Showing posts from October, 2017

Copeland Conservatives Website

During the Copeland by-election we replaced the content of Copeland Conservatives' website with a link to the website of our then candidate in the by-election, Trudy Harrison (now the MP.) We left this arrangement in place during the General Election. We are now rebuilding the Copeland Conservatives website, which has the address Trudy Harrison MP has her own website which can be found at Copeland Conservatives are on Facebook at Copeland Conservative Association , and Copeland Conservatives Campaign page , and on Twitter at @CopelandTories . Cumbria Conservatives are also on Facebook at Cumbria Conservatives

Cumbria Conservative Conference

There are still a few tickets available for the Cumbria Conservative conference on Friday 3rd November and the Pre-Conference Dinner on the evening of Thursday 2nd November. These can be booked online at . The first session of the conference, which is open to party members in Cumbria whether or not they are attending the rest of the conference but is not open to non members of the party, is the Inaugural Genearl Meeting of the Cumbria Conservative Association which replaces Cumbria Area Conservatives. This new body will replace Cumbria Area Conservatives and is intended to help Conservatives in the six constituencies in Cumbria to work more effectively together.

All Hallow's Eve

Today is All Hallow's Eve (the day before All Saints Day) usually shortened to Halloween. I can tell because the items themed for ghosts, witches, monsters and horror have started to be replaced in the shops with material themed for Christmas I was told as a child that this time of the year was originally a great Pagan festival which was co-opted by the early Christian church. In medieval times there was an important three-day festival called "Allhallowtide" in the Christian calendar, but it would be easy to conclude that the only thing from either the pagan festivals which were once held at this time of year or that Christian festivals which retains any significant impact on the popular consciousness are the name "Halloween" for the first day of that festival and a humorous "celebration" of ghosts, witches and demons which are essentially a parody of the way medieval Christian propagandists depicted the previous pagan festival. However, when y

Quote of the day 31st October 2017


Cumbria Conservatives at number ten

A number of Cumbria Conservatives recently visited Ten Downing Street as part of a reception organised by the Prime Minister to meet Conservatives from the North West of England. Unfortunately the trains were badly disrupted that day and not all those invited were able to make it, but those who were had the opportunity to meet the PM and government ministers and raise issues relating to the needs of Cumbria. Here are the Cumbria contingent at the reception, including Trudy Harrison MP, with the PM.

Second quote of the day 30th October 2017

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes for this comment from Labour Shadow Women and Equalities minister Dawn Butler about suspended Labour MP Jared O’Mara: “He probably still has further to go on his journey.”

Ministerial visit raises money for Hospice at Home

Over £500 was raised for local charities recently at a meeting hosted by Copeland MP Trudy Harrison for a visiting minister, Jake Berry, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse. Trudy Harrison recently welcomed Jake Berry, the minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, to Copeland to highlight West Cumbria's innovation, nuclear excellence and local priorities for investment. A ministerial dinner was held, sponsored by Morgan Sindall, at which guests donated £569 to the Hospice at Home West Cumbria charity. Over 60 manufacturing and nuclear based companies and educational organisations including Gen2, Lakes College and secondary schools attended. Trudy Harrison said: "I was absolutely thrilled that the supply chain event raised more than £500 for Hospice at Home West Cumbria. For more than 30 years this charity has provided exemplary care for many local residents, supporting those caring for someone with a life-limiting illness, or struggling to come to terms w

Quote of the day 30th October 2017


Sunday music spot: 'Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs' from Handel's Messiah


Sunday reflection spot

This is what my former colleages on St Albans Council used to call a "hardy perennial" in the sense that it is not the first time I have used this story and probably won't be the last either. But as it is a year since I last posted it ... " I can resist anything except temptation " (Oscar Wilde) A group of clergy were discussing which biblical quotations were the greatest help to them in avoiding sin. A fiery young deacon, just out of his theological college, quoted Romans 6, Verse 23: "For sin pays a wage, and that wage is Death, but God gives freely, and his gift is eternal life, in union with Jesus Christ our Lord." A recently ordained lady curate, while accepting that the passage from Romans reminds us of something very important, preferred passages which concentrated more on the infinite love and compassion of God, and cited John, Chapter 14, verse 15: "If you love me, you will obey my commands, and I will ask the Father, and he will give

