Showing posts from April, 2016

A truth that's told with bad intent

For the second time in a few weeks I find myself quoting the word of William Blake And the truth which rather too many people have been telling with bad intent, mostly on the hard left, but I have found one or two people on the right doing it as well (though not anybody holding elected office in the Conservative party) is this: "Being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Semitic." The trouble is that this truth is being used too often to give people who really are anti-Semitic a pass and let them get away with what amounts to the beginnings of re-heated Nazism. Here is the internationally agreed definition of anti-Semitism (recognised by the UK college of policing, the US State Department, and the EU ... If you disagree with the policies of the government of Israel on exactly the same basis that you would disagree with the policies of any other government or party, that isn't racist

Another side of George Osborne

Extracts from the chancellor's speech at a Westminster Correspondents' dinner this week “The Referendum means we’re all arguing among ourselves. The Canadian model, the Albanian model, the Ukrainian model. And that’s just John Whittingdale’s table.” Remarking that he had his own diet plan, he explained:  “It’s called the 5:2. After two out of every five Budgets I eat some of my own words.” And on Labour:  “ We’re joined by the various factions of the Labour Party. Stephen Kinnock – the united front. Rachel Reeves – the popular front. Emily Thornberry – the unpopular front. And Chris Bryant – the Y-front.” You can read more at the i website at

Quote of the day 30th April 2016

"This row about Ken Livingstone and Hitler is so unfair. One was a horrible extremist obsessed with Jews. The other was leader of Nazi Germany"   — Ian Austin (@IanAustinMP) on twitter April 29, 2016

Cameron's compassion will save children's lives: Dubs' compassion will get them drowned

The argument between David Cameron and Lord Dubs is not an argument between someone who cares about helping refugee children and someone who doesn't. Both believe we should do something to help. Both have offered a means to do so. I have no doubts whatsoever about the sincerity of either. The difference is that one is offering a solution which really will help, and the other, for the best of motives, is offering a solution which I believe will get more children drowned. The British government is giving £2.3 billion to help those fleeing war in Syria. We had previously said we will take 20,000 refugees - we have now said we will take a further 3,000 child refugees. The Royal Navy is to help save the lives of those making the crossing. It’s not just that Britain is giving more than any country in Europe; we’re giving more than the rest of Europe put together. And I am convinced the government is right to say that the refugees we take should come directly from the Middle Eas

Second quote of the day

"In modern politics you are either quick or you are dead Labour adds a third category: Zombie." (Labour supporter Philip Collins in today's Times)

Public meetings - a chance to support our hospitals

There is a set of extremely important public meetings about health services in Cumbria organised under the so-called "success regime" and starting next week. It is vital that as many people as possible attend to support our local hospitals The dates, times and venues for the meetings are: Wednesday 4th May 1pm-2:30pm: Guide Hall, St. George's Rd, Millom Wednesday 4th May 7pm-9pm: Solway Hall (Whitehaven Civic Hall), 75 Lowther St, Whitehaven Thursday 5th May 12:30pm-2:30pm: Function Room, Skiddaw Hotel, Main Street, Keswick Thursday 5th May 6:30pm-8:30pm: Maryport Rugby Club, Mealpot Road, Maryport Tuesday 10th May 7pm-9pm: Samuel King's School, Church Rd, Alston The events will see presentations from clinicians and health service leaders about what the local NHS are proposing under the banner of what is called the "Success Regime." Local residents will then have a chance to ask questions and also contribute their own views on the best options

Quote of the day 29th April 2016

What a pity the Bard isn't around to write a play about the history of the Labour party ...

If we take more Syran refugees, we should take those most in need from the Middle East.

