Showing posts from November, 2015

Quote of the day 30th November 2015

Robert Harris wrote in the Sunday Times yesterday of the attempt by "Momentum" supporters of Jeremy Corbyn to put pressure on Labour MPs to vote against military action against DA'ESH in Syria, that if they were successful it would be a disaster both for Labour and for the country. He added that he wrote not as a fan of armchair warriors but as someone who opposed both the Iraq war of 2003 and the previous proposal to bomb Assad's forces in Syria. He went on "Labour MPs, understandably still bitter over the way their loyalty was abused by Tony Blair in 2003, need to be clear about the differences between then and now. This is not the pre-emptive invasion of a country which, for all the vileness of its regime, posed no direct and imminent threat to the British people. This is a proposal to extend existing airstrikes 100 or so miles to the West in order to hit the headquarters of a movement that enslaves women and young girls, that hurls suspected homosexual

Sunday reflection - as it is now officially the run-up to Christmas

As usual, when Advent Sunday finally arrives and we finally officially enter the run-up to Christmas, it seems to have been going on unofficially for weeks. This year there is the added irony that the period when we look forward to the coming of the Prince of Peace has been characterised by the beating of the drums of war as the terrorists of DA'ESH have shown their willingness to try to kill people around the world and a vote is likely in the near future on whether Britain should take military action against them. The archbishop of Canterbury himself has said he found the evil of the attacks on Paris a challenge to his faith and I can certainly understand that. Yet it seems to me that despair or terror on the one hand, and complacency or inactivity on the other, would equally be wrong. The Jihadi warlords who have taken over a patch of Syria and Iraq and are using it to spread murder and terror around the world are a threat and one which has to be dealt with. We won't

Congratulations to Andy Murray and Britain's Davis cup team

Congratulations to all Britain's David Cup tennis players on a magnificent victory

Advent Sunday music spot: "The VIrgin Mary had a baby boy"

The "Christmas goes Baroque" version ...

A wintry start to Advent

Really filthy weather in Whitehaven this morning and early afternoon. I note that the Met office has issued a number of warnings of rain, snow and high winds today which can be read on the BBC website at

A Tale of Two Parties

Both the Conservative and Labour parties have had problems in the past few weeks. But what is being done about it is instructive. Following the suicide of a young activist, it has come out that something had gone very wrong with a Conservative campaigning initiative called "Road Trip 2015" Nevertheless it is clear that things are being done about it; the  main culprit has been expelled from the party for life, the former party co-chairman who appointed him to an important position has fallen on his sword, the national leadership of the party's youth wing has been suspended. Both the Conservative party and other political parties would do well to read and think about the points made in an article published at the weekend by Tim Montgomerie here : I don't believe all his criticism of the "Cameroons" are fair but he is absolutely right about how they are perceived by most of the party grassroots and we do indeed need to do more to build a culture in whi

Quote of the day for Advent Sunday, 29th November 2015


A sixth mass grave of DA'ESH victims has been found near Sindar

MPs deciding whether to vote for military action against DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State") might like to consider the fact that six mass graves, apparently containing the bodies of victims of genocide by DA'ESH fighters, has been found near the village of Sindar in Iraq. The area was recently recaptured by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters supported by Yazidi fighters and with assistance from US and British air power. One grave contained the bodies of 78 women aged between 40 and 80, apparently Yazidi women killed by DA'ESH because they were not young and pretty enough to rape and take as sex slaves. A number of other mass graves have been found. The largest  was described today  as having been booby trapped, but on the basis of the testimony of witnesses who saw the execution of the victims - mostly young women who had been enslaved by DA'ESH fighters and later escaped - it is believed to contain the bodies of a further 110 Yazidis who were killed because

Grant Shapps resigns as a minister

I've never met Mark Clarke: I did campaign in Carlisle on one of the days there was supposed to be a "Road Trip 2015" in the constituency and we had a very strong team of Conservatives campaigning  in the seat that day but all the people who turned up were from Carlisle itself or the rest of Cumbria. I have however met Grant Shapps on many occasions: he was PPC and then MP for the neighbouring constituency to me when I lived and campaigned in St Albans. He also came to support me when he was shadow housing minister and I was Conservative candidate for Copeland. He is a tireless and hard-working constituency campaigner and an exceptionally nice person. I cannot believe for one moment that Grant would knowingly have tolerated the sort of bullying and misconduct which allegedly has been going on around Roadtrip 2015 and encompassed some of the national leadership of Conservative Future. I presume however that the party would not have expelled Mark Clarke and suspende

Bristol University Court 2015 meeting

I attended the 2015 meeting of Bristol University court yesterday. Like many redbrick universities, Bristol has three governing bodies: Senate, which is the main academic governing body, Council which used to be the main administrative one but,  as part of a series of organisational changes forced on Universities by various Higher Education quangos under successive govermnents in the name of good governance, has increasingly been the supreme governing body; and University Court, a very large body which meets once or twice a year, and used in theory to be the most powerful authority in the University but at increasingly surrendered that role to University Council. One of the things we learned yesterday is that University Council is probably going to change it's name to the "Bristol University Board of Trustees"  as that name is considered easier for people to understand. The meeting opened with three breakout sessions on different aspects of the University plan for t

Quote of the day 28th November 2015


North West Region Conservative election result

The election results were announced this afternoon for the Conservative voluntary party regional co-ordinators for the North West Region. For Regional Chairman: Sir Robert Atkins For Regional Deputy Chairman, Political and Campaigns Pam Hall For Regional Deputy Chairman, membership and finance John Cunliffe Congratulations to Robert, Pam and John on their election and all the best for the coming three years.

Ruth Davidson on the collapse of the SNP's economic model

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, had a superb piece at Conservative Home this week about the fact that the economic prospectus on which the SNP fought the independence referendum has been exposed as delusional. She begins by describing trying to pin down Alex Salmond during the referendum about how exactly the economics of SNP proposals for Independence would work as like "nailing custard to a wall" and continued: "Time after time, our erstwhile First Minister would endeavour to dodge, weave, bluster and bluff his way past fair questions. Projections on Scotland’s oil revenues were hopelessly optimistic – wouldn’t it be a good idea if he took actual receipts into account? Salmond would pop up on his hindquarters and trot out the usual lines about how his opponents were doing Scotland down. By contrast, his numbers were “ reasonable ” and “ sensible ”. Move along – nothing to see here. "Thankfully, the majority of Scottish voters opted for

Quote of the day 27th November 2015

“The SNP’s model of independence is broken beyond repair. The party should either build a new one or stop offering it as an alternative to Tory cuts.” Alex Bell , the SNP Government’s head of policy in the run-up to the independence referendum. He continued: “The campaign towards the 2014 vote, and the economic information since, has kicked the old model to death. The idea that you could have a Scotland with high public spending, low taxes, a stable economy and reasonable government debt was wishful a year ago – now it is deluded.” He also said that it was   “ debatable” whether a separate Scotland could maintain UK levels of spending. We must assume, he added, that leading SNP figures – including Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney – now know that “the old model, once optimistic, is now dead”.

Come back John Major, all is forgiven

John Major took a lot of flak when he was Prime Minister for the "cones hotline" which was seen as an example of government looking too much about trivialities rather than looking at the big picture. But just at the moment I would welcome a number I could ring to inquire about the number of cones which have been put out on roads in West Cumbria for no apparent reason and are exacerbating traffic congestion. Come back John, all is forgiven !

Brown's Poison Pills part 6: PFI Hospitals

I'm all in favour of making intelligent use of the private sector to help deliver public services. But you have to do it properly and make sure you get value for money. In my experience, private delivery of public services can work very well if the relevant public authority has a strong "client" organisation to ensure that the wishes and needs of the public are taken into account in negotiating contracts, that the public do get value for money, and that the supplier actually delivers what has been promised. Without that strong client organisation the potential benefits usually fail to materialise and the public can sometimes be very badly ripped off. I cannot think of a better example than the way the "Public Finance Initiative" was extended by Blair and Brown, and particularly the 73 PFI hospital building schemes approved under Labour's 1997 legislation, of which the first was the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle. There's not necessarily anythin

