Showing posts from January, 2018

Labour Uncut "pants on fire" attack on Corbyn

Ted Heath used to say "I do not often attack the Labour party. They do it so well themselves." There's a real corker of a red-on-red attack on the "Labour Uncut" website this evening, " Labour leader leaves national television interview with pants on fire ." It's about Jeremy Corbyn's interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday. It also makes some important points (which ought to act as a warning to people across the political spectrum) about how the "Fake News" narrative has damaged democracy by becoming a "get out of jail free card" for people who've been caught lying. Here is an extract from what the author of the piece, Rob Marchant, has to say about Corbyn's interview: " While the Guido Fawkes blog is hardly staffed by friendly Labour supporters, it is difficult to argue against the following conclusions they made: Corbyn says he took money from PressTV “a very long time ago” (it was 2012, onl

Midweek Madrigal: "Hark all ye lovely saints above" by Weelkes


North West Evening Mail apologises for wrong accusation against Transport Minister

The North West Evening Mail newspaper has issued an apology for an article which, quote, " wrongly accused transport secretary, Chris Grayling, over false promises on the A595 road." Details of the correction and apology can be read here . To give where credit is due, the newspaper published a correction, apology and a letter from the minister, Chris Grayling, which sets out his position on the work being done to improve the A595. The letter reads as follows: "Dear editor, "There have been no discussions between Transport for the North and Department for Transport ministers about removing the A595 from its strategic plan. "When I visited Cumbria last year, I said that the A595 was at the top of my priority list. I stand by that statement. "I reaffirmed my pledge in July, when I singled out the A595 as one of the roads needing an upgrade when I announced the Transport Investment Strategy. "The A595 is vital to the county’s ec

Select Committee reform as a guide to local government reform

Around the turn of the millennium the Blair government forced County Councils and the vast majority of City, Borough or District councils to largely abandon the traditional "committee system" under which most of a council's detailed decision making was carried out by proportionately balanced committees meeting largely in public, and individual councillors had almost zero formal authority, in favour of what were called "executive structures." These involved either a directly-elected mayor or  "leader and cabinet" taking on almost all the power which had previously been delegated to committees, with some individual councillors now having quite considerable formal authority and an executive which could now consist entirely of members of the ruling party instead of having to reflect the balance on the council. (Committee decision-making was retained for some, largely regulatory decisions such as planning and licencing, where giving the power to an indi

Quote of the day 31st January 2018


On the Peterson/Newman interview and broadcaster bias

Ten days ago I posted an interview of Canadian academic Jordan Peterson by Cathy Newman, which had ruffled a few feathers. I put this up in a post " On Heresy and Censorship " to illustrate where he stands, because a junior Canadian academic had been made the subject of disciplinary procedures for showing a class a short video clip of Jordan Peterson (procedures which, if the press report about them to which I linked was remotely accurate, appeared troubling in what they say about the state of free speech and thought in the University concerned.) This interview sparked a strong reaction and also, unfortunately. a lot of over-the-top trolling attacks on both participants. I personally think some of the reaction to the interview is overstated - for example. some of those who have been attacking Peterson appear to think he actually said things which Newman asked him if he was saying and which he disavowed. Similarly a lot of the flak which has been aimed at Cathy Newman ap

Quote of the day 30th January 2018

"Newman consistently asserted viewpoints onto Peterson that he did not hold, oversimplified his arguments, sought to put words into his mouth, and bluntly restated some of his conclusions absent context or nuance." "Newman has since become the unlucky fall-guy for a type of bias you see a lot, when interviewers seem to have some caricatured preconceived notion of what their guest really believes." "If the Peterson interview leads to more broadcast journalists checking their priors, and engaging with what their interviewees actually say rather than a preconceived idea of what they think, then he will have done a great public service indeed." ( Ryan Bourne , extracts from a City AM article, " It's time for broadcasters to start confronting their anti-right bias ," about the Peterson/Newman interview)

Swimathon 2018 - a quarter century of swimming for charity

I first took part in the Swimathon twenty-four years ago in 1994. This year I hope to take part in Swimathon 2018 at Copeland pool, Hensingham on Saturday 28th April. So this will be the 25th consecutive year I have swum the 5,000 metre challenge. The Swimathon is Britain’s largest charity swim, and gives people of very varied swimming abilities an opportunity to raise money for charity by swimming distances of up to 5,000 metres. The 2018 Swimathon event is in aid of Marie Curie, who look after thousands of terminally ill people, and also, for the first time, Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity. Marie Curie, the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness and their families, has been Swimathon's charity partner ten times since it launched in 1986 and has raised over £17 million for the charity through the event during that time. A big thank you to anyone reading this who sponsored me or any other Swimathon participant in the past. If

Nora Mulready on why she resigned from the Labour party

After "the best part of 20 years" as a member of the Labour party, and an activist for the party in Haringey, Nora Mulready resigned from Labour yesterday. She has written a powerful blog post on why she resigned, a decision she has described as "heart wrenching," here .

