Showing posts from May, 2018

Copeland MP's next "Saturday Chataway" to be held in St Bees on 2nd June

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison will be holding her next "Saturday Chataway" charity coffee morning and opportunity to raise issues with elected representatives at St Bees Village Hall in Finkle Street, St Bees from 10am to noon this coming Saturday, 2nd June. There will be followed by a community litter pick from 1pm to 3pm. Details of the "Saturday Chataway" events can be found on Trudy's website here but the current programme after this Saturday is planned to be: Saturday 7th July, 10am - 12pm. Egremont - Venue to be confirmed Saturday 4th August, 10am - 12pm, Seascale Library, Seascale Saturday 1st September, 10m - 12pm, Cleator Moor - Venue to be confirmed Saturday 6th October, 10am - 12pm, Church Room, Braithwaite Saturday 3rd November, 10am - 12pm, Richmond Community Centre, Hensingham Saturday 1st December, 10am - 12pm, Captain Shaw's School, Bootle

On the subject of spoof articles

Two more spoof articles which may amuse you, if you are into such things: * Black death distances itself from UKIP * Boris Johnson tricks Russian pranksters

Quote of the day 31st May 2018

" If you don't like obeying our laws then you should get out of our country, Tommy Robinson told ." ( Spoof headline on the "News Thump" website .)

"Murdered" journalist turns up alive ...

Bad news for everyone who groans when you see a post on social media from people who are naïve enough to believe everything that the Russian regime says. On the same morning that a British citizen and campaigner against corruption in Russia was briefly detained in Spain (but promptly released) when the Russian government made their SIXTH attempt to have him arrested on trumped up charges, another Putin critic who had apparently been murdered turned up alive at a press conference admitting he and the Ukrainians staged the whole thing. There has been much humorous speculation about how long Arkady Babchenko will stay alive after his wife gets her hands on him (as he apparently omitted to let her in on the news that he was working with Ukrainian security to fake his assassination.) His actions were supposedly part of a trick to catch people who were really trying to kill him, which appears to have been lifted from the plot of a "Batman" film. But I can just see what'

Working Together meeting

I attended the meeting of the "Working Together Steering Group" this evening from 6.00pm to 8.00pm, at the Excellence Suite, ENERGUS, Blackwood Road, Lillyhall. This is one of a number of working groups which give members of the community and stakeholders in our health service the opportunity to work together on how to improve local health services. The "Working Together Steering Group" which met this evening is particularly concerned with consultant-led maternity and paediatric services and particularly supporting the NHS's work to try and make Option 1 for maternity and paediatrics a reality – that’s consultant–led care at the West Cumberland Hospital and a Short Stay Paediatric Assessment Unit at both hospitals with inpatient services in Carlisle and some overnight beds in Whitehaven for less poorly children. There are other "Working together" groups supporting other aspects of local NHS services such as community hospitals; a similar group is

Wednesday music spot: Mozart's The Queen of the Night aria (The Magic Flute)

One of the most beautiful arias ever written for the human voice with some of the most shocking lyrics ever written.

Quote of the day 30th May 2018

“The Russian government is looking very closely right now at the reaction to the Salisbury attack and seeing whether the British government will do more then expel a few diplomats. I f they don’t replicate the US oligarchs sanctions list then there is a great risk for anyone in the UK who is at odds with the Russian government.” Bill Browder , British businessman and Putin critic, interview with City AM shortly after the Salisbury poisonings. Mr Browder has campaigned for more effective sanctions against corrupt Russian oligarchs and their money, measures such as the US " Magnitsky Act" which is named after his lawyer who died in Russian custody in highly suspicious circumstances in 2009 after exposing a corruption ring and being arrested. This morning Spanish police briefly arrested Mr Browder, supposedly on a Russian Interpol arrest warrant. Shortly afterwards the Spanish authorities told The Associated Press and Reuters news agencies that Browder was not under ar

