Showing posts from May, 2019

The eyes have it, part four

There are times when it is impossible not to realise how fortunate we are to live in today's world rather than any other period in history. From the age of six until three years ago I was utterly dependent on very strong glasses or contact lenses to see anything much. For most of human history a person with uncorrected eyesight as poor as mine was would have been severely handicapped by it. And it would have got worse. Five minutes before the first of the operations to correct my sight, I learned from the pre-operation check that I was in the early stages of developing a cataract in my right eye. If I had been born a century earlier or at any time before that I would have faced going completely blind in at least one eye. No longer. Thanks to a miracle of modern science I was able to have the lenses of my eyes replaced in 2016 and I no longer need glasses. This surgery was life-changing. I was warned at the time that there was a small chance that some opacity might develop

Friday music spot: Widor's Toccata


More is needed

That is the title of today's Jewish Chronicle leader article about the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into the Labour Party. It can be read here . Anyone who seriously claims to be an opponent of racism should read it and think. Anti-Semitism is not the only type of racism which is blighting this country. And no party or group can afford to be complacent - about prejudice against Jews, prejudice against Muslims, or any other kind of prejudice. But we all need to think about what we personally are going to do to oppose it.

Quote of the day 31st May 2019

Today being the last day of May reminded me of "the darling buds of May" in William Shakespeare's eighteenth sonnet - one of the greatest love poems ever written. From most writers the last lines would be an incredible conceit, but from Shakespeare it was a statement of fact. He knew that, insofar as any work of man can be immortal, this poem would be, and would confer that immortality on the memory of the person to whose beauty he dedicated it.

Thursday music spot "In native worth and honor clad" from Haydn's The Creation


Resolution foundation finds big fall in wage inequality since 2015

Independent research by the Resolution Foundation has found that, quote "The proportion of low-paid workers across Britain has fallen to its lowest level since 1980 - falling by 200,000 in the last year alone, and by 900,000 since 2015. This welcome fall in low pay has been driven by the introduction of the National Living Wage." This is based on a big drop since about 2013 in the proportion of workers paid less than two thirds of the median wage (the "below 2/3 median" line in this graph) Since the higher ‘National Living Wage’ (NLW) was introduced for those aged 25 and over in 2016, the percentage of employees in low pay (paid less than two thirds of median hourly pay) has fallen from 20.7 per cent in 2015 to 17.1 per cent in 2018. During the latter part of the period on the above chart, particularly after the introduction by George Osborne of the National Living Wage, the floor level of wages for the majority of workers rose significantly, which is

Quote of the day 30th May 2019


A clean campaign pledge

I was pleased to see that three of the candidates for the Conservative leadership, so far, have signed a clean campaign pledge. Well done Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Dominic Raab for this, but I hope and expect all the other candidates rest will also sign and act accordingly.

Midweek music spot: Vivaldi (arr. Bach) Concerto for four harpsichords

Yes, I know the title on the clip describes this as being by Bach. Antonio Vivaldi actually composed this music as a concerto for four violins and Bach transcribed it for four harpsichords. I like both versions.

Next "Saturday Chataway" in Thwaites Village Hall this weekend

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, will hold her next ‘Saturday Chataway’ surgery in Thwaites Village Hall at The Green this weekend. Councillors and locally elected members will join Trudy Harrison MP at Thwaites Village Hall on Saturday to speak with constituents, listen to their concerns and suggestions and assist with any issues. The address is Thwaites Village Hall, The Green, Millom, LA18 5HJ Each month, these coffee morning style surgeries raise money for a much valued local organisation or charity. The event will be held between 10am – 12pm. Refreshments available, with all proceeds going to Thwaites Village Hall.