Quote of the day 29th October 2017


Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 BWV 1051


Egremont South campaign today

Great campaign session today by Copeland Conseratives towards the  by-election for a vacant Egremont South seat on Copeland Council. The by-election is on Thursday of the coming week (2nd November. Our excellent local candidate Jeff Hailes, who is West Cumbrian born and bred, seems to be getting a lot of support. I spoke to one local resident (no names, no pack-drill) who has been Labour for many years and has fond memories of hearing a Labour Prime Minister speak many years ago. But he added that he won't be wearing a Labour rosette in this by-election and that the behaviour of the Labour councillors at this week's Copeland Borough Council meeting, which he saw from the public seats, made him wonder if he's been on the wrong side. If my memory is not playing tricks on me, the fomer Labour PM who he mentioned was Clement Attlee. Of course, Labour has changed since Clem Attlee's day, which is one of the reasons his grandson, the present Lord Attlee, is a Conservati

Clocks go back tonight

Don't forget to put your clocks back one hour tonight!

The political views of academics

Chris Heaton-Harris got himself into rather a spot this week because his attempt to find out what was being taught in Universities about Brexit was interpreted as the precursor to some sort of attempt to challenge academic freedom. There are academics of all political persuasions, but there is some evidence - thought not nearly as strong as is often made out that those who are attracted to an academic career do not break in the same proportions in their views as the population as a whole. For example there was a massive correlation between level of education and support for "Remain" and the overwhelming majority of academics were pro-"Remain." The fact that the EU's activities in support of education and research is one of those parts of the organisation which is highly successful undoubtedly had a lot to do with this. If the rest of the EU's activities worked as well as this part of it does, Leave would have been lucky to get 10% of the vote. Simi

Quote of the day 28th October 2017


The wonder of Cumbrian weather

To Kendal and back today, spending much of the day in County Hall at training events (doing various work jobs in between) Weather this morning was absolutely extraordinary, alternating between thick fog and bright sunshine, between beautiful and clear views over the mountains and having to slow down because I could only see a couple of hundred yards ahead.

Quote of the day 27th October 2017

By a huge irony I nearly did have to go back to yesterday with this post. Knowing I would be in Kendal most of the day for a County Council training event I had scheduled it to appear early this morning, but the schedule command didn;t work properly. Found it it and the other posts planned for today had not appeared shortly before midnight ...

The problem with "No Deal."

I'm inclined to agree with the government that, although "No deal" should not be their negotiating objective while trying to agree a new relationship with the EU as Britain prepares to leave, ruling it out completely would undercut our negotiating position. However, the difficulties involved in leaving the EU with no agreement of any sort about what Britian's relationship with the remaining members of the organisation would be immense. Disentangling a 43-year relationship was always going to be an incredibly complicated job and anyone who thought it was going to run smoothly was as foolishly overoptimistic as those who suggest that a "no deal" Brexit would be no problem at all are being now. David Davis obviously understands this, to judge by his answers yesterday when interviewed by the Brexit select committee as described here . Incidentally, I disagree with most of Ian Dunt's editorial comments in the article just linked to. However what the a

UK economy grows faster than expected

Figures published this week show that the UK's economy had higher than expected growth in the three months to September. Gross domestic product (GDP) for the quarter rose by 0.4%, compared with 0.3% in each of 2017's first two quarters, according to latest Office for National Statistics figures. The pound rose more than a cent against the dollar and nearly a cent against the euro in the first couple of hours of trading after the announcement. Chancellor Philip Hammond said: "We have a successful and resilient economy which is supporting a record number of people in employment. "My focus now, and going into the Budget, is on boosting productivity so that we can deliver higher-wage jobs and a better standard of living." When grown is considered by sector, the largest part of the modern UK economy, the service sector,  expanded by 0.4%. In particular, computer programming, motor traders and retailers were the businesses that showed the strongest per

Quote of the day 26th October 2017


What's the most stupid thing a nation has ever done?