Quote of the day 29th January 2018

I can't think of a better example of the saying that many a true work is spoken in jest ...

Sunday music spot: Orlando Gibbons, "O Lord, in thy wrath"


Quote of the day 28th January 2018

(E.g. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Campaigning in Hartside

Due to the sad death of Councillor Sheila Orchard, who will be sadly missed, there is currently a by-election for the Hartside ward of Eden District council which will take place on Thursday 8th February . Sheila's widower Rob, who is a hardworking activist for the local community in his own right, is standing to fill the vacancy and Cumbria Conservatives are campaigning to support his election. I went over to Eden this morning to join a strong team who were on the stump for Rob Orchard and was impressed with the effective and well-organised campaign they are running. Good luck to Rob on 8th February, I think he would be an excellent councillor for the people of Hartside ward.

Saturday music spot: Vivaldi's Concerto For Guitar And Strings in D Major


The Power of Words

"The power of words" is the theme for this year's Holocaust Memorial Day , which is today. Today is the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and on this Holocaust Memorial Day we should remember all those who were murdered by the Nazis, their allies and collaborators in the orgy of genocide and cruelty usually known as the Holocaust. The list of victims is estimated to include: 5.9 million Jews 2.7 to 3.2 million ethnic Poles 3 million ethnic Ukrainians 2-3 million Soviet Prisoners of War 1.5 million ethnic Belarusians 300,000 to half a million Serbs 270,000 disabled people 90,000 to 220,000 Romani 80,000 to 200,000 Freemasons 20,000 to 25,000 Slovenes 5,000 to 15,000 gay people 7,000 Spanish republicans 2,500 to 5,000 Jehovah's witnesses Also among the victims were trade unionists, members of all political parties opposed to the Nazis, people whose religious faith led them to criticise or refuse to

Quote of the Day for Holocaust Memorial Day, Saturday 27th January 2018

"Soon the last survivor and the last perpetrator from Auschwitz will have joined those who were murdered at the camp. There will be no one on this earth left alive who has personal experience of the place. And when that happens there is a danger that this history will merge into the distant past and become just one terrible event amongst many. There have been horrific atrocities before, from Richard the Lionheart's massacre of the Muslims of Acre during the Crusades, to Genghis Khan's genocide in Persia. Maybe future generations will see Auschwitz the same way - as just another bad thing that happened in the past, before living memory. But that should not be allowed to happen. We must judge behaviour by the context of the times. And judged by the context of mid-twentieth century, sophisticated European culture, Auschwitz and the Nazis' 'Final Solution' represent the lowest act in all history. By their crime the Nazis brought into the world an awareness

Iain Dale on the lost art of political interviewing

Probably the most effective and often the most devastating political interviewer that I ever watched was also the most polite. Brian Walden was a former Labour MP but his style of interviewing was equally courteous and equally challenging whoever he was interviewing. He would start his interviews with friendly and gentle questions which gave the politician being interviewed a clear opportunity to stake out his or her position, and for the first ten minutes or Walden would do nothing more challenging than try to ensure that every opportunity had been given to stake out that position clearly and precisely. And then, usually about ten minutes in -  BANG! With equal courtesy he would take some aspect of the position staked out which could potentially give rise to difficult issues and start exploring those issues, in manner which despite his gentle and cultured tones put the interviewee in the position of a batsman at whom the bowler, who had been sending down slow and predictable deliv

HMS Queen Elizabeth to visit Gibraltar

The new supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will be leaving port again soon on the next stage of her trials, which will include the flight trials to operate rotary-wing aircraft. (Flight trials with F35 jets  is planned for this autumn.) I understand from the UK Defence Journal that during this voyage she is likely to call at Gibraltar for " a routine logistical stop." If this happens as planned I suspect the people of Gibraltar will be delighted to see her ...

Quote of the day 26th January 2018 - another one from Winnie


Why has the UK economy done better than even some Leave supporters expected?

