Showing posts from January, 2016

Intolerance and the Battle of Dover

Early this week I was twice horrified by a lack of balance in the way some people expressed their views. Then we had the shameful scenes at Dover. In my opinion those who start by accusing their opponents as being traitors or not true Britons/Scots are in danger of starting down the slippery slope which leads to the kind of ugly scenes we have just seen. In a previous post today I linked to an article by former MP Dr Julian Huppert which mentioned two debates over whether Britain should remain a member of the EU in which he had taken part. He asked those on the other side from himself what they would be prepared to risk or give up for their preferred outcome. They shouted "Everything!" Everything?  Everything? Really? In the words of G.K. Chesterton, "All men are dangerous who care for only one thing." Then there was the latest manifestation of hostility by SNP supporters against J.K. Rowling. When the "Harry Potter" author gave a million pound

Sunday Music Spot- O Lord in thy wrath

I would have sworn that when I first heard and sang the anthem "O Lord, in thy wrath" at an RSCM Cathedral singers event in Bristol in about 1979 the music bore the name of composer Thomas Weelkes. This and other recordings, however, all attribute it to Orlando Gibbons and so, I must confess, does every reference I can find. So either my memory is playing tricks on me or the attribution to Weelkes is now regarded as wrong or at best very much a minority view. But whoever wrote this, it is a wonderful if somewhat gloomy anthem.

Europe and Science

There are many things wrong with the European Union, but if there is one area of the EU's activity which seems to be popular with almost all of those directly affected by it, that area is the European Research Council and the other forms of support which the EU gives to scientific research. I am, and have been for a length of time which shocks me when I realise how long it is, a member of the "Court" of Bristol University. This used to be, in theory, the University's most senior governing body but has gradually had its' formal and actual powers whittled down for various reasons. Membership of Court remains an excellent opportunity to keep in touch with my Alma Mater and I was struck at the 2015 meeting by how strongly held and almost universal the opinion was among the academics I spoke to that the European Research Council works well and that they would regard loss of preferential access to European research facilities as a result of Brexit as damaging to scien

Terry Wogan RIP

It has been announced this morning that Sir Terry Wogan has died at the age of 77 after a "short but brave" battle with cancer. He was a remarkable "larger than life" and very funny TV personality who was almost universally liked - which is not the easiest thing to achieve in this day and age. He will be missed. Rest in Peace

Quote of the day 31st January 2016


Worst of Both Worlds 4: Cognitive Dissonance

There are still some good points being put by the decent and intelligent people among both those campaigning for Britain to Leave the EU and those campaigning for remain. There is also some downright ridiculous scaremongering from both sides. I was not impressed with either side's contribution to a BBC sports report on how How Brexit would affect English Football  - in which the BBC had asked for comments from several viewpoints. Now, I do not claim to be a great expert on football, but it appeared to me that Vote Leave did a far better job of eviscerating the case put by Will Straw on behalf of "Britain Stronger in Europe"  than they did of putting their own case. But frankly both sides were all over the place. The football authorities are reported at the head of the article as thinking as follows: "The FA is concerned about the influx of foreign players into the top tier of the English game, which it believes is crowding out young home-grown talent. &

Reality check

I didn't post today's "quote of the day" because I necessarily entirely agree with it or am 100% comfortable with the words Sir Michael Caine used even where I do agree with hum. I posted that quote as a reminder to myself and any other politically interested person reading this with an open mind that voters with views not a million miles away from Caine's are the people you need to appeal to if you want to win elections. David Cameron is Prime Minister because he understands that. Ed Miliband isn't Prime Minister because he was the first Labour party leader for three decades who didn't. Britain has only had one Prime Minister since World War II who was not always careful to appeal to the centre - and even Margaret Thatcher was far more pragmatic and centrist in government than she has been presented as being after leaving office, both by New Labour propagandists keen to blame her for everything and by her own acolytes keen to present her as keeper o

Quote of the day 30th January 2016

"I want the working classes to be taken care of but I don't want to be busting my arse and paying high taxes so that a quarter of a million layabouts can get another hour in bed. I voted for Blair because I knew he was a rightwing socialist and I voted for Cameron because I knew he was a leftwing Conservative. Those are the ones I trust the most. Not the extremists. Once you're left of Blair or right of Cameron I don't trust you." ( Sir Michael Caine , in an interview in yesterday's Times)

