Friday, November 30, 2018

David Aaronovitch writes about George Soros

There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons why some people disagree with the billionaire financier George Soros.

Whether you are pro or any Brexit, I would hope we can all agree that those Brexit supporters who object to a rich man who does not live in Britain and is not a British citizen spending significant amounts of money campaigning against Britain leaving the EU are not necessarily being Anti-Semitic or racist - they would express that opinion regardless of the race of the person spending the money.

Equally it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that some of the attacks which have been made on him and his Open Society Foundations (OSF)by authoritarian leaders around the world, starting with Vladimir Putin and continued by Victor Orban in Hungary, President Erdogan of Turkey, and many others, has been a classic example of scapegoating by regimes looking for someone else to blame for their failures.

Nor is there any doubt in my mind that some of that scapegoating can reasonably be classified as Anti-Semitic under the IHRA working definition.

Incidentally one of the governments George Soros has criticised, and which has severely criticised him back, is Binyamin Netanyahu's government in Israel, not that you would ever guess that from some of the Anti-Semitic attacks which have been made on him.

There is an interesting article by David Aaronovitch in The Times which you can read here if you are registered to read articles on that paper's website. (They have a paywall, but you can register without charge to be able to read a certain number of articles free of charge.) Aaronovitch argues that in some cases attacks on Soros are reviving old Anti-Semitic tropes.

It ought to be possible to disagree in measured language with the political positions taken by George Soros and OSF without being accused of Anti-Semitism. But Aaronovitch has a point.

The part of the article which for many people will give the most powerful reason to think twice about agreeing with criticisms of Mr Soros is when it lists his enemies.

"Putin doesn’t like Soros. Nor does Erdogan. Nor does Orban. Nor does the deputy prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini. Nor does Binyamin Netanyahu. And nor does Donald Trump. Indeed, given that Soros was something of a Reagan Republican, the conversion of the American right to an anti-Soros position is in some ways astonishing as well as alarming. 

This summer, Nigel Farage appeared on Fox News to talk about the protests against Trump’s visit to Britain. Farage was allowed to say, without any challenge, that Soros was trying to “flood Europe” with migrants inan organised attempt on a huge scale to undermine nation states, to undermine democracy, and to fundamentally change the make-up, demographically, of the European continent.Then Farage added,But I tell you something, if you criticise Soros his media friends will accuse you of being an antisemite. It is quite extraordinary and I really feel that in many ways Soros is the biggest danger to the entire western world.To which his interviewer simply replied, 'And he has very deep pockets, as we know'.”

Anyone who has that list of enemies has to have done something right.

A595 Whitehaven Relief road public consultation THREE WEEKS TO GO

Regular readers of this blog will know, but I make no apology for another reminder, that there is a current public consultation about a possible A595 relief road for Whitehaven. 

I believe this has the potential to significantly improve the viability of West Cumberland Hospital and outcomes for patients, as well as having great benefits for the local economy and for the quality of live of residents of the villages in the area affected by rat-running.

This is a first stage consultation by Highways England who have not yet defined a route for the proposed new road and they continue to assure me that they are genuinely interested in suggestions from local stakeholders and the public about where the road should go. (Apparently there have already been a large number of positive and constructive points made.)

One of the suggestions which has been discussed between local county councillors and Highways England is the possibility that the relief road could include a specific spur to the hospital. The most likely route - East of Whitehaven from approximately the present Moresby roundabout at the South end of the Distington by-pass to a point between Westlakes and Moor Row - would make this relatively easy to add.

Clearly this would be a huge benefit to ambulances and patients needing to get to WCH in a hurry - and I doubt if I need to spell out to anyone reading this the potential benefit in terms of patient outcomes from that - but it would also make it easier for staff and resources to get to the West Cumberland and thereby improve the viability of the hospital. 

