Friday, October 18, 2019

MPs should back the deal

The new deal between Boris Johnson and the EU is not perfect. In this imperfect world no set of compromises with a chance of being agreed could be perfect.

But it is a reasonable compromise in which both sides have given ground.

Throughout the Brexit process people from every part of the political spectrum and both sides of the Brexit divide have put forward a whole herd unicorns - impossible ideas which had not chance of coming to fruition.

This deal is not a unicorn. It is a real offer which is on the table now and which MPs can and should approve tomorrow.

Many MPs have said that they would do anything they could to stop a "No Deal" Brexit.

Well there are only two ways to take a "No Deal" Brexit off the table.

One is to revoke Article 50 and try to cancel Brexit altogether. I believe that if MPs were that stupid there would be a backlash in the election which has to be held soon, which would certainly result in a good number of the MPs who voted for such a policy losing their seats, probably for a majority in parliament for leaving and quite possibly for leaving without a deal. It would be undemocratic, divisive, and I believe it would fail.

The better and more certain way to take a "No Deal" Brexit off the table is to agree a deal. We have a deal on the table.

This deal delivers the vast majority of what the people who voted Leave were told they were voting for without wrecking the British economy.

MPs who said when they voted for the Benn act that they were voting, not against their promises to respect the referendum, but to prevent a "no deal" exit from the EU now have the opportunity to agree something which delivers precisely that.

They should back the deal.

Helping lower income individuals and families onto the housing ladder

  • We want more people to get a foot on the housing ladder, benefitting from the stability of owning their own home.
  • That’s why we are giving housing association tenants in new properties the right to a shared ownership of their home. With a deposit as low as £2,000 they’ll be able to get a foot on the housing ladder, and then buy more of their home in as little as 1 per cent chunks – making buying your home much more affordable.
  • This means more and more hard-working people up and down the country will have the opportunity to own their home - so they can look forward to a brighter future for themselves and their family in their own home.

Quote of the day 18th October 2019

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Boris and the EU agree a new proposed deal

The Prime Minister has negotiated a new deal – this is a real Brexit deal which ensures that we take back control.
  • This new deal ensures that we take back control of our laws, trade, borders and money without disruption, and provides the basis of a new relationship with the EU based on free trade and friendly cooperation. 
  • Under the previous deal, Brussels had ultimate control and could have forced Britain to accept EU laws and taxes for ever. This new deal ensures that voters are in control. 
  • This is a deal which allows us to get Brexit done and leave the EU in two weeks’ time, so we can then focus on the people’s priorities and the country can come together and move on. 
  • We will leave the EU’s Customs Union as one United Kingdom and be able to strike trade deals all around the world. 
  • The Prime Minister has achieved what many said was impossible and negotiated a new deal so that we can respect the referendum result and get Brexit done on 31 October, without disruption and in a friendly way. 

Boris has been Prime Minister for 85 days. When he took over, everyone said it would be impossible to get a new deal and get Brussels to retreat. He’s pulled it off.

Boris has:
  • Forced Brussels to re-open the deal – something many said was impossible. 
  • Ensured Britain will no longer be bound by EU laws and taxes – something many said was impossible. 
  • Ended the supremacy of the European Court in Britain – something many said was impossible.
  • Removed the backstop and ensured that the people of Northern Ireland are in control of the laws they live by – something many said was impossible. 

Put simply, this new deal means:

1. Britain is out of all EU laws. We will be able to change our laws in a huge number of areas – from product standards to fishing rules to farming subsidies – where we are currently bound by EU rules. 2. We will be able to strike our own free trade deals. We will have an unqualified right to strike our own trade deals around the world, and the whole UK will participate in them.
3. European Court supremacy ends in Britain. It will be our courts, applying our laws, which will be the highest authority in the land.
4. We will be in control of our taxes. We will be able to change VAT rules and other tax laws that are currently determined by Brussels.
5. Northern Ireland will be in the UK customs territory forever. There is now no doubt that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s customs territory and will benefit from the free trade deals we strike. 6. The anti-democratic backstop has been abolished. The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and – unlike the backstop – will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose.