Police and Crime Commissioner's Radio interview

Have just listened on the internet to the excellent BBC Radio Cumbria interview given earlier today by the county's first Police and Crime Commissioner, Richard Rhodes. I thought it was a really interesting description of the role and how it has worked which addressed some of the difficult issues he has had to deal with. You can listen to the interview at: (This is a three hour slot of which most of the last hour is the interview with Richard - move the slider along to two hours and four minutes.) On a separate but related point, there is a new Conservative webpage for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections featuring information about the post, the elections, and Conservative candidates including Peter McCall who is standing in Cumbria to succeed Richard Rhodes (Richard is not seeking re-election.) The URL for Peter McCall's page on that website is

Road problems expected in Barrow area this afternoon

DELAYS of up to three hours are being expected today as a slow moving "abnormal load" is be moved from Barrow to Lindal. Motorists are being advised by Cumbria Police to expect delays due to a trial run for an exercise to move an extremely heavy load from Barrow to Lindal. The movement was scheduled to start at noon with the load due to travel from Ramsden Dock Road, along Park Road and the A590 before reaching Lindal. Motorists have been warned they should expect delays until around 3pm. The movement is expected to cause particular problems for the shipyard workforce, the vast majority of which finish at 12.30pm on a Friday. The North West Evening Mail says they understand the delays today are part of a 'trial run' for the real abnormal load, which is due to be transported by road in around two weeks' time. It is believed the transportation will not take as long as three hours.

As a new version of "Dad's Army" comes out ...

( Peter Brooke in The Times)

Dan Hannan MEP on the silliest phrase in politics


Quote of the day 29th January 2016

A story from Ed Balls, repeated by John Rentoul ... "In 2006, Tony Blair, who still refused to give Gordon Brown a date for the handover, agreed to make Balls, a new MP who had been Brown's adviser, a minister. So when the reshuffle started, Balls was expecting the call. As usual with Blair's reshuffles, though, things went a bit wrong, and it was 24 hours later that the call finally came through to Balls's constituency home in Yorkshire.   "I have the Prime Minister for you," said the Downing Street switchboard. "Hello Ed," said the Prime Minister. " Hello, Prime Minister ," said Ed, although he had always called him Tony before. "I want you to join the Government ," said Blair. "It may not be what you're expecting. It's Northern Ireland." Balls, his mind reeling with shock as he contemplated the upheaval, how he would manage with the children and the security, managed to say : "It would b

Peter McCall's Website

It is high time I published a link to the campaign website for Peter McCall, Conservative candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria. Peter will be standing for the Conservatives in May this year to succeed the present commissioner, Richard Rhodes, who is not seeking re-election. This is the link to his website: And here is a link to his Facebook page:

Three Weather Warnings in place for Cumbria

With America’s Storm Jonas just passing over, the UK’s next storm - Gertrude - is ready to take its place, with three weather warnings in force for Cumbria. An amber weather warning is in place from 3am on Friday until 10am, with winds of up to 70mph expected, potentially reaching speeds of 80mph along coastal and elevated areas. The wind may lead to structural damage and power disruptions across the county, and the Met Office is warning that people should be prepared. There are also two yellow weather warnings in place for Cumbria, for snow and rain. Between 20 and 40mm of rain was expected to fall in parts of the county between 3pm today (Thursday), and noon on Friday. Elevated areas may see as much as 60mm of rainfall. More details at

DC comes to Lancs and Cumbria and announces more money to repair damaged infrastructire

The Prime Minister came to Cumbria and Lancashire and announced that the government is making more money available to repair damaged infrastructure in Northern England following the floods. Details of the packaged have been announced on the government website here and include the following: £2 million of new funding announced to repair flood-damaged infrastructure across the Lake District National Park £1 million PR campaign announced to encourage British families to spend their Easter holidays in the north package builds on almost £15 million funding from public and private sector to promote tourism to the north and holidays at home The new package will provide £2 million of government funding which will be used to fix bridges, rebuild walls and restore footpaths across the iconic Lake District National Park. And as part of this, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have identified 180 local apprentices who will be mobilised to help with the park’s repa