Mayhem in Italy

I do not pretend to be an expert in Italian politics, let alone Italian constitutional law. It is hard enough to follow and understand the constitution in this country. Nevertheless it is clear that very unusual things are happening in Italian politics. There is no exact analogy for what has been happening in Italy in British terms, but here goes. The Northern League is a right-wing party which is Eurosceptic and sees itself as anti-establishment and although not a perfect parallel it isn't a gross distortion of the truth to compare it to an Italian equivalent of UKIP. Five Star is an anti-establishment left-wing party, also Eurosceptic: it's not a million miles from the truth to say that if you imagine a Italian Eurosceptic version of Momentum which was an independent party in it's own right. The recent Italian elections produced a hung parliament in which these two are the largest parties and between them have a majority. As I posted here a few days ago, it do

The Truth about Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (a.k.a. Tommy Robinson)

Reporting restrictions have now been lifted about the circumstances in which Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, (who calls himself Tommy Robinson,) a former member of the BNP and co-founder of the English Defence League who has criminal convictions for common assault, intimidation, and mortgage fraud, has been sent to prison for contempt of court. You can read about the case on the website of local news organisation LeedsLive here . Here is what her Honour Judge Norton told Yaxley-Lennon last year when she handed him a three month prison sentence, suspended for eighteen months, for contempt of court over his behaviour at a rape trial in Canterbury over which she was presiding and which could have led to a miscarriage of justice in that trial. "This contempt hearing is not about free speech.  This is not about freedom of the press.  This is not about legitimate journalism; this is not about political correctness; this is not about whether one political viewpoint is right or another. 

Quote of the day 29th May 2018

An important message for school and University students at this time of year. " In your preparation for your examinations, if you don't revise properly, do you know what will happen?  YOU SHALL NOT PASS ! " ( Sir Ian McKellen , who played Gandalf in "The Lord of The Rings" in which those four words form one of his most memorable lines)

Bank holiday music spot: Steeleye Span "The Summer Lady"


Of free speech and court reporting restrictions

There have been a number of events in the past two years which have made me seriously wonder whether Britain needs an equivalent of the First Amendment to the US constitution to guarantee the right to free speech. The arrest a couple of days ago of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon , who calls himself Tommy Robinson, was not one of them. If you want to have a justice system which conducts fair trials you need to have rules governing people's conduct outside the court building to prevent participants such as witnesses being intimidated. If you have jury trials, you will also sometimes need to impose temporary restrictions on what can be reported to avoid prejudicing actual or potential members of the jury. Rules like that, which are an essential part of operating on the basis that the accused is innocent until proven guilty have been in place in Britain (and many other countries) for centuries. Almost all serious journalists understand and comply with them. Note that these rules and c

Proving a point

On Saturday in a piece on whether it is ever a good idea to pre-emptively discount and ignore someone's opinion I wrote " I have lost count of the number of times I have been on the verge of reaching the conclusion that a particular politician or newspaper columnist was the perfect contrarian indicator who could be relied on to always be wrong - and then they would suddenly come out with something completely sensible. " and " Just as even a broken clock is right twice a day, any human being who is capable of stringing a sentence together will occasionally produce one which is worth listening to. " Classic example today when I came across the " Zelo Street " blog. I strongly disagree with 95% of what is written on that blog but when it gets something right it really gets it right. In particular, the explanation it gives here of why the behaviour of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who calls himself Tommy Robinson) risked prejudicing to the right of v

Quote of the day 28th May 2018


Trinity Sunday music spot: "I Saw the Lord" by John Stainer

If it's Trinity Sunday it must be time for Stainer's "I saw the Lord …" Most of the lyrics of this magnificent Trinity Sunday anthem are taken from the first four verses of chapter six of the Book of Isaiah, describing the vision which the prophet experienced shortly after the death of King Uzziah: " In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.  (2) Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.  (3) And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.  (4) And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. "

Quote of the day 27th May 2018

"The assumption that spending more of the taxpayers' money will make things better has survived all kinds of evidence that it has made things worse."  ( Thomas Sowell , American economist)

When, if ever, is it safe to discount an opinion?

