Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Conservative party chairman writes ...

Parliament isn’t working. Instead of getting on with the country’s priorities, MPs have spent all their time arguing about Brexit.

We need to break the deadlock that is preventing Parliament from getting Brexit done, so that we can move on.

With this election, we have a chance to ensure the country has a functioning government. A government that works for the people, and delivers on voters’ priorities.

On the 12th of December, you’ll cast your vote. So the next five years are down to you.

We can end the uncertainty, end the delays – and put Britain back on the road to a brighter future.

Getting Brexit done with our new deal. £33.9 billion extra for the NHS. 20,000 extra police officers. More money for every single school in the country. And a growing economy.

But here’s the risk. Labour and the Lib Dems can’t win a majority. So the more votes they get, the more likely another hung parliament is.

The other parties have ruled out a coalition with us. So in a hung parliament, Jeremy Corbyn would be in charge. For Five. Long. Years.

Five years of tax rises, out-of-control spending, more referendums, and politicians arguing about Brexit. The same politicians who spent the last three years getting nothing done.

So let’s not go back to square one. The road to a brighter future starts today. And it starts with you.

Tell your friends. Forward this email. Together, we can get Brexit done – and get on with the country’s priorities.
Yours sincerely,
James Cleverly
Rt Hon James Cleverly MP
Chairman of the Conservative Party

Standing up against Anti-Semitism is not just about the Jews

Britain is experiencing a significant rise in overt and covert racism, in which Anti-Semitism is the first leading indicator and Anti-Muslim prejudice not far behind.

No political party is entirely free from either and no political party can afford to be complacent about either.

When I successfully proposed that Cumbria County Council should adopt the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism both I and my seconder, Sol Wielkopolski, bent over backwards to do so in a constructive way and avoid point-scoring.

That wasn't because either of us has a problem with pointing to Labour's Anti-Semitism problem when it is appropriate. During the coming General Election there will be times when it will be  appropriate to refer to this issue and I will make no apology for doing so. However, there are times when you make that sort of point and times when you don't and while you are trying to get an important motion through a hung council is one of the times when you don't.

Claudia Mendoza, who is Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Jewish Leadership Council, has a very important article in this week's Jewish News UK on the subject. It makes the important point, put by John Mann who was elected to the parliament which is just coming to an end as a Labour MP but is becoming a crossbench peer instead, that fighting Anti-Semitism isn't just about the Jews. What starts with attacks on the Jews goes on to affect everyone.

The JLC have put a scan of the article on Twitter so they obviously intend people to share that image, and here it is.

Halloween music spot: Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre"


Today, 31st October, is All Hallow's Eve (the day before All Saints Day) which is usually shortened to Halloween.

In medieval times there was an important three-day festival called "Allhallowtide" in the Christian calendar. It would be easy to conclude that the only thing from either the pagan festivals which were once held at this time of year, or Christian festivals either, which retains any significant impact on the popular consciousness are the name "Halloween" for the first day of that festival and a humorous "celebration" of ghosts, witches and demons which are essentially a parody of the way medieval Christian propagandists depicted the previous pagan festival.

It is often alleged that at this time of year the pre-Christian religions originally held a great Pagan festival and that "Allhallowtide" represented this beingco-opted by the early Christian church.

However, when you start looking into the historical evidence it becomes clear that things are a bit more complicated.

Judeo-Christian traditions commemorating the dead go back thousands of years, pre-dating the life of Jesus and described in the Old Testament (See 2 Maccabees 12:42–46.) Different Christian traditions commemorate the dead in different ways and on different dates although all of them do something to commemorate the departed and most of them have such a commemoration about this time of year.

In terms of pagan rites, there was indeed an ancient Celtic festival marking the Autumn equinox, on 1st November, known as Samhain.

To Catholics, who do not believe that most of those who eventually get to Heaven can go straight there, having to go through a process called "Purgatory" first, Halloween was a vigil before the main feasts of All Saints' Day on 1st November, when the saints in heaven are commemorated, and All Souls' Day, usually on 2nd November (in some countries and traditions it is put back a day to Monday 3rd November when the second day in November is a Sunday) is a day for prayer for all the dead including those who are not yet in heaven and may be in Purgatory on their way there. In some countries the Catholic church also refers to All Souls' Day as the Day of the Dead.

Allhallowtide is the combined festival consisting of all three days.

The Church of England, like many protestant denominations, does not have the same doctrines around Purgatory but does pray for the dead on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day without making the same theological distinction between the two.

Most human cultures have had some sort of celebration to mark both Solstices and both equinoxes -even if it's only changing the clocks to shift from British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time, or the equivalent. (Of course, now we mostly use phones to tell the time and they change automatically). Most cultures have also had some form of commemoration of the dead.

