Showing posts from February, 2019

The latest free speech row ...

I do not believe in absolute free speech, but I do believe in free speech within the law and that the law should be written in such a way as to allow as much free speech as is reasonably practical. And free speech doesn't mean anything at all unless it includes the freedom to say things that some people will very strongly dislike. As John Stuart Mill put it, Of course, words are sometimes used to do more than express an opinion, and where they an do great harm that is a horse of quite a different colour. Incitement to criminal behaviour is always wrong and does not come under the heading of free Speech within the law. Hence it isn't an attack on free speech within the law to stop people from saying things which can reasonably be interpreted as encouraging others to attack or harm any group of people. Such behaviour, alongside threats of violence and other clearly abusive comments can be and often is, prevented. Unfortunately it is not always easy to draw the li

Cancer care in North, West and East Cumbrai

The Health Scrutiny meeting on Tuesday received a very important report and presentation on cancer care in the Northern part of the county (including West and East Cumbria.) You can read the report here . The report included 1) Details of the current issues around health outcomes for those who suffer from cancer in the northern two-thirds of Cumbria 2) Information on the alarming levels of health inequalities - people in parts of the county have much better chances of surviving cancer for longer and with less devastating consequences. 3) A large part of this is due to issues of lifestyle and also to how quickly people go to their doctor when they have a problem - one of the causes of differential outcomes is that people in the areas with better survival rates tend to present at an earlier stage of the onset of the disease when there is more chance of doing something about it. Similarly, some is due to higher take-up of screening programmes. 4) The report discussed some of t

Quote of the day 28th Februry 2019

"The UK is deeply concerned about the rising tensions between India and Pakistan. We urgently call for restraint on both sides to avoid further escalation." (Jeremy Hunt, UK Foreign Secretary.)

Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee

Yesterday was the February 2019 meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee, which is the joint committee of County Councillors and District or Borough councillors responsible for democratic scrutiny and challenge of the NHS in the county of Cumbria The meeting was held at County Hall in Kendal from 10.30 am and was open to the public (in fact one member of the public did attend.) The agenda and reports for the meeting are available as in due course the minutes will be when they are published and can be read here . There was far too much important material on the agenda to do justice to it in a single post. I will make a couple of general observations and will then make follow-up points on some of the important issues discussed, starting with a very important report on cancer care which I will post about tomorrow. 1) All seven representatives of the County Council attended but, despite the importance of the items on the agenda, only one of the six representatives of th

Midweek music spot: the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah


Quote of the day 27th February 2019


March meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland

The March 2019 meeting of Cumbria County Council's local committee for Copeland will take place at Cleator Moor next Tuesday, 4th March 2019. The agenda and supporting papers can be found here . The main items on the agenda are a presentation on the Children & Young people's service, items in respect of local highways including the devolved budget and some proposals on speed limits in various roads, and the area planning report. I note that for the following meeting on 22nd May, the county's local committee will be doing something the Labour group on Copeland Borough Council recently stopped Copeland Council from doing, and holding our next meeting in Millom.

Another referendum?

At a dinner I attended last night there was some talk among non-political people about the possibility of a further referendum about Britain's EU membership. I did not hear what inspired this but it may well have been the noises which the Labour party is making about the possibility of supporting a further vote. The opinion being expressed last night is that were such a referendum to be called (which I don't think it will) there would be a larger majority for leave and because that more people who voted Remain last time would change their vote. I don't know whether that is true of the country as a whole but it certainly fits with what I usually hear from everyone except some Labour and Lib/Dem politicians in the Northern, leave-voting constituency where I live. Batting the problem back to the electorate is not, in my opinion, likely to achieve more than make people even angrier and more divided. The voters have given MPs a clear steer about the direction of tra

Quote of the day 26th February 2019


Supporting our high streets on 16th March

On Friday, the Communities Secretary told the Conservative Councillors’ Association that a national campaign day on high streets will be held on 16 March, celebrating the contribution high streets, and the businesses and people who work on them, make to our local communities. Key facts: The government is committed to helping our high streets adapt to changing circumstances and the rise of online shopping, and to making them fit for the future by providing the right support.  Thanks to our reforms, businesses pay less in rates so they can create more jobs, councils will receive an extra £675 million to modernise their high streets and planning rules are more relaxed to help derelict shops be turned into homes.  On Saturday 16 March, we are urging people across the country to come together to celebrate our high streets and their place at the heart of our communities. We will ensure local businesses are aware of the support they can access to make their businesses fit for the futur

Pupils to be warned about FGM

The Education Secretary has confirmed that all secondary school pupils will be taught about Female Genital Mutilation, as part of new relationships, health and sex education guidance being brought to parliament tomorrow. Key facts :  From September 2020 Relationships Education will be compulsory in primary schools in England and Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in secondary schools. The Conservative government is also making Health Education compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. Under bold new proposals, schools should address the physical and emotional damage caused by FGM, raise awareness of support options and ensure pupils know that FGM is against the law.  Our reforms will ensure young people are taught in an age-appropriate way about different forms of abuse, equipping them with the knowledge they need to keep themselves and others safe in the modern world.  Everyone must do all they can to protect women and girls from this extreme form of gendered vi

Quote of the day 25th February 2019

“The National Convention supports the commitments the Prime Minister has made to the country to honour the European Union referendum result of 2016, that having triggered Article 50 we will leave the European Union on the 29 March 2019. “Another referendum, a delay beyond the European elections, taking ‘no deal’ off the table or not leaving at all would betray the 2016 People’s Vote and damage democracy and our party for a generation.” (Motion passed by the National Conservative Convention, the main body representing grassroots Conervative party members, at a meeting on Saturday.)

The difference between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Not all critics of the government of Israel or of Zionism are Anti-Semites. But all Anti-Semites deny being anti-Semitic and describe themselves as Anti-Zionists. To be precise, since about the time of the liberation of Auschwitz virtually nobody in Western societies will admit to being Anti-Semitic, but unfortunately there are increasing numbers of people who are, and who nearly always describe themselves as Anti-Zionists - or even, God save the mark, as Anti-racism campaigners. More than one person who is sufficiently Anti-Semitic that even Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party expelled them for it does describes himself or hersel as an Anti-Racism campaigner. Anyway, the Jewish Chronicle, who have been known to publish the occasional article themselves which does not agree with all the policies of the Netanyahu government of Israel, have brought out a handy guide on how to tell the difference between legitimate critics of Israel and Anti-Semites, which you can read here . Here ar

Sunday music spot: S.S. Wesley's "Blessed Be The God And Father"

A masterpiece supposedly written for at a time when Cathedral choirs were at a very low ebb and Wesley needed to produce something special for an important church festival service for which only three trebles and the Dean's butler (who sang bass) were available. Salisbury Cathedra Choir had a bit more than that on hand when they did this excellent recording.

Pub Quiz question of the month

This may or may not become a regular monthly series on this blog, depending on what the traffic monitors tell me about whether people are reading the posts concerned, whether I get any feedback and whether it is positive or negative. I'm going to post a "pub quiz" style political knowledge question, to which the answer will be found either in the comments or by following a link to an article. Here's the first one. Question: Which Prime Minister and chancellor team had previously fought and lost by-elections in adjacent seats on the same day? The answer is given in a John Rentoul article which can be found here .

Quote of the day 24th February 2019


Why clever people do stupid things

A few years ago I published a post, which I later republished here , called "When clever people do stupid things." The points I made included 1) The stupid mistakes which do the most damage are rarely made by stupid individuals, but by intelligent ones – stupid people are rarely in a position to do as much damage as intelligent people. 2) The more eminent you are the more you need to listen to others, because the greater the risk that you. an others who might hesitate to challenge you when they should, may be too inclined to always assume you are right. 3) Our society needs to recognise that expertise in one area often does not translate into expertise in others This week the New Scientist has an interesting article on a very similar subject: WHY clever people do stupid things. There is a link here to the opening words of the article if you don't subscribe online to the magazine and to the whole thing if you do. They also point out that there are cert

Saturday music spot: Hooked on Bach


Borrowing down

Figures recently released show that government borrowing is the lowest for 17 years - e.g. since well before the 2008 crash - and a record January surplus (more money coming in than going out.) There is often a budget surplus at this time of the year because of when the money is collected and spent but this is better than usual. Remember, in 2010 the Coalition inherited the unsustainable position where the government was spending four pounds for every three pounds of revenue coming in. In my opinion to get Britain's finances onto a more sustainable position we need to gradually reduce government debt rather than just reduce the rate at which it is going up. (I emphasise gradually because trying to do it rapidly could precipitate a recession.) Nevertheless this is good progress.

Second quote of the day 23rd February 2019


First Quote of the day 23rd Frebruary 2019


The politics of hate

Nothing better sums up how the politics of hate and anger in Britain are stronger than they have ever been in my lifetime - with some of the supporters of the man who called for "kinder, gentler politics" among the worst offenders - than a tweet this morning from a Labour MP who has not resigned from the party: "Last 2 days I have twice been trending on twitter mainly because of messages from those who hate me. This is a terrible campaign technique on their part & should highlight to people that others can see their vitriol and it's not a good look for the party they claim to love" I  had a quick look at the timeline of the MP concerned and sure enough many of the people attacking her had "GTTO" on their handles (this stands for "Get The Tories Out" but I don't recognise their ideas of who is a tory. Basically they seem to hate anyone whose views differ in the tiniest degree from theirs.) There should be no contradiction in my

Quote of the day 22nd February 2019


West Cumbria Mining application decision postponed to March

Sadly it has been necessary again to postpone the decision on the application for a new mine in Whitehaven yet again. At one stage it had been planned that it would come to committee tomorrow but the application is now expected to be determined at the March meeting of the County Council's development control committee. This is an extraordinarily complex application and it was necessary to re-consult after the applicants made significant changes to the proposals to reflect the need to drain the mine safely. A county council spokesman told the Whitehaven News : “Both West Cumbria Mining and Cumbria County Council are working hard to resolve the remaining outstanding issues raised by the last round of public consultation in December 2018 to January 2019. “That consultation dealt with WCM`s revised proposal to drive two new sections of tunnels to reach the coal, instead of de-watering and using part of the old existing Anhydrite mine. “Because the impacts are different, so

Training future leaders in Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The government has announced new measures to train the next generation of leaders in Artificial Intelligence, keeping the UK at the forefront of this emerging technology and creating high-skilled jobs around the country. Key facts : We are launching a nationwide programme of industry-funded AI Masters courses, coupled with work-based placements, to drive up skills in the AI sector.  We will also open 16 new AI Centres for Doctoral Training at universities around the country, where 1,000 students will have the opportunity to enhance their skills while developing the UK’s world-leading research into Artificial Intelligence.  Up to five AI research Fellowships will also be created, in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute, to attract and retain the best research talent from around the world.  Why this matters : The UK is leading the way on AI, and this announcement, as part of our modern Industrial Strategy, will help to drive high-skilled jobs, growth and productivity a

Personal Health budgets

The Minister for Care announced today that hundreds of thousands more people will receive access to a personal health budget, giving them more choice and control over how their care is delivered. Key facts : Wheelchair users and people who access aftercare services under the Mental Health Act will have the right to a personal health budget, giving them greater choice, flexibility and control over their health and care support.  Over 40,000 people already benefit from the scheme but, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the government will make personal health budgets available to up to 200,000 people by 2024.  The NHS will also expand access for more people with ongoing mental health needs, veterans, autistic people or those with learning difficulties and people receiving adult social care support.  Why this matters : The NHS Long Term Plan is a historic moment for patients, and by giving people more control and flexibility over the support they receive, we can ensure they ar

Quote of the day 21st February 2019

From an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn ‘My wife and I are having our first child in two weeks’ time. One day my son may ask me what I did to stop you from ever becoming Prime Minister. Well, this is a small act, but it’s what I can do. I will no longer pay subscriptions to an anti-Semitic movement. I will sign one pledge, and that is to stop a party led by anti-Semites from ever gaining power in this country. I will continue to live by the values on the back of my now torn-up membership card.’ (Adam Langleben, a former Labour councillor in Barnet, extract from an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn explaining why he has resigned from the Labour party. Source here .)

Resignations galore

Well, this week certainly has not been boring. Three or four MPs had already resigned from the Labour party: seven more went as a group on Monday morning and were joined by an eighth on Monday evening who will now sit for a time as an independent group and have been nicknamed the "TIGgers" (for "The Indepenent Group.") There has also been a steady flow of councillors and former MPs resigning from the Labour party. Today I was sorry to see that three Conservative MPs have joined them. The people leaving Labour have given a string of reasons, with the leadership's failure to tackle Anti-Semitism front and centre, the opinion that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would be a threat to national security as a second, and disagreement with his policy on Brexit as a third. The three MPs who left the Conservative party will be missed: no party which hopes to achieve anything positive in politics can afford to be other than disappointed when people lea

Midweek music spot: Hooked on classics - Viva Vivaldi


Employment Figures

New figures released this week show that the number of people in work in Britain is at a record high and wages are growing at their fastest rate in over a decade. This means that people’s pay can go further, and more people have the security of a regular wage to provide for their families. The Conservative government is helping people into work by reforming welfare so work always pays, while backing businesses to create more, better paying jobs across the whole country through our careful economic management and modern Industrial Strategy. Businesses create jobs but since 2010, Conservative-led governments have created and environment in which over 3.5 million more people have found employment and there are now a record number of disabled people in work. Nobody’s ability to work should be dictated by their disability and everyone deserves to fulfil their career ambitions, which is why the Conervatives have relentlessly focussed on breaking down barriers to work. Behind every

Quote of the day 20th February 2019

(Lord) Danny Finkelstein writing in The Times on how he felt, as a Jewish person, about the sight of Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP, resigning from the Labour party because of the failure of the leadership of that party to deal with antisemitism.

