Showing posts from 2018

A wish for 2019

Whatever else happens in the year which is about to begin, and which is certain to see millions of people very disappointed by whatever decisions are taken about Brexit, I entirely agree with Iain Dale's hope in his article in the Mail online here , that in 2019 people will pay attention to her majesty's wise words in her Christmas address and try to treat one another which as much civility and respect as we can manage. The vote in the 2016 referendum would never have been as close as it was unless there were strong arguments on both sides. In fairness there are also wrong-headed and silly arguments on both sides. But all of us should recognise that none of us have a monopoly of wisdom or virtue and however hard it is - and some people go out of their way to make it very hard indeed - we should try to respect the views of those who have different opinions, about Brexit or anything else, and even more, treat them with decency and courtesy.

A music spot for New Year's eve: Ring Out Wild Bells


Children's medical records to be made available to their parents online

The "red book", containing a child's medical records, is to be made available to parents online as part of government plans to improve NHS care for mothers and new babies. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also promised more specialist neonatal staff and intensive care cots for newborn babies. The measures are designed to make maternity care safer while cutting stillbirths and infant deaths. England still lags behind many European countries on baby deaths. In 2017, 1,857 babies died during their first month of life , out of a total of more than 640,000 delivered in England. Figures show that the number of stillbirths have declined steadily since 2010, but ministers say there is still more to do. Matt Hancock said: "Great care also means safe care, but sadly too many women are still suffering the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child. "We are committed to saving 4,000 lives by 2025 by halving stillbirths, maternal and infant deaths and serious br

Quote of the day New Year's Eve 2018

"Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding." H.M. Queen Elizabeth , Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth, 25th December 2018.

Dame June Whitfield RIP

We have lost some remarkable human being who died in 2018 , including some of the greats of British comedy. I was sad to learn that on Friday one of them was Dame June Whitfield. It seems like there was hardly a significant comedy production made in Britain between the 1950s and the early 21st century in which June Whitfield did not feature at some stage. She brought laughter to millions. Rest in Peace.

A sunday carol: Steeleye Span sing 'Gaudete, Christus est Natus'


Quote of the day 30th December 2018

"Brexit is born of a misreading of the nature of the EU, but the Remain side’s misreading of Brexit voters is almost as bad and sometimes worse.  It’s still far, far too common to hear in Remainer circles tropes about Leavers being misled and bamboozled into their vote, or perhaps bewitched by internet-wizards and Russian enchanters.  And click on #FBPE and you’ll quickly find someone impugning the motives of Leave voters. It pains me that even some of the people I admire most on this side of the debate have signed up to the claim that voting Leave was often an act of racism. There is no convincing evidence to support that hunch.  Another Remain narrative is truly awful: ‘ relax, we just need to wait because Leavers are all OAPs who are slowly dying off. ’ This, I think, is about as nasty and divisive as any of the anti-immigration scare stories of the Leave campaign. It’s also based on a misreading of the evidence (Leave won among all voters over 45, and possibly the 35-45

A year of Forecasting dangerously

If you want an indication of just how uncertain and unpredictable the political waters are at the moment you could do better than compare and contrast the two utterly different forecasts of what will happen over the next few months which were put forward on the Political Betting blog as two of their regular posters gave their predictions for 2019. Both the individuals concerned - Alistair Meeks and David Herdson - are in my opinion very shrewd political observers whose judgement I take seriously and it was striking to read how many issues they take a different view about what is most likely to happen - though both are wise enough to admit that they are only making a judgement call about what they think the most probably outcome, not for a moment claiming to know for certain. One thinks that Mrs May will eventually get her deal through, the other doesn't. One thinks that there will be another Brexit referendum, the other doesn't. One thinks that Britain will leave the

Twelve Days of Christmas.

