Monday, April 30, 2018

Thoughs on Amber Rudd's resignation and the Windrush affair

I suspect that Amber Rudd could have survived as Home Secretary because polling evidence suggests that the public did not see her as the main culprit for the poor treatment of the "Windrush Generation" and continues to support the policies which, through wrongly applied, led to that poor treatment.

I also suspect that Matthew Parris is quite right when he argues here that it is most unlikely that she deliberately lied to parliament.

I suspect the most likely explanation for the apparent discrepancy between her statements about whether the Home office had targets for the removal of illegal immigrants and the documents which have been produced is human error - even those people with the best memories sometimes misremember things.

Nevertheless, although Amber Rudd has made a big contribution to the government and has a lot still to offer, I think she probably made the right decision to resign.

I also have a lot of time for Sajid Javid and I hope and believe that he will improve the functioning of the Home Office, a department which still appears to have serious problems.

Let me quote some polling evidence to back up the comments I made in the first paragraph of this piece.

A very recent YouGov poll - fieldwork 24-25 April so taken after the Windrush scandal broke - suggests that a majority of the public still want a reduction in the overall level of immigration.

However, that does not mean that the public is opposed to all immigration. There are some categories of immigrants - particularly categories such as people who are coming to work in the NHS or people with scarce skills - who the public welcome.

And voters do still want to identify and remove illegal immigrants - they just want the policy applied so as to make life difficult for those who really are illegal immigrants, not to make life hell for people who have lived here legally for decades and have every right to think of themselves as British.

This is what voters said when asked under what circumstance people should have to produce documents proving who they are:

Add caption

In my humble opinion these views are reasonable even though I do not go along 100% with all of them, and I think Sajid Javid was right in one of his first acts as the new Home Secretary to drop the language of a "hostile environment.

We should avoid the trap of thinking that everyone with concerns about immigration is racist or xenophobic.

Implementing a policy of cracking down on the real illegal immigrants without ever making life difficult for anyone legally here is easier said than done. But it must be attempted.

More details of the YouGov poll findings here.

Good luck to Sajid Javid.

Sajid Javid appointed Home Secretary

Following Amber Rudd's resignation Sajid Javid has been appointed Home Secretary. He issued this statement following his appointment:

"First to say it is a huge privilege to be asked by the Prime Minister to become the next Home Secretary. My first priority is to make sure the Home Office always does all it can to keep British people safe. It is a huge privilege and something I take very seriously. The most urgent task I have is to help those British citizens who came from the Caribbean, the Windrush generation, and make sure they are all treated with the decency and fairness they deserve. That is what people want to see and my most urgent task.

I will help the Home Office every day to deal with its major tasks of tackling crime, including serious crime, fighting terrorism and extremism, and dealing with illegal immigration. In doing that I am really privileged to have a fantastic group of people here, the staff here, who together will work to make our country even stronger."

"We are going to have a strategy in place that actually does something the previous Home Secretary set out last week in her statement to Parliament about making sure we have an immigration policy that is fair and treats people with respect and with decency. That will be one of my most urgent tasks, to make sure that we look carefully at the policy and make sure it achieves just that."

"I think for anyone to see their child grow and become Home Secretary, all parents would be really pleased with that. My parents came to our country in the 1960s from Pakistan to help build this country. I think for them to see one of their sons arise to this great office of State - I am sure they would be very proud. But I have not called my mum yet and I will do that later when you give me a moment."

Quote of the day Monday 30th April 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Reflections on the treatment of the Windrush generation

Before I write anything else it must be made clear that  the so called "Windrush generation" have every right to be here in Britain. The treatment of those people within that group  who lost jobs, had operations cancelled or were threatened with deportation because a policy aimed at illegal immigrants was wrongly applied to them, was utterly wrong, indefensible, and should not have been allowed to happen.

It is right that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have apologised, taken action to correct the mistake and pay compensation.

We do need to learn lessons from this so that similar unacceptable treatment of people who have every right to be in Britain does not happen again.

We also need to recognise that his happened because nobody - no political party, neither side of the Brexit debate, no lobby group - has a workable policy which resolved the following almost insoluble dilemma.

On the one hand,

1) Britain's public services such as the NHS would collapse without the enormously valuable contribution of workers from abroad

2) The rest of the British economy also needs more workers particularly with certain specific skills than we have

But at the same time ...

3) Unlimited migration would exacerbate an already intolerable housing shortage in many parts of the country which is crucifying our young people's hopes for the future

4) Unlimited migration could potentially also have significant impact on wages and put further pressure on public services.

