Showing posts from November, 2016

Christmas Music spot: Bach's Christmas Oratorio Part 4 36. Fallt Mit Danken

Another lovely chorus from the Christmas Oratorio

Quote of the day 30th November 2016


Christmas music spot: Bach's Christmas Oratorio, opening chorus

This is usually sung in the original German, even when being sun by English speakers  as here , so it was an interesting change to hear this nice cheerful recording in English. (The accompaniment, however, uses period instruments.)

Quote of the day 29th November 2016


Why talk of a further referendum on the EU is a really bad idea

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian makes the interesting argument here that a second referendum which was about approving the terms of brexit, rather than attempting to reverse the previous referendum result, might be a good democratic idea. He has a point in principle. but we need to bear in mind the impact that any talk of a further referendum will have on the already difficult Brexit negotiations Britain will be holding with the European Union after article 50 is triggered. If the other EU member states, and the commission, think that Britain will be holding another plebiscite after these negotiations, and that there is any possibility whatsoever that this referendum might result in Britain not leaving after all, they will have zero incentive to offer Britain a deal worth having and a strong incentive to offer us terrible terms. It is worth emphasising that a significant chunk of the EU's leadership and some important figures in other national capitals do not really get what h

Christmas music spot: Libera sing "The First Nowell"


Quote of the day 28th November 2016


Gove starts rewriting history again

Former Education and then Justice Secretary Michael Gove has been attacking "experts" again though  this time he said that his specific targets were economists and pollsters. Probably the very worst moment during a referendum campaign in which far too many people on both sides of the referendum argument disgraced themselves, was when Michael Gove compared ten Nobel Prize winning economists who supported "Remain" to the Nazi apologists who denounced Einstein on Hitler's orders. He did at least have the decency to apologise but that does not alter the fact that the comment was inexcusable. Now he has come out with the following: "Economists have to recognise that their profession is in crisis: that the economic profession failed to predict the 2008 economic crisis, that economists in the past argued almost to a man and woman that we should enter the single currency, that they were proved wrong, and then professionally they were proven wrong about th

Ed Balls' extraordinary run on Strictly Come Dancing comes to an end

Ed Balls has provided a huge amount of entertainment on Strictly Come Dancing this year. Now the first nine words of that sentence are something I had never thought I would write. But at long last, like the voters of Morley and Outwood, the Strictly Come Dancing voters have failed to save him. Ironically, after the Strictly Judges had made little secret that they wanted rid of him for ten rounds, when he finally faced a run off he lost to another judge - Robert Rinder . If the voters of Hayes and Harlington show the good judgement at the next election that the voters of Morley and Outwood did in 2015, perhaps we will get to see if the present shadow chancellor is any good at dancing. One thing is for sure - he wouldn't be any good at running the economy!

Advent Sunday reflection

Today is Advent Sunday. After weeks and weeks of Christmas stuff in some of the shops, Christmas lights going up and Christmas adverts, we are finally really into the Christmas season and these things are no longer jumping the gun. Every year there are stories - most of them grossly exaggerated - of councils and employers discouraging or amending Christmas celebrations in order to avoid giving offence to religious minorities;. This year the Chairman of the Equalities and Human Right commission has specifically called on people not to do this: David Isaacs asked for a "Common Sense" approach instead, "Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and it shouldn't be suppressed through fear of offending" he said the Commission has set out advice on how to deal with the practicalities of how to let those who wish to celebrate Christmas do so without offending others or discriminating. He is absolutely right. The overwhelming majority of British Muslims,

Advent Sunday music spot: The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came (Kings)


Quote of the day 27th November 2016


Foxhouses Road is now open again

Just to confirm, the gas leak in Foxhouses Road Whitehaven has been fixed and the road is open to traffic again.