John Rentoul, the principal political columnist for The Independent and someone for whose views I have a lot of time, has an interesting piece this weekend, " The top 10 cues to disregard an opinion ." He lists ten words and phrases which are often used by people with closed minds and worldviews, the idea being that if an article or opinion piece has one of these ideas it is not worth listening to. My initial reaction was sympathetic and there are certainly good points in the article: for example, he rightly says that the expression " trickle-down economics " almost always indicates a "straw man" which has been put up to be knocked down and bears no resemblance to what anyone actually believes. (A lot of left-wingers think that people who believe in free market solutions support "trickle down economics" but as Dan Hannan argues here this is at best a complete misunderstanding and at worst a gratuitous distortion of what advocates of the

Saturday music spot: Overture to Mozart's "The Marriage Of Figaro"


Good Luck LIverpool!

Best of  luck to Liverpool today in their Champions League final against defending champions Real Madrid at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. More details at .

Quote of the day Saturday 26th May 2018


North Cumbria approved for Integrated Care System pilot.

Health and care leaders in West, North and East Cumbria are celebrating the inclusion of the area in a national pilot which has been described as a "historic step" to link up health and care services and enable them to work together to improve care for patients and communities. North Cumbria Health and Care System has been confirmed by NHS England as part of the next wave of Integrated Care Systems (ICS). It gives the green light for further integrating some health and care services across artificial organisational boundaries, which is meant to make it easier for teams to work together and reduce the " I can't do that, it's someone else's job " syndrome. Professor John Howarth said, “ In all of my 35 years working in the health service in Cumbria, I’ve dreamt of creating an integrated care model, we can now seize the opportunity to collaborate across the system to improve the wellbeing of our communities. ” In this short video Chief Executive St

A Labour MP writes about the current Labour leadership

I don't often quote or refer to articles by Labour MPs but Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, has written an article called " The current Labour Leadership is completely outside Labour's mainstream tradition ," Which I think anyone who is considering voting Labour might do well to read.

Quote of the day 25th May 2018

“I love being a Scot.  I also value being British.  I adore the fact that the UK does not force me to choose between the two – nor rank them, nor seek to limit my identity." ( Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party)

Budget Deficit drops £5.7 billion to lowest level since before the 2008 crash.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing that public sector borrowing between April 2017 and March 2018 was £40.5bn which is £5.7 billion less than the previous year, £4.7 billion less than expectations, and the lowest in absolute terms since 2007 (before the crash.) As a share of GDP the reduction in public borrowing is even more pronounced - borrowing has dropped to 2% of GDP which is the lowest level since 2002. Other figures released this week shows that inflation continues on a downward trend, dropping to 2.4% in the twelve months to April 2018.

Kinder, Gentler Politics?

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour party he promised a new kind of politics, urged Labour members to treat one another and people from other parties with respect and said that there would be " no rudeness from me ". " Cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on with bringing real values back into politics ," he said, an admirable sentiment often summarised as a call for "Kinder Gentler Politics." This is indeed something which would be welcome from all parts of the political spectrum, but the Corbynistas only seem to demand it in practice from their opponents - inside and outside the Labour party. A few days ago the Chair of Lewisham East Labour party, Ian McKensie, was suspended for posts he had made on social media in 2015 and 2016, when DA'ESH (the self-styled "Islamic State") still controlled significant territory in Syria and Iraq and were tr

GDPR comes into effect tomorrow

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into effect tomorrow (25th May 2018) throughout the European Union, including Britain (which has not yet left the EU.) This measure replaces and strengthens existing measures such as the UK data protection act It includes information stored in written form on physical media such as paper (e.g. notebooks, card indices) as well as information stored electronically (e.g. in a computer). GDPR is designed to give individuals more control over how their personal information is stored, controlled and used. Personal data for this purpose includes anything which is specific to an individual where that individual can be identified. If you live or work in an EU member state and hold information about people, you need to ensure that you are compliant with GDPR (the potential fines for non-compliance are eye-watering.) As a first step to anyone readiug this who has not already checked whether they are operating within the new law as it

Quote of the day 24th May 2018


Quote of the day Wednesday 23rd May 2018


If you thought British politics is getting strange ...