The whose question of how to deal with refugees from the ghastly war in Syria is a complex one, which reminds me of the saying, "to every difficult problem there is an answer which is simple, clear cut, and completely wrong." I know there are people - I've met them on the doorstep - who don't want Britain to take a single refugee. I don't believe that is the majority view - it certainly wasn't for a few weeks after the media had been full of horrible pictures of a dead child washed up on a beach -  but it certainly is the majority view that Britain cannot take everyone who wants to come here. If your position is somewhere between the simple and clear cut positions of let everyone in or don't let anyone in, you are faced with agonising choices. How many people is our "fair share," who should they be, and who decides. I actually think the government has got this one absolutely right in that 1) Britain has been more generous than almost

A historian responds to Livingston

"Ken Livingstone’s characteristically outrageous intervention in the debate over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – denying it existed while simultaneously proving that it does – was wrong on all sorts of levels, but one of them was in his grotesque mangling of the historical record." That is how historian Andrew Roberts starts a forensic dissection of Ken Livingston's extraordinary remarks about Hitler today at CAPX. You can read the rest of his response here .

Petition to protect beds at the Mary Hewetson Community hospital in Keswick

I have often written on this blog about West Cumbria Hospital and will be doing so again soon but our community hospitals at Millom and Keswick are also vital for local people. Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick is a vital local facility for that part of Cumbria and it is very important to retain it. Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart has expressed his “deep concern” at potential threats to hospital beds as the NHS in Cumbria reviews options, saying the Success Regime should play a greater role in delivering services, not a reduced one. Mr. Stewart has requested an urgent meeting with Sir Neil McKay, of the Success Regime, and Department of Health minister Ben Gummer to discuss the matters and his “unequivocal backing" of community hospitals in Cumbria A document released by the Success Regime this month highlights the reasons why Cumbria’s health services are suffering, such as the “super-ageing” population, high levels of ill health and mental ill health, high

Euripides and Ken Livingston ...

Ken Livingston suspended from Labour party for calling Hitler a Zionist For the avoidance of doubt, I am not casting aspersions on Livingston's mental health. I am suggesting that his comments about Hitler were such a massive failure of judgement that those comments can reasonably be described as "mad" in the vernacular sense of the term, and hence the reference to what Euripides said nearly two and a half thousand years ago.

A week's moratorium on EU referendum posts.

The EU referendum is extremely important but it does not take place until 23rd June. As mentioned in the previous post, there are elections virtually everywhere in the UK on 5th May, e.g. a week from today. There are also things going on in West Cumbria in relation to both our local health service and the so-called "success regime" and proposed nuclear industry developments which may have a massive effect on our county. There will therefore be a short pause in posts on the subject of the EU referendum on this blog while I focus for the next week or so on 1) local issues in Cumbria and 2) issues relating to the May 5th elections.

Local elections - one week to go

One week from today there will be various elections affecting almost all voters in England, Scotland and Wales for Police and Crime Commissioners in England Many local councils Mayor and Assembly in London Scottish parliament Welsh assembly If Conservatives are successful, what our country could have: Strong Conservative councils across England giing value for taxpayers’ money Effective Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales working hard to keep our streets safer Labour out in Wales after 17 long years in office A strong opposition in Scotland , holding the SNP to account A Mayor who will stand up for our capital city to deliver his Action Plan for Greater London Or we could wake up to something very different. A Labour Party running parts of our country, led by Jeremy Corbyn, a man who wants to: Put up income tax on hardworking families Print money to pay for public services Back unrestricted strikes Abolish our Armed Forces

Theresa May writes on policing in Cumbria

The home secretary writes: Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales have shown that they are vital to making local communities safer. They have had the power to hire good chief constables and to fire bad ones, they have set policing priorities for the local area and have overseen budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds. And since the last election three and a half years ago, crime is down by more than a quarter. It’s a serious role and only by voting for Peter McCall in Cumbria can people be sure that it is done well: to work with the Government to cut crime, to spend taxpayers' money wisely, and to keep the local community safe and secure.   So on Thursday 5th May vote for Peter McCall to be your Police and Crime Commissioner for the next four years.   Thank you, Theresa May Home Secretary Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

This twitter "celebration" is quite literally balls ...

