Showing posts from December, 2015

Arise Sir Lynton ...

Most of the names on the New Year's honours list are worthy and uncontroversial but people always find something to make a fuss about. As 2015 comes to an end I have been killing myself laughing at the utterly hypocritical outrage from various Labour party members about the award of a knighthood to Lynton Crosby, the campaign "guru" who helped David Cameron win the election. Those people who also criticised the award of honours to Labour and Lib/Dem election strategists are entitled to make such a criticism but in all candour, all three of what were the main parties have made such awards and the going rate for election strategists who win elections (and sometimes even those who lose them) has been a couple of rungs higher than a knighthood, it's been a peerage. All of David Cameron's four predecessors as prime minister, not to mention Labour and Lib/Dem leaders who never became Prime Minister, have put election strategists from their party into the House of L

Music spot: Bach's Christmas Oratorio Part Three


Final Quote(s) of the Day post of 2015: New Year's Eve

"Ring out wild bells to the wild sky,       The flying cloud, the frosty light:       The year is dying in the night;       Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.  "Ring out the old, ring in the new,       Ring, happy bells, across the snow:       The year is going, let him go;       Ring out the false, ring in the true."   (Alfred, Lord Tennyson) "New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. " (Hamilton Wright Mabie) "An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." (Bill Vaughan)

Music spot: Bach's Christmas Oratorio part two


Storm Frank may bring further flooding in Cumbria and Northern Britain ...

H eavy rain will continue to fall across Northern England and in Scotland today and with the ground still saturated and river levels at recent record highs, there is the potential for further significant flooding in Cumbria and elsewhere. A Chinook helicopter is being employed to deposit 1 tonne sandbags. Further bags are ready for today subject to flying conditions. York’s Foss Barrier is now operational following emergency work and flood waters in the city are receding, although the community should remain vigilant with levels expected to rise again later in the week. Environment Agency operational staff and the army worked around the clock to get the Foss Barrier pumps repaired after high river levels flooded the pump room and affected the power system. As of 11.00 on 30 December there were 3 severe flood warnings, 46 flood warnings and 85 flood alerts in place across England and Wales. Flood warnings are updated on the Environment Agency website every 15 minutes. The count


At this time of year, which to Christians - and many other people - is the season of Peace and Goodwill, it is particularly important to stress the things which unite us, and to hold out the had of reconciliation and friendship wherever this is possible. Obviously because it is the Christian season of Christmas it is natural that those people who share that faith will refer to the message of Jesus but I have also observed that members of other faiths will also send Christmas messages. This year I have received three messages from Muslim friends and one from a Hindu friend wishing me and my family a happy Christmas and most years I have received similar messages from Jewish friends. I take all those messages in the friendly spirit in which I know they are sent. Unfortunately it seems that most years someone decides to score a point by accusing a Christmas message which refers to Christianity of being divisive. It is very important to make the point, because they are often wrongly

Quotes of the day 30th December 2015

Top Tweet May 2015: Has anyone suggested switching the Labour Party off and switching it back on again yet?  [17 May] — John Rentoul(@JohnRentoul) December">">December 30, 2015 "A suggestion the party immediately took up, only to discover the virus is now running the hard drive." &mdash">"> — John David Blake (@johndavidblake) December">">December 30, 2015

Christmas Music spot - Bach's Christmas Oratorio, all of part one

As a contrast to yesterday's music slot which had the opening chorus of Bach's Christmas Oratorio sung in English from Atlanta, here is the whole first movement in the original German, with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and the Norwegian soloists' choir.