I d not personally buy into the "The Catholics set it up this way to sabotage the pagans" narrative but I do think that elements of both have entered into the peculiar modern tradition of Halloween.

(All Soul's day, a painting by W. A. Bouguereau)

I do regret that over the past 20 years we have ditched the traditional British "Penny for the Guy" for an unfortunate imported version of the American "Trick or Treat" practice. In the USA it's only very small children who take part in "Trick or Treat" and usually with their parents or older siblings watching from a safe distance, and hence it avoids the appearance,  which can often arise in this country when teenagers call on pensioners, of demanding money with menaces. 

It is also a problem that the presence of a big bowl of sweets by the front door so as to have something to offer "trick or treat" callers can play merry hell with the diet!

N.B. One of the town and borough councillors in my division, Karl "Whammo" Walmsley from Mirehouse, has made the very good point that for road safety reasons, when children are going around doing "Trick or Treat" in the dark they should make sure their costumes are not all in black or dark colours only - wear something white or carry a glowstick or light. We absolutely do not want Halloween to lead to any extra funerals held sixty years early! 

Here is Cumbria Police's advice for a safe Halloween

To anyone reading this who is remembering loved ones who have died over the next three days, I will remember both you and your loved ones in my prayers.

Second quote of the day 31st October 2019

First quote of the day 31st October 2019

I don't often quote Lib/Dems but I thought this quote from a Lib/Dem councillor was worth making an exception for.

"I am a Liberal Democrat county councillor and I believe strongly that our party has rather misread the current mood of the British people.

In our zeal to ride the wave of popularity that has seen our polling increase well recently, we have jumped on our own bandwagon and left the driver behind.

Our recent policy of cancelling Brexit is not a vote winner, it will merely retain the votes of people who will vote for us anyway."

(Councillor Abigail MacCartney, first three lines of a letter published in The Independent this week.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Midweek music spot: Thou Visitest The Earth (Maurice Green)

North Cumbria hospitals to get new cancer screening equipment

Today the government announced the 78 hospital trusts that will receive state-of-the-art MRI, CT and mammography screening machines, so our brilliant NHS staff have the tools they need to quickly diagnose cancer and boost survival rates.

It is crucial that our NHS has the latest and very best technology to prevent and diagnose cancer, and very welcome that the government is investing £200 million in new, state-of-the-art cancer screening equipment, giving frontline staff access to the tools they need to make a real difference to patients’ lives.

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust will be receiving equipment under this scheme.

Feedback on "Working Together" NHS drop-in meetings today

Very impressed by the "Conversation about the NHS" drop in sessions at Whitehaven Golf Club today organised by the CCG under the "Working Together" programme.

A great deal of thoughtful input by staff from various different caring services, some good ideas came out of it, and I learned a lot (and came away with a couple of actions to help !)

Public drop-in meetings about working together for West Cumbria's NHS

There is a really important set of "drop in" meetings today about how we can all work together to build the future of the NHS in West Cumbria.

The event is being held at Whitehaven Golf Course, starting at 1.30pm, and will be split into sessions that run from:
  • 1.30pm to 3.00pm, 
  • 3.30pm to 5.00pm, and 
  • 6.00pm to 7.30pm. 
Everyone with an interest in good healthcare in West Cumbria is welcome.

More details here.

Quote of the day 30th October 2019

"As we edge towards a December general election, a heartfelt promise: 

I will do everything in my power to try to ensure my baby, Jewish by blood, will not be born under an Anti-Semitic government. 

I hope this will never happen, please use your vote wisely."

(Rachel Riley on Twitter yesterday @RachelRileyRR.

This was a tweet which shared a Spectator article by Stephen Daisley,

"A vote for Labour is a vote for Anti-Semitism" which you can read here.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Early election bill passed

The Conservatives have brought forward a Bill for a general election to be held on 12 December – so we can elect a new Parliament, get Brexit done and let the country can move on.

And, finally, the House of Commons has agreed.

We didn't want an election but this Parliament has forced another delay on Brexit which is really damaging the country.

If we don’t have an election, this Parliament will waste 2020 on more delay meaning we cannot focus on the NHS, the cost of living, tackling violent crime and more jobs.

Millions of families and businesses cannot plan for the future – we will not allow this paralysis and stagnation to continue. One way or another we must proceed straight to an election. Parliament can no longer keep this country hostage.

So sadly this is the only way to do it because Parliament and Corbyn have blocked everything.

Our top priority remains, as it always has been, to get Brexit done.

We will be making the case for the need for a functioning majority government that breaks the Brexit deadlock, and moves past the confusion, indecision and arguments that have plagued the last three years.

We will be taking our positive vision to the country for what is possible for Britain once Brexit is done and we leave with our great new deal.