Point 3) above would be true even if we were building enough houses for the people already here, which we are not, and we need to, a problem which the government is trying to address.

All four of these points apply regardless of the race, colour or creed of the people involved.

And consequently, point five, to quote an article by Dan Hodges this weekend,

"A majority of Britons think the Windrush generation has been treated unfairly. But that sense of unfairness does not trump their belief that immigration – never mind illegal immigration – must be curbed. And they have decided if the way of doing that is a hostile environment for illegal migrants, so be it."

"We cannot let compassion blind us to reality. The political class and the public are dangerously out of step once more. You cannot feed voters a narrative of crisis in the NHS, housing and schools, and low-wage employment, then expect them to pivot and rage against injustice towards illegal immigrants." 

We need to find a way of managing migration down which does not involve inhuman and unjust treatment of genuine refugees or anyone with a legal right to be here in Britain or deprive our public services or the rest of the economy of the people with the skills they need.

All sane mainstream politicians know this. Labour's Yvette Cooper was very cross when the PM (accurately) pointed to her past statements about the need to manage migration down and (equally accurately) pointed out that there had been warnings that the Windrush problem had been seen coming. But as Dan Hodges again points out, that’s the same Yvette Cooper who castigated Mrs May in 2013 with the words:

The backlog in finding failed asylum seekers has gone up. The number of illegal immigrants deported has gone down … this is a growing catalogue of failure. Yet illegal immigration is deeply damaging.

When they were last in office Labour flip-flopped between supporting almost unlimited immigration and coming down so hard on immigrants that they outflanked not just most of the Conservative party but also the Daily Mail. During one of the latter periods they actually started the "hostile environment policy" (which Labour, Coalition, and Conservative governments intended to apply to illegal immigrants, not people with the right to be here.)

As recently as the 2015 election the Labour party were producing things like this ...

The problems which hit the Windrush generation and finally came out in the open this month are the product of mistakes going back forty years under governments of every political colour. Nobody comes well out of this.

I wish I had a nice, simple, fair and realistic answer to the question of how Britain should handle migration.

I don't, because there isn't one.

We need to manage immigration down in a humane and competent way, preferably without massive swings in policy and panic reactions because those are what lay the foundation for screw-ups like the way the Windrush generation have been treated.

That will inevitably include being tough on illegal immigration. How can any migration law work if you don't enforce it properly?

I can recommend Dan Hodges' article referred to above, which you can read here.

Sunday music spot: Psalm 23 sung to Brother James' Air

Quote of the day 29th April 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018

When a joke becomes reality

I operate a Toyota Aygo, which because of its low fuel usage and emissions and because of when it was first registered, attracts an annual car tax of zero. (The system of car tax takes emissions into account: it was made less generous in 2017 and again this month but the changes were not retrospective for cars first registered during the period when some very low emission vehicles paid a zero rate of car tax. Those vehicles still attract a zero rate.)

But the government still needs to keep tabs on such cars, and check what vehicles are being operated, by whom, and that they have been insured and if necessary have an up-to-date MOT. They use the tax database to manage this.

So I still get an annual reminder from DVLA telling me that I have to go through the regular procedure of confirming that I have the vehicle - by taxing it at a tax rate of zero.

And essentially it  has not been worth anyone's while to redesign the paperwork for registered keepers of zero tax cars from that sent to other drivers, except that the reminder has the words "even if you don't pay" added after "tax your vehicle."

(I've just had a quick look through my old car paperwork and a similar reminder for a car on which I did have to pay tax doesn't have those extra words, although interestingly it does have the words "if applicable" after the reference to the payment required in the list of what you need to bring with you if you tax the car at a post office rather than online.)

So although the actual point of the document was the perfectly reasonable aim of making sure my vehicle is registered -

it is still true that the government sent me a legal notice threatening serious consequences unless I paid an outstanding tax bill of £0.00 by the end of this month.

Incidentally, those threats have teeth. If you own a zero-tax car, you can expect such a letter, and when it arrives you do need to go through the process of "taxing" the car or you risk getting into trouble.

So I've just been on the DVLA website, put in the appropriate reference numbers and carried out a process which was described as paying tax of £0,00 (although they didn't bother asking me for credit card details or actually take any money off me.)

One part of my brain - the part which has been a councillor for 25 years and dealt with various government departments in a range of capacities - understands exactly why this happened and keeps trying to tell the rest of my brain that it's not even an unreasonable requirement, just a poorly worded one.