I was rather baffled this morning to see that my twitter feed today was filling up with messages referring to "Ed Balls Day!" and using the hashtag #EdBallsDay which as of earlier today was the top trend in the UK and had been used over 10,000 times.   Turns out this relates to a Twitter fail five years ago today   Hat tip to  Rosina Sini at the BBC for explaining that on 28 April 2011 Ed Balls, who was shadow chancellor at the time, tweeted his own name in error. He was urged by his aide to search Twitter for articles mentioning his name, but instead of doing a search he tweeted his own name by mistake. So on 28 April Twitter rejoices in the madness and celebrates Ed Balls. To paraphrase Michael Heseltine, this twitter event really is complete Balls ...

Quote of the day 28th April 2016


Peter McCall's priorities for fighting crime in Cumbria


Peter McCall: Do you believe in crime targets?

Peter's response to the question, "Do you believe in crime targets?"

Peter McCall on the role of Police and Crime Commissioners,

I voted today by post for Peter McCall, the Conservative candidate to be Cumbria's second Police and Crime Commissioner. I believe he will be an excellent commissioner if elected. Here Peter explains how he sees the role of Police and Crime Commissioner

And many a true word is spoken in jest ...

The previous post listed and linked to some spoof posts which were funny. This is one I'm sharing because it makes in a mildly amusing way a point which is actually true. On 2nd April - the day after April Fool's Day - NewsThump published an article called People go back to believing everything they read on the internet . E.g. the suggestion is that on the first of April people know that there may be joke posts and articles so they actually check things, but the following day they stop doing that and are often far too credulous. It's meant as a joke but this really is a case of "many a true word is spoken in jest." Much of this article isn't really a spoof at all, it's very good advice. Particularly the final sentence which reads as follows: "Internet users are reminded to be careful of what they read – and to remember the important rule that if you can summarise a complex position with a single line of text and an attractive picture, it

Spoof posts of the week, including "Doctor's strike results in Dalek victory ..."

Amusing comic spoofs of news reports this week include Grim Reaper given final written warning     (NewsThump say "a Divine Source" told them God is "incandescent with rage" with him) They also balanced a story that Obama told America would have been stronger and more influential in British Empire     with Brexit campaign tell countries they want to renegotiate with to mind their own business . Meanwhile at the Daily Mash, stories include Woodland Sprites demand the return of the changeling calling itself Michael Gove , and Nick Clegg publishes his nectar points statement . The Evening Harold reports that Ted Cruz and John Kasich have invited Donald Trump to a wedding at Walder Frey's castle . But the best spoof news story this week has to be the NewsThump piece, Doctors' strike results in Daleks conquering the universe  from which my favourite lines include " The industrial action led to unforeseen consequences after D

Martin Wolf assesses the arguments for Brexit.

The favourite argument used by "leave" supporters to dismiss the arguments of any economic commentator or businessmen in favour of staying in the EU is to suggest that they supported Euro Entry - and where the person did, often on similar grounds to the reason they are now arguing for Remain, that's fair enough - and say " Wrong then, wrong now." They cannot use that one against Martin Wolf, chief economist at the Financial Times: as I have previously noted here , he was a strong opponent of scrapping the pound in favour of the Euro and has been described as one of the five people who were most influential in saving the pound and keeping Britain out of the Eurozone. So he absolutely is not some kind of  passionate Europhile. Which makes what he had to say in the FT about the leave arguments all the more powerful. I am still deciding how to vote but I find Martin's arguments extremely important. In the FT  here , Wolf lists what he sees as the ten ma

Quote of the day 27th April 2016


Shadow Chancellor's PPS resigns after admitting extraordinary Facebook Posts

Until today Labour MP Naz Shah was PPS to the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. However, it has now transpired that in social media posts in 2014, a few months before her election as an MP, she had * Apparently suggested that the entire Jewish population of Israel should be deported to the USA    (source Guido Fawkes  here , see also Jewish Chronicle  here ) * Used language like " The Jews are rallying " to encourage people to take an anti-Israel position    (source Guido Fawkes here ) * Compared Israel to Hitler (see here ) She has now resigned as PPS to the Shadow Chancellor and issued the following apology If a Conservative MP had said something like this the calls from Labour for him or her to resign would have been deafening. It will be interesting to see what action Labour takes.

