Showing posts from March, 2018

The RAF anniversary: a hundred years of bravery and service

This weekend sees the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force. In that hundred years many brave men and women have worn RAF uniform in every part of the world. They have rescued people from the sea and fought off enemy bombers and missiles. There is much more to the history of the RAF than the Battle of Britain, but I will single it out because as the great statesman responsible for the quote below also said, if Britain lasts for a thousand years people will still describe it as our country's finest hour.

"Let no one say we have not been warned" - George Walden writes

My attention was drawn by a tweet from Nick Cohen to an excellent article in "Standpoint" by George Walden, called " Presidents for life Putin and Xi menace the West ." Nick summarised the article as explaining that, whether we like it or not and whether we chose this situation or not, we are in a new cold war and anyone under 50 should read this article if they want to understand the problem we in the West now face. Actually, in my humble opinion, I think anyone aged over or under 50 who wants to think about how we deal with Russia and China would be well advised to read it. As George Walden points out, Britain and our allies need to recognise that we are dealing with Russian and Chinese leaders who are consciously trying to create what they see as the sources of Russian and Chinese strength during the Cold War era. Quoting a triumphalist attack on democracy which predicted that the future belongs to authoritarian cultures rather than the ballot box, Wald

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Triple Concerto in A minor


Labour peer Lord Robert Winson on why he is ashamed of the Labour party

Psalm for Good Friday: "My God look apon me why has thou forsaken me"

Psalm 22 (from the parish psalter, verses one to twenty-three) My God, my God, look upon me; why hast thou forsaken me: and art so far from my health, and from the words of my complaint? 2)  O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not: and in the night-season also I take no rest. 3)  And thou continuest holy: O thou worship of Israel. 4) Our fathers hoped in thee: they trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them. 5) They called upon thee, and were holpen: they put their trust in thee, and were not confounded. 6) But as for me, I am a worm, and no man: a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people. 7) All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads, saying, 8) He trusted in God, that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, if he will have him. 9) But thou art he that took me out of my mother's womb: thou wast my hope, when I hanged yet upon my mother's breasts. 10) I have b

Quote of the day for Good Friday 30th March 2018


Music spot for Good Friday: "Come ye Daughters, Share My Mourning"

From Bach's Matthew Passion. This performance was recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin National Cathedral Choir, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, in 1973.

No party has a monopoly on virtue or wisdom

No political party has a monopoly on goodness or on making the right decision. All get some things right and some things wrong. The same applies to any other group of people, be it "Independent" candidates, those who voted "Leave" or those who voted "Remain." This is something we all ought to remember more often.

Midweek Madrigal: John Wilbye "Sweet honey-sucking bees"


Does Britain need our own "First Amendment?"

The First amendment to the US constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Britain has never had such a provision in our unwritten constitution or written laws and for centuries nobody thought we needed one. The events of the past twenty years - and this month - are making me think that perhaps we do.

Quote of the day 27th March 2018


Freudian slip of the century

The kindest explanation of this extraordinary gaffe by Labour's shadow Leader of the House is that it was the most unfortunate slip of the tongue any British parliamentarian has made in living memory .;.

Alex Massie on the search for scapegoats when people don't like the result of a vote.

Anyone who is involved in politics sooner or later has to come to terms with the fact that the electorate takes a decision you really, really don't like. It's difficult enough when it's an election - at least then you can try again in four or five years' time, and it is not at all unusual for the electorate to elect someone else at that stage.  Many voters agree with Mark Twain, who said (paraphrasing slightly) that politicians and nappies should be changed often and for the same reason. It's even more painful when it is a referendum which you have been told will settle the matter for a generation. Despite having voted Remain myself, I accept the result of the referendum. I accept that Russia may have been trying to cause trouble, but I do not believe that their interference changed the results. I suspect that both sides ran major operations using social media data, and if their methods were as ethically dubious as the accuracy of both side's propag

Quote of the day 26th March 2018


Enough is Enough

This is a notice which the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews have published about a protest they are organising tomorrow. There are still decent people in the Labour party who are horrified by what is going on in their party: several of the people from whom I have seen this notice were present and former Labour MPs who shared it and indicated their support for the concerns being raised.

"Suicide of the West" by Jonah Goldberg reviewed on CAPX

Jonah Goldberg, author of " Liberal Fascism " and of " The Tyranny of Clichés " has another book coming out on 24th April called " Suicide of the West ." Having read this review of it on the CAPX site I think I will have to read Goldberg's new book ...