But it was still a surreal experience - like one of the urban legends in which a badly programmed computer threatens legal action unless an outstanding bill of £0.00 is paid.

Music to relax after campaigning or Swimathon: Corelli's Concerto in D Major

For everyone who has either been out campaigning today or taken part in Swimathon 2018:

Swimathon 2018 update

My son and I have now completed Swimathon 2018 today at Hensingham pool.

I completed the 5,000 metre challenge in two hours and one minute, so I can now say that I have swum 5,000 metres for charity every year for twenty-five consecutive years.

My son John completed the 2,500 metre challenge. Well done, John.

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. It has supported various charities over the past thirty-one years - two years ago it supported Sports Relief for instance. 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, one of the world’s leading cancer charities.

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 the event has raised over £17 million for the charity through the event during that time.

In total Swimathon has raised £48 million pounds for 36 charities over the past thirty-one years - and we are hoping to break the £50 million barrier this weekend!

A big thank you to the people who have already sponsored me this year and those who sponsored me or any other Swimathon participant in the past.

You can still sponsor participants online via Justgiving, and if you're a UK taxpayer Gift Aid can be very easily added, so you can get Phil Hammond to give more money to cancer care!

My Justgiving page is at:

Quote of the day 28th April 2018

"As I watch and listen to Jeremy Corbyn ... I feel guilty.

"Guilty that as a horribly na├»ve graduate I was so very sure -  and I was certain, I remember the certainty - that voting for Cobyn in 2015 was the right thing to do.

"I am scathing of Trump supporters who have no interest at all in the truth, and only in standing by their man and winning at all costs, but back then I don't think I was any better."

"Subsequently it is possible to become more discerning and to anticipate common features in the armories of campaigners like Brand and Corbyn such as their oversimplification of hugely complex issues, which are not at all conducive to helping wide-eyed young people develop into rational and responsible grown-ups."

"As for Jeremy Corbyn himself, it dawned on me last week as one after another Labour MP rose to tacitly criticise the leadership's lacklustre, and perhaps even disingenuous response to the rise of anti-Semitism within the party, that he is just not the man I once thought he was. Three years ago I was convinced that he was a brave, principled man who would change politics for the better,  and there were many who felt the same. Turns out he isn't either of those things, and I am sure that I am not the only one whose mind has changed."

(Henry Tydeman, a history graduate in his twenties, extracts from an article on the Backbencher website called My journey out of Corbynism.")

Friday, April 27, 2018

Swimathon 2018 takes place this weekend

Both I and my son John will be taking part in Swimathon 2018 this weekend. For me this marks a quarter century of swimming for charity. If all goes well it will be the 25th consecutive year in which I have completed the 5,000 metre challenge.

I first took part in the Swimathon twenty-four years ago in 1994. In the intervening period, if my memory is not playing tricks on me, I have taken part at various different pools in Hemel Hempstead, St Albans, Bricket Wood, Harpenden, Norwich, Cockermouth, Ulverston, Preston, Workington, Wigton and Whitehaven depending on where I was at the time and which pools were taking part in Swimathon that year.

This weekend I will be taking the plunge in my local pool and fitness centre, Copeland pool in Hensingham, Whitehaven.

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, one of the world’s leading cancer charities.

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 the event has raised over £17 million for the charity through the event during that time.

In total Swimathon has raised £48 million pounds for 36 charities over the past thirty-one years - and we are hoping to break the £50 million barrier this weekend!

A big thank you to the people who have already sponsored me this year and those who sponsored me or any other Swimathon participant in the past.

If you sponsor me, or any of the other swimmers taking part in the world’s biggest fundraising swimming event, you will be supporting two incredible causes. You can do so online via my Justgiving page at:

Comeback of the week

The Guardian quoted "a senior tory source" as saying of some Remain supporters in parliament that

"You could offer them free sex and chocolate and they still wouldn't vote for Brexit."

Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent at the FT, came back with

"When this man offers you a Ferrero Roche the right answer is no."

Quote of the day 27th April 2018: "The madness of Lord Adonis"

"In the past weeks, Adonis has launched an assault on the BBC, which with a few tweaks the Daily Mail could run. He has denounced theBrexit Broadcasting Corporationin the same derisive voice old Tories once denounced theBolshevik Broadcasting Corporation”.

"It is important to get the easy explanations for disappointed Remainers’ anger at the BBC out of the way. The simplest is that Lord Adonis and other Labour figures are trying to divert opponents of Brexit from the failure of the opposition to oppose.