Investigating allegations against British Soldiers

Minister for the Armed Forces Penny Mordaunt spoke yesterday at a Westminster Hall debate about IHAT, the Iraq historic allegations team, which has been created to ensure that allegations against British Service personnel are properly investigated in a way which is fair and just to both sides. You can read the speech in full at Here are some extracts "I would also thank all Honourable members who have spoken in support of our Armed Forces.   We send them dressed in body armour, into harms way, to defend our freedom, and our national interest. It is not just their courage and capability that makes them the best, it is their values and the high standards we hold them to: values of self-discipline and self-sacrifice.   Much of what they do in both war and peace is to uphold the rule of law, including international humanitarian law, such as the well-known and well-understo

Hugo Rifkin's post for Holocaust Memorial Day last year

I missed this blog post by Hugo Rifkind when it was posted a year ago for Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 and again when a number of people linked to it yesterday for this year's commemoration. But it is so powerful that, even though I may be a day late, I thought this was worth linking to and I recommend it as worth reading.

Quote of the day 28th January 2016

"Would we want to live in a world where only North Korea had nuclear weapons and the rest of the world didn't?" ( Hilary Benn MP on Newsnight last night)

What the House of Commons library did and did not say about jobs

One of the things to watch out for - from both sides - in the EU referendum debate is when people quote selectively from respected "impartial" sources. A classic example is the way some people quote selectively from successive versions of reports by the House of Commons library summarising economic relations between the UK and the rest of the EU which are relevant - if considered correctly - to the costs and benefits of EU membership. The most recent version, Briefing Paper 06091 published on 19th January, "In brief: UK-EU economic relations" can be found at   What the "Britain stronger in Europe" group actually said this week, which is correct, is   "Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our trade with the EU – that’s one in every ten UK jobs."   However, what is often claimed by some of those remain supporters who are a bit cavalier with the facts - I

Cameron on Corbyn

PMQs this afternoon was another session of DC knocking the bowling from Jeremy Corbyn to the boundary in all directions. It had been suggested in some quarters that a competent opposition leader should have been able to embarrass the government over the Google tax deal. I am not sure I agree, as David Cameron could reasonably have argued that this week a Conservative government finally managed to claw back some of the tax Google should have paid under the last Labour government. As it was the Labour leadership laid themselves open to this: The best Labour could do in response was to infer that the use of the word "bunch" in the quote above was racist. Last time I looked "bunch" was not a pejorative term. It's going to be a long four years and eight months for the Labour party ...

Holocaust Memorial Day: - a story of hope and infamy which must never be forgotten

Seventy one years ago today, the Soviet army liberated the last 7,000 survivors who were still present at Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Tragically the SS guards had sent most of the prisoners to march West a few days before on what amounted to a death march: of about 60,000 prisoners sent on those marches more than 15,000 died. The world was horrified at what was found at Auschwitz and other camps and responded as one "never again." Although the genocide organised by Nazi Germany was one of the largest and worst in history it was, tragically, far from being the only such event and there have indeed been others since. Nevertheless if we commemorate and remember such events, and those who stood against them, we have more chance of making that cry of "never again" reflect reality. And in remembering the inhumanity of the Nazis we should also remember the heroism of those like Sir Nicholas Winton who risked and sometimes lost their lives rescuing peop

Quote of the day for Holocaust Memorial Day: 27th January 2016


The Worst of Both Worlds 3: "a puerile barrage of dodgy statistics."