Michael Bloomberg is a very clever man. I do, however, agree that the Guardian was right - this does happen occasionally - that when Bloomberg suggested that Brexit is the most stupid thing a nation had ever done " Until we Trumped them, " he was underestimating the competition for the title of daftest actions in history . The Guardian has their suggested list of alternatives for the daftest actions in history as per the link above. Here are my top eight: 1) Invading Russia ( Napoleon, Hitler, and everyone else who's tried it ) 2) Killing or expropriating the most productive farmers in your country ( Stalin, Mao, Mugabe ) 3) Trying to kill or arrest every skilled person in your country ( Cambodia ) 4) Banning the export of your most important export good ( Confederate States of America ) 5) Depending for your defence entirely on foreign mercenaries ( Vortigern, many others ) 6) Abolishing all banknotes not divisible by the President's favourite nu

Music to relax after campaigning: Pachelbel's Canon and Gigue


Another successful campaign event

Out canvassing again this evening in Egremont with Conservative candidate Jeff Hailes, canvassing for the Egremont South by-election on Thursday 2nd November. Friendly response on the doorstep, I get the impression that Jeff is doing very well.

Flood prevention in North Egremont

Skirting Beck & Whangs Beck Flood Risk Management Scheme Public Consultation Event The environment agency is  holding a public consultation on their plans to reduce flood risk in the North Egremont area. You can drop in to see them between 2pm and 7pm on Monday 6th November 2017 The venue is Falcon Club, Croadalla Avenue, Egremont, CA22 2QN

Quote of the day 25th October 2017

“ Research shows that people who don’t trust the media often think they don’t hear the views of 'people like me'. They should, but we should also confidently tell them that they will hear people with whom they’ll disagree. As I once tweeted in response to a complaint from former culture secretary John Whittingdale , “'Do not adjust your set. Normal service from the BBC means you will hear people you disagree with saying things you don’t like (that’s our job).'” (Nick Robinson, article entitled "If mainstream news wants to win back trust, it cannot silence dissident voices" which you can read here .)

Centuries of history in one image

Hat Tip to the UK Defence Journal which tweeted this picture today of the supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth passing the berth of HMS Victory. 250 years of Royal Navy history in one image.

Campaigning in Egremont

Successful session on the doorstep in Egremonth South this evening with our excellent candidate in the forthcoming by-election on 2nd November, Jeff Hailes. Issues raised by residents included the environment nad fly-tipping.

Good advice for new and aspiring MPs ...


Quote of the day 24th October 2017

Some highly-educated professional people still consider it perfectly acceptable to describe those who voted for either" (Trump or Brexit) " as stupid."  "Rarely do these well-credentialed professionals with some power (however big or small) consider what it is about their own attitude and behaviours that turns people off. Or why it they have been on the losing side of so many recent political debates." "In short, the people who think they know everything are the ones who don’t understand, and don’t even want to find out why other people think they are wrong. Their arrogance is their biggest enemy." "In the coming years, politicians and business leaders will demand to be heard, and for their views to be taken seriously before our future and fate outside of Europe is sealed. That’s right and as it should be. But let’s not forget that’s all everyone else wants too. If we don’t proceed with greater respect for each other, by the ti

RT (formerly Russia Today) is propaganda, not news

In the past few days, two distinguished British journalists; Oliver Kamm of the Times on the CAPX website here , and Nick Cohen in the Guardian here , have written about Vladimir Putin's UK propaganda channels, RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik. The former Soviet Union used to have news outlets callesd Tass and Isvestia, which mean "News" and "Truth" in Russian. Ordinary Russians would joke when they didn't think the KGB was listening, " In 'Truth' there is no news, and in 'News' there is no truth ." I don't necessarily agree with every word either of Nick Cohen's article " Russia's free pass to undermine British democracy ," or Oliver Kamm's piece, " Time to crack down on Russia Today and its destabilising propaganda " But I do think that they are both right that every word which comes from RT or Sputnik should be treated with a bucketful of salt by any intelligent perso

He who sups with the devil needs a long spoon ...

