Showing posts from August, 2018

Road Closure at St Bees

The Main Street St Bees, the B5345, has been subject to an emergency road closure this week about 50 metres south of the junction with Outrigg while a gas leak is fixed. Work started 28th August & was expected to last 5 days.

Helen Lewis on why political debate has become so toxic

Helen Lewis has an interesting and well argued article in the New Statesman about why the political conversation has become so toxic in character both in the UK and elsewhere. You can read the whole article here but a few extracts follow to give some of the flavour of the piece. " Calculated offence (and the taking of it) has always been a part of politics. Seventy years ago this summer, Labour’s minister for health Aneurin Bevan stood up in Manchester to give a speech. In it, he described the poverty and hunger of his early life, adding: “That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Bevan’s remark surely stands out, and is remembered today, because of its relative rarity. Now, if you talk to any MP, peer or special adviser, they will mention the blizzard of abuse th

Quote of the day 31st August 2018


Next Saturday Chataway

The news "Saturday Chataway" opportunity for Copeland residents to meet your MP and elected representatives will be at Cleator Moor Methodist Church this Saturday (1st September) at 10am.

Should energy drinks be sold to children?

There have been discussions among Cumbria County council officers and members on whether we should take action to discourage the sale of energy drinks to children. The PM has now announced that she will hold a consultation on the issue with a view to the possibility of banning such sales. Key facts: This consultation is part of the second chapter of the Childhood Obesity Plan: One 250ml can of energy drink can contain around 80mg of caffeine – the equivalent of nearly three cans of cola. On average, energy drinks have 65 per cent more sugar than other, regular soft drinks. With more than two thirds of 10-17-year-olds and a quarter of 6-9-year-olds consuming energy drinks, they are likely to be contributing to both obesity and tooth decay in children. Surveys from teachers unions have also suggested that they contribute to poor behaviour in classrooms. While many retailers already have a voluntary ban in place, this consultation proposes a ban that would end the sale of

Record low number of children in workless households

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of children in workless households is at a record low, as we build a stronger and fairer economy. ·          One of the best ways to tackle poverty and give children a better chance in life is to have a working adult in their household, as it gives them a role model to learn from and brings financial security to the home.   ·          The number of children in workless households is at a record low. Compared to 2010, there are 637,000 fewer children living in a workless household – and 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty.   ·          Since 2010, the number of workless households has fallen 964,000. Over this period, an average of 1,000 people have entered the workplace every day, as our plans to build a stronger, fairer economy continue to create more jobs across the country.

Labour's antisemitism problem

Prejudice against both Jews and Muslims is growing, and both are unacceptable. All the major parties have, at least to some degree, problems with both Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and although some of these problems are worse than others, no party can afford to be complacent about either. "Whataboutery" on either side is no excuse - you cannot defend against a charge of Anti-Semitism in one party by pointing to Anti-Semitism or Islamophobia in another, or vice versa. I may come back to the issue of Islamophobia in another piece but this post is about Anti-Semitism. If you had asked me four years ago whether any of Britain's major parties have a serious problem with racism of any kind, I would have found the idea so ridiculous that I would probably have laughed. I am not laughing now. There are two possible reasonable reactions among anyone who is not an Anti-Semite to the video evidence which emerged this month of Jeremy Corbyn's 2013 speech to a meetin

Quote of the day 30th August 2018


Midweek music spot: "Windmills of your mind" Barbra Streisand version


Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher

The Apartheid system in South Africa was a vile and racist system and the overwhelming majority of people in Britain on right and left alike recognised this and differed only on how we should seek to end it. Many people inside and outside South Africa thought that the rest of the world should impost economic sanctions on South Africa but there were those inside as well as outside South Africa who did not share that view. When Helen Suzman , who was at about this time the only opponent of Apartheid in the South African parliament visited the UK while I was a young man I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask what she thought the West should do to help reverse Apartheid and she replied that we should put on as much moral pressure as possible but that we would not help black South Africans by trying "to wreck the economy." Margaret Thatcher took exactly the same view as Helen Suzman. She opposed apartheid and made this very clear to the South African government

Quote of the day 29th August 2018

" Jeremy Corbyn is to irony what Donald Trump is to feminism ." ( Matthew D'Ancona , title of article in the Guardian which you can read in full here .)

