Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Some people never learn ...

If you were to ask me to identify the article by a British politician which represented the worst attack of political hubris in British history, I would have to point to

"We cannot be killed"

published in the News Statesman, dated 25th September 2007, by the then Labour MP Siôn Simon.

You would think it would be difficult for even a Labour politician to make a bigger idiot of himself than Sion Simon had managed the previous year with a spoof David Cameron video but this article managed it with the highest ratio of wrong predictions to sentences ever seen in an article.

"Shortly there will be an election," he wrote, (there wasn't as Brown bottled it.)

"at which Labour will increase it's majority." (when the next election came Labour lost it's majority and made net losses of 91 seats.)

Simon also predicted that the forthcoming Labour victory "ought to herald another decade of strong, confident, consensual Labour government." (ROFL.)

Siôn Simon is currently an MEP and Labour's candidate to be the first Mayor of the West Midlands in the election in May this year.

Ten years after his landmark attack of hubris in the New Statesman he has an article on the labourlist.org website which is nearly as bad.

There are plenty of positive reasons to vote for the excellent Conservative candidate to be mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, but the fact that Mr Simon is his main opponent certainly adds another reason to vote for Andy.

Here are some extracts for the two articles showing  Siôn Simon's hubris ten years apart:

Some people never learn ...

Whom the gods would destroy

There are two British political parties which seem to be doing their best to destroy themselves, reminding me of the saying below which is usually attributed to Euripides (though see here for what appears to be the actual origin of the expression:)

The Copeland by-election has highlighted how Labour's current leadership is making a position which would have been a difficult challenge for the most competent leader far worse, but UKIP too seem determined to destroy themselves.

Had UKIP not managed to damage themselves with unforced errors over the address of their leader and candidate in Stoke Central and with the mess they got into with comments about the Hillsborough tragedy, I believe there is a good chance that they could have won the Stoke by-election and a certainty that they would have come closer.

Now we see ridiculous rows over whether their one MP, Douglas Carswell, blocked a knighthood for their former leader Nigel Farage, while at the same time, Farage argues in the Telegraph that Carswell has to go.

Meanwhile another key UKIP figure and donor, Aron Banks has been demanding to be made party chairman and threatening to walk if he is not: he has also threatened to stand against Carswell at the next general election.

Obviously I am not a fan of UKIP but I am not convinced this is healthy for British democracy.

To function properly our existing system of democracy needs a credible opposition, whose main job is to ensure that there is a credible choice of alternative governments.

Jeremy Corbyn is not performing that task, and somebody needs to. If it had been run any more competently than Labour, UKIP might have had a chance, but they are well on the way to blowing it, and getting into ridiculous rows over gongs could not be more perfectly designed to make them look out of touch.

Regardless of who is responsible for it, getting into the position where the best known members of the party are trying to expel or defeat the only person who has ever been elected as an MP at a general election under UKIP's banner is beyond ridiculous. It would never be allowed to happen in an body which credibly aspires to be more like an effective political party than a chimp's tea party.

Tim Farron's Lib/Dems are pursuing a strategy - rebuilding their political base at the local council level while aspiring to speak for the minority of voters who not just voted "Remain" but are not truly reconciled to the fact that "Leave" won - which is far better suited to a slow but steady recovery from their disastrous electoral showing between breaking the tuition fees promise and the 2015 election, than it is to making a serious challenge for power. At least they have a strategy which is not entirely insane and is being executed with a degree of competence but it's not going to make them a credible alternative government by 2020.

The way things are going, and unless a completely new political movement emerges or one of the existing opposition parties sorts themselves out, the next time the electorate get a serious choice between two credible contenders for the government of the UK will be in 2025 or 2030 and it will be between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

God help us all if anything goes seriously wrong for the country before then.

Quote of the day 28th February 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

The wicked wit of the late Gerald Kaufman

I am not going to pretend that I was a fan of the late Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, who has died at the age of 86.

But on the principle of "Nihil Nisi Bonum" I will remember one good thing about him - his brilliant wit and incisive turn of phrase.

Twenty years after the event, and on a day when I definitely did not feel much like laughing, I recall that I was nevertheless reduced to fits of laughter by Kaufman's speech proposing the loyal address at the start of Tony Blair's government in 1997.

The speech is recorded for posterity by Hansard at


but here is an extract:

Madam Speaker, this is the first speech that I have made from this side of the House for more than 18 years and it is my first speech as a Government Back Bencher. I shall therefore be unprecedentedly--and, quite possibly, unrepeatedly--loyal.

Indeed, let me dispel immediately any doubts that malicious people may have propagated: it is my firm intention to speak in favour of this Queen's Speech.
I first heard that I had been selected to move the motion when I received a telephone call on Monday afternoon. A portentously official-sounding voice said, in ominous tones,

"The Government Chief Whip would like to speak to you."

I was immediately struck with terror that I had violated the parliamentary Labour party's new and extremely stringent code of discipline. My mind went back guiltily to a general election campaign meeting last month during which I had been reckless enough to utter the word "socialism". Moreover, I had shared the platform with a trade union leader. I knew that I could not hope for leniency in the light of such transgressions. 

However, it turned out that my fears were groundless and that my right hon. Friend was inviting me to move the motion to which I am now speaking. I therefore cast around in my mind for some explanation for my being singled out in this way.

I want to make clear that in order to obtain this distinction, I did not send boxes of chocolates or bunches of flowers to either the Prime Minister or the Chief Whip; nor did I invite them out to dinner. Apart from anything else, on a Back Bencher's salary I cannot afford the prices at Granita. Nor have I ever said that there is "something of the night" about the Chief Whip--even if I have thought it. 

I recall that recently, during a broadcast on a Radio 4 programme appropriately called "Loose Ends", I announced myself to be a total sycophant of the Prime Minister. However, before preening myself too much, I do realise that under the iron heel of the Minister without Portfolio, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), total sycophancy must be regarded as a suspiciously lukewarm form of loyalty."

It was, of course, Kaufman who famously described Labour's 1983 election manifesto as

"The longest suicide note in history."

He was notoriously unhappy with the mismanagement of the Opera House at Covent Garden, and among his waspish interventions on the subject, which were credited with driving the CEO of the opera house to resign, he is usually assumed to have drafted the following lines from a report of the relevant Commons Select Committee about the Opera House:

"We would prefer to see the House run by a philistine with the requisite financial acumen than by the succession of opera and ballet lovers who have brought a great and valuable institution to its knees."

Sir Gerald was not the most popular of men even among his fellow Labour MPs. But his sense of humour will be missed.

Rest in Peace.

My final post on ridiculous explanations for the Copeland by-election result

I'm not going to do any more posts on the subject after this one as it is time to move on.

However, I did think this not-entirely serious summary of the Corbynista explanations put forward for Labour's shattering defeat in Copeland last week, which has been shared by a number of people on left and right such as former Labour MP Tom Harris, was funny enough to be the last word on the subject (especially for Michael Jackson fans).

Meanwhile, rumour has it that this was the reaction in Number Ten to Jeremy Corbyn's statement on Sky News that he intends to lead the Labour party into the 2020 General Election:

More ridiculous explanations for the Copeland election result continued ...

The Mirror - yes, the Mirror - has the full list of excuses presented on the Andrew Marr show by Labour's newest life peer Shami Chakrabarti for the Copeland by-election in an article which you can read here.

If you are going on telly to defend Labour's position and the newspaper which is Labour's best friend in Fleet Street is laughing at you, then you really have a problem ...

Even from the viewpoint of a government supporter I believe Britain needs a decent opposition and Labour is not providing it.

Quote of the day 27th February 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

More ridiculous explanations for the Copeland result continued ...

Daft explanations for the Copeland by-election result continue to roll in, mostly from members of the Labour party.

I have not yet seen one to beat the suggestion by "Heavy Metal Politics" to which I awarded the wooden spoon yesterday - that the Conservative win was caused by a power cut. (The power cuts concerned actually hit Manchester, Lancashire and the Peak District rather than Copeland.)

However, the suggestion by Labour's newest peer Shami Chakrabarti on the television this morning that the result was down to Storm Doris and the related suggestion that Labour voters "don't have cars" came pretty close.

If Shami thinks that Copeland never had wet and windy weather during the previous 80+ years when the seat returned Labour MPs she obviously does not know the area very well.

And I have not noticed a sudden drop in car ownership in the more Labour-inclined wards of the constituency over the last two years either ...

Cumbrian student Oli Coulson on Trudy Harrison's historic win

West Cumbrian student Oli Coulson has written a good article on United Politics with his take on the historic victory in the Copeland by-election which you can read here.

Sunday Music Spot Vivaldi Gloria first movement, King's College Choir

Quote of the day 26th February 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

And the prize for the most ridiculous explanation for the Copeland by-election result ...

Over the past 38 hours there have been all sorts of absurd explanations put forward for the election result in Copeland.

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have blamed just about everyone on the planet for Labour's disastrous showing in the by-election except Jeremy Corbyn.

I'm sharing links to some of the most absurd not because I wish to gloat - well not much anyway - but because I think even disappointed Labour supporters, if they have a working brain and are not members of the Cult of Corbyn, will find some of them quite funny.

A strong contender for the most barking mad article on the subject is a piece by Paul Mason called "Labour won Stoke Jamie Reed lost Copeland." which accused Reed and Hunt of being part of

"the Blairite plan to stage two electoral disasters on one night."

It's a little difficult to take this seriously given that it was actually the present leadership of the Labour party that decided to stage the two by-elections together.

While the issue of Brexit certainly did come up on the doorstep I also find it hard to take seriously Mason's argument that a significant chunk of a large part of Britain want to leave the EU so much that they would happily see the NHS destroyed provided we leave.

I don't know how many Leave voters he has ever spoken to but the vast majority of leave voters with whom I have discussed the matter, whether they literally believed the slogan on the side of that red bus or not, either thought that Britain would be better off outside the EU and could therefore afford to put more into the NHS, or that the country would do well enough outside that significant cuts in public spending would not be needed. People who thought Brexit would wreck the NHS voted Remain.

Mr Mason himself appears to be seriously conflicted about the EU - on the one hand he argues that leaving it will go "catastrophically wrong" and cause an "economic disaster" and yet in the same article he simultaneously argues that

"the EU is an economic and political disaster zone: it is a machine for imposing austerity and injustice and will go on self-destructing whatever Labour’s position is in the negotiations. If anything, the Labour position was not critical enough of Europe in the Brexit referendum campaign."

Let's get this straight: Mason thinks the EU is an economic and political disaster zone which exists to impose austerity and injustice, but nevertheless believes that leaving it will also be a disaster?

I can understand either of those viewpoints separately but holding both of them is one of the most serious cases of cognitive dissonance I've ever come across.

Tom Peck's political sketch in The Independent,

"Churchillian Corbyn knows that it is only through failure that you find success,"

givens an ironic roundup of the different excuses put forward for Labour's defeat, as does the Labour supporting Mirror newspaper in their piece,

"Nine unbelievable reasons Jeremy Corbyn allies gave for Labour losing in Copeland - and one they didn't."

But my favourite utterly bonkers explanation of the result came in a "Heavy Metal Politics" piece

"Stoke vs Copeland: why Labour can win again" which blames it in a power cut.

Noting that Electricity North West had confirmed that on polling day Storm Doris caused a loss of power to 7,000 homes in the North West, "Heavy Metal Politics" alleged with a total lack of any supporting evidence "many of which occurred in Copeland."

From this they constructed an elaborate and highly detailed house of cards of an argument that many younger voters in CA28 postcode areas around Whitehaven lost electric power, and therefore access to social media, and thus did not hear Labour's arguments telling them to go and vote Labour.

Now apart from the fact that the people of Copeland have been subjected to such wall-to-wall campaigning by every imaginable channel that more than a few were starting to react like this, and therefore loss of social media for one day should not have had that huge an impact on people's knowledge about the by-election, I live in Whitehaven and spent all day campaigning here and saw no evidence at all of power cuts.

Looking at a wider range of news reports on the Electricity North West  website than the one linked to I discovered that, far from many of the 7,000 homes which lost power being in Whitehaven or any other part of Copeland, most of them were in Lancashire, Manchester and the Peak district as you can read here.

So my prize for the most ridiculous explanation for the Copeland by-election result goes to Heavy Metal Politics and if the person responsible for the article would care to contact me I will arrange to send them their wooden spoon ...

Saturday music spot: Libera - Voca me

Conservative party chairman Patrick McLoughlin writes

Conservative party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who had been in Copeland yesterday, also found time to send out this message yesterday:


Today is an extraordinary day. Our Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison has been elected as MP for Copeland, a seat that has been held by Labour since 1935.
Trudy’s brilliant, positive campaign, focusing on protecting local jobs, securing investment and standing up for vital local services has delivered Copeland an advocate to ensure the area is no longer ignored and forgotten.
It is the first time since 1878 that there’s been a comparable government by-election gain and is an important show of support for the Prime Minister’s plan to make a success of Brexit. 
We couldn’t have done this without the support of people like you, right across the country.
Thank you for your support,

Patrick McLoughlin 
Chairman of the Conservative Party

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Quote of the day 25th February 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

ANORAK ALERT! How remarkable was the Copeland result?

Apologies, this post is for those with an "anorak" interest in elections only.

Number Cruncher Politics just tweeted this chart which shows how the majority by which governing parties won or lost by-elections changed compared with the previous general election.

Government gains are in the top left of the chart, above and to the left of the "Origin" where the two Zero lines intersect: the Copeland by-election is the only result in this quadrant since 1983.

Government holds are results in the top right, above and to the right of the Origin. A government hold with an increased majority would be in that quadrant and above a line going up from left right at 45 degrees from the origin - which has not happened since 1983.

Opposition holds - or seat changes between opposition parties - are in the bottom left hand quadrant and by-elections where the government of the day lost a seat are in the bottom right.

Markers which are well below the dotted "best fit line" represent results where the government of the day was given a particularly severe kicking in the by-election and those well above represent results where the government of the day did unusually well.

Official Conservative candidates - e.g. not Zac Goldsmith - have been performing at the upper end of this chart in this parliament: the previous by-election result, Sleaford, is one of the two blue diamonds at the top right - the one close to the 40:40 point. Both the Copeland and Stoke results are exceptionally good.

Matt Singh's post at Number Cruncher politics, "Uncharted Territory" describes this result as "catastrophic" for Labour.

If I seem to be emphasising the negative here - e.g. the bloody nose the electorate has handed to Labour rather than a positive vote for our excellent Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison - it is because I think Conservatives would be wise to treat this result as a vote of no-confidence in Labour but avoid getting over-confident about how well we are doing.

Britain has some enormous problems, as does Copeland, and unless we make progress in solving them we might be the next ones to get a bloody nose from the voters.

Quote of the day 24th February 2017

"It's been very clear talking to people throughout this campaign that Jeremy Corbyn doesn't represent them.

"They want a party which is on the side of ordinary working people, which will respect the way we voted in the referendum and which will build a country which represents everyone. That's why they voted for me tonight."

(Trudy Harrison MP - Victory speech after the Copeland By-Election declaration.)

Congratulations to Trudy Harrison

Here are the Copeland results in full, with percentage shares of the vote.

Trudy Harrison (Conservative) 13,748 votes (44.25%, increase +8.46%) ELECTED
Gillian Troughton (Labour) 11,601 (37.34%, -4.92%)
Rebecca Hanson (Liberal Democrat) 2,252 (7.25%, +3.80%)
Fiona Mills (UKIP) 2,025 (6.52%, -9.00%)
Michael Guest (Independent) 811 (2.61%)
Jack Lenox (Green) 515 (1.66%, -1.32%)
Roy Ivinson (Independent) 116 (0.37%)
Conservative majority 2,147 (6.91%)
6.69% swing Labour to Conservative
Electorate 60,602; Turnout 31,068 (51.27%, -12.53%)


Thursday, February 23, 2017

The votes are in - now to count them

Polls closed 30 minutes ago in the Copeland and Stoke by-elections.

Under normal circumstances both would be absolute nailed on certain Labour holds. As I explained earlier the electorate sees by election as a "free hit" opportunity to give someone a kicking, but it is very unusual for them to aim this at the opposition. Even when the government is well ahead in the polls opposition parties usually increase their majority in by-elections.

The reality is that anything less than convincing holds in both seats will be a sign of a problem for Labour.

Expectations have got totally out of control with ridiculous suggestions such as the rumour posted on the Whitehaven News website that the Conservatives think we are going to win Copeland by 4,000 votes. If that suggestion really came from a Conservative they were smoking something they should not have been.

It is far more likely that this apparently preposterous suggestion was expectations management by Copeland Labour, either designed to make a narrow loss look less bad or a narrow hold look like a triumph, or to trick Conservatives into thinking they did not need to come out to vote on a filthy day.

If by any chance we do win by anything like that margin I will of course be absolutely ecstatic to be proved wrong.  Personally I am still expecting a very close result.

For what it's worth I think that there has been a good turnout among Conservatives and a less good turnout among Labour supporters and that all the "Babies will die unless you vote Labour" poison from the Labour campaign achieved was to harden attitudes on both sides and inject anger into Copeland's body politics which will last for years.

Goodness knows how long the count will last, and the number of places available for counting agents was much less than usual. I suspect we will get a result sometime between 2am and 4am.

Music to relax as the election finally ends: "Adoramus" by Libera


Polls are open for another three hours in the Copeland and Stoke by-elections.

Can't speak for Stoke but in Copeland it looks even closer than the last two general elections. Every vote could count.

If you are a Copeland or Stoke Central elector and have not yet voted you can vote up to 10pm this evening. You do not need your polling card to vote. If you have a postal vote which you have not returned you can hand it in at any polling station in the relevant constituency up to 10pm.

If there is a last minute rush, any qualified elector turning up to vote who is inside the polling station or in a queue outside before 10pm will be able to vote.

Reminder - polls are open until 10pm this evening

Today is the Copeland by-election (and also the Stoke by-election)

Polling stations are open until 10pm this evening but if you are able to go and vote now before Storm Doris hits the UK that might be a good idea ...

How remarkable would a Conservative win in Copeland be?

If the normal rules of politics were in effect, the Conservatives would not have a cat in hell's chance of winning Copeland or Stoke today.

The normal rules are NOT in effect and everyone who has spent any length of time in Copeland realises that there is a very real possibility of a Conservative win. Copeland Labour party are more worried than I have ever seen them and their "babies will die" campaign should be seen as a sign of desperation more than anything else.

A by-election is usually seen as a cost-free opportunity for the local electorate to give someone a kicking, and on the vast majority of occasions the people they choose to kick are the government.

That is why even governments which are well ahead in the opinion polls very rarely gain seats in by-elections, and most of those occasions when it has happened have been freakishly unusual - for example, the last time a government of any party gained a seat at a by election 25 years ago was both while that government was winning a war, and the incumbent MP had resigned and stood for re-election for a different party.

There is a superb article in "Number Cruncher Politics" here.

It points out that the last time a governing party gained a seat from the main opposition party in a peacetime by-election by overturning a majority of more than 3 per cent, without a defecting incumbent, or a material change in the set of parties contesting the seat, was on 28th Mar 1878 when John Derby Allcroft took Worcester for the Conservatives, overturning a 7.6 per cent Liberal majority.

"Number cruncher politics" considers that a Conservative win in Copeland today would not be a once-in-a-generation event, but a once in a century event. A Conservative win in Stoke would be an off-the-scale event.

This graphic comes from the article:

Well, we shall see. By-elections are notoriously hard to predict, and the impact of Storm Doris makes this one even harder to call. But I think it is going to be very close and Trudy Harrison has an excellent chance of pulling off a truly remarkable victory. I would not write Jack Brereton off either. Every vote will count.


Polls are now open in the Copeland and Stoke by-elections

They opened at 7am and will be open until 10pm today (23rd February 2017)

Quote of the day 23rd February 2017 - BY ELECTION DAY

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Tomorrow (Friday 23rd February 2017) is polling day for the Copeland and Stoke by-elections.

If you are an elector in Copeland then for an effective local champion who will fight for jobs and services including our precious NHS vote for Trudy Harrison the Conservative.

If you are an elector in Stoke Central and want to be represented by someone who is neither a fantasist nor someone who tweets sexist and offensive things about women, vote Jack Brereton.

Polls are open from 7am to 10pm.

Wrap up warmly and try to vote as early as possible because the weather forecast is that Storm Doris will hit and conditions will be horrible.

Heavens only knows what that will do to the turnout ... 

As we finally reach the election: Music to relax after campaigning

As we finally reach the end of an election campaign which has been going on for two months and seems like it has been going on forever, with polling day tomorrow, the only possible choice for my "music to relax after campaigning" slot was "Faith of the heart" which was the theme tune of "Star Trek Enterprise."

One day to go to the Copeland By-election: Trudy Harrison interview

With one day to go to the Copeland By-election here is Conservative candidate Trudy Harison's interview with Andy Barwise of CFM radio.

Quote of the day 22nd February 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major

Combined tidal barrage and bridge plan moves a step closer.

The idea of a combined bridge, tidal barrage and possibly power connection linking Barrow and Millom with Lancashire grow a step closer this week according to the North West Evening Mail.

Ideas along these lines have been supported for some years by local politicians from most political parties (though not, as we learned at the Millom hustings on Sunday, the greens)

The Northern Tidal Power Gateways scheme would use a series of tidal turbines to stretch around Morecambe Bay while giving motorists a long-awaited link between the M6 and Barrow and Millom.

The Northern Tidal Power Gateways project is led by Alan Torevell, chair of Dewhurst Torevell, who said this week:

"It is hoped that before the end of Autumn 2017 there will be sufficient confidence to move into the feasibility phase of the project, where all the necessary planning requirements will need to be met and any remaining environmental concerns alleviated, to enable a start to be made."

In the project's latest stage, engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald has been appointed to analyse how the wider economic benefits of the scheme can be captured and realised.

Initial studies have found that the gateway at Morecambe Bay could produce 6,500GWh of electricity a year - enough to power 1.5 million homes, while the Duddon Estuary gateway, across to Millom, could generate around 100GWh of electricity each year, the equivalent of powering 25,000 homes.

You can read the full NWEM article  here.

Quote of the day 21st February 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

With three days to go Labour trot out the worst election cliche in British politics

With just three days until the Copeland by election, the Labour campaign has followed up their atrocious "babies will die" election material by wheeling out the most over-used cliché in British political debate.

Their candidate has now said that there are "Three days to save the NHS in West Cumbria."

Labour and their allies have used variants of this line at least fifteen times in the last 20 years, and Britain still has an NHS:

Music to relax after campaigning, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.6 first movement

There is More joy in heaven over one sinner that repents ...

Trevor Philips, who when he was 19 was one of those who persuaded the National Union of Students conference to adopt a policy of "No Platform for Racists and Fascists" has now come out in the Sunday Times against the policy here.

By coincidence, here is a current example of the way an equivalent policy has been abused in the United States: a society of Chinese students objected using the language of anti-racism to a visit an speech by a supposedly offensive "oppresser" (sic) -  the Dalai Lama.

This is not so much a case of "generation snowflake" being oversensitive as that of supporters of a highly oppressive regime or movement co-opting the language of social justice to label the victims of that regime or movement as the oppressors and try to silence them.

That tactic has also been employed on this side of the Atlantic, and while the "No Platform" policy exists there will be attempts to abuse it in this way. I welcome the fact that one of the originators of the policy has now disowned it.

Quote of the day 20th February 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday music spot: "Lord let me know mine end" by Greene

Interesting straws in the wind with five days to go

I still think the Copeland by-election is looking too close to call between the Conservatives and Labour.

The Conservative vote is looking pretty solid, and motivated by the possibility of giving Labour in general and Jeremy Corbyn in particular a black eye. In a constituency dominated by the nuclear industry, it is a serious problem for Labour that their leader was passionately anti-nuclear for decades: as one Cleator Moor voter responded to Michael Crick when told that Corbyn had changed his mind about Moorside.