Northern Ireland
  • There will be a special arrangement for Northern Ireland, reflecting the unique circumstances there. We will guarantee – and reinforce – the peace process and avoid any issues at the border. 
  • Northern Ireland will have no hard border with the Republic or Great Britain, and will remain forever part of the UK customs territory. Northern Ireland will have access to the Single Market, but also be part of UK trade deals negotiated around the world. 
  • Crucially, this arrangement will be underpinned by the principle of democratic consent, through the ability to leave the special arrangement via a democratic vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Quote of the day 17th October 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A better deal for those who have served their country

Today, the Conservative government announced the initial mission of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, making it easier for veterans and their families to get the support they need. 
  • We are setting up the new Office for Veterans Affairs, which will work to deliver better outcomes for veterans, particularly in areas such as mental health, employment and housing. 
  • Veterans, not bureaucrats, will guide this work. 
  • That's why the Office will be led by retired Colonel David Richmond, the most senior officer injured in combat in Afghanistan, and a former Director of Recovery at Help for Heroes. 
  • By outlining the new office’s programme of work today, we are delivering on our commitment to ensure that the UK in the best place in the world to be a veteran.

Midweek music spot: "Blest Pair Of Sirens" (Parry)

Protecting the environment

Following the Queen's Speech on Monday, the Conservative government is introducing an Environment Bill to tackle the biggest environmental priorities of our time and protect our natural environment for generations to come.
  • Leaving the EU is a defining opportunity for the UK to set its own course and take ambitious action to protect our natural environment – and the need for action is clear.
  • Our landmark Environment Bill will cement the UK’s position as a world leader on air quality, environmental biodiversity and plastics reduction, with new measures and legally binding targets that will lead a green transformation, help tackle climate change and ensure governments are accountable, both now and in the future.
  • We are getting Brexit done to focus on the issues that really matter to people, like delivering on our commitment on tackling climate change, while keeping bills low, and leaving our precious planet in a better condition than we found it

Quote of the day 16th October 2019

"I ask myself: What if, two weeks after Jo Cox was murdered, a backbench Tory invited members of National Action to Parliament?

What if, while her murderer Thomas Mair was in court declaring ‘death to traitors’, that same Tory MP was outside at a ‘solidarity’ vigil?

What if that Tory MP had been willing to get himself arrested for the pleasure?
And what if he had written a cheery note to the organiser of the demo?

Now imagine that Tory MP ended up party leader one day. How would Labour MPs respond?

Would they cut his backbenchers the same slack they cut themselves? Would they shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Oh, they’re just being loyal party people’ or ‘He’s doing well in the polls’? Would they empathise with the Tory MPs and members who said they were staying to fight for their party’s ‘soul’?

Would they hell. They would be howling and marching and demanding every last Tory MP resign.

And they’d be right."

(Steven Daisley, extract from an article in the Spectator about why we should not forget Jeremy Corbyn's past actions and statements.)

The article from which the above extract is taken was retweeted this week by an MP, Ian Austin, who resigned from the Labour party for exactly the reasons it describes.

It concludes as follows:

"However unfashionable it may be right now, the past matters. Truth matters. Jeremy Corbyn’s character matters. And the character of this country – and what would become of it if we made this man our Prime Minister – matters. It may not be clever of us, the voters may not care, but some of us cannot move on."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Wages and Employment

New figures show that wages have risen again, ahead of prices for 19 consecutive months, meaning families have greater financial security and can plan for their future with confidence.
But the Conservatives won’t stop there. We will do our utmost to get Brexit done on 31st October, so we can move the country forwards and focus on the people’s priorities – investing in our NHS, tackling violent crime, and reducing the cost of living – including through increasing the National Living Wage to £10.50 per hour.
Labour won’t allow the country to move on from Brexit and their dangerous plans would wreck the economy – meaning higher taxes, more debt and fewer jobs.
Key Statistics:
  • Wages: Average weekly earnings for employees increased by 3.8 per cent compared with a year earlier – growing by 2.0 per cent after adjusting for inflation – meaning people have more money in their pockets.
  • Employment: 32.69 million (up 282,000 over the last year and up by 3.65 million since 2010).
  • Employment rate: 75.9 per cent (up 0.3 points over the past year and up 5.7 points since 2010).
  • Unemployment: 1.31 million (down 49,000 over the past year and down by 1.20 million since 2010).
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9 per cent (down 0.2 points over the past year and down 4.1 points since 2010) –more than halving since 2010 (8.0 per cent).
  • Youth unemployment: There are 445,000 fewer young people out of work since 2010 – almost halving since 2010.
The Conservative government is helping families with the cost of living so they have more money in their pockets and can provide for themselves and their families:
  • Raising wages to put more money in peoples’ pockets – increasing the National Living Wage to £10.50. The NLW is set to be £10.50 in 2024, benefiting over 4 million people with a full-time worker on the NLW seeing an increase in their annual pay of over £4,000 (Conservatives, 30 September 2019, link).
  • Keeping taxes low, having already cut taxes for 32 million working people so they can keep more of what they earn. To help people with the cost of living we have cut income tax by increasing the personal allowance to £12,500. A typical basic rate taxpayer now pays £1,205 less tax than in 2010 and we’ve increased the number of people taken out of income tax since 2015-16 to 1.74 million (HM Treasury, Autumn Budget 2018, 29 October 2018, link).
  • Doubling free child care to help parents with the cost of living. We are spending a record £6 billion on childcare support and are investing more than any other government in childcare, including £3.5 billion on early education entitlements this year alone (Parliament, WQ226095, 4 March 2019, link).
Labour would wreck our economy and leave people with less money in their pockets:
  • Labour have proposed a punitive new tax every two months since Corbyn took office – clobbering hardworking people with endless tax hikes that would leave them with less money in their pockets. These tax hikes include forcing more families into paying punishing death duties, raising taxes for 12.4 million workers by an average of £2,500, putting up the cost of a holiday and introducing a garden tax (The Daily Express, 13 September 2019, link).
  • Labour’s benefits splurge would cost taxpayers a staggering £520 billion a year – almost four times the amount we spend on healthcare. Labour’s benefits bombshell include a universal basic income – a free for all handout to everyone from Premier League Footballers to even prisoners (Daily Express, 23 September 2019, link).
  • Labour’s plans to renationalise vast swathes of our economy would cost £200 billion – hammering investment and pension pots and leaving people with nowhere to turn when things go wrong. According to the Confederation of British Industry, their plans to renationalise water and energy utilities, train companies and the Royal Mail would cost at least £196 billion. The huge sum is equivalent to the total amount of income tax paid by UK citizens in a single year, and is almost as much as the government’s annual budget for health, social care and education combined (City AM, 14 October 2019, link).