I see that the Labour party, in the latest of their long series of U-Turns about the EU, are talking of supporting amendments by backbench Conservatives to the EU withdrawal bill. I am all in favour of proper scrutiny for this bill and in particular to ensure that the enormous powers that it gives are not subject to "mission creep" - for example I am pleased that there is a sunset clause ensuring those powers expire two years after Britain leaves the EU. Similarly I am all in favour of the British Parliament having the final say on the deal under which Britain leaves. But I hope people are very careful what they vote for. If parliament actually does veto a deal, the way the EU's Article 50 is written - with a two-year countdown to exit which it takes the unanimous agreement of the other 27 member states to extend - means that the most likely result of such a vote would be  Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. I'm afraid the previous record of La

Action to simplify the house buying process:


Quote of the day 23rd October 2017

" The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as in playing a poor hand well ." ( H.T. Lelie )

Sunday music spot: "Come Ye Daughters" from Bach's Matthew Passion


Quote of the day 22nd October 2017

"I don't ever want to see another referendum in my lifetime." (Kenneth Clarke, former Chancellor, in a speech which you can read about here , also suggested that there is " little doubt " that Britain will leave the EU and any second referendum on the terms of exit would be " folly ." He added " The political class as a whole, leaving aside eccentrics like me " ... " they've all decided that this referendum " ... " is the voice of the people ." " They did all say during the referendum that they were going to be bound by it so they do regard themselves as bound by it.")

Music to relax after campaigning from Haydn's "The Creation"

Recitative " And God created man " Air " In native worth " Recitative " And God saw everything that he had made " Chorus " Achieved is the Glorious Work " Air " On thee each living soul awaits " from " The Creation " by F Joseph Haydn

Campaiging in Egremont

Despite the rain we had a good turnout today for a Copeland Conservatives campaign day this morning for the Egremont South by-election with Trudy Harrison MP and the excellent Conservative  candidate in the election, Jeff Hailes

Pictures for Trafalgar day

To mark Trafalgar day and commemorate the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the Royal Navy in  * defending our nation,  * protecting freedom over a period of hundreds of years, and  * abolishing the slave trade, here are four pictures by artists including Montague Dawson, Constable,  and Geoff Hunt commemorating the battle of Trafalgar 212 years ago today, and the age of fighting sail:

Quote of the day 21st October 2017 (Trafalgar Day)


Employment position improves in Cumbria

Since the Conservatives have been in government there has been a steady improvement in the numbers in work and fall in the number of people out of work throughout the country, for men and women alike, for younger and older workers alike. Most of the increase in employment is in permanent full-time jobs. In Cumbria the fall in the number of people claiming benefit varies from the significant - 10% in Workington - to the dramatic - 55% in Westmorland and Lonsdale. Here are the figures by constituency:

Friday music spot: "Awake us, Lord, and hasten" (Bach)


Egremont Bridge re-opens

Pleased to learn that the Egremont Bridge is open again. I think we need to learn a few lessons from the events of the past few days but this is good news.

Quote of the day 20th October 2017


The Antisemitism barometer

For decades many people thought that antisemitism had been so throroughly discredited by the crimes of the Nazis that it was no longer a serious problem. Unfortunately, as Andrew Neil pointed out in his powerful speech on Monday which you can watch or read by clicking on the links in a post on this blog yesterday, that view may or may not have been justified in the immediate aftermath of World War II but it is not true today. The great majority of the British people firmly reject racism in all its forms including antisemitism, but this pernicious form of racism still exists and needs to be challenged and fought against more vigorously than is sometimes the case. Following on from that post, here is a graphic showing the results of a YouGov survey of 2058 British Jews, commissioned by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) in which they were asked to what extent the main political parties in Britain harbour antisemites among their MPs, members and supporters. Even the party w

£2.5 million road improvements in Bransty

The government has announced that it will put £1.67 of taxpayer funding from the National Infrastructure Productivity Fund into the "North Shore Access Project" to improve the safety and people movement at the Bransty Road junction area of Whitehaven. An additional £0.8 million will come from the Energy Coast, delivering a total of £2.5 million of investment. This represents the approval of a bid from Cumbria County Council for junction and pedestrian improvements aimed at getting better access and road safety between the South end of Bransty Hill, the railway station, Tescos, and the North Shore area. You can read details of the CCC bid which the Department of Transport has now approved at  

Quote of the day 19th October 2017

"Philip Hammond understands the Government’s job better than anyone in the cabinet. Sacking him wouldn’t just be bad for Britain; it’d be bad for Brexit. And I say that as someone who is glad Britain is leaving the European Union." "Why are his critics’ attacks so incoherent? The answer is simple: they are wrong and Hammond is right. Not right because we are all doomed because of Brexit. Not right because he wants Brexit to fail. But right because he realises it’s complicated." "There will be plenty of opportunities for Britain once we leave the European Union but untangling ourselves is a thorny process involving a high degree of uncertainty. It is upt to the Government to manage that uncertainty." "Hammond is being attacked for doing his job. He is not the first Chancellor to face accusations from his own side that his tightfistedness is all that stands between the country and the sunlit uplands. And he will not be the last." ( Oliver W

Has political argument in Britain stopped?

I don't necessarily agree with every word of Nick Cohen's article, Political Argument in Britain has stopped when we need it most , but I do think his basic point that we have become much more tribal in our thinking and that this is potentially damaging to Britain has a lot of truth in it. You can see it, for example. in the fury which greeted both the Prime Minister and her deputy when both in their different ways refused to recant of having voted Remain or provide the pro-Brexit side with the answer they wanted to hear, that they would now vote to Leave the EU. Incidentally, of those of my friends who voted Remain,  a larger proportion than I would have expected do think they would now vote Leave. and I respect their view as I respect the decision of the electorate, but I have no regrets whatsoever about having voted Remain myself. The attempt from some people to almost bully people who voted Remain into saying they have changed their mind - as opposed to saying th

Unemployment falls again

The latest jobs figures from the Office of National Statistics are out today and show continued improvement. Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that, between March to May 2017 and June to August 2017, the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed people fell, and the number of people aged from 16 to 64 not working and not seeking or available to work also fell. There were 32.10 million people in work, 94,000 more than for March to May 2017 and 317,000 more than for a year earlier. The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 75.1%, up from 74.5% for a year earlier. There were 1.44 million unemployed people (people not in work but seeking and available to work), 52,000 fewer than for March to May 2017 and 215,000 fewer than for a year earlier. The unemployment rate was 4.3%, down from 5.0% for a year earlier and the joint lowest since 1975.

Andrew Neil lays into left-wing antisemitism

Andrew Neil made a very powerful speech on Monday at the Holocaust Educational Trust appeal dinner about the rise of antisemitism, particularly on the left. Neil argued that antisemitism on the political right is - rightly - called out and condemned but antisemitism on the left is all too often tolerated. He said: "I don’t say that the antisemitism of the left is entirely new. Those of you who know your history of Soviet Russia will know that it is not new, that there is a strain of antisemitism that has always run through parts of the British intellectual left. But I believe that it is more prevalent, that it is on the rise, and that it is given far too easy a pass. It gets away with it in the way that the antisemitism of the far right is not allowed to get away with it." Needless to say his comments have been rubbished by the Momentum trolls but Labour MP Wes Streeting, to his credit, responded that Andrew Neil's comments had been painful to listen to "N

Quote of the day 18th October 2017


The Fall of DA'ESH

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)  claimed today to have captured Raqqa , Raqqa, the capital of the self-styled "Islamic State" caliphate known to most people in the Middle East as DA'ESH. A US military spokesman confirmed that about 90% of the city had been cleared. This morning  the SDF cleared the last two major IS positions in Raqqa - the municipal stadium and the National Hospital. Islamic State (IS) made Raqqa the headquarters of its self-styled "caliphate" in early 2014, implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and imposing savage punishments on anyone who opposed it or who they considered un-Islamic including beheading, crucifixion, torture, or throwing gay people off the roofs of five-storey buildings. The city also became the base for thousands of jihadists from around the world who heeded a call to migrate there by DA'ESH leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The SDF was formed by the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) militia two ye