Have you been following what has been going on in Italy? As far as I can work out the nearest parallel in British terms to what has just happened in Italy would be if a government were being formed by a coalition of Momentum and UKIP, and they invited a little known professor of Contract Law, who was not an MP, did not stand in the recent election and had never held elected office to be proposed as Italy's next Prime Minister ...

Remembering Manchester Arena

At 2.30pm this afternoon everyone at the conference I was attending today observed a minute's silence in memory of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack, one year ago today. This was also observed by members and staff of Cumbria County Council and many other organisations and individuals up and down the country.

Quote of the day 22nd May 2018



I shall be doing a GDPR training course today. That means "General Data Protection Regulations" and the regulations concerned come into effect on Friday. If you're experience has been anything like mine, it probably seems like every voluntary organisation you are a member of is worried about whether it can communicate with its members and what data it can hold about them, and is frantically trying to get permission to do so, and almost every company you have ever dealt with is contacting you to ask permission to continue to do so. It is often said that many a true word is spoken in jest and there seems to be an awful lot of truth in jokes like a spoof article on the NewsThump site, " New law designed to stop you receiving unwanted email generating terabytes of unwanted email " which begins " The new General Data Protection Regulation laws designed to stop everyone receiving unwanted email have resulted in the generation of billions of terabytes of

Quote of the day 21st May 2018


Remembering the Unknown Warrior

In this 100th anniversary year of the end of the Great War, the new Duchess of Sussex has sent the bouquet she carried at her wedding yesterday to rest on the tomb of the unknown warrior at Westminster Abbey. I am told that since Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) every bride at a British royal wedding has done this, but I think it is a very touching gesture.

Sunday music spot: extracts from Haydn's "The Creation"

Here is a selection of solos and chorus from Haydn's magnificent oratorio "The Creation" performed by the St Peters Singers of Leeds during a tour of Mallorca in 2009. Kudos to Simon Lindley, who can be seen conducting and who moved from St Albans Cathedral and St Albans School to be organist of Leeds Parish church in 1975. Simon Lindley was in the 1970's, and evidently still is, almost the only prominent choir leader who always insists on using the correct words for the concluding chorus in this recording, " The Heavens are telling the glory of God ." Almost everyone else singing this piece in English uses a terrible libretto in which the second line is just plain wrong. While the music to "The Creation" is divine, the entire oratorio suffers badly from having been incompetently translated from the original English into German by a diplomat who was an amateur linguist, and then badly translated back. One of the worst examples is the second l

Quote of the day Sunday 20th May 2018

"The Social Media Chauvinists" ... "combine belligerent nationalism with online invective and intimidation. The category is not limited to obscure keyboard warriors; it includes elected Nationalists for whom abusing the enemy – they do not see mere opponents – is intrinsic to their politics. "Social Media Chauvinists whip up cybernat pile-ons, keep the worst of the grassroots ginned up and target journalists and critics sceptical of the regime. They have constructed their own reality from an echo chamber of antagonistic bloggers and unhinged conspiracy theorists. Their indoor voice is a howl and paranoia their idea of equanimity; they are often to be found in a tizz over British-branded foodstuffs and unpatriotic weather maps. "An accident of birth denied them their destiny as UKIP councillors forced to resign over a Facebook post about golliwogs." ( Stephen Daisley : extract from an article about the warring tribes of the SNP called Sturgeon under

Appointments to the House of Lords

Theresa May put forward a shirt list of nominees to the House of Lords yesterday: there were nine Conservatives, three Labour, and one DUP nominations for peerages, thirteen in total. This takes the total number of peerages created since she became PM in 2016 to 24, but as the membership of the House of Lords has been reduced by 35 resignations and deaths since last year's general election, it represents a net reduction of 22 seats in the upper house. Interesting to compare the numbers of peers created under her three predecessors between 1997 and 2016 (I've not included David Cameron's resignation honours list below to avoid a double count. Source for the information is a report from the House of Lords library available online here .) Tony Blair (May 1997–June 2007) Peerages created: Conservative 62 Labour 162 Liberal Democrat 54 Independent/Crossbench/other 96   Total 374 Gordon Brown (June 2007–May 2010) Peerages created: Conservative 4 Labour 11

