Showing posts from March, 2019

Time for the extremism commissioner to look at all Britain's political parties?

When I proposed the motion (which was unanimously agreed) that Cumbria County Council should adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of Anti-Semitism , I said that none of Britain's political parties are wholly free of Anti-Semitism and none of them can afford to be complacent about it. Had we been talking about Islamophobia, I might equally have said that none of Britain's political parties are wholly free of prejudice against Muslims and none of them can afford to be complacent about that form of racism either. It is hardly a secret that the Labour party has had huge difficulties with Anti-Semitism and this is one of the main reasons why they have lost more than ten MPs, some of whom are now part of the Independent Group which is trying to register as "Change UK" Nor it is a secret that UKIP's present leader has become joined at the hip with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (who uses the name Tommy Robinson) and essentially turned UK

Sunday Music Spot: Bach's Concerto for Two Violins


A reflection for Mothering Sunday


Quote of the day 31st March 2019

"Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a Representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. "But, his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you; to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the Law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion. "My worthy Colleague says, his Will oug

British Summer Time begins tonight - don't forget to put clocks forward

Time in the UK changes from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to British Summer Time (BST) which means that we lose an hour as the time jumps straight from 1.00 am to 2.00 am. Don't forget to put any of your clocks which are not self-adjusting forward an hour!

Could a "No Deal" Brexit still happen and how would it work?"

It is obvious that a big majority of the House of Commons is strongly against a "No Deal" Brexit and the odds are that they will succeed in stopping it. But to paraphrase Edmund Burke, All that is necessary for the Triumph of 'No Deal' is for its opponents to continue to fail to agree on an alternative. Britain will crash out without a deal if all the factions in the House of Commons continue to assume that someone else will compromise. I don't think this is the most likely outcome, and I don't think it is the best way to implement the referendum decision, but it is what will happen if everyone continues to act the way they have acted up to now. That is why those MPs who say that they regard a no deal Brexit as a terrible idea, say they want to Leave in some form, but voted against the Withdrawal Agreement which will still be necessary for whatever form of Brexit they do end up supporting, were utterly irresponsible. While supporters of leave are

Greenhouse Gas emissions fall again

New statistics show greenhouse gas emissions fell again in 2018 for the sixth consecutive year whilst electricity generation from clean sources continued to rise – this is part of the Conservatives' modern Industrial Strategy to grow the economy whilst reducing emissions. Key facts : Emissions of the gases that drive climate change have fallen for six years in a row and are 44 per cent below the 1990 baseline for the UK.  Energy statistics also revealed that renewables accounted for a record third of electricity generation in 2018 and low-carbon generation, which covers renewables and nuclear, rose to a record 53 per cent. More than half of our electricity comes from low-carbon sources thanks to more than £52 billion of government support for renewable projects in the UK since 2010, all part of our modern Industrial Strategy.  Emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are at the lowest level since before the start of the 20th century, when Queen Victoria was stil

Swimathon 2019 update

A very big thank you to those who have already sponsored me for Swimathon 2019, who include Keith Hitchen, Andy Witting, Mark Jenkinson, Alastair and Bridget Norwood, and Dr Mike Robinson. They have supported two very good causes: Marie Curie Cancer are and Cancer Research UK. I completed the 5,000 metre swim (200 lengths of Hensingham pool) this afternoon in exactly two hours but it is not too late to sponsor me: you can do so at my JustGiving page, at

Music to relax between campaigning and the Swimathon: Pachelbel's Canon - LSO

Out this morning in the new "Bigrigg and Moor Row" ward (including some parts of the Keekle and Summergrove area which used to be in Arlecdon ward) for the re-election of councillor Jean Lewthwaite. Just taking a short break before swimming 5,000 metres for Swimathon 2019 at Copeland Pool this afternoon in aid of Marie Curie, who look after thousands of terminally ill people, and Cancer Research UK, the country's leading cancer charity. Marie Curie, the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness and their families, has been Swimathon's charity partner eleven times since it launched in 1986 and Swimathon has raised over £17 million for the charity through the event during that time. A big thank you to anyone reading this who sponsored me or any other Swimathon participant in the past and those who have already sponsored me this year. If you sponsor me, or any of the other swimmers taking part in the world’s biggest fundraising swimming e

