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Showing posts from March, 2016

The UN and the Falklands: Much Ado about Nothing

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A UN commission produced a ruling this week in response to Argentina's claim to extend their territorial waters in the Atlantic from 200 nautical miles to 350 nautical miles. On Tuesday Argentina said that the Commission had granted this request and therefore had accepted their claim to own the waters around the Falkland Islands. The first part of this claim appears to be partly true, the second part to be completely incorrect. The UN commission had previously ruled that it only had jurisdiction to consider claims to extend Argentine territorial waters in areas which were not in dispute. It therefore adjudicated on Argentina's claim to extend it's territorial waters in the blue area indicated by a black arrow in the upper, centre part of the map below.   So if the UN panel's ruling had been legally binding, which the UK government says it isn't, it would still not affect the Falklands since the 200 mile zone around the Islands are disputed waters - Argen

A595 to be blocked North of Whitehaven for a year?

Today's Whitehaven News suggests that a possible landslip near the A595 just north of Whitehaven between the Lowca turnoff and the Howgate roundabout may possibly make it necessary to close this section of the main West Coast route for up to a year while remedial work is done to ensure it is safe. This could have a significant effect on journeys in the area and be extremely disruptive. It emphasises the need for more work to be done on improving infrastructure in the area.

And it's Goodnight from Him - Ronnie Corbett RIP

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Ronnie Corbett, one of the funniest men in Britain either on his own or with his long-term collaborator Ronnie Barker, has died at the age of 85. His publicist said: "Ronnie Corbett CBE, one of the nation's best-loved entertainers, passed away this morning, surrounded by his loving family. "They have asked that their privacy is respected at this very sad time." This is one of the many particularly memorable examples of his comic genius ... A few months ago after several of the most popular people in the world had already died this year, someone suggested "It's as if the Grim Reaper had delegated this year's deaths to an intern and he's decided to work through a list of the most popular people that everybody likes" I feel all the more like that tonight. Farewell to a tiny giant, who will be missed. Rest in Peace.

A message from the Conservative party: Friday 6th May

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An Appeal from Conservative Campaign Headquarters to Conservative supporters.   We need your help. And here’s why - In just a few weeks’ time we face some tight elections right across the UK. In each of these elections the choice could not be clearer: a strong, Conservative team that will stand up for the people they represent or Jeremy Corbyn and his hand-picked candidates.   If we fail to take the fight to Corbyn’s Labour Party, the next four years could bring misery to families across Britain.   This is what Friday 6th May could look like: Our councils and our local police forces led by a party whose leader wants to abolish our Armed Forces , abandon our nuclear deterrent and make excuses for the terrorists who seek to do us harm. An opposition in Scotland that wants to put up income tax on hardworking families , would bring back secondary strike action and would print money to pay for public services. Labour clinging on to power in Wales for another f

Quote of the day 31st March 2016

"But the law of unintended consequences has had a specific impact on the steel industry: by forcing up energy prices, we helped make it uncompetitive. You can then offset one policy with another, in the case by subsidies for large energy users, as Germany did and we followed." "But the overall effect has been to damage heavy industry. Tata Steel has done what it can but, had it had Chinese energy prices instead of British prices, it would have been better able to fight off cheap imports." ( Hamish MacRae , writing in the Independent on the steel industry. Full article here )

Learning from the Operation Midland disaster

It is clear that, until comparatively recently, received wisdom in Britain grossly underestimated the scale and incidence of child abuse. Some like the late Jimmy Savile got away with abusing large numbers of women and girls because they were rich and powerful. Others, members of child abuse rings in Rotherham and too many other towns, got away with similar offences because the authorities were afraid that moving against them might appear racist. Literally thousands of vulnerable people have been victims of abuse because they were not believed, or did not come forward because they did not expect to be believed. The people who have been convicted of sexual abuse against women and children by British courts over the past few years have ranged from the rich and famous to the poor and unknown. They have included both men and women, priests and atheists, and have had skin of every colour from lily white to dark brown. In short there is no part of British society which this evil has no

Labour ignoring our veterans - is this turning into a pattern?