For the past couple of centuries the tradition associated with Christmas was that the season runs from the 25th December for twelve days. Under that tradition Christmas decorations were put up at some point between Advent Sunday (four Sundays before 25th December) and Christmas Eve and then removed by midnight on Twelfth Night (5th January.) Traditions evolve and change: more than one person said to my wife this morning that they had already taken down their Christmas decorations, in one case on Boxing Day (26th December, also known as the Feast of Stephen.) If that's what people want to do, good luck to them, but having had such a long wait for Christmas I would like to continue to celebrate the season of Peace and Goodwill for a while longer while it is still officially here. And in that spirit my music spot for today is the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Matthew jumps the shark

I have a lot of time for Matthew Parris. I often agree with much of what he writes and usually find that his articles help me to clarify my own thoughts even when I strongly disagree. But he's jumped the shark this morning by openly arguing that MPs should defy the result of the referendum. (Which most of them were elected on manifesto promises to respect - more than 80% of voters in last year's election voted for parties which said they would implement the referendum result and leave the EU.) Those who are registered with Times Newspapers, either to read the allowance of free items which can be accessed each week or who pay, can read his article by clicking on it's title which is as follows: " MPs must be brave and tell us we were wrong ." Yes, it was close, and 52:48 is close enough to make it reasonable for those whic are charged with  implementing the decision to try to carry as much of the country as possible with them, and negotiate a deal which mini

Quote of the day 29th December 2018

"The logic for a second referendum has always been flawed. The idea that because parliament can’t decide, the matter should be referred back to the people only makes sense if the people have a clear preference (which they don’t), if there is a simple binary choice to be made (there isn’t), and if parliament is determined to implement the public decision, which if it was it wouldn’t need to ask them in the first place.  And that’s besides the substantial risk of the public endorsing a No Deal outcome, or the damage that an even more divisive campaign than the first referendum would do to the British body politic. Besides, it’s extremely hard to practically legislate for a referendum while the ratification process is still ongoing but once that process is over, the need for a public vote to ratify it vanishes."  ( David Herdson , from an article with predictions for 2019 on the Political Betting blog which you can read in full here .)

Carol for 28th December: "The Boar's head Carol" sung by Steeleye Span & Maddy Prior


Quote of the day 28th December 2018

Bob Hope on Christmas:

A carol for the third day of Christmas: The Crown of Roses (Tchaikovsky)


Quote of the day 27th December 2018

"Who would have thought that in 2018 it would be deemed controversial to uphold the principle of free speech? Whatever else the events of this year have taught us, it is now clear that the fundamental human right to express oneself as one sees fit is under threat." "The time is ripe seriously to consider how we might retaliate against the creeping authoritarianism of our age." "Those who were active in the civil-rights movements of the ‘New Left’ in the Sixties and Seventies understood that free speech is the linchpin of all other struggles for equality. But today it is mostly well-intentioned activists on the left who are calling on the state to constrict the Overton window." "Worse still, in a world in which social media have become the de facto public square, and online platforms are controlled by powerful likeminded CEOs, we are left with the paradoxical phenomenon of self-identified leftists seeking to empower huge corporations to set the p

A carol for Boxing day: Good King Wenceslas (from Piae Cantiones, 1582)


Quote of the day for Boxing day, 26th December 2018

"Getting an unexpected hug from someone is like finding something at the bottom of your stocking the day after Christmas." ( Rhiannon )

The Queen's Christmas Broadcast 2018


Christmas Day music spot: Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending


Quotes of the day for Christmas Day 2018


Merry Christmas

To everyone reading this who is a Christian, may the love and hope represented by the birth of the Christ Child be with you this Christmas. To everyone reading this who has any faith, may your God be with you at this time. To everyone reading this, wishing you and your family peace and happiness at this season and a healthy, happy and prosperous New year 2018.

Another Christmas Eve music spot: O come, O come, Emmanuel - The Piano Guys


A carol for Christmas Eve: The Lord at first did Adam make


Quote of the day 24th December 2018

N.B. This meme is shared as a joke. You can find a more serious assessment of the impact of GDPR here .