Second Saturday music spot: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata


Whitehaven Academy

I was a governor of Whitehaven School, as it was at the time I joined the governing body, for a period of about six years ending twenty-two months ago, in January 2015. Throughout the time I was a governor the staff and senior leadership team were working hard to face enormous challenges, such as the fact that the buildings were old and in great need of new investment. Ofsted reports and inspections over the period that I was a governor identified a series of challenges though they also recognised the work staff and in particular the then head teacher, Lynette Norris who was in post for the majority of my time as a governor, were doing to improve the school.   Ofsted reports such as this one from 2013  recorded those efforts and made comments like this: "The school’s leaders and managers, along with the governing body, are very determined to bring about rapid improvements and this is proving very successful. The monitoring of the progress students make is very rigorous

No man is an island: reflections on the death of Fidel Castro

This post is NOT subject to the usual Obituary rules of this blog. A few years ago when I published an obituary notice intended as a tribute to a public servant who had worked hard for Copeland, an anonymous local resident who disagreed with some of the deceased person's decisions posted comments on the thread critical of the individual concerned which were seen by, and caused offence to, his grieving friends and family. I deeply regretted that and could see no justification for allowing it to happen again, so I deleted the posts which had caused offence and changed the comments policy on this blog so that when I posted an obituary thread - defined as a tribute to a recently deceased person with RIP in the title then comments on that post critical of the deceased would not be permitted on this blog. " Nisi Nihil Bonum " (do not speak anything but good of the dead) would apply. But " Nihil nisi bonum " cannot be a universal law. Usually when someone dies, y

Saturday music spot: Handel's Chandos Anthem 11, "Let God Arise"


Quote of the day 26th November 2016


Nick Ferrari should have stopped while he was ahead ...

Nick Ferrari had a go at Tony Blair today on LBC here  over the latter's call for another referendum on Europe. It was originally supposed to be a one word reply: "Chilcot." I think most people probably got that, although Nick could not resist turning it into a rather longer in case anyone missed the point, especially Blair "In the unlikely event you're listening to this.": "You were at best economic with the truth," he added, "Many people believe you took us into a calamitous war on the basis of an absolute lie and a fabrication." Actually there was quite a bit more than that, but you get the drift. And most people would probably agree with Nick, as the saying goes. But he lost me when he turned on Sir John Major and said "two words: 'Edwina Currie.'" Excuse me? Is that supposed to be remotely comparable to what Chilcot had to say about Blair? If every TV or Radio presenter or other journalist who has ever

Foxhouse Road in Whitehaven still closed to traffic

Foxhouses Road in Whitehaven remains closed this morning (Friday 25th November 2016) while the gas supplier continues to fix yesterday's serious gas leak. The southern half of the road is still closed to vehicles other than for access by residents between the junctions with Ehen Avenue and Bleng Avenue.   Users of Inkerman Terrace please note that the one-way system in Foxhouses Road has been suspended and there are diversion signs pointing vehicles towards the Northern and of the road, so you may see some cars turning out of Foxhouses Road onto Inkerman Terrace. Watch out for vehicles coming from a direction you might not expect. As I explained yesterday for people reading this who do not know Whitehaven (residents will know) this closure cuts the main route from the town centre to the Mirehouse Estate area.   Anyone who wants to drive from the centre of Whitehaven to Mirehouse will have to go via Low Road or the A595 Loop Road while the closure remains in place.

Quote of the day 25th November 2016

"Sir, I have spent the past two weeks persuading my wife not to burn her American passport. If Nigel Farage should be appointed ambassador to the US, I shall have to consider burning my British one." ( Mike Thexton , letter in The Times yesterday.)

How good a negotiating position does Britain have in the Brexit talks?

Most of the articles I had read before today about what Britain's negotiating position would look like in the Brexit negotiations were either absurd Panglossian optimism from Leave supporters or equally absurd counsels of despair from Remainers. The former were far too inclined to assume that because it is in the economic interests of groups like German car manufacturers to have a good trading relationship with the UK this would necessarily feed through into the EU negotiating position. As was demonstrated recently when the EU/Canada deal was nearly blocked because of objections not even from one of the 28 EU member states but because of two regional parliaments in Belgium, this is very far from being the case. Some parts of certain member states have very narrow interests that they will fight hard to protect even when this is not in the interests of the EU as a whole. And some elements of the EU want to take a hard line against Britain so that other countries do not get the idea