A few days ago former Army captain and now MP Johnny Mercer introduced a debate in the House of Commons about the long term care of veterans of our armed forced. He delivered a heartfelt speech about the inadequate care many soldiers receive when they return from the battlefield. He told the House that Tony Blair had "no plan" for veterans' care when he took Britain into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to a "complete vacuum of provision" which was only filled by ordinary members of the public, who stepped up to found charities such as Help for Heroes. Every single one of the MPs who turned up to listen to the debate about caring for our veterans was a Conservative. Not a single Labour MP was present. Tory MP and former Army colonel Tom Tugendhat, who was at the debate, said: “Veterans care isn’t about party, it’s about caring for those who served. “Sadly today no opposition MPs came to speak. It shouldn’t be just Conservatives fighting this corner

Shadow Defence secretary "not really" interested in responding to veteran

Emily Thornberry, Labour's anti-defence shadow defence secretary had another car crash interview today, this time on Talk Radio  with Julia Hartley-Brewer and Falklands War veteran Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE. The interview was about the Falklands and Thornberry was on a sticky wicket from the start because of her party leader's daft comments about shared sovereignty over the Falklands with Argentina. To continue the cricket analogy and for those who remember the days when Geoff Boycott was playing test cricket, the first few minutes of the interview were a bit like a Boycott-Tavare partnership against 90mph West Indian fast bowling. E.g. faced with a hostile attack that would have had most people screaming and running away in terror, Emily Thornberry managed to hold her ground and block the attack in a manner which provided no entertainment to the ordinary spectator and scored no runs, but won a grudging admiration from the more expert for a dogged defence and at least he

Quote of the day 30th March 2016

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Defeating Terrorism

I do not expect to se a final end to terrorism in my lifetime. But I do believe that terrorism and extremism can and will be defeated. The last few weeks have been marked by some truly horrible events. It started with indiscriminate bombings in Turkey - and although I have some serious differences with President Erdo─čan, murdering Turkish citizens is a completely wrong and will not solve any problems anyone has in or with Turkey. Then in quick succession we had the bombings in Brussels, and the reported crucifixion on Good Friday by DA'ESH of a Catholic priest from India who been kidnapped while helping the less fortunate and had never done the so-called "Islamic State" any harm. Finally and perhaps worst of all, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taleban detonated a bomb in a public park, near a children's play area, in Lahore, Pakistan, which killed at least 72 people, many of them children, and injured more than three hundred. The majority of the dead and inju

More opinions for and against Boris

To illustrate my point about how some of the narrative of split within political parties has been driven by the press, you need only look at the way the press has treated London Mayor Boris Johnson. Since former MP Matthew Parris savaged Boris Johnson in the Times on Saturday there have been a plethora of articles both in his defence and agreeing with the criticisms. In some ways even more damning that Matthew's attack, and nearly as savage, was Nick Cohen's piece in the Guardian, " Boris Johnson - liar conman and Prime Minister ?" On the other side of the fence, apart from Iain Martin's  robust defence of Boris Johnson at CapX, was a fairly supportive article  here   from the Independent's Chief Political commentator John Rentoul. Interestingly what all four of these columns have in common is that both the supportive ones and the  hostile ones give Boris Johnson a better chance of becoming Conservative leader than I think is realistic - you can nev

Don't let the press make divisions worse

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Judging by their actions, it appears to be an article of faith among journalists that stories of splits and rows sell newspapers and get people clicking on websites. Needless to say the rows within the Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and Trident, within UKIP and between the rival "Leave" campaigns, and within the Conservatives over EU membership, have given them a field day. But although many of the rows in all these cases are genuine - the press didn't invent Corbyn's list of supportive and "hostile" Labour MPs, suspend Suzanne Evans from UKIP or make IDS resign - I have the distinct impression that the press are looking very hard for every "split" story they can find and some of them range from the greatly exaggerated to complete fiction. As an example, a few weeks ago there was a story in the press that the PM was planning to sack Justice Secretary Michael Gove after the referendum. This was denied by an official Downing S