Who are the real voices of Leave?

It isn't impossible to find people making an intelligent, optimistic, free-market case for a Britain which would be open to trade with the whole world rather than a haven for Xenophobic little Englanders. The trouble is that you do have to go out and look for them. Writing as a professional economist - e.g. someone with two degrees in the discipline who has used the skills I acquired with those degrees for the majority of my professional life - I was not expecting the debate about the economic advantages of Leave versus Remain to be the walkover for the latter which it has been to date. The economic case about the risks of Brexit put by George Osborne and the Treasury is not without substance or supporting arguments, and it is silly and childish to dismiss their case as pure scaremongering but that does NOT mean there are no counterarguments and personally I think they have overstated a legitimate case. But it is most depressing that there has been almost no publicity given

Quote of the day 26th Apriol 2016


Ten days to the PCC, council, Scottish, Welsh and London elections

There are just 10 days until voters go to the polls across the UK. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party are relying on support from the trade unions for their final push.   Will you help us get the message out? Donate today and we will put your money towards calls, letters and leaflets to ensure voters go to the polls. But we have to decide how many people we’re able to contact by 9am tomorrow. With your vote on Friday 6th May, this is what our country could have: Strong Conservative councils across England continuing to deliver value for taxpayers’ money Effective Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales working hard to keep our streets safer Labour out in Wales after 17 long years in office A strong opposition in Scotland , holding the SNP to account A Mayor who will stand up for our capital city to deliver his Action Plan for Greater London Or we could wake up to something very different. A Labour Party running parts of our country

A fast motion car-crash

Kathy Gingell has an article one the "Conservative Woman" site which argues that Vote Leave is busy digging its own – and Brexit’s - grave. She says that "If Teflon Dave pulls off yet another of his Houdini escapes, the reason will be not the strength of his hand, but the incompetence of the campaign leaders of Brexit's troops." After listing the errors of recent weeks - the failure to respond effectively to the Treasury's arguments, the abysmal appearance of Dominic Cummings before the select committee (see previous post - but only watch the clip if you are a pro-remain sadist or a pro-leave masochist), the failure to pitch an appropriate reply to Obama, Kathy writes   "Everyone (and I am talking about committed and politically well-connected Eurosceptics) I have spoken to is in despair. We have lost, they tell me." Her advice to the Leave campaign is: "Vote Leave has two months to get its act together – starting now. So, in a spir

Andrew Tyrie questions Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave

I don't think I have ever seen a conversation in which someone shows themselves as shockingly divorced from reality as the Campaign Director of Vote Leave demonstrated himself to be in this interview before the Treasury select committee. For the benefit of anyone who is not already aware of this, £19.1 billion is the annual sum which Britain would have had to pay the EU but for the dedicated negotiation on our behalf of a great prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. However, thanks to Maggie a rebate of £6 billion is applied before the payment is made, and that money never leaves the UK treasury. £13 billion is the sum actually paid to the EU. This is no more a matter of opinion than that 2 + 2 = 4. Andrew Tyrie is therefore right to challenge the figures produced by Vote Leave and Dominic Cummings is making an error of fact when he claims that Britain pays the EU £19 billion a year or £350 million a week. This is recognised even by intelligent leave supporters like Richard North

Peter Lilley on TTIP

Nine out of ten of those who have criticised the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have been talking nonsense - which certainly includes Jeremy Corbyn and David Owen. However, Peter Lilley is the tenth. Peter advises both the Remain and Leave sides of the debate that they need to look very hard at the terms of the proposed treaty. As someone with impeccable free trade credentials, Peter's concerns expressed at Conservative Home  here have to be taken a lot more seriously than those of most other critics of the proposed treaty. Peter does not oppose removing tariffs and quotas, or in principle the harmonisation of product specifications, but he is concerned about the tribunals to be set up to review trade disputes under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System (ISDS) proposed by the draft treaty. His three main concerns about these tribunals are that US companies could sue the UK government should it want to take back into the public sector privately pr


Today is ANZAC day when we remember the sacrifices of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand in two world wars. The debt we owe to our cousins from Australia and New Zealand is incalculable. Their courage and faithfulness as allies is equalled by few and surpassed by none.