Q: What about votes for 16 to 17 year olds?

  • This is a simple bill, with a simple purpose - to set the date of that election so we can get Brexit done. 
  • Votes at 16 are administratively impossible to deliver in the time available – you just can’t back an election before 2020 and votes at 16. 

Q: What about EU citizens?

  • No other EU country allows EU citizens who are not their nationals to vote in their elections. 
  • Not  France, not Germany, not Italy and not even Belgium allow citizens of other EU countries to vote in their general elections.

Serious and organised crime

Today the Home Secretary is launching a review of all forms of serious and organised crime to help to keep our streets safe.
  • Serious and organised crime targets the most vulnerable in our society, ruining lives and blighting communities. 
  • This threat is growing, and offenders are becoming more sophisticated. 
  • This review will identify ways of bolstering the response to threats such as county lines, people trafficking, drugs, child sexual exploitation, fraud and illicit finance. 
  • Conservatives are committed to tackling crime and keeping our streets safe, and by getting Brexit done we can focus on the people’s priorities – delivering 20,000 more police on our streets to protect the public and bring criminals to justice.

Quote of the day 29th October 2019

"What’s scarier than Halloween? 
Parliament’s treatment of democracy."

(Title of an article by Charlotte Gill which you can read here.)

Tuesday music spot: "Awake us, Lord, and hasten" (JS Bach)

I actually picked this nusic slot for today before I knew that it was becoming likely that MPs will finally hasten to agree an election ...

Monday, October 28, 2019

A succinct answer - and a principle with wider application

Heard on the radio a this evening during the broadcast of "Today in Parliament."

A minister in the House of Lords was asked whether the government had considered the possibility that it might encourage the re-establishment of the devolved executive for Northern Ireland at Stormont (which hasn't met for a thousand days) if members of the assembly did not get any more pay until they sat again.

The minister replied "Yes."

I suspect at least 17.4 million people might not only agree but think the principle could have a wider application.

Perhaps MPs should not get any more pay until they deliver what the electorate voted for three years ago.

Improving school facilities

Applications opened today for this year’s £400 million fund for academies and sixth form colleges to make school improvements or expand facilities – part of a capital programme designed to ensure that  every child has the best possible education. 

  • As well as having great teachers, we want all pupils to learn in classrooms that enable them to gain the knowledge and skills they need for success. 
  • Following the government's increase in funding in primary and secondary schools by £14 billion over the next three years, this year’s multi-million-pound fund will support the Conservative pledge to create more good school places and to continue raising standards. 
  • By getting Brexit done we can focus on issues like education, giving every child the facilities and teachers they need to receive the world class education they deserve.

Britain, the EU and Ireland

I have believed since the referendum that Britain must respect the result and leave the EU.

I have also consistently supported the view that the best way to respect the decision of the 52% who voted to leave - and who had, don't forget, done so on the basis that they were promised a trade deal - while meeting as many as possible of the concerns of the 48% who voted Remain was to leave the EU with a deal.

Whatever they may say now, virtually none of those who campaigned to leave in 2016 described "no deal" as their preferred option.

Many people have argued - and were right to argue - that your negotiating power when trying to reach any agreement is practically zero if you rule out the option of walking away, and therefore it would be a mistake to take "no deal" completely off the table, if you even can.

I have heard experts on EU law argue convincingly that the only way to completely rule out any possibility of a "no deal" outcome before December 2020 is to abandon Brexit altogether. That is why Labour's position of saying that they want a General election but only when "No deal" is taken off the table would be more honestly presented as opposing any general election until 2021.

I do not believe that either the May deal or the Boris deal is perfect. I had serious reservations about the backstop and regard the Boris deal as better for Britain and Northern Ireland because it achieves what we were told was impossible and gets rid of the backstop.

I take the concerns of the DUP more seriously than most of those who, like me,. support the deal appear to. I do think there are issues with the alternative arrangements which are proposed. But let me explain why I don't believe that they amount to selling either Northern Ireland as a whole, or the Unionist community in particular, down the river.

First of all, we need to avoid infrastructure at the border at almost any cost, because any high friction border would wreck the economy of both parts of Ireland and even low friction infrastructure would cause huge controversy and division. The overwhelming majority of voters in every part of Ireland want to avoid that, and this deal does avoid that.

Secondly, although I don't want to see "A border in the Irish Sea" let's not kid ourselves that it does not already exist in the sense that every arrival point in Northern Ireland for goods or people travelling between the mainland and Northern Ireland is also a point at which goods or people can enter the UK from outside.

Thanks to the past activities of the IRA, checks at the airports when you fly between the British mainland and Northern Ireland are stricter than those which in some parts of the world you will find on international flights. Every port and airport in Northern Ireland already needs mechanisms to check for people and goods arriving from international destinations.

