matter."

Now I could truthfully just have said "No" but Farron obviously felt unable to do that. However, his answer does make abundantly clear that whatever he thinks about whether being gay is sinful, he respects the right of gay people to make life choices different from his.

But the fuss which has continued over his answer suggests this is not enough for some people. There was a time when being tolerant meant letting other people get on with their lives. We have a problem here in that for some people, "tolerance" now means you have a right to insist that people approve of you.

I call that intolerance in the name of tolerance.

Life will be a lot better for all of us, if gay people, straight people, those Christians like myself who don't have a problem with gays, those who have old-fashioned views but are willing not to enforce them on others, muslims, atheists, agnostics and everyone else just puts up with the fact that there are lots of people on the planet with different views and let them get on with it.

Nick Cohen, whose views on many issues are diametrically opposite to mine, makes a similar point from an opposite perspective  here.

A Westminster columnist's valedictory

The Economist's "Bagehot" Westminster political correspondent is moving on and has written a valedictory column, "This House is Falling," using the crumbling state of Pugin's masterpiece, the Palace of Westminster, as a metaphor for the state of the United Kingdom.

It makes some good points and you can read it here.

Quote of the day 21st July 2015

"If Jeremy Corbyn is the answer then Labour is asking the wrong question"

(Headline on an Observer opinion piece about the Labour Leadership election.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tom Tugendhat MP's letter to a constituent re Syria

Tom Tugendhat MP's agent Andrew Kennedy has published on his blog a letter which Tom recently sent to a constituent who was concerned at the possibility that Britain might become more involved in military intervention against DAESH (the so called "Islamic State.")

You can read the letter here and I can see why Andrew thought it deserved a wider audience.

School Holidays start in West Cumbria

My word, the roads seem remarkably quiet this morning ...

Quote of the day 20th July 2015

Rarely have I seen so powerful an example of the old adage that there is many a true word spoken in jest than this quote from Groucho Marx

And by the way, we need to retain consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital and Furness General Hospital so #SupportOption1

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Public Toilets in Whitehaven

I walked past Whitehaven Civic Hall this afternoon - closed during a round of cuts under the previous Copeland Council Labour administration and then re-opened after they found they had more money than they had realised - and it was open this afternoon for a music event.

Someone had made a point of making the toilets in the Civic Hall available to members of the public whether they were attending the event or not: there was a big sign with directions to the toilets. (The public toilets in the Marketplace had been another victim of the same round of ill-judged cuts.)

I suspect someone may have been making a point there ....

Occasional Sunday music spot: Mozart's Symphony No. 40

And don't forget, we still need to keep up the pressure on the NHS trusts to retain consultant-led maternity at WCH and FGH. #SupportOption1

Quote of the day 19th July 2015

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ici Londres: Dan Hannan MEP on Fascism and communism

Great piece by Dan Hannan MEP on the similarity of Nazi and Communist ideologies

Debate between the four candidates for Labour Leader

I've been trying to find a video which can be shared of the debate between the four Labour leadership candidates without any luck - but here's something equally bananas ...

And here's something which isn't a joke: we need consultant maternity at West Cumberland Hospital so #SupportOption1

David Cameron on Growth

David Cameron has posted a video, filmed on his recent trip to Cornwall, in which he restates his commitment to One Nation conservatism and explains the actions the government is taking to ensure the whole country benefits from growth. You can watch it at the following link:

Quote of the day 18th July 2015

"We're running around stamping our feet, screaming at the electorate when ultimately what we need to do is meet people where they are at, not necessarily where we would want them to be."

(Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, in an interview with BBC Newsnight political editor Allegra Stratton.)

He also accused some of his Labour colleagues of

"behaving like a petulant child who has been told you can't have the sweeties in the sweet shop".

Friday, July 17, 2015

If Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Leader

Atul Hatwal, who blogs at Labour Uncut, is one of comparatively few Labour activists whose views on anything I would go out of my way to read.