Simcha Rotem RIP

The last surviving resistance fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 died yesterday at the age of 94. Simcha Rotem, also known as Kazik, was one of the Jewish partisans who rose up against the Nazis when they began mass deportations from the Polish capital. Armed only with small arms and improvised weapons about a thousand Jewish fighters made a heroic defence of the Warsaw Ghetto against a well-armed force of Nazi soldiers, including crack Waffen SS troops, which outnumbered them two to one. When the Germans moved with overwhelming force to crush the Warsaw Ghetto in April 1943 on the eve of Passover they expected to ship the entire remaining population to death camps within three days. Because of the heroic resistance of men and women like Simcha Rotem the Germans were unable to take the Ghetto without largely burning the entire area to the ground, and it took them five weeks and cost them more than a hundred casualties. The resistance of the Warsaw Ghetto was also a pow

Rescue boat funding

This week shares of £1 million of grants of taxpayers' money to support rescue boats has been allocated to dozens of charities for life-saving equipment to help volunteer search teams save lives more quickly and easily. · The rescue boat grant fund was launched in 2014 to provide £5 million over five years to independent search and rescue teams working on inland waterways.  · Over the past 4 years, 201 bids have been successful, helping a total of 98 search and rescue charities. The money has already paid for 65 new boats in addition to launch vehicles, rafts, and safety equipment.  · During 2018 to date there have been 57 successful bids for the latest round of the rescue boat grant fund. The funding will provide 15 new boats and a hovercraft.

Sunday carol: See Amid the Winter's Snow (King's College Cambridge)


Sunday music spot, number one: "Ave verum corpus" by William Byrd


Quote of the day 23rd December 2018

"Remainers like myself are in danger or repeating the mistake we made before the last referendum, running around like Chicken Licken, only to find that the sky never did fall in. Our country's possible futures do not, at lest at the outset, look to me very different. Skies do not fall in." ( Matthew Parris in a Times opinion piece yesterday, which if you are registered with Times Newspapers you can read in full online here )

Paddy Ashdown RIP

It has been announced this evening that Paddy Ashdown, who was the longest-serving leader of the Liberal Democrats and perhaps the party's most charismatic leader, has died of cancer at the age of 77. Before entering politics he served his country in the Royal Marines and then in SIS. Prime Minister Theresa May said Lord Ashdown " served his country with distinction " in both his military and political careers. " He dedicated his life to public service and he will be sorely missed ," she said. Lord Ashdown's contemporary as party leader, former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major, hailed his one-time political opponent as " a man of duty, passion, and devotion to the country he loved - right up to the very end ." He added: " In government, Paddy Ashdown was my opponent. In life, he was a much-valued friend. " The present Lib/Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said Lord Ashdown was " a great inspiration ". " He

Could change in Cumbria's local government finally be on the way?

There was overwhelming support - including from myself - at the last Full Council meeting of Cumbria County Council for exploring the possibility of a move to "unitary" local government in the county. This would mean that instead of seven councils and hundreds of councillors, of which is one is top tier (the county council) and six are district tier (Allerdale, Barrow, Carlisle, Copeland, Eden and South Lakes,) you would have one or two "unitary" councils each of which carries out all the functions currently handled by both of the existing tiers. A single unitary authority would not mean that the county council was taking over the responsibilities of the districts: it would mean that all seven existing councils would be scrapped and replaced with a different type of council. Unitary authorities which carry out all the functions of both tiers existed from 1889 to 1974 in England and Wales under the name "County Boroughs." they were scrapped in the 197

Saturday music spot: Infant Holy, Infant Lowly


Quote of the day 22nd December 2018


Counterfactual of the year

There was a plausible and amusing counterfactual essay on Political Betting this week by Alistair Meeks which asks " Where would we be now if Remain had won 52:48 ?" I think mony remainers and leavers alike with an interest in politics will find it entertaining.