Of storms, bridges, and Parish Councils

I attended St Bees Parish Council last night and Egremont Town Council this evening. Both raised concerns about how the impact on Cumbria's roads of the recent storms has been handled. There are a lot of conference calls and discussions between atgencies about how to deal with the disruption which storms and flooding have caused. A lot of people have been working very hard and I do not want to disparage their efforts. Equally there are some lessons we need to learn. I will argue that when there is time to do so we need to have a review about how well the agencies communicated with one another and the public. The point has been made to me that there may have been some failings in this respect. Particular concern has been expressed about the failure to communicate adequately with the public about the closure of the bridge in Egremont and to put in place and publicise alternative travel arrangements. Closing the bridge may well have been the right thing to do but we need to

Quote of the day 17th October 2017

This quote seemed like an appropriate follow-on to my post last night about the evolution, or lack thereof, of human intelligence ...

Is the film "Idiocracy" coming true?

The 2006 comedy film "Idiocracy" made the projection, intended as a joke, that because people of high intelligence supposedly tend to have only a small number of children while people of low intelligence supposedly tend to have lots, there would tend to be a catastrophic fall in intelligence. In the film Luke Wilson plays Private Joe Bauers, a contemporary US soldier of perfectly average intelligence for the early 21st century who is selected for a suspended animation trial and accidentally put to sleep for five centuries instead of the one year period intended. He wakes to find a population consisting entirely of morons and that he is now far and away the most intelligent man in the world. I had never taken the film too seriously, not least because intelligence is the product of a whole host of factors and not just genetics, and I don't take things reported in the Daily Mail as always being correct either, but I must confess that their article this week " Are

Apparently scientists cannot confirm whether we are living in a simulation after all

A few days ago I posted about an article in "Science Advances" which had been taken by the media as evidence that we are not living in some giant computer simulation like the one in "The Matrix." However, the authors of the original paper,  Zohar Ringel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and Dmitry Kovrizhin at the University of Oxford told New Scientist they are a bit taken aback at the conclusions the media ad drawn from their work. There are people on both ends of the spectrum - those who think it is unlikely that we are living in some kind of computer simulation and, surprisingly, one or two like technology mogul Elon Musk who think that there is only a billion-to-one chance that we actually live in reality and that it is more likely that we are merely data circling inside someone’s supercomputer. However, the scientific consensus  as reported by the New Scientist is that we cannot possibly know whether or not our universe is a simulation

What the IMF really said:

For some perverse reason both the Daily Mail and the Guardian wrote up a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report as supportive of the Labour party's policy of increasing tax rates. Both took a quote from the IMF's fiscal monitor which did indeed read as follows "there would appear to be scope for increasing the progressivity of income taxation without significantly hurting growth for countries wishing to enhance income redistribution." and those newspapers took that as encouraging a rise in tax rates in Britain. Actually that is NOT what the report says. The quote above refers to OECD countries as a whole, and is NOT specifically aimed at Britain. The report goes on to suggest that "Assuming a welfare weight of zero for the very rich, the optimal marginal income tax rate can be calculated as 44 percent." and compares this with the average top tax income tax band in the OECD of 35%. So there is scope for those countries whose top rate of in

Quote of the day 16th October 2017


On cross-party friendships

There is a marvellous article in today's Observer which you can read here about five cross-party friendships at Westminster. Getting anything done in politics often requires people to work across party boundaries. It is really important for the functioning of democracy that we do not regard people who don't share all our opinions as enemies. I found the article immensely cheering that in these partisan times ten MPs and peers were willing to talk to a journalist about their friendship with someone on the other side of the house.

Sometimes there IS smoke without fire.

This is an updated version of a post first made four years ago. Frequently when a nasty story is circulating about someone, or when the police have decided to investigate an allegation - as it is their duty to do if there is anything resembling evidence that it might be true - someone makes the comment that " there's no smoke without fire ." This is of course a very old saying. My experience from more than thirty years in active politics is that this particular saying is not true.    Sometimes there really is smoke without fire, especially when it is in someone else's interests that there should be. Certain very widely believed stories are actually clever propaganda planted by the enemies of the people they are about. Evidence against the theory that " there's no smoke without fire " goes back a long time. Although the Emperor Nero was undoubtedly one of the most evil rulers in history, many historians believe that he was actually innocent