I think he is spot on in his imagined piece at Sun Nation "What if comrade Corbyn became Labour leader?" that the election of Jeremy Corbyn would be very bad news for the Labour party.

I doubt, however, that he is right that the party would depose him at the end of 100 days.

Much of the Labour party realised that they were heading for disaster with Michael Foot as leader but they bottled out of doing anything about it.

They realised that they were heading for disaster with Gordon Brown as leader but they bottled out of doing anything about it.

Many of them realised that they were heading for disaster with Ed Miliband as leader but they bottled out of doing anything about it.

The Conservative party has little hesitation in sacking its' leaders if it thinks they are likely to lose it the next election.

But Labour does not seem to work that way. It's possible that they may have learned the lesson - but looking at the candidates for Labour leader and the noises they and their supporters are making, the only one who appears to have learned much is Liz Kendall.

Quote of the day 17th July 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why were the polls so wrong?

Latest analysis from the British Election Survey on why the opinion polls were up the creek can be read here.

They think the explanation had less to do with "Shy Tories" and more to do with the polling companies not estimating correctly what proportion of people would vote.

The conclusion reads:

"Our analysis of the post-election BES data makes us much more sceptical about late swing, “don’t knows” and Shy Tories. By contrast, we are leaning strongly towards differential turnout as part of the explanation and think that it’s likely that sampling and weighting also played at least some role."

Which roughly translates as

"There was a problem with people lying to pollsters, but it wasn't so much Tories lying to the pollsters about being Tories as people who described themselves as Labour voters not being honest enough to admit to admit they were too lazy to vote."

Socialism is a bankrupt ideology

Luke Johnson has a great piece on the CAPX website called "Socialism is a bankrupt ideology."

Quote of the day 16th July 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A glorious day

It has been a wonderful summer's day in West Cumbria today. The measure of a clear day on the West Coast of Cumbria is that the Isle of Man is easily visible and it was very clear indeed.

Sometimes I am stunned by how beautiful the world around us is, and today was one of those days.

Quote of the day 15th July 2015

"It is the fecklessness of the Greek government’s negotiating strategy and their utter separation from reality which have been the primary causes of a deal far worse for Greece than it should have been. It is the Greek people, above all the poor, who will suffer most from the game-playing of this supposedly left-wing government.

"In a makeshift alliance of charlatans and lunatics, Tsipras deserves only limited credit for deciding at the last minute that he was just a charlatan after all."

(Kevin Feeney, a Labour party member, in an article on "Labour Uncut" called

"Look at Syriza, look at Greece: that's what Jeremy Corbyn would do for Labour and Britain.")

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


West Cumbria is to get a new nuclear power station: NuGen, the UK nuclear new-build developer, announced today that it has officially signed a contract with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for the Moorside site.

Feasibility studies at Moorside have now confirmed the site is suitable for the construction of three reactors.

NuGen have paid an undisclosed sum to the NDA for the land and the contract was approved at a meeting in Tokyo today. NuGen chief executive Tom Samson signed the land deal with the NDA’s chief executive John Clarke.

Mr Samson was delighted at the “major milestone for NuGen’s Moorside project”.

“This is a key moment in our Moorside Project journey," he said. "Our board has reached a decision of significance which confirms Moorside is suitable, against criteria at this stage of the development.

“This is great news for the north west, and particularly for west Cumbria, the UK’s nuclear heartland. We are delighted to be taking forward Moorside, a massive development which will supply some 7 per cent of the UK’s future electricity.”

Site characterisation studies will continue at Moorside in the autumn and will feed in to detailed planning and site layout work.

Mr Clarke added: “The completion of this stage of the land sale brings a range of benefits both nationally and locally.

"It supports the initiative to have west Cumbria recognised as a centre of nuclear excellence, building on over six decades of nuclear expertise in the area, whilst delivering excellent value for money for the taxpayer and the national economy.”