"A second and to my mind compelling argument is that Lord Adonis has gone mad. Yet if he has, many others have gone off their rockers with him. In my experience, the belief that the BBC failed to do its job is everywhere in liberal Remainer circles.

"Every successful political movement now targets journalists in general and the BBC in particular. Even politicians who affect to oppose Donald Trump imitate his methods.

"Jeremy Corbyn and his circle have so inflamed their supporters against the BBC’s supposed right-wing bias that the political editor of the BBC needed bodyguards to escort her to the Labour Party conference. The Tory Right and the Tory press insist that, on the contrary, left-wing bias has corrupted it.

"Scottish nationalists persuaded their supporters to march on the offices of BBC Scotland to protest against supposed unionist bias.

"Now the supposedly sane voices of the centre have joined the deranged chorus. All modern movements have learned the advantage of attacking the media. The tactic binds your tribe to you and gives them an excuse as they sit around the campfire nursing their wounds. It’s not their fault they lost. It’s the fault of the broadcasters.

"The tribe, whether it be left, right, unionist, nationalist or centre, is not only comforted, it is taught to ignore hard facts that might cause nagging doubts. The position of Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon or Andrew Adonis is strengthened if they can convince their followers that bad news is fake news: the lies of a conspiracy of sinister broadcasters.

"With a mixture of cynicism and fanaticism a growing number of politicians have convinced themselves and their activists that they are the victims of a media plot."

(Nick Cohen, who is a progressive and a Remain voter but has an ability rare among those on all parts of the political spectrum to see blindingly obvious but inconvenient facts, takes aim at hardline remainers such as Andrew Adonis in a Standpoint article called "The Madness of Lord Adonis" which you can read in full here.)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Good and bad reasons not to support the Lib/Dems

There are a whole slew of good reasons not to vote Lib/Dem.

Their attitude to the EU referendum result has come very close to sticking up two fingers at the British electorate and even some people who voted Remain but accept the majority decision - including me - find he attitude of those who seem determined to try to overturn the result to be unhelpful and damaging.

At a local level, particularly where they are strong, Lib/Dem tactics are often, shall we say, controversial. There are considerable swathes of the country where if you ask all the other parties, "which of your opponents use the dirtiest tactics" they will reply in unison "The Lib/Dems." (In Cumbria that would certainly be the answer given by my Conservative colleagues in South Lakes and when I lived in St Albans this was the answer which would have been given by all the other parties there and in much of the rest of the East of England.

Lib/Dems in local government often have a history of being brilliant at campaigning and opposition but utterly hopeless at actually running things. When I have been a member of hung councils I have often found it easier to work with the grown-up wing of the Labour party than with Lib/Dems because the former understood the concept of keeping their word.

But if there are good reasons not to vote for the Lib/Dems there are also bad reasons.

I was pleasantly surprised by how often during the coalition period Lib/Dem MPs put the national interest above their own.

Their biggest problem at this period was, of course, the broken promise on student tuition fees, and I can certainly understand the view of those who were very angry about that broken promise, but not those who moved their votes for this reason from the Lib/Dems to the Labour party which has an even worse record of broken promises on that very issue.

The Labour party's campaign of personal abuse against Nick Clegg during the 2015 general election included some of the most hypocritical political material I have ever seen in my life, because they vilified him for promising to vote against increases in student fees and then voting for them - exactly the same promise which the Labour party had made during the 2001 general election and broke afterwards. That wasn't the first or last broken Labour promise to students either - they had introduced tuition fees in the first place two months after winning the 1997 election during which Tony Blair had promised that Labour "has no plans to introduce tuition fees for higher education."

An article this week on the Reactions website seeking to explain why the Lib/Dems appear to have disappeared from the national stage had me holding my head in disbelief. There are many good reasons not to vote Lib/Dem but their being responsible, reasonable and moderate and therefore somehow boring does not strike me as one of them.

However, Mattie Brignal argues that "The line dividing celebrity culture and politics is becoming increasingly blurred."

Consequently "The expectation for entertainment has spilled over into politics" and "disproportionate coverage is given to those who entertain by being eccentric and shocking in their manner, appearance and views because this is what commands viewers’ attention. This trend has made outrageous ‘authenticity’ the flavour of the week."

Brignal argues that Lib/Dem leader Sir Vince Cable

"is moderate, avuncular and therefore considered boring. As such it’s hard for him to gain traction in a media environment which caters to a public that increasingly expects to be shocked and entertained as well as informed. Policy has given way to personality and sensible centrism is a hard sell."