Met office: December 2015 has seen record-breaking levels of rain

With a couple of days to go the Met Office is already saying that during December 2015 many parts of the UK have experienced record-breaking levels of recorded rainfall . Here is a selection of the highest two day rainfall totals from Met Office observing sites for Christmas Day and Boxing Day: 48hr UK RAINFALL TOTALS 9am 25 DEC – 9am 27 DEC 2015 SITE AREA RAINFALL TOTAL (MM) CAPEL CURIG GWYNEDD 210.6 STONYHURST LANCASHIRE 100 PATELEY BRIDGE, RAVENS NEST NORTH YORKSHIRE 97 BINGLEY WEST YORKSHIRE 93.6 BAINBRIDGE NORTH YORKSHIRE 89.8 BALA GWYNEDD 89.4 SHAP CUMBRIA 86.4 SPADEADAM CUMBRIA 79.4 PRESTON, MOOR PARK LANCASHIRE 73.2 MYERSCOUGH LANCASHIRE 72.4 BRADFORD WEST YORKSHIRE 69.4 ROCHDALE GREATER MANCHESTER 68.2 MORECAMBE LANCASHIRE 65.8 MONA ISLE OF ANGLESEY 63.6 KIELDER CASTLE NORTHUMBERLAND 61.2 DISHFORTH AIRFIELD NORTH YORKSHIRE 60.8 This wet spell has added to the heavy rainfall through the rest of the month to make December 2015 already the wettest on

Quote of the day 29th December 2015

"Did you have an enjoyable and festive Christmas? Yes? Then it’s a safe bet you’re not a member of the shadow cabinet." ( Dan Hodges in an article which suggests that those members of the shadow cabinet who don't toe the Corbyn line are " dead men walking ." The same article quotes a shadow cabinet member as saying “There’s a level of fear within the party that’s worse than anything I’ve seen since the 1980s. It’s insidious. We feel as if we have targets on our backs.”)

Christmas music slot - the opening of Bach's Christmas Oratorio

Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a fantastic piece which is not heard nearly as often as it deserves and it took me a while to find a public domain recording of the opening movement sung in English. But here is one, with New Trinity Baroque, "Atlanta's most established early music ensemble" using period instruments and ith the Atlanta Boy Choir (singing in English). This excerpt is from a live performance in December of 2006.

Quote of the day 28th December 2015 (the fourth day of Christmas)


Christmas Music spot: Ding Dong Merrily On High (Kings)


Four Flood warnings still in place in Cumbria

Four flood warnings remain in place across Cumbria with residents reminded to be prepared for flooding and to take care on the roads. Chief Inspector David Bosson, of Cumbria Police, said the flooding situation in the county had improved but road users still need to be careful. "There is still a lot of surface water on the road network of the county and we would like to warn motorists to take care and drive appropriately for the conditions," he said. “I would like to take this opportunity to advise motorists to not in any circumstance ignore road closure signs and continue on their journey. Roads are closed for your safety. “I am also keen to urge motorists to not drive through flood water. Doing so is extremely dangerous as you cannot determine the depth.” Water from the river Eden was reported to have made the road surface in Appleby in the early hours of this morning while Carlisle firefighters went to 11 flood-connnected incidents between 7am yesterday and 7am t

Quote of the day 27th December 2015

"Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race." (Albert Einstein)

O would some power the giftie gie us ....

Robert Burns once wrote " O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us" Tories who want a bit of that gift at Christmas 2015 - e.g. to see how we appear to an intelligent non-Tory who despairs of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats - could do an awful lot worse than read this article by Nick Cohen . Basically, faced with an utterly incompetent opposition, the only policies which the Conservative party cannot implement over the next five years are things which Conservative MPs are split about. Or as Nick puts it "The condition of England now depends on the kindness of Tories." That imposes an awesome responsibility on us, and part of that responsibility must include listening to those who do not share our views. I don't share Nick Cohen's opinion of Iain Duncan Smith but I do share serious concerns about the competence of his department and the manner in which his policies to get people out of dependency are bei

Quote of the Day 26th December 2015

"It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.'" (Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her Christmas broadcast yesterday) Queen Elizabeth is a most remarkable woman, and her experience of meeting or working with world leaders of every kind over such a long period must be unparalleled throughout history. She has held regular meetings with every one of the twelve Prime Ministers who have held office over the sixty years from her accession during Sir Winston Churchill's last term as PM to David Cameron. She has also met almost every great statesman from powers allied to Britain and a great many of the most powerful figures from countries which were not. Her speech yesterday was brilliant. If you missed it, you should be able to watch it by clicking on the im