That's why, in practice, checks between the mainland and Northern Ireland are already there.

It is essential to avoid any material increased difficulty put in the way of people or goods moving between the mainland and Northern Ireland but I am convinced we can avoid such difficulties under the Boris deal.

Third and most significant is the principle of consent. The Boris deal addresses this where the backstop failed.

I would have preferred, as Boris's original negotiating position laid out, had the "special arrangements" for Northern Ireland required a double confirmation at Stormont, e.g. by both communities. The EU did not agree to that, but did agree that the special arrangements will lapse after four years unless confirmed by a simple majority vote at Stormont. A simple majority can  extend the arrangements for four years, a cross-community majority can extend them for eight. At the end of that time there is another similar vote of Northern Ireland assembly members. Each time there is a vote, a simple majority of Stormont assembly members can end the arrangement.

Voters who support the union are a majority in Northern Ireland and assembly members who do so are, and are likely to remain for many years, a majority in the Stormont assembly.

I do not believe that, when we see how it works in practice, the Boris deal will have anything like the sort of consequences for Northern Ireland which the DUP say they fear. But if it did, given that people who want to continue the union are a majority of the electorate and of the assembly, it would not be an unrealistic, unattainable or unreasonable target that they would be able to get a majority vote at Stormont to make the "special arrangements" lapse.

That is why I do not believe that this deal ignores the principle of consent and do not agree that it betrays the DUP or the people of Northern Ireland.

Quote of the day 28th October 2019

"It is easy for politicians to beat the private education system and for fee-paying schools to act as victims. It would be far more revolutionary for both sectors to interact and push all children’s talents – no matter their background."

(Stephen Rand, from an excellent article "Don’t abolish our public school system – modernise it instead," which you can read here.)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sean Quinn: standing up for Shap

As I posted yesterday afternoon, I spent some time yesterday campaigning in Shap for the excellent young candidate, Sean Quinn, who has been selected by Penrith and the Border Conservatives to  contest the upcoming Shap by-election for Eden District Council.

The by-election will take place on the 14th of November and there are three candidates standing.

Penrith and the Border Conservatives are very much looking forward to working with Sean to become Shap’s representative on Eden Council.

Deputy Chairman James Bainbridge said:-

“We are thrilled to have a candidate of Sean’s ability, 

He is a strong advocate for the importance of supporting the rural communities of Eden District, which comes from his own experience as a volunteer youth worker and someone who has been inconvenienced in the past by the Labour and Lib/Dem cuts to public transport on Cumbria County Council, which continues to affect areas like Shap.” 

Interactive Museums of the Future

Yesterday the government set out plans for "Museums of the Future" which will be more interactive, using cutting edge tech to help people to explore our history in exciting new ways. 
  • Museums and galleries are so vital for teaching us about our past and helping us better understand the world around us – which is why we are grasping the opportunity to make them more exciting and accessible. 
  • We are drawing on our world leading tech sector and investing £19 million in a new programme meaning that Britain’s’ cultural treasures could be experienced from our homes, schools and libraries through new augmented and virtual reality. 
  • Building on our global reputation as a major tourist destination and a leading light in innovative research, the programme will mean Britain’s cultural history is more accessible to people everywhere.

Nationalising medicines will not help patients.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has explained why Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to nationalise medicine would mean fewer patients getting the life-saving drugs they need.
  • This week, we negotiated a deal so that NHS England can offer three life-saving cystic fibrosis medicines, benefiting around 5,000 people who may now take up these treatments.
  • Our world leading life sciences sector and robust drug appraisals system means we can get lifesaving drugs at a fair price on the NHS.
  • Labour's proposals to nationalise part of the pharmaceutical industry would drive away research and investment, and mean fewer lifesaving drugs would be developed in the UK.

Bye-bye Baghdadi

The most evil man in the history of the 21st century has killed himself and murdered three of his children by activating a suicide vest rather than face capture by American forces.

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of DA'ESH and self-styled caliph of the so called "Islamic State Caliphate" committed suicide by running into a tunnel with his children and blowing himself and them up when a raid by US special forces arrived at his hideout.

This was the head of the most evil organisation the world has seen since the demise of the Nazis and one of very few groups who can justly be compared to them.

DA'ESH beheaded hostages and released videos boasting about it. When they captured villages they often took the young women and girls as slaves while murdering older women, men and boys.

They tied up gay people and threw them from the roofs of tall buildings.

They killed young boys for such "crimes" as an interest in music, football or keeping pet birds.

They burned prisoners of war alive and on camera.
DA-ESH's crimes of murder, enslavement and rape against human beings were their most sickening acts but they were also cultural vandals who destroyed irreplaceable historical monuments.