There will of course, have to be major improvements in local infrastructure to make this project work but I regard this as great news and, judging by the massive proportion of local votes cast for strongly pro-nuclear candidates at national and local elections earlier this year in West Cumbria, so will the majority of people who live in the area.

Best Spoof articles of the last few days

Conservatives cannot afford to get complacent given the risk of what Harold MacMillan called "events, dear boy, events" so are strictly only recommended to read this "Daily Mash" article as a joke because it is very funny:

"Labour split on how to self-destruct."

(Mind you, if I was a Labour supporter I would be turning the air blue, thumping my desk and complaining that it had far too much truth in it.)

And nobody should share the following Daily Mash article with the ECB or the troika in case it gives them the idea to try it for real ...

"Greek economy wired to bomb"

Meanwhile NewsThump say America is convinced that removing the Confederate Army Battle flag will definitely prevent mass shootings ...

Laws for various parts of the UK:

  interesting parliamentary answer by the Leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling, which affects the argument for English Votes for English Laws:

To ask the Leader of the House, how many government bills introduced in each of the last five years have been (a) England, (b) England and Wales, (c) Great Britain, (d) Wales, (e) Scotland and (f) Northern Ireland only in the scope of their provisions.

The following figures relate to Bills introduced over the five years of the last Parliament and are based upon the impact of the legislation, rather than their territorial extent. They exclude any minor or consequential impacts.
(a) one affecting England only; (b) 13 affecting England and Wales only; (c) two affecting only Great Britain; (d) one affecting Wales only; (e) one affecting Scotland only and; (f) one affecting Northern Ireland only.

What has the SNP in common with Syriza?

Today the UK government withdrew proposals to bring the law on hunting in England and Wales into line with the law in Scotland, because the Scottish National Party has just made a U-turn and announced that they will now oppose adoption in England and Wales of the same law which they, as the majority government in Scotland for the past four years have apparently been perfectly happy to leave in place for Scotland.

Let's repeat that.SNP representatives from Scotland constituencies have just successfully blocked, at least for the time being, a proposal for England and Wales to adopt the same law on hunting that Scotland currently has.

Only weeks ago the SNP leader told the Guardian that this was an issue on which SNP members of parliament would not interfere in English affairs and they have only very recently taken the same promise down from their website.

It is perfectly obvious what is going on here and it has nothing whatsoever to do with foxhunting.

I agree wholeheartedly with everything that the Countryside Alliance said about it this afternoon:

"For reasons that have little, if anything, to do with the amendments under consideration, the SNP have decided to break their often repeated commitment not to vote on the Hunting Act which only affects England and Wales.

As recently as February Nicola Sturgeon said: “The SNP have a longstanding position of not voting on matters that purely affect England – such as foxhunting south of the border, for example – and we stand by that.”

Yesterday, however, the SNP said that they would be voting against the proposals to remind “an arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is”.

In the face of the SNP’s U-turn the Government has postponed the vote. This was the correct decision. This is now clearly a constitutional issue rather than one about wildlife management or animal welfare and we look forward to the Government bringing the amendments back to Parliament in due course."

The Countryside Alliance put their finger on the SNP's game by pointing to the quote about an "arrogant UK government."

What the SNP are doing here is deliberately setting out to upset English people who they don't like, starting with people involved in hunting who they naively image are all rich country squires, particularly setting out to annoy the Conservative party, and especially David Cameron himself.

The SNP have abandoned their long-standing principles out of calculated spite. Their obvious aim is to make Conservatives angry in the hope that we will make mistakes which will bolster the SNP's position,  and to deliberately stir up hostility between Scotland and elements of English society in the hope that the bad blood they are fomenting will increase the long-term prospects of Scottish Independence.