Jailing the Catalan separatist leaders was disproportionate and wrong

Patriotism, the love of one's own country, is a healthy and natural thing.

Nationalism, however, is another matter.

Some nationalists are much more unpleasant about it than others but in my experience anyone who calls themselves a nationalist, and some who don't but are, is at least one step along the road which descends first to defining yourself not by positive statements about your own country but against those who you see as "other" and ultimately to a dislike of other people's countries. 

This is a destructive attitude, which belongs in the dustbin of history and for which I have no time, regardless of which country the people who peddle it regard themselves as supporting.

I have no doubt that if I were Spanish I would be as sceptical about Catalan nationalists as I am about any of the forms of nationalism which exist within the UK.

But disagreeing with a political creed is one thing. Locking up its leaders is another.

There is a very good piece by Stephen Daisley in the Spectator,

"Spain was wrong to jail the Catalan separatists,

which sums up perfectly why the Spanish government should have exercised clemency rather than allow the courts to send the former members of the Catalan Nationalists to jail for up to 13 years.

Daisley makes the amusing point

"There is a muckle of hypocrisy on the go right now. Many who would be giddy at the prospect of Boris Johnson doing porridge for ignoring the Benn Act see an ominous authoritarianism in the Spanish sentences. "

"The Venn diagram of those who believe that neither Johnson nor Carles Puigdemont should be above the law would be quite the sight. "

I don't believe that either is above the law. But sending people to jail for political differences - including where someone does something they thought and were advised they had the power to do but where a court subsequently rules they had not - would not be a sensible way forward here, and it is not a sensible way forward in Spain.

Second quote of the day 15th October

"We all have to show ID whenever we collect a parcel from the local Royal Mail depot, but nobody accuses Royal Mail of postal suppression."

(Journalist Michael Crick responds on Twitter to allegations from the Labour party that requiring photo ID to vote is "Voter suppression" rather than an attempt to stop fraud.

He also wrote

"The extent of vote fraud may be exaggerated - & proposed remedies may go too far - but you can’t say there’s NO problem. 

Remember Birmingham or Tower Hamlets? 

And remember Marsha-Jane Thompson, convicted of vote fraud in 2006, later employed in Corbyn’s office & now Labour HQ?"

Action to tackle Climate Change

Under Margaret Thatcher, under Theresa May and now under Boris Johnson, British Conservative governments have led the way in the fight to tackle climate change.

  • It was under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government that the UK became one of the first countries to call for global action on climate change and, since then, we have taken a leading role on the world stage. 
  • Under Conservative leadership, Britain became the first advanced economy to legislate for Net Zero emissions by 2050. 
  • We have already reduced emissions by a quarter since 2010 and boosted renewables to record levels.
  • It is disappointing to see the Guardian attacking this record using a methodology which fails to recognise any of these actions - focusing just on narrow and selectively chosen criteria designed to misrepresent the Conservative's position, which could be used to prove almost anything. 
  • Conservatives are determined to take action so that future generations will look back on climate change as a problem that was solved with the UK leading from the front, protecting our planet for centuries to come.