In his press conference announcing Baghdadi's death President Trump mentioned assistance given to the US in this operation from a number of other sources including Syrian Kurdish forces who provided intelligence a couple of weeks ago which contributed to today's successful raid.

The irony of this speaks, of course, for itself. It demonstrates the importance of building and maintaining alliances.

John Donne once wrote that "Any man's death diminishes me" and I would have preferred if Baghdadi could have been captured and put on trial. But the choice to blow himself up - taking his children with him - was his.

Sunday music spot: Bach's Cantata 51, "Praise God in all lands"

Quote of the day 27th October 2019 - a Diwali message

"Diwali is the time when family, friends and community come together. As we celebrate the Festival of Lights, I wish all members of the Indian community a peaceful and prosperous Diwali. Shubh Deepawali" 

(Priti Patel, Home Secretary)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Back to Greenwich mean time

The clocks go back this weekend as British Summer Time comes to an end and we revert to Greenwich Mean time (or as my son puts it, we go back to the actual time and stop playing games with the clocks.)

So the Labour Party has an extra hour to decide whether they have the guts to face the British people in an election ...

Music to relax after campaigning: J.S. Bach's 'Komm, Jesu, komm'

Henry Wormstrup RIP

I am shocked and saddened to learn that my predecessor and two-time election opponent to be County Councillor for Egremont North and St Bees, Henry Wormstrup, died suddenly this week.

Henry and I disagreed on a very great many things but I always liked him and he was never other than courteous towards me.

He had integrity and he always worked extremely hard for the communities he represented.

Rest in Peace.

Sean for Shap

Despite the weather we were out on the doorstep today campaigning in Shap for Sean Quinn, the excellent Conservative candidate in the council by election on 14th November 2019 to represent Shap ward on Eden District Council.

It takes more than a little bit of rain to stop Cumbria Conservatives!

Sean's campaign pledges include supporting the 106 bus service and Shap Swimming pool and working to devolve more power and functions from County and District councils to the parishes.

Life-transforming drugs continued

As I posted last night, the Conservative government has  successfully negotiated a deal so that NHS England can offer three life-saving cystic fibrosis medicines, transforming the lives of thousands of people with this disease. 

  • All NHS England patients will now have full access to Orkambi, Symkevi and Kalydeco, benefiting around 5,000 people who may now take up these treatments. 
  • Our world leading life sciences sector and robust drug appraisals system means we can get lifesaving drugs at a fair price on the NHS. 
  • Labour want to nationalise part of the pharmaceutical industry, which would drive away research and investment, and mean fewer lifesaving drugs would be developed in the UK. We believe that our approach is far better for patients.

Quote of the day 26th October 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019

Better mobile phone service in rural areas

The Conservative government has announced a £1 billion deal to solve poor mobile coverage across the country, ensuring that no community is held back because of poor digital infrastructure.
  • The UK is leading the world in mobile technology, and we are starting to roll out 5G technology in some cities. 
  • But we know that in some communities, people can’t even access basic services, and are plagued by slow speeds when they try to get online from their phone. 
  • That’s why we have brokered a £1 billion deal with the four main mobile operators, so that people will automatically be switched to the provider with the best signal, no matter which network they’re on. 
  • The providers will come together to create a new Shared Rural Network, sharing masts, and we will work with private sector to upgrade the infrastructure needed to provide 4G to 95 per cent of the country. 
  • We are ensuring that people get access to 4G no matter where they are or which provider they’re with, ensuring that no community is left behind, and no business held back, because of poor digital infrastructure.

Giving access to life-transforming drugs

This week Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a deal which will provide Orkambi and other lifesaving Cystic Fibrosis drugs on the NHS.

The responses to his announcement are incredibly moving.

A mother told the Health Secretary he has “given thousands a future” and posted a picture of her grinning son, Rufus, tucked up in his hospital bed.

A father tweeted “Matt Hancock, you are the man. Thank you, thank you for all your hard work we know it has been far from easy. Well done sir!”.

A woman who suffers from cystic fibrosis told her followers on social media that she looks forward to seeing how Orkambi transforms the lives of others, because the drug (accessed privately) is the reason she has got this far.

As Olivia Utley points out here the Conservatives have actually done far more to support the NHS than we are often given credit for.

Particularly by Labour who regularly base election campaigns on largely or sometime wholly fictional scare stories about how the Conservatives are supposedly about to sell off the NHS.

Possibly the most egregiously dishonest Labour campaign of this type was the despicable "babies will die, babies will be brain-damaged" campaign which they fought in the Copeland by election.

Here is a point which Conservatives need to take on board - 

it didn't work. 

Labour lost this seat, which they had previously held for more than seventy years, in that by election.