I asked in the title of this blog post what the SNP have in common with Syriza. The answer is that the approach Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP appear to be taking to negotiating with David Cameron and the Conservatives is beginning to remind me of that which Alexis Tsipras and Syriza took to Angela Merkel and the Germans. A Labour commentator said this week of Syriza that

"making impossible demands of your creditors while comparing them to Nazis, torturers and terrorists has not proved a good way to win friends."

Just as Syriza went out of their way to insult their creditors, the SNP appear to be actively going out of their way to irritate the UK government and a large block of it's supporters.

Have a little look, Nicola, at the deal Greece has just had to sign if they wanted to stay in the Euro. Does it really look to you like the strategy of trying to get a better deal out of Germany by being nasty to them was a big success?

Now it may be that the SNP, unlike Syriza, don't want a deal at all. Maybe they would like nothing better than a deadlock and an exchange of insults and plan to use this to justify calling a second referendum on Independence, and think stirring up bad blood between England and Scotland will help them to win at the second attempt.

If that is their strategy the SNP are taking considerable risks with the wellbeing of Scotland. Banking up anger and hostility rarely bodes well for the future of any country. Didn't stop the SNP before, though, did it?

Website Adjustment

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes for pointing out that this has vanished from the SNP website ...

Quote of the day 14th July 2014

"Sorry, but Greece isn’t victim of a ‘coup’.

It’s a victim of the Euro."

(Fraser Nelson, title of a Spectator article which you can read here.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

James McEnaney on whether the SNP should vote on English matters

There was a time, as you can still read on the SNP website, here, when their MPs did not vote on England only matters. As they said in 2006,
"Scottish National Party MP's vote for Scotland's interests and priorities at Westminster and the SNP wants all powers currently exercised by the House of Commons to be returned to an independent Scotland. "In the meantime, SNP Parliamentarians vote on matters which have a direct or significant indirect impact on Scotland, including UK constitutional affairs. We refrain from voting on exclusively English, Welsh and Northern Irish matters."

And as recently as February 2015, as lecturer James McEnaney points out hereNicola Sturgeon said that this policy would continue, writing in the Guardian that where

"any issue is genuinely 'English-only', with no impact on Scotland, the case for EVEL can be made."

She also provided one specific example of an issue which would legitimately be seen as a matter for English and Welsh MPs - that’s right, fox hunting.

McEnaney goes on to say that in his opinion

"The simple fact is that it is wrong for Scottish MPs to vote on issues which are entirely devolved and where there is also no question of even any indirect impact on Scotland.

How exactly could we continue to make the democratic argument for Scottish independence whilst simultaneously sticking two fingers up to the very principle upon which it is founded?

We railed against the obscenity of England imposing governments we didn’t vote for, yet now we are to support the supposed right of Scottish MPs to impose policy on the rest of the UK?

What it comes down to is this: if you believe that Scottish MPs should influence the legality of fox hunting in England and Wales, then English and Welsh MPs should have an equal say on fox hunting in Scotland.

Any other position is merely rank hypocrisy, no matter how you package it."

That point would be reasonable enough as and when a proposal comes forward to hold a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act in England and Wales, which was in the Conservative manifesto.

But the vote which the government had intended to hold next week was on a more modest change, bringing the Hunting law in England and Wales into line with the law in Scotland.

If, as currently appears likely, the SNP vote against that it will be even more hypocritical and I will be unable to avoid the conclusion that the SNP are not interested in a fair allocation of power within the UK but are deliberately trying to sow division and annoy at least some English people in the hope that the anger they create will damage the UK.

The tragedy is that their attempt to make people angry will probably succeed. If the SNP think they will thereby help Scotland they are sadly mistaken.

If they are trying to encourage the Conservatives to beef up their EVEL proposals they are going exactly the right way about it.

If David Cameron decides to pull the hunting vote for now, concentrate on passing a stronger English Votes for English Laws proposal while devolving the issue to Wales, and then brings forward repeal of the Hunting Act (and other things) in England without the SNP having any right to take part, the SNP will have nobody to blame but themselves.