Saturday music spot: Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks

As for some reason there seems to be a lot of attention on the Royal Family this weekend, today's music spot is the glorious suite Handel wrote for the Royal Fireworks, as performed at the 2012 Proms Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Congratulations to Harry and Meghan

Congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy marriage to prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding today and on their creation as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Quote of the day 19th May 2018

"The size of the House is falling, and our aim is to continue that progress." "The relatively modest size of today's list when compared with those under several previous prime ministers has demonstrated a welcome commitment to that pledge." ( Lord Fowler , Speaker of the House of Lords, welcoming the "restraint" by the Prime Minister in keeping the numbers of new peers on the latest list to thirteen (nine Conservative, three Labour and one DUP) when 35 peers had either retired or died since the 2017 general election, so this represent a net reduction of more than 20 peers compared with eleven months ago. There had been calls to limit the size of the House of Lords, which had increased considerably under the previous three Prime Ministers and has 130 more members than the House of Commons.)

Cumbria Health Scrutiny Variation sub-committee - Monday 21st May 2018

There will be a meeting of the Variation Sub-commitee of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee at 2pm next Monday (21st May) to consider one issue: the proposal from the NHS Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust to close specialist dental services at the Flatt Walks clinic in Whitehaven and relocate patients and activity to Cleator Moor health centre. The role of this committee, which consists of six councillors, three district councillors and three county councillors with one of the six representing each district in Cumbria, is to decide whether this constitutes a "substantial service change" which would trigger a greater requirement for public consultation. The meeting will take place in Committee Room 2 at County Hall in Kendal and will be open to the public. The agenda of the meeting and details of the proposal, including the results of a consultation with patients, can be found here .

Share of workers on low pay falls to lowest since 1982

The Resolution Foundation has released figures showing that low pay in the UK - defined as those who are paid less than two-thirds of the median wage - has fallen to 18.2% of the work force, the lowest since 1982. (Blue line on the graph below.) The number of people who have been lifted out of low pay by that definition in the past year is 230,000. The Resolution Foundation suggest that this is mainly due to the National Living Wage.

Quote of the day Friday 18th May 2018


A balanced account of the terrible happenings in Gaza

To listen to some people's account of the dreadful events in Gaza - accounts which come dangerously close to, and in some cases reach, the international definition of anti-Semitism by subjecting the state of Israel to  a stricter moral standard than anyone else or unreasonably comparing Jewish people to Nazis - you would think that everything which has happened is Israel's fault (except for what is Donald Trump's.) To listen to other accounts you might imagine that the government of Israel has handled everything perfectly and all the bloodshed is Hamas's fault. The truth, lies, as you might expect, somewhere between these two extremes. I certainly don't think that either the Trump administration or the government of Israel has handled the situation well but there is no doubt that among the peaceful demonstrators were armed members of Hamas - which is classed as a terrorist organisation for good reasons by the governments of the USA, Britain and the EU - who w

Special music spot: The Dambusters Theme music

In memory of all the brave men of RAF 617 squadron who breached the Mohne and Eder Dams in the early hours of 17th May 1945, seventy five years ago today, especially the fifty three who never came home.

Quote of the day 17th May 2018


Woman convicted for stealing four candles

The Whitehaven News this week reports that a woman from Cockermouth has been convicted and fined for shoplifting. She tried to steal four candles from a store in Whitehaven. Yes, I do mean 4 candles, not fork handles ...