Tackling poverty

It is a priority of the Conservative Government to tackle poverty and from next month we will start injecting an extra £4.5 billion into Universal Credit and also give the country’s lowest earners their biggest pay rise in 20 years. Key facts :  While we know work is the best route out of poverty, some people still need more support. That’s why we spend £95 billion a year on working-age benefits and are increasing support for those on low incomes.  We’ve injected almost £10 billion into welfare since 2016 to – around half of which will come into effect next month.  We introduced and are increasing the National Living Wage, which will rise to £8.21 an hour from 1 April 2019 – giving the UK’s lowest earners their biggest pay rise in 20 years.  We will increase the amount people can earn before their tax is deducted to £12,500 in April – a tax cut for 32 million people and taking nearly 2 million of the lowest paid out income tax altogether.  Why this matters : No one wants t

Quote of the day 30th March 2019

If Lord Melbourne (to give William Lamb his full title) is following the Brexit debate from the next world I suspect he may feel that this is another example of what he was talking about …)

Tolerance is an issue for everyone

Interested to read a thread by Matthew Godwin on twitter about who is more tolerant of people with opposing views. He referred to some recent research in the US summarised in an article "Liberals aren't as tolerant as they think" which I will come back to in a moment, and to some research in the UK about whether Leavers or Remainers were more tolerant of the other group. The US research debunked the idea that liberals are more tolerant than Conservatives and concluded that intolerance is fairly evenly spread as between right and left and between those who are religious and atheists. The UK research found some intolerance on both sides and that if anything Remain supporters were less tolerant than Leave ones. In the absence of published references and details, (which were available for the US study but not the UK one) I would be careful about being too quick to accept the conclusion that Remainers are less tolerant than Leavers but the suggestion that there are

Conservative councils cost you less

New analysis suggests council tax in England is 6 per cent lower in real terms under Conservative-controlled councils, showing yet again that the Conservatives deliver better services with lower taxes for families and individuals. Key facts :  Council tax in Conservative councils is on average £93 less on a typical Band D home than in Labour councils and £137 less than in Liberal Democrat councils.  Conservatives charge the lowest taxes - the lowest council tax in England in 2019-20 is Conservative Westminster at £755 on Band D (of which £321 is the Labour-set GLA precept), followed by Conservative Wandsworth at £770 on Band D.  Under the last Labour Government, council tax doubled and in Labour-run Wales it has trebled. Bills are soaring by up to 10 per cent in Wales this year.  Why this matters :  Labour’s town halls cost you more and deliver worse local services. Up and down the country, it’s Conservative councillors and councils who have a proven record of managing taxpa

Swimathon 2019 - in aid of Cancer research UK and Marie Curie Cancer Care

I first took part in the Swimathon twenty-five years ago in 1994. Tomorrow I plan to take part in Swimathon 2019 at Copeland pool, Hensingham. This will be the 26th consecutive year I have swum the 5,000 metre challenge. The Swimathon is Britain’s largest charity swim, and gives people of very varied swimming abilities an opportunity to raise money for charity by swimming distances of up to 5,000 metres. The 2019 Swimathon event is in aid of Marie Curie, who look after thousands of terminally ill people, and for the second time, Cancer Research UK, the country’s leading cancer charity. Marie Curie, the UK’s leading charity for people with any terminal illness and their families, has been Swimathon's charity partner eleven times since it launched in 1986 and Swimathon has raised over £17 million for the charity through the event during that time. A big thank you to anyone reading this who sponsored me or any other Swimathon participant in the past. If you sponsor me, or

Quote of the day 29th March 2019


Of centre extremists and when people go over the top:

There is an urban legend that a lady once asked for her political stance by a pollster described herself as a "centre extremist." Asked to elaborate, she was happy to explain that "I have moderate views, but I'd shoot anyone who disagrees with them." I was reminded of that story this week when I had a long twitter exchange with a remain activist who took exception to my referring to extreme Remainers and extreme Brexiteers and asked me to define "extreme" as it referred to Remain supporters, arguing that the very concept was "a contradiction" because in her view, quote "Remainers are just ordinary people who see the status quo, and think it's good. Those who don't want chaos, riots, food shortages and worse life for their children " and were therefore "not extreme." "Extreme" and, by extension, "extremist" are two of a number of words in the English language which often give rise to th

Quote for the day 28th March 2019


A song for Brexit - Everything You Know Is Wrong

After the House of Commons voted against all the options tonight, it is perhaps time for another song which might help people to use humour as the best way to cope with an infuriating world without losing one's sanity. So tonight's midweek music spot is a song for Brexit: Weird Al Yankovic's "Everything you know is wrong …"

Parliament votes against everything

For once the Guardian sums it up perfectly. Here is their front page for tomorrow: These were the results of the indicative votes No deal is not going to happen (and there is no mandate for it from the referendum.)  Revoking Article 50 would be understandably seen as a betrayal not just of the referendum result but also the manifesto promises on which the majority of MPs were elected. I don't think that is going to happen either. Almost all the other options will still require the withdrawal agreement - including the backstop, though we can try to make sure it doesn't get activated. Theresa May has taken flak for bringing her deal back to parliament after it had been voted down but every other option has now been voted down at least once too. For the love of God (and our country), MPs should pass the withdrawal agreement and move on to  trying to build a consensus on what goes

Government agrees funding for new buildings at Whitehaven Academy

Cumbria Education Trust (CET), which took over the running of Whitehaven Academy last year, has announced funding has been secured from the Department for Education to build a new school on the academy's current site. The Chief Executive of CET, Lorrayne Hughes, told the Whitehaven News that: "This is the best possible news we could have hoped for, not just for the students and staff who attend this academy - but for the community of Whitehaven too, who are getting a fantastic new academy which will allow access to an excellent range of facilities.  "The run-down condition of the existing buildings has proved to be detrimental and disruptive to teaching and learning and we are delighted that the new school will provide additional capacity and a modern inspirational place to learn. This will have enormous benefit for both current and future generations of Whitehaven children as well as members of the community who will also be able to use some of the facilities. 

Cracking down on FGM

Communities across England will receive a share of a new fund which aims to increase awareness of the devastating consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). You can find more information here .   Key facts :   Areas with the highest number of FGM reports will receive a share of a £375,000 fund designed to boost outreach work and engagement with communities.   37 local authorities will benefit from grants by the end of this month. This funding is just one of the ways this Government is helping communities to fight FGM.   Why this matters :   Female genital mutilation is a devasting and revolting crime that causes immeasurable harm on its victims and this Government is committed to bringing an end to FGM worldwide.

Should Coroners investigate stilllbirths?

The government has launched a consultation on proposals to give coroners the power to investigate all full-term stillbirths so bereaved parents get the answers they deserve.   Key facts:   Currently, coroners can only hold inquests for babies who have shown signs of life after being born. Stillbirths are investigated by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.   Some parents have raised concerns about this process and want a more transparent and independent system, so we are asking for views on whether coroners should be able to investigate stillbirths.   Coroners can give parents much needed answers but also crucially make recommendations to prevent future avoidable deaths so fewer people have to experience the terrible tragedy of losing a child.   Why this matters: Every stillbirth is a tragedy for bereaved families, these proposals would ensure that bereaved parents have their voices heard and we learn the l

Quote of the day 27th March 2019


Cash boost for rural pubs

The government has announced a new cash boost for Britain's much loved rural pubs.   Key facts :   Rural pubs will receive £188,000 to deliver additional services securing their place at the heart of the community.   76 new projects will receive support to help pubs bring communities together by expanding their services beyond food and drink.   This builds on our support to local businesses at last year’s Budget where we announced a third off eligible retailer’s business rates bills for 2 years from April 2019 for properties with a rateable value below £51,000. This support is worth £1 billion and will help many community pubs thrive.   Why this matters :  Our pubs are at the heart of local communities supporting thousands of jobs and providing places for local residents to get together helping to tackle rural isolation and bringing people together.