Grexit postponed?

It looks for the moment as though those who argued that Greece would not leave the Euro were right.

Mainly because Tsipras bottled it in what has been called the "U-turn of the century."

It's fairly clear that if he hadn't the Germans would have held firm and refused to pay up, making some form of exit or suspension from the Euro for Greece almost inevitable.

I would not totally rule out the possibility that it still might happen, although the odds look a lot lower than they did a few days ago.

I still think a negotiated and properly managed Grexit - though not a forced one - would have been better for both Greece and the Eurozone, but it would appear that neither side wants to listen to that argument. Let's hope it does not go horribly wrong.

I also remain extremely glad Britain is not in the Eurozone. Our economy is not aligned with the Eurozone, and for very good reasons is not likely to become so anytime in the next couple of decades. Staying out of it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Quote of the day 13th July 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear Auntie Yasmin

Like most Conservatives I strongly disagree with many of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's opinions, but I have to give her credit for the courage and intellectual honesty involved in tackling some incredibly difficult issues around terrible problems which few other people have the guts to raise.

For example, I respect the work she has done in highlighting problems like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, and the harm that comes to both young women and young men in forcing them into particular patterns of behaviour.

She gets a lot of letters from people within the Asian community who cannot think of anyone else to turn to, and there was an article about them in today's Sunday Times magazine called "Dear Auntie Yasmin" which made me want to weep.

Here are a couple of extracts ...

"I am Amina. My English is not so good. They want my six year old daughter wear the hijab. Where it says in Qu'ran that a child must do this? When I say no, they beat me, every day. I cannot divorce because I have no job."

Ms Alibhai-Brown thinks that the government estimate of 8,000 women in Britain forced into marriage each year - and that would be shocking enough - is an underestimate:

"More females than ever are being coerced into marriages. Two threats usually get results. Either the mum threatens suicide or the daughter is warned she will be killed. If the victims flee bounty hunters -gangs paid by families - find them, beat them, and throw them back into their families."

In some cases the groom is also a victim of such an arrangement and may have been coerced into the marriage - for example he may be in love with someone else who he does not want to tell his family about, or he may be gay.

Then there are those who are punished for wanting to follow an unapproved career choice:

"Sukhi, 17, always wanted to be a dancer. She joined a dance class in her local area. Her British-Sikh parents were so angry when she told them, they broke one of her legs with a hockey stick.

' You won't believe a mother can do this to her child, but mine did.'

Her leg was broken in so many places, she can never dance again.

Then there is the situation of brides who are beaten because their husband or his family is disappointed at the size of their dowries.

I have always believed that in a free country those women or near-adult girls who genuinely want to wear a veil or other covering should be allowed to do so in those circumstances where they are not doing any harm to anyone else (obviously not when there are security issues or it would interfere with their job). I recall for instance a letter to the papers from a doctor who wears the hijab from her home to the hospital where she works, changes into normal clinical uniform to do her job (wearing no face coverings other than medical masks in the operating theatre as appropriate) and then puts the hijab on to go home. A civilised society should easily be able to cope with that sort of reasonable accommodation. But some of the stories in the "Dear Auntie Yasmin" article highlight the problem that some women may be being forced to wear the veil, which is intolerable.

"A few years back, a fully veiled woman recognised me and followed me home. She threw off her burkha. She was covered in bruises, bite marks, cigarette burns. A chemistry graduate from a northern town, she was beaten up by her father and brother for speaking to a man at a bus stop. 'You see? We are hidden so nobody sees our wounds.'"

And there are those who are forced to have abortions because they are carrying a healthy child of the wrong gender;

"They take us to India, to hospitals where they do tests, kill the child in a day. Clean job. Nobody knows back here, or if they do they don't speak about it. Three times they made me do it and now he has divorced me. I couldn't give him a son."

The article says that there are "crisp, high tech hospitals in India that boast that not a single girl has been delivered there for many years."