More flooding hits the North, this time in Lancashire and Yorkshire

Misery does not love company and I'm sure residents of Cumbria - where our flood hit areas are by no means out of trouble - will be equally ready to extend sympathy to those in the neighbouring counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire who were hit by flooding on Christmas day or today. More than 250 flood alerts have been issued across England, Scotland and Wales - with 12 severe warnings in place for Lancashire and Yorkshire.   Homes in Ribchester and Whalley, Lancashire, are being evacuated and people have been urged to stay away. I have already mentioned that there is a yellow rain warning in place for today over Cumbria and almost all the North West: the Met Office has also issued red weather warnings for rain in parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Almost a month's rainfall is likely to fall in one day in places, which is basically what happened in Cumbria at the start of the month and caused the first wave of this winter's floods. The Environment Agency said affe

Be prepared for more rain

A warning of rain in Cumbria and most of the North West is still in force from the Met Office for basically the rest of today: Yellow Warning of Rain for North West England : Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Merseyside & Warrington valid from 1115 Sat 26 Dec to 2345 Sat 26 Dec

Christmas Music spot: Angels From The Realms of Glory (Kings College)


Happy Christmas to everyone reading this

Wherever you are, whatever your ancestry, whatever your identity; To those who follow the Christian faith; May the joy of the shepherds, the love of Mary, the wisdom of the Magi and the hope represented by the Christ child, be with you this Christmas. To those who follow any other faith; May your God be with you at this time. To those who do not follow any particular faith; I wish you a happy holiday. To my fellow-residents of Cumbria; I hope you and your families are all able to stay safe and dry this Christmas. To everyone reading this: Goodwill and Peace to you at this special time.

Quote of the day Christmas Day 2015

8     And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9     And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10    And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12   And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13    And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ( From the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8 to 14 )

Christmas Eve music spot: O Little One Sweet - (JS Bach) by the Cambridge Singers


Bah, Humbug: who is the worst Scrooge of Christmas 2015?

I have been giving some thought to the question of who is the worst Scrooge for Christmas 2015. Obviously, Jeremy Corbyn, who sent an EID message to Muslims (as did David Cameron, and it is not the EID message I am criticising) and a Diwali message to Hindus, but then declined to send a Christmas message , is a strong contender. However, there are two reasons why he will escape my nomination. Jeremy Corbyn's worldview, policies and style of  leadership are creating an existential crisis for the Labour party and many of his policies would be an even bigger disaster for the country if he were elected. If he is still leader at the time of the 2020 election - and unless he falls under the proverbial bus that is likely, as the moderates have no clear mechanism to remove him and any attempt to do so would look like contempt for Labour party members - we need to be in a position to call out just how disastrous many of those policies would be. In fact, I think that Conservatives an

David Cameron's Christmas Message

The Prime Minister's Christmas message, released on his Facebook page , reads as follows: "If there is one thing people want at Christmas, it’s the security of having their family around them and a home that is safe. But not everyone has that. Million s of families are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad. Christians from Africa to Asia will go to church on Christmas morning full of joy, but many in fear of persecution. Throughout the United Kingdom, some will spend the festive period ill, homeless or alone. We must pay tribute to the thousands of doctors, nurses, carers and volunteers who give up their Christmas to help the vulnerable – and to those who are spending this season even further from home. Right now, our brave Armed Forces are doing their duty, around the world: in the skies of Iraq and Syria, targeting the terrorists that threaten those countries and our secu

Army on standby in Cumbria as Met office gives more Amber warnings ...

The Army and 700 Environment Agency staff have been put on standby as the Met office has upgraded heavy rain warnings from Yellow to Amber and Cumbria faces the possibility of further flooding over Christmas.   Environment Secretary Liz Truss chaired an emergency meeting of the Government’s emergency COBR committee before confirming preparations for ‘all potential scenarios’ were being made. She also said that 85 per cent of the country’s temporary flood barriers are now in Cumbria, with many more sandbags being delivered to areas forecasted to be most at risk. More than 20 extra pumps are in the north of England, four of them are high volume pumps capable of moving one metric tonne of water per second. The meeting was held as Met Offices warnings for rain in Cumbria on Christmas Day and Boxing Day were upgraded from yellow to amber, the second highest level of alert. The warnings say that: “Rain will spread northwards across Cumbria during the afternoon and evening of Christ