Quote of the day 25th April 2016


Look who the SNP are copying

There is nothing new under the sun. Here is this year's SNP election poster. (Bit of a cheek for a party which has been running Scotland for nine years to promise change but not a surprise.) And look who they got the idea from ...

Sunday music slot: Tallis's Salvator Mundi


Sugar savages Khan

Lord Alan Sugar - a former minister in the last Labour Government, though he now sits as a crossbench peer - has made an astonishing and, in my opinion, devastating, attack on Labour's London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan. You can read his comments in the Indy here. Sugar accuses Khan of being responsible, as campaign manager for Ed Miliband's leadership bid and then one of the most senior MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn, of single-handedly wrecking the Labour party through causing it to pick leaders who follow anti-business policies. He described Khan and Jeremy Corbyn as the "Laurel and Hardy" of politics. Here are some extracts from his comments: "Khan ran Ed Miliband's leadership campaign. He was in the room when Miliband turned on people like me, attacking the country's largest employers as 'predators', as well as Corbyn who famously called Britain's businesses the real enemy." "Khan was one of the most senior politicia

A warning from a friend or a threat from an enemy?

I am morally certain that President Obama's remarks were intended as a warning from a friend. I can see that they could be interpreted as a threat. Indeed, had the supporters of leave not gone over the top in attacking him from even before he made his speech, we might have had all the press reporting it that way, which would have made the President's intervention more of  boost for "leave." However, I will be very surprised if the overall impact of this whole affair is not a boost for Remain, because the attacks on Obama from a number of "Leave" sources - I'm not talking about those who politely disagreed or those who used gentle and effective humour like the "Lord North" tweet, I'm talking about the completely unacceptable jibes about the President's ancestry or those who accused him of being anti-British - will reduce the respect in which the people who made them are held, and the extent to which people listen to their arguments.

Quote of the day 24th April 2016


To mark St George's day and the Shakespeare anniversary Richard II "Sceptred Isle" speech


Remembering Shakespeare 400 years on

Arguably the greatest ever playwright and poet, a man who really "stood on the shoulders of giants" died 400 years ago today. William Shakespeare's plays and poetry are inspirational - some of the funniest and most profound things ever written. He was a man of his time but so many of the things he wrote speak across the centuries. With millions throughout the world I salutes the Bard of Stratford on Avon. Here is one of the many quotes for which he is worth remembering.

A song for St George's Day: Vera Lynn sings There'll Always be an England


Road Rage and roundabout safety.

Road range is never something wise people succumb to even when they're in the right. (And no mortal human being, no matter how good a driver, is right every time.) I dare say it is pretty unlikely that the driver who appeared to make a serious attempt to run me off the road at the Howgate Roandabout a few minutes before 1pm today will read this, but if he does, and if he owns a copy of the Highway code he would be well advised to read the section on roundabouts - rules 184 to 190 - and look at the illustrations on routes through a roundabout. If he does not have a hard copy to hand he could read the Highway Code online here . Both hard copy and online versions of the Highway Code show an illustration for a roundabout with four exits, like the Howgate roundabout just North of Whitehaven, with two lanes going into it, which applies to that roundabout if you are heading South along the A595 Distington by-pass as both I and the driver who apparently attempted to run me off the ro

Happy St George's Day!

A very happy Saint George's day to everyone reading this. I distrust most forms of nationalism but celebrate all forms of patriotism. Nationalism begins when we start defining out nation in contrast to someone else's but patriotism simply means being proud of our own country and loving out own country. Celebrating your own country is entirely consistent with recognising that other people love theirs. As a British patriot who rejects British nationalism, I refuse to allow anyone to bully me into hostility to Britain's neighbours or allies, but I celebrate all the achievements and cultures of the four home nations of the United Kingdom, and today, on the festival of the Patron Saint of England, we celebrate St George's Day. Raise a glass to St George and England!

