Showing posts from December, 2016

The last post ....

Here is my final post of 2016 and looks forward to what we can all do in the New Year:

Ruth Davidson on Poverty

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has written a very powerful article on poverty which you can read at

Good things which happened in 2016

On this last day of 2016 there has been a lot of comment on social media by people who are glad to see the back of this year. For those who have lost loved ones, either to accident, natural causes, or terrorist attack, I fully understand why they would feel that way. I can also understand that many people are very unhappy about one or more of the controversial election or referendum results of 2016. But none of these things are the whole story of what has been happening to the world in 2016. I've already posted about the fact that by a miracle of modern medical science I have had my vision corrected and can now see as well, in some ways better, without strong glasses or contact lenses as I could see at the start of 2016 and for nearly fifty years before that with them. Courtesy of Tim Montgomerie @Montie and Johan Norberg @Johanknorberg , here are a few more good things which happened or continued in 2016: A continuing reduction in the number of deaths and infections

Final music spot of 2016: Ring Out Wild Bells

For the New Year's Eve 2016 music slot here is Percy Fletcher's 1914 setting of Tennyson's poem "In Memoriam" which was my quote of the day.

Quote of the day for New Year's Eve, 31st December 2016

" In Memoriam " by Alfred Lord Tennyson     "Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,    The flying cloud, the frosty light:    The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.   Ring out the old, ring in the new,    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:    The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true. Ring out the grief that saps the mind    For those that here we see no more;    Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind. Ring out a slowly dying cause,    And ancient forms of party strife;    Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws. Ring out the want, the care, the sin,    The faithless coldness of the times;    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes But ring the fuller minstrel in. Ring out false pride in place and blood,    The civic slander and the spite;    Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love o

Alistair Urquart RIP

My father was a whisker too young to be called up to fight in World War II: when I was a small child a substantial proportion of my males teachers and relatives who were older than my father were veterans of one or other of the two world wars. These past two years we have been remembering with sadness the centenaries of the First World War: it does not seem that long ago that this terrible conflict passed from living memory into history as the last few survivors, men like Harry Patch who I had the honour to hear speak when my old University gave him an honorary degree, have died. When my children were small they had the opportunity to meet far fewer veterans of the second world war than I knew from the first one: now the second war too is passing from living memory to history as the last survivors of this war too reach the end of their natural spans. I am not aware that any of the WWII veterans I knew as a child are still alive. Today I came across an obituary in the Telegraph of

Music to relax after campaigning: Steeleye Span's "All Around My Hat"


Forthcoming Copeland By-Election: the task ahead

The Conservatives will work flat out between now and polling day, whenever that is, to maximise our chances of winning the forthcoming by-election in Copeland. And we're not just going to throw the kitchen sink at this election. We're going to throw the kitchen sink, the fridge, the oven, everything else in the kitchen and everything in Ed Miliband's second kitchen as well. For anyone who doubts that the Conservatives are going to pull out all the stops for this by-election, you might like to be aware that * today we have our fourth action day in Copeland over the Christmas break, with a former cabinet minister among those expected to join us, * we had ten parliamentarians and about twenty other people out campaigning two days before Christmas despite everything Storm Barbara could throw at us * we had not far short of a hundred people campaigning around the constituency three days after Christmas But that is absolutely nothing compared to the effort which wil

Quote of the day 30th December 2016

I used this as my quote of the day shortly after Donald Trump won the US Presidential election, but I'm using it again as it seems just too appropriate for the penultimate "Quote of the Day" for 2016:

Low Pay Commission estimates National Living Wage helped 6 million people

I previously posted estimates for the number of people whose wages were increased by the introduction of the National Living Wage which were deliberately Conservative with a small "c" and based on those who were previously paid less than the new requirement. There were 1.6 million people directly affected by the NLW and who received pay rises as a result. The Low Pay Commission, which among other things was set up to advise the government about what wage legislation should say, estimates that a much larger number - six million people - had their wages raised by the new National Living Wage because the impact "rippled up the pay scale" for workers over the age of 25 as employers and unions increased wages and salaries of people in slightly more skilled jobs than those on the minimum wage in order to maintain differentials. It is estimated that another 3.4 million people received pay rises above the average 3.1% as a result. The more astute readers will have not