The proposed new relief road is not dependent on Moorside and it is a serious proposal. At the start of this month Transport secretary Chris Grayling came in person to Copeland to kick off the consultation on the proposed Whitehaven Relief Road and announced his "Cast Iron Commitment" to improving Cumbria's Roads as you can read on the government website at

Chris Grayling said:
  • "Investing in Cumbria’s vital transport routes cuts congestion, ensures drivers enjoy faster, safer journeys, and increases the freight capacity needed to drive forward jobs and economic growth." 
  • "This shows our cast-iron commitment to Cumbria, as we deliver the investment needed to provide businesses and commuters with more reliable and resilient journeys." 
  • The Secretary of State for transport also confirmed ongoing discussions with local partners on proposals to progress development of a major programme of upgrades on the Cumbrian Coast rail line to support expected major investments in West Cumbria and the creation of new jobs.

The consultation formally began on Wednesday 7th November 2018 and lasts until 19th December 2018. Consultation survey forms were sent out to residents in the Whitehaven area and for some distance around and I was pleased to learn this week that hundreds have already been returned.

You can also read details of the sort of new road which might come forward and the questions being asked in the consultation, and respond online at

I believe that we need this road and that it would be particularly helpful if as many people as possible responded to the consultation and said so, and if they also included in their response that it would be a very good idea - and very probably save lives - if the relief road included a spur to West Cumberland Hospital.

If you want to respond to the consultation you can do so using any of the four following methods by 19 December 2018:

  • Online – complete the response form online using the above link
  • Complete the consultation response form in the consultation brochure and return it using the freepost address provided 
  • Email your response to: 
  • Post – write to Highways England at: 

Business Reply Plus Licence Number RTZS–CEET–CSXR WSP
Amber Court
William Armstrong Drive
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear NE4 7YQ

All responses should be returned by 19 December 2018.

Reminder: "Saturday Chataway" with Trudy Harrison MP tomorrow

The next "Saturday Chataway" surgery with Trudy Harrison MP and local councillors (councillors of all parties and levels have been invited) will take place at Captain Shaw's school in Bootle from 10am to 12 noon at Captain Shaw's School in Bootle tomorrow (Saturday, 1st December 2018).

All residents of the constituency are welcome to bring your concerns, problems or issues.

Quote of the day 30th November 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Russia's shameful blockade of the Kerch Straits

While I understand that Brexit is taking up a lot of the attention of the UK press, it is a matter of great regret that less attention has been paid to Vladimir Putin's outrageous and extremely dangerous acts of aggression in the Kerch Straits and the Sea of Azov.

In 2003 a treaty between Russia and Ukraine guaranteed ships of both nations passage through the Kerch straits, a narrow stretch of water between the Crimea and Russia which is the only way to sail from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov and therefore the only access to the open sea from several Russian and Ukrainian ports on that sea.

Last Sunday, in what appears to have been an unprovoked and egregious violation of that treaty, Russian units fired on several Ukrainian ships which were attempting to pass through the Kerch straits on their way from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Russia seized the Ukrainian vessels and 23 members of their crews.

This is the latest chapter in a campaign of Russian harassment of Ukraine in the Sea of Asov which has been going on since 2015, as Andrew Foxall writes here. By building a bridge over the straits, parking a tanker underneath it, and now ramming and shooting at Ukrainian vessels Putin's regime has been gradually turning up what now amounts to a blockade.

Russia is playing a dangerous game which could easily exacerbate the undeclared war that they have effectively been waging against Ukraine. I would have liked to see more vigorous protests from the West against this breach of both an international treaty and the principle of freedom of the seas.

Watch out for poor weather if travelling today

This week's inclement weather has continued and a number of roads in Cumbria and the North West have been seriously affected by water on the road, fallen trees, and accidents.

Do take care if you need to travel.

Copeland Conservatives website relaunched

Copeland Conservatives have been using a temporary website for the past 18 months which gave contact details for the association and for Trudy Harrison MP but had limited functionality.

As of this morning our new website has gone live at

New features include a "Pothole patrol" survey where residents can nominate any potholes or particularly bad stretches of road which you think should receive part of the £12 million the government has given Cumbria to improve and repair local roads.

You can access that survey here.

Government legal advice

There are suggestions from a number of people who really ought to know better that the government should not just provide a balanced briefing for MPs on the legal advice they have received, and not just publish a summary of the advice as they have agreed to do, but publish the advice in full.