It is important to emphasise that until Britain actually leaves the EU we will not even have a good idea what the economic benefits and costs will be. Indeed, while we still do not even know yet the terms on which Britain will leave, those on both sides of the argument who claim to be able to assess the benefits and losses which will accrue are just begging to be made to look ridiculous. There is one area which we are in a position to assess: the shock impact of the vote itself on consumer, investor and trading confidence. In the hours after the vote billions were wiped off share prices, and the pound plunged. Because many FTSE100 companies get a significant proportion of their earnings from abroad, the drop in the pound rapidly pushed the stock exchange indexes and stocks and shares in general back up to and even above the pre-vote level. Of course, we will never know what the pound would have done if there had been a "Remain" vote but it is entirely reasonable to

Remembering Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, wartime Prime Minister and more than once voted the greatest Briton of all time, died 53 years ago yesterday. He made mistakes - what human being does not? Some of his ideas would not be acceptable today. But without his courage and determination in the face of great evil, I dread to think what would have happened to our country and to the world in the face of the Nazi threat. It was said of him in a famous quote by Ed Murrow (not Lord Halifax who was given the line in "The Darkest Hour") " He mobilised the English language and sent it iuto battle ." Here is an extract from one of the speeches in which he did that, and a few more of his quotes.

Quote of the day 25th January 2018

"The far right and the far left often think they are the purest form of their peers; that Britain’s strength was founded in their cause, and that the misguided patriotism or adherence to their cause is just. They could not be more wrong." ( Johnny Mercer , Conservative MP, from an article " Online abuse for female colleague and none for me. Why? " in which he defends the Jewish female Labour MP with whom he appeared in a TV interview and who was the subject of a barrage of offensive comments.)

Midweek music spot: "Windmills of Your Mind" sung by the Kings' Singers


The problem with identity politics ...

Good piece by Mark Wallace on Conservative Home about the problems with identity politics here .

DC on Brexit

David Cameron has said that the consequences to date of the Brexit vote have not been as bad as he feared they would be. In remarks which have been gleefully repeated by some Brexit supporters he was recorded at the World Economic Forum in Davos saying that the Leave vote was " a mistake not a disaster ". Mr Cameron called the 2016 referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, campaigned for Remain in and resigned as Prime Minister after the Leave side won. " As I keep saying, it's a mistake not a disaster ," he was heard saying in a conversation with steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. " It's turned out less badly than we first thought. But it's still going to be difficult. "

Unemployment falls again to new 42-year low

UK unemployment fell by 3,000 to 1.44 million in the three months to November, official figures show. The number of those in work increased sharply, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) That leaves the UK's unemployment rate at a four-decade low of 4.3%. "Demand for workers clearly remained strong," said ONS statistician David Freeman. The pace of job creation was faster than economists had predicted. The ONS said the number of people in work rose by 102,000 in the three months to November, taking total employment to a record 32.2 million. Higher consumer price inflation, due to weaker sterling, has left real pay 0.5% lower than a year earlier, but rising wages are beginning to close the gap. "Today's jobs numbers once again strongly suggest that the UK economy is on a firmer footing than many had anticipated following the EU referendum vote, " commented James Athey, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Quote of the day for Cumbria Day, 24 the January 2018

“Cumbria’s food and drink industry is worth £300 million to our local economy and our produce has international recognition with three of the seven Michelin starred restaurants in the North West based in Cumbria. “Cumbria Day showcases the food and drink on offer in Cumbria and The Byre CafĂ© is one of hundreds of food and drink businesses in Copeland, offering homemade jams, chutneys and preserves. “The food and drink sector in Cumbria employs more than 16,000 people, therefore it is vitally important that we support our small and independently ran businesses throughout the year – they all work tremendously hard and I am looking forward to meeting each of the businesses and learning more about their produce next week.” ( Trudy Harrison , MP for Copeland, speaking last week about Cumbria day which is today. She added that recent ONS figures revealed that the farming and food manufacturing industries in Cumbria contributed five per cent of the county’s economic output, compared

Ursula Le Guin RIP

Ursula K Le Guin, author of the "Wizard of Earthsea" trilogy and other SF or Fantasy classics such as "The Left Hand of Darkness" died yesterday at the age of 88. She was a fantastic, original and very creative writer and will be missed. Rest in Peace.

This coming Satuirday will be Holocaust Memorial Day

This Saturday, 27th January 2018 will be the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and will be commemorated as Holocaust Memorial Day. As I have previously posted, there are two opposite errors we can make in respect of ghastly events like the Nazi Holocaust or indeed any other genocide. One is to remember in a way which fuels the cycle of hate: the other is to try to forget. I firmly believe that if we insist that terrible crimes like Hitler's "final solution" must never be forgotten, then similar events are less likely to recur - provided we also remember that there are good and bad people in any race or other category of human beings and that seeking revenge for perceived past wrongs not against individuals but against entire races was the main cause of the catastrophe. Those who died at the hands of the Nazis, and the victims of every other genocide, should be remembered not as symbols or as part of a collective group, but as

Meadow Road funds approved

Local Committee agreed today the devolved budget for road repairs and resurfacing in 2018/19. Meadow road in the Mirehouse part of my division was top of the list in Copeland with £120,000 agreed to "at least make a start" on the problem with a complete rebuild of the worst parts of the road.

