Showing posts from September, 2017

Saturday music spot: Albinoni/Giazotto Adagio in G Minor

Tomaso Albinoni is most unusual among great composers in having been a man of independent means rather than a client of a royal or noble court or an employee of a church - he was the son of wealthy Venetian paper merchant. In his own lifetime he was mostly known as a composer of operas and his music was admired by and influenced composers such as Bach and was favourably compared to that of Telemann and Vivaldi Unfortunately most of the 50 operas he wrote, which were greatly praised in his own century, have not survived and he is mostly known today for his instrumental and orchestral works. Most ironically, although there is little doubt that he genuinely deserves to be remembered as a great composer there is considerable doubt how much of the most famous piece associated with his name, the work usually referred to as the "Albinoni Adagio," was actually composed by him. The circumstances around it's publication have been called the biggest fraud in music history .

Shelter on Rent Controls

This is what the Shelter, the UK's largest housing charity, had to say about Labour's proposal to bring back rent controls ... Here is some further elaboration on that view:

Quote of the day 30th September 2017


The cost of protest

Those who wish to protest peacefully outside either the Conservative party conference or any other party conference should be free to do so. This should include the right to indicate robust disagreement provided it stops short of crossing the line between protest and intimidation, threats, or violence. The behaviour of a significant minority  - not all - of the left-wing protesters outside the 2015 Conservative conference in Manchester in 2015 towards people attending the conference; not just Conservative representatives but also journalists, cleaners, caterers and other staff of the conference centre; went way over that line. Sadly one consequence of that has been that Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have had to mount an unprecedented operation to defend freedom of association - something that people on the left ought to understand as it is what the Tolpuddle martyrs were transported for fighting for - at this year's Conservative conference in Manchester at a cost to the Hom

An Offal accident on the A66

The A66 reopened this afternoon after being closed for several hours between the Appleby and Temple Sowerby junctions when a lorry shed a load of offal on the road. Traffic was diverted by local alternative routes. Fortunately nobody was hurt. It might be argued that the headline above is an offal joke. The story is, however, the offal truth (and I think that's enough offal jokes for at least the rest of 2017 ...)

Quote of the day 29th September 2017


1591: "Let's kill all the lawyers." The 2017 equivalent: get the journalists

What do Donald J Trump, Julian Assange, Corbyn supporters like Paul Mason and "The Canary" news website, Breitbart which is to the hard right what "the Canary" is to the hard left, Nigel Farage, many "Cybernat" hardline SNP supporters  and Vladimir Putin all have in common? Well, one thing is their attitude to the mainstream media in western democracies like Britain, which ranges from open contempt to making every attempt to discredit and undermine it. In 1591, in his play Henry VI, Shakespeare put into the mouth of a rebel against the established order the words " The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers ." The equivalent target today for unfriendly foreign governments and domestic anti-establishment candidates of right or left is the mainstream media. There is a good column on the subject in the Spectator by Nick Cohen, " Fake news: the far-left's favourite new excuse ," in which he describes how the Corby

The cost of Labour policies

If the policies set out by the Labour party at their conference this week were all enacted there would be a £312 billion hole in Britain's finances and for every citizen the state would incur thousands of pounds of extra debt - about £4750 per person. The interest on that debt would have to be paid by the taxpayer and would not be available for schools and hospitals:

Quote of the day 28th September 2017

Tom Harris (former Labour MP) writing in today's Daily Telegraph: The article is called " This was the coronation of Jeremy Corbyn as emperor of the Labour party ." (click on title to follow link to the whole piece)

Midweek music spot VOCES8: Underneath the Stars


Copeland Local Committee meeting Tuesday 3rd October

The Copeland local committee of Cumbria County Council will meet at 10.15am at Cleator Moor Town Hall on Tuesday. The meeting is open to the public. Agenda items include * A public petition calling for resident's only parking in Meadow View, Whitehaven * Report on secondary school provision in Copeland * Parking services report * Highways budget and Highways working group reports and more controversially: * Whether to confirm a series of Traffic Regulation orders for Whitehaven (e.g. amendments to parking restrictions in various parts of the town) * The Beckermet Experimental Traffic Regulation Order Full agenda and all papers for the meeting are available on the County Council website here .