Message from the Party Chairman

Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin writes:   Were you watching the Autumn statement yesterday? Our fantastic Chancellor, Philip Hammond, was outlining his plan for an economy that works for everyone. Here are some of the key things that I took away from that speech yesterday: We are open for business with the fastest growing major advanced economy in the world this year. We are building the homes that we need with a new £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund to support 100,000 new homes. We are investing in key infrastructure projects across our country with a new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund. We are increasing the National Living Wage to £7.50 an hour – a pay rise for 1.3 million working people and a rise of £500 for the average full time worker. We are freezing fuel duty for the seventh year in a row , saving the average car driver £130 a year and the average van drive

Midweek music spot "I Need A Hero" (Jennifer Saunders Shrek II version)

I love both the Bonnie Tyler and Jennifer Saunders versions of "I need a hero." This scene from Shrek II is very possibly the best movie animated action sequence ever made. (The one thing wrong which bars it from perfection being that the hero is the spitting image of the worst Prime Minister in British history, but you can't have everything ...)

Nick Cohen on the post truth world

There is a depressing but powerful article in Standpoint by Nick Cohen called " Our world in stupor lies ," which is a quote from Auden's poem about the outbreak of World War II. The article describes the changes in the balance of power between mainstream and non-mainstream media and news. It gives a rather pessimistic take on the ability of not just anyone who wants to do so, but anyone is who does not actively seek to avoid such a fate, to shut out news they don't want to hear through the filters of social media. I think Nick is referring to a real danger, but I don't think we have to be quite as pessimistic as this article. To paraphrase words Lord Hailsham used many years ago about the threat of an "elective dictatorship" the appropriate reaction is as a warning of concern about where we are tending rather than a statement of despair at where we have arrived. Nick writes "I accept that as you grow older you run the risk of sinking in

Autumn Statement 2016

The 2016 Autumn statement sets out how the Conservatives are providing an economic platform with certainty and stability at its heart. As the UK leaves the EU and as we begin writing this new chapter in our country’s history, we have set out how we will support our economy through investment, job creation and support for working people. Our economy needs confidence and certainty. That’s why the Chancellor has set out our clear plans for investment in infrastructure, public spending and the tax system. And we will continue the task of bringing down the deficit too, so that we get the country back to living within its means. This is an Autumn statement that puts working people first, that provides certainty and stability and builds an economy that works for everyone. More at Share the Facts

Britain needs an opposition

The Political Betting website has an article this week which says that " Britain needs a better opposition than Labour is providing ." (They also noted that the biggest cheer Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell got in his reply to the Autumn Statement was when he said "in conclusion.") What would people have said when Ed Balls was shadow chancellor if anyone had dared to predict that in Autumn 2016 Balls would be a national hero on a reality TV dancing contest and there would be a new Labour shadow chancellor who would be far worse and far less popular? (Probably something like " Yeah, right, and Donald J Trump will be the next president of the USA. ") It may seem surprising that I as a committed supporter of the government would like to see a more competent opposition, but not for the first or last time on this site I will quote the words of Disraeli: Britain faces strong challenges in the post-Brexit world and it is in everyone's interes

Foxhouses Road in Whitehaven closed this morning due to gas leak

The southern half of Foxhouses Road in Whitehaven has been closed off to vehicles at the junctions with Ehen Avenue and Bleng Avenue because of a gas leak. This cuts the main route from the town centre to the Mirehouse Estate area. Anyone who wants to drive from the centre of Whitehaven to Mirehouse will have to go via Low Road or by the A595 while the closure remains in place.

Quote of the day 24th November 2016

"Those who worry about Trump’s election and what is portends should draw the right lesson. Condemning the voters for their gullibility or wickedness might make you feel better but it isn’t going to change anybody’s mind. Real people have real worries. If you don’t respond to them, someone else will – and you might not like what happens next." (Michael Ashcroft , article "Listen to the voters or someone else will" from his website, also available on Conservative Home here .)

Fuel Duty frozen for the seventh successive year

One of the things which makes life difficult for many of those families who are working hard but just about managing is the cost of living, and the price of fuel - which impacts both the cost of private motoring and that of public transport - is a major part of this. So I am particularly pleased that the chancellor has frozen fuel duty for the seventh successive year. This will help people all over Britain and particularly in areas like Cumbria.