Quote of the day15th October 2019

"In the last few days there is at least hope that this toxic and crippling fog, which we have created, might just be lifting as the prime minister sketches the outline of a way forward – and I speak as someone who has been robust in my review of previous proposals – but the house must surely see, as I do, that we have debated long enough. 

This is a moment for decision and we were elected to make decisions. 

If there is light at the end of the tunnel later this week, and heaven knows I hope there will be, we have a fundamental responsibility in this place to try and resolve this most vexed of problems and allow our despairing country to move on. 

For the health of our democracy and to restore faith in this most venerable of institutions, in my view we simply must get Brexit done."

(Lee Rowley MP,  moving the "Loyal address" on the Queeen's Speech yesterday.)

The above words were seen as a signal that Mr Rowley, one of the so-called ERG "Spartans" who voted against the previous withdrawal agreement as not going far enough, and his like-minded colleagues, are prepared to consider voting to leave the EU with a deal if one is agreed at the EU Council this week.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Investing in local libraries

The Culture Secretary has launched the biggest investment into local libraries and cultural institutions for a century, to give much-loved community facilities a vital boost.

  • Creative and cultural institutions are at the heart of our communities. But Conservatives understand that too often the focus is put only on London, rather than supporting the rich heritage that can be found across the whole UK. 
  • That's why we will create a £250 million Culture Investment Fund, to support regional museums and libraries around England. 
  • We will invest £50 million a year, for the next five years, to revitalise existing cultural assets and support the development of new projects. 
  • Investing in culture and creativity can help to spread prosperity across the country, creating well-paid jobs, attracting tourists to boost growth and rejuvenating high streets and town centres.

The Queen's Speech

When people voted in the EU referendum, they voted for a better future for this country. But years of delay and indecision by politicians means the change they hoped for hasn’t yet been delivered.
Today’s Queen’s Speech set out our ambitious domestic agenda, focusing on our core priorities of getting Brexit done, investing in our NHS, tackling violent crime, and dealing with the cost of living.
By getting Brexit done, we will end the uncertainty and get on with an ambitious programme to build a brighter future for everyone in this country.
We are leaving the European Union on 31 October. This Queen’s Speech sets out how we will seize the opportunities created by Brexit:
  • We remain committed to securing a deal with the EU and negotiating an ambitious future relationship – The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will ratify that deal once secured.
  • An Agriculture Bill will reform UK agriculture policy introducing schemes to pay for public goods.
  • The Fisheries Bill will enable us to reclaim control over who can fish in our waters.
  • The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill will end free movement, deliver a new fair, modern and global immigration system.
  • The Financial Services Bill will provide certainty and stability, maintaining our world-leading regulatory standards and keeping the UK open to international markets after Brexit.
  • The Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill will ensure individuals and businesses who become involved in international legal disputes have a clear framework for resolutions.
We will support the NHS and our healthcare system:
  • We will take forward legislation to establish the Health Service Safety Investigations Body – the world’s first such body.
  • A Medicines and Medical Devices Bill will ensure our NHS has faster access to innovative medicines.
  • We will bring forward substantive proposals to fix the crisis in adult social care, giving people the dignity and security they deserve.
  • We will continue to work to modernise and reform the Mental Health Act to ensure that people get the support they need, with a much greater say in their care.
We will tackle violent crime, strengthen the criminal justice system and ensure victims receive the support they need and the justice they deserve:
  • A Sentencing Bill will change the automatic release point from halfway to two-thirds for adult offenders serving sentences of four years or more for serious violence or sexual offences.
  • We will legislate to deal more effectively with foreign national offenders, increasing the maximum penalty for those who return to the UK in breach of a deportation order.
  • We will consult on a new Victims’ Law and publish a revised Victims’ Code early in 2020 including aversion of Helen’s Law.
  • A Serious Violence Bill will place a duty on public bodies to work together and tackle factors that can lead to crime.
  • A Police Protections Bill will support the police, establishing a Police Covenant that recognises their bravery, commitment and sacrifice.
  • We will also legislate to empower police officers to immediately arrest someone they know is wanted for a serious crime committed in a trusted country, without having to apply to a court for a warrant first.
We will ensure fairness and protection for individuals and families:
  • The Domestic Abuse Bill which will transform the response to victims of this crime, will continue to be progressed through Parliament.
  • We will re-introduce the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, removing unnecessary conflict during the divorce process, which so often leaves children caught in the middle.
  • We will continue to develop proposals to make the UK the safest place to be online and will look to introduce new regulations for internet companies which ensure protections for web users.
  • The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill will make sure that tips are kept in full by, or distributed fairly and transparently to, those who work hard to earn them.
  • We will continue to deliver on the commitments set out in the Good Work Plan, ensuring that our employment practices keep pace with modern ways of working and productivity is enhanced.
  • A Pension Schemes Bill will enable people to plan for later life by giving them access to information on their pensions’ savings in one place online whilst improving protections for pensions.
  • We will take forward legislative measures to make sure residents are safe in their homes.We will also ensure that residents have a stronger voice in the system.
  • We will protect the integrity of our democracy and elections, tackling electoral fraud through the introduction of voter ID and banning postal vote harvesting
We will deepen our commitment to the natural environment and animal welfare:
  • We will introduce a landmark Environment Bill to protect our planet for generations to come – including a new Office for Environmental Protection, more local powers to tackle air pollution and charges for specified single use plastic items.
  • We will take forward several measures to protect animal welfare, re-introducing the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill to increase maximum sentences for animal cruelty. We will seek to improve the welfare of animals transported for slaughter, and ban the import and export of trophies from endangered animals.
We will level up every corner of the United Kingdom through better education, infrastructure and science, renewing the ties that bind us together
  • We will introduce the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill to make it easier to install digital infrastructure, and take steps to ensure all new homes are built with reliable and fast internet speeds.
  • We will maintain our position as a world-leader in aviation, modernising our airspace to make journeys quicker, quieter and cleaner, whilst also tackling the unlawful use of drones.
  • We will bring forward legislation so people can get home quickly when an airline goes bust.
  • We will publish a white paper on the recommendations of the Williams Review, the first comprehensive review of railways in a generation, putting passengers at the heart of the railway.
  • We will publish a white paper that will reiterate our commitment to levelling up opportunities and investment in the regions across England.
  • We will boost public R&D funding, launch a comprehensive UK Space Strategy, introduce a fast-track immigration scheme for top scientists and researchers and develop proposals for a new funding agency.

Quote of the day 14th October 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The SNP leader refuses to rule out a "Hard Border" between Scotland and England

A few weeks ago  I tweeted a question to advocates of Scottish Independence: I asked what plans they have, in the event that they manage to get and win another Independence referendum, to avoid running into extremely similar problems on the England-Scotland border to those which Brexit is now presenting in respect of the Irish one.

There were no answers at the time, but the First Minister of Scotland and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, was asked about the issue on the BBC's Andrew Marr show this morning.

Interestingly, though she didn't really have an answer, she declined to rule out the possibility of a hard border. In statements highly reminiscent of some of the comments from both sides about the border in Ireland, she said,

"I don’t want borders its not my policies that are putting borders anywhere."

However, promising to be "honest" on the subject, Nicola Sturgeon added:

"We need to see how things play out."

The First Minister also refused to rule out that a hard border might come into being if Scotland did become Independent.

In other words, the answer to the question I had asked is "None: they don't have a plan."

As "the Scotsman" put it

"If the UK leaves the EU and pursues a different course on tax and customs from Scotland, which rejoins the Brussels bloc, then most experts say a border would be inevitable."

The interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw MSP, responded to Ms Sturgeon's comments as follows:

Nicola Sturgeon’s acceptance that Scottish independence will most likely lead to a border with England is a dramatic shift," he said. 

Up until now the nationalists have refused to accept this as even a possibility but they are can see they are fooling no one. 

“Sturgeon must now continue to be ‘honest’ and admit that separation from the UK would lead to extreme austerity, hard borders with England and damage to public services.

Sunday reflection: John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, (21st February 1801 – 11th August 1890) who has been canonised today by the Catholic Church and is therefore now recognised as a saint by roman catholics, was a priest, poet and theologian who was an important and controversial figure in the religious revival of the 19th century.

Newman was initially ordained as a priest in the Church of England but then defected to the roman catholic church in which he was re-ordained and later became a cardinal.

The shift in his theological position over his life was even more profound than this may suggest: his original conversion to Christianity, which throughout his life he continued to believe had been the salvation of his soul, was as an Evangelical in the English Calvinist tradition within which the pope was usually regarded as the anti-Christ.

Having started as a "low church" protestant, by his late twenties Newman was moving toward what would become the Oxford Movement which was very much on the opposite wing of the Church of England and supportive of moving that church much closer to the Catholics. He became an advocate of what he called the "Via Media" or "Middle way" of Anglicanism between the catholic tradition on the one hand and low church Protestantism on the other.

However, this was only a point on the way: Newman continued moving in his gradual progress towards Rome and eventually resigned his Anglican orders and from that church. He was received into the Catholic church in 1845 and re-ordained as a catholic priest the following year. He spent the following decades as an educator and advocate of Catholicism in throughout the British Isles and in his old age was, most unusually, made a cardinal without first having been a bishop.