God help the country if this explanation for the Lib/Dems' lacklustre performance in the polls is right.

Britain needs a credible opposition and I can no longer see the Labour party providing one. It would be a great shame if the Lib/Dems were deprived of the chance to do so for such a ridiculous reason.

Quote of the day 26th April 2018

"It is amazing how many people think that they can answer an argument by attributing bad motives to those who disagree with them. Using this kind of reasoning, you can believe or not believe anything about anything, without having to bother to deal with facts or logic."

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Remembering ANZAC day - and the 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers

One hundred and three years ago today the Gallipoli landings began. Thousands of brave fighting men from Australia and New Zealand took part,  and a great many were killed or wounded.

Today is ANZAC day when we remember those brave men, especially those who fell in that battle.

Britain has been lucky enough to have many brave and loyal allies from around the world, particularly from the Commonwealth. None have been braver or truer friends than the Australians and the New Zealanders.

I have never been within a thousand miles of a battlefield, but if I ever did find myself in a foxhole, I cannot think of anyone I would rather have at my back than an Aussie or a Kiwi. One of the greatest complements ever paid to the ANZAC fighting men came from an enemy Field Marshall who came up against them in the following war:

We should also remember the Indian, Gurkha Rifles, Irish, Jewish and English troops who took part in the Gallipoli campaign.

The troops who landed on 25th April 1915 at ANZAC Cove included the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division, a force of about 25,000 men.

On the same day there were landings at Cape Helles by the Lancashire Fusiliers, Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Hampshire regiment and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Shortly thereafter they were joined by the men of the 29th Indian Brigade, including the 1/6th Gurkha Rifles, and by the 1st/5th and the 2nd/10th Gurkha battalions; and the Jewish volunteers of the Zion Mule Corps.

I particularly want to mention the 1st Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers, who famously won "six VCs before breakfast" in the landings a hundred and three years ago today.

Those Victoria Crosses were hard earned at a terrible price. Just over a thousand officers and men of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers boarded the landing boats on the morning of April 25th 1915, and 24 hours later they held all their objectives, but with just over three hundred effectives. Approximately seven hundred of those thousand men had been killed or injured.

Let me declare a family interest: my grandfather's younger brother, Fusilier Robert Whiteside, subsequently joined that regiment and was serving in the Lancashire Fusiliers when he was killed at the age of eighteen, just six weeks before the end of the war.

The price paid by the men of the Dublin, Munster and Hampshire regiments were similarly terrible.

We shall not forget the men of the ANZAC divisions; nor will we forget the men of the Lancashire Fusiliers, or their Irish, Hampshire, Indian, Gurkha or Jewish comrades.

"At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them."

Midweek Madrigal: "The Silver Swan" by Orlando Gibbons

Quote of the day 25th April 2018

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Statue unveiled to Milicent Fawcett

A statue to Suffragist Millicent Fawcett is being unveiled now (11 am on Tuesday 24th April 2018) in parliament square by the Prime Minister.

This will be the first of the statues in that square to commemorate a woman, so it is very appropriate that it should a statue of one of the leading campaigners who argued that women should be able to vote, and that one of those taking part in the ceremony, a hundred years after the first women won that right, by a woman Prime Minister.

Here is a quote from Theresa May on the subject of Millicent Fawcett's struggle.

The PM also said earlier today:

"I would not be here today as Prime Minister, no female MPs would have taken their seats in Parliament, none of us would have the rights and protections we now enjoy, were it not for Millicent Fawcett. It is an honour to be unveiling her statue in Parliament Square later today."

Dame Millicent Fawcett was
  • Born in 1847, a pioneering feminist, intellectual and union leader who campaigned for women's right to vote
  • She was a suffragist - not a suffragette
  • She shared the same aims as the suffragettes - the more radical group led by Emmeline Pankhurst - but favoured non-violent protest
  • In 1897 she formed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies
  • She played a key role in the founding of Newnham College, the second Cambridge university college to admit women
  • In 1902, she led an all-female investigation into the appalling conditions in British concentration camps in South Africa, during the Boer War
  • Dame Millicent lived to see women granted the vote on equal terms to men in 1928. She died the following year.

Quote of the day 24th April 2018

Monday, April 23, 2018

Congratulations to William and Kate

Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their third child.

I see there has been wall-to-wall coverage of this happy event, but I don't think it is at all surprising, after the year or two that we as a country have had, that lots of people both among press and public should want to take the chance to enjoy a bit of good news.