Palm Sunday music spot: Miserere Mei (Allegri) sung by King's College Choir.


Quote of the day 25th March 2018


Don't forget to put your clocks forward tonight!

Britain moves on to British Summer Time this evening so we lose an hour. Don't forget to put the clocks forward!

Stephen Pollard and Nick Cohen on the labour leadership

Just to frame the context of the articles I am about to link to. Yesterday morning a Labour MP, Luciana Berger, posted on social media that she was awaiting a reply from the Labour leader's office to her message asking for an explanation of a comment Jeremy Corbyn had made in 2012 about a mural which just about everyone - including Jeremy Corbyn himself - now admits was Anti-Semitic  and in Corbyn's words, "deeply disturbing" This is the statement which the Labour leader himself eventually made on the subject, Even if you take that statement entirely at face value on its' own terms, it amounts to the admission of a colossal error of judgement for a man who was at the time a long-serving MP, is now Leader of the Opposition and who - God help us - about forty percent of voters supported at the last election and a similar percentage of those polled by opinion posters still say they intend to vote for as Britain's next pr

Arnaud Beltrame RIP

Lt. Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, the French Gendarme who offered himself as a replacement hostage to a Da'esh-inspired terrorist in exchange for the civilians the man was holding and and who was subsequently shot and killed, has died. “In offering himself as a hostage to the terrorist hiding in the supermarket in Trèbes, Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame saved the life of a civilian hostage, and showed exceptional courage and self-sacrifice,” wrote French President Emmanuel Macron. Theresa May said, "I am saddened to learn that Lieut Col Arnaud Beltrame, the Gendarme who took the place of a hostage in the attack at #Trèbes, has died. His sacrifice and courage will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace

Saturday music spot: Steeleye Span "All Around My Hat"


Quote of the day 24th March 2018

" If only Anti-Semites were dealt with as swiftly and severely as Remainers. " ( Wes Streeting, Labour MP , on Twitter yesterday, following the dismissal of Owen Smith from the shadow cabinet for supporting a second referendum. For context see previous post and the news reports it links to.)

Labour leadership statement

The leader of the Labour party was challenged by Labour MPs today about comments he had made in 2012 on social media concerning a mural which was accused of being Anti-Semitic and which it was proposed to remove. In response to today's questions from Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyn issued a statement which included the following: "I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic. "I am opposed to the production of anti-Semitic material of any kind, and the defence of free speech cannot be used as a justification for the promotion of anti-Semitism in any form." "I wholeheartedly support its removal," More details are available here and here . Should Jeremy Corbyn ever become Prime Minister I hope he looks more closely at the briefings he would be given as PM before acting on them than he now says he looked at this mural before commenting on it.

Canvassing in Broughton this evening

Cumbria Conservatives had a successful doorknocking session in Broughton-in-Furness this evening. (We also had teams out in other part of the county but this was the one I attended. Issues raised included the proportion of money spent in Cumbria in the West and South of the county, particularly on roads - the need to improve roads in the area such as the A595 and A592 being a particular concern. (The need to improve roads in Cumbria in general and the A595 in particular is of course an issue close to my heart which is why I have raised it every time the full county council has met since my election to the council last May.) (Left to right above: my wife Brigid, myself, local SLDC councillor Ann Hall, local county councillor Matt Brereton, Conservative CCC group leader James Airey. Not in picture: Brenda Lauderdale, county councillor Ben Shirley. I would add that nobody has photoshopped Matt Brereton's hat!)

One Million people lifted out of absolute poverty

According to figures released this week by the Department for Work and Pension, a million fewer people in the UK live in absolute poverty than in 2010. This has partly been driven by an increase in employment and a big fall in the number of workless households, Figures show that children are around 5 times more likely to live in poverty if they live in a workless household, compared to a household where all adults work. The number of children living in a workless household is down by almost 600,000 since 2010. There’s also good news for household incomes as these have risen to another record high, with income growth continuing to outstrip inflation in 2016/17. Income inequality – the gap between the richest and poorest – has fallen and remains lower than in 2010. Material deprivation rates for children and pensioners are at their lowest ever. The average household now takes home a record £494 a week, and compared to 2007/08 the poorest fifth of households are seeing an extra £1