Time to ditch the concept of "Cultural appropriation"

The Economist has an excellent article here , subtitled "When respect for diversity is taken to crazy extremes" which argues that attempting to show respect for what are labelled "minority cultures" by preventing anyone else from paying them, the sincerest form of flattery is self-defeating and should be binned. After pointing out the hypocrisy and capacity for inspiring ridicule which results from the inconsistent application of this idea, the magazine's article concludes: "The remedy for the selective application of the cultural appropriation label is not its expansion—as this would sweep in all manner of innocuous social interactions—but its retirement. The phrase stigmatises the beneficial cultural exchanges that happen in art, music, dance, cooking and language. The very idea is self-defeating. To declare black culture off-limits to non-blacks, for example, is to segregate it. The term also fundamentally misunderstands the process by which

Midweek Madrigal: John Dowland's "Come Again, Sweet love doth now invite"


Quote of the day 16th May 2018


Remembering the Dambusters

75 years ago today, on 16th May 1943, nineteen specially modified Lancaster Bombers of RAF 617 squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, took off to attack the Ruhr dams in Germany. The attack which followed on the night of 16th/17th May, codenamed Operation Chastise,   using purpose-built " bouncing bombs " developed by Barnes Wallis to breach the Möhne and Edersee Dams , caused catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and seriously disrupted military production for the Nazi war effort . RAF 617 squadron has been known ever since as "The Dambusters." It is beyond question that Operation Chastise was a crushing propaganda blow to the Nazi regime, but there has been some controversy about how much damage was actually caused . James Holland's recent book, Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dams, argues that " it is time to put the record straight. " He insists that the damage was " absolutely enormous " and it was " a

MPs reject attempt by unelected House to force government to break manifesto promise

The House of Lords has done good work in the past as a revising chamber. It is an appointed body, not accountable to anyone but whose members have usually shown restraint in the past, whose job is to check legislation passed by the elected chamber. the House of Lords is  not supposed to attempt to frustrate either directly or through wrecking amendments, measures which the electorate have voted for. Some of the recent House of Lords votes on the legislation implementing the electorate's decision to withdraw from the EU have been pushing the envelope of what is acceptable within the traditional role of the unelected chamber and you don't have to either go along with the more excitable tabloid headlines about "traitors in ermine" of even be a rabid Brexiteer - I voted Remain - to be concerned that the upper house is in danger of going beyond it's reasonable powers. The behaviour of the House of Lords in respect of Brexit is challenging enough, but on press reg

UK Employment reaches a new record high

New figures released today by the Office for National Statistics ONS show that there are 32.34 million people in work in the UK, which is a new record high for the employment rate.

Quote of the day 15th May 2018

(A new Leveson-style inquiry into the press)  “ would be an analogue inquiry in an increasingly digital age .” It would also “rightly be seen as yet another attempt by politicians to meddle in the internal affairs of the news media and ultimately to muzzle free expression”. “What message are we going to send out - that the free media are enemies of the state?" “They may be unruly and challenge us in ways that make us uncomfortable but they are not our enemies.” ( L ord Hunt of Wirral , a former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, extracts from his speech against the House of Lords proposal to try again to force the government to hold another inquiry into the press after MPs voted last week not to do so.)

Kinder, Gentler politics - NOT

While I was driving back to Copeland after the Cumbria Health Scrutiny meeting in County Hall, Kendal today, there was a mock "mastermind" quiz of a political journalist on Radio 4 about the new language of the hard left in Britain. One of the five terms was an expression of praise for Jeremy Corbyn (" The Absolute Boy ") and the other four were relatively new insults such as "slug" now in vogue among Corbynistas for various flavours of people whose views differ slightly from theirs. Their other disparaging names for people judged to be insufficiently robust in the left-wing cause are " Centrist dad," "Melt" and "Gammon." You can tell quite a lot about a group of people if they start adding expressions to the language and if insults outnumber complements by four to one, one of the things it tells you is that whatever "The absolute boy" might prefer these are not practitioners of "kinder gentler politics.&qu

"Tea with the Team Event" for new NHS staff on Sunday

This video is about the "Tea with the team" event to make new NHS staff in West Cumbria feel welcome and help them integrate with the local community which was held at the Rosehill Theatre yesterday and was a great success.

Quote of the day 14th May 2018

"If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room." ( Simon Kuyper , tips to young graduates in @FTmag, shared by @JonnyGeller)