Quote of the day 23rd April 2018

"There is no indignity in being afraid to die. But there is a terrible shame in being afraid to live."

(Terry Nation, line spoken by a character called Alydon in the Doctor Who story "The Daleks")

Drop-In public consultation session on North Shore, Whitehaven plans at Tescos this afternoon

Residents of Whitehaven and others with an interest in traffic in the town are reminded that the second of two "Drop-in" public consultation sessions on the proposed highway improvements in the North Shore area will be held this afternoon and evening (Monday 23rd April 2018), from 3pm-7pm at the Tesco Superstore, Bransty Row, Whitehaven, CA28 7XY.

Details of the consultation on Cumbria County Council's proposals to improve road safety and traffic flows in the North Shore/Bransty Row area can be found on the council website at

The proposed scheme includes:
  • introduction of traffic light controls on Bransty Row/North Shore Road junction
  • improved pedestrian crossing points and links between the harbour, the new developments and the town centre's historic core
  • enhancement of the road junction at Tangier Street/George Street to improve traffic flow and facilitate development
  • relocation of southbound bus stop on Bransty Row and northbound bus stop to Tangier Street relocation and tripling of provision for taxis to reflect forecast increased footfall in the area
  • reduction of the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on a section of Bransty Row
  • public realm improvements to enhance the gateway into Whitehaven.

Local residents and anyone with an interest in the proposals are invited to have their say and let  Cumbria County Council know your views.

It is worth adding that there are a number of planned developments in this part of town and it is the opinion of both highway officers and councillors that if those developments go ahead without anything being done to improve this stretch of road, traffic on the key Northern entrance and exit to the centre of Whitehaven will become seriously congested.

There is also a worrying accident rate among road users in this area of the town, particularly for pedestrians, and we want to make the area safer for road users.

I am not going to pretend that I think this scheme is perfect, but it is a considerable improvement on what is there now. The council has to make a decision this year or lose the opportunity to act, because the government has given a substantial but time-limited grant to improve traffic flows and road safety in the area and facilitate economic development. 

Happy St George's Day

Wishing every English person who reads this, and indeed anyone else who reads it, a happy St George's Day (23rd April 2018)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Britain's "First coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution"

Yesterday (Friday 20th April 2018) was, according to the national grid, Britain's first day when no coal was used for power generation since we have had a national grid.

It has been described as Britain's first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution although I put that in inverted commas in the title of this post as we cannot be certain that one of the small number of households with a coal fire used it.

Considering what a warm couple of days we've had, I would not expect that there would have been too much coal burned by anyone other than the National Grid either.

This is actually very good news because in terms of damage to the environment, coal without carbon capture is one of the dirtiest fuels there is.

Music to relax after campaigning: the "Albinoni" Adagio

A lovely piece to relax to for those of you who have been campaigning today.

I have previously posted more than one performances of this piece: for those who have not already seen one of those posts or have forgotten, the rather curious history of this lovely piece of music and the reason why the name of the composer "Albinono" has been placed in inverted commas may be found here.

Quote of the day Saturday 21st April 2018

“The appearance of Anti-Semitism is always an early warning sign of a dangerous dysfunction within a culture, because the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.

“At the end of his life, Moses told the Israelites: don't hate an Egyptian because you were strangers in his land. It's an odd sentence. The Egyptians had oppressed and enslaved the Israelites. So why did Moses say, don't hate?

“Because if the people continued to hate, Moses would have taken the Israelites out of Egypt, but failed to take Egypt out of the Israelites. They would still be slaves, not physically but mentally. Moses knew that to be free you have to let go of hate. Wherever there is hate, freedom dies. Which is why we, especially leaders, have to take a stand against the corrosive power of hate.

“All it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing. Today I see too many good people doing nothing and I am ashamed.”

(Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK, speaking on BBC Radio 4's "Thought for the day" programme yesterday)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Best and the worst of Cumbria County Council

Yesterday's annual meeting of Cumbria County Council showed the authority at its best and worst.

In the "best" column were the dignified and warm tributes to Cllr John Bell, who finished his term as Chairman of the Council for his work during the 17/18 civic year and to Cllr Elizabeth Mallinson, who was elected to take over from him and became only the third woman to be Chairman of Cumbria County Council since the creation of the authority in the 1970's.

Also the discussion on the Public Health Annual Report, an excellent document which you can read here, an excellent session during which some excellent questions were asked and important points made from all sides of the chamber.

And I was pleased to join in the support from all parties for a motion on reducing plastic waste.

(I thought for a moment that there had been one vote against, until I realised that we were actually voting at that point not for the actual motion itself but on a procedural motion to move to the vote, and the councillor concerned had wanted to speak about the motion itself, which was then carried unanimously a few seconds later. Judging by the reactions around the chamber I was not the only person to have made that mistake.)

However, in the "worst" column was some party-political sniping and personal attacks on the subject of schools in Cumbria which added nothing constructive to the debate and appeared to me to be more aimed at gaining electoral advantage for the people making the speeches concerned than doing anything to help the young people who attend schools in the county.

Bit of a waste of effort, though - I doubt if there can have been many floating voters in the chamber and I doubt if the press will report the comments concerned. It would not, however, in my humble opinion, have been likely to impress any ordinary voters who did hear those comments.

Fun fact of the week

Residents of Cumbria taking part in Slimming World weight loss programmes have lost 17.6 tons of body weight between them, according to the report of Cumbria Director of Public Health during the discussion of his annual report at Cumbria County Council yesterday.

This is equivalent to the weight of four adult African Elephants.

Second quote of the day 20th April 2018

"There are two people in this government who believe in global warming: you and me. We are therefore a majority."

(Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to John Selwyn Gummer, now Lord Deben, who quoted her on BBC Radio 4 this morning.)

Quote of the day 20th April 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

UK Inflation rate drops to 2.5%

UK consumer price inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index fell to 2.5% in the 12 months to March, the lowest rate in a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
It fell from 2.7% in February after prices for clothing and footwear, in particular womenswear, rose at a slower rate compared to this time last year.

Midweek Madrigal "I Heard a Voice" sung by the choir of King's College Cambridge

Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council

The Annual General Meeting of Cumbria County Council will be held tomorrow (Thursday 19th April 2018) at County Hall in Kendal commencing at 10.00 am.

It is expected that the whole meeting will be open to the public.

The full agenda and reports can be found on the County Council website here.

Quote of the day 18th April 2018

"Last night the whips said we would vote for this motion, which is logical given it's the opposition motion. This morning we were told we had to vote against.

"You should not play games with matters of war and peace, which is why a load of us abstained.

This party is becoming a joke."

(Labour MP explaining on Politics Home why he and others declined to obey orders from Jeremy Corbyn's whips to vote against a motion about the airstrikes on the Syrian regime's chemical weapons facilities which had been tabled in Mr Corbyn's own name.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Working Together" steering group meeting.

The next "working together" steering group meeting about delivering healthcare in North, West and East Cumbria, which is not merely open to the public but in which anyone can participate, will be held tomorrow (Wednesday 18th April) from 6pm to 8pm at the Samuel Lindow Building at Westlakes.

More details on my hospitals blog here.


I am aware that there is a vast amount of concern at the moment about potholes throughout Cumbria, the roads having taken a lot of damage from the elements during the harsh weather of the last few months.

You can report a pothole or any other dangerous problem with a road maintained by Cumbria County Council directly to the responsible officers.

either by calling the Highways Hotline number on 0300 3032992,

or on line at

This ensures the fault is logged and a unique reference code generated for that particular defect, it also enables the fault to be tracked.

If you are having trouble doing this or are not seeing a satisfactory response in respect of any road in my division (which covers Bigrigg, Moor Row, St Bees, and the Western half of the Mirehouse area of Whitehaven) please feed free to contact me via email at

Two powerful speeches on Anti-Semitism from Labour MPs

I do not often agree with Labour MPs and it is very rare indeed that I would consider publicising with approval speeches made by parliamentarians from that party. But the debate on Anti-Semitism in parliament today is a special circumstance and the speeches today by Luciana Berger MP and John Mann MP were both particularly powerful and deserve to be widely heard.

If there is anyone who can listen to these speeches by Labour MPs and still think either that there is not a serious problem with Anti-Semitism today both in Britain as a whole and in the Labour party in particular, or continue to imagine that all the concern about Anti-Semitism is a "smear" which has been "weaponised" by opponents of Jeremy Corbyn, their capacity for self-deception is truly amazing.

This is the speech from John Mann M.P.

And this is the speech from Luciana Berger M.P.