Email issues

I try to respond to individual emails within 72 hours, or faster if possible. This does not apply to unsolicited attempts to sell me things, circular messages which have gone to a wide circulation such as every member of the county council (especially from people on the other side of the country trying to stop people in my division getting jobs) or messages which appear to contain harmful attachments or not to come from the people they purport to be from. But if I see a message which appears to be from a constituent I will respond as quickly as possible. I have had some problems in the past with genuine emails not getting through to me, either because they are picked up in error by my SPAM filters (all the more infuriating given the mountain of SPAM which does get through) or because of technical problems, particularly with my county council email. If you are a constituent and you have sent me an email and not had a response within 72 hours, then 1) please accept my apologies

Helping ex-offenders to get work and "go straight"

Those who break the law should be punished. But when they have completed that punishment it is in everyone's interest including their own, their families and that of the wider community to help them "go straight" and make a fresh start. That includes getting an honest job. That is why the government is taking more action to help ex-offenders get into work, reducing the likelihood of reoffending and cutting the £15 billion cost to the economy each year whilst keeping the public safe.  Key facts :  One year on from the launch of the Education and Employment Strategy for prisoners, 230 additional businesses have joined the Ministry of Justice’s flagship work placement scheme for ex-offenders. Evidence shows ex-prisoners in work are less likely to reoffend – cutting the £15 billion cost of reoffending to the economy, with ex-offenders up to 9 percentage points less likely to commit further crime.  The government is also changing rules to allow prison governors greater

An old delusion makes an unwelcome comeback

I was sorry to see one of the most foolish ideas from the student politics of my youth making an unwelcome return in a tweet from the leader of the opposition - the idea that .the worlds of business and education have nothing to offer each other. The worst thing which can possibly happen to Universities is that they become ivory towers with no link to the real world or the actual challenges facing the country. Jeremy Corbyn tweeted at the weekend that he wants to see "a National Education Service to abolish university fees and deliver free education for all. Let's get corporations out of the classroom and off campus." I would love to see the abolition of the University Tuition fees which were initially introduced by the last Labour government after they promised at the 1997 general election that Labour had "no plans" to do so. Labour then doubled the fees, breaking their promise at the 2001 election that they would not introduce higher or "top-up&quo

Quote of the day 29th May 2019


Stephen Daisley on Brexit and the "liberal nervous breakdown."

It has been my opinion for a long time that a significant proportion of the British political spectrum becomes somewhat irrational when the subject of the EU comes up and that this applies at both ends of the pro-to-anti Brexit spectrum. On the one hand there has for a long time been an element of the UK establishment which always appears to believe that the EU can do no wrong, that any problems with the EU's failure to account properly for the money it spends which lead the Court of Auditors to publish critical reports are all the fault of member states, that everything the EU side of any negotiations with Britain says should be treated as gospel while those by our own side are received with robust scepticism, and any failure by British negotiators to agree to the everything the EU asks for is intransigence. There is a mirror-image of this worldview among those for whom the "EUSSR" can do nothing right, who will never take the European Union's side even in disput

Quote of the day 28th May 2019

"When we come in third after the Brexit party, that is a clue something is wrong with our strategy." ( Diane Abbott on Twitter yesterday detects that Labour has a problem.) Yes - parties which promised to implement the decision of the voters in the referendum and failed to do so have been punished for it. It's time for MPs to live up to the promises on which they were elected.

Sajid Javid for PM

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has declared that he is standing to be leader of the Conservative party and PM and he has my support.  I believe that of the contenders who are standing Saj has the best chance to unite the country, create opportunities for all, deliver Conservative election promises and be a successful Prime Minister for the whole United Kingdom. @TeamSaj #TeamSaj


The results in the European elections held on Thursday and counted and announced last night are the clearest possibly indication that the country is polarising in its' views on Europe. Of those who voted - about a third of the electorate : Millions of voters are furious that we are still in the EU having voted to leave, six weeks after we were supposed to do so. Hence the rise of the Brexit party which was only formed six weeks ago to a stunning first place in the European elections. Millions of other voters want to try to stop us leaving - hence the resurrection of the Lib/Dems. Parties which tried to appeal to both leave and remain voters - the Conservatives and Labour - took a hammering. Two thirds of the electorate did not vote We don't have any accurate figures about how many millions think we should have left and didn't vote in protest - though you can bet your life it is in the millions - or how many had the opposite opinion, how many were genuinely un

Britain goes 215 hours without electricity from coal

As of yesterday afternoon Britain had gone a record 215 hours – and counting - without coal-powered energy. The Conservative government's reforms and investment are ensuring sure we leave our planet in a better state for the next generation.  Key facts :  Britain has exceeded the eight-day record set earlier this month for the number of successive hours gone without using coal to generate power.  This year we’ve already reached the major milestone of 1,000 hours without using coal to power our homes and industry.  Last year renewables generated a record amount of electricity, generating 37.1 per cent of the UK’s electricity in 2018 Q4, up from 6.1 per cent in 2010.  Why this matters :  We’re closing in on phasing out coal entirely from our power system by 2025 as our renewable sector goes from strength to strength.

Quote of the day 27th May 2019


Action to curb plastic pollution

The Environment Secretary has announced action to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds – tackling plastic pollution and ensuring we leave our environment in a better state for future generations.  Key facts :  Following an open consultation, a ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds will come into force in April 2020 – ahead of the EU’s proposal for a ban on these items in 2021.  In England, we use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds with many of these ending up in waterways and oceans.  In our response to the consultation published today, over 80 per cent of respondents back a ban on the distribution and sale of plastic straws, whilst 90 per cent back a ban on drinks stirrers, and 89 per cent back a ban on cotton buds.  We know there are instances where using plastic straws is necessary for medical reasons and the Government will therefore ensure that those that ne

Quote of the day 26th May 2019

A point very relevant to the question of the terms on which Britain leaves the EU and what our relationship with that body should look like. 

Support for new teachers

Thousands of teachers across the country are to receive extra money to encourage and support them during the early years of their classroom careers.  Key facts :  Early career maths and physics teachers in the North East, Yorkshire & the Humber and Opportunity Areas will receive a £2,000 incentive as part of a drive to increase rates of retention among teachers of these subjects.  The initiative will further support teachers in the areas benefitting from our £72 million Opportunity Area programme – creating local partnerships to remove obstacles to social mobility.  The pilot, backed by £10 million set aside from last year’s Budget, will test a new way of incentivising maths and physics teachers to remain in the profession during the first five years of their career.  Why this matters : The most important thing in education is the teacher at the front of the classroom. Whilst teaching remains a popular career, but we want to make sure teaching remains an attractive and f

Quote of the day 25th May 2019


The end of May

So yet another Conservative Prime Minister has been pulled down by divisions over Europe. (The Labour party is, of course, also badly split on the issue.) We need to stop doing this. Britain must leave the EU as the electorate voted and people must be willing to make reasonable compromises so that we can get the implementation of the electorate's decision through the House of Commons.

Quote of the day 24th May 2019

"A week is a long time in politics." ( Sir Harold Wilson )

Defence Secretary writes to congratulate Barrow Shipyard workers on their vital role

Penny Mordaunt, the secretary of state for defence, has praised and recognised the work of Barrow shipyard workers past and present who spent the last 50 years helping to protect the UK. As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD), Mrs Mordaunt has written an open letter to all the thousands of shipyard workers who have served during the past 50 years recognising their efforts as a ‘vital contribution’ towards the security of the nation. In the letter Penny Mordaunt wrote that: “Every day for the past 50 years we have had a submarine continuously patrolling our waters and at this important milestone it’s important to recognise everyone who has played a pivotal role in this, including the thousands of shipyard workers in Barrow in Furness.  “The region has a long and proud history of shipbuilding, with hundreds of merchant ships, submarines and naval vessels all built in Barrow’s shipyards, including both HMS Vengeance and HMS Vict

Quote of the day 23rd May 2019

"Back to square one. Fanatical Remainer MPs refuse to admit they are risking a No Deal Brexit. Fanatical Leaver MPs refuse to admit they are risking Brexit being cancelled. Labour MPs refuse to admit they couldn't care less what happens with Brexit as long as it hurts the Tories." (Hugo Gye, digital political editor and occasional leader writer at the Sun, tweets a summary of the reasons for the deadlock in parliament.)