Most of the quotes in the article shocked me because of a natural human reaction against such horrors being perpetrated against individuals by their own families, but that shocked me because it was not something happening on an individual scale but evidence of an industrialised horror which flouts Indian law as well as British law and the laws of basic humanity and is likely to have even more dire consequences in India than it will have here.

Abortion is legal in India but sex-selective abortion is not. And for very good reasons: the UN has estimated that India is missing fifty million girls through selective abortion and infanticide as you can read at "The Invisible Girl project."

This will inevitably have catastrophic consequences twenty years down the line for both boys and those girls who don't get aborted or murdered - the former when they grow up and can't find a woman, the latter because they may be treated more like a scarce commodity than human beings and become more likely to fall victim either to organised human traffic or all the kinds of abuses described in Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's article as a result.

It is important to make absolutely clear that the vast majority of Asian families in Britain would not dream of acting in any of the ways referred to in Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's article, and I am not suggesting for a moment that any race or religion has a monopoly of vice or virtue. There are families of every race and creed where terrible things happen, too and indeed in the horror stories in the article the perpetrators are of both genders and several different races (e.g. the bad guys are not all male, not all muslims, and not all Asians.)

We should be prepared to pass new laws if there is evidence that they are needed but I suspect that enforcing existing laws better would be the best start. Domestic abuse, forced marriage, and FGM are already illegal, in some cases under quite recent laws. The first FGM prosecution recently failed, but at least it was brought, and clearly there need to be more.

The so-called "hospitals" in India which boast that they have not delivered a girl for many years are breaking Indian law. We need to work with the Indian authorities and get these places shut down or at least forced to have a complete change of management and the people running them should be prosecuted.

Sunday Music slot; Bach's Air on a G String

And I have not abandoned my Cato act: we still need consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland Hospital and Furness General, so #SupportOption1

Hunting in England & Wales and Scottish votes

MPs are due to vote next week on whether the law on hunting with dogs in England and Wales should be brought into line with that in Scotland.

There will be a free vote on this measure, and later in the parliament on whether the Hunting Act should be completely repealed.

Which raises an interesting issue.

In my opinion, since matters relating to hunting have been devolved in Scotland to the Scottish parliament, neither measure will affect Scotland and it is unreasonable for MPs representing Scottish constituencies to vote on either measure.

It would be strongly resented by whichever side loses what is expected to be a very close vote if the issue of whether the Hunting Act in England and Wales is repealed were determined by the votes of MPs for Scottish constituencies for whom the matter is determined by the Scottish parliament. That would be bad enough.

But the case against MPs for Scots constituencies doing anything other than abstaining in the Hunting vote next week is overwhelming.

How would it look to rural communities in England if the proposal to bring the law in England into line with that in Scotland were defeated by the votes of MPs from Scotland?

Those Scots MPs would effectively be saying that the law which is right for their own constituents is not restrictive enough for England.

That would be particularly outrageous, but I can see that opponents of hunting in England and Wales would also be entitled to be extremely annoyed if a law changing the rules on hunting in England and Wales in a way they did not like were passed with the help of MPs representing Scots constituencies to which that law did not apply.

I therefore hope that MPs representing Scottish constituencies have the sense to keep out of it because that is the sort of thing which could do further damage to relations between England and Scotland.

Included in a largely low-key draft order are concessions for “research and observation” relating to pest control and the overall health of the fox population, with evaluations of diseased and injured foxes.

There has been a last minute suggestion by hunt opponents looking for a wrecking tactic that the amendment providing for "research and observation" can be put forward as a reason why the vote supposedly does affect Scotland. The argument is that the result of the research might allegedly encourage hunting in England and subsequently in Scotland. That sounds like a preposterously  contrived and spurious argument to me, but if there is any possibility that it might affect the result, perhaps the least worst solution is to drop the clauses which are being used to argue for such a justification.