Beyond 23rd June

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I have seen a number of deeply depressing articles suggesting that anger and hostility generated by the present EU referendum debate might continue to poison British politics in general, and relations within the Conservative party in particular, in the same way that anger stirred up by the 2014 Independence referendum has had a continuing effect on politics in Scotland. I certainly agree that that is a potential danger, but I don't think it is at all inevitable. An example of the sort of writing which I refer to is a recent article  here by the normally very sagacious John Rentoul, chief political correspondent of The Independent, in which he argued that in the event of a win for "Remain" Conservative party members "the ones who are overwhelmingly opposed to EU membership, would respond to defeat with the same respect for the sovereign wisdom of democracy shown by the Scottish Nationalists eighteen months ago. That is, they would immediately declare a moral vi

Beyond parody

One of the two groups bidding to become the official "Leave" campaign has been accused of " double standards   beyond parody " for employing at least four call centre staff from other EU countries  to work on their campaign for Britain to leave the EU. This is despite the fact that the campaign concerned, Leave.EU, has been telling voters that employing workers from other EU countries deprives British citizens of jobs. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the only way to get through the remaining three months of the EU referendum campaign is to make a relentless effort to see the funny side of it. About the one thing that all the campaigns are good at is providing material to laugh at ...

Quote of the day 29th March 2016

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The Easter Bunnies come to Whitehaven ...

One of my daughter's pet rabbits chose Easter Sunday to give birth to a litter of baby bunnies. We now have four Easter Bunnies in my household!

An Easter wish

I have an Easter wish for both sides in the EU referendum debate. And if anyone reading this is a member of either of those campaigns and is thinking, "Yes, the other side should stop doing that but we aren't"  I have to tell you, both sides to differing degrees are failing on all these points. I would be really pleased if the people involved in and running both campaigns could 1) Pay more attention to putting forward a detailed positive vision . Both sides have concentrated almost entirely on negative campaigning, some of it justified but all of it incredibly depressing. The rival "Leave " campaigns have been putting out material based largely on criticisms of the existing EU (many of them justified) and scaremongers about what might happen if Britain remains a member (most of them complete and utter rubbish.) What they have utterly failed to do is come close to a consensus on what "Leave" looks like which would permit a rational debate on

Father Tom Uzhunnalil RIP

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There is no depth to which the evil which calls itself "Islamic State" and which many others refer to as DA'ESH will not stoop. They had threatened to crucify an abducted Indian priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, on Good Friday to make some sick religious point, and the Washington Times and the Times of India report that they have done so. Whatever the supporters of DA'ESH and those who have fallen into the opposite trap, Islamophobia, may say, this murder is not in accordance with the teaching of Islam. As my North West colleague Sajjad Haider Karim MEP pointed out today in the context of the ghastly Lahore massacre, the Prophet Mohammed wanted his followers to live in peace with christians. Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a catholic priest and an Indian citizen from Kerala who worked with Mother Teresa's Missionaries Of Charity, had been kidnapped in Yemen in earlier this month during a raid on a nursing home run by Missionaries of Charity. 16 nurses and nuns wer

Music slot for Easter Monday Blessed be the God and Father (Wesley)

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Quote of the day 28th March 2016

"I've noticed something odd about the debate over sugar tax. My left-wing friends are sure that if you put up tax on sugar it will help reduce obesity. Yet they regard it as a myth that if you put up tax on company investment it reduces company investment. Meanwhile my right-wing friends are certain that if you put up tax on company investment it will discourage company investment, yet see it as plainly ridiculous to argue that putting up tax on sugar discourages consumption of sugar." (Lord Danny Finkelstein , diary column in The Times on Saturday.)

Yet another terrorist atrocity:

It has been reported by AP here  that sixty people have been killed and 300 wounded by what appears to have been a bomb blast in a park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Easter Sunday. The explosion took place near the children's rides in Gulshan-e-Iqbal park — which was crowded with Christians celebrating Easter —local police chief Haider Ashraf said. He said the explosion appeared to have been a suicide bombing, but investigations were ongoing. Lahore district government official Mohammad Usman said he believed the park was struck because it is a "soft target," and not because of the Christian celebrations. He did not elaborate.   Zaeem Qadri, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said the wounded had been taken to six hospitals in Lahore. He added that Punjab's chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has declared three days of mourning and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. Whether or not this attack was meant to kill people for bein

A second Easter Sunday music piece: Tallis "If ye love me"

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When I was picking a suitable piece for today's music slot, I was trying to decide between William Byrd's "Ave Verum Corpus" or "Blessed be the God and Father" by Wesley, and Tallis's "If Ye Love me." By a strange coincidence, after I had narrowly settled on the first of those, what should come "up next" on YouTube but this Tallis piece, one of the very alternatives I had been considering. So I decided to post this one too.

Easter Sunday music spot: William Byrd's "Ave Verum"

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Easter 2016 Prime Minister's message - a message of hope

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A Happy Easter to everyone reading this

Today Christians throughout the world celebrate the day when Jesus rose from the dead. To everyone reading this who believes, may the love of Jesus be with you today. To those of other faiths or none, peace to you today on this most holy day, and if you live in a country which celebrates this time with a holiday, I hope you have a good holiday. Happy Easter to everyone.

Quote of the day for Easter Sunday 27th march 2016

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Clocks go forward tonight

Don't forget to put your clocks an hour forward this evening (26th March) if you are reading this in the UK. Unless you are a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, who should be putting your clocks back to the 1970s, or a Nigel Farage supporter, in which case you can make that the 1950s. And in the unlikely event that any supporters of DA'ESH (the self-styled "Islamic State") are reading this, set your clock back to about 60,000 BC because by your standards the average Cro-Magnon man was a dangerously progressive liberal.

Boris Johnson: for and against

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London Mayor Boris Johnson has twice come under "sustained friendly fire" in the past few days. On 23rd March he appeared before the Treasury Select Committee giving evidence in favour of a "Leave" vote. Even plenty of his fellow leave supporters would admit that, in response to questions from Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the committee, Boris had a difficult time. Here is an eight minute clip which gives a flavour of the exchange ... Andrew Tyrie exemplifies certain old-fashioned virtues which are not as common as they should be. Andrew not merely holds, but actually practices, the view that one of the duties of MPs is to hold the executive to account. His conscientious discharge of that duty has probably caused more anxiety to government ministers from the PM down in this parliament than Jeremy Corbyn and the whole of the Labour front bench put together. He is a forensic seeker after truth: those who are less careful to be precise might call Andrew Tyrie 

Endangered species?

Out shopping this morning in vile weather in a West Cumbrian shopping centre. Saw bedraggled campaigners handing out opposing leaflets for and against British membership of the EU. One group was from Leave.EU while a lady handing out BSE leaflets in the rain turned out to be a Liberal Democrat. The latter group appear to be very much an endangered species in Copeland and Workington, but I didn't want to say that to her because, as whatever you think of their views, anyone who was willing to brave the rain today handing out leaflets in support of what they consider the right decision for Britain is too dedicated to deserve to be teased for it.

Quote of the day Saturday 26th March 2016

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What a difference a day makes!

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If there were a Novel Prize for double standards I think "Leave.EU" would have won it this week ... On March 24th  "Leave.EU" which is of course one the rival "Leave" campaigns for the EU referendum, tweeted their approval for an intervention in the EU debate by the head of government of one of our long-standing allies. The exact words of the tweet were "#LEAVE.EU welcome Australian PM's "sober and sensible" intervention in the EU terror debate" with a link and with this graphic Then today, March 25th, they tweeted asking people to sign a petition - against the head of government of another long-standing British ally expressing his opinion on the EU referendum debate! Now, believe it or not, I welcome both Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull expressing their opinion. What on earth are we coming to if our allies can't tell us what they think in a respectful manner without upsetting us? But what kind of organis

Radovan Karadzik sentenced to 40 years in prison for genocide.

After the Nazi holocaust was discovered at the end of World War II most decent people said that nothing of the kind must ever be allowed to happen again. And sadly that honourable objective has been nowhere near to being realised. Again and again we have seen instances of state sponsored terror and occasionally outright genocide. And all too often, while the little fish may get caught, the main perpetrators get away with it. Not this time. It has not happened many times in my lifetime, but this week an architect of state-sponsored genocide, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzik, was brought to justice before an international court, convicted after a fair trial, and sentenced to forty years in prison, which is likely to be the rest of his natural life. I live in hope that a few more monsters like him - Bashar Assad and Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi are currently at the top of my list - might meet the same fate. Each time it happens it sends a signal to the world, both to dictat

Good Friday music slot: Bach's "O Sacred head Sore Wounded"

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Quote for the day Good Friday 2016 (March 25th)

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Impeachment Day?

If another 6% of the Scottish electorate who voted in the Independence Referendum had gone for "Yes" rather than "No," then today would have been day the UK was split and Scotland became an independent nation - probably still enmeshed in arguments about what currency it should use and certainly with the largest percentage budget deficit in the developed world. Professor Adam Tomkins has a great article today  here on his " Notes from North Britain " blog in which he argues that rather than independence day it might have been Impeachment day - because the prospectus which the then First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, presented Scots as a case for independence was so flawed that he would deserve to be impeached. " Never in our history has there been a dodgier dossier than the Scottish Government’s independence white paper ," he writes. " It was a grotesque con—a wilful deception—that Scotland could obtain independent statehood cost

Second quote of the day 24th March 2016

Also from yesterday's Times, from the first leader article about the Brussels attacks, urging tact on both sides of the Brexit debate in making arguments based on those attacks in their immediate aftermath: "There may be arguments on both sides, but politicians should be wary of making them with blood still wet on Belgian concourses and on trains."

Quote of the day 24th March 2016

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(Leader in "The Times" on the Labour leadership's "Loyalty list")

Keeping a sense of proportion about Europe.

It is possible to discussions about national identity to get very heated and passions to arouse well above what is called for. We saw this in the 2014 Scottish independence Referendum and we are starting to see it now in respect of the EU membership one. My first reaction when I saw Alistair Meek's article on Political Betting, " How the eurosceptics are destroying the Conservative party " was that he'd gone completely over the top. The article starts by saying that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  By that definition, the Eurosceptic right of the Conservative party is insane." and goes on from there. I have Conservative friends who want to leave the EU who base that opinion on evidence-based criticisms of the organisation and are capable of putting forward a civilised and reasonable case, whether I agree with it or not. (I also have friends who are not Conservatives who support Brexit on the

Home secretary Theresa May on keeping our communities safe

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The Home secretary writes ... On Thursday 5th May millions of people across England and Wales have the chance to elect their local Police and Crime Commissioner.   Over the last three and a half years, they have hired and fired chief constables, set local policing priorities and overseen budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds. With such an important role, Christopher, it is vital that we elect Conservative PCCs in our communities.   Electing a Conservative PCC helps ensure that our streets will be safer, our community will be more secure, and that the money that we pay in taxes will be spent wisely.   Overall, PCCs have presided over a reduction in crime of more than a quarter since their introduction. We have seen an increase in the number of neighbourhood police officers and ensured that more police officers are on the front line. And at the same time as reducing the deficit, we are investing more in counter terrorism and tackling cybercrime.   Our oppone

David Cameron is most fortunate in his enemies

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For a serious party of government, which with all our faults the Conservative party still is, last week has to be considered a bad week. There was a lot of excellent material in the budget, but having to pull a significant policy within two days and losing a senior cabinet minister, who is also a former party leader, is not the kind of thing a credible government can afford to do too often, especially when party unity is already under pressure because of the referendum. Frankly, an opposition which was anything other than completely and utterly useless should have had us on the ropes this week, and everyone knows it. As John Rentoul wrote of today's Prime Minister's Questions, Cameron and Osborne simply couldn't believe their luck . Incredibly, as today's news has demonstrated, the sort of week the Conservatives have just had not merely does not make us the most divided party in Britain. It does not even make the Conservatives the second worst divided party in B

Quotes of the day 23rd March 2016 - responding to the Brussels attacks

Britain will "stand together " with European neighbours to defeat terrorism said David Cameron after the Brussels attacks. The Prime Minister said the UK "will do everything we can to help" Belgium, as security was stepped up at key locations and airports including Heathrow and Gatwick in response to the terrorist attacks. He added that: "These are difficult times, these are appalling terrorists, but we must stand together to do everything we can to stop them and to make sure that although they attack our way of life and attack us because of who we are, we will never let them win." After chairing a meeting of the Government's COBRA emergency committee to discuss events in Brussels, Mr Cameron said the UK terror threat level would stay at "severe" for now, but could be raised if necessary, and further commented that: "We face a very real terrorist threat right across the countries of Europe and we have to meet that with everythi