"If he can chance his mind for the by-election he can change it back afterwards."

And it is no good Labour representatives telling us that official party policy is to back Nuclear. To get investors a British government would have to convince them they were serious about backing the project and there is no way that Jeremy Corbyn would be credible.

The one card in Labour's hand is the threat from the success regime to local maternity services but they may have overplayed that hand.

In the months since the "success regime" proposed downgrading the maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) to a midwife-led unit I have not spoken to a single resident of Copeland, whatever their political views, whatever their position with respect to the NHS as patient or employee, who agrees with this proposal.

Local obstetricians do not support it. None of the other local doctors in  West Cumbria support it (though unfortunately some in Carlisle do, and they are the people to whose views, in my humble opinion, the success regime is giving far too much relative weight.) The midwives don't support it. The ambulance service don't support it. Local Tories don't support it. Local Labour party members don't support it. People who don't like any political party don't support it. None of the candidates in the election support it.

And everyone in Copeland, except for those who are so partisan that they would never believe anything good about the supporters of other political parties, knows that everyone else in Copeland is opposed to the success regime maternity proposals.

It would have been entirely legitimate for any party to put out material explaining why they think they are the best placed people to save consultant-led maternity at West Cumberland hospital, though of course the other parties will disagree.

Personally I quite certain that any of the seven candidates would try to persuade the PM and health secretary to try to save Maternity at WCH but also think that the Prime Minister would be more likely to listen to an MP who would become a member of her slender majority than to someone who has spent the last few months misrepresenting her and attacking her.

Putting out material which practically says "Unless you vote Labour babies will die and be brain damaged" which is what Labour have done is downright sick, and it is my impression that some of the Labour leaflets have offended as many people as they have persuaded.

Straws in the wind with five days to polling day

An article in the Independent,

"In nuclear Copeland it's Jeremy Corbyn that's radioactive,"

And one in the Sunday Times here.

Some parts of both articles are a bit over-simplistic and I don't agree with every word of either, but the general picture both present - that the Copeland by-election is looking very close indeed - is right.

Quotes of the day 19th February - understatements of the year to date.

Tony Blair's comments on Brexit were "unhelpful" - Jeremy Corbyn

"I've had a difficult week." - Paul Nuttall

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: J.S. Bach's 'Komm, Jesu, komm'

Quote of the day 18th February 2017

"Some of us have not forgotten that Labour increased outsourcing in the NHS faster than the coalition or the Conservatives. And we had to fight proposals to cut services like maternity when they were running the government too!

Voting Labour to stop privatisation of the NHS is like supporting King Herod for better childcare!"

(Copeland voter, conversation on the doorstep. The comment about the level of outsourcing when Labour's Andy Burnham was health secretary is accurate as the graph below shows)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Could Britain break -up?

Nothing in this world lasts forever.

We tend to think of nation states as though they were immortal because many of them last much longer than the average human lifetimes but there is no reason to imagine that any of the states which exist today are more immortal than the Empires of Alexander, the Mughals, the Aztecs or Incas, the Roman Empire, the Confederate States of America, or the Soviet Union.

A very current and welcome example is that in 2017 there is an excellent chance that DA'ESH will lose their remaining territory and with it their claim to be an Islamic caliphate and a significant proportion of their ability to wreak torture, slavery and murder on innocent human beings, though sadly the threat from Jihadi terrorism will not go away any time soon.

I hope that there will still be a United Kingdom of Great Britain for my grandchildren and my many-times great grandchildren to live in, but I do not deceive myself that such an outcome is inevitable. It would be a very rash British patriot who fails to recognise that, whichever way the EU referendum had gone, the existence of a very large minority within one of the four countries of the United Kingdom who are opposed to the Union would always have been and remains an existential threat to the UK. A threat which democrats can only oppose by persuasion, something which in the present political climate here and around the world is not something to which everyone is open.

The present edition of the Economist has an article "Britain is sliding towards Scoxit" about the possibility that the SNP might succeed at the second attempt to gain independence from the UK.

The subtitle of the article puts another slant on things: it reads

"The decision to leave the EU appears to strengthen the case for Scottish independence. In fact, it weakens it."

The fifteen opinion polls on Scottish Independence since the Brexit vote have all, with the exception of the three polls held a very short time after the 23rd June referendum result, suggested that Scotland would vote not to leave the UK if there were another referendum. But there was a bit of a "wobble" in a February poll following suggestions that Brexit may mean a "hard break."

The argument of those Independence supporters who think that Britain leaving the EU means that Scotland is more likely to vote to leave the EU is based on three principles, one of which is true and the other two are both dubious and apparently contradictory.

They argue

1) The vote to leave is a change in the situation of Scotland within the UK to that which prevailed at the time of the original independence referendum. That is true.

2) That most of those who wanted to leave both the UK and the EU will still vote to leave the UK if the SNP is proposing to leave the UK and rejoin the EU on the basis that leaving the UK is more important to them than being outside the EU.

3) That some of those who previously wanted to stay in both the UK and the EU will switch over to the pro-independence side because staying in the EU is more important to them than staying in the UK.

(Obviously, we can agree that those who voted "Yes" and "Remain" will be overwhelmingly likely to still vote "Yes" and those who voted "No" and "Leave" will be equally likely to still vote "No")

Given that every argument I have heard the SNP produce about the failings of Westminster and Whitehall applies with even greater force to Brussels, I'm not at all convinced that all the Scots who want to "take back control" from both alike will be at all happy about escaping the authority of London only to cede independence to Brussels.

Those of my friends in Scotland who voted both "No" and "Remain" are convinced to a man and woman that voting for Independence now would be following one act of calamitous self-harm with a worse one - as some describe it, like stubbing your toe and responding by amputating your foot.

And it is easy to find objective, evidence-based reasons why they are exactly right.

For a start, Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the UK than it does to the whole of the rest of the EU put together - so even if the eventual terms of Brexit impact on Scottish access to the EU single market, erecting equivalent barriers to the UK market would do four times as much harm to the Scottish economy.