Quote of the day 23rd January 2018


Whether it's Esther McVey, Diane Abbott, Laura Kuenssberg, or Cathy Newman, abusing people is wrong

A few days ago I posted a clip here of an interview of Canadian academic Jordan Peterson by Cathy Newman. Some people like Jordan Peterson and think that he dealt very well with Cathy Newman's questions: that's a perfectly reasonable opinion if expressed in a civilised way. Other people strongly disagree with his views and think she interviewed him very well, and exactly the same applies. What is not OK is to abuse or threaten either of them because you disagree with the questions which Cathy Newman asked or with Jordan Peterson's responses. As James Kirkup reports in the Spectator here , there has been entirely too much abuse of Cathy Newman for asking questions of the interviewee, which is her job, and this is as unacceptable as it was that some people on the left behaved in such a way that the BBC felt Laura Kuenssberg needed a bodyguard at Labour party conference. The point applies whether the abuse is coming from the right or the left and whether it is a journa

A history of UKIP in sixty tweets

As the UK Independence party enters what looks like it might become a terminal tailspin ... For political anoraks and lovers of original British comedy, Sebastian Payne has put up a "UKIP's greatest hits" thread which you can read even if you are not on twitter here .

Quote of the day 22nd January 2018


Dealing with Trolls

There is a good article by Regan Chastain, who unfortunately has far more experience of online trolls than any of us would want, on how to cope with them here .

Congratulations to the England Cricket Team

 ... on their victory in the One-Day series in Australia. After the Ashes series in which Australia played brilliantly and sadly managed to retake the Ashes in something close to a whitewash, many people will not have expecting that it would be some time before we were able to congratulate England's cricketers on any sort of series win against the Australians. And they would have been wrong: an England victory in the one-day series is now certain as England won the third match today in what sounds like an immensely exciting match, which I will have to see if I can find time and a mechanism to watch. This means they have won all of the first three matches in the five-match series of one-day games and thus taken an unassailable 3:0 lead. So yet again the "iron law" of English international cricket holds up - when England are doing really badly at test cricket our team carries all before them in the one day version of the game, while when England are winning test serie

Sunday music spot: Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba"

Actually the real name of this piece is simply "Overture" and it introduces the final part of Handel's oratorio "Solomon." But because it is followed by pieces of choral music which recount the story of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon's court, this overture has become known as "The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba."

Quote of the day 21st January 2018


Saturday music spot: Handel, "The king shall rejoice"


On Heresy and Censorship

A few days ago I posted on this blog and on my Facebook page the statement by Richard Branson explaining why he had overturned the decision by a lower level of management at Virgin Trains not to sell the "Daily Mail" on Virgin Trains onboard shops. As the one critical comment on this blog was anonymous it cannot be included in the analysis I am about to describe , but the response on my Facebook page was interesting for three reasons beyond the merits of the points made. 1) Almost to a man and woman, the contributors felt the need to insist that Virgin Trains had the right to impose the original ban, something which neither I nor the articles critical of it to which I had linked had challenged at any point, in any way whatsoever. 2) There was an almost perfect correlation between the way the contributors had voted in the EU referendum and how strongly opposed they were to the referendum result and how supportive they were of Virgin Trains' original decision. Without

Quote of the day 20th January 2018


Friday music spot: J.S. Bach's Triple Concerto in A minor


Quote of the day 19th January 2018

"Mr Trump is a deeply flawed man without the judgement or temperament to lead a great country. America is being damaged by his presidency. But after a certain point, raking over his unfitness becomes an exercise in wish-fulfilment because the subtext is so often the desire for his early removal from office. That is a fantasy." "Mr Trump's mental state is imposible to diagnose from afar, but he does not appear to be any madder than he was when the voters chose him over Hillary Clinton." "Unless he can no longer recognise himself in the mirror (which in Mr Trump;'s case would surely be one of the last powers to fade) neither his cabinet nor Congress will vote him out. Nor should they. Alarm at Mr Trump's vandalism to the dignity and norms of the presidency cuts both ways." "Every time Mr Trump's critics put their aim of stopping him before their means of doing so, they feed partisanship and help set a precedent that will someda

When skills in different areas do not transfer ...