Quote of the day 27th September 2017

"Threatening to kill someone merely because their opinions annoy you is wrong. "It doesn’t matter if those threats are against Diane Abbott, or Jess Phillips, or Anna Soubry, or Nigel Farage, it is never acceptable to settle a political argument by threatening to hang one’s opponent or harm their children. Belittling and refusing to believe those on the receiving end of such threats, or contriving lame excuses for them, is if anything almost more depressing, because it legitimises violence and emboldens the genuinely dangerous." "It’s embarrassing even to have to spell out something so basic, but people have a right to enter politics without fear for their lives and journalists have a right to do their jobs – to challenge, question, hold people to account and sometimes doubtless annoy – without being bullied into silence." "So stop asking who Laura Kuenssberg thinks she is, wandering around Brighton with her security detail; start asking what we have

Another fiscally incontinent "Free Unicorn" promise from Labour

Labour's party conference has produced a rich seam of daft or thoroughly nasty utterances, with Ken Livingston's suggestion that people who make "offensive comments" about Israel are not necessarily anti-semitic just being one among many eyebrow-raising comments. The latest "free unicorn" promise is to nationalise PFI contracts, the vast majority of which were of course started under Labour governments. I wrote a piece here which quoted an excellent short history of the origins of PFI. It seems like a very long time ago I posted that, but it was only about six months back during the Copeland by-election. PFI - the Private Finance Initiative - was originally set up under Margaret Thatcher as a means of using tolls to pay for new and rebuilt river crossings at Dartford and get private industry to build it. It worked brilliantly in that case: PFI was designed as a means of running revenue-raising projects like a toll crossing, and for t

On the case for a Brexit transition people

Letter published from a senior legal academic at Oxford about the need for a transition period while we are leaving the EU: I think that is an extremely good point.

Quote of the day 26th September 2017


Monday music spot: the "I believe" song

A spoof Country and Western song from the "Not the Nine o'clock News" team which was broadcast shortly after the 1980 U.S. Presidential election. I'm not going to explain exactly why I posted this to avoid a spoiler for those who have never heard this song but let's just say that to really appreciate the joke you have to listen to the very last line. But now in 2017 I suspect many people who would have laughed at this in 1980 will be having thoughts along the lines of "Someone really ought to bring out an updated version of this, the equivalent punchline would be even more appropriate today ..."

The dying art of disagreement

Every head of a University in America or Britain, and probably much of the rest of the world, should be required to read   The Dying art of Disagreement by Bret Stephens from which I took my quote of the day this morning. It is an excellent summary of the power of positive disagreement and the damage being done because we are losing this skill, particularly and inexcusably in educational establishments where it should be strongest. The speech was given at an Australian function by an American but the points he made are just as apposite in Britain and many other countries. Here are a few of extracts which I think particularly bring out the argument Bret Stephens is making. "I was raised on the old-fashioned view that sticks and stones could break my bones but words would never hurt me. But today there’s a belief that since words can cause stress, and stress can have physiological effects, stressful words are tantamount to a form of violence. This is the age of protected fe

Quote of the day 25th September 2017

"To disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say." ( Bret Stephen , from  a lecture delivered at the Lowy Institute Media Award dinner in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday, Sept. 23 and also  published in the New York Times . The award recognizes excellence in Australian foreign affairs journalism)

A595 Liason Group

The A595 Liason group which brings together Cumbria County Councillors and officers and Highways England meets tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to using this meeting to hear proposals to improve the A595 and to press for them to take place as soon and effectively as possible.

Of Brexit hardliners on both sides, and "Stab in the back" myths ...