He is the author of a number of beautiful poems and prayers, many of which have become used as hymns and one of his most powerful works, "The Dream of Gerontius," was set to music as an oratorio by Sir Edward Elgar.

Newman's works have been of great spiritual comfort to many Christians of both his original and his ultimate allegiance including myself, sometimes at very difficult times: I recited a few lines from "The Dream of Gerontius" at a particularly difficult moment to which the passage concerned was highly relevant.

You do not have to agree with everything that John Henry Newman said or did to recognise that the cultural and spiritual life of Great Britain would have been immensely poorer without him.

Camilla Tominey of the Daily Telegraph on Lib Dems

Here is Camilla Tominey, Associate Editor of the Daily Telegraph, speaking on BBC's Question Time about the U-turns and inconsistencies of the so-called "Liberal Democrats" about Brexit.

As Spiked magazine put it last week in an article called "Heidi Allen, political fraudster,"

Every single MP who has defected to the Lib/Dems "stood on a manifesto pledging to deliver Brexit. They were all elected in areas in which the Lib Dems came either third or fourth at the last election. And precisely none of them has called a by-election, to see if his or her constituents are happy to be represented by another party to the one they actually voted for."

"Many of them went out of their way to tell their constituents that they would uphold the vote. During the 2017 election campaign, Heidi Allen couldn’t have been clearer, telling a hustings:

I was a Remainer, but the minute we start ignoring the democratic will of the people in this country, we are slipping very quickly towards the kind of banana republic I don’t want to live in… So we have to accept the result."

She was right then. She is wrong now.

Sunday music spot: Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture (FIngal's Cave)

Quote of the day 13th October 2019

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Boris calls Erdoğan

The Prime Minister has phoned President Erdoğan of Turkey to express his "grave concern" about the situation in northern Syria, calling on Turkey to end its military operation in the area.

In a telephone call to the Turkish leader, Boris Johnson voiced his concern that the action could worsen the humanitarian situation in the region and undermine the fight against DA'ESH (the so-called "Islamic State.")

The news of this phone call comes as aid agencies warn of a humanitarian crisis after 100,000 refugees have fled the violence as Turkey pushes further into Syria.

Mr Johnson called on President Erdoğan to enter into dialogue with a view to reaching agreement on a ceasefire.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "He expressed the UK’s grave concern about Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria which he said could further worsen the humanitarian situation there and undermine the progress made against Daesh."

Meanwhile Turkey says it has locked up more than a hundred people for criticising the Turkish military action in Syria - and they seem to regard it as grounds for investigation to state the obvious, e.g. to call it an invasion.

Suleyman Soylu, Turkey's interior minister, said 121 people were detained for social media posts critical of the military operation in northern Syria. Nearly 500 people were investigated for characterising Turkey as an "invading" force and "insulting" the offensive, he added.

Music to relax after campaiging: "The Windmills of Your Mind"

A66 closed in both directions from Brigham to Cockermouth

Cumbria police say that they have closed the A66 in both directions from Brigham to Cockermouth due to a suspected gas leak.

The statement reads:

"Road closures are in place on the A66 near Cockermouth following the report of a suspected gas leak just after 11.20am today (Oct 12).

Motorists are asked to avoid the area, with closures in place at the Fitz and Oakhurst roundabouts and at Brigham.

Those living nearby are being advised to keep their doors and windows closed as a precaution – although the suspected leak is some way away from any homes.

Engineers have been called out. The suspected leak is between the Fitz and Oakhurst roundabouts."

I also understand that Highways England have put diversions in place.

Backing Business to provide more jobs and opportunities

New figures have shown there are now 200,000 more businesses in the UK than there were last year, boosting public services and creating more good jobs for people.
  • This is the highest number of businesses in the UK for almost two decades, which will provide more jobs, more tax revenues, and therefore more money for our vital public services.
  • The credit goes to the hard working entrepreneurs and staff who set up these new businesses. Because of their efforts, and because the Conservatives back business and worked to create an environment in which business can succeed, there are now more businesses in every region and country of the UK than in 2010.

Quote of the day 12th October 2019

Friday, October 11, 2019

More police for Cumbria's Streets

Great news for law abiding residents of Cumbria: in the first tranche of the government's funding to recruit 20,000 new police Cumbria Constabulary has been allocated 51 more police officers.

And because of the prompt action of our excellent Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, the very first new police officers to hit the streets here in Cumbria will be the first officers recruited under this policy.

Education spending

Today it was announced how schools across the country will benefit from the Prime Minister’s £14 billion funding pledge – so that every child in the country has equal opportunities to succeed.

