Friday, March 31, 2017

A traffic milestone

Yesterday this blog passed three-quarters of a million page views since the traffic monitors went up eight years ago.

Thanks to all those who visited in that time, I hope you found it interesting.

What will the 27 EU nations want in the Brexit talks

There is a very interesting roundup of the possible negotiating positions of the other 27 EU members during the forthcoming Brexit talks at the Politico's site at

Well worth a read, especially by Brexiteer fantasists under the illusion that the talks will be easy or, indeed, by any Remoaner pessimists under the impression that everyone else will be out to get Britain.

Quote of the day 31st March 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday music spot: Couperin's Les Barricades Mystérieuses

Swimathon 2017

On Sunday week, 9th April 2017, my son and I will be taking part in the Swimathon in aid of Marie Curie's work for people with Terminal Illness.

I first took part in the Swimathon twenty-three years before in 1994 so this will be the 24th consecutive year I have swum the 5,000 metre challenge. My fifteen-year old son John is joining me and taking part in the Swimathon for the fourth time: he will be swimming the 2,500 metre challenge.
The Swimathon is Britain’s largest charity swim, and gives people of very varied swimming abilities an opportunity to raise money for charity by swimming distances of up to 5,000 metres.  The 2017 Swimathon event is in aid of Marie Curie, who look after thousands of  terminally ill people.
A big thank you to those who have already sponsored either me, or my son John, in previous years or who have already sponsored us for this year. It is possible to sponsor swimmers online: If you would be kind enough to sponsor me, and would like to use the online facility, you can do so via my giving page at  JustGiving which is available here.

My son's giving page is available at

If you try to follow either of these links and they do not work please drop me a line or leave a comment below.

Quote of the day 30th March 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The PM writes on the Plan for Britain

The Prime Minister writes: Let’s make a success of Brexit.

Let’s make a success of Brexit


Today we formally begin the process of leaving the European Union. This is a moment for our country to come together and to forge a new partnership with Europe and with the rest of the world.

Pledge your support for our Plan for Britain today.
When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the whole United Kingdom – young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country and all the villages and hamlets in between. And yes, those EU nationals who have made this country their home.
It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country.
For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together.
We all want to see a Britain that is stronger than it is today. We all want a country that is fairer so that everyone has the chance to succeed. We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. We all want to live in a truly Global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world.
These are the ambitions of this Government’s Plan for Britain. Ambitions that unite us, so that we are no longer defined by the vote we cast, but by our determination to make a success of the result.
We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future.

And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together.
Thank you.         

Theresa MayPrime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party

 Don't Just Back Us Join Us 

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

Theresa May's interview with Andrew Neil on Brexit

Prime Minister's letter to Donald Tusk triggering Article 50

Theresa May's letter to European Council president Donald Tusk triggering Article 50 and thereby beginning the process of British withdrawal from the EU can be read in full on the government website here.

Nigel Farage says he will emigrate "if Brexit is a disaster."

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said on his LBC radio show that

"If Brexit is a disaster, I will go and live abroad. I will go and live somewhere else."

Gosh, thanks. Nigel. I'm sure that if it all does goes wrong those who can't afford to leave or would rather stick with this country through thick and thin, and who will have to live through the mess you will have helped create, will be delighted to know you've gone swanning off to escape the consequences.

I don't think Brexit is going to be a disaster, but I am seriously unimpressed with the man.

If the South Thanet by election is rerun and Mr Farage stands again I suspect that quote might be played back at him.

Friday music spot: The Bach Magnificat

Article 50 day

The news today is wall-to-wall Article 50 as the letter formally giving notice that Britain is triggering the process of withdrawal from the EU will be handed to Donald Tusk at about the time this post is scheduled to appear - 12.30pm BST on Wednesday 29th March 2017.

One lot of people are going mad about how wonderful this is, another lot are sunk in apocalyptic despair. Most of us just recognise that it is an important change and want the government to get on with negotiating the best deal they can.

I suspect the deal we end up with will be a lot less extreme than the more hardline Brexiteers are hoping of the more hardline Remoaners fear. The government fought to leave their negotiating position as open as possible during the debates on the Article 50 bill precisely so that they could have more room for flexibility within the negotiations.

Those negotiations will be difficult. I hope that Theresa May can get a good deal. But she will not get everything she asks for - as Philip Hammond rightly said this morning, there will have to be give and take on both sides.

I hope that neither side ends up walking away from the negotiations. But it is in the interests of each side that the other believes they might. If the other 27 EU countries believe there is no deal so bad that it would make Britain walk away, then we will probably get an awful deal.

At least now the "phoney war" is over and the real negotiations can start.

Quote of the day 29th March 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Of sexism and absurd priorities

There were two news stories today which women - and men who want women to be treated fairly and decently - could reasonably be annoyed about.

But one was very much more serious than the other

What baffles me is that the former seemed to get vastly more attention in the broadcast media.

Issue 1)

A cricketer - apparently a fit, strong man aged 34 - was convicted of hitting his wife with a cricket bat and subjected her to other types of serious physical abuse such as pouriug bleach down her throat.

However, despite admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm against his former partner, cricketer Mustafa Bashir was spared a custodial sentence because the judge was not convinced she was "a vulnerable person."

The judge said he did not believe the 33-year-old receptionist was vulnerable because she was “an intelligent woman with a network of friends” and had a university degree.

Sentencing Mr Bashir to an 18-month jail term suspended for two years, Judge Mansell ordered him to attend a workshop entitled 'building better relationships', pay £1,000 costs and said he was banned from contacting his former wife indefinitely under the terms of a restraining order.

Issue 2)

Following the meeting yesterday between the Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland, The Daily Mail front page showed a picture of the most powerful politicians in Britain and Scotland respectively which drew attention to their legs and had the headline

"Never mind Brexit, who won legs-it."

I suspect that most reasonable people will be concerned both about the Mail's decision to run that photo and headline and with the decision of Judge Mansell not to send a violent thug to jail.

But for heaven's sake, which is the important issue here?

One story is about a newspaper which nobody is compelled to but which chose to damage it's credibility by trivialising through childish and sexist reporting an important meeting between two people who are and will remain highly powerful individuals and both of whom are far too strong to suffer any significant negative effects from a stupid front page.

The other is the story of a woman who suffered at least two serious violent assaults and whose attacker appears, on the basis of news reports such as this one, to have received a worryingly lenient sentence on highly questionable grounds.

I try to avoid making a habit of questioning the decisions of judges and juries who have heard an entire case when I have only seen news reports, but there are occasions when a reasonable person can say "this appears so off-the-wall that someone else needs to have another look at it" and if the case Mustafa Bashir isn't an example of that situation it is very hard to know what would be.

I hope the Law Officers call this one in and appeal against the leniency of the sentence.

And, quite frankly, the fact that a stupid front page on the Daily Mail appeared to be getting three or four times as much coverage in the rest of the media as the Mustafa Bashir sentence did,  does lead one to ask if those media outlets have their priorities right?

Message from the Party Chairman: The Plan for Britain

The Conservative Party Chairman writes:

The Prime Minister has announced Our Plan for Britain:
  1. A Global Britain that is outward looking
  2. A stronger economy where everyone plays by the same rules
  3. A fairer society where success is based on merit, not privilege
  4. A united nation that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home
There are big elections on 4th May and together we can deliver a strong result right across the country.

Our Plan for Britain will deliver a country that is stronger, fairer, more united and more outward looking than ever before. It’s a plan to get the right deal for Britain abroad and a better deal for ordinary working people at home, but we need your help.
Labour are better funded than they have been for a long time, relying on union money and the support of the hard-left campaign group Momentum. We rely on hardworking people like you, so please donate today to help
us win and deliver Our Plan for Britain.

Donate £35 today and we will send you a limited edition 'plan for Britain' mug and tea towel as thanks
Donate £25 today and we will send you a limited edition 'plan for Britain' mug as thanks
Donate £15 today and we will send you a limited edition 'plan for Britain' tea towel as thanks


Patrick McLoughlin 
Chairman of the Conservative Party
PS: we only have limited stocks of every item - donate now and don't miss out

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

Quote of the day 28th March 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Music spot: "In the Navy" (Down Periscope credits version)

One of the funniest ever nautical films, "Down Periscope" starring Kelsey Grammer, enlisted the Village people for the end credits of the film to join the cast of the film in spoofing their own official music video fot the song "In the Navy." Here it is.

Down periscope - In the Navy from VictoriaDoran on Vimeo.

Timeline of the Dalek invasion of London

Thanks to J K Rowling and Andrew Lilico for retweeting this amusing timeline from @Excelpope

Quote of the day 27th March 2017

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Has Britain become a "democratic one-party state" for a decade or so?

Alistair Meeks has posted today at "Political Betting" about "Politics in a democratic one party state."

His argument appears to be  that because the SNP has no interest or ability to appeal outside Scotland, the Lib/Dems were smashed down so heavily in 2015 that they will take a while to get back into serious contention for power, UKIP are bereft of a purpose for existence having achieved their main objective and too divided and disorganised to be a major threat to the Conservatives, and Labour seems to have abdicated any serious wish to appeal to the centre ground, we have entered a period of politics in which only the Conservatives matter.

It's an interesting argument but I think it is not so much wrong as seriously overstated.

Unless Labour manage a significant change of course which would have to include both new leadership and a much greater wish to appeal to a wider range of voters, they are in serious danger of  a very heavy defeat at the next election, one which would make it difficult for them to get back into power before 2030.

But if Labour are that useless, the voters are going to start looking for a new alternative government.

UKIP had a window to position themselves as that alternative. If they had avoided their repeated rounds of damaging infighting, if the likes of Farage and Banks had not persisted of reminding the majority of the electorate - including many people who voted Leave in spite of UKIP, not because of them, and above all, if they had fought the Stoke Central by-election with a modest degree of competence, in which case they might well have won it or got close, they might well have built the momentum to form part of a pincer movement on Labour support, - the other pincer being the Lib/Dems - which could have posed an existential threat to Labour.

My gut instinct is that they've blown it and UKIP's window has been missed.

The Lib/Dems, on the other hand, have positioned themselves as the party of Remain. That's a good position for a gradual build up of support in most circumstances, and would give them a chance of a really major comeback if Brexit goes terribly wrong.

If the Lib/Dems can make some advance in council elections between now and the next general election and then gain seats at that election, probably mostly at Labour's expense, and Labour continues to be in a mess, I can see the Lib/Dems taking over from Labour as the main opposition to the Conservatives. The electorate will not tolerate a situation where they have only one realistic choice of government for decades.

And the Conservatives cannot afford to be complacent or assume that there will be no serious opposition challenge. There is nothing more debilitating to a party or to a government than complacency, and the last time the Conservatives appeared set to be in government for decades it all went horribly wrong and ended in 1997 with one of the worst defeats in the party's history.

As Harold MacMillan once said, there is always the risk of "events, dear boy, events" and it is a dangerous world. Sooner or later there will be another world recession and whoever is then in government will get some of the blame for it. There is also the far from trivial possibility that Britain's exit from the EU may be perceived to have gone badly - and if this happens you can bet your life that even leave voters will blame the party in power and not themselves.

So although the opposition may seem like a disaster area - forget the "seem like," the opposition IS a disaster area - the Conservatives will not get a decade and a half of power without earning it. Few things in this world are as transitory as an apparently impregnable political position.

Sunday music spot: Albinoni - 12 Concertos, Op.9

I usually don't post a music spot of this length but this collection of Albinoni concertos was too delightful to ignore.

Quote of the day 26th March 2017 (Mother's Day)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Best Spoof posts of the month

1) Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept results of England vs Scotland six nations rugby match

2) Farage says Carswell has never really let the hate flow through him

3) Trolls defy terrorists and carry on posting rubbish as normal

4) Theresa May drafts her Dear Jean (Claude Juncker) letter

5) Nicola Sturgeon announces plan to rebuild Hadrian's wall and adds that England will pay for it

Don't forget we lose an hour tonight !!!

Clocks go forward an hour tonight in the UK as we switch from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time.

One second after 1:00:00 am GMT on Sunday 26th March the time will be 2:00:01 am BST.

So we get one fewer hour's sleep.

Especially don't forget if you are going to Church tomorrow as walking into the Mothering Sunday service an hour after it starts would be particularly embarrassing.

Most people manage to forget the time change at some stage in their lives and most people only do it once. I'm just glad I managed to do it in the Autumn rather than the Spring and so nobody was there to see me turn up for church an hour early. That was more than thirty years ago when I was a student and I've never made the mistake again ...

Saturday music spot: Corelli's Concerto Grosso Opus 6, 4th movement (Allegro)

On "Submarine" May's style of government

Theresa May has a very different political style from any of her recent predecessors.

This could be a strength or a weakness in different circumstances, but I personally think Britain lucked out in that, after the 23rd June 2016 referendum landed the country with an immensely challenging negotiation, we managed to end up with a PM who is known for being meticulously careful and pays attention to detail.

I also thought that her speeches after this week's tragic terrorist attack showed a great deal of strength.

There is an interesting analysis of her style of governing and crisis management on the Politicos site at

Quote of the day 25th March 2017

"It's not just on stilts, it's on telegraph poles."

John Rentoul of the Independent responds to the suggestion that the idea of Emily Thornberry standing for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour party was "nonsense on stilts."

(The original tweet from Emma Burnell had pointed out that having the Labour leader and deputy leader both from Islington wasn't a good idea. John Rentoul pointed out that Emily Thornberry would also need nominating signatures from 50 Labour MPs or MEPs to challenge sitting deputy leader Tom Watson and "she hasn't got them.")

Friday, March 24, 2017

Allie Renison on the need to leave Referendum divisions behind

Rather too many of the comments I have read about Brexit since the vote to leave the EU on 23rd June last year have ranged from Panglossian optimism from "leave" supporters or die-in-the-ditch pessimism from "Remainers" to completely barking off-the-wall insanity from both extremes such as Hezza's suggestion that leaving the EU is like handing the Germans retrospective victory in World War II.

(Can both sides PLEASE give the WWII and Hitler references a rest?)

Too many on both sides are still fighting the battles of the referendum campaign instead of moving on.

There is a very good article on Conservative Home by Allie Renison, who is Head of Europe and Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors which suggests how we can move on from this and concentrate on getting the best deal for Britain. Here are a couple of extracts,

"We throw around these labels, “Remoaner”, “Brexit fanatic”, with alarming alacrity, not realising how painful divisions are being cemented more deeply with every passing day. For Remainers, the cavalier attitude with which some Leavers appear to treat negotiations which warrant a more serious approach hardens their certainty about impending disaster. There are opportunities which await the UK out of the EU, but the challenges are more immediate and must be acknowledged and tackled to take full undiminished advantage of those dividends.

Conversely, many on the Remain side seem determined to wallow in the sheer complexity of it all, more interested in proving that the EU will smite the UK, than advancing arguments for cooperation with their European friends. It is imperative that we meet each other half way. We must stop letting mediums get in the way of this message about forging a cooperative and positive approach. Dismissing the arguments of others because of who they are, how they voted, or what we think they think won’t help. This is not a time for smugness and satisfaction, on all sides. It’s a time to muck in and start doing the legwork to come up with solutions to problems.

We are doomed to being in a perpetual state of rerunning the referendum battle if we don’t start talking to each other honestly, openly and seriously about the future. And calmly. Many of the meetings on Brexit I have been to, or spoken at, are echo chambers, full of visceral disdain and downright loathing for those who advocated a different position to them. I try my hardest to approach every discussion with an open mind, given Brexit is putting the UK and the EU into unchartered waters where there is no real precedent. To find the grey in a continuing sea of insistent black and white. This is not a time for being sure of anything, good or bad.

In some ways, the referendum itself feels a distant memory, so quickly have I shifted to focusing on how I can help make this work. This is perhaps a reflection of my dealings with businesses every day, those who can’t afford to stop and wallow. I realise that for many people, the shock is still real, as too is the sadness. Instead of poking fun at these “Remoaners”, Leavers would do well to try and show they understand that, even if the sentiment is in no way shared. But they don’t call Britain a “carry on” culture for nothing.

As Winston Churchill put it,

'If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future'”.

You can read the full article here.

Contacting Emergency Services when you cannot speak

There are a number of circumstances when someone may need to call emergency services but not be able to speak.

The example which was  publicised in a Metro article this week was the situation where a caller is being held hostage by someone who does not realise that they have access to a telephone, of if the caller does not want to give away his or her location to a terrorist or other criminal.

It is also possible, however, that you might have had a fall, accident or attack of illness which rendered you unable to speak - an injury to the throat can do this, or if you are choking - but not unable to push the buttons on a phone.

If that is your situation, there is a means of letting the operator know that it is a genuine emergency call and not just a case of a mobile phone in someone's pocket being pressed by random movement and causing an accidental call to be made.

When you call 999, an operator asks which emergency service you require before rerouting the call to the police, ambulance service or fire brigade.

If a 999 caller doesn’t talk, the operator will ask them to cough or make another audible sound.

If you physically cannot make a noise or if it is not safe to do so – for example, if it could alert a potential attacker to your exact whereabouts - there’s a simple way of signalling that it’s a genuine emergency and you haven’t just accidentally pocket-dialled.

You simply dial 55.

The procedure is called Silent Solutions and it was created so people in an emergency can call the police in dangerous situations.

After you dial 999 and you’ve been unable to audibly signal to the operator, your call will be forwarded to an operating system. If you’re in danger, dial 55 otherwise the call will be terminated.

The ‘55’ Silent Solution protocol has been in place for over a decade, although police have recently issued a reminder as not many people know about the protocol.

A police spokesman told Metro:

‘Please do not think that just because you dial 999 that police will attend.

‘We totally understand that sometimes people are unable or too afraid to talk, however it must be clear that we will not routinely attend a silent 999 call.

‘There must be some indication that the call has not been misdialled.’

You Will Never Defeat Us: Andrew Neil's message to "Jihadi Johnnies"

Andrew Neil opened "This week" with a tribute to PC Keith Palmer and a message to Islamist wannabee terrorists: "You will never defeat us" because for every terrorist there are thousands of heroes like Keith Palmer.

Nominations open for County Council elections

Nominations have now opened for the Cumbria County Council elections (and for elections to other county councils and for Directly Elected Mayors for the West Midlands and Manchester.)

Nominations are open from 10am today (Friday 24th March 2017) to 4pm on Tuesday 4th April.

The election will be on Thursday 4th May and polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.

Quote of the day 24th March 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Full statements by PM Theresa May, Speaker and party leaders

This clip shows the full session in which the Speaker, the PM, and the leaders of other parties spoke in the House of Commons in response to yesterday's terrorist attack. All of them paid tribute to the late PC Keith Palmer and all those police officers and the men and women of the emergency services who work to defend us all.


Extracts from Prime Minister Theresa May's speech to the House of Commons today. The full text is available on the government website here.

"Mr Speaker, yesterday an act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy.

But today we meet as normal – as generations have done before us, and as future generations will continue to do – to deliver a simple message: we are not afraid. And our resolve will never waiver in the face of terrorism.

And we meet here, in the oldest of all Parliaments, because we know that democracy, and the values it entails, will always prevail.

Those values – free speech, liberty, human rights and the rule of law – are embodied here in this place, but they are shared by free people around the world.

A terrorist came to the place where people of all nationalities and cultures gather to celebrate what it means to be free. And he took out his rage indiscriminately against innocent men, women and children.

Mr Speaker, this was an attack on free people everywhere – and on behalf of the British people, I would like to thank our friends and allies around the world who have made it clear that they stand with us at this time.

What happened on the streets of Westminster yesterday afternoon sickened us all."

"Tragically, as the House will know, 48-year-old PC Keith Palmer, was killed.

PC Palmer had devoted his life to the service of his country. He had been a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command for 15 years, and a soldier in the Royal Artillery before that.

He was a husband and a father, killed doing a job he loved.

He was every inch a hero. And his actions will never be forgotten.

I know the whole House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to his family – and to the families and friends of all those who have been killed or injured in yesterday’s awful attacks.

I know also that the House will wish to thank all those who acted with such speed and professionalism yesterday to secure this place and ensure we are able to meet as we are doing today."

Mr Speaker, yesterday we saw the worst of humanity, but we will remember the best.

We will remember the extraordinary efforts to save the life of PC Keith Palmer, including those by my Rt Hon Friend the Member for Bournemouth East.

And we will remember the exceptional bravery of our police, security and emergency services who once again ran towards the danger even as they encouraged others to move the other way.

On behalf of the whole country I want to pay tribute to them for the work they have been doing to reassure the public, treat the injured and bring security back to the streets of our capital city.

That they have lost one of their own in yesterday’s attack only makes their calmness and professionalism all the more remarkable."

"Mr Speaker, a lot has been said since terror struck London yesterday. Much more will be said in the coming days.

But the greatest response lies not in the words of politicians, but in the everyday actions of ordinary people.

For beyond these walls today – in scenes repeated in towns and cities across the country – millions of people are going about their days and getting on with their lives.

The streets are as busy as ever.

The offices full. The coffee shops and cafes bustling.

As I speak millions will be boarding trains and aeroplanes to travel to London, and to see for
themselves the greatest city on Earth.

It is in these actions – millions of acts of normality – that we find the best response to terrorism.

A response that denies our enemies their victory. That refuses to let them win. That shows we will never give in.

A response driven by that same spirit that drove a husband and father to put himself between us and our attacker, and to pay the ultimate price.

A response that says to the men and women who propagate this hate and evil: you will not defeat us.

Mr Speaker, let this be the message from this House and this nation today: our values will prevail."

When a "Spoof" site says no more than the truth

Sometimes the truth is so absurd that Spoof websites find it difficult to parody. Sometimes the opposite happens.

Today one of the clearest statements of things not being absurd came from "The Daily Mash" a spoof site who publish parodies of news stories designed to amuse, who today wrote

"London in grip of normality."

"LONDON is today in the grip of normality, with millions having their breakfast then going to work.
As the sun rose on a slightly chilly but otherwise pleasant spring day, residents of the metropolis faced up to doing the things that they would ordinarily do.
Librarian Susan Traherne said: “I’m going to have a bowl of Jordan’s Country Crisp with the dried strawberry bits in it and a cup of tea, and then get on the busy tube train to my work.
“I might read a few pages of my book on the way, if I can be arsed.
“As ever it will be a long and tiring day, and the city can be frustrating but it’s really not too bad.”
24-year-old accounts assistant Wayne Hayes said: “After work I’m going to a bar where they just sell small batch gin and ironic retro crabsticks.
“You might find that annoying and I suppose it is a bit, but hey it’s a free country.”

I presume they have made up the quotes but otherwise the joke, if there is one, is that this is all completely true.

PC Keith Palmer RIP

The brave police officer who was murdered during yesterday's terrorist attack in Westminster has been named as PC Keith Palmer. He was 48 years old and was a husband and father.

Before serving his country as a police officer for fifteen years he had served his country in our armed forces. MP James Cleverly tweeted this morning

"I've known Keith for 25 years. We served together in the Royal Artillery before he became a copper. A lovely man, a friend. I'm heartbroken."

Remembering PC Keith Palmer and thinking of his family and those of the other victims today.

Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day 23rd March 2017

I have already posted a video and the full text of the PM's statement last night

However, I thought it was worth highlighting the concluding words of that address, about how parliament will meet today as normal and how people in London will live their lives today as normal, as today's quote of the day to make the point that terrorist attack's like yesterday's will never succeed in destroying Britain's democracy.

(Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, Prime Minister.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Guardian gets one right

No group of human beings has a monopoly on truth or falsehood, on wisdom or foolishness.

I disagree with much that appears in The Guardian but occasionally they get something right.

Jonathan Freedland has a column on the Guardian website this evening,

"Bravery and simple humanity have shown Westminster at its' best"

which is an example. Here is the conclusion of the column.

"Yet if those who denounce Westminster had only seen it today. The speed with which the police and the emergency services ran towards danger when every human instinct would propel most of us away from it. The help ordinary people gave other ordinary people when they saw them lying hurt on Westminster Bridge. The security officers who brought a tray of tea to the police officers standing guard, watching over them. The visitors herded to safety, including a mother pushing a baby in a buggy. And the group of schoolchildren who reportedly decided to cheer up all those in lockdown in parliament’s Central Lobby with a spontaneous singsong.

Last year, on this very day, Brussels was targeted by suicide bombers who killed 32 people. For a few days, it stopped being the despised “Brussels” of anti-EU rhetoric and became Brussels, scene of tragedy. More than 20 years ago I witnessed the same transformation, when a US government building in Oklahoma City was bombed, killing 168. “Federal bureaucrats” had been a hated class – until people saw them carrying their wounded and grieving for their children. Today it was “Westminster’s” turn. Not a metaphor, not a far-off citadel of wicked, scheming politicians but a real place, filled with real people – as vulnerable to an act of murderous violence as anybody else."

Prime Minister Theresa May's statement on today's terror attack

Here is the text of the Prime minister's statement on today's attack

Midweek music spot Lux Aeternam from the Mozart Requiem

I had something different lined up for tonight's midweek music slot but it can wait for the weekend.

Instead, remembering the police officer who died at Westminster this afternoon and the other innocent victims who also died as a result of the terrorist attack, here is a movement of the Mozart Requiem

The words mean

"Grant them eternal rest O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them."

In gratitude for the work of our brave police officers

This image was shared by the Metropolitan Police Federation this evening in a message thinking about their members, all the brave police officers who have been protecting the public today.

We should all be grateful for the sacrifice of the brave officer who died today protecting the home of democracy and for all those police officers who have given their lives protecting the people of our country.

We are not afraid

This logo has been shared on social media in response to the terrorist attack in London today

Statement from the parliamentary authorities about today's attack at Westminister

Mr Speaker and the Lord Speaker have made a statement following the terrorist attack in Westminster this afternoon.
"An extremely serious incident has occurred in the Westminster area this afternoon. The Metropolitan Police is dealing with this and an investigation is underway.

“On behalf of Members of both Houses of Parliament, we wish to offer our thoughts to all those affected and their families.

“We would also like to that express our gratitude to the police and all emergency services.”
My thoughts, and I am sure those of almost everyone in Britain at this time, are with the family of the police officer who died in the line of duty defending parliament, and with the families of the other innocent victims who have died, and with the injured victims and their families.

Dire travel conditions in some parts of Cumbria today

There has been snow and severe weather in several parts of Cumbria over the last 24 hours. Corney Fell has been closed and several other roads such as the A6 near Shap are affected by ice and require drivers to be careful.

If you have to travel in Cumbria today take extra care.

Quote of the day 22nd March 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What are the chances of an snap general election?

Yet more speculation from the press about the possibility of an early general election.

Yet another dismissal of the idea from Number Ten: The Prime Minister's spokesperson yesterday responded to speculation about an early general election by saying "There is not going to be one." and adding that the idea was "Nonsense."

The Prime Minister has now said so many times that she does not want a snap election or think the country needs one that she would have to have a very good reason to justify changing her mind. It is important to Theresa May that she is seen to be a woman of her word.

"I've got the opportunity to get a bigger majority because Corbyn is so useless"

would not cut it as an excuse, let alone as an argument to use when trying to get the required two-thirds majority for a dissolution  motion through the House of Commons.

Most of the people who think that the Conservatives may call a snap election don't appear to have thought through how difficult the Fixed Term Parliament Act (FTPA) now makes it. I can only see one circumstance in which it could happen.

It won't happen over Brexit because the government now has the authority to trigger Article 50 and negotiate, and the fact that they managed to get the "Exiting the European Union" Act though both houses of parliament reasonably quickly and with no amendments demonstrates that, however divisive the issue is, the government appears to have a working majority on the most important and difficult issues of the day.

Under the previous political rules, losing major parts of your budget because you don't have a big enough majority to get it through would be a serious issue for a government and if such a government had a 19-point lead in the polls the temptation to call a snap general election to try to increase their majority would probably have been irresistible.

But these are not normal times as the fact that the governing party could have to pull the main change in the budget after a week and still be 19 points ahead in the following opinion poll demonstrates.

By comparison with the challenge of making a success of Brexit, issues which would normally pose an existential challenge to a government, such as being forced to withdraw the NI changes, are relatively peripheral.

And then there are the actual mechanics of trying to call a snap election under the FTPA which are anything but straightforward. Jeremy Corbyn has said he would tell his MPs to support a dissolution motion but would he really do it when looking down the barrel of a 19-point deficit in the opinion polls and the prospect of Labour being smashed down  below the 150 seats mark? And even if he did, would enough Labour turkeys obey orders and vote for an early Christmas?

If there isn't a two-thirds majority for a dissolution motion, a government which wants an early election has two other options. One is to try to repeal the FTPA itself. That would require a simple majority in the House of Commons - and the House of Lords - and the present government does not have a majority in the Upper House. If their Lordships did not support the repeal of FTPA or didn't want an early election and stood firm, they could be over-ruled using the Parliament Act - but that takes six months. This might work as a means of arranging well in advance to have an early election - if for instance the government decided now that it wanted to have an election straight after Brexit in 2019 - but as a means of calling a snap election it is a non-starter.

The kamikazi option for a party with a majority in the House of Commons which wants an early election is to pass a motion of no-confidence in the government and then use that majority to prevent any other government being formed.

This would amount to deliberately creating a constitutional crisis which begins with the government declaring that it has no confidence in itself. Anyone who suggests this route could be used in circumstances other than the direst emergency has not thought through how utterly dreadful it would look. It could very easily send the markets into free-fall and would be a terrible start to an election campaign.

There is, however, one scenario in which Theresa May could and probably would go to parliament and ask for a dissolution with every prospect of getting it.

I do not think this is likely, but suppose that the ongoing investigation into 2015 election expenses produced prosecutions against a large enough number of Conservative MPs as to threaten the government's majority -e.g. ten or more - and call into question the legitimacy of the government's election.

If that were to happen then the right thing for the government to do would be to immediately call a new general election to seek a fresh mandate, and I think it would be very difficult for opposition MPs to vote against a dissolution motion proposed in such circumstances.

A government which accepted the need for a fresh election without waiting for the court cases would probably get credit for doing the right thing and minimise the damage from the fact that the prosecutions had been brought: a government which appeared to be trying to cling to power when its' democratic legitimacy had gone would be likely to suffer for it. Mrs May is clever enough to work that one out. So I suspect there is a contingency plan at Conservative Campaign Centre for a snap election if things go seriously pear-shaped on the expenses front.

But if, as I strongly suspect will be the case, there isn't evidence which would justify a prosecution in more than one or two cases, then my money is on the next election taking place in May 2020.

Study into possible Whitehaven by-pass commissioned

Cumbria County Council has agreed to commission a £60,000 study whose remit includes an investigation of the potential for a relief road for Whitehaven.

The study will take about six month. Also taking place at the same time will be investigations to explore what improvements can be made to parts of the A595, A66 and A590.

The study, a joint project with Highways England and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, will look at issues such as traffic flow and value for money.

Findings will be submitted to Highways England and Transport for the North as part of wider work to identify transport priorities for 2020-2025.

Quote of the day 21st March 2017

"For the SNP to have one Tory leader more popular than Nicola Sturgeon is misfortune. To have two looks like carelessness."

(Liz Smith MSP, channelling Oscar Wilde's superb creation Lady Bracknell, in response to an opinion poll for Sky which found that both Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and PM Theresa May have positive ratings among Scots to the question of whether they are doing a good or bad job, and both score better than First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has a negative one.)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vera Lynn at 100

Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn who did so much to keep up the spirits of the heroes in our armed forces and civilians like during the dark days of World War II, is a hundred years old today.

Her face has been projected on the White Cliffs of Dover.

Many happy returns to a wonderful lady.

Trustees say St Bees School will re-open in September 2018

The trustees of St Bees school have released a statement today to the effect that they have created a partnership with Shenzhen International, a South East Asian education group, and the school will reopen in September 2018.

The 432-year-old school closed with little warning in June 2015, due to falling pupil numbers and financial problems. The statement says:

"Trustees have remained focused in their objective to re-establish learning and education at St Bees School. As such, the partnership has been established, with an agreement now in place for the reopening of the school.

"Shenzhen International has been chosen for this partnership as their values are fully supportive to the ethos of the school.

"The partnership has a clear and unified vision of educating global leaders for the internationally mobile world.

"The commitment is to provide high quality academic education combined with a focus on personal development. St Bees School will be welcoming day and boarding pupils from West Cumbria, further afield in the UK and internationally, providing an opportunity for the pupils to form lifelong friendships across the globe."

The trustees added that the partnership was committed to developing 'bespoke' learning programmes for pupils. Their statement continues:

"Strong links with the community have been established over the last two years and local clubs, history groups and businesses have continued to make use of the school’s facilities.

"It is essential to the future success of the school that these links are maintained and the trustees will work with local bodies to support the West Cumbrian economy and sustain diversity in the community.

"The school has a rich and proud history of over 400 years and will retain the ethos and its Christian values, yet will look to innovate with state of the art teaching methodology and techniques, where appropriate."

Source: Cumbria News Group (Times & Star/News & Star)

Quote of the day 20th March 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Salmond and Farron go the full Donald Trump

Both Alex Salmond and Tim Farron have gone the full Donald Trump today, with Salmond getting into an absurd spin about whether he described the 2014 Independence Referendum as a once in a generation event, and Tim Farron accusing Theresa May of being anti-NATO.

The former First Minister was speaking on Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics programme earlier today, and said:

“The phrase was not once in a lifetime, it was the opportunity of a lifetime, I said it on the Andrew Marr show, it’s just one of these collective myths that evolve.”

Sources include Press and Journal here.

However there is plenty of footage showing that he actually did say it.

Andrew Marr asked Salmond whether he would come back for a second independence referendum if there was a narrow "Better Together" win, and concluded his question with the words

"You've talked in the past about it being once in a generation, is that still your view?"

and the then First Minister replied, as you can see on the clip below

"Yes it is."

Salmond then added a reference to the period of nearly 20 years between two previous constitutional referenda in Scotland. He twice referred to the 2014 as a "once in a generation" opportunity, saying

"In my view this is a once in a generation, perhaps even once in a lifetime opportunity for Scotland."

And it wasn't just one person's opinion either. The Scottish government's official prospectus for Independence, "Scotland's Future" which you can read at,

states clearly in black and which under answer 557 on page 556 of the document,

"It is the view of the current Scottish government that a referendum is a once-in-a-generation opportunity."

See this clip which starts with a short extract from the Salmond interview with Andrew Marr referred to above, shows the passage in "Scotland's Future" and then has lots and lots of instances of Nicola Sturgeon referring to the 2014 referendum as once in a generation or lifetime.

After lots of people started sharing these video clips showing that he did say "once in a generation," Salmond then denied having denied it. He really has gone the full Donald Trump.

And so has Lib/Dem leader Tim Farron, when he accused Theresa May of being anti-NATO.

Ironically, the speech in which Farron went the full Donald Trump himself was when he accused Theresa May of following the policies of Donald Trump, saying

"The politics of Trump. Of Putin. Of Le Pen. And now the politics of Her Majesty's Government. Welcome to the new world order. This is the new normal, the new status quo."

"Aggressive. Nationalistic. Anti-NATO. Anti-EU. It is the post-war internationalist consensus unravelling in real time. Winston Churchill's vision for a world that achieves peace through trade, common values and shared endeavour evaporating before our eyes."

Many aspects of this ludicrous rant from Tim Farron are completely and utterly at variance with the facts.

* The British government has been and remains extremely critical of Putin's government in Russia, imposes sanctions on Russia and recently moved British troops to support a fellow NATO member that we were afraid Russia might invade.

* The British government has refused to have anything to do with Marine Le Pen (and been criticised for it by Nigel Farage)

* The British government has been making a huge point of its' support for NATO, meets the4 2% defence spending target and has encouraged other NATO members to do so, and has pressed the Trump administration to reaffirm its' commitment to the NATO alliance

 * Far from rejecting Churchill's vision of peace through trade Theresa May has stressed the need for free trade and a global Britain which wants more free trade in practically every speech she has made about Foreign policy.

I don't accept that the positions of Theresa May's government are aggressive, nationalistic, or anti-EU beyond respecting the referendum decision to leave, but to accuse her government of being anti-NATO, anti-trade, pro Putin or pro Le Pen is just plain daft.

Poll of the week

Speaking as a Conservative who believes it is in both our own interest and that of the country that we have at least a half-competent opposition to keep us on our toes, the total and utter failure of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party to provide it is becoming embarrassing.

When the Conservatives last went through a really, really bad patch twenty years ago, the hardest thing to take was not when I encountered hatred. Nor was it being taken for a joke. The hardest thing to take from my political opponents was pity. Partly for that reason I try not to feel pity for members of the Labour party. The other thing I keep reminding myself is that the Conservatives are not popular, it is only the total failure of our opponents which makes us look less dreadful by comparison and we still need to do better and avoid complacency.

Intelligent commentators who are not on the right or centre-right - a few of them do exist - are in a total state of despair and writing things like the column Nick Cohen penned this weekend,

Don't tell me you weren't warned about Corbyn.

This is the latest poll for "Who would make the best Prime Minister?"

Labour supporters of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now ...