The transition from Britain as a member of the European Union to being a country outside that union was always going to be a process, not a simple one-stop change and unwinding 40 years of shared legislation was never going to be simple or quick. Whether they voted Remain or Leave, people who live in the real world always knew that this process would require messy compromises. One of the more tiresome aspects of the debate about Brexit in the UK, is that anyone who actually tries to engage with those difficult challenges and compromises necessary to protect Britain's economy and ensure that our relations with the rest of the EU will continue to work properly after we leave the EU is likely to get a barage of mutually inconsistent criticism from the most hardline portion of each side. First, from the most hardline faction among the Remainers, who don't want Britain to leave at all and for whom no possible set of arrangements under which we cease to be EU members could po

BBC study suggests well-informed people voted Conservative in 2017 ...

A study by academics commissioned by the BBC found two interesting correlations between sources and quality of people's political knowledge and how they voted in GE2017. Interestingly, one of these is a message that Conservatives will not be happy about and the other is a message which people on the left won't like. Both correlations applied to people WITHIN each age range as well as overall, which means that the an obvious explanation which will occur to most people for the first correlation and to people on the left for the second one - that older people are more likely to vote Conservative and use the internet less while younger people use the internet more and were more likely to vote Labour - is not sufficient to explain these results, or at least, cannot be used to dismiss these findings. The study was commissioned by the BBC from Professors Harold Clarke, Matt Goodwin, Paul Whiteley and Marianne Stewart who are US and UK election experts. The BBC report of their

Second sunday music spot:: VOCES8 sing "Adoramus Te" by Monteverdi


First sunday music spot 24th Sept 2017, "Thou Visitest the Earth" (Greene)


Quote of the day Sunday 24th September 2017


Saturday music spot: Dixit Dominus (opening) by Handel


A Corbyn victory is neither impossible nor inevitable

Lords Adonis and Finkelstein had an interesting debate a few days ago via the opinion and letters columns in The Times about whether Jeremy Corbyn could be elected Prime Minister. To greatly simplify what they were saying, Lord Adonis argued that some leaders are unelectable, that Jeremy Corbyn is one of them, and that if Labour want to win they should replace him. Danny Finkelstein argued that the most important driver of electoral success are the state of the economy and perceived economic competence, and that if the economy goes pear-shaped there is a good chance that the government will get the blame and Corbyn or whoever is then leading the Labour party will win by default. I actually thought most of what they both said was right. Although large numbers of people in the Labour party and the media seem to think otherwise, the 2017 election did not prove Jeremy Corbyn to be a great electoral asset. Admittedly he outperformed the very low expectations people had of him. Yes,

Theresa May sets out Britain's negotiating position on Brexit

In a major speech in Florence the PM has set out Britain's negotiating position as week seek to build a new relationship with the EU as a neighbour rather than a member. Here are five images which sum up major themes of the speech and a link to the full text here .    

Richard Bannister RIP

Richard Bannister, who was the son of the former Rector of Whitehaven, Reverend John Bannister, died this month of oesophageal cancer at the age of 30. He had been diagnosed with the disease in April. Richard was well-known throughout the town. He had strong associations with Whitehaven Rugby League Club, whom he continued to support, and where he undertook a placement whilst studying at Hull University for his degree in sport rehabilitation. His parents, John and Anne Bannister, said: “Richard was incredibly brave and courageous in the way in which he responded to his illness and its eventual outcome." “He was completely devoid of self-pity and only concerned for his family and friends. Our loss is enormous and we are devastated by Richard’s untimely death. However, we will use the example of his courage to face the future without him. We are enormously proud of him and of what he achieved."   “We would also like to thank all our friends in Whitehaven for the ma

2017 "Pot calling the kettle black award"

There have been some strong candidates for this year's "pot calling the kettle black award." Jeremy Corbyn had been the favourite after he said that Boris Johnson's article about Brexit was a "lapse of discipline" which would "not have happened" on his team. This from a man who has lost 95 front benchers in sackings and waves of mass resignations, who was sacking people for voting to stay in the single market one week and threatening to sack others for supporting the Eu withdrawal bill the next. But in the "Pot calling the kettle black" stakes nobody could possible top the accusation from North Korean president Kim Jong in when he   President Kim called President Trump deranged . Had that one come from almost any other world leader I suspect that not a few people would have agreed with it, but with the possible exception of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, Kim is probably the head of government who comes nearest to making The Donald look lik

Of double standards and Judicial murder of those who are different ..