Quote of the day 24th December 2015


Christmas Cards 2015

In the light of the disastrous flooding which has affected so many of our friends and neighbours in Cumbria this year, I and my family are not sending a large number of hard copy Christmas cards this year: instead we will be donating the money we would have used to buy and post Christmas cards to the Cumbria Community Foundation's flood appeal. This is a one off, but we feel that using the money in this way is more in accordance with the true spirit of Christmas than sending cards. (We will still be sending e-cards using the Jacquie Lawson website, to which we had subscribed long before Storm Desmond.) Cumbria Community Foundation launched the Cumbria Flood Recovery Appeal on Saturday 5th December 2015 with an initial target of £1m but due to the scale of the damage caused and following more recent flooding this was increased to £5 million and now £6 million. In an incredible display of generosity £3.5 million has already been donated by the public, and over half a millio

Christmas music spot: Infant Holy, Infant Lowly (King's College, Cambridge)


A stunningly unclear judgement from the European Court of Justice

A regular commentator on this blog posted recently that   "the best thing going for the leave campaign is the weakness of arugument being put forward by the remain campaign. Also. the greatest asset of the remain campaign are UKIP, Leave.EU and Vote Leave Ltd." There are some honourable exceptions on both sides, and I hope none of my friends who are campaigning on either side are offended by this comment because they are all numbered among those exceptions, but I do think Jim has a point. And probably the second best thing going for each side - certainly one of those which I as someone who has not decided which way to jump find most irritating - concerns the two systems of European justice, one of which IS part of the European Union, while the other IS NOT part of the EU. Both the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have been known to make decisions which many British people, including me, seriously disagree with. Admittedl

Quote of the day 23rd December 2015


More flooding in Cumbria. It's going to be a long winter

After torrential rain in many areas of Cumbria today there has been more flooding, with Appleby,  Keswick, Kendal and Glenridding affected. As I've previously written, with the ground so saturated it cannot absorb more water, and river levels are already very high, so it does not take much rain to cause further flooding. It's going to be a long winter. But we will get through it. 

Defence, Foreign affairs and Terrorism tops the list of issues

Hat tip to Political Betting  for the latest MORI figures on what voters polled think is the most important issue facing the country. Usually the most important issues on this regular survey, which has continued for many years, are the NHS and core economic issues such as the Economy, Unemployment, Inflation and the Cost of Living. Recently Immigration had a major rise and was top of the chart last time I looked at this survey, but this time it was pipped to the top slot by "Defence, Foreign Affairs and Terrorism." With inflation at roughly zero for the past six months it is hardly surprising that this problem has dropped to near the bottom of the list of public concerns and as Unemployment is falling that concern too has dropped a long way down the chart, though not as far. The NHS and the Economy have held on to the third and fourth places on the chart, though neither gets into double figures for the most important issue. An important learning point, however, fo

Quote of the day 22nd December 2016


Christmas music slot: Jingle Bells in Baroque style


Swimathon 2016 - my 23rd consecutive Swimathon

In March next year I will be taking part in Swimathon 2016 to raise money for good causes, and aiming to swim 5,000 metres for the 23rd consecutive year. This post is an early warning and there will be some more information about the event and attempts to raise sponsorships nearer the time. Swimathon is now part of Sport Relief, which supports the same good causes as Comic Relief in Britain and around the world. 50% of the money raised is used to support community projects and good causes in Britain, including a range of causes in Cumbria Community projects and good causes supported in Cumbria over the past couple of years have included: 1) Cumbria Gateway 2) North Copeland Youth partnership 3) Copeland occupational and social centre 4) Pride in North Cumbria 5) Sustainable Carlisle Ltd You can read more about where the money from Swimathon goes at http:/ If you would like to sponsor me , which would be very much appreciated,

Earth to everybody: Hermione Granger is not a real person

Hermione Granger is a character in the "Harry Potter" series of fiction books by J.K. Rowling. This week there has been a lot of debate about whether she is white or black and whether it is OK to cast actresses of particular ethnicity to play her. Gordon Bennett! Hermione Granger is NOT A REAL PERSON. She can be white, black, asian, or whatever colour anyone wants her to be!

Weather warning for Cumbria and much of the North West

A weather warning for Cumbria has been issued by the Met Office - Yellow Warning of Rain for North West England : Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Cumbria, Greater Manchester & Lancashire valid from quarter past midnight to 6pm tomorrow. Which is cause for concern with the ground over much of Cumbria already saturated with water. After this morning's heavy rain there is water pooling on the surface of my garden, which normally drains very well, indicating that the earth has already absorbed all the water it can handle.