This would be an act of insanity.

The line from CCC this morning reads

"Legal advice

We’ve already committed to providing Parliament with a full, reasoned position statement. There is a longstanding convention, followed by successive governments, that legal advice to the government remain confidential. This enables government to receive frank and full legal advice in confidence, just as everyone else can."

I think that is entirely reasonable. The point about full legal advice is that it includes an assessment of the weaknesses as well as strengths of your own position.

Providing that sort of detail to the other side in a negotiation (or dispute or court case) by publishing it is so utterly foolish that I struggle to find adequate words to describe how irresponsible it is to push for the British government to do such a thing.
There can indeed be circumstances when it is appropriate as part of an after-the-event review and scrutiny process, in order to learn lessons for the future from a past event, to publish retrospectively the full legal advice in relation to a dispute, case or negotiation which has finished.

That is not the position in respect of the EU deal.

Granted, there is a proposed withdrawal agreement on the table which the EU currently say they would be unwilling to re-open negotiations about. But that is not the end of the story - the "Political declaration" is all about the further negotiations towards a trade deal.

And I am sure that everyone who is reading this will know the saying which applies to all EU negotiations - "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

Those who are pushing for the government to publish in full the legal advice it has received about the EU negotiations and deals either have not thought this through or do not care if they undermine Britain's negotiating position.

Quote of the day 29th November 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

PM condemns Anti-Semitism and Mysogyny

Earlier this week Prime Minister Theresa May delivered an impassioned speech condemning antisemitism and misogyny - only minutes after leaving the Commons following a gruelling session over her Brexit deal.
In what the Jewish Chroncle described as "a remarkable display of energy" the Prime Minister opted not to pull out of a pre-planned speaking engagement to address a conference on antisemitism, despite having just spent more than two hours defending her EU withdrawal agreement to angry MPs.
Speaking to a Downing Street reception on Monday evening, the PM said it was "clear that in 2018 Jewish women are under dual attack".
Echoing the theme of the Sara Conference that took place in Westminster, she said MPs such as Luciana Berger who she said were "abused for being women and abused for being Jewish".
The Sara Conference, the first of its kind, spent the day exploring the relationship between hatred of Jews and hatred of women, discussing new research that found Jewish female MPs faced 15 percent more abuse than their male counterparts.
Hinting at Labour's antisemitism crisis, Mrs May said the abuse "does not always come from the right."
She added: "Hatred directed at Jewish women also comes from those who would never consider themselves racist, including within the women's rights movement.
"Some Jewish women have been told they are not real feminists unless they disavow Israel's right to exist.
"Or have been thrown off Pride marches because they feature the Star of David.
"Actions are often justified by the canyard that antisemitism isn't real racism. Well I've not time for equivocation. Antisemitism is racism.
"Any equality movement that indulges or ignores it is not worthy of its name."
The Prime Minister also mentioned Claire Kober, the former Haringey Council leader who had stepped down "after facing torrent of abuse in which she said the only thing worse than the sexism was the antisemtism".
Ms Kober was among those present at the Downing Street reception on Monday evening alongside Labour MPs Ruth Smeeth, Ms Berger and Ian Austin.
Also at the gathering were the Community Security Trust chairman Gerard Ronson and deputy director of communications Dave Rich.
The PM also paid tribute to the work of another attendee, Karen Pollock, praising the Holocaust Educational Trust's Lesson To Auschwitz visit to Poland last week.
She said: "As the Chancellor announced in last month’s Budget, we will also provide £1.7 million for school programmes marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.
"And we are continuing to support the Holocaust Educational Trust, not just backing its Lessons From Auschwitz programme but extending it to cover universities. The first students and university leaders to take part in the new scheme travelled to Poland just last week."

Hath not a Muslim eyes?

Paul Goodman, the editor of Conservative Home, has an excellent piece on the site called "Hath not a Muslim eyes?" which is, of course, an oblique reference to the speech in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" in which his character Shylock reminds us that Jews are human beings.