Satisfying hardline nationalists is next to impossible, but it is very important to make every effort to ensure Brexit works for all parts of the UK and to listen to the concerns of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as  well as England.
Those of my friends in Scotland who voted both "No" and "Remain"

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Triple Concerto in A minor

Quote of the day 17th February 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Copeland by-election cardiovascular workout continues

Out today evening delivering magazines in Lowca and Low Moresby for Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison.

As with the Valley area of Whitehaven you might think from the name that would not be too bad, but "Low Moresby" is low only in comparison with Moresby Parks and neither this village nor nearby Lowca is exactly flat!

So up and down a lot of steep slopes tonight.

However, it was undoubtedly exercise. Apologies to the lady who opened the door to put the rubbish out at the exact moment I came to the door delivering and had a shock finding someone on the doorstep.

The Copeland by election cardiovascular workout continues apace ...

Music to relax after campaigning: Haydn's 'Insanae et vanae curae'

Today's music spot to relax after campaigning was chosen because, while the music is beautiful, the words appear particularly appropriate to the scaremongering about the local NHS perpetrated by Labour during the Copeland by-election.

When translated into English the first two lines of the lyrics of this motet could almost have been written to describe how anyone unfortunate to be taken in by the Labour propaganda might feel.

The next two lines, which are very similar in meaning to Mark's Gospel, Chapter 8, verse 36, * might be a reminder to the people responsible for writing and circulating this Labour propaganda, more than one of whom have publicly described themselves as "Christian socialists," about how hollow an achievement it is to seek worldly power, office or status by frightening vulnerable people with scaremongering and deception.

The words of the motet are

Insanae et vanae curae invadunt mentes nostras,
saepe furore replent corda, privata spe.
Quid prodest, O mortalis, conari pro mundanis,
si coelos negligas?
Sunt fausta tibi cuncta, si Deus est pro te.

These are taken from the chorus “Svanisce in un momento” in the Oratorio, “Il ritorno di Tobia” and can be loosely translated as

"Furious and hopeless fears invade our inmost hearts
again and again they fill us with unreasoning terror.

How can it profit you, oh mortal, to seek for earthly status
If you take no thought of Heaven.

Yet all things can go well for you
If God is on your side."

* Mark 8:36 reads 

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

(King James Version)

UK Employment at record high

Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  show that The employment rate edged higher to 74.6%, which was a record high
"Continued moderate growth in employment has led to a new high in the total employment rate, while the rate for women has reached 70% for the first time on record," said ONS senior statistician David Freeman.

The estimated number of people out of work dropped very slightly and ONS said the jobless rate held steady at an 11-year low of 4.8%.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that the UK jobs market had remained resilient, despite warnings it would be hit by the Brexit vote.

"The UK labour market continues to confound the doom-mongers with its resilience to the Brexit shock," he added.

ONS figures also showed that real wages continue to rise, with average wages up at an annualised rate of 2.6% in the three months to December 2016 which is higher than either the 1.6% increase in prices over the year to that month or the the most recent figure for inflation, the 1.8% in the year to January.

Separately, an ONS "flash" estimate indicated that UK productivity grew for a fourth successive quarter in the fourth quarter of 2016: it reported that output per hour worked rose 0.3% quarter-on-quarter.

Copeland by-election - one week to go

The Copeland by-election is one week today, Thursday 23rd February. Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm. You do not need your polling card to vote.

An excellent explanation of when PFI does and does not work

I have just seen a superb explanation of why PFI was a good idea for the purposes for which the Conservatives introduced it, such as toll bridges, but Labour were mad to use it to pay for hospitals.

This was posted by "Armchair Critic" on the Copeland By-election thread of the Vote UK Forum


One of the candidates in the Copeland by-election has been describing the use of PFI to fund hospitals as "Buy one hospital, pay for six."

I don't agree with much else she says but on that point my only issue is whether the number should be higher than six. The £20 million a year we are still paying for the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle is a major reason why our local NHS trusts are short of money.

Anyway, here is "Armchair Critic" on PFI:

"PFI was a concept invented by the Conservatives in 1986 with the Dartford Crossing Act.

The Dartford Tunnel was built in 1963, was loaded with debt and was in need of complete refurbishment and a new crossing building to increase capacity to cope with the building of the M25.

Thatcher ... for it was she ... handed over the tunnels to Trafalgar House, who had to build a new bridge, refurbish the existing tunnels, pay off the debts and hand the tunnels back to the Dept of Transport with a 100 million pound maintenance fund

In return for doing this Trafalgar House could keep all of the tolls they collected for a maximum period of, I think it was about 18 years, or until they had recovered their costs with an agreed profit, whichever was the sooner.

Trafalgar House did all of the work as instructed and handed back the tunnels to the DoT, with the maintenance fund, in about 15 years and 3 months.

At this point the tolls were supposed to be removed. That was the agreement. Unfortunately we had a Labour government in office and they decided to keep the tolls in place.

The Dartford Crossing was an excellent example of how PFI can and should work.

Unfortunately, the Labour government just saw it as a way of spending money off balance sheet and never really understood how to do it. That is why my local hospital is signed up to an absurd 35 year PFI arrangement, where the hospital pays 80 quid to have a poster put up, while the stupid little **** that claims to have organised the deal, Mary Creagh, now denies having had anything to do with it.

I knocked on a door in about 2009 for Alex Story. They guy who answered was a PFI consultant of some sort. I asked him if he would vote for us. He said that normally he would, but he wasn't going to because if he did he knew that the PFI deals he signed up would become much more difficult because the Tories wouldn't sign them with gay abandon, like Labour did. Whether that is true I have no idea.

You can't fund stuff like hospitals with PFI in my view. Whatever you build must be revenue generating to work properly. So...hospitals, no.....hospital multi-storey car park, yes. Anything else simply defeats the whole object as the government can borrow money cheaper than the PFI contractor."

Read more: http://vote-2012.proboards.com/thread/9029/copeland?page=60#ixzz4YrI7UM2k

Quote of the day 16th February 2017

On a visit to Captain Shaw's school in Bootle, which was saved following a local campaign in which Trudy Harrison, Conservative candidate in the by-election on 23rd February played a leading role, the PM talked about the local NHS and the proposed Moorside nuclear development, to which she said the Conservatives are committed.
She had this to say about Trudy Harrison's support for local health services in Cumbria:
"Trudy Harrison does indeed know the importance of these services. She is opposed to the downgrading of these services.

What is important is that Trudy Harrison is a candidate who has made clear her views not just to me but to health ministers, but she is also somebody who has a track record of delivering for local people.

She would be the strongest voice for Copeland if elected on 23rd February.

There is an issue about recruitment and retention of doctors.

Trudy has come up with a very sensible idea that there should be a professionally-led review into this issue of recruitment and retention and that is something the health minister is looking at.

There has been a lot of scaremongering about hospital services in the NHS here by the Labour Party.

There is no truth in the suggestion that A&E at West Cumberland Hospital is about to close.

They have been misleading in their representation of what I have said about maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: Telemann Concerto for 4 violins

Trudy Harrison writes ...

Trudy Harrison, the excellent local Conservative candidate in the Copeland by-election, writes:

Nothing is more important than making a success of Brexit. It’s what we in Copeland overwhelmingly voted for at the referendum.
With the spotlight on Copeland, this is our chance to send a message that the result of the referendum must be respected.
Only by voting Conservative can you send a message that the result of the referendum must be respected. Labour want to ignore and forget what Cumbria voted for at the referendum.
Labour have been running things in Copeland since before I was born, and with very little to show for it. They’ve ignored and forgotten us on jobs, particularly the nuclear industry. They’ve ignored and forgotten us on investment and transport. And now they’re determined to ignore and forget us on Brexit too.
My plan to make Cumbria’s voice heard: backing the Prime Minister’s plan to make a success of Brexit and protecting local jobs and industry ensure our whole local economy benefits from Moorside plans. It will make the most of Moorside to secure and improve local services like the NHS, skills training, apprenticeships for young people, broadband, flood prevention, better infrastructure and public transport.

So no matter how you’ve voted in the past, if you back the Prime Minister’s plan to make a success of Brexit and don’t want Copeland’s referendum vote to be ignored and forgotten by Labour, vote for me and my plan by completing and returning your postal vote today.
Thank you for your support.

Trudy Harrison
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Copeland
PS. Don't forget to follow me on Facebook to keep up with my campaign. 


Promoted by Neville Lishman on behalf of Trudy Harrison, both of Egremont Conservative Club, Ehen Court Road, Egremont CA22 2DX

Quote of the day 15th February 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Postal Votes arrive

Our postal votes for the Copeland By Election arrived today.

I will of course be using mine to vote for the excellent local Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison.

Trudy is the candidate with the best plan to bring jobs and prosperity to West Cumbria and defend all local services.

Trudy was born at the West Cumberland Hospital, as were her four daughters. She had to make the journey to WCH from Bootle while in Labour, so understands only too well what a long journey to the hospital to give birth is like and that having to go to Carlisle would be even worse.

That's why Trudy is totally opposed to the success regime proposals to remove consultant-led maternity from West Cumberland Hospital and I believe she would be the best placed of all the candidates to convince the government to stop this dreadful idea.

Guido Fawkes caption competition winner

Guido Fawkes frequently does caption competitions and the winner of his most recent one, from a poster with the handle "bannedbyTelegraph," was a cracker:

"Clowns accuse Labour leadership of giving them a bad name"

Music to relax after campaigning: Andy Williams, Theme from Love Story

Valentine's Day edition of the "Music to relax after campaigning" series

Quote of the day for St Valentine's Day, 14th February 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Copeland By-Election Hustings

Congratulations to Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison on a great performance at the Copeland by-election hustings at the United Reformed Church in the Market Place at Whitehaven this evening.

Thanks to the Whitehaven News for posting this recording of the event on their Facebook Page:

IS, "Islamic State" or DA'ESH?

Periodically there is an argument about what to call the terrorist organisation headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, hence this revisit of an issue I first blogged about just over a year ago.

Like myself, Iain Dale always calls them DA'ESH and he gives a good and simple reason for doing so here.

In my opinion a useful starting point in deciding what to call the present-day gang of murderers headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is to consider what we call the mid 20th-century gang of murderers headed by Adolf Hitler. I never lightly refer to anyone by comparison with Hitler, but DA'ESH are one of the few groups of people evil enough that the comparison is appropriate.

If you have occasion to refer to the political party headed by Hitler, or to its' supporters, do you call them

1) By their official name translated into English
 (National Socialist German Workers Party)?

2) By their official name in German?
(Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

3) By the acronym of their party's full name in German?  (NSDAP)

4) Or are you one of the 99% of people who refer to them collectively the Nazi party and individually as Nazis ?

Nazi is a short, simple acronym derived from the name they claimed for themselves and which has the added advantage for English speakers who regard them as utterly evil that it sounds like "nasty."

On the basis of logical consistency, if you call the Nazi party by that term rather than the full name they gave themselves, then you should refer to the so-called "Islamic State" as "DA'ESH" which is a name widely used by their enemies in the Arab world and more recently some Western politicians and journalists (I've been calling them that for about 18 months.)

Although the self-styled "Islamic state" do not like being referred to by the term, DA'ESH is an abbreviation of the Arabic for what was, at the time the term was coined, the name they gave themselves:

"al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham"

(which means "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant")

So effectively calling them "DA'ESH" is the Arabic equivalent of the abbreviation "ISIL."

Why, then, such a fuss over such a tiny difference?

It would appear that the reason they do not like being called "DA'ESH" is that it sounds similar to the Arabic words 'Daes', which means 'one who crushes something underfoot' and 'Dahes', translated as 'one who sows discord'.

As Iain Dale said in the clip linked to above, the fact that DA'ESH do not like being called this is quite enough reason to do so.

Incidentally, I am not criticising those who refer to DA'ESH as "Islamic State" but insist on the  inverted commas or "so-called." And insisting on the qualification does not necessarily mean that you are suggesting they have nothing to do with Islam.

I would argue that DA'ESH are following a sick and perverted form of that religion, but there are plenty of other Muslims who are civilised, decent and intelligent people.

However, DA'ESH claim the right to determine who is a true Muslim, and they consider that any Muslim who votes or stands in elections, thinks women have rights and are as valuable as men, doesn't believe in throwing gay people off the nearest tall building, or offends DA'ESH in any other way is an apostate marked for death.

As someone who is not a Muslim I do not claim the right to judge who is and who isn't one.

However, as a civilised human being I refuse to acknowledge a barbarian like Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as having the exclusive authority to speak for Allah which he claims, or accept that he has any right  to tell other people who are far better human beings than he is whether they are Muslims or not.

Most people know who you are talking or writing about when you refer to "DA'ESH" and I will continue to do so.

Quote of the day 13th February 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Tonight's Keswick hustings

I thought Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison gave an excellent performance at tonight's hustings in St John's Church, Keswick.

If you are thinking to yourself that I would say that, wouldn't I, the event was captured by the Cumbria Newspaper group on video and you can watch it for yourself and make you own mind up at


Sunday music spot: Hallelujah Chorus

I am keeping my fingers crossed that I may have cause to post this again in just over eleven days' time ...

Copeland by election hustings

The candidates in the Copeland By Election had a debate on the NE & Cumbria Sunday politics show which was recorded at the Beacon on Wednesday and broadcast at 11.30 today.

There will be two hustings sessions over the next two days to which all the candidates have been invited.

The first is at St John's Church, Keswick at 7pm this evening and the second is at the United Reformed Church, in Whitehaven's Market Place at 7.30pm tomorrow (Monday 13th February)

Superb Article by Dan Hodges on the PM's negotiating position on Brexit

Theresa May is determined to implement the public's decision on Brexit and to get the best deal she can for the UK while doing so.
But she is not, and never has been, one of those on either side who takes a rigid ideological line on the issue.
There is an excellent article in the Mail by Dan Hodges on the subject. Here are some extracts:
"There was no triumphalism in No.10. Instead, the events of last week are being seen as a victory born of necessity, rather than ideology.
"May is perplexed at suddenly finding herself the darling of Eurosceptics. Speaking to her inner circle before a meeting with leading Tory rebels, she remarked: ‘I don’t understand it. I voted Remain. Why do they think I’ve suddenly become some crazed Brexiteer?’
"Those who have become fixated by her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mantra, forget that Brexit did not always mean Brexit to May. 
Indeed, her ambiguity on the matter prior to the referendum infuriated David Cameron, who told his staff he believed she was working the political angles on the issue to position herself for a future leadership challenge.
Of course, if that was her strategy, it succeeded spectacularly. But the reality is more complicated. May was advised by one of her chief strategists, Nick Timothy, to back Brexit for precisely the reasons outlined by Cameron. But following a long heart-to-heart with her husband Philip, she adopted a more pragmatic approach. The economic dangers, the potential impact on national security co-operation, and the practical difficulties of constructing ‘fortress Britain’ on immigration persuaded her to stick with the Government’s line.
It is that same pragmatism that will guide her approach to Brexit in the coming months – and that last week found her expressing exasperation at the fundamentalists from the Leave and Remain camps.
May privately supported a number of the principles set out in the rebel amendments. But she believed it would be disastrous for her negotiating strategy if she was seen by fellow European leaders to have suffered a series of embarrassing defeats on the issue.
‘If they think the House of Commons is driving the negotiating position, then Europe will just ignore her,’ an ally explained. ‘Her position throughout all this has been: “I can’t be seen to be negotiating with one hand tied behind my back.”’
To many observers, the bottom line for those negotiations was drawn last month when the Prime Minister set out her 12-point plan for Britain’s departure, including an end to free movement, membership of the Single Market and membership of the customs union.
But May retains greater flexibility than is popularly perceived. Yes, if Europe proves intransigent then she is perfectly prepared to walk away from the table, but that is not her preferred option. She has no desire to see a reversion to World Trade Organisation tariffs, for example, or to leave British business operating in a trade vacuum. ‘I’m not going to just jump off a cliff,’ she has told friends.
For opponents of Brexit, May’s announcement that she would trigger Article 50 by March at the latest was further evidence of intoxication through exposure to Eurosceptic Tories. But her primary concern is not of Brexit proceeding too precipitously, but at a pace that is too sluggish for the British people.
‘Her view is that the public wants us to just get on with this now,’ says a No. 10 insider. ‘But she’s also aware that negotiations are going to take around two years. The danger as she sees it, is that we come back and say, “Here’s the dealand people say, “What, you mean you haven’t finished this thing yet?”’
To May’s critics, this will all fall on deaf ears. 
For them the mask has finally dropped, and a true blue-in-tooth-and-claw Europhobe stands before them. They point to her attempt to block Parliament from voting on Article 50, and the protracted – if doomed – effort to contest the Gina Miller court case.

Maybe. But following the events of the past week, Remainers of all political persuasions need to do less finger-pointing, and a bit more soul-searching.
Regardless of the constitutional niceties, the decision to force a Commons vote on Article 50 has proved to be a catastrophic own goal by Brexit’s opponents.
The Leavers have been vindicated. The Labour Party – home to the bulk of the Brexit opposition – is in total disarray. Tory Remainers have been marginalised. There is now a clear parliamentary mandate for an expedient departure from the EU, one the Lords dare not challenge.
It is the Remainers, not the Leavers, who appear to have been attempting to defy the democratic will of the people. And crucially, May has been backed so far into a corner, she has been given no option but to make common cause with Brexit’s true believers.
She now needs to be freed from that corner. When the Prime Minister says: ‘I’m not a crazed Brexiteer’, she is telling the truth. Behind the negotiating stance she does not crave a hard Brexit, so much as a fair Brexit.
When she said in her New Year message that she would seek the ‘right deal, not just for those who voted to leave, but for every single person in this country’, she meant it. And she now needs to be given the space to deliver it.
Those who opposed Brexit have had their moment. They have had their day in court, and they have had their day in Parliament. They have tried – and failed – to save the country from a hard Brexit.
Now they need to step back and leave it to the only person who can. Theresa May.

You can read the whole article at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4216118/DAN-HODGES-Theresa-s-way.html#ixzz4YUecHCdG

Quote of the day 12th February 2017

As today is the anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln: