Friday, April 28, 2017

Good news for the UK Economy

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which represents the British companies which make and trade in cars and vehicles describes March 2017 as the best month since the turn of the millennium for UK car manufacturing.

Quote of the day 28th April 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Brandenburg Three

Letter from the PM

Theresa May, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, sends this appeal to Conservative supporters:

"Last week I stood on the steps of Downing Street and announced plans for a General Election, to be held on Thursday 8th June.

We need this election now to secure the strong and stable leadership that the United Kingdom needs to see us through Brexit and beyond. We need it to lock in the economic progress we have made together.

Every vote cast for the Conservatives will strengthen my hand in the Brexit negotiations, to get the best deal for all in the UK. And that’s why I need your support.

You can get involved in our campaign by signing up to volunteer today: 

Or if you can’t volunteer right now, please make a donation instead:

The choice facing people at this election is clear - between strong and stable leadership with me as your Prime Minister, or a coalition of chaos with Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the SNP and others.
Their position at this election can only mean one thing – uncertainty for the British people. That would bring grave risk to our growing economy, and we would all pay for it with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt. We must not let that happen.
Can I count on your support?
 Thank you for your support,
Theresa May
Prime 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

A request to Britain's cartoonists

Well, Lynton's latest dead cat certainly got the attention today. Who would have thought that  one obsolete word which had it's previous fifteen minutes of fame in an election on the other side of the Atlantic more than a hundred and thirty years ago, could attract such a lot of attention.

Just one small request to Britain's cartoonists. Please could you spare us the sight of any more parodies of  Gerome's 'Phryne revealed before the Areopagus' which originally looked like this:

but was parodied like this

in reference to the previous group of people who were referred to as Mugwumps and James G Blaine, the presidential candidate of their own party who they declined to support.

I don't know whether the thought of Boris Johnson as Hypereides or of Jeremy Corbyn as Blaine/Phryne is more off-putting.

The US Presidential election in 1884 between Blaine and Grover Cleveland was one of the most heatedly contested in history, making not just our present General Election but even Hillary vs. Trump seem tame by comparison.

The campaign slogans of the two sides included, from the Democrats and Mugwumps,

"Blaine, Blaine, James G Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine"

and from the Republicans,

"Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha."

They don't make election campaigns like that any more - thank goodness!

J K Rowling and the Corbynista left

I hope it is a measure of my independent judgement that, despite the fact that I strongly disagree with some aspects of her political views and she with my party, I admire the author Joanne K. Rowling. As Sydney Harris once wrote,

I greatly admire the ability and hard work that got J. K. Rowling where she is today, I admire the fact that she gives generously to causes she thinks are right without expectation of any reward even when I don't support those causes myself, and I admire the courage with which she stands up for her views and does so in a dignified and moderate way even when the act of standing up for her convictions  provokes vicious criticism from some of the most unpleasant people in politics.

Previously having put her head over the parapet as a supporter of the Union between the countries of the United Kingdom, J.K. Rowling has come in from some pretty nasty abuse from the "Cybernats" and less pleasant supporters of Scottish Independence, people who even the more reasonable nationalists - and I would not want to deny that there are reasonable nationalists - will admit are not a credit to their cause.

Now she has come under fire for tweeting a link to a New Statesman article written by a moderate Labour supporter who, like her, does not hold Jeremy Corbyn in high regard but nevertheless encouraged people who felt as she does to campaign for the election or re-election of moderate Labour candidates and MPs.

J.K. Rowling's tweet repeated the headline of Sarah Ditum's article, which was "Election 2017: what should you do if you support Labour but can’t stand Jeremy Corbyn?"

I presume that Rowling would have shared it with two mouse clicks (on the Twitter icon and "Share") and the key point about this is that it encouraged disillusioned Labour supporters to find a way that they can in good conscience campaign for a Labour vote.

Personally I would encourage a Conservative vote and I find the position of moderate Labour MPs like John Woodcock who say they can stand as Labour candidates while not supporting Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister to be completely untenable.

But of course I would think that, wouldn't I - after all, I support the opposing party. To me, the idea of going beyond saying that I strongly disagree with that position it into the realms of personal abuse is neither necessary nor reasonable.

Yet, in spite of the fact that Ditum and Rowling were urging a Labour vote, however reluctantly, the Corbynista left has been lining up to denounce them as Nick Cohen writes here.

To the true believers of the hard left, (s)he who is not with me is against me and apostates are even more hated than those who were always of the opposing view.

So they tell anyone who dares to say anything they don't like to "join the tories."

If the polls are right, on 8th June they will get their wish.

Quote of the day 27th April 2017

"Every vote for him is a vote to weaken our economy. Every vote for me is a vote for a strong economy with the benefits felt by everyone across the country."

(Theresa May on the choice on offer at the General Election on 8th June, after which either she or Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Praise for Trudy Harrison's maiden speech

Trudy Harrison made her first speech in the House of Commons yesterday, having been elected earlier this year as the first Conservative MP to represent Copeland since the seat was created eight decades ago, and now facing a battle to be re-elected thanks to the general election.

The full text of her speech is available at the Hansard site here, and it can be seen on the "ParliamentliveTV" site here (this link shows the whole of the business for Tuesday 26th May, you can find Trudy's speech by using the slider on the right to go to 13.14.13).

Today's parliamentary review in The Times by Patrick Kidd (which you can read in full here) was mostly about Trudy's maiden speech and I quote below an extract from it.

Referring to the fact that Trudy was about to face re-election and had been looking to get a timeslot to deliver her first speech, before the dissolution, Patrick Kidd wrote:

"Yesterday she delivered. After two months of ducking, she turned out to be a swan. And if this was her first and final performance, as swansongs traditionally are, it was a fine way to go.

Most days I mock politicians. Most days they deserve it. Many of them are vain, pompous, verbose and tribal or, worse, bland and sycophantic. Or are those just the ones who catch our eye? There are lots of noble public servants — in all parties — who work hard, not seeking the limelight. Many good MPs, a lot of them Labour, will not return after next week through no fault of their own. They deserve thanks; they will get raspberries.

Ms Harrison seems to realise the fleeting nature of her trade. She devoted the first 400 words of her speech to her predecessor, Labour’s Jamie Reed. He had served Copeland, she said, “with great talent and dedication, a proud supporter of our local industry”. She even gave him the credit for her taking an interest in politics. Some years ago she had attended a Westminster debate that he had called about her local struggling school. “I saw the positive impact that MPs could have and the powerful influence of their support, even in remote areas which I had previously felt would never be anyone’s political priority.”

She did not need to praise a politician from a rival party but she was right to. And on she went: talking, as MPs often do in their maiden speech, about the delights of her constituency with charm and eloquence. She spoke of her three most famous constituents — Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle — and the views of Scafell that she had from her childhood bedroom window.

She also said how much it meant to her four teenage daughters that she was the woman who tipped the balance between the number of women MPs there has ever been — 456 — and the number of men there are now in the Commons.

Most importantly, though, she did not use her speech as a party political broadcast. Aside from one “northern powerhouse” there were no clichés. No “a country that works for everyone”, nor a peep of Mrs May’s new buzzword, stable, which makes me think of something you shut after the horse has bolted.

It was sincere, passionate and personal. And if it included a groaner of a pun — “land of Copeland glory” — she at least had the awareness to grimace.

If this proves to have been her only song in the Commons, it just showed up how many MPs waste their more frequently exercised voices. As Coleridge wrote: “Swans sing before they die — ‘twere no bad thing/ Should certain persons die before they sing.”

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Brandenburg Five

Quote of the day 26th April 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Remembering the Brave

I returned home this evening after taking a short break from election campaigning to visit London for a ceremony which directly commemorated sixty-four very brave men and implicitly the sacrifice of many thousands.

Today was commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC day, remembering the sacrifice of the brave soldiers from Australia and New Zealand in two world wars and particularly in the Gallipoli campaign.

It is not a coincidence that it was also chosen for the unveiling, by Field Marshall the Duke of Kent, of a memorial outside Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden to the Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War one.

The campaign in which the brave soldiers from Australia and New Zealand paid such a heavy price also saw great courage and sacrifice from other parts of the British Empire including Lancashire, the county which was home to my parents and grandparents.

On the day of the Gallipoli landings which was chosen in Australia and New Zealand to mark ANZAC day, men from Lancashire also fought bravely and at terrible cost, and six men from the 1st Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers, later known as the "six before breakfast" VCs, were awarded   Britain's highest award for bravery for a single action, the landings on "W" beach. Two of those six were freemasons. I will return to the Lancashire Fusiliers in a moment, but let me say something about the people who were honoured today.

Freemasons' Hall was built between the wars and dedicated to the memory of more than three thousand freemasons who were killed on active service during the series of conflicts which were known at the time simply as "The Great War" and are now usually referred to as "The First World War."

An enormous proportion of Britain's young men served during that war, including many thousands of masons. Half a million of them lost their lives. Thousands of men and women were decorated for bravery: for every one of those who were awarded a medal there were undoubtedly many who also showed great bravery but who, perhaps because there was nobody senior there to see it or because all those who might have borne witness were killed, did not receive such a commemoration. For that reason I think we should regard the decorations given  for bravery in war partly as commemorating the courage shown by everyone who served. Nevertheless I don't think that anyone who reads the citations of those who were awarded the VC for valour during World War One can doubt that each describes acts of extraordinary bravery.

Sixty-four names are recorded as part of the memorial unveiled today, these being the names of those freemasons who were members of lodges affiliated to the United Grand Lodge of England and Wales and who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War One. At least two of these were from lodges in Cumberland (I refer to the historic county rather than the modern one because Cumbria did not exist in the early 20th century.)

These were George Harry Wyatt of the Sun Square and Compasses Lodge (which I was representing at the ceremony today) and Tom Fletcher Mayson of Whitwell Lodge.

I looked up the story of George Wyatt before attending the ceremony. He was born in Worcester in 1886, enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in November, 1904, and served in Egypt for two and a half years, after which he left the army and married a girl from the Kells area of Whitehaven called Ellen Graham, who was a coal miner's daughter, in 1912. They had two children.

On the outbreak of the First World War he recalled to the Coldstream Guards and went to France with them as part of the initial British Expeditionary Force, the "Old Contemptibles." George Wyatt was awarded the Victoria Cross for extreme bravery in the fighting following the battle of Mons, described in his citation as follows:
"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. At Landrecies, on the night of 25th-26th August, 1914, when a part of his Battalion was hotly engaged at the end of a street close to some farm buildings, the enemy, by means of incendiary bombs, set light to some straw stacks in the farmyard. Lance-Corporal Wyatt twice dashed out of the line under very heavy fire from the enemy, who were only 25 yards distant, and extinguished the burning straw. If the fire had spread it would have been quite impossible to have held our position.

"Also at Villa Cotteret, after being wounded in the head, Lance-Corporal Wyatt continued firing until he could no longer see owing to the blood which was pouring down his face. The Medical Officer bound up his wound and told him to go to the rear, but he at once returned to the firing-line and continued to fight."

George Wyatt was promoted to lance-sergeant and survived the war. He died at the age of 77 in 1964. After the war he, was interviewed about winning the Victoria Cross, describing the events as follows:

"Well, there's not much for me to say about it. I just did as I was told. During the retirement from Mons the 3rd Coldstream Guards reached Landrecis. It was dark at the time, and there we were attacked by a large number of Germans who must have been rushed up in motor lorries. We lost our machine-gun, and had to rely solely upon rifle and bayonet. Suddenly something flared up between us and the enemy, and Major Matheson shouted, "Put out that light". So I did it. I never thought it would bring me the Victoria Cross. How did I put the fire out? Oh, I jumped on it and dragged some equipment over it. After a while it burst out again, and I ran back and extinguished it. Yes, there was heavy fire from the Germans when I first obeyed the order. That affair at Villers Cotterets. I got hit on the head and went on firing. That's all" Like many of the bravest men, George Wyatt was obviously very modest about the courage he had shown.

It was said during today's ceremony that practically every family in Britain had someone at the front during the Great War and that was certainly true of my own family: my grandfather and his brother both served. My grandfather came back: his brother didn't. Which brings me back to the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Today's ceremony would have been, I think, very powerful for anyone to listen to but I was particular moved by it because of the references to "W" beach at Gallipoli, a hundred and two years ago today.

My father and grandfather came from Darwen, a small town in Lancashire. The war memorial in Darwen, situated in Bold Venture park which is over the road from the house where my father grew up, does not bear a list of names of those killed.

That is because too many people of the town were killed for their names to fit on a war memorial of normal size:

The Lancashire Fusiliers, to whom the "six VC's before breakfast" were awarded on this day in 1915,  lost more than seven hundred men killed or wounded that day out of a thousand and twenty-nine who boarded the landing boats. I have not been able to establish this as a fact, but I suspect that some of them may have been among the 1,200 citizens of Darwen who are commemorated on the Bold Venture Park memorial shown above.

The Lancashire Fusiliers was also the regiment in which my grandfather's brother,  Fusilier Robert Whiteside, subsequently enlisted and in which he was serving when he was mortally wounded at the age of 18, just six weeks before the end of the war.

The American Civil War general, Robert E Lee, once said that:

I have been fortunate enough never to have been within hundreds of miles of a battle. But as my son grows closer and closer to the age at which my great-uncle was cut down it grows clearer and clearer to me what Robert E Lee meant.

It is very important that we never forget the heroism and bravery of the men who were honoured today and all the other men and women who have risked and often lost their lives serving our country. It is also very important that we remember the cost of war.

Quote of the day for ANZAC Day 25th April 2017

Today, 25th April 2017 is ANZAC day in Australia - so today's quote is a tribute to the brave soldiers of Australia and New Zealand from an opposing general.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Good news on trade

The latest CBI trade survey shows British exports rising strongly: the strongest rise in overall export orders for six years, non-EU orders rising at the fastest rate on record.

Quote of the day 24th April 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

When the polls are too good ...

There are a number of reasons why I think that Conservatives would be most unwise to put too much reliance on all the opinion polls suggesting Theresa May is in an unassailable position.

The first is, as we found out over the 2015 General Election, the EU Referendum, and the election of Donald Trump, polls have a significant margin of error: sometimes they get it wrong, sometimes between the poll being taken and the actual vote people change their minds. And people have six weeks between now and 8th June to change their minds.

The second is that even if a poll is right, if votes are in the wrong place the candidate or party with most votes can still lose - as Hillary Clinton found out in 2016. The 2017 general election is actually 650 local contests and it's possible to pile up votes in your own party's safe seats or reduce margins a bit in the other party's safe seats while loosing in the marginal which determine the election. In recent decades Britain's electoral system has appeared to be biased against the Conservatives - though to be completely truthful, nobody knows for certain whether that will still be the case next time.

The third, problem is that, as Paul Goodman points out on Conservative Home here. if a party appears to be doing ridiculously well in the opinion polls that can make their voters complacent so that they don't think they need to go out and vote, or their activists can get overconfident and arrogant.

Conservative campaigners should not assume this election is in the bag and should be careful not to take voters for granted. We must put forward the positive achievements of the government and the equally positive things we want to do over the next five years.

The only way to make sure Jeremy Corbyn does not become Prime Minister is to turn out on 8th June and vote Conservative.

Music spot for St George's day from the.Household Division bands

Major Frederick Ricketts who composed under the pen name Kenneth J. Alford, is possibly the greatest composer of British military music - the piece which everyone knows but nobody realises he wrote was "Colonel Bogey." He was a Bandmaster in the British Army, and Royal Marines Director of Music. Conductor Sir Vivian Dunn called Ricketts "The British March King."

To mark St George's Day today, here the massed bands of the Household division play his piece "The Standards of St George."

Quote of the day for St George's day 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Economist's take on the election

There are some newspapers and magazines for whom any endorsement they make in an election is as predictable as that the sun will rise in the East and set in the West.

The Economist is not one of them - they have backed the Conservatives and Labour in various British elections in the past, while in the US at various times they have backed the Republicans or Democrats or refused to back either.

The magazine has not yet said who they back in the forthcoming British general election, and indeed the articles they have so far published about it are not entirely aligned, with one here describing the view taken by the markets and by subsequent articles in the same magazine as one which, quote,

 "may turn out to be right but it is quite a bold call."

Bold call, perhaps, but certainly an interesting one.

I do not endorse every word in the articles "Back into battle" which argues that a bigger majority would improve the government's position at home and especially abroad, or "Why an election offers the chance of a better Brexit."

Nevertheless, both represent far more intelligent contributions to debate than have come from those who have spent a year accusing the Prime Minister of being unelected and having no mandate to govern and then complained bitterly when she asked the electorate for that mandate, or those opposition MPs who accused Mrs May of putting party before country by proposing an election and then themselves voted for the motion to call it.

Scene from an election campaign

This morning and part of the afternoon I was campaigning in Dearham for the excellent local Conservative candidate for the County Council Dearham and Broughton division, Hugo Graham, and members of the Workington and Copeland associations.

As I came up one drive and reached the vicinity of the front door I noticed that there was a sign asking certain categories of people not to call, one of them being canvassers, so I was just starting to turn round when the door opened.

I was starting to apologise to the householder and explain to her that I had only just seen the sign, when she asked if I was calling from the Lib/Dems or the Conservatives. I said the latter, which was apparently the preferred response, and she asked a couple of questions such as where the candidate lives - I was able to introduce her to Hugo and confirm that he lives in the village within a couple of hundred yards.

Anyway, the objection to being canvassed didn't appear to apply to us, and the lady explained that she had been Labour most of her life and had been a trade union organiser, but is not backing Labour this time.

I've been getting this on the doorstep time and time again. Another voter in Dearham told me he and his family had always been "Labour, Labour, Labour, Labour" - until Jeremy Corbyn became leader, but this time he will probably vote Tory.

In St Bees, in Millom, in Bransty, and in Hillcrest it's been a similar story - "We voted for Trudy a few weeks ago, and we'll back you again this time."  Sometimes this is from people who have always been Conservatives but a lot of it is from people who just cannot back Labour while that would make Jeremy Corbyn the Prime Minister.

These people are right. Theresa May is providing leadership for Britain, Jeremy Corbyn cannot even command the support of most of the parliamentary Labour party.

Several people, including very demoralised Labour supporters, have said to me that the 2017 general election is like a rerun of 1983, but in important respects Labour's position is even worse - Michael Foot was the last Labour leader to fight on a platform as left-wing as Jeremy Corbyn's but for all the flak we threw at him at the time, Michael Foot was a great orator, a patriot, and a team player who had experience of working in government as a cabinet minister.

Jeremy Corbyn is none of those things.

On 9th June either Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister. I am convinced that it is in the best interests of Britain that it should be Theresa May.

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

A wonderful rendition of an iconic piece of organ music. There was a lovely comment on the YouTube page where I found this.

Someone had written that his neighbour called the police to complain that he was playing this too loudly and the Bach lover added, quote, "and they arrested him!" Whatever the other strengths and weaknesses of that particular constabulary may have been, any police service that arrests people for trying to stop you listening to Bach has great taste in music.

The Jewish Chronicle's take on the General Election

Some very good plain common sense on the value of democracy from the Jewish Chronicle here.

"The most common reaction to Theresa May’s decision to call an election seems to be a moan that we are being asked to take part in the third national poll since 2015. But a sense of perspective is necessary (not least in comparison with the people of Northern Ireland, who on June 8 will be casting a vote for the seventh time in three years).

" At a parochial level, issues that mean much to our own, small community will rise to the fore as parties compete to persuade us that they are most worthy of our support.

" But more fundamentally, while it may be trite to point out how many people have died for the right to vote, it is no less true for that.

"Whatever the motivation may have been behind the calling of the election, we should celebrate our ability to choose our next government — something denied to the majority of our fellow human beings.

"The next seven weeks are ours to shape, and ours to use."

Quote of the day 22nd April 2017

"Maybe next time we have a mid-term PM so ahead in the polls, opposition parties will think twice before chanting 'unelected' at them for months."

(Martin Hoscik @MartinHoscik on twitter)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Trudy Harrison readopted for Copeland

Congratulations to Trudy Harrison who was readopted this evening by Copeland Conservatives as the Conservative candidate for Copeland for the June 8th General Election.

Music to relax after campaigning: Corelli's: Christmas Concerto, Adagio Opus. 6 No. 8

Quote of the day 21st April 2017

Jedremy Corbyn's very divisive speech yesterday seem to me to put British people against one another and stigmatise anyone successful, treating those businesses and rich people who pay their taxes, create British jobs and pay their workers decently as if they were acting like those who do not.

It reminded me of this quote by American economist Thomas Sowell:

Replace "Americans" with "British people" throughout and this perfectly sums up the problem both with Jeremy Corbyn's platform and with that of the Scottish National Party.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

First Car Crash interview of GE2017 ...

Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes have called out the interview by Labour's Dawn Butler on Radio 4's PM programme this afternoon as the first car-crash interview of the 2017 General Election campaign.

Struggling to explain what exactly Labour would do to correct the "rigged system" she accused Theresa May of trying to rig democracy by calling an election.

Had she been one of the thirteen MPs who voted against calling the election this rather strange comment would still have been daft but might at least have been consistent.

But, thanks to the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the PM no longer has the power to call an election without the agreement of parliament.

It now takes a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons to call an early election, which Theresa May obtained yesterday by 522 votes to 13. Obviously the Conservatives do not have anything like two thirds of MPs and the election could not have been called without the support of large numbers of opposition MPs - the vast majority of Labour and Lib/Dem MPs did in fact support it.

Down Butler voted for that motion and is therefore herself one of the 522 people who called this election. So how on earth could she expect to be taken seriously when she said that

 “This election is Theresa May trying to rig democracy in our country”

That was Dawn Butler's first big clanger. She then went on to accuse Costs Coffee of not paying tax.

Later she had to apologise for this gaffe, saying that unlike one of it's rivals Costa Coffee does pay its' taxes to the UK exchequer.

How many more Labour gaffes will we see in this election? I suspect it will be a long list ...

Music to relax after campaigning: Handel's "Lascia ch'io pianga" from Rinaldo

Gorgeous performance of this exquisite aria from Handel's opera "Rinaldo" sung by the soprano Kirsten Blaise and accompanied on period instruments. The lyrics translate as

"Let me weep
over my cruel fate,
and sigh for freedom.
Let my sorrow break the chains
of my suffering, out of pity."

Quote of the day 20th April 2017

"No, May is not like Erdogan.

Theresa May’s snap election has caused the Guardianista class to lose their minds. Martin Kettle writes that

'Theresa May in Downing Street sounded like Turkey’s authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan'.

This is just bonkers. Erdogan is an Islamist autocrat who rules under a state of emergency, jailing political opponents, arresting journalists, controlling the airwaves, censoring social media and passing a law which could see him stay in power until 2029.

Theresa May has called an election."

(Guido Fawkes, article on his website here. )

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: Henry Purcell's Rondeau

Giving my age away here, but to me this is the theme from the BBC's "The first Churchills" a costume drama about the lives of John and Sarah Churchill, the first Duke and Duchess of Marlbrough who of course lived in the same late Stuart era in which Purcell wrote this.

"The first Churchills" was broadcast as a series when I was a child and I remember being fascinated by it. I also loved this Henry Purcell's piece which was the programme's theme tune, and which was of course later adapted by a number of more modern composers including Benjamin Britten and Andrew Lloyd-Weber.

Postal votes arrive

My postal vote for the County Council election on 4th May has arrived today.

I think this is the only time I can ever remember receiving my vote in one election on the same day that another election was called.

Parliament approves June 8 election by 522 votes to 13.

The House of Commons has voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of the motion to call a general election on 8th June.

There were 522 votes in favour including the majority of Conservative, Labour and Lib/Dem MPs. Most of the SNP abstained and there were only 13 MPs against, who Guido Fawkes has named as:

  • Dennis Skinner
  • Ronnie Campbell
  • Ann Clwyd
  • Paul Farrelly
  • Jim Fitzpatrick
  • Lady Hermon
  • Clive Lewis
  • Fiona Mactaggart
  • Liz McInnes
  • Alasdair McDonnell
  • Graham Stringer
  • Michelle Thomson
  • Natalie McGarry

  • What I must confess I do not get is the position of those opposition MPs who have accused Theresa May of putting the Conservative party's interests before those of the country by proposing a motion calling and election but who also themselves voted for that motion, or abstained.

    If they think the election is against the national interest, why didn't they vote against calling it? If they think it will be in the interest of the country to have an early election, how can they criticise the Prime Minister for putting forward the motion to call it?

    Quote of the day 19th April 2017

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

    The Labour MP for Barrow takes an impossible position

    Britain is a parliamentary democracy. Our ministers and Prime ministers are accountable to us through parliament and the way that British elections have worked for more than two hundred years is that the voters choose the government by deciding which party to elect.

    There are other ways to run a democracy, but this is the system we use in Britain. Which is why the  statement issued by the Labour MP for Barrow and Furness today a classic case of nonsense on stilts. Or to paraphrase the Independent's John Rentoul, not just on stilts but on telegraph poles.

    John Woodcock has announced on his Facebook page here that he is seeking the nomination of his local Labour and Co-operative parties to stand again as Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, yet he also announces in the same statement that, quote,

    "I will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain's prime minister."

    There is a report about his statement here.

    This is utterly bizarre - how can you present yourself to the electors of Barrow and Furness as a Labour candidate and at the same time promise not to support making the current leader of that party Prime Minister?

    Let us indulge in a "thought experiment" about Mr Woodcock's statement, though at the moment it appears that rational thought in the Labour party really would be an experiment.

    Suppose, just suppose, that Labour were to win the forthcoming general election but that there were enough anti-Corbyn Labour MPs like Woodcock to hold the balance of power, and that those MPs  took what he said today to its logical conclusion.

    If there were a Labour majority the Queen would have no choice under the constitution but to ask the Labour leader to form a government.

    Is Woodcock really saying he would vote that he had no confidence in that government while Jeremy Corbyn was PM?

    If not, his statement is empty words.

    But if he really means it, then by standing for election on this platform he is asking voters to inflict on the government of our country an even worse version of the chaos which we have witnessed for the past two years in the management of the Labour party. A House of Commons with a Labour majority which refused to support the Labour leader as PM would make Britain ungovernable. The most probable result would be yet another general election a few weeks later.

    The only way Mr Woodcock can possibly imagine that he can get away with such a stance is if he is certain Labour are going to lose the election. But if he is re-adopted as the Labour candidate in Barrow and Furness, the only safe option for voters in the constituency is to decline to elect him.

    Chris Deerin on why Theresa May is right to call an election

    There is an article by Chris Deerin at CapX here on why he thinks Theresa May was right to call a general election.

    Music to relax after campaigning: Corelli's Concerto Grosso in D Major Opus 6 No 4

    Sir Patrick McLoughlin on why we need an election now

    The Chairman of the Conservative party writes about why Britain needs an election:
    Why we need an election now:


    The Prime Minister has just announced that a General Election will be held on 8 June - and that we will shortly take the necessary steps in Parliament to ensure that this can happen.        
    • We need this election now to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.
    • Every vote cast for Theresa May and the Conservatives will strengthen Britain’s hand in the Brexit negotiations.
    • We will stick to our Plan for a Stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.
    • The choice is between strong and stable leadership in the national interest with Theresa May and the Conservatives – or weak and unstable coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn.  
    We need an election because:

    It will strengthen the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand in Europe. Division in Westminster, and the Government’s small majority, risks weakening your Government’s hand in its negotiations with Europe.

    It is the only way to ensure we have strong leadership, certainty and stability. An election now will give the country stability and certainty for a full five years, not just up to the point at which we leave the European Union but beyond it too.

    And we do need an election now:

    We have a one-off chance to hold an election while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin. This decision cannot be delayed and needs to happen now. That is the only way to end the uncertainty the other parties are causing.

    If we don’t have an election, we will have uncertainty and instability. The negotiations will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled General Election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and cause uncertainty and instability.

    We have the right plan for negotiating with Europe. The Government will negotiate a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world. That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws, and our own borders – and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world. The result will be a more secure future for our country and a better deal for you.

    But our plan is opposed by the other parties. The country is coming together, but Westminster is still divided. In recent weeks, Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to “grind” the business of government “to a standstill”. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. All the other parties are doing is playing political games and causing uncertainty about the future.

    We will stick to our Plan for a Stronger Britain. Only Theresa May has the plan and the proven leadership to deliver the right deal for Britain abroad and a better deal for ordinary, working people here at home.

    We will stick to our Plan for a Stronger Britain and:

    Establish Britain as the strongest country in Europe, in economic growth and national security. We will negotiate a deep and special partnership with our European neighbours. We will strike export deals for British goods and services. And we will lead the world in preventing terrorism and fighting modern slavery.

    Build a stronger economy that rewards people who work hard and creates secure and well-paid jobs. We will make sure there is growth and prosperity around the whole country.

    Provide real opportunity for all. We will give everyone a chance to get on in life, by building enough affordable housing and making sure there is a good school place for every child.

    Build a more secure and united nation by taking action against the extremists who try to divide our society and standing up to the separatists who want to break up our country.
    But we will also take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future. We will build on the good work we have done and stick to our Plan for a Stronger Britain. But, from the productivity of our economy to the need for a world-class system of social care, we will tackle head-on the long-term challenges we face as a country.

    Theresa May is a strong leader who puts the national interest first and gets things done. When she became Prime Minister after the referendum, the priority was to provide economic certainty, a clear vision and strong leadership – and that’s what she delivered. She has also delivered on the mandate from the referendum, and begun the process through which Britain will leave the EU. Now she needs your support to lead Britain through the next five years and give the country the certainty and stability we all need.

    You can only get the strong leadership the country needs by voting for Theresa May and your local Conservative candidate.
    A vote for any other party risks Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, propped up in coalition by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats who just want to re-open the divisions of the referendum.

    The choice facing the country at this election is all about leadership. The choice in this election is strong and stable leadership in the national interest with Theresa May and the Conservatives – or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn.

    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

    PM to ask parliament for 8th June General Election

    Here is the full text of Prime Minister Theresa May's statement from Downing Street to the effect that she will ask the House of Commons tomorrow to vote for a General Election on 8th June.
    "I have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet, where we agreed that the Government should call a general election, to be held on June 8.

    "I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.

    "Last summer, after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership, and since I became Prime Minister the Government has delivered precisely that.

    "Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.

    "We have also delivered on the mandate that we were handed by the referendum result."

    "Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back. And as we look to the future, the Government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe.

    "We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world.

    "That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.

    "This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it.

    "At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not."

    "In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union.

    "The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill.

    "The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain's membership of the European Union.

    "And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.

    "Our opponents believe that because the Government's majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course.

    "They are wrong.

    "They under-estimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country.

    "Because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government's negotiating position in Europe.

    "If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election.

    "Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.

    "So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.

    "I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.

    "Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take.

    "And so tomorrow I will move a motion in the House of Commons calling for a general election to be held on the eighth of June.

    "That motion, as set out by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, will require a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons.

    "So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the Government's vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament.

    "This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the Government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game.

    "Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide.

    "And the decision facing the country will be all about leadership. It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest, with me as your Prime Minister, or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats - who want to reopen the divisions of the referendum - and Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

    "Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done.

    "Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union.

    "Every vote for the Conservatives means we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.

    "It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.

    "So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for Government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands."

    Quote of the day 18th April 2017

    "Mrs Thatcher will be remembered not as a great executive leader, because every Prime Minister is powerful, but because she is a teacher. The weakness of the Labour party over a long period is that it hasn't done any teaching."

    (Tony Benn, 8th February 1992)

    Monday, April 17, 2017

    The Prime Minister's message for Easter 2017

    Music to relax after campaigning: Barron Knights "A Taste of Aggro"

    Nick Cohen on Free Speech

    Nick Cohen wrote an excellent article last year in defence of free speech. I linked to a version of this at the time but I think it is worth reading and reminding people about again. Here is the conclusion:
    "When I argue for freedom of speech at student unions, I am greeted with incomprehension as much as outrage. It’s not only that they don’t believe in it, they don’t understand how anyone could believe in it unless they were a racist or rapist. The politicians, bureaucrats, chief police officers and corporate leaders of tomorrow are at universities, which teach that open debate and persuasion by argument are ideas so dangerous they must be banned as a threat to health and safety. Unless we challenge them in the most robust manner imaginable, whatever kind of country they grow up to preside over is unlikely to be a very free one.
    To fight them, you must emphasise censorship brings the hypocritical observance of conventional pieties. You must welcome, rather than mock, feminists and so many others, who have seen the speech codes and restrictions they once espoused boomerang back to hit them. You must emphasise that censorship demeans the censor. And point out that, once you let go of the old constraints, and grant vague powers to censor on the grounds of “safety,” “dignity” or “offence,” no one is safe.
    Censors never confine themselves to deserving targets. The record shows they aren’t snipers but machine gunners, who will hit anything that moves. Give them permission to shoot, and one day they will hit you."
    You can read the full article here.

    Quote of the day 17th April 2017

    Sunday, April 16, 2017

    Music for Easter day: S.S. Wesley's "Blessed be the God and Father"

    Samuel Sebastian Wesley composed this masterpiece to be sung in Hereford Cathedral on Easter Sunday 1834. Legend has it that the only singers he had available were three trebles and the Dean's Butler who sang bass. This arrangement requires a slightly larger choir, though it is easy to realise that it would have been wonderful to listen to only with the original four voices!


    Happy Easter to everyone who reads this

    Today Christians throughout the world celebrate the day when we believe that Jesus, the son of God,  rose from the dead.

    To everyone reading this who shares that belief, may the love of Jesus be with you today.

    To those of other faiths or none, peace to you today on this most holy day.

    To all who live in a country which celebrates this time with a holiday, I wish you have a good holiday.

    To everyone I wish you and your family good health and a Happy Easter.

    Quote of the day for Easter Sunday 2017

    “Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.”
    N.T. Wright.

    Saturday, April 15, 2017

    Is the Conservative lead 21% or 9%?

    There are two opinion polls out for Easter Weekend. Opinium’s poll for the Observer shows a Conservative lead of only - only! - nine percentage points and therefore the gap between the two main parties dropping into single figures for the first time in more than two months, while the ComRes poll for the Independent and Sunday Mirror has it increasing to 21 percentage points, the biggest lead for a Tory government since September 1987.

    Opinion polls are not perfect and the gap between these two illustrates the point, though they are better than relying on anecdotal evidence.

    My personal view is that the real Conservative lead is probably rather more than 9% but rather less than 21%.

    There is an excellent article by Matt Singh of Number Cruncher Politics on the differences between the two polls which you can read here.

    Music to relax after campaigning: Bach Harpsichord Concerto D minor BWV 1052

    Quote of the day 15th April 2017

    Friday, April 14, 2017

    A final Good Friday post

    Rob Semple on Cumbria Conservatives leading the way

    Rob Semple is Chairman of the National Conservative Convention which makes him the senior elected member of the Conservative voluntary party.

    Here is an extract from an article he wrote yesterday on Conservative Home

    "I want to update those who were unable to make it to Cardiff for our recent Spring Forum and National Convention on developments that have taken place since.

    I was delighted that the forum was held on a larger scale again, and am grateful to our colleagues in Wales who hosted us.

    This gathering was our first since the historic win in Copeland for Trudy Harrison – winning a seat that has not been Conservative since 1935 was a truly stunning result. Trudy gave a great speech at the forum, and thanked activists from across the country who had braved often hostile weather conditions to play their part in her victory. It was a real team effort by volunteers, professionals and Parliamentarians across the Party – so thank you to everyone who helped out, whether that was on the ground or making calls from home.

    Cumbria is also leading the way in the good progress we are making in implementing proposals from the Party Review. Members in Copeland and the other five Cumbria constituencies have now voted overwhelmingly in a members’ ballot to create the Party’s first Multiple Constituency Association (MCA). The Party is now in the process of recruiting a dedicated campaign manager for the area to help drive this initiative forward. Close behind, another MCA has been approved by a similarly convincing majority in a ballot in Northumberland – another important step which will help us to strengthen our campaigning power across the North of England."

    You can read the full article here.

    Music for Good Friday part 2: Byrd's Ave Verum Corpus.

    The second of two posts with music to mark Good Friday, here is one of the most beautiful Passiontide anthems ever written, "Ave Verum Corpus" (Hail, true body) by William Byrd.

    Music for Good Friday part one: Bach's St. Matthew Passion, opening chorus

    This is the first of two posts with music to mark Good Friday: the first chorus of J.S. Bach's Passion of Our Lord according to Matthew: "Come ye daughters, hear my mourning."

    Tim Farron does his best to offend everyone in Scotland

    I had the unusual experience this week of briefly intending to defend Lib/Dem leader Tim Farron. Then I checked what he had actually said and realised he didn't really deserve defending ...

    Chris Deering tweeted that a Tim Farron speech in Edinburgh could be characterised as

    "Come to Scotland and tell us we're" (insert rude word here)

    in response to a Buzzfeed report of the speech, titled

    "Tim Farron Says Scots Were The 'Trailblazers' Of Personal Abuse In Politics"

    Seeing this headline, I thought to myself "Surely he didn't say that, he must have said the SNP, not all Scots."

    Well, I looked and you can check it for yourself by clicking here, but unless Buzzfeed have seriously misquoted Tim Farron he did indeed appear, addressing his Scottish audience as "you," to suggest that Scots in general were trailblazers leading the way for the rest of the country in introducing "heated and personal abuse" in British politics.

    Now I myself have written in the past week that the abuse thrown by some aggressive nationalists, which has been returned by some unionists, is poisoning the politics of Scotland. But it is important not to suggest that every nationalist, or every unionist, let alone all Scots in general, are guilty of this, and I hope nothing I have written here gives that impression.

    But Mr Farron seems to be fairly indiscriminate in his insults, throwing barbs at Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson and Scots in general with reckless disregard for their accuracy - for example, he accused Ruth who was one of the leading "Remain" campaigners in Britain, not just Scotland, of being "the voice of Brexit in Scotland."

    Bob Monkhouse used to tell a joke which is extremely amusing and may sound plausible but which in my experience is almost the exact reverse of the truth.

    His joke was that the only time politicians tell the truth is when they are calling each other liars.

    Actually in my experience most politicians tell the truth most of the time when they are talking about what policies they want to implement but rather too many people involved in politics suffer a steep decline in the accuracy of their statements at the exact point when they start talking about their opponents.

    Many Lib/Dems are among the worst offenders, although both the cases in recent English electoral history in which a successful candidate was removed from office and a fresh election called because he or she was caught telling lies about a rival candidate - this is an offence under election law and in both cases the lies were extremely serious - involved Labour candidates or their campaign knowingly making untrue statements about their Lib/Dem opponents.

    What I am about to write is a classic example of the Epimenides paradox. Nevertheless:

    I think it is wise always to take what any politician says about his or her opponents with a high degree of caution.

    Quote of the day for Good Friday 2017

    Thursday, April 13, 2017

    Myths it's time to abandon 1) My enemy's enemy is my friend

    This is the first in an occasional series of posts about old ideas which have far more influence than they deserve on our thinking, often without people realising it, and which it is high time we outgrew. The old idea I would like to suggest we consign to the bin today is this one:

    "My enemy's enemy is my friend."

    There have been historical instances of nations in Europe managing to make this principle work for them for a while. The "Ault Alliance" of Scotland and France against England in the days before the Union of the Crowns is perhaps an example, for instance, though Jacobites who attempted to revive it found themselves pawns in the game of European diplomacy and great harm came to Scotland as a result.

    However, if is relatively easy to point to the day in history when the harm done by this concept outweighed any good it had previously done, drowning the entire continent and a significant part of the rest of the world in blood.

    28th June 1914.

    That was the date on which a teenage lunatic with a revolver, part of a small group of conspirators apparently co-ordinated by prominent members of Serbian military intelligence who had "gone rogue" (and were subsequently executed for treason) shot an Austrian archduke and his wife.

    It's not entirely surprising that this caused a war between Austria and Serbia: but of course, it did not end there..

    In 1914 most of the nations of Europe were part of one or other of two vast rival systems of interlocking defensive alliances which had been built not on the basis of shared values, as NATO is, but mostly on the basis that "My enemy's enemy is my friend." When Austria responded to the Sarajevo assassination by declaring war on Serbia, practically the entire continent was dragged into the war through these alliances, and ultimately with them much of the rest of the world.

    More than nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a consequence of what was known at the time as "The Great War" or, too optimistically as it proved, as "The war to end wars" but which we most often now refer to as the first world war. Because of the idea that my enemy's enemy is my friend, one bullet fired in the Balkans caused the deaths of sixty thousand Australians, sixty thousand Indians, and three quarters of a million Brits, along with other people from all around the world.

    The modern example which should most disprove the principle is the one where it most obviously influences the thinking of many people - the Middle East in general and Syria and Iraq in particular.

    The tapestry of rival religious, ethnic and political factions in the Middle East, most of whom hate one another, is more complex than even experts can fully understand.

    In the Syrian civil war, for instance, there are a large number of factions as this map of the territory controlled by different groups attempts to illustrate:

    In this complex situation, whether one actor gains if you weaken another is far from obvious. But the trap laid by the propaganda of the Syrian regime and their Russian allies, a trap which is fallen into all too readily by an many normally sensible people, is the one illustrated in this cartoon:

    The Assad regime are butchers and war criminals. So is DA'ESH, the organisation which claims to be the new Islamic Caliphate and is sometimes known as "Islamic State," IS, ISIS or ISIL

    It is a perfectly valid point that the West should be careful to assess the full consequences of any actions we take in Syria, and should be particularly careful to avoid acting against one vile regime in ways which have the effect of causing more people to come under the control of an even worse one.

    But it is a great mistake to move from this valid point to believing all the Syrian regime or Russian propaganda which excuses every atrocity by claiming that everyone they bombed or gassed was part of DA'ESH when all too frequently the victims of Syrian and Russian attacks have been nothing of the kind.

    Russia and the Assad regime describe every one of their airstrikes as being against IS (DA'ESH) or "terrorists" but all too many of the Syrian regime's barrel bombs, and Russian bombs and missiles as well, have been landing on members of other opposition groups not aligned with DA'ESH such as the Kurds or the Free Syrian Army, and with depressing regularity on hospitals, schools, rescue workers, and unfortunate innocent civilians. Pointing this out does not make one an apologist for DA'ESH.

    There is no good option in Syria, only a choice between bad options and terrible ones. Doing nothing falls into one of these categories (which is not a justification for taking a course of action which will have even more disastrous consequences than doing nothing).

    If we see the opportunity to build a negotiated peace which does not represent a complete victory for either of the most vile factions in Syria, we should probably take it. And we should not let the outdated idea that "my enemy's enemy is my friend" cloud our judgement.

    Campaigning Easter 2017

    Out of respect of residents' personal space and bearing in mind the religious significance of these days, Copeland Conservatives will not be campaigning on Good Friday or Easter Sunday.

    We will be campaigning on Saturday and on Easter Monday, but activity on these days will only consist of delivering leaflets.

    Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Prelude & Fugue in E Minor "The Wedge"

    Another version of the Prelude and Fugue for organ nicknamed "The Wedge" because of the shape on the stave that the run of broken chords makes during the Fugue.

    Quote of the day 13th April 2017