Has the penny dropped too late?

The tectonic plates of Brexit are certainly shifted - but is it too little too late? Jacob Rees Mogg's " Moggcast " on Conservative Home acknowleded that Mrs May's deal is "Better than no Brexit at all."! He also said that people of his persuasion in parliament had perhaps not thought enough about the fact that Brexit is a process not an event - something which people like Jim King were writing here three years ago. Iain Martin thinks that the hardline Brexiteers may have, however, come round to this view too late . He may well be right.

Quote of the day 26th March 2019

"Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.  I think it's in my basement - let me go upstairs and check." ( M.C. Escher. It's a pity the late Maurice Escher is not still around, or we could ask him to go upstairs to his basement and bring back a plan to get a Brexit deal which will please everyone through the House of Commons …)

The latest Brexit amendment

If I had been elected to parliament I would have signed and voted for this amendment which has been tabled in the House of Commons:

Quote of the day 25th March 2019


Brexit update

In just under two months Britain could be out of the European Union. If Parliament comes together and backs the Brexit deal we will leave the EU by 22 May. We will finally be on a path that will allow us to pursue our own trade deals and set our own skills based immigration policy. We would be able to take back control over our fishing waters and our farming policy, set our own laws and spend the vast sums of money we currently send to Brussels on our priorities like the NHS and schools. If Parliament doesn’t back the deal there are only three possible outcomes: Parliament could stop Brexit altogether – despite their election promises to respect the referendum  revoking Article 50 is supported by some Labour MPs, and this is also the policy of the SNP and Liberal Democrats. Others want to try to stop Brexit by holding a second referendum.  Britain could leave the European Union without a deal . However, given the large majority in the House of Commons against no deal, the

Grade inflation

The Education Secretary is calling on universities to end grade inflation to maintain the UK university sector’s world class reputation. Key facts:  Analysis published by the Office for Students shows that 27 per cent of students obtained a first-class honours degree in 2016-17, up from 16 per cent in 2010-11. The Education Secretary has called on universities to ensure that there is only a steep rise in the number of firsts and 2:1s awarded if this can be explained in terms of improved performance, and for the Office for Students – when they have their full range of powers later this year – to challenge any institutions that record an unjustifiable rise. It cannot be right that students in one year are awarded higher grades that those in previous years unless this reflects a higher level of achievement. We owe it to the hardworking students who have earned those top grades to ensure that there is consistency between years in grading.  Why this matters:  Our universities a

A Sunday Reflection

"You don't leave your brain at the door when you come to church." (Extract from a sermon given today at St James' church Whitehaven by the Reverend Robert Jackson, encouraging Christians to confront the challenges posed by their faith such as the problem of pain.)

The Great Escape

On the night of 24th/25th March 1944 - seventy five years ago today - allied airmen being held as prisoners of war at the Nazi camp Stalag Luft 3 attempted a mass escape. More than 600 prisoners took part in the attempt, headed by an escape committee under Squadron Leader Roger Bushell. The aim was for 220 prisoners to escape: in fact 76 men made it through the escape tunnel and out of the camp to a nearby wood before the German guards spotted the 77th escaping prisoner. Sadly only three of the 76 made it home safely: the other 73 were recaptured by the Germans and 50 of them, including Bushell, were murdered on Hitler's orders.  There was a ceremony today at the site of the former POW camp to commemorate all those who took part. The RAF was represented by a contingent of the RAF police, the unit which painstakingly tracked down the murderers after the war, and brought most of the surviving culprits to justice. The story of the mass escape was told by Australian jour

Quote of the day 24th March 2019


West CumbrIa Mining - a note to protesters

A note to all the objectors, of whom the closest live at least an hour's drive away from Copeland and the furthest are at the opposite end of the country, whom have been sending messages to all members of Cumbria County council asking us to call in or reverse the decision to approve the West Cumbria Mining planning application (much of which is in my division,) which will provide more than five hundred badly needed jobs in West Cumbria. If any of them should happen to be reading this, please note that 1) People in West Cumbria overwhelmingly support the application. The only flak I have taken from any of my constituents wasn't for urging the committee to grant the application, it was in the opposite direction, particularly over the fact that the application took so long to come to committee. 2) This application was not approved at an Overview and Scrutiny committee but at the Development Control and Regulation Committee, whose decisions are not subject to call-in. 3) Ac

Comments policy

I came back from campaigning today and found about thirty identical "comments," one each on my last thirty or so  posts on this blog, which were advertising hacking services. I have deleted them. This blog exists primarily to provide information and debate about political topics, particularly on matter relating to Copeland and the North West, and, I make no secret of this, to promote Conservative policy. I also put up some posts which I think will interest and amuse the readers of the blog and have occasionally been known to put up unsolicited testimonials and bouquets for people doing a good job. However this blog does not exist to provide a platform for free advertising for people who have not had the courtesy to ask me beforehand. Many blogs and websites take advertising and I don't rule out the possibility that at some point I might agree to post adverts from a reputable person or body which appear likely to be of genuine interest and benefit to readers, but any

Music to relax after campaigning: Purcel's Rondeau (from Abdelazer)


Quote of the day 23rd March 2019


Government borrowing falls to 17 year low

Government borrowing has fallen to its lowest level since 2001 – showing that the Conservatives' balanced approach to the economy is working. Key facts :  Government borrowing has fallen to its lowest level in 17 years, according to the Office of National Statistics.  A rise in receipts from income tax, national insurance contributions and capital gains tax has helped lower net borrowing.  In the ten months to February, borrowing was £23.1 billion which is £18 billion less than the same period last year and the lowest financial-year-to-date borrowing at this stage since April 2001 to February 2002.  Why this matters :  These figures show how far we’ve come in repairing the public finances. We’re taking a balanced approach, investing in public services and keeping taxes low, while getting debt falling.

Helping the survivors of Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai has caused terrible suffering in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The UK government has made available an extra £12 million of support to the survivors of this devastating event. Key facts : Earlier this week over 7,500 emergency shelter kits and 100 family tents, all funded by UK aid, arrived in Mozambique for onward distribution to families who have had to flee their homes.  The aid will help meet immediate needs such as making sure families have access to clean water, food and safe shelter.  The extra funding announced yesterday takes our total support to the crisis to £18 million.  Why this matters :  This is undoubtedly one of the biggest natural disasters to ever hit the region; the UK’s aid package is a sign of our commitment to doing all we can to ensure those in desperate need of humanitarian relief have access to life-saving essentials.

Quote of the day 22nd May 2019

Reagan made an important point here. Many politicians support putting taxes on business because they think that by so doing they can avoid putting taxes on voters. It doesn't work like that. Every penny that a business pays in tax is an extra penny that that business charges its customers. or a penny less paid to the people employed by that company or who invest in it. Or, worst of all in the long run, a penny less that the business has available to invest in its future, which is bad news for Britain's future in terms of jobs, productivity and wealth.

Brexit - what happens now

So the EU council has agreed 1) an unconditional extension of the Article 50 date until 12th April 2) If the deal passes, an extension until 22nd May to pass the necessary legislation. Which means Britain will not be leaving the EU on 29th March. it seems likely that there will be one pf four outcomes: A) DEAL.   If the deal gets through the House of Commons at the third attempt, Britain leaves on 22nd May with a deal. If the deal doesn't get through then that part of the House of Commons which is adamantly opposed to a "No Deal" Brexit have until 12th April to force through either a revocation of Article 50 - which I don't think they have the votes for - or a credible plan for an alternative deal which will persuade the EU to grant a longer extension. B) NO DEAL. If the deal falls and the "No to no Deal" lobby fail to force an alternative through, Britain leaves on 12th April with no withdrawal agreement in place. This cannot be entirel