The article is a response to attempts by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims to put forward a working definition of prejudice against Muslims which might perform the same function as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of Anti-Semitism.

As Paul says, it is to the credit of the all-party group that they have not attempted to silence criticism of religion as opposed to prejudice against the human beings who believe in that religion. He writes:

Criticism of religion is a fundamental right in an open society and is enshrined in our commitment to freedom of speech,” it says in its report, Islamophobia Defined, which proposes the definition.  But if people are to be free to be phobic about Islam – or Judaism, or Christianity, or atheism, or any other form of belief – would it really make sense for public policy to target something called Islamophobia, any more than it might target, say, Judaeophobia, Christianopobia or Atheismopobia?  Wouldn’t government do better to take aim at anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice?"

I think we do need a definition of prejudice against Muslims. I'm not sure that "Islamophobia" is the best name for it since we are talking about how to reduce prejudice against a group of human beings rather than suggesting that it is racist to disagree with a religion.

You can read the full article here.

Midweek Music Spot: "In The Navy " (Down Periscope)

Village People's song "In the Navy" - this video is the closing credits sequence from the Kelsey Grammer nautical comedy "Down Periscope" and features the band Village People themselves, the cast of the film, and a few clips from it. This post dedicated to the Royal Navy Submarine Service.

Postscript 2022: I noticed in March 2022 from this blog's traffic counters that a significant number of people were looking at this 2018 post. Then I realised that the Youtube video which it linked to was no longer available. But fortunately, there is an updated version of that video so here it is instead!

Notes from yesterday's Copeland local committee

The Copeland local committee of Cumbria County Council met yesterday at Cleator Moor.

More detail to follow on some of these points but the meeting included

1) A very interesting and positive presentation from the deputy head of Millom School about access to higher education and how the school has used a grant from the local committee.

2) Update on the Terms of Reference: under this item a previous decision to co-opt the elected mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie as a non-voting member of the committee was confirmed and it was agreed that we will also invite the deputy mayor, Cllr David Moore and the new chairman of the Copeland branch of CALC (Cumbria Association of Local Councils, which represents Parish and Town Councils in the county) Cllr Andy Pratt. to attend.

3) Consultation on the A595 and proposed Whitehaven Relief Road - a very useful discussion on what should be fed into the County Council's response to this Highways England consultation, of which more anon.

4) Whitehaven Traffic Regulation Orders - a number of changes to parking restrictions which have been the subject of public consultation were approved.

5) Moresby Parks traffic calming - measures which have been the subject of public consultation and to which all the responses were positive were approved.

6) Delegated highways budget. Cumbria has been given £12 million pounds by the government to spend by the end of March on urgent highways repairs and improvement. Some of this will be spent centrally and some by the six local committees, and of that latter part over £800,000 is coming to Copeland.

This will not fix every pothole or bad road in Copeland - that would take more like £16 million and we would not have the capacity to get it all done by the end of March anyway - but it will get an awful lot of the worst potholes fixed and mean that several really bad stretches of road which would otherwise have had to wait until 2020 or 2021 to be fixed can now be done this winter. We had an initial discussion about possible targets for where this should be spent.  

Next Saturday Chataway with Trudy Harrison MP - Captain Shaw's Bootle

The next "Saturday Chataway" surgery with Trudy Harrison MP and local councillors (councillors of all parties and levels have been invited) will take place at Captain Shaw's school in Bootle from 10am to 12 noon at Captain Shaw's School in Bootle this coming Saturday, 1st December 2018.

All residents of the constituency are welcome to bring your concerns, problems or issues.

Quote of the day 28th November 2018

“One of the most pathetic — and dangerous — signs of our times is the growing number of individuals and groups who believe that no one can possibly disagree with them for any honest reason.” 

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Actually this probably should not just be quote of the day, but quote of the year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Reminder: A595 consultation events tomorrow and Thursday

There are two more "drop-in surgery" public consultation events at which residents of West Cumbria can learn about, discuss with Highways England, and respond to the proposals for a Whitehaven relief road, The first is tomorrow at the Beacon Portal at Whitehaven Harbour and the second is on Thursday at Westlakes.