More quotes of the day 26th November 2015

"I always think it's important to know what your political opponents are thinking" George Osborne , on why he's keeping the copy of Chairman Mao's little red book which shadow chancellor tossed to him over the despatch box during the Autumn statement debate. He also said “The shadow chancellor literally stood at the Despatch Box and read out from Mao's Little Red Book.” He then opened it and said, “Oh look, it’s his personal signed copy,” and added "The problem is half the shadow cabinet have been sent off to re-education." Some more quotes on the same issue: "What a pity that, when Chairman Mao explained to his Communist Party colleagues how ‘ political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’ , it did not occur to him to mention that the idea is not to point it at your own face and then pull the trigger." ( Tom Peck's  sketch in the Independent ) "A century ago yesterday Albert Einstein set out a general theo

Quote of the day 26th November 2015

"If I went to Brent Cross to buy a new sweater and decided not to get one because it was too expensive, would I be making an ideological statement about shopping? Or Society? Or the future of Mankind? Or would I just be, like, putting up with my old sweater for the time being while I saved up for a new one? In the past few years, whenever there has been a budget, or an autumn statement, I have been astonished to discover how ideological I am. Apparently my innocent view that it is a good idea to be able to pay for the goods you purchase makes me a small-state neo-liberal Tory free market fundamentalist. Which seems quite a complicated description for just wanting things to add up. Austerity, apparently, is a philosophy, and you can be anti-it. But, really, who wants to be austere? We all like "stuff" and prefer not to be without it. We are all anti-austerity when the finances mean that we don't have to make difficult choices. Today the Chancellor will ann

Police Budgets protected in real terms

A little early to break out the champagne given that we still do not know exactly how the budget will be allocated between different police forces. But on the face of it, the announcement in today's Autumn Statement that the overall police budget will be maintained in real terms should make it an awful lot more likely that the police forces in Cumbria and the rest of the North West will have enough money to maintain a first-class service to protect the public. Obviously the government has decided that after what happened in Paris the other week this is not the time to be making big cuts in policing. I welcome this and am sure that the thousands of residents of Cumbria who signed the petition to protect our police funding will feel the same way.

Of Trident Submarines, Robots and Cybernats ...

From the pages of Hansard reporting a debate which took place in the House of Commons yesterday on a motion about Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent proposed by the Scottish National Party. The SNP, like the Leader of the Labour party although many of his MPs disagree, do not want Britain to have a nuclear deterrent. They want to scrap Trident, leaving Britain less effectively defended and with serious consequences for the jobs of many people in both Cumbria and Scotland. The SNP had with incompetence which is wholly characteristic, proposed the motion that "That this House believes that Trident should not be removed." This turned out to be a typo, and they actually meant to propose "That this House believes that Trident should not be renewed." and argued that the nuclear deterrent should be scrapped. The Defence secretary replied and what he had to say included the following: Michael Fallon: "Successive Labour and Conservative Governme

George Osborne writes about today's Autumn Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer writes:   "The Autumn Statement I gave today delivers on the promise we made to the British people that we would put their security first: To protect our economic security, by taking the difficult decisions to live within our means and bring our debts down. The public spending plans I set out today mean we will reach a surplus of £10.1 billion in 2019/20 – that’s higher than was forecast at the Budget and means Britain will be out of the red and into the black. To protect our national security, by defending our country’s interests abroad and keeping our citizens safe at home. There will be no cuts in the police budget with real terms protection for police funding and we deliver on our commitment to spend 2 per cent of our national income on defence. But this Spending Review does not just ensure the economic and national security of our country, it builds on that with: Full funding for the Five Year Forward View that the NHS its

Brown's Poison Pills part 5: The Banking Crash

One of the mistakes which probably helped to cost Ed Miliband the 2015 election was when he was asked on TV “Do you accept that when Labour was last in power, it overspent?” and began his answer with the basically incredible response  "No, I don't." Cue gasps in the studio and headlines about how this showed Labour had not learned their lesson. Ironically, that question had been anticipated by Labour's team and they had agreed a vastly more credible response - which although it would not have got them totally off the hook would have both demonstrated ability to learn and understand what went wrong while still minimising (and in my opinion understating) their responsibility for the recession. According to  Patrick Wintour in The Guardian , the prepared response to that question had been along the following lines: “I don’t think every penny was well spent. I can give you plenty of examples where the last Labour government did not spend money well and, as someon

Dan Jarvis on Syria

Labour's leader appears to be unable to move out of his 70's hard left revival comfort zone, but there are some opposition MPs who are showing signs that a cross-party consensus may be available to take action against DA'ESH. Labour MP and former soldier Dan Jarvis has an article in the Guardian, " My five tests for backing military action in Syria " which unlike his party's leader, makes sense. His article begins "What heightens our grief and horror over the atrocities in Paris is the knowledge that they could easily have happened to us here in the UK. Our country experienced its own pain a few months ago when 30 British holidaymakers were murdered on the beaches of Tunisia. Both were strikes against all decent and civilised people.   "They underline how Islamic State hates us for who we are, not for what we do. Any idea that these fanatical terrorists will leave us alone if we leave them alone is misguided. We must confront Isis and its po

Quote of the day 25th November 2015

( J.K.Rowling - quote from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone")

David Cameron writes

  At the election, Britain voted for strong leadership, a clear economic plan and a brighter, more secure future – I will not let you down. With your help, Conservatives will deliver that brighter future for our country. Please donate today, and together we can keep building the Britain we all want to see.   It is thanks to your support that we are able to put Conservative policies into action: a clear plan to reduce the deficit, lower taxes for hardworking people, strong defence, and dignity and security in old age.   In contrast, the Labour Party have moved even further to the left. In just two months they have confirmed that if given the chance to govern again they would borrow more money, spend more on welfare, and even print money to pay for it.   Meanwhile, we are getting on with the job of delivering what we said we would do at the election: providing security at every stage of people’s lives.   We simply cannot let Labour back into power. Please don

The Times repeats the same trick that the Sun pulled yesterday:

Today The Times repeats the same misleading misrepresentation of an opinion poll to give an exaggerated impression of support among British Muslims for DA'ESH, (the so-called "Islamic State,") which The Sun published yesterday. I suppose we should be grateful that this time the misleading headline appeared on page 11 and not the front page. However, like The Sun, they referred to the results of a Survation polling question which did not mention "ISIS" under that name or "IS," "ISIL," "DA'ESH" or any other of the names by which the organisation has been described, and misrepresented those results as suggesting that nearly a fifth of British Muslims has "sympathy for ISIS", which is not a safe inference from that poll. It's just possible that the Sun's conduct could have been foolish rather than irresponsible. I can't believe whoever decided to repeat the story in The Times did not see any of the justifi

Quote of the day 24th November

Interview on the Today programme yesterday about Jeremy Corbyn's leadership Ed Miliband: “I’m not gonna be a back-seat driver.” Jim Naughtie: “Well having crashed the car it’s difficult to do that.” Ed Miliband: “Thanks.”

Did the Cinemas move the goalposts on the Church of England advert?

Taking this blog and facebook together, the majority of comments here and Facebook to my posts about the Church of England adverts have been from people supportive of the idea of banning political and religious adverts. Though I am also told that there have been a lot of people including moderate atheists and representatives of other religions who have complained in no uncertain terms about the ban and said that they do not find the banned Church of England advert showing people reading the Lord's Prayer in any way offensive. Both sides are entitled to their opinion and the cinemas are entitled to set their own policy, but on at least one important point, it is beginning to look very much as though the supporters of the cinema and critics of the Church were wrong on a point of fact, and one of posts on my blog supportive of the advert and against the DCM decision was right. Several people have said there was a "pre-existing policy" to ban such adverts. Digital Cinem

Classic "Yes Prime Minister" - Sir Humphrey on how to rig an opinion poll

Further to my previous post on the poll quoted on the front page of today's Sun newspaper, here is a brilliant piece from "Yes Prime Minister" in which Sir Humphrey demonstrates to Bernard how you get an opinion  poll to give whichever result you want ...

How not to help community relations and the fight against terrorism ...