Polls now open in the European election

Voting is now open in the elections no leaver wanted and IMHO a majority of those who voted Remain thought also should not have happened - to elect another cohort of British MEPs. Unfortunately because of a failure of parliament and the EU to agree how Britain should leave we are still a member state of the EU at this time and therefore have a legal duty to hold these elections. There will be many people who are inclined to stay at home in protest. I fully understand that. However, there are some truly awful candidates standing in these elections. There are people putting up for election with convictions for mortgage fraud and assault (football hooliganism and political thuggery) people associated with expressions of support for IRA atrocities like the Warrington bomb and with genocide denial, candidates who think it is OK to joke about rape. In that context, if you stay at home you cannot complain if candidates like that get elected. I would urge all decent people who have n

Quote of the day 22nd May 2019


The pen is mightier than the milkshake ...

I was never very keen on the late Sir Harold Wilson and still less soon on John, later Lord, Prescott. Nor am I a fan of Jeremy Corbyn or Nigel Farage. But apart from my not agreeing with their politics, all those people have something else in common. Every one of them is more intelligent than the muppets who threw eggs or milkshakes at them - not that this is a high bar. The instant you resort to throwing things, you have proved that you don't have the brains to win a debate. Margaret Thatcher famously said that if your opponents resort to attacking you personally, they only show up their lack of good political arguments. But throwing eggs or milkshakes is even worse - you have not only signalled that you don't have any good political arguments, you've shown you don't even have the wit to think of a good insult. If the person you throw the shake at has any political skill they will, if you'll pardon the expression, "milk" the incident for

Quote of the day 21st May 2019


Meeting Highways England

Attended two meetings at County Hall today. One of them was between county councillors representing Copeland and Highways England to discuss various road issues, and particularly the Moresby Viaduct issue and the proposed Whitehaven Relief Road for the A595. We kept up the pressure for the Moresby Viaduct issue to be addressed as soon as is consistent with getting a sound, sustainable solution which does not prejudice, or ideally should actually help, with the need for the Relief Road and decent highways access to new developments which Copeland Borough Council wants to build in the area. With regard to the Relief Road, highways England expects to be able to publish a response to the consultation soon and no later than this summer. We should get confirmation in the Autumn statement whether the Relief Road has been included in "RIS2," the programme of major road works to be completed between 2022 and 2027.

Quote of the day 20th May 2019

"Once a 'smear' used to mean saying or writing something about someone that was essentially untrue. Now it means saying or writing something about someone that is completely true but that they don't want others reminded of." (Journalist David Aaronovitch on twitter.)

In memoriam: Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary by Purcell.

I attended two funerals this week. The first, at St James' Whitehaven was for Beatrice Last, a member of the congregation of that church. The second, at Sacred Heart Church, Luton, was for my wife's uncle, John Egan. This post is memory of two lovely people. Beatrice and Uncle John, Rest in Peace.

Sunday music spot: "Holy is the True Light" by William Harris


Second quote of the day 19th May 2019

"Not leaving EU provides Farage with an historic grievance which will deform our politics for years. The economic cost is worth paying to avoid horrible ruinous paralysing extremism. Democrats have to abide by the ballot box."  Tweet from Charlie Falconer - yes. that's right, Tony Blair's old flatmate Lord Falconer - getting spectacularly right what his former boss has been getting so egregiously wrong, in response to an article by Phil Collins in the Times That article, which can be read here , begins as follows: "Nigel Farage was always destined to be the winner in the great Brexit fiasco. Either Britain leaves the European Union, in which case his political mission is fulfilled, or we do not, in which case his political career is revived. His best and most dangerous days might now be ahead of him." But it's not just Farage. If we don't deliver what the British people voted for, every conspiracy theorist, everyone who has ever said "

Quote of the day 19th May 2019


We need a definition of Anti-Muslim hatred - but not this one

All forms of racism are unacceptable. There is a worrying rise in Britain and much of the rest of the world in several forms of racism, with Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim prejudice, sometimes referred to as Islamophobia, as the two which seem to show the most marked rise in Britain at the moment. No organisation can afford to be complacent about either and that includes the political parties. I believe the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of Anti-Semitism is very helpful in dealing with prejudice against Jews, which is why I proposed successfully that Cumbria County Council should adopt it. I welcome the fact that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims has been working on a working definition of Islamophobia with a similar objective. We do need such a definition. The APPG has published a report titled Islamophobia Defined: the inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia. It contained the following definition: “Islam