Thursday music spot: Steeleye Span - 'Gaudete'


The next NATO secretary general

I hope the press reports that David Cameron is being considered for the post of NATO secretary general are true. (See here .) I have no idea whether DC is interested in the post, but if he were to be offered and accept it I think he would do an excellent job. The West needs someone with the sort of status that an ex-PM - and someone with a record of standing up to Putin - could bring to that very important role at this difficult time.

Quote of the day 29th December 2016


Music to relax after campaigning, Handel's "Sento Brillar" from "Il Pastor Fido" sung by Christopher Lowrey

Translation: "I feel a glimmer in my breast a new happy burning That consoles me Ah! Could the hope by myself, in simple terms the hope, of my dear good-cherished take me away from grief." (This translation is from a Voices of Music post, "with the aid of Cynthia Craig Simon")

Sign of the times

I have written before about the life-changing impact of my eye operation earlier this year: one consequence of no longer being dependent on glasses is that I am finding that I notice things I previously missed. I've certainly canvassed and delivered literature along Drigg Road in Seascale before today, but this afternoon I noticed an anti-trespass warning that I don't recall seeing before. Perhaps I have the improved vision to thank, as I would have expected to recall a sign which should be a very effective deterrent against unauthorised entry. It warns trespassers to beware of adders. Now there is a warning with a bite!

Copeland Conservatives Action Day gets fantastic support

Copeland Conservatives ran an action day today which had the most spectacular level of support for any time of the year, never mind three days after Christmas. In total we had not far short of a hundred people campaigning in many areas of the constituency.  A respectable contingent from Copeland itself was supported by volunteers from all five of the other constituencies within the county of Cumbria and others from many parts of the country including Birmingham, Braintree, Huddersfield, London and Oxford. Very many thanks to all those who came to help, especially those who travelled long distances (even most of those from other parts of the same county had travel times of an hour or more each way)  - we hope you had a safe journey home and that we see you again before too long.

Quote of the day 28th December 2016

Another quote from Thomas Sowell:

Reflections on 2016

As 2016 comes to an end many people will be glad to see the back of this year. In some cases this will be because so many votes, elections and referenda, have gone differently to what was expected, produced results that millions of people are deeply unhappy about or both (though of course, millions of other people have generally been pleased.) For millions of others, their own loved ones, friends, or people they really liked have died this year. Over this Christmas period four very significant and well-liked figures from popular culture have died. "Princess Leia" Carrie Fisher, "Watership Down" creator Richard Adams, singer George Michael and actress Liz Smith joined a very long list of such celebrities who died in 2016. There is a strong argument that this long list of deaths in 2016 is not in any way surprising or unusual: celebrities die every year and it is unsurprising that a large number of those who became famous in the early days of mass culture are re

Christmas Bank Holiday Tuesday music spot: and now for something completely different

Since the beginning of advent I have been posting a daily carol or anthem as a Christmas music spot. Formally there are another nine days of the Christmas season after today, but I think it is time for a change of tack. So as a final Christmas music spot, here is a Star Trek Christmas parody of Paul McCartney's "Simply having a wonderful Christmas time."