Kent Estuary by-election results

The outcome of the two local government by elections yesterday (20/12/2018) in South Lakes were as follows: Kent Estuary Electoral Division (Cumbria County Council) Pete MCSWEENEY (Liberal Democrats): 1,381 ( elected ) Tom HARVEY (Conservative Party): 666 Jill ABEL (Green Party): 109 Kate Malinda Holly LOVE (Labour Party): 70 Turnout: 44.22% Arnside and Milnthorpe Ward (South Lakeland District Council - covers the same area as the Kent Estuary County division) Helen CHAFFEY (Liberal Democrats): 1,319  ( elected ) Rachel ASHBURNER (Conservative Party): 709 Jill ABEL (Green Party): 125 Kate Malinda Holly LOVE (Labour Party): 68 Turnout: 44.22% Both seats were retained by the Lib/Dems on a very creditable turnout for an election less than a week before Christmas. Congratulations to Pete McSweeney and Helen Chaffey on their election: commiserations to the unsuccessful candidates particularly Tom Harvey and Rachel Ashburner who worked extremely hard

Fiona Onasanya should resign

The MP for Peterborough, Fiona Onasanya, has been convicted of perverting the course of justice by conspiring to lie to the authorities about a speeding ticket. She has been suspended from the Labour party. Almost everyone who drives has sometimes broken the law by driving too fast and it would be hypocrisy to get too outraged over someone driving at 41mph in a 30pmh limit. However, the fact that nearly everyone does it doesn't make it a good idea and it is right that there are penalties in place to discourage all drivers from going to fast and encourage us to pay more attention to the safety of ourselves and all other road users. Lying to the authorities to try to evade those penalties is conduct well short of the standard of behaviour which should be expected of an MP. Former Lib/Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne, after conspiring with his former wife to evade a speeding ticket, eventually pleaded guilty and had the decency to resign from parliament rather than bringing

Quote of the day 21st December 2018

"Dear Mr. President:  I have been privileged to serve as our country's 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.  I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy" "One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.  Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effe

Kent Estuary by-elections today

Polls are now open in today's two local government by-elections in the Milnthorpe and Arnside area (20th December 2018). Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm this evening. If you are on the electoral register for the relevant area you do not need your polling card to vote (though if you don't have it, taking some other evidence of ID might be a good idea.) The elections were caused by the sad death of councillor Ian Stewart. Councillor Tom Harvey and Rachel Ashburner, and the Conservative candidates in these elections, standing respectively to represent the Kent Estuary division of Cumbria County Council and the Arnside & Milnthorpe ward of South Lakes DC. I believe that both these candidates (pictured below) would be good, effective and hard-working councillors.

Quote of the day 20th December 2018

American economist Thomas Sowell explains why clever people cause the worst disasters ...

Music to relax after campaigning: "The Shepherds' Farewell" (Berlioz)


Campaigning in Kent Estuary

Another visit to Kent Estuary today for the Eve-of-poll knock-up for tomorrow's council by-elections. Cllr Tom Harvey and Rachel Ashburner, Conservative candidates for respectively the Kent Estuary Cumbria County council division and the Arnside & Milnthorpe South Lakes District Council ward, have been working hard and I with them the best of luck. I believe that they would make very good councillors if elected tomorrow.

Quote of the day 19th December 2019

"Just because you've put your seat belt on doesn't mean you have to crash the car." (Comment attributed by the media to Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd )

North-West Region Conservative election results

The results of the elections for Regional officers for the North-West region of the Conservative party have been announced this week and are as follows. The new chairman of the voluntary party in the North West is Cllr Michael Winstanley (Wigan Council) who takes over from Sir Robert Atkins The new deputy chairman (political and campaigning) is myself, in succession to Cllr Kevin Beaty. The new deputy chairman (membership and finance) is Katherine Fletcher who takes over from Cllr Christian Wakeford. Congratulations to Michael and Katherine and I am looking forward to working with them. Commiserations and better fortune in the future to those who were not successful this time, and thanks to Robert, Kevin and Christian for their hard work over the past year.

Key points from Health Scrutiny

Important issues from today's meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee (More detailed report to follow ) *  A powerful presentation from Healthwatch Cumbria, CCC and two clients of the relevant service on what a good life looks like for people with learning disabilities. During the course of the discussion it came out that (on national figures) life expectancy if 14 years shorter for men with learning disability than those without and 18 years shorter for women with disabilities than those without - the shortfall of life expectancy for women with learning disabilities being particularly bad and sufficiently worse than that for men as to reverse the usual pattern of longevity.  There was some discussion during other relevant agenda items about what could be done about this. * Top level progress reviews of the proposed merger of the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust and the Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust, of the future of mental health care in Cumbria, and

Time to batten down again ...

Another stormy day. Do take care if you have to travel.

Quote of the day Tuesday 18th December 2018


Whitehaven Relief road consultation - THREE DAYS TO GO

The current public consultation about a possible A595 relief road for Whitehaven finishes later this week at close of play on Wednesday (19th December 2018.) I believe and make no apology for repeating that this has the potential to deliver major benefits for the local economy and for the quality of life of residents of the villages in West Cumbria currently affected by rat-running because the A595 is not coping with existing demand and in particular to improve the viability of West Cumberland Hospital and outcomes for patients. This is a first stage consultation by Highways England who have not yet defined a route for the proposed new road and they continue to assure me that they are genuinely interested in suggestions from local stakeholders and the public about where the road should go. One of the suggestions which has been discussed between local county councillors and Highways England is the possibility that the relief road could include a

Quote of the day Monday 17th Dece3mber 2018


Sunday music spot: Rejoice in the Lord alway

I chose this piece because it is a setting of the words of this morning's New Testament lesson, from the Letter of Paul to the Philippians (Ch 4 verses 4:7) "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, Rejoice! Let your softness be known unto all men The Lord is even at hand Be careful for nothing But in all prayer and supplication let your petitions be manifest unto God with giving of thanks And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, Keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." I once had a humorous dictionary of church music and one of the first entries was " Anon , short for anonymous: a composer with many pseudonyms including Farrant Tye and Redford." E.g. there are a lot of pieces of music where nobody is quite sure who really deserves the credit but which have commonly attributed to a popular composer who wrote in the same style. This piece has sometimes been attributed to Redford on precisely that basis but nobody is ab

Quote of the day Sunday 16th December 2018

"You cannot understand British politics until you grasp that the " (Labour) " party has been taken over by men (and the occasional woman) who spent their lives around the fag ends of the 20th-century Marxist-Leninist movement.  It’s not that Labour now has a communist programme. Revolutionary socialism is as dead as any idea can be.  Rather, Labour has inherited the mental deformations of the Leninist style of doing business: the leadership personality cult, the love of conspiracy theory, the robotic denunciations of opponents, and most critically for our current crisis, the ineradicable fantasy that the worse conditions for the masses become, the brighter the prospects of the far left are. Disaster socialism is its alternative to disaster capitalism." ( Nick Cohen in an article in today's Observer which you can read on the website here .)

Missed opportunities to use digital technology to improve the health journey.

Next Tuesday, Cumbria's Health Scrutiny Committee will be hearing reports on digitisation of patient records in the county. Interesting and important reports which in my view show that the NHS in Cumbria has a lot more to do. It is therefore very timely that one of my colleagues on the committee has just drawn my attention to a blog post by Lisa Drake, who works for Seascale Medical practice. Lisa is an advocate of making better use of digital technology to improve patient experience and care and the working lives of NHS staff. She recently had an experience of being on the other side of the table when she needed an issue checked out in relation to her own health, and records her patient journey and experiences on her blog "What Lisa did next," here , in a post called " Digital Health - missed opportunities ." A lengthy post but well worth reading: there are few more comments from me about the implications of this which the NHS in Cumbria needs