An Economy that works for everyone: the Chancellor writes

Subject: An economy that works for everyone Philip Hammond, chancellor of the exchequer, writes about his Autumn statement today: An economy that works for everyone Six years ago, we took over an economy on the brink of collapse, with the highest budget deficit in our peacetime history. We took the tough decisions to tackle that deficit, rebuilt Britain’s shattered fiscal credibility and created more than 2.7 million new jobs.              The 2016 Autumn Statement I gave today provides an economic platform with certainty and stability at its heart. As the UK leaves the EU and as we begin writing this new chapter in our country’s history, we have set out how we will provide support for our economy through investment and job creation; and how we will provide help for ordinary working people with the cost of living.              It tackles the long-term challenges facing the country, by investing in infrastructure and innovation to boost long-term economic growth. R

Quote of the day 23rd November 2016


Of Trump and Farage

Can someone please explain to the US President-elect that he does have the power, and indeed the duty, to appoint the US Ambassador to Britain but not the power to nominate or appoint the British Ambassador the USA? It is in the interests of both countries that the British government builds a good working relationship with the President of the USA, whoever he or she may be and whatever we might think about their election. To make an appointment as Ambassador to the US on the basis of a tweet from the President-elect would not, however, be a particularly good idea. An Ambassador has to be someone who can speak for the government he or she represents, and there has to be two-way trust between them. Is Nigel Farage seriously prepared to promise that he would faithfully represent the views, concerns and wishes of the present British government to the US Administration? The idea is a non-starter.

People who remember a socialist government do not want Corbyn as PM

I am in my mid fifties: I am just old enough to remember what Britain was like the last time we had a government which started out by genuinely trying to be socialist. Not that Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan were remotely as left-wing as Jeremy Corbyn, but he considered himself a socialist in a way which Blair did not consider himself and Brown was not. The collision with reality had already forced that government to change many of its policies by the time I had turned 18 - Jim Callaghan's famous quote " We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession ... " being a classic illustration. In the light of all the polling failures over the past two years, only a fool quotes unsupported polling data without asking if it makes sense. But the opinion polls which show a catastrophic decline in support for Labour, particularly among older voters, do make sense, because people from their mid-fifties and upwards remember what happened the last time anything r

Quotes of the day 22nd November 2016

The wit and wisdom of cybernetic dog K9 - K9:             "You have triggered the primary alert function." Doctor:        "Blast!" K9:             "Affirmative." Doctor:        "Ion drive, or I'm a budgie's cousin!" K9:             "Affirmative ion drive: family grouping negative." (K9 with the late Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane) in the Doctor Who episode "School Reunion")

The Blair return?

According to yesterday's Sunday Times, Tony Blair is said to believe that Jeremy Corbyn is a "nutter," that the present PM is a lightweight, and that therefore the time is right for the British people to welcome his return to an active role in politics. As the saying goes. one out of three ain't bad ...

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future ..."

The above is one of many brilliant quotes usually attributed to Niels Bohr . I spotted a classic illustration of what Bohr was talking about today while reading a powerful article about  the current controversy over cryogenic freezing on the excellent website, " The Conservative Woman " (which you do not have to be a woman or a Conservative to find interesting.) There was a set of links to the most recent articles by their US correspondent. All six links discussed the US elections and the titles of the four which expressed a view on the likely or actual outcome were as follows: "Hillary will win and grant an immigration amnesty" "Trump takes the GOP ship down with him," "Trump's troops will rage, rage against the dying of the right." " In the war on Washington, Trump won ." I have not bothered reading or linking to the erroneous predictions - not because they were necessarily silly, but because they were wrong a

Quote of the day 21st November 2016

“The media is even more biased against me than ever before. You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife Melania gives the exact same speech! And people get on her case!” ( Donald Trump , then still a Presidential candidate, jokes about the plagiarism row concerning a speech made by his wife which was copied from one made by the present First Lady. Hat tip to Guido Fawkes)

Shy tories - or busy ones?