  • We are investing in our children’s futures with the biggest funding boost for school in a decade - £14 billion additional funding over the next three years – meaning more money for every child to receive a truly world-class education. 
  • Schools and local authorities heard today how Government is allocating the first part of that investment - £2.6 billion - for the coming year, with the biggest increases going to schools that need it most to supercharge the ongoing rise in school standards.

Quote of the day 11th October 2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Turkey invades Syria and attacks the Kurds

There are few people in Britain who have better reason to know than I do that Kurdish terrorism does exist.

In November 1993 I was having a discussion over coffee with a colleague on the tenth floor staff restaurant of a BT office building in central London when the fire alarm went and we had to evacuate.

It turned out that a group of Kurdish separatists had thrown an improvised firebomb - some kind of Molotov cocktail - through what they thought was the window of the Turkish bank to which part of the ground floor of the building was leased. Actually it was the window of the facilities office of that BT building, and it landed on a female BT employee who suffered severe burns and might have been killed but for the prompt action of a colleague.

There were about eight hundred people working in that building and it is not at all difficult to envisage circumstances in which a significant proportion of those people, including myself, might have been killed as a result of a conflict for which they bore no responsibility and which Britain had absolutely nothing to do with.

This was part of a series of terrorist attacks in several parts of Europe by Kurdish extremists, apparently organised by the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

So you will understand that I fully support the designation of the PKK as a terrorist group, since that is exactly what the organisation is. And when Turkey says it is acting against Kurdish terrorists I do not automatically assume that there is no substance to their claims without checking out the facts.

But those who claim to be acting against terrorists must make every effort to ensure that the action they is proportionate to the threat they face and that they are acting against real terrorists, not attacking innocent women and children, or indeed organisations who have never done more than try to defend themselves.

The fact that there have been (and are) Kurdish terrorist groups no more means that all Kurds are terrorists than the fact that the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel means that all Jews are terrorists or the history of the IRA means that all Irish people are terrorists. You only have to formulate any of those thoughts as words to see that any such idea is utterly ridiculous.

Are Kurdish children terrorists, such as the two children who were among eight civilians killed in the first day of Turkish attacks against Kurdish targets in Syria? Of course not.

Unfortunately successive Turkish governments - and frankly the Erdoğan regime is particularly culpable in this respect - have appeared completely incapable of distinguishing between terrorist groups like the PKK and very different groups like the Syrian Kurdish "Democratic Union party" (PYD) which does not appear to have any such track record of terrorist activities. Turkey claims to consider the PYD to be a branch of the PKK when there does not appear to be any substantial evidence to justify that assertion. Yes, they fought together against DA'ESH. So did we!

The DA'ESH Caliphate in Iraq and Syria was probably the most evil and destructive regime which the planet has seen since the fall of the Nazis. The Peshmerga Kurdish forces who took up arms against DA'ESH were not trying to organise terrorist attacks in Turkey: they were trying to defend themselves against a group of vile and murderous barbarians. Far from being terrorists, they fought against terrorists.

A senior US military source, speaking anonymously, told CNN that Turkey's invasion of Syria has jeopardised the progress made against DA'ESH and that "we are just watching the second largest army in NATO  attack one of our best counter-terrorism partners."

The governments of Britain, Germany, France, Poland and other European powers have issued a joint statement calling on Turkey to cease unilateral military action in North East Syria.

I think that the Western powers need to think very carefully about our attitude to Turkey. The tragic consequences which are developing yet again in Syria - and the understandable impression being created that the West has thrown an ally to the wolves - also shows that acting precipitately to pull troops out of a region can be as destabilising as acting precipitately to deploy them.

Quote of the day 10th October 2019

"Today I spent three hours outside my synagogue providing security. It was cold and (save for the excellent company of one of my best friends) a bit boring but tragically it obviously wasn’t a waste of time." 

(Lord Danny Finkelstein on twitter yesterday.

His words "tragically it obviously wasn't a waste of time" refer to the fact that an armed terrorist, shouting various extreme and anti-Semitic slogans, attempted to break into a into a Synagogue in the German town of Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish Calendar. 

Failing to do so he shot dead a woman outside the nearby Jewish Cemetary, and then shot dead a man at a nearby kebab shop. Several other innocent bystanders were shot and wounded before the terrorist was captured.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Andrew Neil interviews an Extinction Rebellion representative

The evidence supports the view that human activity is having an impact on our world's environment and that we need to do something about it.

The evidence does not support the extreme claims of the "Extinction Rebellion" protest group such as this lady who tried to excuse it to Andrew Neil on the basis that "alarmist language works."