John McCain's farewell statement

A farewell message from the dying senator to the citizens of his country - which, perhaps, has something to say to us in Britain too.

Quote of the day 28th August 2018


Be careful what you wish for

I voted Remain but believe that the decision taken by the majority of British voters should be respected and carried out. The consequences for democracy in this country if it is ignored do not bear thinking about. Journalist and former MP Matthew Parris would like to stop Brexit, but understands that, in his words, " In its present febrile state our politics makes overruling the result of the referendum impossible for elected MPs, and calling a second referendum to do the job for them very tricky indeed unless led by an evident public thirst for a new say. For the moment that thirst is simply not there. I enormously admire Remainer comrades who are campaigning for what they call a 'people’s vote' but in the end a defensible new referendum has to feel like a response to popular demand, not a tetchy instruction to voters to think again. " Matthew thinks that, ironically the most likely chance of Britain remaining in the EU lies in the hands of the likes of Boris J

Neil Simon RIP

Neil Simon, one of the funniest and most successful playwrights of the 20th and early 21st centuries has died at the age of 91. His work gave pleasure to millions. Rest in Peace.

Quote of the day for bank holiday Monday 27th August 2018

The quote above comes from an article by journalist Jennifer Williams about the growing tendency on both sides of the Atlantic for politicians on left, right and centre to demonise and delegitimise the press - and of what consequences may follow. The US has joined the long list of countries where journalists have been murdered: in the UK the BBC's political editor needed a bodyguard at Labour party conference. Despite the fact that Jeremy Corbyn singled her work on deaths among homeless people out for praise in his speech calling for more support for public interest journalism, she explains in the article why she is concerned at the way he, Donald Trump, and others, attempt to deflect criticism by using language designed " to cement the belief that the media are crooks, while stoking an us-versus-them narrative. " You can read the full article on Medium's "Behind local news" page here .

Sunday Music spot: Mozart, "Requiem Aeternam"

This is the first movement of the Requiem mass which Mozart wrote at the end of his life. That requiem mass was, as many people know, commissioned by a mysterious masked man. However, the story as depicted in the film "Amadeus" is, despite being fantastically entertaining as fiction, a wicked libel against both the composers concerned. The masked individual who paid for the requiem was definitely not Mozart's rival Salieri. The real Mozart was nothing like the dissolute rascal depicted in the film. Far from blocking its performance, Salieri frequently conducted Mozart's work and almost certainly did not murder him. The rivalry between them bore little relationship to that depicted in the popular legend on which the play and film are based. The mass was actually secretly commissioned by a nobleman who wanted to pass the work off as his own. At the end of his own life while confined in hospital Salieri did confess to killing Mozart but this appears to have

John McCain RIP

Senator John McCain, perhaps the best leader the free world never quite had, has died at the age of 81 after a long battle with cancer. As Tim Stanley wrote on twitter this morning, " The Vietnamese interrogated, cut and beat him. They put him in solitary. Then they discovered he was important and offered him release before those who'd been held longer.  He refused.  He.  Refused.  So they tortured him again. Never mind the politics, this was an incredible human being. " Theresa May wrote about him that, " John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self. It was an honour to call him a friend of the UK. My deepest sympathies go to his family, and the American people ." He will be missed. Rest in Peace.

Quotes of the day 26th August 2018

Four quotes from US Senator John McCain (1936-2018)

Of Bots, Ballots, Babies and Bugs

The British people and the Russian people are not enemies. Over the past two hundred and fifty years we have stood together more often than not, including in both the great wars of the 20th century. British soldiers, sailors and aircrew have fought alongside those of Russia against tyrants and dictators from Napoleon to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. In World War II in particular the Russian people made enormous sacrifices to defeat possibly the most evil cause in history, that of the Nazi regime - and it is sadly all too often forgotten that thousands of British sailors risked their lives in horrible and very dangerous conditions to get supplies to Murmansk to help the Russian people in that struggle. I had an uncle who was a radio officer on a merchant ship on that convoy route. But although there is no good reason why Britain and Russia should be enemies and I absolutely refute any suggestion that we have done anything since the end of the original cold war to justify Russian enmity, the

Music to relax after campaigning: Telemann: Trio Sonata in D Minor


Campaigning in Carlisle

Went to Carlisle today to support Syed Ali (Conservative candidate for Carlisle City Council) and Geoffrey Osborne (Conservative candidate for Cumbria County Council) in the two by-elections for councillors to represent Denton Holme on 6th September 2018. The by-elections were caused by the sad death of the late Councillor Hugh McDevitt, with whom I served briefly on CCC. I did not know him well or share his politics but I do know that he was widely respected across the political divide as someone who worked hard for Denton Holme. Whoever wins these by-elections, I hope they will work as hard for the residents of the area as Hugh did, and I went to campaign for Geoffrey and Syed because I am sure that they would do precisely that if elected.