Why Opinium changed their polling question about party leaders

For those reading this who are not political anoraks and don't follow the exact wording of questions asked by polling companies ... Opinium has replaced the questions asking respondents whether they approve of the job being done by David Cameron as PM, Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader and Tim Farron as Lib/Dem leader etc by equivalent questions which ask for each party leader whether the voters in the sample have a favourable or unfavourable view of the leader concerned. Mike Smithson of "Political Betting" thinks this is a better question. Adam Drummond of Opinium explains why it was adopted. Lest there be any doubt, "he" in the tweet below refers to Jeremy Corbyn, not David Cameron ... @MSmithsonPB mainly to counter the fact that all my Tory-supporting colleagues strongly approve of the job he's doing — Adam Drummond (@AGKD123) December 20, 2015

Old and new Caliphates

There is an interesting article in the Economist this week, Straddling Two Worlds , about the original Muslim Caliphate - the Ottoman Empire. It shows how different - and how much more tolerant, forward-looking, and practical - the original was when compared with the travesty that DA'ESH is trying to create when they talk about "restoring" the Caliphate for their so-called Islamic State.

Quote of the day 21st December 2015

"Islamic State ... is not a nation but an abomination" (Leader article in this week's Christmas double issue of The Economist )

Guido's latest caption competition

Paul Staines who blogs as Guido Fawkes launched a caption competition here on Friday showing UKIP's leader and one MP, who have not exactly been seeing eye to eye this week. Here is the picture to caption: My favourite entry from the comments, which is also very topical given that there is a new Star Wars film out this week, was "I find your lack of faith ... disturbing." Though to the best of my knowledge Nige can't use the Force to strangle people who disagree with him - which is probably just as well for about 88% of the voting electorate ...

Sunday and Christmas music spot: The Shepherds' Farewell (Berlioz)

This is "The Shepherd's Farewell" by Hector Berlioz, sung by the Choir of King's College Cambridge. One of the most beautiful carols ever written.

Sunday Reflection Spot: Archbishop Justin Welby's message

I really like the message which  The Archbishop of Canterbury has posted on his Facebook page. Today is the fourth and last Sunday in advent and preparations both secular and religious for the Christmas festival are in full swing. I do not in any way blame the shops for trying to make the most of the fact that many people are dashing around stocking up on food and buying presents - they have a living to earn - but at the end of the day Christmas is not about materialism, presents or food. It is about a message of love, peace and hope, represented by the birth of a baby. Obviously that message is particularly special to those of us who believe in the Christian faith but it is not an exclusive message and can appeal to people of other faiths or none. Already this seasons I have had a Merry Christmas messages from two elected representatives who happen to be Muslims and I accept and am grateful for those messages in the tolerant and inclusive spirit in which they were sent. There

Quote of the day Sunday 20th December 2015

"With potential candidates from Alan Milburn to Alan Johnson no longer in the frame, and David Miliband beaten by his brother, the party was left in the hands of Ed Miliband . His time as Labour leader was more destructive to the Labour party than any that had gone before. "It is one of the quirks of political parties that they often elect hopelessly weak leaders because they appear to share their values. It was obvious that the main task was to restore economic credibility but instead Labour became more incredible. There was a need for fresh thinking on health, education and crime but little happened. Labour under first Brown, then Miliband and now Corbyn showed almost no interest in education – the engine of opportunity, equality and life chances. And Miliband paved the way organisationally (through his potty new electoral system) and tactically (by making people believe that posturing rather than serious policy is the answer) for the Corbyn regime. "Corbyn is hei

Christmas music slot: "Silent Night" in Baroque style

The carol "Silent Night" from a collection of Christmas music rearranged in the Baroque style ...

Helping people remember us when we are gone.