Professor John Curtice, who was described shortly after last year's general election as  the only pollster journalists still listen to , has produced a study which supports one common anecdotal explanation for opinion polls tending to overstate Labour support and understate that for Conservatives. He is quoted on the   Guido Fawkes site as saying that Tory voters are not so much “ shy ” as often “ busy “ - e.g. harder for pollsters to get hard of because they are more often out (still at work, for instance.) As the article on Guido's site continues: "Curtice’s study found that if polls were based on people who answered the door on a first visit, Labour would be six points ahead. If polls were based on those who needed three to six visits before answering, the Tories had an 11 point lead. His conclusion: Labour voters were more likely to be at home rather than out at work. “Conservatives are just simply more difficult to get hold of. There is an availability bias.

All centuries but this, and every country but his own.

In the original version, and many subsequent ones, of the most parodied aria in Gilbert and Sullivan's operas, the  Lord high Executioner's song , Ko-Ko includes on his "little list" of people for the chop "the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this, and every country but his own." That perfectly describes the attitude of a certain type of (small l) liberal. Where this becomes particularly irritating is when they are very quick to accuse others of racism and prejudice and them say things about their own country which they would be the first to describe in such a way if said about anyone else. A classic example this week came from Lord Kerr, who has been a British Ambassador, Deputy Chairman of Shell, Treasury mandarin and was one of the authors of the Lisbon Treaty. At an event hosted by the Institute for Government, Lord Kerr argued for a less restrictive immigration policy on the grounds that  ‘We native Brits are so

Sunday Music Spot: “I saw the Lord” (Stainer)


Sunday reflection spot 20th November 2016

The Reverend Robert Jackson quoted the poem below during the service at St James' Whitehaven this morning. You can find it's provenance on the internet here . "They were looking for A Lion, He came as a Lamb, And they missed Him. They were looking for a Warrior, He came as a Peace maker, and they missed Him. They were looking for a King, He came as a Servant, and they missed Him. They were looking for Liberation from Rome, He submitted to the Roman cross, and they missed Him. They were looking for a fit to their mold, He was the mold maker, and they missed Him. What are you looking for? Lion? Warrior? King? Liberator? What are you looking for? They were looking for their temporal needs to be met, He came to meet their eternal need, and they missed Him. He came as a Lamb to be sacrificed for your sin. Will you miss Him? He came to make peace between God and man. Will you miss Him? He came to model servanthood for all mankind. Will you m

Quote of the day 20th November 2016

"If you'd told me two years ago that the man who stopped Gordon Brown from hitting people would be dry-humping a piece of Russian rump on national television I'd have said, 'Oh yeah, and the next American President will be Donald Trump!' " (Camilla Long in today's Sunday Times on former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls' appearances on Strictly Come Dancing)

Thoughts on the Cumbrian Fells

I have lived with my family in West Cumbria for twelve years now and the beauty of this area still has the power to take my breath away. We've had some very cold weather and some foul weather over the past few days: and since earlier this week the fells and mountains like Scafell Pike have been snow-capped. I had a long journey back home this lunchtime after a meeting and after dropping a colleague who had attended it back home. It had been a grey and wet morning but the sky suddenly cleared as I was driving along a very high stretch of road. I was suddenly presented with an amazing vista of rolling fields, hills and mountains, the furthest of which were more than twenty miles away, gleaming white in the sun. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was, but it reminded me that Cumbria is one of the most lovely places in the world. When we are trying to recruit people to staff our hospitals we ought to do more to emphasise how fantastically lovely this are is and som

On the subject of the EU accounts ...