Sadly there has been a further slew of ridiculous arguments from the headbangers on both sides of the EU Referendum debate, which is shaping up to be even worse than the one which preceded the Scottish Independence referendum. So to try to bring a bit of balance and make the point that both sides need to do better, I'm continuing my series of "Worst of both worlds" articles which points out the problem with one of the most egregiously foolish or inaccurate statements or propaganda pieces from each side. Whether or not you agree with anything else in the Daily Mail leader "Puerile Scare Tactics" (below) it is difficult to disagree with the conclusion that "the British public deserves a mature debate on the facts - not a puerile barrage of dodgy statistics." Absolutely, and although there are some people in both the pro and anti Brexit camps who are trying to be fair, reasonable and truthful, and  to whom this does not apply, I'm afraid a pu

The Radicalism Paradox

Dan Hodges has a very good piece in the Telegraph at on what he calls "the radicalism paradox." "This is how it works. Those who are trapped within the Radicalism Paradox can clearly identify the risk posed by the radical or extreme policies and stances of their opponents. Margaret Thatcher. Nigel Farage. Donald Trump - to the Left they represent an existential threat to our way of life. An affront to the proper, decent ordering of society." "But to the progressive radical, their own extreme policies or stances - that radicalism that is such a vice in others - is a virtue." He continues about what can happen: "Moderation itself becomes viewed as dangerous and extreme. David Cameron won a general election by locating – and then painstakingly navigating his way to – the political centre-ground. Yet there are many on the hard

Quote of the day 26th January 2016

“So, what made you leave ... Parliament?” ( Interviewer Robbie Savage to Ed Balls ) Ouch. Balls began his answer with the words "The electorate." I could accuse him of many things but lacking a sense of humour would never have been one of them. Never thought I would feel sorry for him either, but honestly ...

Cecil Parkinson RIP

Lord Cecil Parkinson has died of cancer at the age of 94. He was MP for many years for the Hertsmere constituency, which at that time included part of the City and District of St Albans where I grew up and was a councillor towards the end of his time in politics. The Hertsmere constituency Conservatives also shared an office with the St Albans Conservative Association so the two associations inevitably had quite a bit to do with each other. I did not know Cecil Parkinson well, though I did know people extremely well who knew him equally well and I remember how well, to a man and woman, they all thought of him. I also remember hearing him speak and talk to people at various formal and informal occasions, the clearest memory being of the occasion when he opened a nursing home in what had once been the Bishop's Palace in St Albans. I remember that he was superb at explaining policies and programmes in a clear, concise, accessible and convincing way. I also remember that he was a

The pen versus the sword

Thanks to my old comrade from student days, Quentin Langley (via Facebook) for this one:

Quote of the day 25th January 2016

"We can, belatedly, do the  right thing: repeat what a Conservative government did in 1971 after  much less provocation. To the Kremlin's consternation it kicked out the entire Soviet Embassy KGB contingent - all 105 of them." ( Dominic Lawson  in yesterday's Sunday Times on how Britain should respond to Judge Sir Robert Owen's finding that Alexander Litvinenko was murdered on British soil by Russian agents and that the order to carry out that murder probably came from the very highest level of the Russian government.)

Sunday reflection spot - can the rules fix everything?

Every since I was at University I have regularly found myself taking part in attempts by various clubs, unions, councils, or political parties to sort out problems by amending their constitution, rules or standing orders. Occasionally there really is a problem with the constitution concerned and then such exercises can add value. But most of the time it is part of a power struggle - some party, group or faction is pushing a rules change which they think will make the outcomes more "fair" which invariably means increasing their influence or representation. Much of the time I have spent in "constitutional reviews" of various bodies which was kicked off because of such power struggles was completely wasted, and very little good ever comes from them. There is an interesting article in The Economist called " Does the constitution fix everything? " which reports on a horrifying case where an American policeman, Jeffrey Heffernan was demoted after his bed

A leaked Labour report on why they really lost

The Daily Mail has some fun here contrasting a secret Labour report which has been leaked to them on why Labour lost the 2015 general election with Margaret Becket's whitewash , sorry official report. Here is an illustration from it ...

Sunday music spot: Hark all ye lovely saints above - Thomas Weelkes

Despite the apparently sacred title this is actually a madrigal

If the last election had been fought under another electoral system ...