Quote of the day 25 August 2018

Another day, another blog post or article from another person on why they feel they have to resign from the Labour party. Here are some extracts from " Red Lines " by Douglass Dowell on why he is leaving Labour. " I cannot and will not go on doorsteps and pretend that a government with Jeremy Corbyn in 10 Downing Street, John McDonnell next door and Seumas Milne whispering in his ear would leave our democratic culture uncorroded. The fabric of our democracy already feels thinner than it did: a Corbyn Government would pull more threads out." "I do not believe that these people have changed their views after a lifetime of extremism. And I cannot stand behind them. I believe political power derives its legitimacy from our elected Parliament. I believe politicians have no business trying to rouse the streets to eject democratic governments. I believe in liberal constitutionalism and the rule of law. And I do not trust Corbyn, McDonnell or Milne to guard them

On traffic delays ...

Attended two meetings in respect of traffic this week: a public meeting about the planned traffic calming measures in Moor Row on Wednesday evening and an A595 working group in Penrith with highways England today. Ironically the A66 (which is one of the roads managed by Highways England) completely froze up in the Penrith area making most of the participants in today's meeting late, including myself. It reminded me of a line which John MacGregor MP, a very polite man, used to use when he was Secretary of State for Transport in John Major's government. I'm quoting from an old memory and may not have the words exactly right but I'm certain I remember the sense correctly. " This is the first job I've held ," he used to say, " in which, if the person I'm meeting is late, I feel I have to apologise. " Fuller reports back on both meetings will be posted over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Quotes of the day 24th August 2018

Here are the responses of three Labour MPs to the video of Jeremy Corbyn, at a meeting five years ago while he was a backbench Labour MP and before he became Labour Leader, saying that a group of " thankfully silent Zionists " at an earlier meeting " do not understand English irony " despite having lived here for a long time and possibly all their lives. The Jewish Chronicle report on the story is here and includes a link to a recording of a major part of the event which allows you to see the full speech in context. Jeremy Corbyn started speaking about seven minutes into that recording. They have also published here a piece by Daniel Sugarman explaining why he thinks Jeremy Corbyn's comments were racist. Quote 1 "Just seen the video of Jeremy Corbyn talking about irony and Zionism.  Scream at me all you want but    a) yes troubling to see and hear that and     b) yes think he should account for tone, content and co speakers.  We will not heal t

New Chemotherapy unit at WCH

A newly renovated chemotherapy unit is to open at the West Cumberland hospital. The Henderson Suite has now moved to its new home at the former special care baby unit on level 2 and will be able to deliver treatment to more patients than before. Dawn Sanderson chemotherapy lead nurse said: “We are very excited about the new suite it will benefit staff and patients alike. The new area will allow for up to ten patients to receive chemotherapy rather than the current six, so we are able to treat more people quicker. It is a more calming and relaxed atmosphere and there are also dedicated car parking spaces for chemotherapy patients.  “We currently see more than 200 patients a month and we hope that this new unit will mean we are able to deliver care to more people locally. It means that more oncology or Haematology patients who live closer to WCH will be able to receive treatment closer to home.  “For staff the new space is a new fresh environment with space for staff to hold in

Second quote of the day 23rd August 2018

"Well done to everyone collecting their #GCSEresults today. Whether you want to go on to an apprenticeship, study further or start working, we're determined to help you succeed."  ( Theresa May , Prime Minister)

Many a true word is spoken in jest: Tracey Ullman's "Alternative opinions" sketch