Music to relax after campaigning: The Phantom Of The Opera


Quote of the day 18th May 2019


Keeping the streets safe

This week the Offensive Weapons Bill passed by the Conservative government received Royal Assent and it will become law, ensuring police have the powers they need to keep people safe. Key facts :  While crime has fallen since 2010, there has been a worrying increase in certain types of violent crime.  That is why we brought forward the Offensive Weapons Bill, which bans the delivery of knives and corrosives to residential addresses, bans the possession of weapons such as zombie knives and knuckle dusters, and creates a new criminal offence of selling corrosive substances to a person under the age of 18.  It also includes new powers enabling police to intervene when someone is suspected of carrying a knife, preventing young people from becoming involved with knife crime in the first place.  Why this matters :  To keep our families, communities and country safe we are making sure the police have the powers they need to keep these dangerous weapons off our streets as we build a

Labour's National Grid plans hit pensioners

The Labour party has announced a ridiculous and unaffordable plan to nationalise the National Grid. Nationalisation has been tried before and failed every time. The company I work for used to be part of a nationalised industry. At the time it was sold to the public, it was still manufacturing and installing equipment which was two generations out of date. The railways used to be a nationalised industry called British Rail - which had a worse safety record, a worse reliability record, put in far less investment and delivered a worse service. And today the part of the railways industry which has the worst problems is the part the Blair government re-nationalised. Whether it was making cars, steel, energy or providing services, nationalised industries have a record of failure. Labour's plans to nationalise the National Grid would mean more borrowing, higher bills and tax hikes for hardworking families. Key facts : Jeremy Corbyn’s ideological plan for the state to sei

Stamping out Anti-Semitism in Universities

The Universities Minister is calling on universities to stamp out antisemitism ensuring that there is a safe, welcoming and tolerant environment on UK campuses. Key facts :  Universities have a responsibility to ensure students do not face discrimination, harassment or victimisation of any kind and provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students.  Free speech is vital to the independence and innovation of the higher education sector and must be protected - so it is unacceptable to oblige certain groups of students to incur costs for security because of their race or religion.  The government is urging universities to advance their efforts to tackle unacceptable religious hatred and are calling on them to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.  Why this matters :  Our universities should show that they are serious about ensuring their campuses are tolerant environments – by showing moral leadership and adopting the

Quote of the day 17th May 2019

This is why Colin Parry, whose son was one of two young boys murdered by the IRA in the Warrington bomb atrocity, has asked voters in the North West not to back the Brexit party, on whose ticket in this region Claire Fox is the number one candidate. The North West region includes Warrington.

May meeting of Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee

The next meeting of the Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee will take place on Wednesday 22nd May in the council chamber at County Hall in Kendal at 10.30 am . The meeting will be open to the public. Copies of all the reports to be presented to the meeting are available on the County Council website here . The agenda is as follows: Item 1. Election of Vice-Chair  To appoint a Vice Chair who shall be a District Council representative for the ensuing year. The Vice Chair shall be appointed by the District Council representatives serving on the Committee. 2. Apologies for Absence  To receive any apologies for absence. 3. Membership of the Committee  To note any changes to the membership of the Committee. 4. Disclosures of Interest  Members are invited to disclose any disclosable pecuniary interest they have in any item on the agenda 5. Exclusion of Press and Public To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week , which this year focuses on body image and the impact it can have on mental health. ·       Body image issues can cause anxieties for many young people in particular, and can lead to mental health conditions.   ·       Our long-term plan for the NHS delivers record investment in mental health services – an extra £2.3 billion by 2023-24 – including faster access to help for conditions like eating disorders.   ·       There is more to do to ensure that looking after our mental health becomes just as natural as looking after our physical health , and no one ever feels they have to suffer in silence again.   ·       We are committed to increasing the share of the NHS budget which is spent on mental health services and making them more accessible, as well as tackling the root causes of mental health conditions. We are taking action to protect people from concerns about body image: