Friday, June 30, 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth on her sea trials

Here is the supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest warship ever constructed for the Royal Navy, on her sea trials this week, escorted by the frigates HMS Sutherland and HMS Iron Duke.

A wonderful sketch of yesterday's Cumbria County Council meeting

"Cumbria Journo" Ellis Butcher has written an exceptionally entertaining (and pretty accurate) account of Thursday's double meeting of Cumbria County Council which you can read at

I particularly love the "Reservoir Dogs" riff on the newly elected Conservative county councillors.

There are about sixteen Conservative County Councillors who have just been elected for the first time to Cumbria CC, including myself, plus a couple of returning members who had been county councillors before. Of the new Conservative members quite a number are tall, generally smartly dressed, and aged in their twenties or thirties.

I qualify under the first of those descriptions but sadly not the third.

All three descriptions apply to half a dozen of the new Tory councillors and "Cumbria Journo" has a picture of James Airey and five of those  - Ben Berry, Ben Shirley, Gareth Ellis, Stephen Haraldsen and Sol Wielkopolski (who was charmingly polite about the struggle some councillors were having pronouncing his name) as the Reservoir Dogs.

As I have the enormous ego which is almost universal among those who put themselves forward for elected office (because nobody who does not have a high opinion of their own abilities would or should offer themselves for these important, difficult and largely thankless jobs) I was ever so slightly disappointed at not being mentioned in the article but I can still recommend it.

The article finished by noting that the county coucnil stood for a minute's silence in memory of two former county councillors who died recently, one of them my good friend Ray Cole. It concluded with the words "They will be missed."

I agree.

Quote of the day 30th June 2017


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council - part two

During the question session at Cumbria County Council I asked the portfolio holder for Roads and Transport how many "shovel ready" schemes we have to improve the A595, either on the section of the road for which Cumbria County Council is responsible, or on the section which is still a trunk road dealt with by government, and what progress there had been since the last meeting.

There were some general comments made but I was promised a written response with full details which I presume will be in the public domain and will share.

I also indicated that, just as Cato the Elder repeated endlessly in the Roman senate the words "Carthago delenda est" (Carthage must be destroyed) I intend to keep asking this question again and again until we have significantly more progress in improving this road.

Deferred Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council - part one

Today was the deferred annual meeting of Cumbria County Council.

As expected there was a Labour and Lib/Dem stitch-up: instead of attempting to put together an administration of all parties, as the Conservatives had proposed, the parties which had come second and third in the county council election combined with three independents to exclude the party which had by far the most votes and seats from the council executive.

The most interesting thing about this was how defensive the Labour leader on the County council, Stuart Young, was about his election.

Before anyone from the Conservative side had made any allegation that his election as leader of Cumbria County council was illegitimate or illegal, councillor Young was keen to deny that suggestion.

Indeed, nobody from the Conservative group did suggest such a thing: but we certainly did say that

1) excluding the largest party was a stitch-up,
2) it was not wise to form a potentially very precarious administration in this manner, and
3) this was not what the electors had voted for

Let me substantiate that last point.

As you can see here the Labour party on Cumbria County Council had just lost vote share, a third of their seats, the position of largest party, and the previous administration's majority. It is very difficult indeed to credibly argue that the voters wanted them to carry on as before.

No party had a majority but the Conservatives were far closer than anyone else and indeed, polled a whisker more votes than Labour and the Lib/Dems combined.

On that basis we put forward a proposal for an all-party "rainbow coalition" administration and I still think that would have been a much more secure basis on which to run the council and been closer to what the voters of Cumbria appeared to want.

It is a measure of how defensive and uncomfortable Labour were with what they had just done to continue running Cumbria County council that Councillor Young put forward the rather convoluted argument that if you add up the Labour vote, the Lib/Dem vote, and the votes cast for the three independent councillors who voted for him as Leader of the Council, you get slightly more votes than the total Conservative vote.

If he really thought he had a strong mandate Councillor Young would simply thanked a majority of the councillors for voting for him and gone on to discuss what he actually wants to do with the position of leader having been re-elected to it.

Adding up the Conservative, or Labour, or Lib/Dem votes could be part of a valid argument since these electors had ticked a box next to which there was a political party logo and you can credibly argue that these voters had supported that party programme or group.

But Independent candidates by definition have distanced themselves from any party affiliation and to add up their votes as part of a calculation of party or group support is just plain silly.

It will be interesting to see how long this administration lasts. It might stagger on for four years but I would not bet on it.

Music spot: SImon and Garfunkel, "The Sound of Silence" (1964)

Quote of the day 29th June 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth - myths and facts

Many of those people who pay any attention to the facts about the defence of the UK have started to get rather irritated about the number of myths floating around about the UK's new supercarriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, left Rosyth for her sea trials yesterday.

Yes, the carriers will have aircraft and will start their air trials next year.

The UK Defence Review refutes here the suggestion in the media that the new warships will be dependent on Windows XP. The Ministry of Defence has stated that

“The MoD can confirm that Windows XP will not be used by any onboard system when the ship becomes operational, this also applies to HMS Prince of Wales.”

Apparently the suggestion to the contrary originated when a documentary about the construction of the carriers showed a laptop, not part of the ship's inventor but owned by one of the engineers building the vessel, which was displaying a comedy wallpaper giving the impression it was running on XP.

I suppose the silver lining to the cloud of nonsense about the ships is that it might have led thousands of hackers from certain countries not very friendly to Britain to waste their time attempting to find Windows XP backdoors into the ship's systems, time which they might otherwise have used to do some real damage ...

Midweek music spot: Steeleye Span, "Somewhere along the road"

PM says there will be a "major national investigation" into fire safety

Test results from the BRE at Bricket Wood continue to show a 100% failure rate as they have now tested samples of cladding from 95 buildings in 32 local authority areas. All the tests so far have involved local authority-owned blocks, rather than private buildings.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered a major national investigation.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. who has been put in charge of co-ordinating the response, has urged councils to send in samples urgently. The government recognised that some councils have moved very quickly in terms of sending in their samples and encouraged the others "to do so as soon as possible.”
Samples of cladding are also being sought from schools and hospitals.

Sajid Javid told the House of Commons yesterday that:

“The prime minister said there would need to be a major national investigation into what had gone wrong, when cladding which is failing the tests was fitted on buildings across the country over a number of decades.

“Very clearly, these failures are concerning and this is why the prime minister said to cabinet this morning we need to have this major national investigation.”