There is an excellent post by "The Screaming Eagles" on   Political Betting this morning in response to a suggestion that Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn are supposedly in talks for an arrangement to make a joint promise of electoral reform for the 2020 General Election. Aside from the little matter that, as he points out, " I’m astounded given Corbyn’s dire polling, why the Lib Dems (or anyone else) would want to form an alliance/understanding with a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party on any topic." it is worth reminding ourselves what various election systems might have produced in 2015, an election in which the Conservatives and UKIP between them received about half the votes cast. The electoral reform society who produced the numbers in the table below thinks that * The AV system rejected by the people in a referendum in 2011 would have given the Conservatives a larger majority. * Both STV and List PR would have meant that the nearest thing to a stable gov

I think this is supposed to be a joke ..

There is a social media campaign, which appears to be a spoof, claiming the support of 28% of UKIP supporters for "UKIP to Stay" e.g. Kipper voters who want to remain in a reformed EU. Their website is at

Quote of the day 24th January 2016

"A disproportionate number of Labour members who have joined since the2015 general election are 'high-status city dwellers pursuing well paid jobs'" reported the Guardian furiously on Thursday ...   "While those under-represented are young people and families in short-term rents and rural areas. The poor, in other words." "being a Labourite in 2016 is nothing but another leisure operation for the seriously rich." "My delightful millionaire neighbours, Labour members to a soul, will protest anything. Anything. As long as it's on a weekend and they're not in the Dordogne." ( Giles Coren in The Times yesterday, in an article called "Labour is the new hobby for the idle rich.")

Where the growth is coming from ...

Of 588,000 jobs created in the UK over the last year, about 75% are full time employment ...

Then and now ...

This is a follow-on to the quote of the day post immediately below, which I recommend should be read before reading this one. I wanted to make people think for a moment about who might have made that robust quote about the rights of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future, hence I linked to Hansard rather than giving the answer immediately below the quote. What does it say about the change in the Labour party to look at the contrast between what Labour's leader at the time said in 1982, and what their present leader says about the Falklands? But it's worse than that. Prior to 2015 Michael Foot was almost certainly the most unelectable leader Labour had ever chosen and is in a close race with IDS to be the most unelectable leader either of the two largest parties in Britain had ever chosen (we can't know for certain because Conservative MPs removed IDS rather than find out the hard way exactly how electorally disastrous he would have been). Yet you only

Quote of the day 23rd January 2016

"The rights and the circumstances of the people in the Falkland Islands must be uppermost in our minds. There is no question in the Falkland Islands of any colonial dependence or anything of the sort. It is a question of people who wish to be associated with this country and who have built their whole lives on the basis of association with this country. We have a moral duty, a political duty and every other kind of duty to ensure that that is sustained."   "The people of the Falkland Islands have the absolute right to look to us at this moment of their desperate plight, just as they have looked to us over the past 150 years ..."    "Even though the position and the circumstances of the people who live in the Falkland Islands are uppermost in our minds—it would be outrageous if that were not the case—there is the longer-term interest to ensure that foul and brutal aggression does not succeed in our world. If it does, there will be a danger not merely to

The final humiliation

Labour is to be investigated by the Electoral Commission  for being late submitting the receipts for the "Ed Stone." The party blamed "an administrative error" for failing to meet the deadline after the receipt for the "heavest suicide note in history" - it was noticed that no accounting for the two ton block of stone had been included in their original submission. After a hasty search they found it, but not in time. I will be surprised if the EC throw the book at them over this one: if we're completely honest most people who've been involved in politics will be thinking "there but for the grace of God go I" in that most of us, even the relatively well organised and resourced, will at some stage have struggled with an Electoral Commission form or nearly made a mistake with one, or at least been afraid of doing so, and the stone represented about £8,000 out of Labour's £12 million national campaign spending. Nevertheless to get i

When politics becomes like a religion

There are two views about whether religion is a good thing, and the main criterion for which view you think is right is whether you think there actually is a God or not. There is, however, not much room for argument about whether it is a bad thing when heads of government demand to be worshipped like Gods or when a political philosophy starts to behave like a religion. Two political philosophies which have been particularly prone to acting like the worst forms of religion, including starting wars and persecuting people with different belief systems, are Communism and Nationalism. An argument which I regularly have with atheist friends is whether killing or persecuting people for holding a different belief about God is a problem specific to religion. The atheist side usually start the argument by saying that only religious believers kill in the name of religion: I always respond by pointing to atheist regimes like those of the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China, Kampuc