This proves that it is possible for Conservatives to fight back against Labour's myths on the NHS. But we can't just ignore what they are saying or assume that we can ignore health as "Labour's issue." We must make it our issue by proving that we can deliver more on the NHS than Labour.

The Conservatives are spending significantly more on health than Labour promised at the last election - and we are not just spending more money but looking at how to make sure each pound delivers better patient care.

Giving better access to life-saving and life transforming drugs is part of that and we must seek every opportunity to do more.

Quote of the day 25th October 2019

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Delivering on Brexit

We have done everything we could to get Brexit done by 31 October. We worked extremely hard for a new deal and prepared extremely carefully for no deal. 

The Prime Minister achieved what many said was impossible and negotiated a new deal which got rid of the backstop.

Sadly, while parliament did give a "second reading" to the bill which would put this deal into law, Parliament keeps moving the goalposts and voting again and again to delay.

Sadly it looks likely that those who have played every trick in the book to frustrate Brexit are likely to succeed in delaying it yet again, possibly until 31st January 2020.

This parliament cannot be allowed to waste the next three months as it has wasted the past three years. So we need an election as soon as possible.

We CANNOT afford to have this paralysis throughout 2020 – it will be a disaster for businesses, for jobs, for public services.

The country has to move on.

We NEED a functioning Parliament with a stable majority that can get back to work for you.

So next week the Prime Minister will do two things.

First, he will give Parliament a last chance to get Brexit done in the next couple of weeks.

Second, we will also have a vote on an election on 12 December, so we can get a new Parliament and government in place by Christmas.

If you vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, then we will finally get Brexit done in January so the country can move on to focus on all your other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS and conserving our environment.

We will have a functioning Parliament working for you, without the confusion, indecision or arguments that have plagued the last three years.

If you vote for Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP or anyone else, then you will just get more of the same confusion, indecision and delay that we have had for the last three years. With the potential for most of 2020 spent having referendums on Brexit and Scotland.

That would be destructive beyond belief. It is time to move on and get Brexit done.

Howgill Family Centre call in

I share the cross-party concern of community leaders in Copeland about the decision by Cumbria County Council's cabinet to transfer the contract to run the service from the current local charity to the national charity Family Action, headquartered in London, to run Copeland’s Howgill Family Centre.

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison said she would be urging the cabinet to urgently re-think their decision, adding that it “makes no sense”.

Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie has also told me he is very concerned about the proposal.

I support the cross-party call in of this decision by three of my fellow county councillors from Copeland, Emma Williamson (Labour), Arthur Lamb (Conservative) and Keith Hitchen (Conservative.)

I hope the Scrutiny Management Board can meet to review this decision as soon as possibly. It is particularly important to provide transparency about the reasons for the decision and to ensure that whoever has the contract to provide the service, we need to know that all possible measures are in place to ensure that the service will be provided in the way which best meets local needs.

"Smart motorways" - or are they?

Like all drivers who occasionally have to use motorways I have been concerned by what I hear about the accident rates on so-called "Smart Motorways" and particularly the "Dynamic" kind where the same lane is sometimes a hard shoulder and sometimes an active lane.

I've had the experience of breaking down at midnight on a section of the M6 without streetlights or a hard shoulder and not being able to get the car onto a refuge. I and my passenger had to get out, get on the other side of the barrier, and call the police - and I was convinced that the car was going to be flattened before they got there. Fortunately for everyone concerned we got out and behind the barrier safely and the police arrived before any of the HGVs which were passing at 70mph converted my car into metal splinters.

It was, however, an extremely frightening experience and I must confess I have never been so glad to see a police car in the whole of my time as a motorist.

Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport has, in my opinion done exactly the right thing by setting up an inquiry, to look at the evidence and report urgently with recommendations, into the safety of these systems for managing motorways to establish which is the safest form of motorway and what can be done to make the travelling public as safe as possible.

Supporting Britain's Fishermen

The Conservatives are boosting the British fishing industry with a fund to support innovation, jobs and safety at sea – helping UK fishermen establish new markets and opportunities as we take back control of our waters. 
  • We want to support innovation in the fishing market so that UK fishermen can take advantage of all the opportunities available as we leave the EU. 
  • So applications are now open for £15.4 million from two UK fishing funds – boosting the British fishing and seafood industry by supporting innovation to enhance economic growth, reduce environmental impact and improve fishing safety.
  • Leaving the EU presents a great opportunity for fishermen to take back control of our waters as we replace the flawed Common Fisheries Policy and establish the UK as an independent coastal state.