The NHS has identified as many as 30 hospital trusts in England that have cladding made of material similar to that used on Grenfell Tower or about which there are other unresolved fire safety concerns.

Nine unnamed hospitals deemed to be at the greatest risk of fire as a result of their cladding, which were identified after all trusts filled in a questionnaire about their buildings, are now receiving support from the regulator NHS Improvement. The hospitals are all understood to be high-rise buildings.

Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council

The deferred Annual meeting of Cumbria County Council, to appoint the Chair and Vice chair, Leader and Committees, takes place tomorrow (29th June 2017) in County Hall, Kendal at 10am and will be followed by the regular meeting due on the same day.

It would appear that a reasonable arrangement has been reached on the Chair and Vice chair, and I'm pleased that councillors on all sides have taken a grown-up approach to those particular offices because like the speaker in parliament and non-executive mayors at district level, the holders have a responsibility to show a degree of impartiality when in the chair.
However, it also appears that the appointment of the Leader and Cabinet is going to be a stitch-up by the second and third placed parties to exclude the group with the largest share of votes and seats (more votes, it is worth noting, than they got between them.)

The Conservatives proposed an all-party inclusive administration (sometimes referred to as a rainbow coalition) and was also prepared to consider other options which would have given the county council a majority administration. Instead the Labour and Lib/Dem groups have announced that they will continue as a coalition administration, despite having only half the seats on the council(42 out of 84) between them. They presumably hope to limp along with support from some of the five independent members of the council. (This year they will also have the chair's casting vote, though they have promised the Conservatives the chair next year.)

This is not going to be a recipe for good governance: while this administration lasts I foresee full council meetings and some of the county-wide committees resembling trench warfare though I hope that constructive work can be done at some of the local and county-wide committees.

Quote of the day 28th June 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Scotland's first minister puts early second independence referendum on hold

It is perhaps too early to suggest that the SNP has had an outbreak of sanity.

Nevertheless there are signs of faint dawnings of reality as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced today that early plans for another Independence referendum have been put on hold.

The first minister told Holyrood she accepted there was no popular support in Scotland for a second vote on independence, and that legislation to hold one would be delayed until at least autumn 2018.

However, Nicola Sturgeon said she reserved the right to bring back her proposed bill to stage the independence vote in autumn 2018.

The Scottish National party lost 21 of its 56 Westminster seats at the hands of all three pro-UK parties at the election. Its support fell by 470,000 votes, and the party's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, and former first minister Alex Salmond lost their seats to the Conservatives.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, said Sturgeon ought to cancel all plans for a referendum during this parliament, and take responsibility for misreading the mood of the Scottish electorate.

“She appears to be in denial about her mistakes over this last year and, as a result, is leaking credibility and confidence in her leadership by the hour,” Davidson said. “She now claims to be putting the referendum to one side. She should just give the country some certainty and take it off the table for the rest of this parliament at least.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Rosyth for her sea trials

The largest and most powerful warship ever built for the Royal Navy, the supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, left Rosyth today for six weeks of sea trials. Her flight trials will begin next year.

Copeland Local Committee agenda published

The agenda for the first Copeland Local Committee of this term for Cumbria County Council has now been published. It will take place at Cleator Moor Civic Hall and Masonic centre from 10.15am on Tuesday 4th July.

The Copeland Local Committee consists of all Cumbria  County Councillors representing divisions within Copeland Borough Council. It has a fair amount of influence over the provision of local county council services within the Copeland Borough area, particularly on Highways matters.

The agenda for next week's meeting includes a petition being presented by a local resident in my division, Dugald Sperry-Lamb, calling for a 20mph speed limit through Moor Row.

Fire safety tests on building cladding, continued.

After the government asked authorities responsible for 600 tower blocks with aluminium compound cladding to submit samples for fire safety testing, the latest position on Monday was that  26 local housing authorities have so far complied. They have submitted samples of cladding from 75 high rise buildings for testing and as of Monday it is still the case that every one has failed.

Fire safety experts have asked for  greater transparency about exactly what tests the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at Bricket Wood between Watford and St Albans is conducting.

That's a legitimate request but, having been to the BRE while I was a St Albans councillor (it's actually in the local authority area of the City and District of St Albans) I am satisfied that they would not be producing such alarming results unless there were genuine cause for concern or to dance to any government agenda.

As I wrote on Sunday, it is still too early to start pointing the finger of blame at individuals, but no longer too early to recognise that we appear to have a problem far more serious than a failure by one council, one small group of people, or one part of the political spectrum; we seem to face a nationwide and long-term systemic failure of fire regulation.

Inadequate fire safety rules and enforcement appear to have been in place while ministers from every major party have been in office and councils of every pattern of political control are responsible for buildings in which fire safety is in urgent need of improvement.

This should be a spur to people in all parts of the political spectrum, not to use the tragic deaths at Grenfell Tower for scoring partisan points which look increasingly hypocritical, but rather to take positive and urgent action to actually address the need to improve fire safety in hundreds of tall buildings throughout the UK.

Quote of the day 27th June 2017

"You cannot engage someone coming to Jesus on the physics of walking on water. They want Corbyn because he is honest and principled and will put an end to austerity.

When George Osborne announced a further £9bn cuts to welfare in 2015, the Labour front bench ordered MPs to abstain. Corbyn rebelled and parlayed anger at the compromise into backing for his leadership campaign. Now he is committed to implementing £7bn of those very same cuts if he reaches Number 10.

These are facts, but proof is no longer sufficient or relevant. No talking in church.

This same joyful credulity immunised the young from revulsion at Corbyn’s extreme views and associations. Corbynistas trill with unseemly glee that no one cares about the IRA or anti-Semitism.

Well, I care. I care that people don’t care. I care that a party I would like to be able to vote for is a furious foe of every brand of racism except one. I care that the historical record on the Troubles can be revised by ignorance and excused by those who know better simply because it is politically advantageous. I care because the margins are overcoming the mainstream."

(Stephen Daisley,  from a Spectator article called "Jeremy Corbyn and the cult of anti-knowledge")

Monday, June 26, 2017

The new generational culture war

Despite the outcome of the election, I think it is a very healthy thing for the future of British democracy that many young people appear to have learned the lesson from the Brexit referendum that political decisions can affect their future and that it is a good idea to vote.

Now we have to make sure the Conservatives say something positive to them, as well as being a bit more willing to point out the many serious holes in Labour's claims - for instance, the idea that they would have a cat in hell's chance of being able to fund the promise to scrap tuition fees and return to student grants, let alone cancel the loans to those who have already graduated.

How many young voters who voted Labour in 2017 knew that Labour had said during the 1997 election that they would fund higher education in a different way, but then introduced Tuition fees?

Or that Labour fought the 2001 election on a clear and specific promise not to increase them, and then did? A broken promise every bit as clear-cut as Nick Clegg's on the same subject in 2010. In fact, pretty much exactly the same breach of exactly the same promise.

It isn't the fault of people who were toddlers when Labour previously broke similar but much less expensive promises than the ones they were making again in 2017 if they didn't know that Labour has form for making such promises and breaking them - we should have told them.

There will be some people we can never convince and others who will not recognise the truth until their ideas collide with reality the hard way. But I refuse to believe that all young people are too foolish to listen.

Nevertheless what we are seeing is what amounts to an inter-generational culture war.

There is an interesting piece by Stephen Daisley on his blog, which first appeared in the Scottish Mail, about this generational culture war, "Children of Corbyn go to war against their parents."

Here is an extract:

"For all the talk of a voter backlash against austerity, those most acutely affected by it — the low skilled and low paid — went for the Tories. Despite his enthusiasm for Venezuelan-style command economics, Jeremy Corbyn won over swathes of Middle Britain.

The shift is not one of economics so much as values, tearing up the tarmac of assumptions and conventions on which British politics has run for generations. Labour and the Tories once chased the votes of Essex Man and Worcester Woman; the latest battleground is for the support of Kensington Corbynistas, the sort of electors who turned the safe London Tory seat red on June 8.

The new centre ground is young, university-educated, and socially progressive. They were raised without religion; view faith as part mania, part hate crime; and spent four years in lecture halls being taught that the West is racist and men who blow up Tel Aviv nightclubs have a point.

They don’t buy a daily newspaper, get their information from partisan and sometimes conspiracy-minded websites, and were baffled that older voters were so upset about Corbyn and the IRA. Didn’t grandpa know it was Jeremy who secured peace in Northern Ireland? They have never heard of the Good Friday Agreement and don’t get what was so Good about Friday in the first place.

Where their elders could not vote for Corbyn because of his support for terrorists and comradeship with anti-Semites, the 2017 generation would only have been put off if he’d been caught using the wrong gender pronoun.

For these voters the election was as much a clash of cultures as a clash of ideas. Their politics is impressionistic and fleeting, animated less by reasoned argument or an overarching philosophy than by a series of impulses and attitudes. Immigration is an unquestionable good; Western arrogance, not Islamism, is to blame for terrorism; bankers are wicked and corporate giants deserve to have their shop front windows smashed as long as protestors feel strongly enough about something.

Assumptions such as these are jealously held and considered by the new generation to be axiomatic; no one, they figure, could possibility disagree with them unless they are an irredeemable bigot. This is a politics of moral preferences in which no one is permitted to prefer other moral viewpoints."

You can read the whole article here.

Quote of the day 26th June 2017

"If Corbyn and McDonnell currently represent the "politics of hope," God help us when they turn nasty."

(Dan Hodges, former Labour and trade union official, on Twitter.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Corbyn pledges to scrap Trident "as soon as I can"

Memo to anyone in Copeland or Barrow in Furness who voted Labour because they believed the claims from local Labour candidates that official Labour policy is to keep Trident.

As Guido Fawkes reports here, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, Michael Eavis says that  Jeremy Corbyn told him he will get rid of Trident “as soon as I can“.

Quotes via Somerset Live:
When asked about the Labour leader’s appearance, Michael Eavis said: “Wasn’t he fantastic?” 
Eavis says he asked Corbyn when he is going to be prime minister and that he replied: ‘In six months’. 
Eavis also said he asked Corbyn: “When are you going to get rid of Trident?”
“He said: ‘as soon as I can’.”

Fire Cladding test results

The government having asked the authorities responsible for 600 tower blocks with aluminium compound cladding to submit samples for fire safety testing, we hear today that 25 local housing authorities have so far complied, submitting samples of cladding from 60 blocks safety testing and apparently every one has failed.

This does not necessarily mean that every one of those buildings needs to be evacuated but it does suggest that substantial improvements in fire safety are called for.

It is still far too early to start pointing the finger of blame, let alone throwing accusations of murder around for political gain, but it is no longer too early to recognise that this does not appear to be a failure by one council, one small group of people, or one part of the political spectrum - it is far more serious than that.

We seem to be looking not at a local problem but at a nationwide systemic failure of fire regulation. It would appear that either the building regulation rules governing the safety of building cladding are inadequate,  or there has been a widespread failure to apply and enforce them, or both.

And it would appear that these inadequate arrangements have been in place while ministers from every major party have been in office and that councils of every pattern of political control are responsible for buildings in which fire safety is in urgent need of improvement.

In the circumstances I suggest that anyone in any part of the political spectrum who is trying to use the tragic deaths at Grenfell Tower to score political points would be better employed in ensuring that their own party as well as all the others face up to the urgent need to improve fire safety in hundreds of tall buildings throughout our country, including hospitals and other public buildings as well as residential tower blocks.


Qui s'excuse s'accuse ...

I initially thought that an article in Thursday's FT critical of the Chinese government's "National Renewal" policy,

"The Dark Side of China's national renewal"

written by their Asia editor, New Zealander Jamil Anderlini, was possibly a bit over the top.

I made a point of reading it after learning that every copy of the FT on sale at Beijing Airport on Thursday had the Comment page with this article removed.

Whenever I hear that someone wants to stop people reading something, unless they have used due process to demonstrate a legitimate reason - producing in court convincing evidence that it isn't true, for instance - it tends to make me want to read it.

Whether Mr Anderlini is right or not, the combination of the action taken at Beijing Airport and the rather childish attacks on his article in the comments section of the FT site do make me think that he has evidently touched a nerve.

Sunday music spot: VOCES8 sing Adoramus Te, Christe by Monteverdi

Quote of the day 25th June 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday music spot: Henry Purcell's "Come, come ye sons of art"

Music written by Henry Purcell to celebrate the birthday of Queen Mary in 1694.

Jenny McCarthy on how criticism of the DUP has gone over the top

I do not pretend to be an expert on the complex and difficult politics of Northern Ireland.

I do know that many people on both sides of the sectarian divide in the province have said, done and supported things which I consider shocking.

I also know that, thanks to heroes in both communities, there has been massive progress in building a society in which people who would once have refused to speak to each other can work together and have done so.

There is an incredibly long way to go but the peace process has made enormous strides. Part of this is that people who were once terrorists - on both sides - have laid down their arms and worked for peace in the province.

And if we are trying to build normal politics in Northern Ireland, that means that MPs from the province who have been elected to Westminster's parliament should not be treated as pariahs or second class MPs unless their behaviour clearly justifies such treatment.

There is an article by Jenny McCarthy on CAPX about how some people have been writing about the DUP,

"Criticism of the DUP has plunged into outright hypocrisy,"

which makes important points about this. She writes that

"Journalists who should and do know better wrote about the DUP exactly as if it were the roaringly sectarian Paisleyite party of the early 70s, rather than one that has been sharing power with Sinn Fein at Stormont for the last ten years."

"What kind of deal can be thrashed out between the Conservatives and the DUP, and when? I do not know, but these talks have already exposed a chasm in both empathy and understanding between England and Northern Ireland. What is depressing" ... "is how few opinion-formers in England have even the honest inclination to try and bridge it."

Armed Forces Day

Today is Armed Forces Day, a chance to celebrate the role our armed forces have played in defending our country and the world.

Britain's Royal Navy probably did more than any other military unit to wipe out the slave trade.

Britain's armed forces played a pivotal role in preventing megalomaniac after megalomaniac from taking over first Europe and then the world.

Without Britain's armed forces it is very likely that millions of people who are alive today would have been killed or never been born - anyone Jewish, Gypsy or Slavic, or anyone else the Nazis didn't like - and the rest of the world would be living in what Churchill accurately described as a new Dark age made all the more sinister by the lights of perverted science.

Let us be grateful for all our armed forces have done for Britain and the world.

Quote of the day 24th June 2017

A question that Diane Abbott asked a year ago, and the reply ...

Friday, June 23, 2017

DA'ESH destroy historic Mosque

The self-proclaimed "Islamic State" caliphate or DA'ESH (the Arabic abbreviation for their name, which I prefer to use because they don't like it) has destroyed the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, a building of great historic and religious significance to Muslims in Iraq.

DA'ESH were about to lose control of the mosque as the Iraqi army is in the final stages of retaking Mosul which will mean that virtually all the territory which the self-styled Caliphate held in Iraq has been liberated from this gang of murderers, rapists, and slavers.

So they blew it up instead, and claimed that it had been destroyed in a US bombing raid. But the Iraqi armed forces were observing the mosque at the time of it's destruction and have released a video which makes pretty clear that the explosives which destroyed the al-Nuri Mosque were placed on the ground and not an air strike.

This death cult claims to be acting on behalf of Islam. Perhaps they even believe it. But their actions are a cruel perversion of a religion whose name means "Peace" and which describe their God as "The Compassionate, the Merciful."

And blowing up the holy places of a religion is a strange way to serve that religion. Almost as strange as believing that you can convince people that a religion is holy by beheading or blowing up anyone who doesn't follow it in precisely the way you favour, from aid workers who were murdered for risking their lives to help sick children to innocent girls at a rock concert.

When DA'ESH lose the last of their territory - which will happen soon, very possibly before the end of this year - they will no longer be able to claim to be a caliphate. Sadly the evil which is Jihadist extremist will probably mutate into another form and we will still need to protect ourselves against it. But at least one particularly sick chapter in the history of man's inhumanity to man will have closed.

Second quote of the day 23rd June 2017

"The First Minister has somehow gone from Indira Gandhi to Cruella de Vil."

(Stephen Daisley on how the people of Scotland are becoming aware of the incompetence and arrogance of the SNP administration at Holyrood: extract from an article called

"Watching Trump's Twitter come to life at FMQs")

Congratulations to Colonel Ruth

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has been appointed as the honorary Colonel of her former army unit, the 32nd Signal Regiment, for a five-year term.

The reserve regiment includes squadrons based in Edinburgh, East Kilbride, Glasgow, Belfast and Darlington.

This is an honorary position which is normally filled by a retired senior officer or member of the Royal family but can be undertaken by public figures.

Ms Davidson was asked to take on the role due to her work in the Territorial Army before she became an MSP and her backing of reserve forces while in parliament.
She said:

"Reservists make up over a quarter of the British Army and the UK's defences rely upon them.

"As well as the specialist skills required for the type of regiment you join, the training you receive as a reservist develops leadership, decision making, teamwork, confidence and moral courage.

"I loved my time in uniform and am so grateful for everything it taught me. I am delighted to have been asked back to my former regiment to act as its honorary Colonel for the next five years."

Tomorrow marks Armed Forces Day across the UK.

Friday music spot: Bach's Harpsichord Concerto in D minor BWV 1052 (first movement)

Quote of the day 23rd June 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

Star Wars musical parodies week - Starfighters in the sky

In memory of the victims

There have been more horrible tragedies already this year than any country should have to suffer, but it is important that we do not become desensitised to death and horror and that we continue to remember the victims.

Following the minute's silence in memory of the Grenfell Tower victims which was held at 11am this morning, here is the chorus "Lux Aeterna" (Eternal light shine apon them) from Mozart's Requiem

In memory of the Grenfell Tower Victims

Reminder: in one hour's time (11am on Monday 19th June 2017) people throughout the UK will observe a minute's silence in memory of those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Quote of the day 19th June 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

MInute's silence tomorrow in memory of victims of Grenfell Tower disaster

The UK will be observing a minute's silence tomorrow at 11am in memory of the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Sunday music spot: Let the Bright Seraphim (Handel)

As a break from Star Wars parodies. here is Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim" from "Samson."

Quote of the day 18th June 2017

"It was Farron's inability either to stick to his beliefs about homosexuals or renounce them ... that led to his downfall, nothing to do with Christianity."

"Farron had a clear choice. Many Christians believe homosexual marriage is OK."

"However, he neither stuck to the teachings of his church nor honestly disowned them. Instead he prevaricated, dissembled and effectively lied. It's not Christianity that's to blame but the fact that Farron has the moral fibre of a lime-jelly rabbit that has been made by an idiot with too much water and not enough, er, gelatin."

(Rod Liddle, article in today's Sunday Times, views attributed to a spokes-angel for the Almighty.)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Great Get Together

Patrick McLoughlin writes:

Subject: The Great Get Together
The Great Get Together


Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP. The Jo Cox Foundation have organised the Great Get Together this weekend – it is a great initiative and I hope that you will be able to play a part in it.

Thank you for your continued support. Below is the information you will need to get involved.
Kind regards,

Patrick McLoughlin 
Chairman of the Conservative Party

It is one year since the appalling, hate-filled murder of MP Jo Cox. 
Her friends and family don’t want it to be a mournful occasion. Jo was a passionate campaigner, and inspired by her, they want us to channel our horror and grief into something positive.
So, they’re spending the weekend celebrating what we have in common, and they’ve asked us to join them.
It’s called The Great Get Together, and it’s a very simple idea: they’re asking you to do something -- big or small -- to bring our communities together on 16 - 18 June. Will you join in? 
Yes, I’ll celebrate that we have more in common 
There are a number of ways to join in: you could organise a get together of your neighbours, go to one of the events that’s already planned, bravely speak to a neighbour you don’t yet know well or join in via social media.
At last count, over 120,000 events are already planned across the country -- from picnics at local schools to street parties, football tournaments and community iftars (breaking of the ramadan fast). If we also join, the celebration of having more in common will be truly huge. 
Just let the Jo Cox Foundation know that you want to join in and they’ll send you a list of ideas for how other people are getting involved. 
I want to be part of the weekend 
The idea of the Great Get Together was born out of that desire to carry on Jo’s work and celebrate our shared humanity. While we’ve just finished another election where we’ve focused on our important differences, we also know that underlying this is a deep desire to be part of close communities.
The Big Lunch have teamed up with the Great Get Together to move their annual celebration and an incredible range of organisations and individuals are taking part, from the Scouts and GirlGuides to the RNLI, RSPB, Women’s Institute and Premier League. 

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

Disasters like Grenfell Tower need justice, not scapegoats.

The first stage of shock when something terrible happens is denial, and the second is anger.

It is right and proper that the causes of a terrible disaster like the Grenfell Tower fire should be properly investigated, that when we know why it happened all reasonable steps should be taken to make such disasters less likely in the future, and that if anyone has been negligent they should  be brought to justice.

What should not happen is lashing out in anger on the basis of having jumped to conclusions about what happened and why on the basis of speculation or, worse, outright falsehoods such as the inaccurate claim that the Home Office had put a "D-notice" on the fire to prevent reporting of the details.

(The first clue that this particular smear was rubbish is the attribution of this action to the Home Office, which has nothing to do with D-notices. Both the Defence and Security Media Committee, the government body which actually issues D-notices, and the newspapers, including even The Daily Mirror which has otherwise been critical of the government, have flatly denied this story.)

I've seen comments from some, mostly Labour, people trying to blame Conservatives for the fire, I've also seen it suggested in other quarters that some decisions by Labour ministers on fire regulation may have contributed to the tragedy.

There has also been a great deal of fuss about whether or not Mrs May should have met the victims and survivors earlier. I am old enough to find this highly ironic because I remember exactly the opposite charge was made from the broadly same political quarter against Margaret Thatcher.

Mrs Thatcher as PM had a deserved reputation for being one of the first people on the scene whenever there was a terrorist atrocity or terrible accident. After the Piper Alpha North Sea drilling rig disaster, the Kings' Cross fire, the Manchester Air disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, the M1 Air Crash, and too many other tragedies and atrocities to mention, the dust would barely have settled and Maggie would be there, meeting the emergency services and survivors, visiting the injured in hospital, the whole works.

Did Mrs T get any credit for this from the kind of people who have been accusing the present PM of not doing this? Of course not. In fact they found excuses to criticise her for it.  One left-wing comedian even asked if there was a card he could carry to tell the emergency services that if he was in hospital after a disaster he didn't want the Prime Minister visiting him there.

If we had twitter records going back forty years I strongly suspect we would find some of the same people who suggested this week that Theresa May did not do enough to meet survivors, victims and the injured quickly were among those who criticised Maggie Thatcher in the eighties because she did.

I agree with Spiked Editor Brendan O'Neil who writes in his article

"Please stop exploiting the dead of Grenfell Tower"


"In the 20 years I’ve been writing about politics, I can’t remember a national tragedy being exploited for party-political gain so quickly. The time between a calamity occurring and the use of it to harm one’s political enemies and fortify one’s political allies is shrinking all the time. It’s now mere hours, minutes even, courtesy of social media. What has happened to us?"

"This compulsion to blame is a central feature of 21st-century life. Every accident or awful thing that happens is followed by now almost instant demands for heads to roll. We seem incapable of accepting that sometimes horrendous experiences cannot easily be blamed on an individual or a group or a party. Like medieval communities who burnt witches when their crops failed – someone just had to be held morally responsible for the awful consequences of crop failure – today we point a collective or at least media finger at ‘uncaring’ individuals and institutions every time a tragedy occurs."

"This is not to say there isn’t a discussion to be had about Grenfell. Of course there is, and a very serious one indeed. Specific issues, about the building’s cladding and its weak fire-alarm system, must be addressed. And far broader questions about the failures of house-building and the corresponding warping of the housing market, and how these things impact on house prices and on the moral value we accord to social-housing residents, must be asked too."

"But the blame game, today’s sometimes hysterical retributive instinct, doesn’t address these issues or questions. In fact it can distract from them. Its preference for condemnation, for the collective chiding of evil individuals, for finding the person or thing we can all round on and get a kick from destroying, elevates the narcissistic moral needs of the media mob over serious analysis of Britain’s broad and complicated economic and social problems."


The time to point fingers is when we have evidence to ensure those fingers are pointing in the right place.

Whoever does it, the search for scapegoats which neatly fit our previous prejudices demeans us all.

Star Wars musical parody week: All about that base

Quote of the day 17th June 2017

(In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster...)

"Obviously, we need to find out what went wrong, and assess whether other places are at risk. If there is evidence of criminal negligence, of course that negligence should be punished. But the discussion over the past two days has gone well beyond these things. The country is bellowing for a scapegoat big enough and monstrous enough to bear responsibility for such an outrage. The idea of a tragic accident simply won’t do."

"Like our pre-modern ancestors, we have an innate sense that, for such a horrifying event to have happened, there must have been great wickedness at work. Like them, we disagree as to who was responsible for the wickedness.

Usually, though, just as they did, we blame whomever we already happened not to like.

Glancing at this morning’s newspapers, I see that the Guardian blames inequality, the Mail blames eco-regulations, the Express blames EU rules and the Mirror blames the Tories. Simon Jenkins, that champion of harmonious and well-proportioned architecture, blames tower-blocks. Owen Jones, my favourite radical, blames racketeering landlords. For all I know, one or more of these villains may indeed be at fault; but, for now, it is mainly guesswork."

"What, then, should we do? We should find out what actually happened and then, as emotions cool, act in a way that is proportionate to any actual failures, not to public grief. In the meantime, please let’s not get into competitive accusations as a way of flaunting our humanity. Unless you were there, this isn’t primarily about you."

(Dan Hannan MEP, extracts from an article on CAPX  here.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Star Wars music parody week: Bohemian Rhapsody

The song "Bohemian Rhapsody" recast as the initial Star Wars trilogy (Episodes 4 to 6):

Labour and Lib/Dems to propose new county administration

Cumbria County Council issued the following statement this afternoon:

"New political adminstration agreed.
Agreement has been reached between the Labour and Liberal Democrat Groups to form an administration, with Cllr Stewart Young as Leader of the Council and Cllr Ian Stewart as Deputy Leader of the Council. There will be 6 Labour Members on the Cabinet and 4 Liberal Democrat Members - the same split as in the previous administration. The Portfolio Holders will be announced at the Council meeting which is due to take place on 29th June."
The Conservative group on the council, who received more votes than the Labour and Lib/Dems combined, had proposed an all party "rainbow coalition" administration.
However, two parties placed second and third in seats and votes, despite not quite having a majority between them (in fact they have exactly half the seats) have decided to put forward a minority administration for Cumbria excluding the largest party, and hope to sneak in if one or more of the five Independent councillors abstains or vote for them.
There is a good chance that they will get this through the County Council meeting on the 29th June but it is going to be a recipe for chaos and division, and I suspect that this stitch-up may not last the four years. This is blatantly not what the people of the county voted for and I think the majority of electors would expect councillors of all parties to work together.
Cumbria County Council has 84 members so a working majority is 43 county councillors. Labour and the Lib/Dems have 42 between them.
The composition of the council by party group is
Conservatives:   37 seats having received 62,696 votes (44.3%)
Labour:              26 seats having received 37,276 votes (26.3%)
Lib/Dems:          16 seats having received 25,308 votes (17.9%)
The combined Labour and Lib/Dem vote was therefore 62,584 votes (44.2%) 
There are also 5 Independent county councillors, Independent candidates having received a total of 7,797 votes (5.5%) and a further 4% and 2% respectively of total votes cast around the county went to Green and UKIP candidates. 

Quote of the day 16th June 2017

It is often alleged that Mark Twain once said that

"a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on."

It is typical of the irony of life that this attribution is itself probably a lie.

The phrase was first attributed to him in 1919, nearly a decade after his death, and versions of the phrase had been around long before he was born.

A good example of an older, similar saying is this one from Dean Jonathan Swift

Regardless of who said,this, it is all the more true in the internet age.

Take for example this case where a tweet in which a journalist made an allegation which turned out to be wrong was re-tweeted 4,745 times within two days and had 2,380 "likes" but the correction when the same journalist admitted this was wrong has had far fewer. (Currently, also after two days, about 445 retweets and 435 "likes.")

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Star Wars music parody week: Let it Flow (Frozen)

Yes, this is "Let it go" from "Frozen," recast as the song of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader ...

Learning points from GE2017

My old friend Giles Marshall, who arrived at Bristol University about the time I was a sabbatical and who I subsequently met while we were area officers in the Young Conservatives, served together on the Conservative party's National Advisory Committee on Education, and were members of the Conservative Education Association, has written an excellent piece about learning points from the 2017 general election for the "Politics means politics" site.

It is called

"Election takeaways in 2017."

Although inevitably most of the piece is aimed at explaining how the Conservative leadership managed to throw away a position in which the main threat at the start appeared to be that everyone was convinced we were going to win a landslide, there are learning points in this well considered article for all parties.

When I posted a link to Giles' article on my Facebook wall it received strong agreement not only from friends representing very different strands of Conservative opinion, but also from several of my friends whose political views are at various points on the political centre or left. (Yes, I do have some friends who are not Conservatives!)

You can read Giles' article here.

Quote of the day 15th June 2017

"For me, thinking back, a pivotal moment in this election came during Corbyn’s interview with Jeremy Paxman, when Paxman, in full Spanish inquisition mode, asked him why the Labour manifesto included nothing on Corbyn’s long-held ambition of scrapping the monarchy. “There’s nothing in there because we’re not going to do it,” retorted Corbyn, visibly amused.

Hidden beneath the audience’s guffaws, this was the sound of a man wryly acknowledging the fundamental impracticality of his own radicalism.

All of a sudden, Jeremy Corbyn was a moderate."

"If compromise was in Jeremy Corbyn’s DNA, then he wouldn’t have spent three decades on the back benches, condemning every effort that a succession of despairing Labour leaders made to make their party more electable. Once electability became his problem, though, he seems to have picked up a taste for it."

"On the stump, a lifetime’s commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament (even as a vice-chairman of CND), retreated last year to “I wouldn’t personally use them” and last month, quite astonishingly, to something more like, “I certainly wouldn’t use them first”. Greenham Common it ain’t. More striking still was his response to the London Bridge attack, where having previously quite explicitly opposed a police shoot-to-kill policy, pretty much for ever, he now found himself explicitly supporting one. It was as if he had realised, finally, that to achieve broad electoral support you need to make the odd concession. “Took you long enough, Grandpa,” a generation of Blairites might have said."

"For Corbyn’s hard core, the real enemy has never been the Tories. They don’t really notice the Tories. Rather, they see a hated coalition of political and media Corbynsceptics who, they fervently believe, have smeared a good man as cranky and unelectable because it is easier than opposing his policies.

This simply isn’t true. "

"Labour didn’t win this election, but Corbyn did far better than almost anybody ever expected, probably including him. He didn’t do well because his critics were wrong but because, belatedly, he realised that they were absolutely right."

"Want to stop people deriding you as a disaster? The very best strategy is to stop being one."

(Hugo Rifkind, extracts from an article in The Times about how Jeremy Corbyn changed some of the policies and habits of a lifetime during his campaign,

"It was Corbyn's flip-flopping that saved him.")

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Star wars musical parody week: I think I'm a Clone Now

Number three in our series of Star Wars musical parodies is "I think I'm a clone now" (to the tune of "I think we're alone now") It refers, of course, to the fact that the Stormtroopers of the Galactic Empire, and the bounty hunter Boba Fett, were revealed in "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" to be clones of Jango Fett.

Road closure at Finkle Street, St Bees

Finkle Street in St Bees was closed yesterday at the bottom end near the Village Hall due to a problem with a water main. The road is expected to remain closed for about four days.

French Football fans sing "God Save the Queen"

French football fans at yesterday's England V France match sang "God Save the Queen" and held up improvised St George's flag signs in tribute to the victims of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester (this was before the tower block fire or I'm sure that would have been in the mix as well.)

Both Britain and France have suffered from terrorist atrocities in the recent past.

England manager Gareth Southgate said: "We are very grateful to the French for offering this tribute to England as a country."

We are grateful for the solidarity expressed by our friends and neighbours in France, Germany and the rest of Europe.

Britain may be leaving the EU but we still want and need to be friends and partners with other European democracies.

Disaster in London

Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower in London.

Backfiring stunt of the campaign

There were an awful lot of things which backfired during the 2017 General Election - please God that next year we will still be able to use that term for it and won't have to add "June" - starting, obviously, with the decision to call it in the first place.

But perhaps the funniest was one reported in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend.

The Lib/Dem literature used what they assumed was an imaginary estate agent, May & Co, to attack the Conservatives' social care plans.

Unfortunately for them, the there really was a May & Co.

The "furious" owner of this business had been a Lib/Dem supporter. The Sunday Telegraph took a certain relish in emphasising the past tense ...;

Quote of the day 14th June 2017

Marcus Aurelius knew something about responsibility - he was probably the best Emperor that the Roman Empire ever had.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The DUP row rumbles on ...

It should be a statement of the obvious that no party won an outright majority in the General Election last week and therefore it is the duty of politicians to try to form a stable government on the basis of an formal or informal understanding between two or more parties.

The idea of a "grand" or "rainbow" coalition has some attractiveness when it can be made to work - indeed, I have served in such an administration at district level where it worked better than any of us had dared hope, and it is currently my preferred option as a means of running Cumbria County Council.

But being realistic, only in the most dire emergency would it be possible for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to sit down at the same cabinet table as Conservatives.

Anyone with a better command of mathematics than Diane Abbott should be able to quickly establish that the numbers simply are not there for a Labour-led coalition or minority administration.

So that leaves some form of Conservative led coalition or minority administration, for which the numbers are there if a deal with one or more of the SNP, Lib/Dems or DUP can be reached.

The idea of a tie-up between the Conservatives and SNP would not have looked as ridiculous a few years ago as it does today - in the early years of this century there was some common ground between the Conservatives and SNP at Holyrood. But after the general election campaigns the two parties have just fought, any sort of coalition or agreement between them would look preposterous.

If I thought it could be done, another Conservative & Lib/Dem arrangement would be my preferred option - the last one did a lot of good for the country. Unfortunately the Lib/Dems have ruled this out. It would be difficult to reach an understanding with them on Brexit, and after what happened to them in the 2015 general election after the last Conservative and Lib/Dem coalition they are, perhaps understandably, cautious about repeating the experience.

Which basically leaves an arrangement between the Conservatives and the DUP, probably a "confidence and supply" arrangement.

This idea has upset a lot of people, not all of them lunatics.

Dan Hannan gives a characteristically robust response to some of those who have criticised the idea or an arrangement between the Conservatives and DUP in the International Business Times here.

More nuanced responses have come from others such as Jeffrey Dudgeon, one of the founders of the gay rights movement in Northern Ireland, who wrote on Policy Exchange  here that

"Distress in Britain amongst liberals and some socialists at the imminent supply and confidence arrangement between Theresa May and the DUP is understandable – but much exaggerated. Ruth Davidson can rest assured things won’t be going backwards on LGBT rights in Northern Ireland."


"Progress on LGBT rights has and will continue to happen — deal or no deal between Theresa May and the DUP."

An even more heavily nuanced commentary can be found in The Independent here from Thomas Hennessey who is Professor of British and Irish History at Canterbury Christ Church University.

The title of his article includes the statement that the DUP are "Not as bad as you think" which could win a "damning with faint praise" award and sounds like a joke from a Ben Elton comedy. (That's because it is: the line was used in season two, episode two of "The Thin Blue Line", a Rowan Atkinson comedy written by Elton.)

Nevertheless, he writes that

"The DUP is no longer the party that Paisley created. The Good Friday Agreement changed everything. More than one quarter of the DUP’s current membership joined between 1998 and 2005, many from the traditionally more moderate Ulster Unionist Party, including its present leader Arlene Foster. It made the party more open to sharing power with Nationalists, something the DUP had opposed since the 1970s.

The political rise of Foster has also been an inspiration for younger female members of a party that has traditionally seen men dominating its key positions."

There are no easy answers.

But "Stop the world, I want to get off" will not provide Britain with good government.

Daft advert of the week

I was repeatedly interrupted while trying to listen to a news report on an internet site this evening by an annoying advert for a subscription TV service. One of the advantages they proclaimed was that there are "no ads" on this service.

In other words they were putting out a message which was most likely to appeal to the very people who are most likely to be annoyed by the medium they were using to deliver it.

I'd better stop there.

After the election campaign we've just been through nobody involved in politics is in a good position to read anyone lectures on cack-handed promotion of a message.

Star Wars musical parody week: American Pie

Here are two presentations of an amusing Star Wars Episode 1 parody called "The Saga Begins" by Weird Al Yankovic set to the tune of "American Pie."

The soundtrack is the same, but the video image in the first version features Al himself dressed as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, singing the ballad of the young Anakin Skywalker:

And the second version matches the words of the song with equivalent clips from the Star wars films, mostly Episode one (with a handful of appropriate scenes from films set later)

Quote of the day 13th June

"Attempts to draw equivalence between the IRA in 1984 and the DUP in 2017 are dishonest"

Tom Harris, former Labour MP, writing in the Telegraph. He also drew attention to this quote:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Star Wars musical parody week: singing the themes

There are a lot of Star Trek and Star Wars parodies on YouTube, some brilliant, some awful, some with excellent ideas and poor implementation.

A few Christmas seasons ago I did a "Star Trek Christmas" series. After the seriousness of three elections (by-election, County elections, General election) now here is a week of Star Wars musical parodies, beginning with a medley of sung Star Wars theme tunes.

Damien Green becomes deputy prime minister in reshuffle.

Damien Green, a thoroughly good guy who I have known and respected for a long time, becomes first secretary of state (this is Whitehall-speak for Deputy Prime Minister) in the limited cabinet reshuffle which the PM completed today.

Here is the new cabinet.

The Cabinet is as follows:
  • Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service – Rt Hon Theresa May MP
  • First Secretary of State, and Minister for the Cabinet Office – Rt Hon Damian Green MP
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer – Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
  • Secretary of State for the Home Department – Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP
  • Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
  • Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – Rt Hon David Davis MP
  • Secretary of State for Defence – Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon KCB MP
  • Secretary of State for Health – Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
  • Lord Chancellor; and Secretary of State for Justice – Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP
  • Secretary of State for Education, and Minister for Women and Equalities – Rt Hon Justine Greening MP
  • Secretary of State for International Trade, and President of the Board of Trade – Rt Hon Liam Fox MP
  • Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
  • Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
  • Secretary of State for Transport – Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
  • Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government – Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP
  • Lord Privy Seal, and Leader of the House of Lords – Rt Hon Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
  • Secretary of State for Scotland – Rt Hon David Mundell MP
  • Secretary of State for Wales – Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP
  • Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP
  • Secretary of State for International Development – Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
  • Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport – Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP
  • Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – Rt Hon David Gauke MP
  • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – Rt Hon Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP
The following also attend Cabinet:
  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury – Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP
  • Lord President of the Council, and Leader of the House of Commons – Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Chief Whip) – Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP
  • Attorney General – Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP
  • Minister of State (for Immigration), Home Office – Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP

More details at

Jeremy Corbyn salutes "Inclusivity and tolerance" of Iranian regime

I certainly don't want to suggest that there are no issues at all with the DUP's record of tolerance and inclusivity and I understand the concerns raised by Ruth Davidson and others, but I also detect more than a whiff of the pot calling the kettle black about Labour supporters criticising the Conservatives for being willing to deal with the present-day DUP.

For one thing, Labour themselves explored the possibility of coming to an arrangement at Westminster with the DUP twice in the last Decade.

And for another there is Jeremy Corbyn's record of talking to people, welcoming them in terms like "Our friends from Hamas" and indeed, praising them, when the record on gay rights of some of these people from Castro to Hamas to Iran makes the DUP look like a chapter of Stonewall.

Jeremy Corbyn took money from the Iranian State broadcaster to make appearances favourable to Iran. Here he is talking to a rally, where two minutes and 11 seconds into this clip Corbyn praises "inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance of other faiths" in Iran.

Iran hangs people for being gay.

Quote of the day 12th June 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday music spot: Rejoice in the Lord alway - Purcell

This setting of the words "Rejoice in the Lord Alway" is sometimes known as the "Bell Anthem"

Sunday reflection: bravery and sacrifice

This morning after the church service at St James' Whitehaven my wife pointed out to me one of the particularly moving plaques on the wall of the church, commemorating one of the many brave heroes who died during the Great War of 1914 to 1918.

Lt Robert Gunson of the Royal Artillery was killed at the battle of the Somme a hundred and one years ago next month.

He was killed while searching for some of the men under his command who had gone missing.

The plaque in his memory at St James' church quotes the line from scripture

"Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

We should never forget the courage which so many people have shown in the service of this country and of their friends and comrades.

Neither should we ever forget the mistakes which made their sacrifices necessary.

Quote of the day 11th June 2017

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Music Spot: The World Turned Upside Down

May is not the new Gordon Brown - she is the Anti-Brown

When Theresa May became Prime Minister it was suggested by several people such as John Rentoul and Alex Massie that she was the Tory equivalent of Gordon Brown.

Whatever else comes out of the next few months, I think that comparison is not going to be made any more.

Gordon Brown lost a lot of his moral authority, and was regarded by many people until now as having made his worst mistake, when he didn't call a general election in 2007.

(Though I suspect some people who used to think that may have just changed their minds.)

Theresa May joins Harold Wilson as the archetypical example of a PM who made exactly the opposite mistake.

Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill fall on their swords ...

The Prime Minister's Special Advisors, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, have resigned.

Since, like an honest batsman, both walked before waiting to see if they were given out, I don't think I need say any more than that I agree with this decision.

Nick Timothy has made a dignified statement on Conservative Home here about the election campaign, the Conservative manifesto, and his decision to resign.

Fiona Hill's resignation statement is also available on Conservative Home here.

Comeback of the week

"Alex Salmond's service to his country would be most appropriately recognised by giving him a seat in the House of Lords"

(Tom Harris)

"And then abolishing it!"

(John Moss)

Quote of the day 10th June 2017

"I'm sick of 'Liberal' men whose mask slips every time a woman displeases them, who reach immediately for crude and humiliating words."

"When you do this, Mr Liberal Cool Guy, you ally yourself, wittingly or not, with the men who send women violent pornographic images and rape threats."

"Every woman I know who has dared to express an opinion publically has endured this kind of abuse at least once."

"If you want to know how much fouler it gets if you also happen to be black or gay, ask Diane Abbott or Ruth Davidson.

"I don't care whether we are talking about Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon or Kate Hoey or Yvette Cooper or Hillary Clinton: femaleness is not a design flaw."

(J.K. Rowling, from a series of tweets criticising online abuse of women, whoever it comes from and whoever it is aimed at.)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Swings and Roundabouts - Copeland and Canterbury

What to make of a General Election in which the Conservatives win Copeland but Labour wins Canterbury?

E.g. both parties won seats that the other had held for nearly a century (and Copeland and Canterbury were far from being the only examples.)

What to make of a situation where a Conservative government loses seats in England but is able to remain in office (just, and as a minority administration,) because of seats it gained in Scotland?

What do we think when a Conservative PM loses her majority on almost exactly the same share of the vote which gave Maggie Thatcher two overwhelming landslides while at the same time the Labour opposition leader scored a tally of parliamentary takes a number of seats which would have been seen as a disaster for Labour in 2005 vote with a considerably larger share of the vote than the one which gave Tony Blair a comfortable majority in that year?

The last question is the only one which has an easy answer - in a much more polarised political situation two party politics appears to be back - for one election, I suspect - and each of the two main parties needed a much larger vote in both absolute and percentage terms to defeat the other.

But it is also clear that a lot of the old certainties of politics are breaking down.

The party chairman writes to Conservative supporters

The party chairman, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, has written a message of thanks to all those who worked for the election of Conservative candidates up and down the country ...

 "Subject: Thank you

Thank you


I wanted to write to you and thank you for your incredible hard work over the last few weeks. 
During this campaign I have traveled up and down the country and witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of our members. 
I know many of you will be disappointed and in particular I feel sorry for those colleagues who were MPs or ministers who had contributed so much to our country and who lost their seats. 
As we all reflect on the result let us remind ourselves that it is our Party, the Conservative Party, which will continue to provide the country with the certainty it needs in the coming years. 
I hope you have a restful weekend and thank you once again for all of your incredible efforts. 
Kind regards, 

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