Full details as follows:

Date Time Venue Address

Wednesday 28 November 2pm – 7pm Beacon Museum The Beacon Portal, West Strand, Whitehaven, CA28 7LY
Thursday 29 November 10am – 2pm Ingwell Hall (Gunson Room) Ingwell Drive, Westlakes Science and Technology Park, Moor Row, Whitehaven, Cumbria, CA24 3JZ

You can also read details of the consultation material and respond online at

The consultation continues until 19th December.

They Also Served

Many words which have been written or repeated in the past 48 hours memory of the late Baroness Trumpington, a wonderful woman who died yesterday at the age of 96. Some of the most moving, which are reproduced below, are an extract from a speech she gave in support of a posthumous pardon for the brilliant mathematician and Bletchley codebreaker Alan Turing.

She described how civilians who worked at Bletchley park during the war as Foreign Office employees did not originally get any recognition for their work. For many years after the war what the Enigma Code breakers had done was still secret. But someone who realised how unfair it was that people who had carried out work without which we would probably have lost the war had no recognition at all for it decided that they should be entitled to what the noble lady described as a "slightly ridiculous" badge which said "I also served."

The words "They also served" should serve as a reminder to us that behind a description which may at first view appear appropriate to quite modest achievements can sometimes be found quite remarkable service.

Quote of the day 27th November 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Baroness Trumpington RIP

Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington, Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and Privy Councillor, has died at the age of 96.

She was one of the most popular politicians of any party because she was one of the most authentic; she would say exactly what she thought to anyone, including Margaret Thatcher when she served as one of her ministers.

(Mrs Thatcher valued Lady Trumpington for this - contrary to the impression which many have of her, Margaret Thatcher liked people who stood up to her; she was well aware that not enough people had the courage to tell her what they really thought and appreciated the counsel of those who did.)

Jean Campbell-Harris (as she then was) spent most of World War II working in Naval intelligence at Bletchley Park, serving in the team which cracked German naval codes. 

After the war she had a rich and varied career which included serving as a city councillor, county councillor, Mayor of Cambridge and JP before being made  UK Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women by Mrs Thatcher and appointed to the House of Lords as a life peer, where she gave long and distinguished service, serving as a minister in both the Thatcher and Major governments before retiring from the Lords last year, the day after her 95th birthday.

Her husband having died in 1988 she is survived by her son Adam Barker and two grandchildren.

Rest in Peace.

Winter is icumin in ...

Take care if you are driving anywhere in Cumbria or northern Britain today or tomorrow.

Watch out particularly for ice.

It is not that unusual at this time of year to have to clear ice from a car's windows first thing in the morning, as I did at the start of today.

However, it is unusual to park your car at a meeting which starts at teatime and find when it finishes three hours or so later, several hours before midnight, that you have to clear ice off the windscreen
before you can safely drive home. I had to do that this evening.

Theresa May's Statement at the EU council about the Brexit deal

The Prime Minister’s Press Statement at the EU Council, 25 November 2018

"Today marks the culmination of a long and difficult process of negotiation between the UK and the EU. 

There were those who said that reaching a Brexit agreement that worked for both sides was an impossible task. 

From the start, I rejected that counsel of despair and set about negotiating a deal that worked for the UK and the EU – one that delivered on the result of the referendum and set us on course for a prosperous future while maintaining a close relationship with our friends and neighbours. Thanks to the hard work of both sets of negotiators, that is what we have today agreed.

I want to take a few moments to speak directly to the British people and explain what this deal means. 

First, control of our borders. Not an emergency brake on free movement or a promise of greater transition controls in the future – but an end to the free movement of people, in full, once and for all. That is what this deal delivers. It will allow us to put in place an immigration system based not on where people come from but on the skills and talents they have to offer. That is in our national interest.

Second, control of our money. Not a reduction in our membership fee, not a bigger budget rebate – but an end to vast annual payments being sent to the EU. That is what this deal delivers. Instead, we will be able to spend taxpayers’ money on our priorities, like the £394 million per week of extra investment we are putting into our NHS. That is in our national interest. 