Quote of the day 23rd March 2018


A new explanation for grade inflation

The Economist magazine reports here on a study by Kieran O’Connor and Amar Cheema of the University of Virginia which suggests a reason why many exams will show a tendency towards grade inflation. Their research found evidence that judges and examiners tend to become more lenient with experience. The study looked at the grades awarded in 1,358 university courses that had been offered by the same lecturer for at least three semesters. They also looked at the marks awarded by the three permanent judges during twenty seasons of "Dancing with the Stars" which I understand to be a US equivalent of "Strictly Come Dancing." In both cases they found a propensity for grades and marks awarded to rise over time which persisted when they checked for various possible effects which might explain a genuine improvement. In effect you get a better grade if you are judged later in the process. The next stage of their analysis will be to establish whether this effect per

Growth in real wages set to resume

The last ten years since the crash of 2007 have seen a prolonged difficult period for many people, with real wages stagnating for the best part of a decade. Real wages had just begun to grow faster than prices when the drop in the pound after the Brexit vote caused an upward "blip" in inflation which peaked at 3.1% late last year and prolonged the period of stagnation in real incomes. However, as the latest inflation figures suggest that the "blip" in inflation is working its way out of the system, wage growth has again caught up with prices. Inflation is now expected to stabilise at the government target of 2% p.a. while wage rates are expected to grow at between 2.5% and 3% per annum. Hence there is good reason to hope and expect that real wages will resume their upward movement. Figures released this week also show record numbers of people in work.

Best spoof posts of the week

You'd think it was difficult for writers of spoof articles to top the events of the past fortnight but these managed it ... We-shouldn't rush to conclusions about Alderaan says Jeremy Corbyn Extracts from the above piece on NewsThump ... “J eremy Corbyn, a leader from the Islington system, has risked the ire of his own supporters by stating that he had yet to see any conclusive evidence that the planet of Alderaan was destroyed by an Imperial battle station. ” “ Jeremy has always been against conflict and has never hidden that belief. He is on record as trying to stop the X-wing program as he spoke out against attempts to recruit known warmongers like Obi-Wan Kenobi. “ Jeremy proposes to lead a peace delegation to Coruscant as he believes dialogue should always prevail over primitive anti-Sith rhetoric. ” “ Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn have seized on this opportunity to call him an Imperial lackey. Several published old photos of Mr Corbyn speaking at an anti-Jedi r

Pay rise for NHS staff announced

Our NHS staff work incredibly hard, day in, day out, throughout the country. So it is great news that, as the economy continues to recover from the recession and dire budget deficit  inherited by the Conservatives from Labour, Jeremy Hunt was yesterday able to confirm that NHS staff including nurses, midwives, cleaners and porters will receive a pay rise of between 6.5% and 29%.

Remembering the victims of the Westminster Terror attack one year on

Today at 9.30 am I and other members and staff of Cumbria County Council and people around Britain are observing a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the  Westminster Terror attack which took place a year ago today (22nd March 2017.) The victims who died were: PC Keith Palmer , 48, an unarmed police officer who was on duty with the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection command at the Houses of Parliament challenged the terrorist and was stabbed to death. Palmer had 15 years of experience in the Metropolitan Police Service and before that had served in the Royal Artillery. Aysha Frade , a British teacher, believed to have been walking along the bridge to pick up her children from school, who was struck by the attacker's car and killed. Kurt Cochran , a tourist from the United States, who was also hit by the car and died. Cochran was visiting London from Utah to celebrate his 25th anniversary with his wife Melissa, who was among the injured. Lesli

Quote of the day 22nd March 2018

The following tributes were paid at the time to PC Keith Palmer who was killed in the line of duty a year ago today in the Westminster Terror Attack: Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, Theresa May called Palmer a hero and paid tribute to his service. “He was every inch a hero, and his actions will never be forgotten, ” said May. She praised the police for stopping the attacker. “We should be clear first of all that an attacker attempted to break into parliament and was shot dead within 20 yards of the gate. If his intention was to gain access to this building, we should be clear that he did not succeed. The police heroically did their job.” Officers who had worked alongside Palmer also spoke of his dedication to his job. PC James Aitkenhead, who worked with him in the Met’s territorial support group, said: “Keith was a genuinely nice person, nobody had a bad word to say about him. When I heard what had happened I knew it would be him because that