Although I find this sketch from Tracey Ullman funny - indeed, when I first watched it I laughed so loudly that my son and daughter came running to see what was going on - that isn't the main reason why I've posted it here. I've put this up because I think that the theme of the joke - that many people do have difficulty with the fact that others don't see the world the same way, and worse, with the idea that those individuals are not necessarily evil, stupid or even wrong - reflects a real issue. One which is having a damaging effect on politics here in Britain and around the world. It may well be that imagining that people who think differently are at best wrong, and at worst evil, has historically been the default position for homo sapiens, but I used to think I had grown up in a country which prided itself on tolerance of different opinions. Over the last three or four years that confidence has taken some bad knocks. This clip has been shared on social media by

Quote of the day 23rd August 2018


Midweek music spot: Henry Purcell's Birthday Songs for Queen Mary

"Come, Ye Sons of Art" and "Sound the Trumpet," composed by Henry Purcell for Queen Mary's birthday in 1694.

Quote of the day 22nd August 2018


Public meeting on Moor Row Traffic Calming

There will be a public information meeting at the club in Moor Row at 6pm tomorrow evening (22nd August 2018) to inform local residents about plans for traffic calming in the village which the County Council is planning to implement in response to local concerns about speeding and safety.

Quote of the day 21st August 2018


From the Edinburgh fringe 2018

" Working at the JobCentre has to be a tense job - knowing that if you get fired, you still have to come in the next day. " This line from Adam Rowe was voted the best joke of this year's Edinburgh fringe. The rest of the top ten were: 2) " I had a job drilling holes for water - it was well boring " (Leo Kearse) 3) " I took out a loan to pay for an exorcism. If I don't pay it back, I'm going to get repossessed " (Olaf Falafel) 4) " In my last relationship, I hated being treated like a piece of meat. She was a vegan and refused to touch me " (Daniel Audritt) 5) " What do colour blind people do when they are told to eat their greens ?" (Flo and Joan) 6) " I've got a new job collecting all the jumpers left in the park at the weekends, but it's not easy. They keep moving the goalposts " (Darren Walsh) 7) " Trump said he'd build a wall but he hasn't even picked up a brick. He's

Quote of the day 20th August 2018


Sunday music spot: "Now vanish before the holy beams" (from Haydn's Creation)


Quote of the day 19th August 2018

" Easy " and " Solution " are words which should be banned from grown-up political discourse. Only crossword puzzles and the mysteries of Hercule Poirot are amenable to being "solved." Grown-up politics and grown-up government are about wrestling with intractable dilemmas which are almost bound to deliver compromises and fudges. (Max Hastings, from an article in The Times called " There's no such thing as easy-peasy politics .") The article finishes with the following paragraph: "In an era of doubt about many things, one certainty glistens: any politician who asserts that answers to the problems posed by immigration, education, the NHS, railways, productivity or that interminable cross-Chanel negotiation are easy-peasy should be dismissed as a charlatan."

Reflections following a holiday in Ireland: part one

I have just returned from a brief family holiday in Ireland, staying with relatives in the Western part of the island. The holiday inspired a number of reflections on various issues, but let me start with a few comments on the border between the United Kingdom and the country of Ireland. In less than a year when Britain leaves the EU this will become the one land border between Britain and the EU. During the course of our stay in Ireland we crossed over the border in both directions more times than we could count. It was not unusual during a thirty mile drive between the homes of two family members on the same side of the border in places like County Leitrim and County Donegal to find that the recommended quickest route put forward by the satnav took you over the border several times. It has so often been remarked in recent British political debate by those who pay any attention to what goes on in Ireland as to become almost commonplace that the only way you can tell when you cro

Saturday music spot: My heart is inditing by G. F. Händel


Quote of the day 18th August 2018


Misquote of the day 17th August 2018

I always include a quote of the day on this blog, but today I also want to refer to a misquote - as Stephen Bush writes in the New Statesman, " Everyone- is getting very excited about something Margaret Hodge didn't actually say ." The words of a Sky News tweet, which creates the impression that she made a much more direct comparison between the present leadership of the Labour party and the Nazi Regime from which her family fled than was actually the case have been quoted as if it was a fair reflection of her words. Stephen Bush makes the important point that those of us whose families have never at any time in the last few centuries had to flee for our lives from an oppressive regime can easily miss the point which was being made. You can read his article in full here .