There are two questions which should be asked of any newspaper or politician who has criticised the National Trust's  William Bankes exhibition at Kingston Lacy . 1) What do you think about * DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State" caliphate) throwing people off five-storey buildings for being gay in the fortunately rapidly diminishing area it controls, * Other countries like Iran which still apply the death penalty for homosexuality , (there are about ten of them) and * Islamist groups like the Taleban who urge that gays should be hanged from the nearest lamp-post? 2) If, like the vast majority of people, you think this is a revolting policy amounting to judicial murder when it is applied advocated elsewhere (especially by people you disapprove of) then * should we not remember that this country also once had that policy and celebrate the fact that Britain has moved on from it? During the 16th century I understand that the death penalty for homosexuality wa

Quote of the day 23rd September 2017

"As I have grown older, I have learned that pleasing everyone is impossible, but annoying everyone is a piece of cake." ( Bill Murray . Except that he used a slightly ruder expression than "annoying everyone.")

Quote of the day 22nd September 2017


Minister for the Northern Powerhouse visits Copeland

Jake Berry MP, minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, came to Whitehaven this week to meet Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and view ongoing work to redevelop the Harbour and Quay. The £320,000 scheme, of which £272,000 comes from the government's Coastal Communities Fund, involves the demolition of the former Sea Cadets building, and the installation of contemporary seating. (Jake Berry MP (second from right) at Whitehaven Harbour with Trudy Harrison MP (Second from left) and some of the local leaders they met this week.) Mr Berry met Trudy and harbour commissioners to view the scheme and they discussed a potential second phase of the development, with plans including a Coastal Activity Centre. The minister also met Britain's Energy Coast chief executive Michael Pemberton to discuss town centre developments in Whitehaven before attending a meeting with members of the nuclear supply chain. Jake Berry said: "The government since 2015 has committed £

The joys of Cumbrian weather ...

The lady behind me in the checkout queue at Iceland this evening suggested that today's weather in Whitehaven had been like "All four seasons in one day." She added that the variability of our weather was one of the "Joys of Cumbria." For the avoidance of doubt, I don't think she meant it as an ironic comment and I am not repeating it as one. Certainly one of the things about the fantastic scenery of Cumbria is that it has a different beauty in each of the very different weather conditions we can experience.

British, Irish, or both

Fintan O'Toole has a piece in the New York review of Books on "Brexit's Irish Question" which can be read here . I spent much of the EU referendum period as a floating voter, and when after weeks of careful consideration I came off the fence and decided to vote Remain, one of the three main reasons for that decision was the difficulty of finding a solution to the issue of Britain's border with Ireland after leaving the EU which does not undermine the agreement which brought peace to Ireland, sabotage the economy of both parts of the island, or create a massive loophole which may fatally undermine any attempt to "take back control" of Britain's borders. O'Toole's article is extremely good about how dramatically Ireland has moved forward in the last thirty years, about how enabling communities in Northern Ireland to think of themselves as "Irish, British or both" was central to the peace process and about the enormous difficulty o

Quote of the day 21st September 2017

I've just seen a post on Twitter to the effect that on this day in 1780 Benedict Arnold committed treason. From the British perspective of course, 21st September 1780 was the day he stopped committing treasons. Although I am reminded of this excellent quote from John Harington ...

Midweek music spot: Thomas Arne, "Rise, Glory, Rise"


Maternity at West Cumberland Hospital referred to Independent Panel

Following the "call in" at the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt has referred the "success regime" proposals for maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) asking them to conduct an initial review and report back to him by 4th October on whether a full review is needed. The progress of the call-in had been discussed when "lead members" of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny committee (including myself) met the Clinical Commissioning Group last week. At that stage the formal reference to the IRP had not been officially announced but the CCG did give us an assurance which we were allowed to repeat in the public domain that they have not started the clock on the 12 month assessment period referred to in the decision, that they will not do so until the call-in process has officially concluded, and that if that 12 month assessment happens after the review it will not be started witho

Quote of the day 20th September 2017

I don't often agree with Donald J Trump, but this comment he has made about the role of Socialist policies in creating the current human and economic disaster in Venezuela is the exception that proves the rule: "The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been badly implemented but that socialism has been faithfully implemented."

Time to move on from silly claims made by both sides during the referendum

As I pointed out repeatedly at the time, with some honourable exceptions both sides talked an amazing amount of rubbish during the EU referendum. The truth about most issues was available to find if you took the trouble, and there were some people both for and against leaving the EU who did make an effort to get their facts right, there were far too many on both sides who were far too ready to put out statements which were at best misleading or exaggerated and at worst complete rubbish. This post about the nonsense from both sides includes an index of links to the "Worst of both worlds" series of posts I published here during the referendum campaign each of which called out one of the most egregious misleading or just plain wrong statements from each side. Sadly the silly comments still continue. Today my twitter timeline has been full of tweets from "Leave" supporters quoting a study of UN manufacturing data which showed that the British economy has overtake

Suffragette Millicent Fawcett statue gets planning approval.

I am pleased to learn that the proposed statue in parliament square of Millicent Fawcett, the suffragette leader, has been given planning approval this evening. (Link here .) Fawcett was a truly remarkable lady who dedicated her life to campaigning through peaceful democratic means for women to get the vote, the right to own property and control over their own lives from 1866, when she was aged of 19, until women finally did get the vote sixty-two years later in 1928, the year before she died. There is an excellent article which Lord Danny Finkelstein wrote in the Times on 4th April about this extraordinary woman and why she richly deserves to be remembered in this way, and it is still available on The Times website  here .

Quote of the day 19th September 2017


Hannah Flint on what it is like to be the child of a politician

It hasn't happened so much while my children were at secondary school, but while they were at primary school my son and daughter caught a certain amount of flak because I was the local Conservative parliamentary candidate. At least that was from the other children, not the teachers. I was absolutely horrified when Colonel Bob Stewart MP said that one of the teachers at his son's school had told other children not to talk to young master Stewart because his dad was a Tory MP. There is an excellent response to this troubling story in the Guardian - yes, they do sometimes print things I can strongly recommend and this is an example - by Hannah Flint, whose mother is a Labour MP. You can read her piece, " Yes, I'm the child of an MP. That's no reason to give me abuse " by clicking here .

St Bees Parish Council - September meeting

St Bees Parish council met this evening. They have a slot on their agenda to discuss County Council & Highways matters which I always try to attend. Constructive discussion this evening raising a number of points which I will take back to County Highways.

Theresa May in Canada, working for a trade agreement:


Quote of the day 18th September 2017


Terror threat level dropped from "critical" to "severe"

Following the arrests in connection with the Parson's Green tube bombing home secretary Amber Rudd has announced that Britain's terror threat level has been dropped back from the highest level, "critical" to the second highest, "severe." In the wake of the bombing the threat level had been raised to "critical." which meant that another attack could be imminent. Today (Sunday 17th September), the Home Secretary confirmed the threat level has been lowered back down to severe - meaning that members of the military will return to their original postings. Over the weekend, military personal were supporting the police - allowing more armed officers to patrol the streets. Ms Rudd said: "Following the attack in Parsons Green last Friday the police have made good progress with what is an ongoing operation. "The joint terrorist analysis centre, which reviews the threat level that the UK is under, has decided to lower that level from criti

Sunday music spot for Battle of Britain Sunday

As a tribute to the brave men and women of the RAF, today's Sunday music spot is the theme from "633 squadron."

Battle of Britain memorial 2017

As previously posted today is "Battle of Britain Sunday" and there is a service of commemoration for the 76th anniversary of the campaign at Westminster Abbey at 11am this morning. This commemoration takes place on the nearest Sunday to 15th September this year, because 15th September 1940 is regarded by many historians as the climax of the campaign - it was effectively the German's last major attempt to establish air superiority. On 14 September, Hitler chaired a meeting of the German high command staff. Recognising that the Luftwaffe had not succeeded in gaining decisive air superiority over the RAF which would have been a necessary condition for a successful invasion of Britain, Hitler reportedly asked " Should we call it off altogether?" General Hans Jeschonnek , Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, begged for a last chance to defeat the RAF. The German high command agreed to try to break Britain's will to fight by destroying material infrastructure, the we

Battle of Britain Sunday

Today is Battle of Britain Sunday and it is right that we should remember those who took part in the Battle for Britain's freedom, and that of the world, particularly the RAF fighter pilots from all over the world who fought against four times their numbers. As Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in perhaps the most famous phrase that master of the English language ever uttered: Here is a recording of that speech

Quote of the day 17th September 2017

"The most debilitating myth was that the state can perpetually provide a higher standard of living regardless of individual effort. It can't and it never could." ( Margaret Thatcher )

Saturday music spot - "It might as well rain until September"

The sort of weather we have had this month has inevitably reminded me of this sixties classic written and sung by Carole King. I gather that she originally wrote this for Bobby Vee, but the demo tape she wrote was Carole King's first big hit and made her a star in her own right. Bobby Vee had notched up a major hit with Carole King’s and Gerry Goffin’s song " Take Good Care of My Baby " and  " It Might As Well Rain Until September " was intended as a follow-up single for him. Carole recorded a demo version. Bobby’s people turned down the song and Carole’s demo was released as a single on the Dimension label in 1962 and did very well. Bobby Vee eventually did record the song in 1963 and so did Helen Shapiro in 1964.

Beating the terrorists

Britain’s terror threat level has been raised from severe to critical, indicating a further attack may be imminent, following the Parsons Green tube bombing. Police arrested an 18-year-old man in Dover this morning in connection with the attack. This is the statement that the Prime Minister made yesterday following the attack and the decision to raise the terror threat level. Police have asked people to be vigilant and report any information which might help thwart the terrorists. Britain must and will rise to this challenge. The terrorists must not and will not win.

Quote of the day 16th September 2017


Trudy Harrison;s surgeries.

Since being elected earlier this year Trudy Harrison, the MP for Copeland, has held 11 "surgery" sessions to meet constituents in various parts of Copeland constituency and had met with a further 47 constituents in their own homes or communities. She carries out these engagements in accordance with the official security advice given to MPs for their protection and that of their staff. It is most unfortunate that one of the local newspapers - a paper whose previous work I had often respected and from whom l would have hoped for better - published a headline this week which was very misleading. Here is Trudy Harrison's response:        

Time to crack down on abusive behaviour - in politics and in the home.

The level of abuse aimed at people in politics is getting worse and is having very damaging effects. This week's Whitehaven News had a very unfortunate and unhelpful headline about the fact that the MP for Copeland wisely and responsibly follows the official security advice issued to MPs following the murder of Jo Cox to protect MPs and their staff from the possibility of being attacked while holding surgeries. This does not mean, as anyone who reads the actual text of the article will realise but the headline did not make clear, that she does not hold surgeries or will not meet members of the public, it means that appointments have to be booked for those surgeries and constituents who do so will then be directed to the meeting place, rather than the general details of  the events being published for any terrorist or dangerous nutter to read on the internet or in the paper. It dos not matter what part of the political spectrum someone is on, or how strongly you or I may disag