Quote of the day 24th October 2019

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Helping veterans get on the property ladder

Today the government announced an extension to The Forces Help to Buy scheme to help many more service personnel make their first steps on the property ladder as a thank you for their commitment to this country. 
  • We will extend the Forces Help to Buy Scheme for a further three years, which is fantastic news for all those wanting to take that first step on to the property ladder. 
  • The scheme allows military personnel to borrow a deposit of up to half their annual salary interest free, to contribute towards buying a home, building an extension, or moving to a new property. 
  • It has already helped to provide stability for over 18,000 Armed Forces personnel and their families since 2014 – and is a thank you for their commitment to their service for this country.

Supporting young people leaving care

The Education Secretary has announced support programmes backed by £19 million of new funding to improve the life chances of vulnerable young people leaving care. 
  • Young people leaving care face enormous barriers in their lives as they move towards independence.
  • We have a responsibility to provide them with a greater sense of stability and purpose in adulthood.
  • We will use this new funding to ensure that care leavers have stable homes, are supported to live independently, and access further education. 
  • Alongside this £19 million package, we will deliver 1,000 internships for care leavers to help them secure long term, quality jobs. 
  • This will mean young people leaving care will have the best opportunities in life – the security of a stable home, a quality job and the independence they deserve.

Protecting Historic sites

Today, the government will be announcing a bold new initiative which will see communities empowered with funding to protect the historic sites from development. 

  • We want to protect the historic buildings which are important to local communities and play a significant part in local identity. 
  • The listing process has ensured some of England’s most special and distinctive historic buildings have been protected, but many buildings that are important locally have gone unrecognised. 
  • That’s why we are empowering local people to nominate heritage sites which are important to them to ensure they get the support they need. Backed by a £700,000 fund and a team of heritage experts we can ensure important local monuments are no longer left neglected and unloved. 
  • This means we can keep local communities’ unique identities thriving, ensuring that the historic buildings which define a community’s identity will be protected for the decades to come.

The state of play on Brexit

Last night, MPs backed the new proposed deal with the EU which could have guaranteed we get Brexit done on 31 October. 

But once again, Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems voted for more dither and pointless delay.

The Prime Minister has done what many said he could not; we have renegotiated a great new deal which allows us to leave the EU without disruption and has now won the support of the House of Commons.

Because the opposition failed to back our timetable to get Brexit done on 31 October, Britain now faces further uncertainty and the EU must now make up their minds over how to answer Parliament’s request for a delay – our policy remains we should not delay, and we should leave the EU on 31 October.

As a result the government is taking the only responsible course of action and accelerating our preparations for a no deal outcome. Only by getting Brexit done can we address the issues that matter to people and get on with delivering the country the brighter future it deserves.

Put simply, the new proposed Withdrawal Agreement and political declaration mean:
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • European Court direct jurisdiction ends in Great Britain. It will be our courts, applying our laws, which will be the highest authority in the land. 
  • 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. 
  • Northern Ireland will be in the UK customs territory. 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. 
  • 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. 
  • The NHS is not for sale, never has been, and never will be. Any suggestion otherwise is simply untrue and just a blatant political manoeuvre by Labour to distract from their lack of a clear policy.

Quote of the day 23rd October 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Life-saving equipment returned in Cleator Moor

Police are continuing to investigate the disappearance of a defibrillator from its position outside Cleator Moor Town Hall earlier this month, although a member of the public found the equipment abandoned and handed it in to police.

The life-saving equipment, which was provided by local fundraising in 2016, disappeared from its' position outside Cleator Moor Town Hall and Masonic Centre in the early hours of the morning. Police initially treated the disappearance as theft.

I can only agree with the chairman of the Town Hall Management Committee, Bill Morley BEM (pictured below with the defibrillator when it was installed - picture from Whitehaven News) that whoever took the equipment put lives at risk.

Bill told the Whitehaven News that the defib had been used several times since it was installed in 2016, and added,

“I want to tell the person who stole it how serious the crime they’ve committed is. 

The defibrillator could be needed at any given time, and stealing it put people in danger. 

I feel so sad that someone could endanger other people’s lives like this.”


PC Holt, who is in charge of the ongoing investigation, told the Whitehaven News:

“These machines are a vital resource and can make the difference between life and death.

“I would urge anyone with information in relation to this theft to contact police via 101, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Quote of the day 22nd October 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

Working to deliver Brexit

This week the government will table legislation which gives MPs a chance to respect the result of the referendum, take back control and get Brexit done on 31 October in an orderly and friendly way.

The Prime Minister does not want more delay and European leaders do not want more delay - a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners and the relationship between us.

Parliament passed a law requiring that unless certain conditions were met - particularly, that there had to be a deal on the table - the government must send a letter to EU president Donald Tusk begging for an extension.

When a deal which they have never expected was agreed and it looked like the government was going to meet those conditions, parliament moved the goalposts and made it law that they should send the letter anyway.