It would be fair to say that Andrew Neil was not impressed by this …

Don't forget your flu jab

As winter approaches residents of Cumbria have been urged by the local NHS to get their flu vaccination and take steps to keep themselves well over the winter months and help protect themselves, their family and friends from the virus.

Patients in higher risk groups who are eligible to receive a free flu jab from their GP include:

  • everyone aged over 65 
  • women who are pregnant 
  • those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups including patients who suffer from a chronic illness, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinsons, HIV and diabetes 
  • children aged 2 or 3 years old (on 31 August of current flu season),
  • all primary school-aged children and children with a health condition that puts them at a greater risk of flu 
  • those in long-stay residential care homes 
  • carers

Hospital Trusts Merge

The former North Cumbria University hospitals NHS Trust and the former Cumbria Primary Care NHS trust have merged.

The new trust which they have created is called the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC)

More details on my hospitals blog at

Midweek Music spot: Gregorian perform "Moments of Peace"

Quote of the day 9th October 2019

"If we start operating on the principle that people alive today are responsible for what their ancestors did in centuries past, we will be adopting a principle that can tear any society apart." 

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Leo Varadkar and the Good Friday Agreement

Until a few days ago one of the concerns most expressed by both the Irish government and many critics of Brexit was the need to respect the Good Friday Agreement.

I totally agree that we need to keep that agreement and am concerned that if they have been reported correctly comments from the Irish Taoiseach and the Irish Foreign secretary leave me wondering whether they themselves want to honour it.

Under the terms of that agreement both Britain and Ireland should respect the principle that the consent of both communities is needed.

In other words, policy towards Northern Ireland should seek the consent of both Nationalist and Unionist communities.

That is why Professor Brendan Simms argued that the UE's proposed "Backstop" is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement in his New Statesman piece to which I first linked a week ago.

And to be quite candid, some of the comments from both Leo Varadkar and Simon Cordingly which objected to the role proposed for the Northern Ireland in the UK government's proposed Brexit deal , , on the grounds that consulting the Assembly would give a veto to the DUP, do not sound like the words of someone committed to respecting the principle of consent for both communities.

There is a critique by Jeremy Black of Leo Varadkar's Brexit policy which can be read on "The Article" website here, and which has some force.

Preparing to leave the EU

The government has set out plans for a temporary tariff regime in the event of a "no deal" Brexit which would mean lower prices for consumers and help businesses keep supply chains operating smoothly.
  • British businesses will not pay tariffs on imports into the UK for the majority of goods if we leave the EU without a deal. This will mean lower prices in shops for consumers and the opportunity to source the best goods from around the world. 
  • Today’s updates will enable UK supply chains to continue to operate smoothly, keep prices down for consumers and ensure that we are fully prepared to leave the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances.

Second quote of the day 8th October 2019

"Those who pushed the Benn Act intended to sabotage a deal and they’ve probably succeeded."

This is a quote from an anonymous Number Ten staffer in a letter to Fraser Nelson of the Spectator which is written up in an article on the Spectator site here.

For what it is worth I personally think this only describes some of those who voted for the Benn Act.

I am inclined to take the word of those MPs who had previously voted three times to leave the EU with a deal before  supporting the Benn act that they were trying to stop "no deal" rather than sabotage Brexit and that they want a deal. 

I happen to also think that those people made a terrible mistake because the behaviour of the EU commission and the other 27 member stages over the past week does appear consistent with the view that the passage of the Benn Act on top of all the other votes in the House of Commons against the government has given the EU the impression that there is no point making an effort to get a deal with Britain because parliament won't approve it.

However, parliament has voted against practically every course of action which has been put in front of it and most of those who said they were trying to stop "No deal" also voted three times against a deal.

Where these people are concerned I find it difficult to disagree with the anonymous Number Ten staffer.

Quote of the day 8th October 2019

"What was peculiar about Western civilization was that it was the first civilization to destroy slavery, not only within its own countries but in other countries around the world as well."

(Thomas Sowell, American Economist)

Monday, October 07, 2019

Every Mind Matters

The government has today announced more funding to better diagnose and treat young people’s mental health problems and, with Public Health England and the NHS, is today launching Every Mind Matters, a programme to help people to take simple steps to look after their mental health.


  • A new £35 million research programme will give more support to teenagers battling with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders.


  • Academics will look at some of the causes of mental health issues, as well as how we can better identify vulnerable young people and ensure frontline health services support them earlier to get the help they need.


  • Public Health England and the NHS have also launched Every Mind Matters, offering vital support to those living with a mental health condition and contributing to tackling the stigma that can still surround mental health.