It's been suggested that his figures would not be quite so bad if he changed his name by deed poll to "Don't Know."

Sunday music spot: The Final Countdown with Star Wars video

There is an extraordinary range of both Star Trek and Star Wars parodies of famous songs on the internet. The quality varies from the very good indeed through those which have good ideas but are terribly executed to those which are utterly dire.

Over the Christmas season a couple of years back I took a few Star Trek versions of Christmas songs and put them on this blog as A "Star Trek Christmas."

At some stage this year I will spend a week putting up some of the best Star Wars musical parodies as a Star Wards musical parody week.

This music video does not quite fit into that pattern: rather than being a parody it takes one of my favourite songs - "The Final Countdown" and fits to the lyrics a video presentation consisting of the battle at the climax of "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones." But I offer it as fun to listen to.


Quote of the day 19th March 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday music spot: Telemann's Trio in A minor, Allegro

A Labour view of the Scottish Independence question

I've posted a number of views about Indyref2 from Conservative sources such as Ruth Davidson.

But belief in the UK is not the prerogative only of those on the political right.

Here is an article by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale opposing Scottish Independence from a socialist perspective. A short extract follows

"Remaining in the UK means we can pool and share the resources of our entire country to invest more in schools and hospitals, giving everybody a fair chance in life. We are better placed to look after our older people through the UK pensions system, to provide security to our nation through shared UK defence, and we can make a bigger difference in the world as part of the UK’s broad network of humanitarian efforts.

Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth four times as much as our trade with the EU. That secures hundreds of thousands of jobs and provides our young people with almost unlimited opportunities.

Leaving the United Kingdom would mean at least £15bn worth of cuts to our public services. That would be turbo-charged austerity."

I don't agree with Labour on much, but she's right there.

Another perspective again is from academic Chris Deerin, who argues here that

"Whoever wins this second referendum, Scotland loses."


Up to a point, Lord Copper ...

It is often suggested that it is difficult for a supporter of Brexit to make the case for Scotland to stay in the UK.

There is certainly a degree of truth in this: many of the arguments used by Scottish Nationalists and "Yes" voters in Scotland are extremely similar to those deployed by those who campaigned to take Britain out of the EU. Sinilarly many of the arguments used by "Britain Stronger in Europe and extremely similar to those used by "Better Together.

Which is one reason I find it absolutely astonishing that the SNP's official position has until now been so resolutely anti pro-EU, even though many of their criticism of London also apply to Brussels.

If there is another Independence referendum - and I note that Theresa May is not saying that she will veto any proposal from the Scottish parliament for one, just that she will not accept one at the present very inappropriate time - I would expect the internal inconsistencies between the positions of those who are pro-Brexit but anti-Independence, and those who are pro-Independence but also pro-Remain, to be a significant problem for both sides.

However, there is in fact one major "Leave" campaign argument which, when the same test is applied to Scotland, produces an argument for "No" to Independence - at least if you are North of the Border, though I suspect people in England might see it differently.

Remember that wretched red bus with "We pay the EU £350 million per week" on the side?

Of course, Britain does not in fact pay the EU that much - it's about half that, some £8 billion a year. Nevertheless Britain is a net contributor to the EU budget.

And here's the things: Britain is a net contributor to the EU but Scotland is a net beneficiary of the UK budget.

Under present arrangements such as the Barnett formula, the UK makes a net transfer of about £1,700 per person or circa £ 9 billion a year in total to Scotland.

So a person who was merely looking at net transfers would conclude that Scotland gets a much better deal from the UK than the UK does from EU membership

Quote of the day 18th March 2017

"The clear lesson of the EU referendum is that while policy matters, economic evidence is not enough.
To win a referendum, economics must be matched by emotion, and statistics must be matched by sentiment.

This is doubly important in a post-trust environment – of facts and “alternative facts”. The nationalists’ cry this time will be less “devo max” and more “grievo max”: seeking to entrench a sense of “us and them”, to amplify difference and to use the Brexit vote to conflate the people of England with the politics of the Tories and Ukip.

My sense of Britishness is no more defined by Nigel Farage and Ukip than my sense of Scottishness is defined by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

I am proud to be Scottish and proud to be British – and to share what we have with our neighbours on these islands.

My Scotland embraces the idea of solidarity and the inspiration of John Smith – and stretches from Gregory’s Girl to the work of J K Rowling.

My Britain is the country of the BBC and the NHS – and stretches from Robert Burns’s “A Man’s a Man” to William Blake’s “Jerusalem”.

There are millions of Scots who still refuse to make the divisive choice between being Scottish and being British, who still believe in solidarity, in sharing and in interdependence."

(Douglas Alexander, extract from a New Statesman article called "Why sentiment, not statistics, will sway the next Scottish referendum"

Friday, March 17, 2017

The PM writes about her plan for Britain

Prime Minister Theresa May writes:

Our Plan for Britain

The EU referendum result was an instruction to change the way our country works, and the people for whom it works, forever. It was a call to make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.
That’s why today I set out our Plan for Britain.
  1. A Global Britain that is outward looking
  2. A stronger economy where everyone plays by the same rules
  3. A fairer society where success is based on merit, not privilege
  4. A united nation that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home
Our Plan for Britain will deliver a country that is stronger, fairer, more united and more outward looking than ever before. It’s a plan to get the right deal for Britain abroad and a better deal for ordinary working people at home.
So support our plan and together let’s deliver a stronger, fairer, and better Britain.
Thank you for your support.
Theresa MayPrime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party

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