This was Parliament’s letter, not the Prime Minister‘s letter, but the government has complied with the letter of the law.

Nevertheless the Conservatives are still committed to leaving the EU and completing Brexit so that the country can move on.

The New deal means
  • 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. 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. 
  • European Court supremacy ends in Britain. It will be our courts, applying our laws, which will be the highest authority in the land. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 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 by a simple majority vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Our NHS is not for sale

It is worth emphasising that the revised EU withdrawal agreement proposed by the government is not intended to harm the NHS, worker protection, or animal protection: on the contrary, the Conservatives want to improve all of them.
  • The Prime Minister has confirmed that worker’s rights will never fall behind the EU after Brexit – the UK’s annual leave and maternity leave standards already exceed the EU minimum. 
  • We have also committed to maintaining our rigorous standards on the environment, animal welfare and food safety after Brexit. 
  • The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have repeatedly made it clear that the NHS is not for sale – under no circumstances would we agree to any free trade deal that puts the NHS on the table.

Quote of the day 21st October 2019

This is, of course, very similar to a famous quote from Churchill ...

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Police Numbers

On Wednesday 9 October, the Home Secretary announced the first stage in our plans to recruit 20,000 new police officers – putting more officers on our streets so we can keep all of our communities safer.

  • The government has confirmed the initial officer recruitment targets for every police force in England and Wales, which will put 6,000 more officers onto our streets by end of 2020-21 – the first year of our recruitment drive. 
  • The public are clear they want to see more police officers on their streets. 
  • This is the people’s priority and it is exactly what Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are delivering. 

In Cumbria there will be 51 new officers in the first wave of the initiative and, thanks to pro-active action by Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, they will include the very first new officers to arrive on the beat.

The number of new police officers to be recruited in each police force area can be found here.

Sunday Music spot: Vivaldi's "Lauda Jerusalem" (Alessandrini)

Quote of the day 20th October: Theresa May on Boris Johnson's deal

During the debate on the deal yesterday, Mrs May spoke forcefully of the need to honour the vote of the British people. She asked

"When this house voted overwhelmingly to give the choice of our membership of the EU to the British people, did we really mean it?

When we voted to trigger article 50, did we really mean it?

When the two main parties represented in this house stood on manifestos in the 2017 General Election to deliver Brexit, did we really mean it?

I think there can only be one answer to that and that is 'Yes, we did mean it.'

Yes, we keep faith with the British people and yes, we want to deliver Brexit."

"Because if this parliament did not mean it, then it is guilty of the most egregious con-trick on the British people."  

She duly urged parliament to approve the Brexit deal so that we can leave the EU on 31st October.

What a pleasant change to see a former Prime Minister speaking about the way forward and their successor's proposals in a positive way instead of stabbing them in the back.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Music to relax after campaigning: Pachelbel's Canon & Gigue

More backing for the deal ...

Former First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the Good Friday Agreement, declares that the new Brexit deal is ‘fully in accordance with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement’

He doesn't believe that this deal sells Northern Ireland down the river and neither do I.

Latest Brexit news

Opinion polls suggest that far more voters back the deal than oppose it

  • Scotland’s highest civil court has dismissed the latest court action from Remain fanatics trying to stop Brexit. A legal bid to the Court of Sessions to stop the UK government from passing its proposed EU withdrawal agreement was thrown out. Lord Pentland ruled the application was ‘misconceived and unjustified’.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron told a press conference at the close of the EU summit in Brussels on Friday he wanted to “stick to” the October 31 exit deadline. “I do not think we shall grant any further delay,” he said. 
  • Irish PM Leo Varadkar added “it would be a mistake” to assume an extension would get unanimous approval by all 27 member states. 
  • Momentum founder Jon Lansman warned Labour’s NEC would replace any MPs voting for Johnson’s deal with ‘new, socialist’ candidates ahead of the next general election. 
  • But Labour MPs told HuffPost they’ve been told no one will have the whip withdrawn if they vote for the deal.

Improving our railways

The Transport Secretary has announced details of some of the schemes that will benefit under the government’s £48 billion rail improvement programme, levelling up opportunities across the country.
  • Fast, reliable trains are vital, not just for boosting local growth, but for making communities attractive places to live and to start a business. 
  • We are investing £48 billion to upgrade our railways across the country – the largest improvement programme since the Victorian era. 
  • This week, the Transport Secretary presented Parliament with details of some of the schemes around the country that will benefit from the investment. 
  • Conservatives will ensure no part of this country is left behind, and no business held back, because of poor infrastructure. 
  • We will level up opportunities, renewing the ties that bind our communities together while working to reduce carbon emissions.

Quote of the day 19th October 2019

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