One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with terrorist threats like Al Qaeda and DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State") is to effectively get over the message that because these murderous extremists are our enemy does not make ordinary decent Muslims our enemy. One way to think of this, though the gulf is even wider, is to point out the parallel with the communal violence in Northern Ireland in our recent history. That conflict had a religious element and a political element although it was really a struggle between two communities. But one side was normally identified as Catholic and the other as Protestant. Just as a few days ago at the Radison Blu in Mali, the Jihadi killers selected some of their potential victims on religions grounds - they asked them to recite the Shahada, a statement of Islamic beliefs, and spared those who could - there were instances during the troubles when gunmen asked people they were holding questions like "Are any of you Cathol

Quote of the day 23rd November 2015

Many a true word ...

A summary of how things have been going for Labour ...

Thanks to Robert Barnes for sharing this picture which rather shows how things have been going for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn. Can they manage an even worse week in the coming seven days than they've had over the last week? After the Ed stone, the Jez stone !

Brown's poison pills part 4: Tax Credits

Of all the dire legacies which Gordon Brown as Chancellor and then PM left behind, the Tax Credits mess is the most currently controversial, the most difficult and the hardest to resolve. In theory tax credits would be a good idea if they made it possible to integrate tax and benefits in a way which ensured a seamless progress from receiving state help to paying tax in which the citizen always received an appropriate level of assistance, and which were withdrawn at a consistent and moderate rate as he or she grew better off so that there was always an incentive to earn more. Unfortunately we are nowhere remotely near being able to implement that in practice and the existing Tax Credits system certainly does not achieve that. So the problem we have is that people who are doing the right thing and trying to support themselves and their families are being made clients of the state through the tax credits system. Instead of being allowed to be independent they are made to pay tax, an

Church of England advert which has been banned from cinemas

In the interests of promoting debate and information, this is the Church of England advert featuring the Lord's prayer which has been banned from cinemas. Apparently the company which manages adverts in cinema has a policy of not running any adverts which feature religious material. It says something interesting and in my opinion mildly alarming that something like this could be banned as potentially offensive. And before you ask how I would react if Richard Dawkins' pals produced a cinema advert which in equally polite language argued for atheism - perhaps a cinematic version of the advert they put on the side of buses a while back - my answer is there has to be a level playing field but I would prefer for it to be possible to show either.

Sunday music slot: Bach's "Air on a G string" adapted for boy's voices

A haunting version of JS Bach's air from Suite No 3 in D sung by Libera

Sunday Reflection spot - Peace on Earth

Today is the last Sunday of the church's year. Next week is Advent Sunday which starts the countdown to Christmas - the coming of the Prince of Peace. And therefore an appropriate time to reflect on how you manage your response to an organisation like DA'ESH or Nazi Germany to which the only response is to fight or to surrender to evil. As Thomas Sowell put it in one of my recent quotes of the day, I was one of many people who was very impressed with Antoine Leiris's response, repeated below as my quote of the day for today, to the authors of the murderous attack in Paris in which his wife was one of the victims. Some of the comments, however, when he appeared on Youtube reading it out were less supportive. My impression is that the people who posted those comments had jumped to the conclusion that, because Leiris refused to respond to the murderous hatred of the murderers of his wife by hating them back, he was therefore not supporting any action being taken ag

Chaos in the Labour party

John Rentoul: Dan Hodges' latest piece on the travails of the Labour Leadership They really have not had a good week.

John McDonnell's one-dimensional view of major businesses

Andrew Marr interviewed the real chancellor and shadow chancellor this morning ahead of the autumn statement. John McDonnell had an interesting and rather one-dimensional view of the largest businesses operating in Britain which I do not recognise. He criticised George Osborne for reducing Corporation Tax, saying that this will give millions to big business (it is, of course, being done in a way which takes some smaller businesses out of the net and also reduces tax paid by the slightly smaller ones.) McDonnell did not identify the businesses he was talking about beyond indicating that they were the largest ones, particularly FT top 100 businesses. He appeared to accept Andrew Marr's characterisation that he was talking about businesses like Amazon and Google: whoever he was talking about, he said that the chancellor's corporation tax cuts were giving those companies millions but they were not investing in the UK. Now of course, reality is much more complex than this. S