Using technology to transform patient care

It was announced today that a new joint unit, NHSX, will be created to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician. It will combine the best talent from government, the NHS and industry. NHSX will aim to create the most advanced health and care service in the world to diagnose diseases earlier, free up staff time and empower patients to take greater control of their own healthcare. Currently, much NHS technology relies on systems designed for a pre-internet age. Patients are not getting the care they need because their data does not follow them round the system.  Change has been slow because responsibility for digital, data and tech has been split across multiple agencies, teams and organisations.  NHSX will change this by bringing together all the levers of policy, implementation and change for the first time.  NHSX will work with the NHS and the wider digital economy to build world-class digital services. These will improve care for patients an

Meeting venues - Carlisle vs Kendal.

As I posted here yesterday the February meeting of the health scrutiny committee responsible for democratic scrutiny and challenge of the NHS in the county of Cumbria will take place at County Hall in Kendal from 10.30 am on Tuesday 26th February 2019. The meeting will be open to the public. The agenda and reports for the meeting are available in the County Council website here . I have just returned home to West Cumbria after a couple of days down south at my father-in-law's funeral and started reading the agenda. I am more that a little surprised at the way that agenda has panned out.  These meetings approximately alternate between Carlisle and Kendal. Mostly they contain a mix of North/West/East Cumbria and South Cumbria/Morecombe Bay items. This time, except for the boilerplate agenda items like declarations of interest, committee briefing report, data of next meeting, every single major item on the agenda is wholly or almost entirely about North Cumbria. 

In memoriam for Michael O'Hara: Lord Let Me Know Mine End (Greene)


Quote of the day 19th February 2019


Monday music spot: J.S. Bach's Missa brevis in G minor


February meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee

The February meeting of the health scrutiny committee responsible for democratic scrutiny and challenge of the NHS in the county of Cumbria will take place at County Hall in Kendal from 10.30 am on Tuesday 26th February 2019. The meeting will be open to the public. The agenda and reports for the meeting will be published in the next day or so and will be available here . POSTSCRIPT - they have indeed now been published and are available by following the above link.

Quote of the day 18th February 2019

"Nation-building is never pretty." (Vice Admiral Katrina Cornwell, played by Jayne Brook, Star Trek Discovery season 2 episode 5)

The Sun thinks it's time to agree a deal on Brexit

I don't always regard Sun editorials as the voice of reason but there is a lot to be said for the arguments in this one …

Sunday music spot: J.S. Bach's Motet 'Komm, Jesu, komm'


Quote of the day 17th February 2019


Music to relax after campaigning: J.S. Bach's: Triple Concerto

For all those from Copeland Conservatives who were out on the stump in Corkickle and all those other Conservatives who have been out campaigning today.


It seems to have become popular on various parts of the hard-left in recent months to seek publicity and pose as an iconoclast by attacking Winston Churchill. It's not difficult to find grounds, a few justified, some grossly oversimplified, others complete rubbish, on which to attack Churchill. As someone who was born, grew up, served in the army and was first elected to parliament during the reign of Queen Victoria it is hardly surprising that some of his views appear utterly unacceptable to the millennial generation, particularly when quoted out of context. Churchill was the sort of leader who produces lots of ideas, a few brilliant, many of them terrible, who can be very successful overall if he or she has senior advisors with the guts to tell him when his latest hobbyhorse is insane and the wisdom to listen to them, but will be a disaster if surrounded by yes-men or who refuses to listen to good advice. Yes, he made some terrible mistakes, though ironically, far from bei

Five new laws.

On Tuesday five important pieces of legislation received "Royal Assent" and will now became law. These measures will help people with the cost of living and give the police and prosecutors more powers to keep people safe.    The Tenant Fees Act will make the rental market fairer and cheaper for tenants. It bans unfair letting fees and caps deposits at five weeks’ rent.   The Voyeurism Act will better protect victims and bring more offenders to justice.   Upskirting perpetrators now face up to two years in jail, with the most serious put on the sex offenders register.   The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act will help to keep people safe. It introduces a variety of new laws including updating terrorism offences for the digital age, strengthening sentencing for terrorism-related offences and strengthening police powers to prevent and investigate terrorism.   The Finance Act tackles the cost of living a