MInute's silence tomorrow in memory of the Westminster Terror Attack

Tomorrow (Thursday 22 March) at 9.30am I and other members and staff of Cumbria County Council and people around Britain will observe a minute's silence in memory of PC Keith Palmer, a hero who died in the line of duty, and other victims of the Westminster Terror attack which took place a year ago. PC Keith Palmer , 48, an unarmed police officer who was on duty with the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection command challenged the terrorist and was stabbed to death. Palmer had 15 years of experience in the Metropolitan Police Service. The other victims were Aysha Frade , a British teacher, believed to have been walking along the bridge to pick up her children from school, who was struck by the attacker's car and killed. Kurt Cochran , a tourist from the United States, who was also hit by the car and died. Cochran was visiting London from Utah to celebrate his 25th anniversary with his wife Melissa, who was among the injured. Leslie Rhodes , from Clapham in south-wes

Another Telephone scam

I mentioned earlier this week that I had phone calls recently from incompetent fraudsters claiming to be from " British Telecom " (a trade name which British Telecommunications PLC still owns but stopped using 27 years ago and replaced with the trade name "BT.") Unfortunately a rather better informed, and therefore more dangerous, group of conmen has also been phoning people and impersonating BT employees. This group of fraudsters claim to be from the BT company Openreach . Police have warned that callers claiming to offer services from Openreach such as increased internet speeds have been telephoning people at home. The fraudsters offer a refund to residents as compensation for poor internet speeds and in order to make that payment and to improve internet speeds they are requesting remote access to the computers owned by the people receiving the call. This is a scam and no refund or improved service is provided. Instead money is taken from the victim'

Midweek madrigal: John Wilbye, "The Lady Oriana"


Quote of the day 21st March 2018

This comment by the head of Health Education England is in response to the announcement yesterday that five new medical schools are opening their doors to student doctors starting this September - in Sunderland, Lancashire, Canterbury, Lincoln and Chelmsford.

"Hatgate" row continues

There have been important announcements today about Inflation and about training new doctors. The country is engaged in a serious diplomatic row with Russia and three people are still seriously ill in hospital after nerve gas was used in an attempted assassination in Britain. Most people are discussing what we do about Russia, how we handle Brexit, and how we improve the NHS. But the hard left show their true priorities - celebrating their success in getting rid of the moderate general secretary of the Labour party and his replacement by someone who, according to a Cumbria Labour MP on twitter this evening, " has said she wants all Blairites to leave the party ." and working up an amazing head of steam over whether BBC Newsnight photoshopped a hat. Yes, that's right. There has been a huge fuss on social media and in certain parts of the press about whether the BBC altered a picture of a hat. Channel 4 factcheck have weighed in with the truth about "hatgate&

Inflation falls by 10 percent or 0.3 percentage points

Latest inflation figures from the Office of National Statistics show a fall from 3% to 2.7% in the annual inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price index. Or to put that another way, prices rose by 3% between January 2017 and January 2018 but by only 2.7% between February 2017 and February 2018. E.g. a reduction of 0.3 percentage points, or 10% of the previous inflation rate. Apologies to those readers with a statistical or economics background for somewhat labouring the point but this happens to be a particularly clear set of numbers to use to explain the difference between percentages and percentage points (particularly when you are talking about a change in a figure which itself is expressed as a percentage.) Describe inflation as having dropped by 10% (of the previous inflation rate ) and it sounds like an enormous drop. Describe the change in percentage point terms - as 0.3 of one percent (of the previous price level ) and it sounds tiny. This is why many journalis

An easy scam to detect

In the past few days I have had two phone calls from fraudsters claiming to be calling from "The technical department of British Telecom." Neither conversation lasted longer than a few seconds. I gave the first twenty seconds to explain to me why he had used a trade name that the company he claimed to be calling from had retired more than 25 years ago and he hung up. I gave the second a very short and sharp piece of my mind and hung up on him. As I should know (having worked for companies in the British Telecommunications PLC group since 1985), the company dropped the trade name "British Telecom" on 2nd April 1991 in favour of "BT." Anyone who calls you claiming to be ringing from "British Telecom" is a fraudster trying to rob you. Hang up.

Quote of the day 20th March 2018


Nick Cohen on conspiracy theories

Twenty years ago the people who thought they were the political mainstream could dismiss conspiracy theories as the beliefs of a small number of cranks and nutters. I certainly used to take for granted that the majority of people would agree with the rule which I believe was first formulated by Sir Bernard Ingham when he was Margaret Thatcher's press secretary: (Often expressed as "Nine times out of ten you'll be wiser to believe a cock-up theory than a conspiracy theory.") The most convincing reason to believe that conspiracy theories are usually wrong has been put forward by many people from the comedian David Mitchell to the journalist David Aaronovitch - you usually have to credit the conspirators with confidence that thousands of people will do their jobs perfectly and that none of them will blab. I have been quoting the late Stephen  Hawking in my "quote of the day" pieces since his death last week. As prof

Quote of the day 19th March 2018


Sunday Music spot: Stainer’s “I saw the Lord”: sung by Magdalen College Oxford

A little early in the year since this was written for Trinity Sunday, but never mind,

Quote of the day 18th March 2018

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious." Professor Stephen Hawking 1942-2018. RIP.