I don't listen to it very often, because I don't have to. But one of the most precious things I have left by which to remember my late mother is the recording of a chapter of "Harold and Bella, Jammy and me" which she made for Hertfordshire county council - because it is the only remaining record of her voice. I have considered the possibility of making some form of recording for my children which they will have of me when I am no longer here, and this moving article by Jonathan Freedland has convinced me that I should do so, and probably sooner rather than later and get my wife to do so too. He describes in the article how his sister Fiona, who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 45 and knew, five years later, that she did not have long to live, asked him to help her make a "Desert Island Discs" recording for her loved ones to remember her by. His sister must have been a fantastic person, and although it is terribly cruel that someone

Details of government support if your home has been flooded

The government is providing local authorities with Community Grants as part of the Communities and Business Recovery Scheme.   This will be equivalent to up to £500 per household affected by flooding. It will help with recovery costs such as provision of temporary accommodation.   In Cumbria this will mean a fixed payment of £500 for a property that has been flooded.    For those properties that already pay their council tax by Direct Debit the good news is that you don’t need to do anything! This payment will be paid directly into your bank account and the payment will show up as a payment from your local district council who are administrating the scheme.   If you do not pay your council tax by direct debit then please contact your local district council who will be happy to help you apply for the payment.   Allerdale Borough Council or call 01900 702 600 Carlisle City Council at or call 01228

Quote of the day 19th December 2015


One American trend that I really hope we don't follow.

For good or ill, where America goes Britain has often followed within twenty years. I really hope that one trend we do not follow in that way is the one highlighted in an excellent article by Tim Montgomerie on CAPX: " The dirtiest word in American politics is compromise ." Tim charts the rise of political hatred and sectarianism over the past century and notes that reaching out to work with people on the other side of the political divide has increasingly become toxic for a politician's career. He notes how Marco Rubio, who is the person I would currently be supporting for US President if I were an American voter, has been attacked for his efforts to find bipartisan solutions to one of America's most difficult problems as one of the "Gang of Eight" consisting of four Republican and four Democrat senators. Being involved in politics and attacking compromise is like being a roadbuilder and attacking Asphalt. Sometimes there is just no other way of getti

Thoughts on the end of Deep Mining in Britain

Today workers at Kellingly Pit have finished their final shifts and with those shifts centuries of continuous deep coal mining have come to an end. I have very mixed feelings about this: as a member of Copeland Borough Council for Bransty ward from 2007 to 2011, I was a fairly rare thing: a Tory representing a Northern ex-mining community. Within days of my election I was invited to attend a rally commemorating the William Pit disaster sixty years before in which 104 people had lost their lives (the site of the pit being located in my ward). Having, of course, accepted the invitation, I was stunned on arrival to see perhaps four thousand people had come to commemorate that event. It was an incredibly powerful demonstration of how strong and positive a thing the community spirit of mining communities can be. And it is for that reason that I cannot bring myself to celebrate the end of deep mining in Britain, because the spirit of those mining communities was something very power

Riposte of the year: Jacob Rees Mogg 1, David Dimbleby 0.

The lightning Comeback of 2015 award has to go to Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg on last night's Question Time when David Dimbleby teased him over having gone to Eton. He replied "Absolutely right, I was at school with your son."

The EU negotiations are finally starting to get serious ...

There is a veritable forest of different ideas floating around about how things are going in the negotiations on what terms are available if Britain stays in the EU.   It does appear that there has been some serious talking this week at a European Council meeting.   David Cameron has said there is a "a pathway to a deal" on new terms for Britain's membership of the EU after talks with other leaders.   The prime minister set out his reform demands, which include controversial plans to curb access to benefits for migrants, at a dinner in Brussels. He said "good progress" has been made but it would be "hard work" to get a deal by his February deadline. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders "all want a compromise". BBC report here . The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, recognised publicly before this week's meeting that the EU must confront difficult issues on freedom of movement and that there is

Should Labour moderates join the Conservative Party?

Toby Young extended an invitation this week to Dan Hodges, which interestingly, was the same one which Corbyn supporters have been making to Dan and any other Labour party member whose views they disagree with. Except that Toby meant it in a positive way and the Corbynistas don't. The standard response on social media to any Labour member who says or does something they don't like is "Why don't you **** off and join the Tories." Dan has, for the second time, decided that he has had enough of the present Labour leadership and that   he will indeed **** off . Toby Young wrote to encourage him to act on the second half of the Corbynista's advice too, and that he would be welcome in the Conservative party. Dan has written a friendly and interesting reply which amounts to saying that he knows he has more in common with David Cameron than Jeremy Corbyn but cannot bring himself to do it. Which is actually a pity. The Conservative party has gained a gr