Third, control over our laws. Not just the return of some areas of control from Brussels – but an end to the jurisdiction of the ECJ in the UK, with our laws being made in our country by democratically elected politicians, interpreted and enforced by British courts. That is what this deal delivers and that is in our national interest.

In agriculture, it does not just deliver a better deal under the Common Agricultural Policy, it takes us out of the CAP completely, meaning we can design new systems of support for farmers that work for the UK. 

And in fishing, it does not just deliver a bigger annual quota within the Common Fisheries Policy, it sets us free of the CFP for good and forever. The UK will be an independent coastal state once again, in full sovereign control of our waters, able to decide for ourselves who we allow to fish in them, with that access not tied to any other aspect of our economic partnership. That is in our national interest too.

On borders, laws and money – this deal delivers for the British people.

But I have been just as determined that as well as taking back control, this should be a deal that protects the things we value in our relationship with our European friends and sets us on course for a future of opportunity and prosperity. This deal does that too.

If your family’s livelihood depends on a skilled job in our manufacturing sector, you need a deal that keeps goods flowing easily across borders and keeps supply chains intact. This deal does that. We will be outside the single market and the customs union but have an economic partnership with the EU closer than any other country enjoys. Good for business and in our national interest. 

If you are one of the over 3 million EU citizens who has come and built your life in the UK – come to be our colleagues, our neighbours and our friends – you need a deal that guarantees your rights. If you are one of the almost 1 million UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU, you need the same. This deal delivers for you all.

And because each one of us is made safer by the close security co-operation between the UK and the EU, we all need a deal that keeps that close partnership intact and this deal does that too.

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom I have felt very keenly my responsibility to deliver a deal that works for the whole UK and for all of its parts. So what we have agreed protects the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. We rejected proposals which would have compromised that integrity and insisted on keeping all parts of our UK in a single customs territory – this deal delivers that. It also honours the solemn commitment we made to the people of Northern Ireland that there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. 

This deal will safeguard the hard-won progress of the last twenty years and allow the people of that part of our United Kingdom to carry on living their lives as they do today.

This is a deal that works for the whole UK family – including our Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies.

On Gibraltar, we have worked constructively with Spain throughout this process.

And I want to thank Fabian Picardo for the statesmanlike role he has played.

We have ensured that Gibraltar is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and by the Implementation Period.

Let no-one be in any doubt: for the future partnership the UK will be negotiating for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar. 

I am proud that Gibraltar is British and its constitutional status will not change.  

The deal we have agreed today unlocks a bright future for the UK. Outside the EU we will be able to strike new trade deals around the world and open up new markets in the world’s fastest growing economies. 

We will be able to focus our energies on the many other important issues that matter to the British people at home. Creating more good jobs and spreading prosperity more widely, taking care of our public services like the NHS and schools, building more homes, and tackling the social injustices that prevent too many people fulfilling their potential.

In any negotiation, you do not get everything you want. You need to identify what your vital interests are and stick to them, but be prepared to compromise in other areas in order to achieve a result. I think the British people understand that. When they look at this deal they will see it is a good one for our country and that it is in the national interest for everyone to get behind it. 

It honours the referendum, protects what we value and sets us on course for a bright future. 

Today marks the culmination of our exit negotiations with the EU –  but it also marks the start of a crucial national debate in our country over the next few weeks. 

Before Christmas, MPs will vote on this deal. It will be one of the most significant votes that Parliament has held for many years. On it will depend whether we move forward together into a brighter future or open the door to yet more division and uncertainty.

The British people don't want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit. They want a good deal done that fulfils the vote and allows us to come together again as a country.

So I will take this deal back to the House of Commons confident we have achieved the best deal available and full of optimism about the future of our country. In Parliament and beyond it, I will make the case for this deal with all my heart and I look forward to that campaign."

Theresa May
Prime Minister

Quote of the day 26th November 2018

"Theresa May has been more faithful to the referendum mandate than most Leave advocates."

(Alistair Meeks in an article on the Political Betting site which you can read in full here)