If you wanted evidence that skill in one area does not always translate well into skill in another, you could not have a better example than to look at the mess made of it by many actors or singers who have intervened in politics. Case study for this month is the left-wing singer Lily Allen. Ms Allen had to apologise to Rochdale child sex abuse victims after a crassly insensitive tweet which I will not repeat but the circumstances are described in a Daily Mirror report here . Reality one, Lily Allen nil. Also at the start of this month, when people of all persuasions were expressing - entirely justifiable - concern that the Parole Board is recommending convicted serial sex offender John Warboys for release, she launched a vicious and completely inaccurate attack on the government about the circumstances of his conviction, encouraging people to " direct your anger at this awful awful govt today ." There was a slight problem with this. The " awful awful govt "

Copeland Local Committee 23rd January 2018

The Copeland Local Committee of Cumbria County Council (which consists of all twelve county councillors representing divisions in the area of Copeland Borough Council) will be meeting on Tuesday (23rd January) at the Town Hall and Masonic Centre in Cleator Moor at 10.15 am. The meeting is open to the public for those whose work and travel position allows them to attend. The agenda and committee reports are available on the CCC website here . There are a lot of important issues on the agenda, but probably the most important is to consider the allocation of the budget devolved to the committee for £2018/19. This includes the prioritisation for major road resurfacing and rebuild schemes. Top of the list of a proposal to spend £120k on a major resurfacing of Meadow Road, Mirehouse, which is in the area I represent. That road is in a terrible condition and badly needs action so I will of course be supporting the proposal. Follow the link above and click on the committee report if

Be careful if you have to travel today

In my part of Whitehaven last night's snow soon turned to sleet and by this morning most of what is left is slush, but over the county as a whole road conditions are treacherous and Cumbria Police have tweeted that there are reports of a lot of road accidents. Be careful if you have to travel today.

Quote of the day 18th January 2018

"In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn't puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated." ( Margaret Atwood , from a Globe and Mail article explaining why she called for due process to be followed in the case of an academic accused of sexual harassment.)

Meadow Road and Derwentwater Road.

Following on from several posts written here starting on New Year's Eve about potholes in the Mirehouse West in general, and Meadow Road and Derwentwater Road in particular, here is a progress report. Derwentwater Road, which had potholes like craters, is being fixed this week, with a short term solution (but a bit longer term than just filling with tarmac - it also intended to seal the potholes to stop the material just washing out. A contractor is being sought to come back in February and do a more thorough rebuild which we hope will last longer. Meadow Road, which in places such as near McColls is in nearly as bad a condition and is also a significant bus route, is in need of a complete rebuild such as was done in 2017 for Homewood Road near the Hospital. It is being proposed on the agenda for the Copeland Local Committee of Cumbria County Council next Tuesday (23rd January) that Meadow Road should be the first item on the highways improvement programme for 2018/19

On NHS Funding

In posting this I am not for one moment suggesting that the NHS is not under great pressure or ruling out the idea that still more resources may be required. I am merely pointing out that the problems the health service faces are because of increased demand, not because the government has failed to put any more money into it. Channel 4 Factcheck endorsed Dominic Raab's claims that the Conservatives have put £12 billion more into the NHS after allowing for inflation and recently promised a further £6 billion during this parliament, that there are more doctors working in the NHS than ever before and that the NHS has more flu vaccines available than ever before. See link here .)

Quote of the day 17th January 2018


UK inflation rate drops to 3%

The UK's inflation rate has fallen for the first time since June. The inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Prices Index dipped to 3% in December, down from November's rate of 3.1% according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). ONS said it was too early to say whether this was the start of a longer-term reduction in the rate of inflation. The Bank of England has said it thinks inflation peaked at the end of 2017 and will fall back to its target of 2% this year. The rate had been rising over the past year, partly due to the fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote which has pushed up the cost of imported goods. That appears to have been a once-and-for-all increase which is beginning to work its' way out of the figures.


Obviously the collapse of Carillion is not good news for their employees, the small businesses which sold things to them, or the businesses which employed them. I am sure the government is right that the company should not be bailed out by taxpayers and to order a review of the actions and remuneration of the directors of the company. There will be lessons to learn from this and they should be learned - the disastrous record of the New Labour government's PFI schemes is evidence enough that not every private-public collaboration is a good one. Equally we should be careful not to adopt contradictory views. In the past 36 hours I have heard it suggested by various commentators just seconds apart both that the government was shouldering all the risk while leaving private companies like Carillion to make all the profits, and that the collapse happened because the government had screwed the prices for contractors like Carillion right down so that they were not making enough profit

Quote of the day 16th January 2018