From the PM's speech at Conservative Spring Forum:

"When Brexit is done, and Britain steps into the new future that awaits us, I want it to be this party, the Conservatives Party, that leads our country into the next decade and beyond.”

The facts about Free School Meals

There has been a lot of duplicitous scaremongering about free school meals from the Labour party over the past week. Here are the facts about what the government is doing. As Channel 4 Factcheck confirmed here in an article entitled " Labour aren't telling the whole truth about free school meals ," Labour " haven't mentioned two key points: No one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement. In fact, under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals by 2022 than would have done under the previous benefits system. This is not a case of the government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them: it’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios. Both of them are more generous than the old benefits system "

Saturday Music Spot: Purcell's "Music for a while"

Absolute masterpiece by Thomas Purcell, sung by the countertenor Andreas Scholl. The previous version of this which I posted, some five months ago, was sung equally beautifully by tenor Thomas Cooley and can be found here . The lyrics are: " Music, music for a while, shall all your cares beguile: Wondering how your pains were eas'd, And disdaining to be pleas'd, Till Alecto free the dead. From their eternal bands, Till the snakes drop from her head, And the whip from out her hands. "

Quote of the day 17th March 2018

"However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. Where there's life, there's hope." Professor Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018. RIP.

Miriam Shaviv writes in the JC about the rise in antisemitism

I had never expected to see in my lifetime - indeed, within the lifetime of some who still remember the Nazi Holocaust - that tolerance for Anti-Semitism could possibly become as widespread as it appears to be now. There is an article in the Jewish Chronicle by Miriam Shaviv, called “ The future is not looking good for us , ” which I think anyone who wants to live in a non-racist society would do well to read. She compares the gradual rise in public acceptance of Anti-Semitism to the old fable of the boiled frog - “ Put a frog in a pot of hot water and it jumps right out, instinctively aware of the danger to its life. “ But place the frog in a pot of cold water and bring it to the boil slowly, and the frog will swim around, gradually adjusting his body temperature and acclimatising to the rising heat. “ By the time it realises that it is about to die, it is too late. The frog has expended all its energy and can no longer jump out of the pot. ” She argues that the presen

Quote of the day 16th March 2018


Standing together

It may not have escaped the notice of some of the politically conscious readers of this blog that there is one person who I have studiously avoided quoting or referring to in the past 72 hours or so and an open goal that I have pointedly refrained from taking aim at. That it because this county used to have a tradition - which the majority of MPs of all parties continue to respect - that "politics ends at the water's edge." According to that tradition, when your country is involved in a confrontation with a hostile foreign power - and sadly, that is what Putin has evidently decided Russia under his leadership will be - you make every effort to stand together, and put together a united front against our country's enemies. As Labour MP Pat McFadden told the House of Commons yesterday and as I quoted this morning, "Responding with strength and resolve when your country is under threat is an essential component of political leadership. There is a Labour tradi

Joint statement by the US, British, French and German governments

The governments of Great Britain, the United States of America, France and Germany have issued a joint statement about the Salisbury poisoning. Here is the full text of the joint statement. "We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK, on 4 March 2018. A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened. We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the UK police and emergency services for their courageous response. This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war. It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention and a breach of international law. It threat

Quotes of the day 15th March 2018

" It seems to me, without any access to closed information, that the use of this particularly bizarre and dreadful way of killing an individual is a deliberate choice by the Russian Government to put their signature on a particular killing so that other defectors are left in no doubt that it is the Russian Government who will act if they are disappointed in any way by those people’s actions. " ( Kenneth Clarke MP ) " As the Prime Minister has said, the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. There has to be a robust response to the use of terror on our streets. We must act in a measured way to show that we will simply not tolerate this behaviour. In that regard, I welcome, and associate those of us on the Scottish National party Benches with, the measures contained in the statement. On this matter, I commit my party to working constructively with the Government. " ( Ian Blackford MP