I wrote a couple of days ago about the differing reaction of people to comments from EU Auditors. I have made a number of attempts, most recently here , to explain the truth about the oft-repeated claim that the European Court of Auditors (ECA) have not signed off the EU accounts for twenty-two consecutive years. You would think that there would be a simple binary yes/no answer to anyone who asks whether this is true, but unfortunately there isn't. There are questions to which it is simply not possible to give a "Yes or No" answer which is not at best seriously misleading and this is one of them. In terms of the accuracy of the accounts themselves, the EU's auditors "qualified" them as containing material errors for every year from 1994 to 2006. Since then however the ECA has accepted that the accounts give an accurate picture of the EU's income and expenditure every year from 2007 to the most recent accounts, for 2015. In terms of what those a

Saturday music spot: "Worthy is the Lamb" from Handel's Messiah

To conclude my little selection of extracts from Handel's "Messiah:"

Quote of the day 19th November 2016

I suspect he would argue that the same would apply to Westminster ...

BBC Question time - why did they give a platform to Ms One Percent?

I would not want to suggest that BBC Question Time should not occasionally look beyond the main political parties at people who have interesting things to say. But they do have a duty to be balanced and ought to think carefully about who they give a platform to. Cat Boyd, who was invited to be a panellist on last night's question time, was involved in putting together a left-wing slate for the Scottish parliament elections earlier this year called RISE, which failed to elect a single candidate . And remember, this was in a PR election: in the Glasgow region where she stood about 6% of the vote would have given RISE a seat. The regional ticket which she headed only got ONE PER CENT of the vote. (Results here .) This is an image from Twitter showing Cat Boyd, or as I shall now refer to her, Ms One Percent ,  at a "Death party" where she danced in the street to celebrate when Margaret Thatcher died .   She also made herself look rather silly on QT by being severel

Quote of the day 18th November 2016


Double Standards

When European Auditors criticise misspending of EU money contrary to EU rules by anyone other than UKIP ... Nigel Farage said " The court of auditors have failed to give the all clear to EU accounts for 19 years in a row. " This EU fraud is because the EU is institutionally flawed. " In golfing terms, while the British and European taxpayers are working to keep their families afloat, Barroso and the Commission are sitting happy at the 19th Hole (golf club bar) having an easy life. " It is about time the peoples of Europe were able to get this EU albatross off their backs, or at least out of their pockets. " This week, it has been revealed that the EU has just wasted thousands of pounds on studies into toilet behaviour and use of vacuum cleaners – this is a huge waste, but according to the auditors is not counted as fraud. This is an example of a ridiculous waste of money ." (Source: the Economic Voice here .) When European Auditors critic

Thursday music spot: RCS sing the 'Hallelujah Chorus'

You guessed it!

Conservatives on track to become party of the working class - says Labour MP

A Labour MP has told her local newspaper that Theresa May's Conservatives are on course to replace her own party as the party of the working class . Gisela Stuart, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, is reported in the Birmingham Mail   here as saying that Labour is seen to represent London, not the rest of the country. The Labour MP, one of comparatively few parliamentarians for the red team who backed Leave, said that the referendum had re-engaged a large part of the working class who had become disillusioned with politics. But there was bad news for Labour, she said. “Even those who have been lifelong Labour voters do not see the Labour party as speaking for them. Labour is seen to represent the concerns of London rather than the country as a whole. Many of the messages in Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative party conference, however, hit the precise concerns and aspirations we are hearing from our focus groups."

All-Out War - how Leave won the referendum

There is a fascinating interview on Conservative Home this morning here  in which Andrew Gimson talks to Tim Shipman about his book "All out war" on the EU referendum campaign.; Whether or not you decide to read the book (and it has probably persuaded me to do so,) I think the conversation on the Conservative Home site is interesting and worth reading.

Quote of the day 17th November 2016


Wednesday music spot: more from Handel's Messiah

This is what follows on from yesterday's music spot. Those who are familiar with Handel's Messiah will realise what's coming tomorrow ...

UK Unemployment falls to 11-year low as 350,000 people find jobs

UK unemployment fell by 37,000 to 1.6 million in the three months to September, hitting an 11-year low. This represents a jobless rate down to 4.8% in the same period, while the number of people in work went up by 49,000, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).   Average weekly earnings grew by 2.3% in the year to October including bonuses and by 2.4% excluding bonuses; with CPI inflation at just under one percent this represents an increase in average real wages.   This continues a trend of increasing employment since 2010 which applies in every part of the country. Here in the North West employment is 172,000 higher than in 2010.   The ONS statistics can be found here .