The Windrush generation

Following public concern about the recent treatment that members of the "Windrush generation" who arrived in this country from the Caribbean many decades ago and had not sought the paperwork to prove their British status because they had not thought they needed to, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has apologised and taken a number of urgent steps to revolve the issue, which include the following:
  • A new taskforce dedicated to helping those affected 
  • Plans to work with departments across government to gather evidence on behalf of immigrants (documentation for every year is usually expected, such as bank statements or payslips)
  • A pledge that all cases will be resolved in two weeks
  • All fees for new documentation (normally £229) will be waived so people are not "out of pocket"
  • A new website will be set up with information and a direct contact point
The Prime Minister has agreed to meet Caribbean leaders who are in Britain for a Commonwealth meeting this week to discuss the issue.

I don't agree with everything else he wrote on the issue but Stephen Bush pointed out in the New Statesman that the next group of people who may hit a similar problem are the Ugandan Asians who Idi Amin expelled in the early 1970's. I hope the lessons are learned this time so that it can be handled better.

Quote of the day 17th April 2018

"Those who would turn a blind eye, who would do nothing in pursuit of some moral high ground, should also be held accountable, for once, today as well."

(Chris Leslie MP, Labour, speaking in the House of Commons yesterday)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Why a "War Powers" act would be a seriously bad idea.

The government should always be accountable to parliament after the event for everything it does including military action.

There will be some instances where it is practical and desirable for parliament to discuss and determine in advance the principles and objectives of a potential military action.

However, the idea that the executive should always require the prior approval of parliament for any military action in any circumstances is both absurd and dangerous.

To compare Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Foot is grossly unfair to Michael Foot, but this Cummings cartoon first published during the Falklands war and taking the mickey out of Foot makes the point perfectly:

 I share many of the concerns of those who do not want the UK to be involved in Syria's civil war, and I think it was wise of the US, French and British governments that the action they took at the weekend was clearly aimed specifically at chemical warfare facilities and designed to minimise the risk of escalation. As I wrote on Saturday, I think that action of the kind which was actually taken was the least worst of a set of very bad options.

I can respect the view of those who thought that the action should have been put to parliament first, though on balance I don't agree with them. To get parliamentary approval the government might have had to share information which it was prejudicial to the safety of RAF personnel and to the mission's chance of success to put into the public domain - and thereby provide to the Syrian regime's forces - prior to the attack.

I cannot agree with the views of those who think there are no circumstances in which a British government might have to act without prior approval from the House of Commons. There will certainly be some circumstances where there just isn't time or where the process of getting such approval will give too much information to our enemies and put the lives of British servicemen and servicewomen at risk.

The same applies to those who say that Britain should never act without the approval of the United Nations Security council. As former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the House of Commons today, the inevitable consequence of such a policy would be that

“Any tyrant or megalomaniac, if they have support of an amoral state on the UN Security Council, could act with impunity,"

"Far from upholding the international rules based system, it would be dead.”

Guido's quote of the Day

The current quote on Guido Fawkes' parliamentary blog "Order, Order" is by former Labour MP and shadow minister Michael Dugher on how Jeremy Corbyn might have responded to the Nazi threat in 1939:

Suspect Jeremy in 1939 would have argued that the League of Nations needed more time to investigate “alleged” German aggression in Poland and called for the violence “on all sides” to cease.

Quote of the day 16th April 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Second quote for 15th April 2018

Thanks a Million

Quite a milestone for this blog this morning.

At 9.55 am BST the hit counters recorded the one millionth pageview on this weblog since they were set up ten years ago.

That does not quite put this blog into the same league as Political Betting, Guido Fawkes or Iain Dale, but in terms of total visits this site has one of the highest readerships among UK political blogs. It has also lasted much longer than most, especially in terms of longest continuous operation.
This site was set up in February 2005 and has been regularly updated since then with no breaks between updates longer than one gap of a few weeks in 2013 when the Conservative candidates department asked potential candidates for the 2014 (and, in the event, last) European parliament election not to update our websites during a "purdah" period while party members were taking part in a postal ballot to select candidates.

Thanks to all those who have visited this blog over the past thirteen years and I hope you have found it interesting.

Sunday Music spot: Charles Wood, "O thou the central orb"

Silly question of the month

"Why aren't the Board of Deputies" (of British Jews) "protesting outside Tory party HQ?"

(Ken Loach)

Not content with calling for 30 Labour MPs to be deselected for demonstrating against Anti-Semitism, left-wing film director Ken Loach spoke in Canterbury yesterday and, according to Guido Fawkes, LBC has a recording of him having a go at the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Well, Ken, it might just have something to do with the fact that the Leader of the Conservative party hasn't had to apologise for defending any Anti-Semitic murals ...

Quote of the day 15th April 2018