Why have so many famous people died in 2016?

There is an interesting analysis on the BBC website here  on why so many famous people have died so far in 2016. Their basic argument is that the post-war baby boomer generation have reached an age when more of them are dying, and combined with this there are more famous people than there used to be.

Responding to Obama

You can reasonably say that you are interested in whatever advice your friends and allies want to share and you in turn will be frank with them. Or you can say that each country's affairs are their own business. But if you loudly welcome each intervention be a foreign statesman which you agree with, while condemning those which you don't agree with as unwelcome interference, there is a word for people like you. If you said nothing about Obama's comments encouraging Scotland to stay in the UK but bitterly criticised his encouragement for the UK to stay in the EU, there is a word for you. And the word is hypocrite. If your argument is that leaving the EU is a way to build better trade links with nations all round the world, it's relevant what foreign nations think. I can't believe that a normally sensible and intelligent minister said that President Obama's remarks do not reflect US trade policy. But apparently he did. Ironically, if the supporters o

Quote of the day 23rd April 2016 - Professor Roger Scruton on relative truth


The Gove Interventions

I have been dashing round the country over the past three days and did not have time to write up in full what I thought about Michael Gove's interventions this week at the time he made them. Gove is certainly the most senior minister, and probably the most respected figure, among those who are supporting a "leave" vote. He is one of comparatively few people on either side who had, up to this week, had a reasonably good referendum campaign. However, although there were some positives to his speeches this week, on balance I found them disappointing. As John Rentoul of the Independent pointed out, this was Gove's most powerful and important contribution. It sounds great, but I'm far from certain that he's right. For a start, there is the basic problem that David Lidington pointed out with the position of almost all supporters of "Leave" including Michael Gove, and it shows clearly in the above argument. Virtually to a man and woman, "

SNP all over the place on whether they can call a second IndyRef

The SNP said during the Scottish Independence Referendum that it was a "once in a generation" opportunity to change Scotland's status. After the referendum they have been twisting on the hook they thus impaled themselves on about whether they can call another one. Alex Salmond who originally made the "once in a generation" comment went back on it almost as soon as he lost the referendum and for this reason and money others, does not deserve to have anyone believe a single word he says. Nicola Sturgeon tried very hard while the SNP were setting their manifesto for the coming Scottish elections, to keep happy her hardline supporters who want another referendum, without making any promises which would force her to call one if she was likely to lose it. Two days ago she made a speech which  appeared to suggest that she would like to call a second referendum appeared to suggest that the SNP would support another referendum - prompting Scottish Conservative l

Counterintuitive argument of the week

And just to be clear, "counterintuitive" is not necessarily the same thing as "wrong." Stephen Bush in the Spectator, after pointing out how the Brexit campaign have mishandled Obama's visit, asks if that could actually help them here . His argument is not as stupid as it sounds. If there is a high turnout, it is extremely likely that "remain" will win on June 23rd. But if there is a low turnout, it is much more likely that "leave" will. That's because the people who support Brexit are generally much more fanatical than those who do not. You can also make an argument that they tend to include people with a higher propensity to vote - particularly older voters - while "Remain" supporters include more young people, who are less likely to vote. Actually though, the characteristics cut different ways, Propensity to vote "Leave" is much more common on the political right than the left, and among older people r

Worst of both worlds eight

Some people on both sides of the EU referendum debate have been trying  to have an honest and constructive discussion with the British people But there has been far too much nonsense talked on both sides. Here is an argument that each side ought to retire. 1) Britain's Contribution to the EU. Every well informed person knows, and I have never heard a "remain" supporter deny, that Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget. The amount which Britain pays into EU coffers is large, and has been estimated by Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistical Service, at about £190 million per week. You'd think when the truth is that we are paying that much the "leave" campaign could build a powerful argument about this, but instead of using this accurate figure, Vote Leave and various prominent "Leave" supporters persist in repeating a much larger and erroneous figure of £350 million per week which Dilnot has specifically criticised as potentiall