Quote of the day 17th August 2018

"You can't stop people from saying bad things about you. All you can do is make them liars." ( Thomas Sowell , American Economist)

Quote of the day 16th August 2018

"While it is true that you learn with age, the down side is that what you learn is often what a damn fool you were before." ( Thomas Sowell , American Economist)

Midweek music spot: Bach's Harpsichord Concerto No.1 in D Minor


Quote of the day 15th August 2018


Quote of the day 14th August 2018

You may have noticed I have been having something of a Thomas Sowell quote week. No apology for repeating, not for the first time or, probably, the last, one of his insights which I think is particularly powerful in a whole host of spheres, not just economics and politics. It is very rare indeed- though when such an opportunity does come along, it should be grabbed with both hands - that you can improve something with no negative consequences at all. Most opportunities to improve one thing come with a cost in terms of something else. The challenge is to ensure that you pick the trade-offs where the benefits outweigh the costs - and do your best to pay attention to limit the damage in those areas where you lose out.

Quote of the day 13th August 2018

“We should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.” ( Thomas Sowell , American Economist)

Sunday music spot: "Cessate, omai cessate" by Vivaldi

Music by Antonio Vivaldi: sung by countertenor Andreas Scholl. I understand that the words of this lament for unrequited love translate as follows: "Cease, henceforth cease, cruel memories of despotic love;  heartless and pitiless, you have turned my happiness into immense sorrow.  Cease, henceforth cease to tear my breast, to pierce my soul,  to rob my heart of peace and calm. Wretched, injured and forsaken you are, my heart,  if a tyrannical passion can rob you of tranquillity because a pitiless countenance, a faithless soul,  harbours and nurtures nothing but cruelty."

Quote of the day 12th August 2018

"Conservatism at its most powerful has been Reagan pulling down walls, Margaret Thatcher espousing single markets, William Hague insisting on human rights or David Cameron bringing in gay marriage. It’s not my creed, but conservatism at its best and most dynamic has long been a marriage of social and economic liberalism. Orbanisation is the death of conservatism." ( David Aaronovitch in an article in The Times on the difference between liberal and authoritarian types of Conservatism. It's behind a paywall but those who have either paid up or registered to receive a number of free articles per week can read it here .)

Saturday music spot: Dixit dominus (1st movement) by G F Handel


Quote of the day 11th August 2018

"You cannot subsidize irresponsibility and expect people to become more responsible."  ( Thomas Sowell , American Economist)

Quote of the day 10th August 2018

" For what it’s worth, I don’t think Boris should face an investigation or be suspended. You’re allowed to debate the burqa and ridicule religion.  Just think he should, as a senior politician, know that his words carry weight, that he has a responsibility to act with sensitivity.  Boris is a smart man. He should know his comments may inflame tensions and toxify a serious debate. With little real debate about the burqa, he may have had the right to say what he did but whether it was wise and helpful is another question. " ( Salman Anwar , from a very intelligent and balanced piece about "Boris, Burqas, free speech and Islam" which you can read in full here .)

USA to impose sanctions against Russia over Novichok attack

The USA has announced that it will impose fresh sanctions on Russia by the end of August after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain. Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door. European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office. Another two residents of the Salisbury area were subsequently taken to hospital after coming into contact with a container of the Novichok nerve agent used in the attack, one of whom, mother of three Dawn Sturgess, died in July as a result. Her partner Charlie Rowley was also taken ill after being exposed to the nerve agent. State De

Quote of the day 9th August 2018

" Here’s a rule of thumb: no one asking a think-tank who its donors are is interested in the answer. The question is not meant to elicit information, but to delegitimise. " ( Dan Hannan MEP in an article on declining standards in the legacy media which you can read here .)

Midweek music spot: Pachelbel's Canon & Gigue in D major (c. 1700.)


Greg Clark visits Sellafield

Secretary of State Greg Clark visited Sellafield's iconic legacy facilities yesterday. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was given an insight into the complexities of the Cumbrian nuclear plant. Mr Clark’s visit included a rare glimpse inside the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP). The open-air pond was originally used to store used nuclear fuel from the Magnox reactors - the UK’s first generation of nuclear power stations that generated low-carbon electricity for more than half a century. Now 66 years old, the FGMSP is one of a number of buildings prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). Greg Clark commented: "Decommissioning is a crucial leg of the nuclear journey and the highly-skilled and committed team at Sellafield are using cutting-edge technology to ensure they meet the highest safety standards and lead the world in decommissioning. This important work is in huge demand around the world