Thomas Sowell's valedictory coumn

As a huge fan of American economist Thomas Sowell, I am gutted to learn that at the age of 86 he has just published his last newspaper column. I fully understand his decision to retire but will miss the wisdom of the man who came out with such brilliant or amusing insights as and this: and this: Here is an extract from his valedictory column: "Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changes, both for the better and for the worse. In material things, there has been almost unbelievable progress. Most Americans did not have refrigerators back in 1930, when I was born. Television was little more than an experiment, and such things as air-conditioning or air travel were only for the very rich. My own family did not have electricity or hot running water in my early childhood, which was not unusual for blacks in the South in those days. It is hard to convey to today’s generation the fear that the paralyzing disea

Quote of the day 27th December 2016

"If you think it was moral to support Remain, perhaps you will appreciate that there was also a certain nobility on the Leave side, in doing everything possibly to win a battle they regarded as being existentially important. If you felt it was moral to vote to Leave, perhaps you will recognise that the intensity with which David Cameron and George Osborne fought the campaign was proof of their passion and belief, not of the widespread view that all politicians are lying bastards who will say or do anything to hang on to power."  ( Tim Shipman , concluding words of the introduction to his book " All Out War " about the EU referendum campaign.)

Christmas Music spot for the Feast of Stephen

The 26th of December is usually known as Boxing Day in Britain from an old tradition of presenting employees with a Christmas Box on that day. In Western Europe it is celebrated as the Saint's day of St Stephen (although the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate this day on 27th December). As I am writing in Western Europe - although Britain is leaving the EU we are not leaving Europe - that makes today the Feast of Stephen, so there is only one choice for a Christmas music spot! This version of the famous carol is sung by Benjamin Luxom, the young Aled Jones, and the choir of Westminster Cathedral.

Quote of the day for Boxing Day, 26th December 2016


The Queen's Christmas Day 2016 Broadcast

Her Majesty is an amazing woman whose life of service to the country is an inspiration to us all. Her speech this year was short, moving, and uplifting.

Music spot for Chrismas day: Joy To The World


Quotes of the day for Christmas Day 2016


Note on Christmas cards

This Christmas (2016) I and my family are sending e-cards rather than physical ones where we know the email address of the person we are sending them to. The artist whose e-cards we use is Jacquie Lawson and we are assured that they are carefully screened for viruses and will not harm anyone's computer.


To everyone reading this who is a Christian, may the spirit of the Christ child, the love of Mary, the faithfulness of Joseph, the joy of the Angels, the wonder of the Shepherds, the wisdom of the Magi, and the Peace of God be with you this Christmastide. To anyone reading this who has a faith other than Christianity, may your God be with you at this time. To everyone reading this including anyone who does not have a religious faith, I wish you peace, health and happiness and hope you are refreshed by a wonderful holiday with the people you love. And to all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2017

Music Recap special for Christmas Eve: The Lord at first did Adam make


Christmas and New Year emergency chemists 2016-2017

If you need an emergency chemist over the Christmas and New Year holiday period in the Whitehaven area of Copeland, the opening arrangements are as follows: Christmas Day, Sunday 25th December 2016 Boots the Chemist , 26 King Street, Whitehaven: open 3.00pm to 5.00pm Boxing Day, Monday 26th December 2016 Morrison's pharmacy , Flatt Walks, Whitehaven, open 10am to 4pm Bank Holiday Tuesday, 27th December 2016 Boots the Chemist , 26 King Street, Whitehaven: open 9am to 5.30pm Morrison's pharmacy , Flatt Walks, Whitehaven, open 10am to 4pm New Year's Day, Sunday 1st January 2017 Morrison's pharmacy , Flatt Walks, Whitehaven, open 10am to 4pm Late Night Chemist , Lowther Street, Whitehaven, open 12 noon to 8pm New Year Bank Holiday, Tuesday 2nd January 2017 Boots the Chemist , 26 King Street, Whitehaven: open 9am to 5.30pm Morrison's pharmacy , Flatt Walks, Whitehaven, open 10am to 4pm

Nobel Prizewinner Sir Angus Deaton on a year of political earthquakes

When I arrived at Bristol University as a nineteen-year old Economics Undergraduate Professor Angus Deaton was head of the Economics Department and professor of Econometrics. As a student representative I saw him do an excellent job of chairing the department board meetings - later he taught me Econometrics. He was a superb teacher - I was fortunate enough to benefit from the expertise of some excellent teachers at the schools and universities I attended but Angus Deaton was probably one of the two most outstanding. I was absolutely delighted when he received the Nobel Prize for economics last year and a knighthood in this year's Queens birthday honours, two distinctions both of which were thoroughly deserved. There is a fascinating account of an interview with him in the FT, " Nobel economist Angus Deaton on a year of political earthquakes " which describes both some of the very worrying trends he has recently investigated - such as increasing suicide rates and m

Christmas Eve music spot: Libera sing the Carol of the Bells


Quote of the day Christmas Eve 2016


Campaigning in the rain ....

Despite the worst that Storm Barbara could do - and to be quite candid the weather was absolutely filthy - Copeland Conservatives had a successful campaign day with a good turnout of local people from the constituency and a marvellous turnout of ten, repeat ten, parliamentarians most of whom brought friends, family or supporters with them. Absolutely fantastic to get that kind of support two days before Christmas in the teeth of everything Storm Barbara could drop on us, both rain and hail, and with many of the people there having had at least a four hour round trip to get here and back home. On the local side both myself and Stephen Haraldsen were there with our respective wives and offspring - and to paraphrase the bible, a partner who is willing to come out and support you in weather like today's is certainly above the price of rubies - and we were also supported by local councillors and activists including Cllr John Dirom and parish councillor Paul Turner.  We had a stron

Christmas music spot: Carol of the Field Mice



Latest jobs figures show 4,000 more jobs in Copeland than there were in 2010. In 2010 there were 33,000 jobs in Copeland but by 2015 (the latest year for which we have figures at this level) this was up to 37,000. Nationally too the jobs picture continues to improve. Unemployment remains at the joint lowest rate for over ten years – down nearly 900,000 since 2010 – according to the latest set of labour market figures out earlier in December. Since a year ago there are 350,000 more people in full-time work. Since the Conservatives entered government, employment is up by over 2.7 million – that’s well over 1,000 jobs created on average every day. This year jobs growth in Britain broke record after record. At the beginning of this year the employment rate recovered to and passed it's pre-recession peak and since then Britain's employment rate has been higher than in any previous year. More women, older workers and ethnic minority groups in work than ever befo

National Living Wage increased - giving Britain a pay rise

      The Conservative government has launched a national living wage for all employees aged over 25. This effectively gave 1.3 million of the lowest paid working people in Britain a pay rise. The National Living Wage will rise to £7.50 an hour in April, helping some of the lowest paid workers in Copeland, and is further expected to rise to £9 an hour by 2020. So as well as creating over 2.7 million more jobs since 2010, we’re helping people keep more of the money they earn by increasing their pay, keeping council tax down and cutting income tax. This is all part of a plan that is honouring our commitments to the British people to deliver a higher wage, lower welfare, lower tax country that finally lives within its means. It is part of building a Britain that works for everyone.    

Quote of the day 23rd December 2016


Be careful while travelling tomorrow - Storm Barbara may bring vile wealther to Cumbria

Anyone travelling in Cumbria tomorrow (Friday 23rd December) and the forthcoming weekend should make sure to be prepared for the possibility of very nasty weather as Storm Barbara is due to hit the UK. Drive very carefully if it starts to rain and make sure you have a good set of warm and waterproof clothing with you. Anyone visiting the Copeland constituency, as I know some of my political friends and foes alike may be doing soon, may find it helpful to know that one of the first parts of the constituency you will pass through if you turn off the M6 at junction 40o (Penrith) and take the A66 Westbound, is Keswick, which is one of the best places in the world to buy outdoor gear suitable for walking in wet weather. Visitors and local residents alike should note that the Environment agency has warned people to check flood risk. they say that Heavy rainfall is expected across parts of the north west of England and the Pennines from tomorrow (Friday 23rd December) onwards, bri

Christmas music spot: In dulci jubilo


Conservatives in Cumbria call for Re-Trunking of A595

Conservatives in Copeland and Cumbria have been campaigning to re-trunk the A595 and we will be stepping up that campaign in the coming weeks. John Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Carlisle has strongly supported us and has highlighted the A595, saying a secure and fast route is needed between The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the West Cumberland Hospital. In a letter to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport in October, John Stevenson raised  concerns about the state of the road with regards to the growth of the nuclear industry and the need for access should an emergency occur. He met Chris Grayling to discuss this and he has reiterated his concerns today. "I spoke of the significant importance of the A595 given the experience of Sellafield and nuclear new build," he said, and added "I think this move would bring long-term benefits from an economic perspective and from a health perspective from improved connectivity between west Cumbria and

Great news for Copeland as government acts on Superfast Broadband

Great news for Copeland and Cumbria as the government acts to ensure that rural areas of the UK reap the advantages of Superfast broadband: about 600,000 homes will benefit from a £440 million boost to help them get connected. Better internet links vital to many small businesses in Cumbria and will also be helpful to local families in their homes so this is very good news for our area. The money to pay for this will come from £150 million in efficiency savings plus returned subsidies from BT under the terms of a deal under which the government and the Telecommunications company are co-operating to roll out superfast broadband. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said homes and businesses in some of the most remote areas of the UK would enjoy faster internet speeds as a result of this initiative. The government plans to ensure that 95% of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017. Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the Autumn statements that more tha

Paul Goodman on Vice Signalling

Like the vast majority of people in Britain I was horrified by the terrible murder of MP Jo Cox. I also thought that the great majority of people on both sides of the EU referendum campaign behaved with great dignity in in refusing to try to make political capital out it. There were a few exceptions but in general this is one of comparatively few things which both sides in the campaign can be proud of. Her widower expressed the opinion a few days ago that blaming politicians for the actions of terrorist extremists starts one down a slippery slope. Whether you agree with this opinion or not, I thought some of attacks on him made in responses on social media were both unfortunate and way over the top. Paul Goodman responds today on Conservative Home here  to one of those attacks. As is often the case, Paul's views are well worth a read.

Quote of the day 21st December 2016


Christmas music spot: Up Good Christen Folk and Listen


NHS "success regime" consultation on our local hospitals - what happens now

Despite the furore over the departure of the Labour MP for Copeland the fight to save our hospital services goes on. His letter to Jeremy Corbyn published today appears to suggest that our MP will resign at the end of January, which may have the unfortunate consequence that the post of MP for Copeland will be vacant at the time when the local NHS publishes their initial report on the health consultation in early February. But whoever is MP for Copeland your local Conservatives, and many other local people, will continue to fight to protect services at West Cumberland Hospital and ensure we keep consultant-lead maternity services at WCH. If the "success regime" proposes an unacceptable outcome the people of West Cumbria can and will ask the government to make them think again. The consultation on the proposals for healthcare in West, North and East Cumbria closed at midnight on Monday. The "Success Regime" published the following on Monday on their consulta

Copeland MP to resign

The Labour MP for Copeland published a short while ago his letter to Jeremy Corbyn announcing his intention to resign from parliament at the end of January. There will therefore be a by-election in Copeland in the New year. Responding to Jamie Reed’s decision to step down as Member of Parliament for Copeland, Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin MP said: “We are sorry to see Jamie Reed leaving Parliament, but congratulate him on his new job, and what must have been a very difficult decision for him and his family. “It is a sorry state of affairs when talented Members of Parliament like him no longer feel comfortable representing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – a divided party run by a leader who opposes Trident and wants to dismantle our Armed Forces. “We look forward to the by-election, and the opportunity to set out how the Conservatives are building a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Brendan O'Neil on the over-use of the word "Fascist"

Words like "fascist" and Nazi" have been over-used at least since I was a student to mean anyone of whom the speaker disapproves who is a bit more right-wing than they are. Brendan O'Neil has an excellent article in the Speccie this week, " Just because you disagree with someone, it doesn't make them a 'fascist.' " As he rightly points out, "The terrifying casualness with which the F-word is now flung about could be glimpsed in the Michael Sheen controversy. Achieving ‘peak luvvie’, Sheen said, in an interview with the Times, that he was cutting back on acting to fight the new ‘demagogic, fascist’ politics. Where is this fascism? Wales, apparently. A Times editor summed it up: ‘The great actor Michael Sheen is quitting acting and going back to Wales to battle the rise of populism and fascism’. So are there Blackshirts in Cardiff? Swarms of Hitler Youth in Merthyr Tydfil? No. These people are talking about Brexit voters. T

Quote of the day 21st December 2016

"Although Essex police originally thought he had died of natural causes, it emerged that he had been shot six times." From the BBC report at  of proceedings from an Essex coroner's court. I suspect that Roger Hirst, Essex's Police and Crime Commissioner, may have a few questions for Essex police about this. I have never felt more grateful that my local police force is the excellent Cumbria constabulary ...

Cumbria Conservatives Campaign day today in Whitehaven

Despite the miserable weather, Cumbria Conservatives had a very good team out in the Whitehaven area of Copeland today, delivering "County News" newsletters ahead of the start of the campaign for next year's county council elections. Many thanks to all those who helped especially those who came all the way from Carlisle.

In Defence of Freedom

The Economist magazine has an article this week, which appears in the print edition under the title of " The Year of Living Dangerously " and online as " How to make sense of 2016 " The online version can be read here . The subtitle of the article is "Liberals lost most arguments in 2016. They should not feel defeated as much as invigorated." The work "Liberal" has opposite meanings on the two sides of the Atlantic and the kind of Liberalism espoused by the Economist has very little to do with the policies of the so-called Liberal Democratic Party under Tim Farron, which increasingly seems to me to be neither liberal nor democratic. The "liberal" values which "The Economist" stands for, as defined in the first paragraph quoted below, are what I would call freedom. This is better represented in today's Conservative party than it is in the Liberal Democrats, though no party has a monopoly of support for freedom an

Christmas music spot: "There Were Shepherds" and "Glory to God" from Handel's Messiah


Quote of the day 20th December 2016


Submission on the Success Regime for Cumbria

This is the submission I sent in on behalf of the Executive of Copeland Conservative Association to the consultation document   " The Future of Healthcare in West North and East Cumbria ." Copeland Conservatives submission on the Success Regime Consultation A: Maternity – We support Option One We have a number of concerns about the current "Success Regime" consultation and particularly our fears about the safety of the current "preferred option", Option 2, for maternity. We believe that Option 2 will increase risk to those mothers who need rapid intervention such as "Crash Caesarean sections" and their babies. We believe that the idea that a consultant-led maternity unit is unsustainable is open to challenge and note that Option 2 for a midwife-led unit at West Cumberland Hospital has been publicly opposed by all the current consultant obstetricians based at the West Cumberland Hospital and respected former consultants such as

Christmas music spot: Masters In This Hall


Best spoof posts of the latter part of 2016

There have been some very funny spoof posts in the last few weeks, and not all of them from sites specialising in spoof news For example, we learned from the Huffington post in 2010 that Santa Claus's Naughty and Nice list has been hacked and published by Wikileaks . But there have also been articles about Santa's list in the Daily Mail and other papers this year and we also learn that students demand safe space from judgemental Father Christmas . It gets harder and harder to tell what are supposed to be serious news stories from spoofs .. One which did come from a "spoof" new website was the story that NATO sabotage DA'ESH by making Southern Rail responsible for transport contract in Mosul which you can read here . What a diabolical thing to inflict on Mosul even to stop DA'ESH! The same spoof site told us of Trump's Nobel prize - Donald Trump has been awarded the Nobel peace prize after pledging to drone strike fewer people than


The "Success Regime" consultation about our local hospital and health services here in West Cumbria, including whether we continue to have consultant-lead maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital, finishes TODAY (Monday 19th December 2016). I will say yet again, this time for the final time, that the proposals in this consultation are of immense importance for our area.   If you have not already done so, please make sure you respond to the Success regime consultation before the consultation ends. THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE! You can express your views online at

Quote of the day 19th December 2016