Quote of the day 12th July 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Minimum Wage balancing act

For many years I was vehemently opposed to the idea of a minimum wage. I thought it was likely to create more problems by pricing people out of work than it solved.

I was dead against it when Blair introduced it for very much the reasons explained in an item the Economist blog has published this week on

"why some economists oppose minimum wages."

However, you have to take account of the evidence - as Maynard Keynes said, "When the facts change, I change my mind."

My first fear, that politicians would set it at an irresponsibly high level, has not so far been realised, and the increase and rebranding in the 2015 budget does not appear at first sight to change this. The chancellor set out plans to increase the rebranded "living wage" to £9 by 2020 - which is not very much further than inflation adjustment would probably have taken it anyway.

Nor is there any evidence so far that the minimum wage has priced significant number of people out of jobs.

Nevertheless whether you call it a minimum wage or living wage, the danger of damaging businesses and/or pricing people onto the dole queue if you set it too high or change it too fast is real.

I was interested and concerned by the comments which two of my friends from University who are SME employers posted on Facebook this week. One, a dentist, wrote this:

"The new living wage minimum is a potential disaster for me. I employ seven people and it is only in the last two years that I have not been the lowest earner in the business. If I have to pay my cleaner 9.35 an hour and contribute to her pension by 2020 my other far more skilled staff with far more responsibility and stress will not be happy with 10 an hour. It will have an inflationary effect on my wage bill to the extent that it could make the business unviable."

A second friend from my time at University replied:

"I run two small businesses. I do have some people earning less that the rate proposed in the budget. We are constantly trying to find ways to improve productivity and this will be an additional spur, but it is NOT easy. The rise in pay rate is sort of manageable, but as Celia says, if you were paying someone £7.50 an hour and you have to raise it to £9, then the people who were already on £9 an hour want £10.50 or more. This will drive up inflation I think.

"What I think is GOOD about this budget is that it pushes very strongly to make a financial difference between being in work and being on benefits. I think this is a good thing, not just for the obvious reason that it discourages scrounging, but more importantly I strongly believe that people should be in work as much as possible. The necessity of having a daily focus of your life which is outside of yourself and the need to feel that one has 'done something' each day, raising a sense of self-worth, are also extremely important for people's welfare."

I take the concerns which Celia and Jonathan raise very seriously indeed and I hope the government will watch like a hawk for any signs that the "living wage" is threatening the viability of small businesses and provide more help for SMEs if it does.

But Jonathan's second paragraph summarises perfectly the main reason I have modified my position on the minimum (or living) wage.

The biggest obstacle to people finding work at the moment is NOT wages being too high, and it is NOT a shortage of jobs either, or we wouldn't have lots of people coming here from other countries who, whatever UKIP and the press tell you, are in many cases neither claiming benefits nor depriving British people of jobs, but taking jobs which British people don't want to do.

The biggest obstacle to getting people into work for the past decade has been that


relative to what people could get on benefits.

Please note that I am not criticising people who have families to look after and can get more money by staying at home and claiming benefits than by getting a low-paid job for doing what the state is incentivising them to do, or calling them scroungers. The people to blame for the dependency culture are those in authority who were daft enough to let wages and benefits get so far out of line.

The pendulum started to swing back in the last parliament, but it has to swing further, and that is why I have changed my view about the minimum wage.

To provide more incentives I now believe that both these two policies set out in the budget are the right thing to do:

I still think it is essential that the minimum wage is not set high enough to realise the fears of Celia and SME employers like her. I'd like to see the government do more to help them.

But we also have to make sure that people who are working all the hours God sends on unskilled jobs are paid significantly more than they would get on benefits. We have to reward those who do the right thing.

And to get to that position from where we are now means raising wages as well as bearing down on benefits.

Hence the minimum wage balancing act -  it must be high enough to make sure we reward work, not so high as to bankrupt small employers and price people back onto the dole queue.